Contemporary artists such as Mark Langan and Chris Gilmour are just two of the many artists that transform everyday materials, in this case cardboard, into high art. This project utilizes math, engineering, and lots of creativity, as eighth graders created a person, animal or everyday object from this humble material. In preparation for the main project, students worked in teams to create abstract cardboard structures using minimum adhesives. This challenge introduced students to many methods of attachment, which they later utilized when assembling their creations.
This project asked students to choose from three still life drawing prompts:
-trace one or more objects 10 or more times, with overlapping and shading
-photograph 10 or more of the same or different objects with overlapping, then draw from your photograph
-photograph 20 or more objects with no overlapping, then draw from your photograph
Students learned to shade with a variety of values, layering graphite rather than adjusting pressure to create darker areas. Likewise, we discussed how to use the weight of a line (whether it is thick or thin) to imply value and a sense of the object’s weight in relation to other things in the image. The quality of the shading, whether it is rough or smooth, was used to suggest the texture of different elements in the image. Finally, understanding where the light source is coming from proved especially challenging as students completing option one needed to invent shadows that were realistic and convincing.
Eighth graders began this project with a screening of the documentary, Home. This film looks at how climate change is affecting our planet’s natural resources and in turn our earth’s population.
Each student then chose from a variety of issues related to climate change, including efforts to stop global warming. With their topic in hand, they created a Google Doodle inspired by their issue.
Eighth graders currently have work on view in the Terrace Gallery at Black Rock Center for the Arts . Throughout the course of the year, students developed a portfolio of work ranging from painting to drawing, sculpture, and conceptual art. A jury of three selected work from each students’ portfolio to be included in the exhibition. The same jury awarded prizes in a variety of categories.
An important part of this year long process is teaching students how to photograph and write about their work, as well as to curate and install each artwork. Students worked in small groups, deciding on placement, and sharing in the task of hanging the work.
It is wonderful to provide students with the opportunity to present their work in a professional setting and I am incredibly proud of how well they worked together in making this exhibition a success.
We live in a time of profound uncertainty. Navigating the various social, political, and economic issues that influence our lives is a task that can leave one feeling paralyzed by anxiety. Add to that the plethora of issues that plague the lives of those less fortunate than us; the influence of people and corporations more powerful than us; and the mounting evidence that the choices we make today are changing our planet in irreversible ways. In the face of such monumental challenges, how can we chart a path towards a better future?
Artists as far back as the Renaissance have used their work to shed light on social issues, whether it be through covert means, such as symbols hidden within paintings, or through a more direct approach, such as the iconic Aids Quilt. In this way, artists play an important role in bringing awareness, empathy, and a space for sincere reflection into the conversation that surrounds issues of social and environmental justice. Artists become activists, asking the viewer to ponder the question: what is my role in shaping the world I live in?
For this project, 8th graders selected a social/environmental issue that was important to them and wrote a proposal for a piece of art they would create in response to that issue. Students researched their topics and then incorporated that research into their proposals. They connected the media (how and with what they created their project) to the artwork’s content or meaning.
Through this project students developed a deeper appreciation for the concept of “knowledge as power,” and for the various ways in which artists play an integral role in giving a voice to the voiceless.
Resources (Students read the following articles in preparation for making and writing about their projects):
In the artist’s words:
The definition for suicide is the act or instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally. One hundred and five people in the United States (male and female) commit suicide every day. I addressed the topic and this number by drawing one hundred and five simplified human bodies onto the sidewalk next to our school building. The bodies were drawn next to an arrow with white chalk, some of them were even cut off by the arrow.
In the artist’s words:
iCloud hacking is the breaching and utilization of another person’s Apple device or any other electronic. It is a real problem that can effect large amounts of people. When a person’s iCloud is hacked the hackers are stealing information about you that could be used to make fake profiles and bank accounts using your personal information and money. I decided to show this social issue with a cloud, wrapped in unlocked chains, rain ones and zeroes. The unlocked chains represent the breach of security. The rain is to show the leaking of information. Computer information is written in zeroes and ones, so it would be appropriate for the cloud to “rain” them.
In the artist’s words:
Shark fining is a huge issue in today’s world, as the shark population is decreasing at an alarming rate. Over 73 (of 100 million) sharks finned annually are used for shark fin soup, and up to 98% of the animal is wasted in the process. At this rate, the 400 million year old creatures will go extinct within the next few decades to make soup. It is especially saddening because the soup contains 42 times the safe mercury level for human consumption. My piece shows a shark with its fins detached and colored red. It symbolizes the fins cut off in the fining process, and the grey body represents what is wasted. I chose string art because the materials are similar to those used in the fining and packaging process. Hopefully raising awareness can end shark fining forever.
In the artist’s words:
Steroid use is an appalling problem in the world of sports. According to the Health Research Funding Association, in 2003, 30 elite athletes were said to have used performance-enhancing steroids. Steroids are not just a professional problem either, as 44% of teens say that acquiring steroids would be fairly easy for them. To display the act of taking steroids in sports, I placed a syringe in a football where you would normally pump it up, signifying that steroids are filling up the world of sports. I used these items instead of another form of media because it would invoke the most emotion out of the observer, instead of, say, drawing the project. I hope this project helps spread the message of the horrendous act that is going on in sports today.
Etching, also known as intaglio printmaking, is a type of printmaking where lines are incised onto a plate, which can be made of copper, zinc, plexiglass, or a variety of other materials. In traditional printmaking, a ground is applied to the plate and a scribe is used to scratch through the ground. Then the plate is placed in an acid bath and the acid eats through the metal in the areas where the scribe has removed the ground.
Another technique, called drypoint, can be seen in the prints here. This method is more direct and requires no acid. The artist simply uses the scribe to scratch their image onto the plate.
When printing, a special ink is applied to the entire surface of the plate, then carefully wiped away. The ink rests inside the marks made by the artist, and the image is transferred to paper when the plate is run through a printing press.
These prints were made at the studio of Lee Newman, a local and well regarded painter and printmaker.