June 28, 2009

Hot Summer Art

For the last few weeks, I’ve been absorbed by my job as an arts educator - so much so that there was no time to create my own new works or to write. But the time spent sharing my knowledge with others was rewarding. I will be traveling and teaching for the next few weeks and will probably not be painting, sculpting and writing again until August.
In the mean time, I am posting a few samples of the works of my students in the Reach Summer Arts program at Sumter High School. The students were engaging and their work is a testament to their talents and abilities.
In a time of extreme budget cuts for the arts, we made these mosaics with mostly recycled materials. We started with discarded matt board from the refuse bins of picture framers. The large pieces were cut into standard sizes for mounting art work on - 10" x 12" and 12" squares. The other scraps were sized on the white side with gesso and then faux finished with acrylic paints. Using scraping, ragging, stippling and trailing techniques, the painted boards gradually took on the appearance of precious rocks and fine textiles. When dry, these were cut into squares, rectangles, haphazard pieces and strips. Using PVA white glue, the pieces were assembled in various mosaic styles.
For subject matter, I had the students extrapolate from two sources. The first source were fused glass pieces of the student’s own making. The other source was clippings of paintings from art magazines. I had the students take these focal points and create a world around them. When possible, I used objects from the students’ previous art projects - like those beautiful fused glass flattened bottles that their art teacher, Heidi Adler, helped them create. One of these is featured in the mosaic piece above by Lexi Melton. The reverse side of this and some of the other glass pieces has been treated with silver-leaf in order to block the background color of the matt board and to enhance the iridescence of the glass.
I like the approach that many of the students used in completing their projects and marveled at how their individual aesthetic approaches shaped the final product. The strange but exuberant collage surrounding a picture of a kimono by Bryan O'Connor is a study in a controlled chaotic fantasy of Asia. The heart motif could have been a cliche, if not for the variety of cuts and the skill in their assembly. The heart sealed with an x by Angel Rodriguez becomes more of an icon than a valentine. The tree with madonna is by Amitra Simonson.
I continue to prepare for a series of summer camp jobs - the summer is my busiest teaching season. It is a dizzying whirlwind of activity as I prepare to teach two more courses at McDaniel college. But as the sage painter, Ba Da Shan Ren once said, "teaching is half of learning," and I expect that my own artistic vistas will broaden as the result of all the hot summer art activities.