What a surprise! Children’s art on view in a pristine Chelsea gallery space.
I visited the DC Moore Gallery on West 22nd Street in NYC last month and saw an exhibition with collage done by children. The main gallery had wonderful paintings by Eric Aho. The adjacent gallery had an installation with 31 collages by students at the Calhoun School in NYC, titled 9/11: Through Young Eyes (September 8 – October 8, 2011).
The works were done 10 years ago. The students were 8th graders. Read more.
My first reaction was – isn’t this interesting to see collage by young students in a Chelsea gallery. My next reaction was that the student’s works looked really good.
I wanted to get up close and see the way the collages were made, the materials that were used, and understand why the work looked so good.
When I walked around and looked at the individual works, I noticed they were made with pieces of cut construction papers pasted on top of another piece of colored construction paper. This is the stuff that children use for art projects in elementary school. The paper is not that special. But the works looked almost professional.
I analyzed what made the works seem so special. The answer: every work, no matter what background color of construction paper was used, was “floated” on the same warm white paper – a high quality background paper – and framed in a matching white wood frame.
All the frames were the same size, and each one was hung with just the right amount of space between. Every framed work had room to breath. Each work got the gallery treatment.
Seeing the exhibition made me think how art can be enhanced by optimum presentation and installation.
I also thought about art made by even younger children I ‘ve taught at an after-school program at the Williams Elementary School in Mt. Vernon, NY, organized through the Pelham Art Center, Pelham, NY. I will teach collage again at the Williams School in December 2011.
The images below are collages done by 2nd graders, inspired by Romare Bearden (African-American 1911-1988).
I showed them a small print reproduction of a Bearden work titled “The Block.” It’s 48 x 216 inches, six panels, cut and pasted printed, colored and metallic papers, photostats, pencil, ink, gouache, watercolor pen and ink on Masonite. The image below is a section.
I also brought reproductions of Bearden’s much simpler line drawings to inspire the students at the Williams School.
I think it’s important for kids to learn about collage by great artists like Romare Bearden, Henri Matisse, Jean Dubuffet and others.
The image nearby is a drawing by Romare Bearden. Image: the Internet.
The after-school program at the Williams School is self-selected. That means the kids decide what activity they want to join. My activity is making art with paper collage. The school has a very good art program and the children know how to work with scissors, paper and glue.
I bring drawing paper for the substrate (bottom collage paper) and assorted papers. I bring scissors, glue and crayons and encourage the students to embellish the papers with drawings, patterns and more color.
At the beginning of the class I show a reproduction in color of Bearden’s collage and drawings and say Bearden was a famous artist with works in important museums. I ask them to raise their hands if they know what a collage is. All hands go up.
I ask them to look at the windows in the classroom and see how the spaces are divided. I ask them to notice how the windows in the 3 different Bearden line drawings each have different windows, and to notice that some windows have people looking out.
Making art is about learning to see.
I ask the students to make a collage like the Bearden drawings and have more than one house on a street.
The Bearden reproductions include people and cats in the window. The children drew puppies, kittens, birds, trees, flowers, boys and girls.
Because time is short and the students have different skill levels, I prepare a lot of the collage papers in advance and pre-cut papers into 3 sizes of squares and rectangle in brown, yellow, black and teal blue papers. Each student gets a small squeeze bottle of white glue and a pair of children’s scissors.
I leave some papers uncut, and encourage the students who want to be independent and inventive to cut squares into rectangles for doors, steps, chimneys and long windows, and cut squares into triangles for rooftops.
I always do a tutorial on how to carefully squeeze glue from the small bottles. I say do “dot dot dot” and don’t squeeze too hard. I am there to help clean up the glue puddles if they squeeze the bottle too hard.
I am amazed at the energy in the works. Even if they don’t cut squares into smaller pieces, or cut parallel edges, each work is fun and joyful, based on the ways the papers are placed and the drawings they add. Everyone is able to finish his or her work.
The images show student works in progress and works held up for admiration. I didn’t show all the children’s faces to protect their privacy.
Read more about the exhibition “9/11: Through Young Eyes” (September 8 – October 8, 2011) at the DC MOORE Gallery,
The thirteen-year-old students in the exhibition “9/11” made their art after a visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art to see an exhibition of works by Jacob Lawrence, including his “Migration Series” (1940-41). The Migration Series is about movement of African-Americans from the agricultural South to the industrial North following World War I.
Thank you for your comments about children making art with collage.