Updated: May 22, 2021
3rd and 4th grade students from our partnership school, PS 6 in Jersey City, discussed the meanings of UNITY and COMMUNITY and viewed the works of artist Jean Dubuffet - in a lesson called Abstracting My Neighborhood.
Teaching Artist Flávia Berindoague explains: “The objective of the class today was to explore shapes and colors to describe an environment, a place from a community. Students created an abstract background using colors and shapes inspired by Jean Dubuffet’s artworks.
We started asking: What is a community? Each student thought about their favorite place in their community and wrote on the back of their drawing sheet. Places like library, park, beach, deli, restaurant, supermarket, a basketball court, backyard, bedroom, grandmother’s house, and many other places were selected as their favorite ones. They discussed about shapes and colors they could see in the places they picked.
I introduced Jean Dubuffet’s works and we discussed his inspirations, and his admiration for work of children, shapes, and colors. We also compared his works with graffiti art introducing the vocabulary words abstract and collage. It was an interesting discussion as most of the students were able to define what is an abstract artwork. On the other hand graffiti art was not a familiar word for them. A lot of surprised ahhhh’s! were heard after they connected the art on walls they see in the streets with the term graffiti.
Then the students were asked to draw different shapes and colors representing their favorite community place. I think the lesson was valuable to break the way of seeing things, of abstracting an image into shapes and colors.”
Sarah Gumgumji took on the task of capturing screen shots of students' works and offered great definitions of "abstract" and "graffiti" in the chat columns, for clarification.
During critique, 4th grader Joliana gave a heartfelt compliment to her classmate Aarav by remarking on his excellent choice of shapes found in a basketball court. Our compliments to Joliana - because it's not easy to observe work on a Google Meet screen but she paid attention and looked closely.
Students were attentive and anxious to show and discuss their works and are anxious to move forward to the next step in our next lesson. Flavia also offered a great demonstration on how to properly photograph art using a phone camera. While many students may not have access to cameras, we asked for them to ask an adult in their home to do the photographing for them.
Visiting animals were not as attentive - Enzo's pet rabbit made a guest appearance during class but was more interested in chewing Enzo's paper than making her own art, and Dennis' dog Olive snored loudly throughout all 3 classes.
Earlier in the week ART YARD Advanced Studio worked with Teaching Artist Golnar Adili on a session called Finding The Alter Ego in the Doodle.
Golnar showed work by Salvatore Dali, Pablo Picasso and Morgan O’Hara as inspiration then we discussed the concept of gestalt and the notion of alter egos. We began our artwork by covering our paper a page purely abstract doodle. Then we hunted out what could be a self-portrait of sorts using shading darker lines or color. Yes, it was as fun and liberating as it sounds!
Golnar reports: “There was a lot of creative energy in the air with this lesson. It seemed like everyone was a master at doodling which we kinda are!
Participants simply made magic! Ed did a gorgeous red and black alter ego which kept the two sides of the doodle lines intact while Jenn went all for color and a dreamscape with water.
Zeke used a unique patterning within doddle quadrants to create himself in a chair in front of a landscape.
Jacob and Nayarit, who with four drawings wins “Most Prolific” for the session, created at least one piece depicting smaller figures scattered throughout the page.
Jacob explains: “I kept rotating my drawing pad as I worked on my piece Chaotic Beech, to a point where I'm not totally sure which way is up. I decided to turn some of the lines on the edges into waves, and added the sun, some seaweed, and a starfish to give the whole thing a more nautical feel.”
A few pieces maintained an abstract feel including Sarah’s is very map-like piece.
BeardsCarnival did a couple of very sophisticated beautiful abstract expressionist doodle/paintings with earthy colors.
Ardelia and Karla both used limited but compelling color schemes in very energetic compositions.
Karla writes: “My doodles began with ruler lines and then added hand motion circular lines to create both linear and curved motion within fractured lines. Wanting to create an alter-ego portrait, I stared at the grid and began. Never having long hair I started there and then red lips as I almost never wear lipstick! Added a yellow shirt/dress as I typically wear mostly black! A great exercise in spontaneity and seeing! It was FUN!”
