Thursday, September 13, 2012

Giving form to the formless

This is how we started what we are working on!!
The one thing I continually take away from my concurrent graduate studies is the need for me to always be willing to re-evaluate what I am doing in my classroom and with my students to ensure that it is something that is the "best practice" (so to speak). 

So here's a confession: Before this year I started to get a little bit complacent with what was going on with my teaching and art happenings in my classroom. Well... I mean, maybe it wasn't super evident that something like this occurred but in retrospect I just really feel like that is what occurred. And for this reason? I decided that starting this year I am going to start thinking of myself as a first year teacher EVERY year that I teach. That means that this year I am a sixth year, first year teacher and the road is wide open for me to do brand new things in my classroom because technically I shouldn't have last year and the year before and the year before that to push me back so I can rest comfortably on my laurels.

Approaching teaching this year has been a really positive thing. Yes - it's created a lot more work for me. It's been worth it though because what it has always created is much more successful student artwork. At the beginning of all of my classes I made a very big point a emphasizing that the overarching goal this year was to not just make artwork but to CREATE it. Per the dictionary, this is one in the same thing but as I adhere to Biblical teachings and I teach in a setting that grounds itself and fully embraces the intent to approach things with a Christian worldview creation and creating is a BIG deal. I mean, the book of Genesis starts off the entire Bible with "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth..." For this reason, I take my job of teaching creativity and creation VERY seriously. To me? It's pretty much the ultimate in answering the call to be an imitator of God.

The 3D Design class has been working VERY hard on their first major project which is to do subtractive sculpturing with foam blocks. The subject of each of their sculptures is determined by the individual student artists but all of them must sculpt something that is an abstract idea or question rather than just picking something that "looks cool." I know this is confusing how I have presented it but basically, each student artist is being tasked with giving form to something that might otherwise be formless. An example might be something like "What it feels like to be at the beach" or "What does someone's life look like when they are living a life without a moral compass of any kind." Sound a little crazy and amazing that my students are doing this? Well... yeah. It IS a very ambitious endeavor. But you know what? They can do it and they ARE doing it. They are absolutely coming up with original ideas, they are cultivating what is emerging from their own curiosities, and they problem-solving beautifully.

Now, I'm sure one question you might have is this: How in the world are you doing this? Well, I started out with something VERY basic and with lots of conditions (read: exact directions that couldn't not be followed and standards that weren't open ended and hard to achieve). They sculpted the "puffy" heart for the Explore & Experiment stage of the project and then I instructed them to take their hearts and use them to intentionally make a statement where the heart was the vessel of the message. I have them the cliched suggestion (just for example purposes) of how a heart could be split into two with jagged edges and it could be called "broken hearted."

Some of what the students came up with were the following...

The student artist said this about this piece: "When you give someone a piece of your heart, your heart remains your heart but it might be a different shape depending upon how much of it you gave away. This doesn't matter though because so long as the person is willing to know it's a piece of your heart and they really shouldn't just run away with it, then your heart can still be as big as it always was and the bonus is you have shared it (literally) with another person."
The student artist of this one declared that "My heart has a door that can be opened by something/someone so that something could be put inside (and behind) the door because if not? That space would remain empty and otherwise vacant."

It is hard to tell but this heart has a cross shape carved into it and it also sort of resembles a key hole. The student stated that "The key to [my] heart is a cross which is symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ."

The students were each required to sculpt the heart and then do something like what you see above with it and then they were required to sketch a front, side, and back OR aerial view of their idea as well as be prepared to explain and defend the design decisions they made. They have been sculpting for two solid days of class and they are expected to have all of their sculpting done so that their pieces are ready to be sealed, painted, and mounted on pedestals at the start of next week.

So far they are doing very well and learning a lot but I will say that my sinuses are not loving all of the styrofoam dust being scraped and whittled and then kicked up in the process. Oh well. It's totally worth it if you ask me.

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