ARTS 100


This site is the “home base” of the Holy Cross College Visual Literacy Blog Project.

During the fall semester of 2012, the Visual Literacy students of Holy Cross College will create blogs as part of the course’s curriculum. The students will write posts that present their critical insights into the various topics presented in the course. More importantly, my hope is that the students also see their blogs as vehicles for creativity and self-expression.

Links to the students’ blogs are posted to this site. I will also blog about the topics covered in Visual Literacy. My blog address is:

-Rhett Gérard Poché


Visual literacy affords an individual the opportunity to view visual culture (art, design, film, television, etc.) as a spectator, critic, and/or artist. A visually literate person understands visual information from all three perspectives. This course requires students to place themselves in each of these roles.

This lecture course is a writing-intensive seminar geared towards facilitating student understanding, interpretation, and discussion of contemporary visual culture. The course stresses critical analysis from modern perspectives such as class, politics, race, and gender. It also requires students to execute basic art projects inspired by the course content.

Learning Objectives:

1. Appreciation for the various ways in which works of visual culture communicate to audiences.

2. Appreciation for and engagement in the artistic process.

3. Ability to employ a working visual vocabulary during conversations and when writing about visual culture.

4. Ability to critique and analyze works of visual culture from one’s own informed perspective.

5. Ability to contextualize criticism and theory presented in scholarly articles about visual culture.


Types of Visual Culture

Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, Sculpture, Photography Graphic Design, the Internet Film, Video, Television, Commercials, Video Games Advertising, Fashion Design, Industrial Design, Interior Design, Architecture

Elements of Visual Communication

Line, Value, Texture, Shape, Color, Composition, Perspective, Positive/Negative, Figure/Ground, Gestalt, Unity/Variety, Kinesthetic Response, Linear/Non-Linear Narratives, Juxtaposition, Montage, Representational Images, Non-Objective Images, Abstraction

Understanding Visual Culture and Viewership

• The Relationship Between Words and Images: Magritte’s The Treachery of Images

• Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

• “Image Essays” and selections from John Berger’s Ways of Seeing

• Visual Rhetoric

• Semiotics

What is Art?/Is it Art?

Marcel Duchamps’s Readymades: Junk or Genius?

Jackson Pollock’s Drip Paintings: Game Changing or Child’s Play?

• Film: Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?. Dir. Harry Moses. New Line Cinema, 2006. DVD.

Race as a Conceptual Framework: Power and Prejudice in Black and White

• Kara Walker—The Emancipation Approximation Series

• Nikki S. Lee—The Hip-Hop Project

• Kehinde Wiley—The Posing/Passing Series

• Chris Ofili—Holy Virgin Mary

• David Levinthal—The Blackface Series

• Film: Bamboozled. Dir. Spike Lee. New Line Cinema, 2000. DVD

Identity as a Conceptual Framework: The Self and the Selfless

Symbolic Self-Portraiture

–Cindy Sherman—The Centerfolds Series

–Nikki S. Lee—The Tourist Project, The Yuppy Project, The Jewish Project, and The Hispanic Project

–Collier Schorr—Soldiers Series and Wrestlers Series

–Anthony Goicolea—You and What Army Series

• Film: Palindromes. Dir. Todd Solondz. PDX, 2004. DVD.

Religion as a Conceptual Framework: Catholicism and Artistic Controversy

• Andres Serrano—Piss Christ (and Sr. Wendy Beckett’s surprising response.)

• Chris Ofili—Holy Virgin Mary

• Cosimo Cavallaro—My Sweet Jesus

• Renée Cox—Yo’ Mama’s Last Supper

Fame as a Conceptual Framework: The Cult of Celebrity

• Andy Warhol—Celebrities as Religious Icons (Marilyn Monroe)

• Daniel Edwards—Monuments and Memorials to Celebrities Behaving Badly (Paris Hilton and Britney Spears)

• Marc Quinn—Siren: Kate Moss as the New Aphrodite

• Jeff Koons—Michael Jackson and Bubbles

• John Waters—Playdate (Michael Jackson and Charles Manson)

• Dana Schutz—Michael Jackson’s Autopsy

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