Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-Telling Stories About Ourselves in the World
A College Seminar Course at Bryn Mawr College

Forum 1 - Stories From/Of A Picture

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Welcome Redux
Date:  2003-09-02 09:16:09
Message Id:  6297

I add my welcome to Paul's; am very glad to find all of us here, and very much looking forward to seeing where we can go FROM here, where we can get to by semester's end....

Let's begin, shall we, by telling one another what we see when we look @ the image on the cover of our course packet/course home page? Tell us what you see when you look at "Understanding Is...???" Tell us a brief story of this picture:

Looking forward both to your initial reactions and the...

revisions that will emerge as we share these stories.


Name:  Danielle S.
Subject:  cover art
Date:  2003-09-02 15:56:18
Message Id:  6299
Of the two images in the cover artwork, I find the spherical shape on the right more meaningful. The cube has the word "understanding" followed by question marks written on it; the sphere speaks more subtly, allowing the viewer to apply their own meaning, rather than having been told a meaning by the artist. Because of this subtelty, it evokes a curiosity in the viewer which the cube, it's meaning already revealed, never could have. Whereas the colors of the cube are flat, the sphere is composed of many, multicolored elements. For a course about stories of ourselves within the world, I find a multi-faceited element more appropriate than a simply-shaded cube. It's almost as if the cube has nothing to hide. Like it has opened up, shown us all of its edges, all its colors, while the sphere still has all this mystery inside it, all these elements about it that we can't even begin to understand.
Name:  Tamiyo B
Subject:  Cover art
Date:  2003-09-02 19:11:00
Message Id:  6300
What came to my mind when I looked at this picture was how we cannot understand things completely. There are so many sides to things, so many pieces which we have to account for in order to understand the subject in its context. This picture invites me to question what is missing in our process of understanding. How can the different pieces emerge so that we can come to a fuller understanding?

So it is not just red, it is not just blue, and it is not just green. When all the different colors of understanding emerge, it creates more harmony and more beauty.

Name:  Jenny B.
Subject:  cover art
Date:  2003-09-02 23:08:00
Message Id:  6304
What I see when I look at the painting reflects my own current thoughts and frame of mind. The cube seems to be hard, factual, scientific, certain. The sphere seems to be a more comprehensive and approachable kind of understanding. I see the sphere as an accumulation of experience. The cube seems to be exalted, set above the sphere. I see pieces of hard certainty falling down to be absorbed into a richer whole. The pieces don't have to fit themselves into the sphere, they are changed as they approach it; they are molded and encompassed.
Name:  Karen Delnasheen
Subject:  one perspective of picture
Date:  2003-09-03 01:05:26
Message Id:  6306
There are variant interesting characteristics that make up the cover picture of my Section 11 Csem book. Color scheme and symbolism being most dominant.

Blue, red, green, yellow, and puzzle peices might symbolize fundamental or elementry ideas and/or concepts. Between the two objects, the box pedestal and the round ball, the box pedestal is significantly simpler. The colors are solid on the pedestal, whereas there are multitudes of color splashed throughout the ball. Also, the pedestal has a few basic distinctive sides or angles, but the ball has infinite perspectives.

With this in mind, perhaps the essential symbolic meaning of the picture is that "understanding is" not singular or even clear, but knowing that many variant perspectives exist.

Name:  Alicia Virginia
Subject:  CSEM Cover Art
Date:  2003-09-03 11:25:29
Message Id:  6309
Through my eyes here is what i see: "Understanding is...????" represents our view of the world that has been shaped by what we think we already know, and just when we think we have life all figured out some of the puzzle pieces start to fall out of place. Life is like that -- uncertain, unpredictable, and sometimes unrelenting, so what we understood to be true (or even safe) yesterday could totally change how we think today.

I see the sphere as representative of our world -- one large crucible of perspectives - where new thoughts, ideas, education, opinions, facts, lies, truths, judgements, and plenty bs give new shape and form to many things in existence, causing a continual regeneration to our basic understanding of everything, When a basic understanding of life "falls out of place" for you it could very well "fall into place" for someone else because of where we all are at that moment in the life cycle. Everyday when we move through the world we have an opportunity to start a new cycle and formulate new understandings about life, again and again and again. But, this is just my opinion.

