There is nothing more joyful for me than children’s art. My career has been spent teaching young children the thrills of engaging in conversations about art, making art, and curating art.
It has truly been the joy of my life to experience the world through a child’s perspective, where marks on paper and materials assembled offer nothing but possibilities. Children draw not only from their own experience but from their innate curiosity and imagination as they make and re-make their own worlds. Four years ago, when I transitioned out of the elementary classroom and into a full-time doctoral program at the University of Missouri, teaching pre-service general elementary educators about arts integration, I did so with this same spirit of curiosity, wonder, and exploration.
I have had the privilege of learning under Dr. Candace Kuby over the past several years. Her work, and the works of the many post scholars she has introduced me to, have no doubt shaped how I have emerged as an aspiring scholar. When she approached me about creating art for a book series about Postqualitative Inquiry, I jumped at the chance. The design problem was considerable; How does one visually think about a topic as large as Navigating the Postqualitative, New Materialist and Critical Posthumanist Terrain across Disciplines?
I have had the great fortune of having an unconventional doctoral journey. I started with poststructural courses and fulfilled the traditional “methodological” requirements toward the end of my program. Wrestling with post theorists as a new doctoral student had its challenges. It was an unraveling; learning, unlearning and relearning. I came to understand that the only way to muddle through the feelings of disruption was to make sense out of my thinking through making and doing. Thinking with theory using materials gave me permission to play with ideas that I had no way of knowing yet. Having the opportunity to not just write about these ideas, but draw them, has redefined for me what it means to mean and what it looks like to know. It is in this entanglement of the making, thinking, and doing that I better understood how to address the prompt.
Reading through the book proposal, I was first interested in key words and ideas that situated the work. Words like “cartography”, “conceptual terrain”, and “ecologies of knowledge” stood out to me. They are relational, offering opportunities to see nothing but possibilities in the spaces between them; a map of sorts. It was here that I made the connection to the pedagogical objective of this series and what it might produce for those that engage with it. I wondered what pedagogical journeys future readers might embark on through the pages? Might they be like mine?
In the series proposal, the editors (Murris et al., n.d., p. 2) discuss many objectives for what they hope the series to produce, some of which include:
- Helping others to reimagine possibilities for their own research projects and rethinking key relationships in research.
- Including non-human, other-than-human, and more-than-human research participants.
- Encouraging creative, material, and innovative approaches to the teaching of research practices in ways that include, but also move beyond the written and spoken word.
- The difference it makes to what counts as knowledge.
This provoked yet more new questions to consider in my work, How do I recognize the spaces between words, ideas, thoughts, and doings in relation to the limits of language? How might I emphasize the powerful nonhuman participants in research?
I think it important to point out that material choice for me is less about me the artist deciding and more about what the questions desire. The proposal and prompt provoked new ways to understand and think about this theoretical terrain and in turn affected the materials used. The backdrop to the work is created with watercolor, which, In its essence is a bit unruly. It does what it wants and often resists the human control placed upon it. Using watercolor is like a dance, and in this case, the use of wet on wet technique allowed the colors to mingle together in ways that came as a surprise. It’s a terrain of hues waiting to be explored and one that celebrates the relationality of posthumanist approaches.
I am drawn to graphic design, illustrations, and doodles. This led to the use of a black felt tip pen and brings me back to my love of children’s art: a need to not make things look exactly as they are and instead as they could be, a refusal of representation. I often characterize my own research as a wandering of sorts; reading, thinking, making, questioning, exploring, and mapping. This is exactly how I set out to create the terrain of Postqualitative Inquiry, New Materialism, and Critical Posthumanism. Each icon takes us to a place in the map, an assemblage of ideas, concepts, and theories and we as the reader/viewer/researcher are left to wander through the spaces and consider what newness we can find. What might we think differently when we understand we are in and of the world? I am drawn to the work of Carol Taylor in this instance who writes, “Posthumanism invites us to undo the current way of doing-and then imagine, invent and do the doing differently” (Taylor & Hughes, 2016, p.6). While I recognize that my (art)iculation of the book series in visual form is steeped in my own experiences and position in the world, I hope that it produces readers, thinkers, and viewers to see possibility, spark curiosity and imagination, think the world differently and question who and what one can know and how can they know it. May we all be inspired to innovate and create!
Murris, K., Zhao, W., Taylor, C. A., Cole, D. R., & Kuby, C. (n.d.). Book Proposal – Navigating the Postqualitative, New Materialist and Critical Posthumanist Terrain Across Disciplines: An Introductory Guide.
Taylor, C., & Hughes, C. (Eds.). (2016). Posthuman research practices in education. Palgrave macmillan.