Goals #1, #2, #3 with Reflections

Field Trip Reflections

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Goal #1 - Begin Concentration

  • Complete process journal and transfer preliminary sketches from other sketchbook to first pages.

  • Continue research on sustainable art practices and contemporary eco-artist for "Artist Inspiration."

  • Complete Piece #1 in series.

  • Begin Piece #2.


Reflection -

     The inception of this concentration idea started in teaching my Photography class and noticing a mistake I had made in a photo credit for a Power Point I use in the class for our Landscape/Nature unit.  I connect the unit to the photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Burtynsky, and wrap the unit around the theme of nature and man's impact on nature.  I had included a Chris Jordan photo from his Midway project documenting the death of seabirds on Midway Island, specifically albatross, due to ingesting large quantities of plastic from the Pacific ocean gyre, and feeding bits of plastic to their fledglings.  I mistakenly attributed the photo to Edward Burtynsky, and when I searched for the source, I was struck by the background story about how his project came about, and ideas for capturing images of this tragedy in my own work immediately began to flow.

     Synchronistically, shortly after I began sketching images based on my ideas, a science teacher at CHS, who I had collaborated with for my Masters project on teaching environmental science using art, brought some broken recycling container lids to me and asked if I could use them in my art.  I said "Of course!" and brought them home to figure out how to incorporate them into the images I had in mind.  The circular form of the lids and the sketches I had done using the round forms for the earth and the whirlpool effect of the gyre lent themselves well to my ideas.

     As I began to experiment with my materials, I fell back on my fiber art background and started to weave plastic bags into the openings of the lids.  I then inserted other plastic objects into the woven plastic bags. I wasn't sure where I was going with attaching this to a canvas backing, so I set this piece aside and did a sort of "introductory" piece that is simply an abstract depiction of the plastic gyre as a whirlpool with pieces of plastic bags (especially those bearing recycling messages) captured in the spiral.  I am attempting to make even the "ugly" message of these pieces become objects of fascination and beauty, as I try to do with all of my eco-art, hence the addition of the sprinkling of metallic powders (inherited from my mother-in-law's art supplies - would never purchase heavy metals!), which gives the image a "precious" effect, and engages the viewer in looking at the "pretty" objects, before realizing the serious nature of the underlying concept.

Goal #2 - Concentration Theme

  • Work on cohesion of concentration theme.

  • Continue work on "transition" piece, which is appearing to be #3 in the series.

  • Complete #4 and #5.

  • Discover and emphasize links in techniques, materials, and imagery to connect the pieces into a cohesive series.


Reflection -

     The creative process of this copncentration has been enlightening and satisfying.  I have very much enjoyed working with the materials I have chosen and exploring their possibilities and limits as I play with the imagery and messages I am hoping to express in my work.  The first critique was very useful, as a few classmates commented on and gave suggestions about the narrative quality that was being revealed in the first three pieces, despite the fact that I was showing them in no particular order and they were, so far, not closely related.  I took these comments back to the studio and used them to spark ideas for transitions from one piece in the series to the next through connections of imagery, techniques, and/or materials. 

     For example, the piece with the cutout pieces of canvas that were re-attached to the edge of the earth was inspired by Edward Burtynsky's photos and comments about the quarrying of stone which becomes skyscrapers, but leaves a reverse negative scar into the earth.  I was attempting to find a way to visually express this idea abstractly.  I had used dark, dirty colors at first, and swirls of gray and black in the "sky" and "earth" but from colleagues comments it was obvious that the image wasn't reading as "earth" and the connection between the removed pieces and the "buildings" wasn't clear.  I altered the image by adding green to the earth, shadowing the buildings, and adding "smoke" with charcoal to indicate a sense of pollution of the sky and alteration of the land. (See "In Progress" image below.)  I am now in a quandary as to whether or not it needs the addition of any plastic to connect it to the overall theme and working title of the series "Plastic World" but have decided to reserve judgement until the rest of the concentration is closer to completion.

