Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Chihuly at the NY Botanical Garden

Last week, three friends and I took a road trip to the NY Botanical Garden, a stone's throw from the hospital in the Bronx where I was born.  The motivation for the trip was the Chihuly work currently on display at the Garden.  We hit the road before 7am, and by 10:30, we had arrived!
I should admit, I always love botanical gardens, so with or without the Chihuly sculpture, I knew I'd enjoy the day.  I had visited a big exhibit of Chihuly work at the Boston MFA a few years ago (I blogged briefly about it HERE), so I knew it was really cool to see his work in person. I figured that the combination of the garden and the glass sculptures would be a perfect combination, kind of like marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate.

But honestly, I was as intrigued by some exotic plants, as I was by the glass work!  

Actually, the volume of Chihuly on display at the Garden was somewhat small, compared to the previous exhibit I'd seen.  And while the pieces were installed within the Garden, and those that were outside looked beautiful in the sunshine, they were not all as incorporated into the environment as I'd expected them to be. 
For example, the blue "tree" below.  I walked onto the grass, under a tree, and in my camera lens I framed the sculpture with the leaves hanging from the tree.  Just as I was about to shoot the pic, I was reprimanded by a guard.  Evidently I wasn't supposed to walk on the grass.  So I had to stand back on the sidewalk to shoot the pics below, without the framing of leaves. 
Pink waterlilies!
So many pretty colors!
I'd seen photos of other outdoor Chihuly installations, including colorful glass orbs floating on a stream, amidst the waterlilies and other plant growth.  So I expected I'd see something similar at the Garden.  And there they were, colorful glass orbs, in sort of a stream (more of a man-made canal of sorts), but piled in a boat.  Yes, it's cool, but I admit I was disappointed.  My expectations of dozens of orbs floating amidst sunbathing turtles and blooming waterlilies were too grand.

 I know this photo is peculiar, but I kind of like the shadows...

This piece pictured below kind of reminded me of someone dropping a box full of plastic straws.  It was kind of "messy" looking.  But I had fun enhancing the colors in the second pic below!

I hope you've enjoyed this little armchair tour!  I'm glad I live close enough to be able to make a trip like this in a day (with a friend confident enough to do the drive!).  Chihuly or not, I'd like to return to the Botanical Garden in other seasons, particularly earlier in the spring, when the magnolias and lilacs and other flowering trees would be in bloom.
Here's a link to a blog post, showing a student putting the finishing touches on a Chihuly-style tower made in my classroom a few years ago. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Jazz up a hallway with a permanent student art gallery!

On The Artful Advocate blog, I shared about the student art gallery in my former school, pictured above.  I'll share a gallery tour in this post, as well, but I also want to point out a few pieces of interest.  For example, these two adorable elephants pictured below were painted more than 10 years apart!  (Sorry about the picture quality in this post; the hallway is narrow and there's a lot of unavoidable reflections on the glass in the frames.)

Let me tell you more about the gallery.  The school building in the tiny district where I taught was brand new in 1999, and for the first time, all K-12 students (between 500-600 kids total) were housed in one building.  A long stretch of bare hallway connects the high school and elementary wings, and I decided it was a perfect place to adorn permanently with student artwork.  With the support of my administration and school board, financial support from the PTSA organization,discounts and donations of mat board and frames from my favorite framer, and help with the installation by my fabulous custodians, the gallery became a reality and several pieces of artwork were added each year. To see the elementary gallery as it looks now, adorned with more than a dozen years of student artwork, watch the video tour below.

A year or two after my gallery began, the high school teacher also began adding artwork at the high school end of the hallway, and you can tour that section of the gallery in this video.

What's really fun is seeing some things that have happened.  For example, there's a few kids who have a piece on both the elementary and the high school end of the gallery, such as the 4th grade painted tissue paper collage below, and the high school acrylic painting underneath, both created by a talented young lady.  This artist, as with many others whose work hangs in the gallery, is now a college graduate! 

And there's these two paintings of trees, painted by talented twin sisters while in 4th grade.  I believe one of the girls has gone on to an art-related career, and a younger sister is also an artist.  We drew trunks that touched the top of the paper, and added branches that also extended to the edges of the paperl  The kids practiced color blending with tempera paint to create these paintings. 

While I was videotaping and photographing the gallery a few days ago, I noted many pieces of artwork are from projects I've never blogged about, so I'll be posting about them in coming posts.  For example, this fan design below was made by a 4th grader.  It was painted with values of India ink with the addition of some charcoal, and coated with Mod Podge.  Most students folded their fans and added cardboard sticks so they could actually be used, but this student chose to simply mount his fan, and was happy to have it selected to add to the gallery.

