There was an interdisciplinary program at our school last night. It was a celebration of World War II, which included art and social studies projects, and musical performances – chorus, band and orchestra. I also helped out in gym classes this week, teaching dance lessons – jitterbug, bunny hop and the hokey pokey – for the dance that anchored the evening’s festivities.
We honored local veterans and welcomed a guest speaker who shared a first hand account of the holocaust.
In preparation for this event, I created a sculpture lesson for my Studio in Art students. I’ve been collecting old Barbie dolls for many years and finally figured out what to do with them.
We made paratroopers! The parachute shape was done in plaster of Paris built around plastic bowl molds. Students painted the interior with metallic paint and the exterior was done with patches of fabric glued with Mod Podge. Students then had a buffet of materials with which to construct the humanoid – wooden blocks, cinnamon sticks, sponges… and the Barbie dolls, which had to be harvested for parts.
Hot glue held them together and wires were used to attach the figure to the parachute.
In addition, we did a watercolor unit, focusing on characteristics of the medium, as well as the principles and elements of art to create abstract expressionist paintings. Students learned glazing, wet-in-wet, saving the white of the paper, and dry brush.
Even though this lesson was meant to understand the emergence of the New York City art scene circa the 1940s and the role of abstract expressionism in art history, I shared my own watercolors with students and explained how I create happy emotion and energy via the use of rhythm, balance and emphasis with color. It really helped them to dissect the work and understand how to both use the techniques and process the use of elements to create the principles.
My favorite thing about the artwork is that they are all so different. In my own work, I take pride in how my hand moves. It is unique. I can recognize my own brushstroke. These paintings hold the same sort of identity to the students, like you can identify your art in a police lineup – I mean if your art was a person accused of a crime. I love that regardless of how silly the analogy.
The resulting experience was pretty surreal, like a dream or a PG-13 movie. A successful evening with all of the 8th grade teachers and the librarian, PTA and administrators playing a part. We like to think of ourselves as the happiest middle school – on Earth or just New York State, I’m not sure.
Just found out that Chittenango came in fourth on a list of New York State best towns in which to live, so there’s that. It is a pretty great place!
Bonus – I posted this picture of me on Instagram in my Trina Turk dress, and Trina Turk responded with a smiley face and a star emoticon! Amazing! So great. Or as my colleague from work (who just took leave to have her baby) says – it’s a Yahtzee!