Name:  Ginny Costello
Subject:  cover art
Date:  2003-09-03 11:31:09
Message Id:  6310
The message that the painting conveys is that in order to achieve true understanding you must question until you are satisfied that you know the answers. Then you must question again.

The sphere represents the planet. The groups of people on the planet consist of various shapes, sizes, and colors. And, the world is in a constant state of movement and change.

The quest for true understanding is a never-ending journey. Just when you are confident that you have all the answers, and all the pieces of the puzzle fit nicely into their little boxes, the world shifts, uspetting your view. Then you must begin again to question and search further for a deeper understanding.

Name:  B
Subject:  Cover Art
Date:  2003-09-03 12:16:35
Message Id:  6311
I see a circle, resembling a globe.
I see a square, something solid.
I see Understanding.
I see questions.
I see pieces, like parts of a puzzle.
I see color.
I see pieces rising, I see pieces falling.
Name:  Flicka Michaels
Subject:  Cover Art
Date:  2003-09-03 14:27:19
Message Id:  6313
I think that the picture on the cover is trying to tell us that understanding is not always difinitive or clear. We have to take pieces from one puzzle and use them to connect to other subjects of knowledge. That is why the colored, defined pieces of the box or falling into a circle of many colors. To understand one subject, you must use what you know from other subjects and interwtwine them. That is why understanding, like learning, is a continuing and ongoing process.
Name:  Stephanie Hunt
Subject:  cover art
Date:  2003-09-03 15:32:41
Message Id:  6317
I think that the point of the picture is to show that understanding is ambiguous. At first, I thought I understood the picture; it's a ball containing random pieces that jump up and have a place, no matter how random they are. It could demonstrate that things work out by coincidence. However, I looked again and I saw the block falling apart and the puzzle pieces falling into the ball. This could demonstrate that everything crumbles and goes back to the same place. Altogether, I think the picture means that understanding is ambiguous and that people will percieve things differently and understand things in their own way.
Name:  Bhumika Patel
Subject:  cover picture
Date:  2003-09-03 16:23:01
Message Id:  6318
For me, the picture on the cover can mean a lot of things. Looking at "Understanding is ???" I interpreted it as understanding varies from mind to mind. What understanding is to me might not be what understanding is to someone else. The cube is made up of basic colors so it could represent basic ideas, and as the puzzle pieces are moving towards the sphere the basic ideas blend in to form a well-rounded understanding everything. They could also mean people from different communities coming together and sharing their understandings.
Name:  Angel
Subject:  reading images
Date:  2003-09-03 17:30:51
Message Id:  6321
I found this first exercise of reading images quite a fascinating one. Im one of the last people to post their views and though I haven't read everyone's interpretation as yet I noticed that each has something different to say, all from the same picture. I am going to share my initial and immediate reaction to the picture. To me the dube is the human mind, striving for knowledge and understanding while at the same time struggling to grasp what understanding itself means. There 'missing pieces' of the mind, the pieces that prevent any person from having a complete and comprehensive understanding of the world. These pieces are to be derived from the world (this is symbolized by the multicolored sphere). It is with these pieces in place that the functioning of the human mind is optimized. But the search for the right piece to fit in the right place is the challenge.
Name:  Beverly Burgess
Subject:  Cover artwork
Date:  2003-09-03 17:48:34
Message Id:  6322
The following ideas came to mind as I thought about the meaning of the artwork:

The basis of our understanding of the world is composed of what we regard, from within ourselves, as a complete and well-ordered world. This orderly world is normally introduced to us during our childhood by the media, schools, family, etc. As we begin from our own understanding and move out into the world, the shape, color, and texture of our understanding changes. It may become richer, more colorful or diluted. Our ideas and beliefs eventually fall away from their well-ordered structure and melt into a larger, more complex world of understanding. We must then explore this new world and gain a new understanding.

