Art as a Language of Self-expression
by Michael Zimmerman
Oh sure, students learn that glaze is a dull paint infused with ground glass that is applied to clay projects, and which blooms in the heat of the kiln into something vibrant and bright. Students learn the inclinations of the viewer’s eye and how to use composition to produce a satisfying experience for their audience. They learn the pros and cons of wispy lines, and bold ones. However, in Amy Kiely’s art room studio students also learn what it is artists historically have tried to express with their art whether that is something aesthetic, or philosophical, or political. “Why does an artist’s work speak to you?” It is a worthy question and an inspiration to Friends School Haverford students who, at various developmental levels, are asserting something of themselves as artists and not just as students of art.
A student stands before a glass case. On display are a dozen gourdes painted white. Each gourde is a canvas upon which students were assigned to create an homage to an artist they studied at school and admire. I stand next to the student. I notice the gourde with a small tent card on which the student’s name is neatly printed. The gourde seems to have been covered in leaves. Now, the gourde is mostly bereft of its leafy covering. The leaves dried up and came loose. On the glass shelf around the base of the gourde is a litter of leaf crumble.
I am supportive. I surmise that this student’s gourde is the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of the lot. “Leaves are an unforgiving medium,” I say. The student looks up at me, and smiles. “My artist,” the student says, “is Andy Goldsworthy.” I do not know who Andy Goldsworthy is. The student explains that Andy Goldsworthy is an artist who goes out into the natural world and finds stones, or sticks, or leaves, or ice. He crafts something beautiful out of the natural objects, takes a photo, and walks away. The natural items he used to make his art return to their natural state. We stand in silence for a while.
The student likes the juxtaposition of the great care taken in the creation of the art and the near complete concession to impermanence. The success of this student’s gourde project is as much in the ideas about art he is celebrating as in the gourde artwork he created.
Amy Kiely teaches art as a language of self-expression and I am amazed by what our young artists have to say.
Click here for the link to a sampling of the art of Andy Goldsworthy