Welcome to the Springfield Township High School Art Blog. The purpose of this forum is to inspire discourse surrounding your artistic experiences while building writing skills, exercising your art vocabulary, and refining descriptive language relating to art. In your writing, you may choose to discuss museum and gallery exhibitions, publications, articles, professional works, student works, or responses to each other’s ideas and investigations. Additionally, participants may want to pose questions or react to artistic predicaments, sharing the trials, frustrations, solutions, or the general excitement we feel when we make or look at art.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The World, Matisse, Moma, You, Me

The World:  With all the wrapping that's going on lately, one starts to think about quality papers, materials, patterns, and ways of bonding them together.  Beside gifts, artists have been wrapping things for years, pasting paper, and bonding materials together as collage.

 MAN RAY, The enigma of Isidore Ducasse

The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse, Man Ray, National Gallery of Art.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude
The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-85
Photo: Wolfgang Volz
© 1985 Christo 

The Hannover Merzbau
 The Hannover Merzbau by Kurt Schwitters. Photo by Wilhelm Redemann, 1933.

Matisse:  At the end of his career, Matisse was cutting paper, and, under his direction, others helped assemble some large collages.

Matisse’s studio, Hôtel Régina, Nice, c. 1953. Photo: Lydia Delectorskaya. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse
Matisse’s studio, Hôtel Régina, Nice, c. 1953. Photo: Lydia Delectorskaya. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1512

Moma:   Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs, Is the current show at New York City's Museum of Modern Art.   This exhibition is an opportunity to view and appreciate the scale of these collages.  Pictures in a book or online just don't cut it.      [yes, I intended that]
You:  Throughout my career, I've taken students to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation.  Some were even lucky enough to go to The Modern and the Whitney in NYC.  The one outstanding comment I would hear after every trip was, "Wow! I thought those works were impressive online/in books, but seeing them in person is a moving experience- inspirational."

Me:  My current work has been in torn paper. It was inspired by waves washing up on the beach and leaving a line of sand and debris along the shore.  My collages are as much about the mark an artist makes as they are about the mark a wave leaves behind.  They were not based on the artists or shows seen above.  However, those artists broke ground long before, adding to my palette, and granting me permission to continue.

Like as the waves... 


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

If I Had a Nickel...

For every student that demonstrated artistic potential, I would like to thank you for all the virtual coinage.

My students have produced a wealth of creative answers to the problems over the years.  Yet, most of those students go off in search of other goals.  They never forget the energy, excitement, and (sometimes) tears these work generated, but I often wonder if the artwork they did in high school is the last they will do.  

As a teacher it was never my goal to convert students into artists.  My goal was always to give students the best overview of visual art possible, integrating instructions in observation, design, techniques, history, culture, and creativity.  As a result, [surprising the heck out of me] some students who had no intention of doing art eventually chose it as a career path!  Others, who chose to go directly to art school, later moved on to other careers.  I couldn't be happier for all their choices.  But my point is their ability to experience, experiment, research, practice, and produce, whether intuitive or learned, is part of their being. All told, the students produced some pretty nice work over the years that competes with the best in the country.

The few works I've chosen to post represent examples of strong artistic thinking- real out of the box stuff.  Inventive work that doesn't look like cookie cutter art projects. They are uniquely original.  These students combined compositional skills they learned, with materials and techniques experienced at other points in their education.  Some skills may have been harvested from field experiences, music videos, or science class, but each put their own personal twist into the piece.  Something to make theirs different from others in the class.

These particular former students have also chosen other (probably more lucrative) paths.  I have a thousand similar examples.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Philadelphia Open Studios

                          Springfield High School post-2001 studio 106.  Photo: Jennifer Silvius
                                                            (not part of the tour)

Last weekend was the “Center City East” Philadelphia Open Studio tour, featuring artists east of the Schuylkill  River. This self-directed tour includes some of the following (larger) studio complexes: 915 Spring Garden Street Studios, Crane Old School, Crane Arts, and 1241 Carpenter Street studios.  A visit to these venues allows you to see the scope and diversity of fine art and artists working in the Philadelphia region.  You also get to meet and talk with the artists personally and experience their creative environment.  Some studios are quite Spartan (no school reference intended) while others appear more like someone's living room.  It would take paragraphs to describe the experience, and professional journalists have already covered it in more concise detail than I am capable.  I highly recommend touring the studios next time around.  For more information check out this link-

