In the eye of the beholder

Year: 2001

Author: Jones, Susanne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Images of all types are used across educational settings from preschool to tertiary levels and beyond; they are a frequently-taken-for-granted aspect of most pedagogies, especially in the visual arts. I am interested in how we come to understand what an image might mean and, in particular, how is it that we understand our role as a beholder of that image? Over time children acquire a complex understanding of the role of the beholder in their vernacular theories of art. Drawing on descriptions of the development of theory formation identified by Karmiloff-Smith this research maps the significant changes which occur between the ages of 7 and 13 in children's understanding of the role of the beholder in art. Questions ask children to explain the 'causal' agency in the relationships among four functions, the artist, the artwork, the content of art and the beholder, when posed within an integrated representational framework or homeostatic model of art. Understanding developmental changes in the representational framework of "the beholder" within children's cognitive reasoning has ramifications across all areas of the curriculum as teachers guide young people to make meaning of their image-saturated world.