     Other pieces in development have continued with the earth/sky images and have moved from somewhat literal to more abstract, and a recent inspiration "plays" with the Plastic World theme by using a collection of plastic toys uncovered in an "archeological dig" through boxes in our attic of our sons' left-behind possessions.  Can't wait to see where this will take me!

     Having set the goal of cohesiveness, I also want to be cautious not to become constrained by trying so hard to construct a narrative that I lose the spontaneous creativity that has been a joy to experience in this series of work.

Goal #3 - Complete Concentration

  • Continue working on cohesion of concentration theme and transitions between pieces.

  • Make revisions to pieces based on new ideas and group critique.

  • Research Space Debris field, Mount Everest debris, and Antarctic ozone layer healing information and images to incorporate repesentations and images of these in final pieces.


Reflection -     

     Following our class "mid-term" critique session, I was encouraged to find some alernative ways to connect the narrative of my pieces, and to alter the images to make some of the abstract representations a bit more literal.  I wanted to make the change from the ocean images to the earth and space images somewhat more seamless or "logical."  I decided to connect the media more by adding plastic to the clouds in the piece pictured above (final version on ART page), and to add plastic orbiting the "weeping/bleeding" earth that is related to the introduction of the Space Debris concept, which becomes more of the focus in later pieces.

     I have decided to make the last piece or two of the series relatively more upbeat and hopeful, especially in light of running across a news story recently featuring positive news about the healing of the ozone hole over Antarctica.  This is very significant as it indicates that many of the environmental problems we have caused may actually be reversible given strong enough efforts and policy changes.  The thinning of the ozone layer was initially believed to be caused by accellerants in aerosol sprays, which have been banned for decades, so perhaps the results of our efforts have now become visible.  This could have related effects, such as moderating the rate of polar ice cap melting, as the solar radiation will be lessened.  Therefore, in designing my piece to represent this, I researched the news and images of the earth seen from Antarctica, and created a simplified abstracted version of this view.  I debated whether or not to include plastic in this piece, but decided to add it to only the circling orbit of space debris, but in a more subtle way, reconnecting to the first piece.  Being hopeful that there is an effort to not allow Antarctica to become as polluted as other places impacted by humans, I decided to check online.  At first I found little mention of Antarctic waste, but then discovered that there are many sites devoted to the clean-up and protection of the area. http://www.antarctica.gov.au/environment/pollution-and-waste

One example is sponsored by the government of Australia. 

     Looking at all of the pieces in the series, I made the decision to add one more that connected to the Space Debris field and in discussing my work with my husband he said "What about the trash left behind at the highest place on earth - Mount Everest?" This sparked an immediate vision, which became realized in a piece depicting an exaggerated Mount Everest at the "top" of the world, with images of the debris on Everest collaged over it, and the Space Debris field floating overhead.

     After completing these last two pieces, and making revisions to earlier ones, I now feel that I have completed this series of work, titled "Plastic World."  My final task is to re-photograph all of them, manipulate the photos and upload to both my art photos archive and the gallery on this site.

Field Trip Group #2 Reflection - Teacher Perspective

       I believe our class field trip to the Shelburne Museum to view the two current exhibitions of work by George Sherwood and Dominique Ehrmann,  was a very successful experience for the Educator as Artist course participants.  Our objectives of exposing students to art in a non-traditional setting, to work that incorporated  movement in different ways, and to personalize the experience through an artistic  response of the student's choosing, were met through each person's individual experience.       

      Class members seemed to be very engaged in experiencing the work and reflecting on their responses to it.  The responses ranged from charcoal and watercolor sketches, to photography, finger weaving, stitchery, and fiber sculpture.  I found it fascinating to see how diverse the approaches were.  I wish I had taken some photos of student's work, but was more engaged in participating in the discussion than in documenting it.