Thursday, October 23, 2014

To Teachers

To teachers who may be sharing this blog with their students (but also good for anyone)-
Sometimes, in my writing and my teaching, I expect my audience to accept that I know what I'm talking about.  I forget that credible research sources and supportive background information is important to qualify my goals, statements, and opinions.  I am used to presenting waves of humorous pontification to young impressionable students, who are sometimes unsure whether I am pulling their leg or not.  I would often leave out important sources. [how my students ever learned anything from me is a puzzle]. So when I used the term "descriptive writing" in this blog, I forgot that I presented a full lesson to my students, complete with resources, defining what I was asking them to do.  In turn, I assumed the teachers would understand exactly what I was trying to achieve without offering a clue.  So, here is a good resource to get you started  http://writingaboutart.org/  The book, Writing About Art, was written by Marjorie Munsterberg.  The late Myra Plumridge (former Springfield art teacher) had introduced me to this book before I started grad school.  The preface alone will be enough to identify some writing goals for students, but I would use the "Visual Description" section.  I find that is one of the weakest areas for students, as it takes a lot of effort and thinking to describe things well.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New to a blog?

The reading is the easy part.  Many of my tech-savvy students have been bewildered by the minor complexities of blog posting.  Though, it really is quite easy.  When you want to post something on the blog, look at the top right corner of this page and click the blue "sign in" button.  Once you've signed in you'll be shown the dashboard page.  Now click on the word/s "SpringfieldArtBlog" and look for the orange "Post" button.  You'll now see a "Compose" window.  After you've composed/completed your post, hit the orange "Publish" button.  The program will do everything else except write for you. You are always able to go back and edit, even after you've published it.  If you experience any difficulty email me.

Note:  I find it easier to write in Microsoft Word, then copy and paste to the "compose" page .  For posting photos it is the same, just select the photo, copy, and paste. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

First Friday, Philadelphia

John Moore, Crossing Guard
John Moore, Crossing Guard, 2013, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 inches

Some of you are familiar with this artist as an instructor from Tyler School of Art or from The University of Pennsylvania's graduate program.  Whether you know him or not, he has a number of paintings on display at the Locks Gallery, 600 Washington Sq. (roughly the corner of 6th st. below walnut).  His work can also be seen in various Museum and Gallery collections in the U.S., including the Portland Museum, Portland, Maine.

His recent paintings are from the Frankford Section of Philadelphia, but let me tell you Frankford, although being revitalized, doesn't look as good.   Moore's paintings are often pieced together fragments from different locations. Sometimes his references are from other states.  So don't spend too much time trying to pinpoint an exact location in Philadelphia.

Artistically, photographs of the artist's work don't clearly show the color fields of varied grays you'll see at the exhibit.  Although there are striking pinks, blues, and yellows, and glowing lines of bright color, the grays that he plays those colors against make the magic.  If you want to look at other artist's work who are closely related, I'd check out Charles Demuth, Charles Sheeler (Doylestown local), Hans Hoffman, and Richard Diebenkorn.     ...Isn't it funny?  Although I got to talk to John Moore briefly, I never thought to ask him about his personal influences.  It's interesting what one does in the moment, and then wished they'd done in hindsight.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Communication and Perception

As this blog begins a new life, I have received feedback and discovered a gap in the perception of intentions.  In my mind there are hundreds of thoughts and possibilities brewing.  I try to narrow those possibilities when I communicate in writing, and I try to keep the description brief so you'll read it.  However, much is lost in translation. 

If you read the "welcome" in yellow at the top of this page you will see the blog's concept is concerned with writing descriptively about your experiences related to art, what you learned about art, or exploring your visual world.   But...this is your blog.  You can post a picture or event if you want.  The only rule is- consider your audience.  There are students present.

Whether you've continued to make visual art is not important.  What is significant is that your high school art education placed roots in your thoughts and visual perceptions.   Whether or not you remember learning it, you have a vocabulary surrounding the elements and principles of visual perception and interpretation.  You may write anything that you think is relevant.  For example, you may be driving down the road one day, and remember a quote the teacher used to say in class [Nina Rosini used to like the line I stole from a movie- "I know a thing or two about thing or two"].  Or you may think that evaluations in an art class are very subjective.  That may open up a whole can of worms for debate. Perhaps you found a cool video on the web, or perhaps you want to comment on the pros or cons of the art room environment- too lax too strict.   Those simple thoughts would be enough to post or write about.

My point- you are a community of learners who have shared similar foundations.  Class continues...

