Before the start of the season, the art exhibitions in the Strohl and Fowler-Kellogg Art Centers were visited by some of their toughest critics.
“It looks like she kinda messed up here,” said Jake. The 13-year-old pointed to a painting in the exhibition, “Lineages in Bloom: New Works by Daisy Patton.” The canvas showed a black-and-white photograph of two women, painted over with bright colors and flowers. The corner of one woman’s bright yellow shirt was darker than the area around it.
“No, she did that because it’s a point-of-view painting,” said 14-year-old Michael. This kicked off a discussion on how shading is used to create dimension in drawings.
These students, who visited the galleries Monday, June 17, attend the G.A. Family Services Learning Center in Jamestown, a school for those with emotional disabilities, learning disabilities and other behavioral needs. It is one of 10 local schools that previewed the exhibitions in the last two weeks as part of the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution’s gallery field trip program. Local schools represented included Panama Elementary, Persell Middle School and Falconer High School. Support for the program is provided by Arnold and Jill Bellowe; James and Mimi Gallo; and Gloria Plevin.
This was teacher Lucia Guarnieri’s first time bringing Learning Center students to the Institution.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for them to experience Chautauqua in itself,” she said. “These are inner-city students that wouldn’t typically go to an art gallery.”
In another exhibition, “On Common Ground: Works on Paper,” 14-year-old Justin scrutinized a surreal painting of Cary Grant by the artist Su Su.
“It makes me feel more sophisticated than I am,” he said. “Talking about it makes me feel smart.”
Jake found his favorite piece in the exhibition, a swirling black and blue watercolor by Lorene Anderson.
“I like how the colors bleed down and then separate,” he said.
After a walk across the street to the exhibition “Reconstructing Identities,” the students observed a piece by Sonya Clark; three piles of red, white and blue thread from an unraveled Confederate flag. They discuss the potential meaning of the work.
“It’s the same thing as the American flag, just a different shape. Same colors.”
“She’s deconstructing the South.”
Guarnieri was excited to see her students so interested in the galleries.
“In our population something small is something big,” she said. “… This is awesome.”
On the back porch of the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center the group converged around a large sheet of white paper. They had been instructed to draw what represents their identity, inspired by the art they saw.
There was a flurry of moving colored pencils, but 13-year-old Logan stood still, staring at the blank paper, concentrating.
“How did I forget how to draw the American flag?” she asked.
“Red, white and blue,” Jake offered.
She began drawing a careful rectangle. A few minutes later she let out an exasperated sigh.
“I haven’t thought this through, now I have to draw 50 stars,” she said.
The paper quickly filled up with symbols of identity: piano keys, flowers, a cross and an alto saxophone. The American flag was joined by Italian and Bahamian flags.
Michael finished drawing and leaned against the porch railing. He thought about the exhibitions he previewed.
“It was interesting,” he said. “Really not what I expected.”
What was he expecting?
Michael thought for a second.
“More … Michelangelo type stuff.”