Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Artful Excursions!

Since I'm retired, I can't really talk about Artful Excursions in terms of field trips with kids, but I think, even if you are still actively teaching, it's important (informative, restorative, and enlightening) to take your own artful excursions, whether it involves visiting museums, or traveling to take an immersive class, exploring a botanical garden, or simply hitting the road with a camera and/or a sketchbook.  I'm going to highlight a few of my favorite artful excursions.  I'm leaving out the obvious: the Met and MoMA in NYC (though the pic above is from a visit to MoMA a few years ago).  I've been to both dozens of times.
I love to visit sculpture parks, both big and well-known, or small and off-the-beaten-path:
  • The Storm King Art Center (pictured above) is an incredible place, a 500 acre outdoor sculpture park, in NY's Hudson Valley, filled with monumental sculpture.  I blogged about a visit there a while ago.  You can find the post HERE.
  • You've probably never heard of the Circle Museum.  We made a chance discovery of this quirky roadside attraction while driving to take a hike at Bash Bish Falls, near the border of NY and MA.  You can read about my visits to the Circle Museum in two blog posts, HERE and HERE. The pics below are from this really cool place, all the work of one talented artist, Bijan Mahmoodi.

Oddball little museums:
  • Check out my post about The Museum of Bad Art in the Boston area, HERE. It may make you feel better about your own artwork, if you lack confidence!  But don't think that it's mean to have a museum like this.  It's all very tongue-in-cheek fun, right down to the Somerville location, in the grungy basement of a movie theater.  Admission to the museum is simply your movie ticket. There's another location in the Boston area as well.
  • I posted about The Barbie Expo in Montreal HERE.  If you're into fashion, or Barbie dolls, or both, this is the place to go!  I was really inspired.
  • At the little Harvard Museum of Natural History, there's an exhibit of glass flowers.  Pretty amazing works of art, they were made for botanical research.  Somehow, I forgot to post about it, probably because we visited it on the morning of the same day that my son got married.  Anyhow, below is a pic of some of the glass flowers.  Maybe, if you go to the NAEA convention in Boston this March, you could visit this awesome exhibit!  By the way, there's lots more at the museum.  I was especially inspired by exhibits of gorgeous colorful insects. 
  • In tiny Shushan NY, I discovered an exhibit of fairy houses at the Georgi Museum.  Magical!  Read about it in the blog post HERE.  This exhibit inspired me to make gnome homes with my students, who were building papier-mache garden gnomes. You can find a post about them HERE.
Favorite museums:
  • I can return to Mass MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) time after time.  It's a super-cool place.  And if you're in the North Adams/Williamstown MA area for a couple of days, you an visit Mass MoCA one day, and the nearby Clark Art Institute the next.  Read about my visits to Mass MoCA HERE and HERE, and in other posts as well.
  • There's so many wonderful museums to visit in NYC, and I've been to the Met and MoMA many many times.  But it's always worth hopping the subway to Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Museum, a real gem.  (and bonus, there's a nearby botanical garden, too!).  While at the museum, you'll get to see Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, a spectacular piece of feminist art. And on your way back to Manhattan, walk across the fabulous iconic Brooklyn Bridge!
  • It may not be an "art" museum, but I return repeatedly to the Museum of Natural History in NYC. Along with all the other treasures there, each year for a period of time in the winter, there's a butterfly conservatory.  It's certainly an artistic inspiration!  Blog posts HERE and HERE. 
  • And if all else fails, take a walk.  It can be just a walk in your neighborhood, or a walk in the woods, or a walk on the beach.  All are artistic inspirations for me.  Bring a camera if you won't have time to sketch.  Below, from a walk through Central Park in Manhattan. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

New Project: People in Motion

I love inventing new projects.  My DragonWing Art students (2 girls and one boy) just completed a couple of these first-time projects, one of which I'm sharing with you today!
The theme for our 7-week session was 'Let's Get Moving'.  For the project I'm sharing today, the theme was 'people in motion'.  Each student created their own movable template for a person, cutting out out body parts and assembling them all with brass fasteners so that the limbs could be arranged in various poses.  I thought about showing the students Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, but not knowing two of the children or their parents very well, I decided against it. The kids did a great job, nevertheless.
Once assembled, the templates were traced repeatedly performing a moving action, such as the bowling image below.  The outlines were traced over with a black Sharpie.

Then, class was postponed for a week because of an unexpected visitor in our classroom. I'm terrified of rodents, and was freaked out to see a squirrel standing on the table next to the drying rack.  Pest control was called, and after a few days the invader was trapped and released hopefully very far away. With my husband's help, the gap at the bottom of the classroom door was covered with metal stripping, and the building was better secured.  Nothing had been destroyed in the room but with the squirrel trapped in there, he'd made a big mess, with stuff knocked over on the floor and squirrel droppings here and there.  The custodian did a first cleanup but was afraid to move the art stuff.  So then I took everything out of the room and did a thorough cleaning, and put  it all back, getting rid of some useless stuff in the process.  Then the custodian did a final cleaning/disinfecting.  Hopefully no more rodents, ever!

Anyhow, once the classroom was ours again, and the templates were traced, the students had a choice of three ways to add color.  One way was to trace inside the outlines of the figures with markers, and then use wet paintbrushes to pull the color into the figures and let the colors blend, as being done by the boy below.
The girls used the same method to color their figures.

 For their backgrounds, the girls used a second process.  They colored with pastel chalks, and then dipped a finger into liquid starch and used the wet finger to blend  the chalk colors.  The starch helps to blend, and also to 'fix' the chalk.
 One of the girls had missed a class and never outlined her figures with Sharpie.  I think it added an ethereal look to her diver in front of a beautiful sunset (or is it a sunrise?).

Instead of using the chalk and starch, the boy chose to paint his background with tempera paints.
I only had three students in the fall session of my class; one 4th grade girl, and one 5th grade girl,,and a 3rd grade boy.  The two younger kids were first-timers in the class, and none of them had ever met each other before.  After a rather quiet first class, they suddenly all became a wonderful unit, treating each other so nicely, laughing and relaxing and complimenting each other on their work.  By the end of the session, the two girls had exchanged phone numbers to arrange play-dates.  I couldn't have had a nicer little group.

One more time, here's the transformation of the piece at the top of this post, from before and after the chalk color had been added. Pretty cool, isn't it?
Look for another one of the new projects (hint: its based on the 'Let's Get Moving' theme, and was created with papier-mache) in a blog post coming soon!