Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rose Petals

From the Smithsonian website
An Ofrenda for Dolores del Rio
Amalia Mesa-Bains, 1984, revised 1991
mixed media installation including plywood, mirrors,
fabric, framed photographs, found objects, dried flowers, and glitter
We went on a field trip to the American Art Museum in Washington DC to view Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art. The exhibit featured some stunning and thought-provoking works. Some of my favorites were the layered graphite on panels, Nocturnal (Horizon Line) Teresita Fern├índez and the marble and granite shipping pallets by Jesse Amado and of course, the two featured in this post.

The children were asked to document their favorite works at the end of the tour. I sent those home at the end of the field trip, so the opportunity for my reflection flew home with them, but we know that the exhibit had an impact because of conversations (with words and with materials) that have rolled out since then.

"Oh, you mean the painting with the red airplanes," one of the children said when I talked about how they would be working on their portrait backgrounds and asked them to remember the blue backgrounds which looked like the swirling of planets and stars in space or the whole of the colors of the earth, spinning. At first, I did not know what the child was referring to because I had been so focused on finding acrylics in blue, gold, and other shiny objects!

From the Smithsonian website
 The Dominican York, from the series Island of Many Gods
Scherezade Garcia, 2006
acrylic, charcoal, ink, and sequins on paper
And then there were the rose petals.

Each year, my husband brings me a dozen roses to the school for our anniversary in December. As the roses dry out, I harvest the petals and take them outside to the playground. This year, I put them in one of the wooden heart bowls my friend Kierna Corr of Learning for Life gave me. The bowl and the petals sat on a shelf and were forgotten. After the field trip, they found a new purpose surely inspired by Mesa-Bains' Ofrenda work!

The children check out the Ofrendo installation. They were so
careful to step around the rose petals on the floor.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Black Lava Sand, #playiceland

Early during each school year, the "Tracks" 4 and 5-year olds, paint maps. This year, I used a vintage set of maps. The pages were a little bit yellowed with age and there were rich colors already on the maps. These seemed special to me and I wasn't sure how we would add a second layer, also something the Tracks do each year. For example, last year they added egg shells. What would we do this year?

We finished this first layer of watercolors just before I left for Iceland in October 2013 and I stored them for later. I found them again in December. When I was in Iceland, I noticed that all of the schools we visited used the black lava gravel in the artwork. Early childhood educators KNOW how to use the materials they find all around them. For free.

These are just a few of the lovely works we saw in Iceland.

I couldn't bring back lava gravel from Iceland, my bags were already filled with other treasures, but believe me I considered it! We used black pipe cleaners to try to achieve that same kind of black line, but it wasn't the same. First of all, a pipe cleaner will not offer an expressive line. It just won't flow like glue and sand. To attach it to the page, it required a mixture of hot glue and white glue, so the artist did not have the time or dexterity to shape the line. Off the paintings went into storage again, they just didn't feel finished.

Only to be reworked in January. I happened to be in IKEA and they had black sand!!!! Score!!!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fall Leaves (if at first you don't succeed, try, try again)

The 3 and 4-year olds went on a walk in the forest. I wanted them to document this experience with what I would describe as a story collage. I wanted to recreate the map that I used to outline our journey and then introduce the colors and textures of the trip itself.

I had this idea that I wanted the components of this project to be crisp and clean in color. The day was one of those beautiful, clear, Washington DC days. So I cut a bunch of white construction paper to serve as the backdrops for a sky painting and the Fall leaf collage.

We talked about the colors we saw on the trip and how the leaves were slippery to walk on. We talked about the color of the sky -- and although we are open to using any color for the sky, they all agreed, to a one, that the sky was bright, light blue. They named the colors of the leaves, yellow, orange, red, and brown. Being outside for a long period of time seemed to bring all the colors they saw into perfect clarity.

Because there was also a question of texture, I had this other idea that we would layer chunks of paper in the shades they named for the leaves. I collected strips of different scraps of paper and set these out for the children to collage onto the white construction paper.

Me and my big ideas.

The sky came out bright and blue, but the leaf collages looked absolutely tropical.

Something had to be done. The collages simply did not read, "Fall Leaves, Washington Metropolitan Area." As the collages dried, the colors came out even brighter! Pinks and lime greens, oh my!

Cue watercolor wash, golf balls, and tempera.

We set up a two-step process. Watercolor toned the brightness down and introduced the bass notes needed to set the stage for the next step, golf ball painting. Cardboard trays and tempera paint in the different shades brought the Fall covers completely back.

Once these were dried, the children assembled their maps.

Some of the maps still retained their bright colors, but I was much relieved to see something that more closely resembled what the children were describing.