An E-Motional Approach to Art

Jennifer Monson holds a workshop to bridge the gap between dance and art

Monson addresses the group In Krannert Art Museum at the beginning of the workshop

Written by Edward Huang

Just as the weather began to get chilly in Champaign-Urbana, a small group gathered in the lobby of the Krannert Art Museum with excitement and curiosity. Jennifer Monson, the renowned dancer, choreographer, and professor stood in the middle of the group, calling order to what was bound to be an interesting and transformative workshop. Her goal was to show us the connection between dance and art, and how we can discover that through a certain set of activities.

The group heads outside for a mental exercise

We began by stepping outside for a warm-up activity. This prepped our minds for what was to come. We were asked to notice our environment, to orient our sense of direction, and to find a type of movement to focus on. After our minds were set at ease, we proceeded indoors to the east gallery. Here, we engaged in a judgement-free movement exercise. For 5 minutes we moved in whatever way we liked while a partner watched on. I felt that this exercise was a form of expression, especially because whatever we did was an object of our own creation. It was really nice to let go and to do some stretches.

The group prepares to move around in the open space of the east gallery.

I was fortunate to meet David and to have him as my partner. David is the head of Landscape and Architecture at UIUC and he was really useful in giving me insights about the art that we looked at. We focused specifically on one piece of oil on canvas. “The Artist with a Fortune Teller in a Landscape” by David Teniers II. At first glance, it looked like a common Renaissance painting with some main characters and a landscape, but David and I picked everything apart for fifteen minutes. We complimented and supported each other through all of our revelations and at the end, I truly gained a new appreciation for art. Not only were there so many minute and suggestive details to find, I also discovered something new about the space around the painting. By moving around and looking at the piece from a distance or a different angle, I noticed that some parts would be emphasized. It really got me thinking about my own body and how movement could help me experience artwork in intriguing ways.

“The Artist with a Fortune Teller in a Landscape” by David Teniers II (1640-1650)

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