Using visual and ethnographic methods the author forms a connection between materiality and the memories of childhood. The researcher begins by asking the question, “Can a studio environment create encounters between a researcher and preschool children that deepen understanding of culture?” To this end, the researcher engaged in sensory research practices through ethnographic methods in a preschool art studio. Through free choice art making, children were found expressing their emotions and demonstrating an awareness of adult culture. In particular, the researcher’s encounter with four-year old George was enriched through sensory participation and triggered embodied and empathetic knowing. As it happens, conducting this research through the shared sensory attributes of art materials, the researcher was sent reeling. The encounter with memories of her childhood were unforeseen and disturbing. Art materials, it appears, can reveal cultural knowledge and can also serve as emotional bookmarks of time. Materials can juxtapose the past with the present, linking then with now. Feeling is embedded in the artifact and can release provocative memories. Materials from childhood create the self for what it is.


Visual Ethnography, Art, Autoethnography, Uncensored Culture of Childhood, Memory, Sensory Ethnography

Author Bio(s)

Vicky J. Grube is Professor of Art Education at Appalachian State University. She has published numerous articles in Visual Arts Research, International Journal of Education and the Arts, Cultural Studies=Critical Methodologies and Arts Education among other publications. She is the artist and writer of several graphic novels one being The True Story of a Hard Worker, the true story of Fanny Lou Hamer and is featured at Quimby's in Chicago. She began a Room 13 program for children in North Carolina based on the internationally respected Room 13 in Scotland. This after school ART program is run by the children and the work is NOT school art but based on the genuine desires of the children. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: grubev@appstate.edu.

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