Artistic Mentoring as a Decolonizing Methodology

An Evolving Collaborative Painting Ethnography with Maya Artists Pedro Rafael González Chavajay and Paula Nicho Cúmez

To expand the possibilities of “doing arts thinking” from a non-Eurocentric view, Artistic Mentoring as a Decolonizing Methodology: An Evolving Collaborative Painting Ethnography with Maya Artists Pedro Rafael González Chavajay and Paula Nicho Cúmez is grounded in Indigenous perspectives on arts practice, arts research, and art education. Mentored in painting for eighteen years by two Guatemalan Maya artists, Kryssi Staikidis, a North American painter and art education professor, uses both Indigenous and decolonizing methodologies, which involve respectful collaboration, and continuously reexamines her positions as student, artist, and ethnographer searching to redefine and transform the roles of the artist as mentor, historian/activist, ethnographer, and teacher.

The primary purpose of the book is to illuminate the Maya artists as mentors, the collaborative and holistic processes underlying their painting, and the teaching and insights from their studios. These include Imagined Realism, a process excluding rendering from observation, and the fusion of pedagogy and curriculum into a holistic paradigm of decentralized teaching, negotiated curriculum, personal and cultural narrative as thematic content, and the surrounding visual culture and community as text.

The Maya artist as cultural historian creates paintings as platforms of protest and vehicles of cultural transmission, for example, genocide witnessed in paintings as historical evidence. The mentored artist as ethnographer cedes the traditional ethnographic authority of the colonizing stance to the Indigenous expert as partner and mentor, and under this mentorship analyzes its possibilities as decolonizing arts-based qualitative inquiry. For the teacher, Maya world views broaden and integrate arts practice and arts research, inaugurating possibilities to transform arts education.

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Kryssi Staikidis, Ed.D. (2004), Teachers College Columbia University, is Professor in Art + Design Education at Northern Illinois University. She co-edited Transforming Our Practices: Indigenous Art, Pedagogies, and Philosophies (National Art Education Association, 2017) and has published many articles and book chapters in art education.
Osiyo: Welcome in Cherokee
Christine Ballengee Morris
Luke Eric Lassiter
List of Figures


Mentor Biographies

Pedro Rafael González Chavajay
Joseph Johnston
Paula Nicho Cúmez
Joseph Johnston
Salvador Cúmez Curruchich
Joseph Johnston

PART 1: The Artist as Mentor: The Mentoring Relationship as a Teaching Method and Paintings as Didactic Tools

Introduction to Part 1: The Artist as mentor Pastor Maya (Maya Pastor)
1 Personal and Cultural Narrative as Inspiration: A Painting and Pedagogical Collaboration with Two Maya Artists
 A Problem of Perspective
 A Problem of Practice
 Perspective and Practice in Context
 Decolonizing Methodologies
 Life as Text

2 Where Lived Experience Resides in Art Education: A Painting and Pedagogical Collaboration with Paula Nicho Cúmez
 Reflections on Feminist Pedagogy
 Female Kaqchikel Maya Painting and Teaching Processes
 Owning One’s Narrative in Collaboratively Produced Paintings
 Weaving Women’s Iconography in Paintings
 Fusion: One Imagines the Painting into Being
 Kaqchikel Women Painters’ Iconography: Personal in Cultural
 Maya Women Painters as Role Models
 Asserting Female Ways of Connected Knowing and Teacher/Student Role Reversals
 A Feminist Teacher’s Strategy: To Elicit

PART 2: The Artist as Historian: Paintings as Historical Documents, Sites for Cultural Transmission, and Platforms of Protest and Resistance

Introduction to Part 2: The Artist as Historian, Massacre en Atitlán (Massacre in Atitlán)
 Painting as a Site for Claiming Maya History
3 Maya Paintings as Teachers of Justice: Art Making the Impossible Possible
 The Maya Painting Movement in Context
 Our Values Must Be Salvaged and Presented to Our Children

