“I have decided to stick to love... Hate is too great a burden to bear.” ― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches”
Extending our ART YARD Advanced Studio lessons from December on reflection and the self-portrait, teaching artist Ed Rath initiated an investigation into “negative reflections,” otherwise known as shadows. Noting that historically, painting evolved from studying ideal form to how light reflects off of form, Ed presented the work of two modern masters: Edward Hopper and Giorgio de Chirico. These painters, through the use of dramatic shadows, created feelings of unease, alienation, and impending doom. Their work expresses for many the overwhelming anxiety that followed early Twentieth Century political unrest, revolution, and the rise of industrial warfare.
Dennis and Fatima graciously agreed to pose for the ensuing drawing session. Under directional lights, our models personified humanity at its noble best.
The class got right down to work with their Sumi ink, concentrating hard while Ed related to them The Allegory of Plato’s Cave. In this Socratic dialogue, prisoners chained to a wall in a dark cave can see only shadows on the wall in front of them. One prisoner gets forced out of the cave and pushed into the sunlight, which causes him great pain because he cannot focus in the bright light. Later, upon adjusting to the light, he concludes that shadows and reflections are only hollow symbols of real objects and people, and that the sun is source of all life. Inspired by this newfound wisdom, he returns to enlighten his imprisoned comrades, but is met by ridicule, because now that he has adjusted to the bright sunlight, he can no longer see the shadows in the cave. The prisoners think he has lost, not gained wisdom – in fact, they try to kill him for his heretical statements.
We artists, like our philosophical brethren, also search for truth, beauty and the good, through the window of the picture frame, behind the shadow of Sumi ink, in everything we do and see. To draw is to see.
“As I gazed at the drawing, I could feel the artists challenging me to reconsider the nature of light.” – from theoretical physicist Stephon Alexander’s “What This Drawing Taught Me About Four-Dimensional Spacetime”
On Wednesday our first cohort of ART YARD artists from MS226 in South Ozone Park, Queens traveled to Kentler International Drawing Space to view, discuss and work from robin holder’s Spot Light on the Flatfiles exhibition Access & Inequities: I Hear You. Do You See Me?
Some of these students visited Kentler last year to see my exhibition and they could barely contain their excitement as they proudly made that know. It is wonderful to witness that sense of belonging and familiarity between a young person and a contemporary art venue. This is how art appreciation is nurtured and it is with these vibrant young beings that the future of our city as a cultural haven will continue and flourish!
The students, their teacher and I looked at the work on view from several types of focus points. We carefully “read” the work to discern what we perceived as robin's content and perspective. I also asked the group to discern what art materials and methods were employed in the creation of the work on view. Students were engaged, fascinated, vocal and astute.
Students then selected the piece on view which most intrigued them. Using pencil on paper they worked to draw that piece from observation (a continuation of the process we have been working on at school.). A sort of vibrating silence settled into the gallery as the students enthusiastically began work.
And then robin arrived!! Introductions and a brief recap of the lesson so far ended in a spontaneous round of applause from the group!
Robin and I provided one-on-one encouragement throughout the group.
Then we reconvened for a mid-session critique. At ART YARD critique is an essential part of our process. Critique is the moment where students are encouraged to develop an articulate and thoughtful spoken voice. It is a time of dialogue and encouragement.
Thus inspired students went back to their work adding color with colored pencil (as seen in robin’s work on view.).
We wrapped up the session with a swift round of compliments which included admiration for the range of personal style, the diligence of the group, as well as a profound admiration for the work created and on view.
Students at our partnership school in Jersey City, PS 6, were granted several options in their Yayoi Kusama inspired art-making lesson. Teaching Artist Sarah Gumgumji offered choices of sizes, shapes and types of paper in addition to different mediums to the 4th and 5th graders who worked diligently on their 'brain explosion' drawings and paintings. Sarah covered the basics of the color wheel and complementary colors and asked students to select colors accordingly.
Using colored pencils, some groups enhanced their drawings and added more color. Others, using black paper and white pencil and/or gel pens, created monochromatic pieces - while a few others used watercolor or mixed media. The results were, well, quite Kusama-esque. Many gave their pieces names as they were asked to make shapes based on feelings and meanings. Titles included "Splat", "Rainfall Joy", "Cafeteria", "Hunger" and "Color Burst".
1st graders were given large sized reflective paper or black paper which they use to create giant organic shapes inspired by Kusama's mirrored sculptures. The shapes were cut out and displayed for critique and for curatorial discussion - students will visit the school's gallery next week and discuss how their works might be exhibited.
Sarah was assisted by Dennis and Art Yard Intern Leslie Ramirez. Vocabulary words included monochromatic, complementary, harmony and analogous.
REMINDER: there is no Advanced Studio session this coming Monday January 20th as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sticking with love,