Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2023

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Author's Department

Graduate School of Art

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Illustration & Visual Culture

Degree Type



"Ambivalent Images, Beloved Objects" examines how pedagogical theories prioritizing objects and direct sensory experiences in early childhood can be applied to the creation of picture book illustrations. In doing so, it positions picture books as educational tools, and advocates for the importance of using them not to recreate nature, but to connect readers with the tangible world of natural and human-made objects that our digital-driven culture eclipses. It strives towards a unifying pedagogical and aesthetic philosophy that accomplishes what illustrator Eric Carle characterizes as a bridge between the tactile world of objects and the world represented in illustrations.

This exploration builds upon the work of two pedagogues who made initial attempts to unify object-based theories with picture theories—Johann Pestalozzi and Lucy Sprague Mitchell—and uses the threads of their work to weave together a set of recommendations about the types of image-making strategies best suited for strengthening connections between pictures and the tangible world—namely, photography, collage, and tactile enhancements. It also considers the work of 20th and 21st century picture book illustrators who use these techniques, reflecting upon broader pedagogical benefits, including for the author's personal practice.

This paper challenges practices of pictorial illusionism, arguing for the implicit superiority of nature over an artist's rendering, and endorsing an "archaeological" approach to art-making that elevates practices like discovery, reconstruction, and curation that lead readers to the tangible world of objects right outside their own door.



Program Chair

John Hendrix