February is already a pretty fantastic month for reasons like Valentine’s Day, the empowering celebration of African American History, and relative to other months of the year, much fewer days (which is extra important with the thought of spring looming just around the corner).
At Maury, February also meant a powerful installation of student art work inspired by African American artists, a two week artist-in-residency with local mobile maker, Kevin Reese, and an emotional celebration of our tremendous 10 year partnership with the National Gallery of Art and Art Around the Corner.
Friday night, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, as well as many Maury Alum–both teachers and students–came to share memories, make art, and give thanks to the most dedicated, educational, and inspiring partnership a school could ever ask for. Under the leadership of Maury’s own Henri Cooper and museum educators from the National Gallery of Art, our students have transformed from bystanders, to participants, to experts in museum culture and art history. The skills and appreciation for art acquired during this program will endure for everyone involved for a lifetime. The quality art education and passion instilled by our gallery teachers has inspired a generation of young people to think critically, ask questions, look deeply, and empathize in a way that only art can inspire.
Pictures coming soon!
As mentioned above, all Maury students created artwork inspired by African American artists during the month of February. Check out a months work of amazing creation below!
Our preschool and preK artists brightened the halls with inspiration from DC artist, Sam Gilliam. Sam is internationally recognized as one of the foremost Color Field painters. Color Field painting is an abstract style of painting that emerged in New York City during the 1940s-50s. Color Field is characterized by large areas of flat color spread across or painted onto canvas.
Our youngest Maury artists experimented with two different color staining techniques. One method was to blur the color created with oil pastels by blending baby oil on top. The second was to stain paper towels with food coloring. We then draped the works of stained paper to create 3D creations.
Sam Gilliam also works on stretched, draped, or warped canvases and adds sculptural 3D elements to his paintings. Sam is recognized as the first artist to introduce the idea of a painted canvas hanging without being stretched flat. We like it when artists take bold risks to create new and inventive expressions of art. Way to go, Mr. Gilliam and thanks for the inspiration!
The kindergarten artwork displayed on the second floor of the East building, right outside of the art studio, has been the talk of the town for some weeks now. Students spent many weeks exploring Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series through film, story book, and interactive games from the Philip’s Collections comprehensive children’s website. From personal accounts of some of our own migrations due to a family move or change of school, to the heroic migration of our monarchs in the fall, we were able to tap into the emotion of Lawrence’s Migration of the Negro.
The Migration Series is made up of 60 panels depicting the epic movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North between World War I and World War II.
Lawrence spent months distilling the subject into captions and preliminary drawings and preparing 60 boards with the help of his wife, artist Gwendolyn Knight. He created the paintings in tempera, a water-base paint that dries rapidly. To keep the colors consistent, Lawrence applied one hue at a time to every painting where it was to appear, requiring him to plan all 60 paintings in detail at once.
The series was the subject of a solo show at the Downtown Gallery in Manhattan in 1941, making Lawrence the first black artist represented by a New York gallery. Interest in the series was intense. Ultimately, The Phillips Collection and New York’s Museum of Modern Art agreed to divide it, with the Phillips buying the odd-numbered paintings. (Source: The Philip’s Collection)
We worked hard to experience a process similar to Lawrence’s. We produced 30 of his panels, the odd numbers only, and painted on various sizes of recycled cardboard. We too used tempera paint and a limited color palette to piece together the visual story. Students blended the colors they would later share–hues like light grey, brick red, forest green, periwinkle, and royal blue.
Each child became an expert on their own panel. They observed it closely, made many preliminary sketches, drew in pencil first, then pastel, on the cardboard once they were feeling confident, and then set out to paint the contour lines of Lawrence’s uniquely shaped and faceless figures and scenes. We discussed how his work reads like a comic book with each frame telling an important part of the story. Creating work in his style was also very much like filling in a coloring book. The clear outlines gave us specific shapes to fill with color.
New York-based artist Mickalene Thomas is best known for her elaborate paintings composed of acrylic paint & rhinestones. Thomas introduces a complex vision of what it means to be a woman and expands common definitions of beauty and Identity. Her work stems from her long study of art history and the classical genres of portraiture, landscape, and still life.
Inspired by various sources that range from the 19th century Hudson River School to Romare Bearden, she continues to explore notions of beauty from a contemporary perspective infused with the more recent influences of popular culture and Pop.
Maury 1st graders spent weeks looking at their faces in the mirror to pinpoint the features of their faces & personalities that make them feel most beautiful. We learned how to blend our own unique skin colors and a few tricks to improve our realistic portrait painting. Just like Mickalene Thomas draws technique and inspiration from the painters of the past, we explored the importance of realistic portraits throughout history as well.
We collaged the backgrounds of our portraits with shapes and colors that would help complement our personalities. Our last step was to use glitter to add emphasis, one of our principles of design, to the part of our portrait we felt most proud of.
It was fun to learn about such a talented, successful, and strong female artist as part of our black history month celebration. We all agreed that the more living artists we learn about, the more confident we feel about taking creative risks to become the next great artist of our time!
We learned that you cannot bottle everyone’s skin color so students worked with brown, white, black, red and yellow palettes to create their own unique skin color. It was impressive to see just how accurate these young artists were at creating the colors they wanted to use in their self portraits.
Second grade was also working on creating realistic self portraits using proper facial proportions and mirrors. Instead of painting in tempera paint like 1st grade, these artists experimented with watercolor. They too were working on creating their own unique skin tones and representing themselves as accurately as possible.
We looked long and hard at the way Romare Bearden so beautifully used the disjointed and broken quality of collage to express meaning in his art work. His work told of the African American struggle, nostalgia for his past, and uncertain futures. His work would not have made sense in the tranquil, smooth, and almost peaceful watercolor media. Second graders began to understand that the media we choose to create our artwork, is one of the most important decisions we make when trying to express meaning in our work.
The twist came once their watercolor portraits were complete! Students were asked to then create a self portrait in collage using the same rules and techniques applied to their realistic portraits, like proper facial proportions. We compared what it was like to work abstractly, whether we preferred realism to abstraction, and which style was best for representing ourselves the way we’d like to be seen by the viewer. The results were mixed. What do you think?
Below are a series of side by side comparisons of one artist represented realistically through watercolor and abstractly through collage
Here are the finished products of the 3rd grade, Glenn Ligon project discussed in an earlier blog post. I can’t tell you how many parents and teachers have asked if these works are up for sale. I must admit, I am also interested in owning some of these works for myself. They are the perfect combination of bauty and power!
This one is Ms. George’s I love when teachers choose to learn and create art along with their students. Ms. George gives up her planning period to tap into her creativity each week. It sets such a nice example for her students to see her taking risks, struggling, and succeeding along with them.
With Art Around the Corner concluded, our 4th and 5th graders are just now getting back into the weekly swing of things. They are finishing up their accordion books and artist trading cards featuring historic African Americans. This project has been a meaningful collaboration between art and library. Stay tuned!