Name:  Sarah Sniezek
Subject:  Cover Art
Date:  2003-09-03 18:57:45
Message Id:  6323
What is understanding?
Is it pieces of different concrete/solid things put together?
Is it different pieces of different cultures brought together to make a
When I look at this piece of art, to me it is an expression of how we each individually understand life. We all have different meaning full experiences, cultures, morals, religions, life styles, and we ourselves take and leave what we want from each of our certain experiences. Those pieces that we choose to keep all come together in the end to make us who we are individually and how we understand life it self, but each and everyone of us has something like the other and some thing unique. Then each of our own charateristics are brought together in a group, and we learn more and understand more from a combination of all our experiences which makes us a whole.
Name:  Bethany Keffala
Subject:  "Understanding is ?" Illustration
Date:  2003-09-03 22:13:08
Message Id:  6324
When I look at this picture I think of pieces of different puzzles falling into place to make a new 'puzzle' of sorts. All the parts are being integrated into a brighter and more rounded whole. I like how the background colors change behind the two objects. The first, a box on a post is dark and rigid-looking, a feeling which is emphasized by the greyish background. This picture is almost like comparing two methods of understanding, or of trying to understand something. The colors on the other side of the illustration are very vibrant and happy. There are new colors here not found on the box from which the pieces came. Maybe the artist is telling us to let different parts of our lives/of what we are trying to understand and what we already know bleed together for a richer, fuller, more lively and complete understanding of the world. Think outside the box. Part of understanding is questioning and changing and experimenting.
Name:  Christine Lipuma
Username:  clipuma@brynmawr,edu
Subject:  "Understanding is ???"
Date:  2003-09-03 23:15:46
Message Id:  6326
The picture of the block seems to say that there is a completeness to all understanding in the world, and the colors say that there are many different categories to knowledge. However, there is no way to understand everything, so it falls into different pieces. In our world, each person takes small pieces to understand so it makes our comprehension rich but incomplete because no one can understand everything about a single topic.
Name:  Gillian Confair
Subject:  The Road to Understanding
Date:  2003-09-03 23:17:57
Message Id:  6327
Hi. Gillian here from Section 11. My reason for posting is two-fold. First because I adore posting on forums on the internet, and see this as the perfect marriage of class and leisure. Second because our assignment was to write briefly on the forum about out ideas on the picture that covers our CSEM guide. So, here it goes.
In my opinion, the cover of our CSEM guide says it all. Well, it doesn't really say anything about the Revisions and Intuitions etc. of telling stories, but it does give a fairly accurate idea of the whole CSEM theory.
If you look at the image on the cover, there are several basic elements that make it up. The first of these elements, and the most noticeable is that of the block with three pieces still missing. The next prominent object is the set of puzzle pieces emerging from the haze below. The most important detail to the whole drawing is the "Understanding" in the middle. Given the hazy ball of color below, next to a series of questionmarks, and the structure above, being pulled out of the pieces of the ball, the meaning of this drawing is fairly simple.
I see this as the Road to Understanding. First it begins with the question ("IS ?????? down below). This forms the basis for knowledge. Without the desire to learn, that ball of hazy colors would never become anything more. Next, the ball of hazy color represents facts and information, the pieces of context necessary to form understanding. Finally the bridge represents the CSEM, and indeed our entire education at Bryn Mawr. The bridge is that of understanding- of teaching and being taught and, in the process, learning how to come to understandings of the world on our own. Thus this drawing represents Bryn Mawr's philosophy and the idea behind the CSEM courses: that our desire to learn will be matched by the understanding of those around us and before us, who teach and learn with us, so that we may ourselves come to a greater level of understanding. We're not just learning about our particular CSEM. We're learning how to become intelligent, intellectual people, who will soon find the road to understanding on our own.
Name:  Anita Lai
Subject:  Cover Art
Date:  2003-09-04 09:25:52
Message Id:  6329
One of the greatest things about artwork is that individuals can find a meaning completely different from what the artist was originally trying to convey. I like to think that the "meaning" behind a piece of art, if any, is relative to each person. While looking at this picture, the words "Understanding is ??????" acts as a pedestal for the multi-colored cube that appears to weigh it down. I interpreted the picture as our understanding being colored by our stereotypes, prejudices, and preconceptions (the puzzle pieces) about things in this world (the sphere). The colored puzzle pieces from the cube falling towards the sphere eventually form a jumbled mass of colors blinding us in our quest for answers with issues in the world.
Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  some added info ...
Date:  2003-09-04 09:49:17
Message Id:  6330
Don't read until you've written your own story of Sharon's picture ...

