The following is the result of an assignment I had to do for my master’s class.  We had to look at the painting below and connect it to the process of inquiry.  This is what I came up with…

looped painting

Looped Painting Exercise

When I look at this painting and think about how it connects to my journey as a teacher inquirer, several thoughts come to mind.  The black loops that dominate the painting are an obvious connection to the spirals of inquiry that I am currently engaged in.  The loops are not static however, they tell a story of inquiry – a narrative that is both unequivocally personal and wholly relatable by those engaged in the inquiry process.  I find it interesting that the black line has an obvious beginning but no end.  The line disappears off the edge of the painting.  My personal journey in teacher inquiry definitely had a beginning, but now that I’ve started in it, I don’t know how I could ever go back to a time where I am not inquiring in some way.I like how the line leaves the painting in an upward trajectory, indicative that another inquiry might be on its way if the painting were elongated.

Beside each thick black loop are thin black loops that detach themselves from the bigger loops.  These are like the tangents one might follow in the process of data analysis; sometimes they connect back with the bigger inquiry question like in the first loop, but at other times they don’t connect to anything and simply end – perhaps to be rediscovered in another inquiry down the road.  I like how the line is blurred and almost disappears during the second loop, when the question the inquirer is pursuing might seem irrelevant, the data confusing, and for a time, the researcher may enter into a dark night experience where the  narrative is lost for a time, only to be found again later, stronger than ever.  There are also moments of illuminated clarity, sprinkled throughout the paining as yellowish-green dabs, and moments of sustained clarity and insight as seen in the third spiral.

The bleeding of the black line is important too, as our findings, insights, and revelations bleed into other spheres of our life both personally and professionally.  I like how this painting can be examined through both a macro and micro lens; currently, I’m engaged in an inquiry that looks at the connection points between portfolio assessment and student autonomy, but if I zoom out, my story of inquiry started many years ago when I first realized that I was unhappy with the way I was teaching.  It was from that initial unhappiness that gradually lead me to discover the power inquiry could have on revitalizing and changing my practice.  Perhaps, if you were to zoom out even further, life could be seen as a series of spirals of tension and enlightenment – another expression of the natural ebb and flow that is the story of our lives.

The background of this painting is a little more elusive to me.  There appears to be a figure inside the first circle, indicative perhaps of the people who help shape our thoughts and ideas in the process of inquiry, both before we ever started down this road and during the process.  The chosen colours aren’t bright but rather muted.  Perhaps this reveals that the process of inquiry isn’t glamorous but, using the words of Nietzsche “a long obedience in the same direction.”

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