      The challenges encountered in planning this field trip experience were minimal, besides our early setback of not being able to arrange to visit the Lemon Fair Sculpture Park in Cornwall as we orginally hoped, which I believe might have been a more "immersive" experience of sculpture in the Vermont natural setting.  It also was challenging to fit our visit into the open hours of the museum, as it would have been nice to have our response and discussion time in the same setting, and not feel quite so rushed in viewing other areas of the museum.  I became quite enamored of the Circus Poster exhibition, as I'd like to use them as a jumping off point in my Design class in our Graphic Design poster unit.  Shelburne Museum is such a rich resource of an incredible range of art, that I wish I was able to bring my own students on this kind of field trip more frequently.  It just isn't the same to view the art on a computer screen!  Having said that, included below is a gallery of images of the works viewed at the Shelburne Museum.  Click on any image to view slideshow.

Field Trip Group #1 Reflection - Student Perspective

       Our class field trip scheduled to take place at Summervale at the Intervale Center was rained out, and the organizing group did an amazing job of coming up with a "Plan B" on short notice.  We viewed the exhibition at S.P.A.C.E. Gallery in the South End Arts District, did a collaboration team-building activity and installation piece, and experienced the Escape Room in Burlington.

The learning objectives for this field trip were:

  • To have a shared experience that promotes teamwork and collaboration

  • To do interactive, hands-on activities

  • To get out of our comfort zones

  • To have time for reflection

  • To eat well

  • To enjoy nature and our surroundings

      Obviously the last three, we were not able to accomplish due to the change in plans, but I believe the focus on teamwork and collaboration was very well met in the activities planned by the group.  I had not been to the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery for a long time, so it was nice to see the painting exhibit, do interactive activities, and see a few of my art acquaintances and catch up.  I enjoyed the first two activities and in my teacher role, feel that I could adapt them to my classroom as ice-breaker and team-building experiences, especially in building trust and cooperation with my A.P. Studio Art students, as I believe that they are essential to feeling comfortable in accepting feedback in critique situations. 

       To comment on the focusing questions, I believe a critical component of effective collaboration and teamwork is clear communication and complete "buy-in" by participants.  Despite the goal of taking students "out of their comfort zones," there needs to be a level of trust and sense of control of a situation to gain full "buy-in" of participants.  This aspect of collaboration has actually always been a puzzle to me, especially since a graduate course I took in which collaborative projects were brainstormed and voted on by the group.  The result was that many students ended up working on projects that had no personal interest to them.  There is always going to be someone in this situation who is being expected to participate in an activity or contribute to a project that they did not chose to take part in. This is essentially what the traditional classroom environment has always been.  How do we effectively integrate the importance of collaborative/team productivity (which is so essential in 21st c. work environments) with our new emphasis on personalized learning?  I don't feel that these objectives are mutually exclusive, but I do think it is going to be a major challenge as we lean towards personalized learning (and everyone focused on their computer screens) to maintain the sense of community that is essential to collaboration and team productivity.

      Contemplating these issues is very important to my teaching practice, as well as my artistic practice, as more artists are getting out of their solitary studio practices these days and doing collaborative work, although I tend to still prefer the solitude of individual studio work. Probably because there is little other solitude in my life!

      I appreciated the fact that the group accepted that I chose to personalize my field trip experience by visiting the Generator maker space in Burlington, which has been a goal of mine as an artist and a teacher for quite awhile.  I was able to view an exhibition of work by an artist friend of mine Athena Kafantaris, who recently completed their Maker in Residence program.  It was great to see the facilities and consider ways that I could incorporate similar concepts into my teaching, and perhaps enventually to utilize their facilities or take part in their Maker in Residence program.

      I also really enjoyed the time I spent chatting with Mike, the proprietor of The Escape Room.  He explained the whole concept, the history of its inception, and his trajectory as an entreprenuer to me, and allowed me to observe the group dynamics taking place.  I felt like a voyuer (and admittedly was!), but it was a great learning experience. It made me realize that doing the same thing in our classrooms, creating video and reviewing it, which we have the technology to do, could allow us to observe and refelct on the group and individual dynamics, and be a valuable way to formatively assess our teaching and aid in improving the collaborative environment.

Click on any image below to view slideshow.


Plastic World: Carve Out and Build Up

Acrylics, Charcoal, Pigment and Metallic Powders, 2016

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