4 Crossing Borders

5 Advocating for Justice: A Maya Painter’s Journey
 A Story of Courage
 The Anthropology of Genocide: Annihilating Difference (Hinton, 2002)
 A Brief Overview of Guatemalan History
 A Tragic Moment in History: Massacre in Santiago Atitlán December 3, 1990
 Pedro Rafael González Chavajay’s Story

PART 3: The Artist as Ethnographer: Collaborative Ethnography, Decolonizing Research Practice, and the Ethics of Representation

Introduction to Part 3: The Artist as Ethnographer, Nuestra Amistad (Our Friendship)
6 “Coming of Age in Methodology”: Two Collaborative Inquiries with Shinnecock and Maya Peoples
 Diane’s Research Story
 Shinnecock Museum
 Kryssi’s Research Story
 Conclusion: Closing the Distance

Section 1: Ethical Changes in Representation Phase One – Participants and Research Process

7 Visual Privileging: Subjectivity in Collaborative Ethnography

8 Decolonizing Development through Indigenous Artist-Led Inquiry
 Speaking with, Not for or about Others
 The Recounting of Tales, Myths and Readings
 Approaching Arts-Based Inquiry with Eyes Wide-Open
 Researching in Ways that Might (Dis)Serve Multiple Populations

Section 2: Ethical Changes in Representation Phase Two – Relational Presentation

9 Indigenous Methodologies: A Collaborative Painting with Maya Painter Paula Nicho Cúmez
 A Collaborative Painting with Maya Painter Paula Nicho Cúmez

10 The Inseparability of Indigenous Research and Pedagogy: A Collaborative Painting of a Maya Tz’utuhil Grieving Ritual
 Sharing Pain and Happiness
 We Shared This
 La Consolación
 Oh What a Wonderful Theme
 You Were the Author of This Painting
 You Were There
 Reality of a Community
 This Painting Carries Something Important
 We Have Gotten to Know Each Other
 Part of a Larger Story

PART 4: The Artist as Teacher: Transformations of the Academy and the Artist/Teacher

Introduction to Part 4: The Artist as Teacher, La Consolacion (Condolence)

Section 1: Transformations: Curricular Applications to Teaching

11 Learning OUTSIDE the Box: How Mayan Pedagogy Informs a Community/University Partnership
 Inroads: Art Education
 Connections: Transferring Knowledge across Cultures
 The Specifics
 How It Unfolded: Step by Step
 Negotiating Learning
 Leadership: Novices Become Experts
 Cultural Narratives: Paths to Learning
 Co-Mentoring, Friendship, and the Co-Construction of Knowledge
 Conclusions and Implications Situated Learning: The Local Context

12 Maya Teaching Methods: Transformers of Content and Pedagogy in Higher Education
 Part One: Working out of Maya Studios
 Part Two: Walk the Talk

Section 2: Transformations: Self-Reflections of the Artist/Teacher

13 Interior Paths: Transformations of a Painter
El Rapto del Gallo ( Abduction of the Rooster): The Absence of Presence in Art Education
Vendedora De Gallos ( Seller of Roosters): Paths in as Lived Experience
 Conclusion: Who Rules the Roost?

14 Decolonizing Methodologies and the Ethics of Representation: A Collaborative Ethnography with Maya Artists Pedro Rafael González Chavajay and Paula Nicho Cúmez
 Introduction: Ethnography in Art Education
 Description of the Study: A Collaborative Ethnographic Study
 Dismantling Concepts: Research, Benefits, Researcher Subjectivity
 Confidentiality and Representation: How Will the Results Be Disseminated?
 Discussion: A Growing Discomfort

15 Conclusion
 Through the Lens of Life and Death
 Reciprocity and Relationship
 Doing Arts Thinking
 Expanding the Possibilities: Arts Thinking Grounded in Indigenous Perspectives
 Artistic Mentoring as a Decolonizing Methodology

Studio practitioners, art educators, and research scholars in colleges and universities institutions of higher education and pre-service undergraduate, graduate art education students, and ollaborative ethnographers.