art camp: Summa…

Do you remember the story of Humpty Dumpty?

Summer Art Camp kids got to witness it in real life!

Let’s hope the dove picks a smarter nesting spot than in one of George Toblowsky’s sculptures the next time around if there is one.

On the first day of camp, after looking at examples of instructional & performance art, the kids designed their own instructions for outside games.
On the first day of camp, after looking at examples of instructional & performance art, the kids designed their own instructions for outside games.


During another one of our recess breaks, the kids noticed some beautiful yellow flowers blooming all over the lawn. One girl went about picking a handful of them, then arranged them around the base of another sculpture before running off to play hide&seek. It reminded me of some ephemeral arrangements by Andrew Goldsworthy that we looked at in class.

An ephemeral arrangement at the base of one of Toblowsky's sculptures.
An ephemeral arrangement at the base of one of Toblowsky’s sculptures.

Another day, before we began a different sort of project, we looked at some ephemeral pieces of art using sand – mandalas. A mandala is a kind of cosmic diagram – a Hindu or Buddhist symbol of the universe. It is also a meditational device, demonstrating the impermanence of material life. After hours or weeks of creation, detailed sand mandalas created by monks are typically destroyed soon following their completion. The San Antonio Museum of Art is one of only four museums in the United States housing a sand mandala and the only one with a Tibetan Medicine Buddha mandala.

A Tibetan Medicine Buddha mandala at the San Antonio Museum of Art.
A Tibetan Medicine Buddha mandala at the San Antonio Museum of Art.

We also looked at preserved sand art, particularly pieces by Andrew Clemens, before creating ‘sand people.’ Some of these ‘sand people’ ended up gliding along the floors on leashes as pets. Others sprouted 3rd eyes and took on careers as ninjas.


One of things I asked the kids at Summer Camp to do was draw from memory his or her favorite animal living in Texas, thinking naturally-occurring-in-Texas animal. One student asked if a zoo animal counted, since that animal would be a Texan by resident status. It’s living here, isn’t it a Texas animal? In my mind, since it is not naturally occurring and the sustainability of its existence in Texas outside of a zoo is questionable, no, but then since it is living in Texas and species migrate and evolve and change and sometimes get help in relocating, yes. So these minorities of pocket cluster importees are in my mind rare or unnatural but residents nonetheless. Here are some ‘non-native’ Texans up close and personal:
IMG_2191    IMG_2272     IMG_2292

Note the similarities between the following two images. The first is a detail shot from “Gluttony” (2005), one of Jamie Wyeth’s “Seven Deadly Sins” paintings – the ensemble depicts seagulls caught sinning: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. The second depicts a gluttonous emu poised at my passenger car window. Do you see? :

Detail of Jamie Wyeth's "Gluttony" (2005)
Detail of Jamie Wyeth’s “Gluttony” (2005)
Emu with gluttonous intentions
Emu with gluttonous intentions

While these characters don’t measure up to expectations of Texas species, they were indeed friendly, tejas-style.

Texas is not exempt from clichéd representations designed to meet expectations based either in nostalgia or outsider accquaintance. Texas = cowboys, Indians, BBQ, deserts, mustangs, longhorn, cacti, armadillo…. = stereotypical associations. You know what they say about stereotypes: they are, in art, “relief printing plates cast in molds made from a composed type or an original plate;” so, they *echo* truths. The late artist Mel Casas tackles sterotypes in “The Southwestern Cliches” (1982-89). These huge paintings function as windows into landscapes that hold a viewer at bay. Titles obtrusively painted on the bottom center of the pieces, they are approachable – bright, iconic, familiar – and bespeaking a sense of humor. A strange experience though is that some of these bright, easily-accessible pieces cause an eerie aftertaste of being aware of not being aware as to what more exists beyond the icon. Others, like “Sarape Landscape” or “Guacamole,” with little tortilla chips looking like sharks swimming about green waters, are just funny. The last piece in the exhibit was the “Ojo de Dios” or ‘God’s Eye.’

"Ojo de Dios" by Mel Casas
“Ojo de Dios” by Mel Casas

We made these in summer camp. Thought to have originated from the ancient Pueblo peoples, ojo de dios were originally created as protective amulets. They have since evolved into contemporary forms, using more string colors, different sizes, more arms, & new meanings.






Although there were many other projects and story notes and fun moments, from history to heuristics, to sum it up:

It was a wonderful summer art camp week spent with some creative, imaginative, and thoughtful kids.


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