We modified the image for the course ... the original form of the picture is in an exhibit called Transformation at Click through the exhibit until you get to the three doors, go in the middle one, look on the right wall.

For Sharon's story of the picture, see

Is that actually a "spoiler"? How relevant is it what Sharon says she had in mind when she painted the picture?

Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  a nice start
Date:  2003-09-04 12:07:24
Message Id:  6331
Rich, interesting conversation in ye old csem 11 this morning. Thanks, all. And thanks to our csem 10 colleagues, whose thoughts here were an important part of it.

A couple of themes stick in my mind to mull over further (happy, of course, to have additions/reactions/different stories from others). One was the reading of csem 10 postings on Sharon's image, and a sense that these stories from older women ... reflected expererience of/with constantly shifting worlds. We started trying to characterize reactions to constantly shifting worlds. Mistrustful? Realistically optimistic? Unrealistically optimistic? Csem 11 has five of the first, five of the second, and 1 of the third, for whatever that's worth (and it doesn't seem to correlate with whether one saw the pieces going up or down in Sharon's image (eight ups, 5 downs, 1-2 both ways)).

The other theme was a sense of ... outrage? ... at the notion that Sharon's picture had been altered. And some interesting difference of opinion on whether the image was more evocative of stories from viewers in its original or in its altered form. There's a posting from Sharon a couple of years ago giving her reaction to peoples' reading of the altered image, if anyone is interested.

Looking forward to continuing conversation. Here, in class, and elsewhere.

Name:  Sharon Burgmayer
Subject:  thoughts from the artist
Date:  2003-09-05 00:13:48
Message Id:  6340
I am amazed as I peruse your readings of my painting and see how its interpretations are seemingly endless. Having had many other paintings used by Paul and Anne in their courses, I never quite get used to the experience of having one of my paintings, whose meaning seems so nakedly obvious to me, interpreted by others in entirely different ways! "Understanding is..." was painted at the beginning of period of conscious struggle--no, that's too feeble--revolt against reason and rationality. As you might imagine, that's quite a disorienting step for a scientist. Hence the fluid swirls in the sphere. But mainly, the image was to illustrate the destruction of reason to produce something I dearly loved, colors, lots of colors, symbolic of life's richness.

I smiled to read of the "outrage" response that my painting had been altered for the course because I can well remember how I felt when I replaced the original text with the question marks: I felt physically ill. Why did I agree then to make the change? (this is the interesting part to me) I think because I did not yet value my work as art, nor did I see myself as an artist. Was it worth the change? Perhaps, because its experimental use in this course would eventually generate more paintings and more discussions in other courses.

Name:  Ginny Costello
Subject:  A Story of a Time When I Learned Something
Date:  2003-09-05 19:42:24
Message Id:  6356
I learned a profoud lesson about rigid expectations when I gave birth to my Downs-Syndrome daughter, Ginneane.
As a young married woman starting a family in the sixties, I had definate expectations of what family life and having children woould be like. My expectations were those of the "June Cleaver" era. I was certain I would have a perfect storybook marriage and a perfect family, just like June's.
I was completely unprepared for the challenges that life delivered to me when I delivered my mentally challenged daughter.
I learned that sometimes what seems like a tragedy can actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise, a wonderful chance to learn and grow in new directions. In those early days I learned to love from a deeper place. I developed a better sense-of-humor when I was forced to laugh at myself. I learned that "perfect" comes in many forms, and Ginneane sure is perfect. I learned that the world is a better place where there is diversity of any kind. Ginneane taught me to be a better person, and I learned to release those rigid expectations. I am still learning, she teaches me something new everyday.

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