My Artist Talk Experience- Thomas Hart Benton

My approach when preparing for my artist talk was very sporadic and I didn’t really know what I should be doing. I have never given an artist talk before, and if I am being honest I put most of my research and preparation time till the last minute. I did generally research on my art work, but I didn’t know what I need to do. I was confused most of the time, but I felt better in more control of myself and the information that I had collected when I had to practice in front of the class in the one time that I talked in front of my piece. Nell had scheduled set times for our class to practice, but for some reason I always had something come up during the times I needed to present and in totally I presented my work twice before I gave the talk during community hour.

What I noticed during the times that I did present and when I heard others in my class present their respective works is that I didn’t have much of a connection to the piece or found out thing that I felt personally made me want to connect to the work. Which is fine because I chose the work, but when I heard others present I saw more creative and deeper connections being made. I wanted that when I presented, but I could not seem to find that. It all worked out though because I learned how to work with a piece that wasn’t my favorite, but I made myself the expert on this piece.

The things that I learned about my piece entitled Fence mender created in 1940 were interesting and innovative of the time period. Benton was apart of the Works progress administration; a government funded program under the New Deal that focused on rebuilding the community centers and neighborhoods deeply effected by the Great Depression. Benton was anti- establishment and anti-industrialization and focused his subject matter on the common man who worked in fields and used his hand. He created very large murals that depicted the daily lifestyle of the Midwest.

The more I talked about my work the more I felt comfortable explaining my knowledge to others. I was able to bring unique and different approaches to the piece that were not thought of. Now, that I have given the talk I am more than confident about the work, I am comfortable with the piece. On the day of the talk I was very nervous. I wanted to dress the part of an Art Historian, so I wore a blazer. It made me somewhat less nervous. When the talks began, I felt my heart beating double time, and when it was my turn I was nervous, but as soon as I started talking I felt good. I felt and saw my hand shaking when I started do give a visual analysis of the work.

I remembered most of the pointers that Nell gave me and the formula she wanted us to use when giving our talk. I tried to stick to the script as best as I could. I missed a couple of things that she wanted me to mention, but over all I did my best. Another element of anxiety of this talk was the audience. When I found out that we were giving our talks during community hour and that most of the art department was going to be there I was kinda scared and questioned my ability to give the talk. My most fearful critic Katherine Smith was there and that added a bundle of nerves I didn’t even know I had brewing inside me. But to my complete surprise she loved my talk and thought that I did a very good job and presented information and new ideas about my work that she never heard of before. She also gave me some insight on what I could have done better and I really appreciated her kind words. Her scholarship is based on these artist talks and having her compliments made the talk a better experience for me that I will remember for the rest of my time at Agnes.

Overall, I learned a lot about myself, presentation, and research throughout this entire process. i learned that I should practice every chance I can get and prepare earlier than I did. I also learned that presenting isn’t all that bad, if anything I must remember that I am the smartest person on the subject that I am presenting and that I should own it and just have fun. I learned that I like public speaking and that I am less nervous about my senior seminar that will coming up after I come back from abroad.

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