As we currently have the fantastic SWELL festival in our community, the students in my prep class have decided to hold a mini ‘SWELL in Prep’.
It ties in beautifully with our science where students are learning ‘What material things are made of’. As part of that they discussed the properties of materials such as strong-weak, flexible-rigid, hard-soft, and also how it stood up to becoming wet. After experimenting by placing the different materials in water they came to the conclusion, for instance, that metal and plastic would not break in water, whereas paper and cardboard lost their shape and broke. With this knowledge the students decided what materials we could use to make our outdoor sculptures. This eliminated making box constructions as an art form for outside. Instead we started a collection of unwanted household items that would be durable outside in the rain.
In my class we have concentrated in the last few months on contrasting abstract art with surreal art.
Every child experimented with red, black, white and grey paper to position torn bits on the paper without making a picture where you can see something in it, but still make it in such a way that they liked the composition. We talked about balance, use of space, empty-full, overlapping as design elements.
In contrast we then investigated the opposite where you actually look at what you could see in things when you put them together in different ways. We looked at examples of surreal art (for example Picasso’s Bull and Dali’s Lobster Telephone).
Every student got lots of pictures of items that they could rearrange and place together to make a person out of.
This principle was then transferred onto the unwanted household items where the students were encouraged to see different things. We sat around in a circle and started with some items such as a frond of a palm tree, which the students claimed was the antlers of a reindeer. Very quickly the suggestions for other parts of the body were coming thick and fast. Students became very creative naming the watering can as a helicopter and a watering can as an elephant.
It was made clear to the students that they had to play around for a bit before they were allowed to start connecting the pieces to each other, so they attempted a variety of options with the range of items on offer.
The technique for connecting shown to the students was with ties normally used in gardening or to put electrical cords together. Other than that they could use PVA glue and as a last resort sticky tape.
The students set to work in small groups with their ideas, helping each other holding things in place for tying down.
Then the students wrote about their work and created an artist statement.
Here is a great example:
Artist: Kayla Bowden
Artist’ statement: I made a face and it has pink hair. It is made out of a wheel and a pointy nose funnel and blue lids for eyes. It has a pipe for a mouth.
Many students visited the Swell festival but for some students who could not, I created equity by bringing photos of the festival to the classroom. Discussions took place around what material the sculptures are made of and the kind of art it is – such as abstract art, realism or art that makes a social comment. They also talked about how it affected them including which pieces they liked best and why. We also discussed how ‘Little Red Flag’ by Christopher Trotter was most like their sculptures using unwanted metal items.
Here are some more wonderful examples of work and their artist statements.
Artists: Navella Lau Diaz, Holly Cooper
Artists’ statements: I made a person and it was a girl. I like her name. It has a little bucket for her head. It was fun to make it. My person has a big bucket for her tummy. Holly
I made a sculpture and it was a person. I used some plastic. It is made out of plastic, because paper would go soggy. The name is ‘Diva’. This is because her mouth is round and she is singing. Navella
Artist’ statement: I made a person. I used two bowls for the tummy. Next I used glasses for the eyes. I used a red button. It is made of plastic because it can go in the rain. The boy has funny legs and it is made out of hospital trays. Evie
‘MOO MOO, the Friesian Milking Cow’
Artists: Archie Mercy, Harry Wagner, Austin Clarke
Artists’ statements: Now I am writing about the cow. The cow had a flower pot for a head. I used a drying frame for its body. I put bubble wrap around it. My feelings are bright because the sculpture turned as beautiful as I think cows are. Harry
I made a cow. It was made of metal and plastic. He has black spots. I cut pieces out of a black curtain blind for black spots. He will be milked by farmer Joe. Archie
‘TURTY THE TURTLE’
Artist: Benjamin Morton
Artist’ statement: I made a turtle because they are my favourite animal. It is still a little turtle. I made them out of thick plastic and lids. The flippers are made out of cut out milk bottles. I want people to look after turtles. Benjamin
‘SEAWEED EATING PLESIOSAUR’
Artists: Rhys Bradshaw, Bailey Veach and Ella Mc Dougall
Artists’ statements: I made a dinosaur out of a drying frame. My dinosaur is happy and spiky. Bailey
I made a dinosaur out of pegs. It has a tail out of wood. Ella
I got the washing line. I found the pegs and decorated it. Then I got the wood from home and I made it the flippers and the tail. Rhys
Artist: Max Croft Artist statement: I made a frog. I used two blue bowls and I used CD disks for eyes. Max
Artists: Bailey Veach, Indiana Lancaster
Artists’ statements: I made an alien robot. It has long, pointy nose. On his head are antennas to turn it on. Then it walks. I used plastic lid for the eyes. Indiana. It is robot and it got a face and big ears and a big nose. He smells food with the nose to see if it is yum. Bailey
Artist: Indiana Lancaster and Laila Barclay
Artist’ statement: I made an elephant. I used a big pot for the head. I used a blue bowls for the ears. I used lids for the eyes. My sculpture makes you feel happy. Indiana
I made a sculpture and it was an elephant. I used a pot over blue bowls. I named her ‘Princess Elephant and she drinks water and she eats snails and bugs. Laila