Last night I had a wonderful opportunity to share my art with a student of mine. Lizzy is a senior in my AP Studio Art class. When Tyler School of Art put out a call for entries for a juried exhibition for Tyler alumni and their students, Lizzy’s art work immediately came to my mind. We celebrated at Tyler School of Art last night. It was exciting to experience an opening with a student along with my former college professors and mentors. It felt like my own art education coming full circle.
Here is what I wrote:
Part of my philosophy of education is to have a safe, creative learning environment. Specifically a safe place for high school art students to explore their own ideas and concepts. This fall, I begin my 19th year of teaching high school art and I continue to be inspired by my student’s openness and willingness to try new things, to experiment and take chances in their art. For example, each time I show my advanced painting and printmaking students how to create an intaglio print I am amazed by their creativity and enthusiasm for the process. They are transfixed by the process and it opens up a whole new world for them. What I continue to learn from my students is to have sense of wonder and fearlessness within one’s art work.
My art making process seeps into my teaching through my demonstrating and sharing of my own personal artistic practices. I show my students my sketchbook. I bring in art I am currently making along with showing them finished work on my website. I share with them the process of applying to juried exhibitions, the joy of acceptance and the disappointment of rejection. To prepare them for college and the art world beyond, I want my high school students to have knowledge about what a practicing artist goes through: finding an artistic voice, balancing art making and working a job, along with exhibiting art.
Since 2014, I have been making art that explores impermanence, loss and grief. I have shared my personal stories which fuel my art with my students. Sometimes I will work on my own art while my students are creating their own. This inevitably creates a dialogue between two artists. A student might ask my what I’m doing or they’ll ask why or what is my piece about. They will also ask how I did a particular technique. This is how they learn and how I learn. Other times, I’ve asked them for their opinions on a piece of my work…their insight and suggestions are always helpful plus help foster a learning environment of collaboration.
For this reason, I have have chosen this particular student’s altered book to partner with my own work. Lizzy Ashbrook is a rising senior and was has explored the concept of grief in many works of art throughout the past school year. I am in awe of a young person’s ability to take on the emotion and status of grief. She and I are tackling the suffering of grief in our own ways but there is very much a dialogue between us as artists. I am also impressed with Lizzy’s ability to investigate the many layers and nuances of grief.
To see our art through the front window of Tyler School of Art was exhilarating considering it was at Temple University where my parents met and their story began. Having a work of art, which honors the memory of my Dad, on display there was another circle in the wheel of life.