Friday, June 13, 2014

While looking at our own high school art exhibit, I realized it was set up like the Barnes museum in how when looking at a piece of art, beyond each board you could see more art. I don't know if the art teachers plan for this to happen or if it was just a happy accident. Our trip to the Barnes was absolutely breath taking. The outside was gorgeous with all the water running over the rocks and a huge reflecting pool.  I really enjoyed the upstairs at the Barnes with all of the sculptures and weavings. There was this one weaving that was painted on which looked amazing!! Also I enjoyed all the pictures of dancers. My two favorite things; dancing and art. The recent exhibition room with all the ladders and that huge table of jurors was really cool. I wonder why none of them had heads? Anyway you could feel the tension in their body language even though they had no faces to portray those emotions. My favorite in that exhibit was the boy climbing up the back of a ladder made of books. I love the concept and the outfit he had on was really well crafted.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Barnes Museum

While visiting the Barnes, I was suprised by what I saw when entering the museum. The outside had a modern look to it, with the stillness of the reflecting pond while symmetrical pine trees lined up before it. On the other hand the rooms were filled with paintings, textiles, sculptures, etc. and had a more historic feeling. This was probably because the paintings ranged from late 18th century to early 19th century, making everything in the room seem old and ancient. I noticed that Renoir appeared numerous times which made my love for his work grow. I didn’t mind seeing ten Renoir paintings in a row, in fact, it made me appreciate his work even more. The style of his brushstrokes creating fuzzy outlines is what got me. While looking closely at his paintings, the lines were smoothed and blurred around the edges, giving it a soft edge. The softness of his edges are what really attracted me; there were rarely any harsh lines. On the other hand, my least favorite artist in the museum was Matisse. I wasn’t impressed with his work because of the quick brush strokes and I didn’t prefer the color choices he used. It was nice seeing the diversity of the art work, going from painting to sculpture to weavings.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Chuck Close Portrait Work

While babysitting this evening, I stumbled upon a book containing the paintings of Chuck Close from 1968-2006. Close is an artist I remember learning about in art history class, but never really felt a strong connection to. However, upon picking up this book, reading a bio, Q&A with the artist, and seeing many of his works, I fell in love with his portraits. His style is vastly complex in each of the different phases of his work, but somehow you can tell a painting belongs to him when looking at it instantly. As a lover of photography and paintings alike, I feel extremely drawn to his portrait work with photorealism.
Prior to this year, I thought photorealistic paintings were simply synonymous with photos. I appreciated the hours of work that must go into each painting to make it represent real life, but nothing stood out to me about the works. What made them so special besides the fact that many hours of tedious work went into them?  What's even the point of taking all that time, since they look so similar to real life? Upon looking at Close's work, though, my mind changed quickly. Close's photorealistic portrait series, done in primarily black and white acrylic on canvas, are stunning. What sets them apart form a world of other real-life look-alike paintings is the true rawness of Close's models. Whether or not he exaggerates their features or accessories is beyond me, but the gritty candidness captured in each character is what stands out to me. Slightly ruffled clothes, unkempt eyebrows, cigarettes hanging out the side of lips, and "Who, me?" expressions make these paintings captivating and fascinating. Close also focuses sharply on some sections of the figures, and gets so detailed in paintings like "Richard" where we can see detailed pores and every stubble of five-oclock shadow on the man's face. Only a few inches over, though, on the wrinkled leather fabric of the man's jacket, Close uses a blurred focus look, causing the viewer's eye to dance across the canvas through the fading in and out of clarity and fogginess. These paintings are not necessarily real in a sense of looking exactly like life. Their realness lies in the candid nature and natural looks of each subject. In portraits like "John" and "Leslie," the subjects stare so deeply into the viewer's side of the canvas that it's almost uncomfortable to look for a long time- it feels as if they are opening their soul for you to see, but also reciprocating an intense stare into the viewer's soul.    -Michelle

The Barnes

My most recent encounter with fine arts was not what I expected. My family and I took a trip downtown to the Barnes foundation and I found it to be somewhat disappointing. In my imagination, I pictured the inside of the Barnes to be wild and crazy with paintings practically on top of each other, with a rustic look to the rooms as if they were old and falling apart. At least, I expected the rooms to have a bit more character and look less like a museum. I had heard that the Barnes was originally located in Dr. Barnes’ house and moved to Philadelphia. I could not imagine what I saw to be an actual comfortable home with all the distracting exit signs and labels. It seemed a little too fake to me. I guess this is how his house was before but it just seemed a bit boring to me. All the impressionists’ paintings didn’t really excite me either. But I guess I am not to judge this, because this is what the museum was all about. But a few pieces really caught my eye and stuck with me.   I was introduced to Chaim Soutine. His work had a spooky, twisted look to it making his figures look like they came out of a horror film. The way he distorted his portraits almost mocked the realistic paintings surrounding his. It made me realize that you don’t need to paint a portrait realistically to excite the audience. The rough paint strokes he used, added an awesome texture and aided the distortion of the figures in his pictures. His rough texture contrasted the smooth Renoirs hanging nearby. I would be a little more interested in the Barnes if more Soutine works were shown.