In my own work, I strive to use anatomy and architecture to define equality between living things; using the patterns that exist within us all to create work that, hopefully, humbles and unifies. Guiding a group of 11-14 year old artists in using these elements of anatomy to inspire design was a fun, fantastically inspiring end to my summer. In Artful Anatomy, at IS183 Art School, we explored the microscopic structures in our body; transposing the patterns and repetitive designs found in core elements like cells, muscle fibers or bones into art. As always, I brought in my collection of animal skills to inspire along with antique medical illustrations and anatomical models.
"We really got into the heart of design (pun intended) when students used anatomy to advertise a product of their choosing. We looked at a number of advertisements that use the human body and even Lucy Foakes' amazingly witty "can-opic" jars. The students got a kick out of her designs of "metaphorical fizzy drinks for parched Pharaohs in the afterlife" and created humorous sculptures of their own products.
Such a treat to be able to share my passions with students and watch their minds take off.
A lovely package appeared on my office desk today filled with thank you notes from the Montessori students. But not just any thank you notes, notes filled with anatomy inspired artwork! Sketches of skeletons and fontanelles, and even a fiber sculpture of a bird skull.
Students from the Montessori School of the Berkshires came on a series of visits to Anatemno: I cut up, cut open at 74 North Street, Pittsfield. As students filed in, grades K-5th, they immediately remarked, "THIS is the museum?!" They were shocked. Most had been to a museum or formal gallery before, but they noticed that the 74 North space was a little different. I'll admit, discussing the idea of site-specific installation art and alternative gallery spaces with elementary students was certainly foreign to me. These students, however, surprised me with their insightful comments and questions, ranging from, "I like how it looks like it is coming out of the hole in the ceiling" to "What came first, the artwork or the space?" to "This is the stuff that's inside us all!".
The students were specifically interested in anatomy and are studying body systems during their school day. We discussed some of the anatomical concepts behind my work and the body systems that they apply to. We looked at some of the animal skulls I use for inspiration; paying specific attention to skull sutures, those beautiful squiggles of bone where it has fused together in fiborous joints.
Topics that I thought may be too far-reaching for these young students, turned out to be right at their level. They were able to quickly find connections between what they were learning in school and the artwork on the walls, no matter how abstract some of it may be.