Around the World in Clay goes to Brooklyn Museum
On December 9th, Port Chester High School students attending Clay Art Center's year-long Around the World in Clay class took their annual trip a museum. Eight students joined our Community Arts Manager (Kelly O'Sullivan), long-time Teaching Artist (Sarah Cobble) and the Westchester Community Fellow (Dana Reifer), to visit the Infinite Blue exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. For many of our students it was the first time that they had traveled by train or subway, or even been to the Brooklyn Borough. Before we even arrived at the museum, we were greeted with beautiful architectural artworks at the Eastern-Parkway Subway Station, and as we ascended the stair case we looked out to a snowy city-scape and a crowd gathering at the doors of the Brooklyn Museum.
The Infinite Blue exhibition features works of art from Asian, African, Egyptian, American, Native American, and European collections. The artworks presented span multiple mediums including paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, textile arts, illuminated manuscripts, printed books, and contemporary art, all of which tell a story of the meaning behind the color blue from ancient times to present day. As ceramic Educators, we were thrilled to have the chance to find so many historical and contemporary ceramic artworks in one exhibition!
Students explored the exhibition, drawing on their own associations to the color blue and seeking them out in particular pieces. Many students spoke of blue occurring in nature - in the skies and oceans - or of feelings of calmness and purity. Blue has been used as an indicator of both the spiritual and divine for thousands of years, largely due to the these same, time-honored associations. Contemporary Japanese ceramic sculptures evoked a cool sense of nature, air and earth, and paintings featuring the Virgin Mary spoke to the spiritual use of blue . Blue has also been used to show signs of status, power and unearthly beauty. The works of Asian and Euroepan Ceramic art, clearly showed the use of blue as a status demarcation, while many of the Native American paintings, beaded headdresses and other garbs used blue to communicate power, strength and royalty.
Sketch pads were provided to students, who eagerly sought out their favorite ceramic artworks, many gravitating towards Asian blue and white wares. With a focus on form and design, the students spent a wealth of time collecting inspiration to bring back to our classroom. Over the next few weeks our students will begin to use porcelain, cobalt oxide and blue stains to create their own blue and white wares including relevant symbols to express their own identity and our current time period.
The Around the World in Clay class and our annual trips to cultural institutions is fully funding by the Common Sense Fund, providing free access to the arts for Port Chester High School and Middle School students throughout the academic year.