Perhaps my favorite piece in the gallery, and the story that goes with it, is this 1st grade portrait "of Mary by Karen" below, created before the gallery even existed. (Again, I apologize for image quality.  Along with the reflections on the glass, the artwork has also faded a bit.)  The students did these portraits sitting across from a friend they wanted to draw.  The artwork was done with construction paper and colored  pencils, and honestly, this looked JUST like Mary, bright blue eyes, freckles and all! The drawings had been sent home with the artists.  When Mary and Karen graduated from high school (still best friends), the same year I retired, Karen's mother brought me the artwork and suggested it hang in the gallery.  I framed it, and hung it at the very beginning of the gallery.  I swear, it STILL looks jut like Mary!
In the coming few days, I'll share stories (and lesson instructions) for a few other pieces hanging in the gallery.  Come back to take a look!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Nature Interlude: Bird Babies and Loon Attacks

I most often use this blog to post about art projects, visits to art exhibits and museums and other artsy excursions, and other art and/or education topics.  But every so often I like to take a break to share a little bit of nature with you, through my camera.  I guess it is still an artsy post then, since I'm using my photography to share the magic of the natural world, which can be inspiration for other artwork, or art lessons and projects with students. Today's post is one of these nature interludes.  [Above, baby Red Wing Blackbirds]

In the theme of baby birds, this loon [officially, a Common Loon], above, is sitting on a nest, presumably on eggs.  Loons are water birds, and only come ashore to nest.  Their legs are placed very far back on their bodies, which makes it pretty impossible for them to walk much at all.  This is the first time I've ever seen a nesting loon, and the last time I come anywhere near a mama loon on a nest.  Actually, the pic below shows more accurately how far I was from the loon.  All closeup photos of the loon (and of the red wing blackbird babies) were taken using a zoom.  There's no way I'd ever get so close.  Anyhow, when I discovered the loon on the nest, I took my kayak in a wide arc around it, attempting to keep a respectful distance. [By the way, the other bird in the pic below is a Common Grackle]

I had kayaked from our Adirondack family camp [a seasonal cottage near the shore] to the little marsh at the north end of the lake [Loon Lake; one of two in the Adirondacks].  I always enter the marsh the same way, heading toward one side where there's stumps and logs where I often find turtles basking, past the tree where I saw a magnificent Bald Eagle a couple of years ago, aiming toward the weeds in the back of the marsh, where sometimes if I'm lucky I'll spot a Great Blue Heron fishing. 

And that's when I saw the loon, on a platform that had been placed in the lake several years ago, for loon nesting.  But I've never seen anything on the platform before, other than a turtle and some dragonflies, so I was caught by surprise.  We always have loons on the lake, but I've never spotted where they had nested.  I drifted slowly, taking pictures.  The loon seemed undisturbed, turning her head one way, then the other. 

After a bit, she slipped into the water, taking a peek my way, and then swimming in the opposite direction, which I took to mean she was fishing.  At this point I decided to continue toward the back of the marsh, to look for other wildlife.  Then, the loon went under, and suddenly surfaced directly in back of my kayak.  I was stunned.  I quickly tucked my camera between my knees, and the loon dived again, this time surfacing right in front of me, beside my kayak.  She was angry.  She motored forward directly at me at high speed, inches from my face, spreading her massive wings and beating them furiously against the water, her beak opening and closing, and her red eyes blazing.  I paddled backwards furiously,  until I was able to turn the nose of the kayak away and head forward, toward the back of the marsh, heart beating at breakneck speed, hands shaking.  I kayaked to the far side of the marsh, while she patrolled from the center, watching me until I exited and headed back into the open lake.  I don't recall when else I've been so terrified.  I doubt I've ever paddled faster, and I don't think my heartbeat slowed and my hands stopped shaking until I was back at my dock, a mile and a half away.  I have no plans to return to the marsh any time soon...

My visits to the baby red wing blackbirds have been much calmer, and much safer.  I discovered the nests at a pond just minutes from my home.  There's a well-used walking path around the pond, and walkways into some wetlands.  I frequently take walks around the pond, and always bring my camera, because there's lovely gardens.   

I've discovered three nests with babies at various stages of development, and I know there are more nests deep in the rushes.  Very cool.  These pics are a variety from my visits to the pond, every  few days.  The baby birds develop very fast!

Here's mama with a caterpillar in her beak, ready to feed her babies. 

And here's dad.  He looks like he's pacing! 

 This baby was developed enough to be kicked out of the nest.  The babies hang onto rushes until they are able to fly, waiting for mama or daddy to bring food. 

 I've named this baby Mr. Grumpy-pants.  Look at that face!

Enjoy the nature around you this summer, and take your time! Most of the people I see walking at this pond have no idea these baby birds are just a few feet away from them.  I feel so privileged to have made these discoveries.  But take my reminder: wild animals, no matter how beautiful, are ultimately WILD.  You cannot predict their behavior.  I certainly have learned that!