Vera (attending from the Dominican Republic where she is currently visiting her family) incorporated text into her piece.
Halli made herself into a brash Carmen Miranda character, and mine ended up with a surprisingly very tiny mouth.
Golnar ends with the compliment to the group: “The whole range was a treat to see! Thank you for breathing life into the lesson with your imagination!”
ART YARD Advanced Studio has become an oasis for many of us. Sessions on Zoom mean that artists from far flung locales are part of the community. Karla who joins us from Kansas sent me a text today which I think sums this up well: “Been so very busy this past week! The Monday lessons are such a sweep of fresh air and opportunity to be part of a larger world and multiple thought processes and perspectives!!!”
For our third session in this ART YARD Art Matters at PS 282 cycle Teaching Artist Jane Huntington presented a lesson in portraiture called Alice Neel and Jamel Shabazz: Who Are Our Neighbors?
While sharing the work of Painter Alice Neal and Photographer Jamel Shabazz Jane guided students in a discussion of material use, color choices, and background composition. In addition Jane pointed out how gestures and facial expression reveal the character and emotion of the people depicted. Jane who lives in close proximity to PS 282 also shared her own photographs. Students noticed that in all of Jane’s photographs her neighbors are wearing masks. A sure sign these are current artworks.
Jane summarizes: “Students used a variety of techniques: watercolor, collage, marker, pen. Some did closeup portraits, others painted and drew groups of people.
The focus and attention to detail was extraordinary–backgrounds with brownstones and fences, skies with clouds and birds, a red dress with white flowers. Brianna did a mural size pen and ink drawing illustrating her current neighborhood and the one she’s moving to. Families were well represented, as were their pets.”
To make this project on your own simply create an art work depicting your neighbors using the materials of your choice. Watch the video recap!
Not to be outdone by the menagerie attending our classes at PS 6, my cat Lola has joined the pre-k and kindergarten session at PS 282!
When I reminded students that today was the final day of Jane’s Art Matters at PS 282 cycle and let them know that a new teaching artist named Claude would be teaching next week, a student excitedly asked if it would be “Claude Monet”? (Wouldn’t that would make for an impressive teaching roster!)
Finally, thank you to Lorenzo, now morphing his paper sculpture focus into origami, who sent a sweet written message to me and Jane and Vera wishing us a Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
In other art news:
ART YARD Art Therapist Jennifer Dodson is visiting from Virginia this week. Jenn and I went to see the Alice Neel: People Come First at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life at PS1.
Jenn reviews the exhibitions:
“Alice Neel is a painter that always valued the human spirit and this is evident not only in her work but also by the way in which she lived her life. The exhibit of her paintings on view currently at the MET begins from her early days as a young artist and document her process well into her final years. Neel’s interest in portraits and her unique style of capturing the gesture and personality of her sitters can be enjoyed from the scrutiny of her brushstrokes to the abstract quality of her lines. She is truly a painter’s painter.”
“Nikki de Saint Phalle’s exhibition currently on view at PS1 shouldn’t be missed. Whether or not one is familiar with her work, this exhibit offers the viewer a comprehensive timeline of de Saint Phalle’s evolution as an artist. From works on paper to 3D models of larger structures, the viewer’s imagination is activated by visualizing the scale that de Saint Phalle enjoyed manipulating in her colorful and psychedelic spaces. Entering the whimsical and magical landscape of de Saint Phalle’s visions, this exhibit is an invitation to embrace a pioneer who pursued her own aesthetic despite negative criticism and pushback. The show is beautifully curated and designed, allowing for plenty of space for contemplation and viewing. It also touches upon themes of prejudice, injustice, and compassion during de Saint Phalle’s own lifetime.”
A highlight of the day was meeting up in the Niki de Saint Phalle exhibition with ART YARD Artist Claude Viaud Peralta who works at PS1. It was great to discuss the show and enjoy the actual in-person discussion surrounded by art.
Have you been to exhibitions that you would recommend? We would love to hear your recommendations!