SchoolArts Magazine

SEP 2019

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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30 SEPTEMBER 2019 SchoolArts L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G ARTIST Q&A When did you first realize art was what you were born to do? Emily Grace Sandagata: As a kid, the arts played a sig- nificant role in my identity. I built lots of environments in the woods behind my parent's house with my sisters and the neighborhood kids. I have always enjoyed the act of arranging and rearranging objects in and outside of the home. Moving objects—every shift, no matter how drastic or slight, seemed to communicate something new. It made me see that I had power to change circumstances; I had power to reinvent new worlds, I had the power to become me. It was pretty exciting. What are some of the biggest influences on your work, including other artists, events, or things outside of the arts? EGS: In college, I used to cut out the images from my art his - tory books to learn the material better. I taped John Everett Millais's Ophelia above my bed so I could look at it when - ever I needed to. That painting contains everything I think about within my own work—life, death, the natural world (both beautiful and destructive), love, and femininity. It inspired me to think about my place as part of the earth and how the way we exist today keeps us from being connected. Are there any particular women artists whose work influenced your methodology? EGS: It takes guts to be an artist. I am influenced by the bravery of women risk-takers who came before me. There are so many, like Alice Neel, Elizabeth Murray, Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, and Kiki Smith. Their stories help me continue to follow my heart. What impact did your upbringing in rural Massachusetts have on your choice of artistic media? EGS: We had a lot of imperfect things: broken cars, broken faucets, bumpy roads, dirt driveways, tinfoil TV anten- nas, swarms of children. And then there was nature: birch trees, patches of moss, blueberry bushes, duck ponds, Hur- ricane Gloria, snowstorms... What is a typical workday like for you? EGS: I get up early and feed off of the creative energy of my students. I don't see my job as an art teacher as separate from my studio practice. I see it as an informative part of my daily life as an artist. It's just as important as my alone time in the studio. Through it I grow and understand the world better. Saturdays are my dedicated day to work and play in the studio, and when I have an upcoming exhibi- tion, I will carve out additional time whenever I can. Do you have specific strategies, rituals, or routines that help you work and/or generate ideas? EGS: I live in a live/work artists' building, and am sur- rounded by my work at all times. So even when I am eat- ing dinner or watching a movie, there is a part of me that is thinking about my work. I work on many pieces at the same time, which helps me keep a flow. There's always something to do, even if I'm wait - ing for paint to dry, or I need to find a larger chunk of wood. I put on music or something online—movies or artist talks—and then I just work. During the week, I sort of mentally and physically prepare. I might pull out an object or material that I think I will use in the work or mix up a pigment that I am interested in working with. All the thinking, staring, and adjusting is part of the work. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself as an emerging artist? EGS: I would tell my younger self not to worry about the end point of your journey—there isn't one. We search and work and everything outside of that just needs to unfold as it should. I believe you should be proud of taking chances and remember that there is never one way to do anything. Your way is okay even if it is different, and mine often is. I would also tell my younger self that your individual quirks, challenges, and differences are also your best teachers, so embrace them and carry them proudly. DISCUSSION Introduce students to Sandagata's artwork, including Sister Ophelia. Discuss the term "imperfect" in the context of students' everyday lives and Sandagata's artwork. Share examples of art from various cultures that purposely incor- porate and celebrate imperfections, such as the ch'ihónít'I, or "spirit line" in traditional Navajo weaving or the Japa- nese wabi-sabi aesthetic. Ask: • How many materials can you identify in this artwork? • What, if anything, do these materials have in common? • How does looking at these images make you feel? Why? • If these artworks were created in only paint, do you think they would communicate the same message as they do? Why or why not? • What imperfect or forgotten objects from your home might become part of an artwork? STUDIO EXPERIENCES • Create an artwork that intentionally includes or emphasizes imperfections: cracks, smears, finger - prints, and drips. • Choose five things from your teacher's collection of interesting objects. Experiment with different ways to organize or arrange them, then create a new work of art inspired by your experiments. • Gather unwanted materials and incorporate them into a collaborative artwork that brings new life to the mate- rials. How can they be reimagined, reinterpreted, or recontextualized? Document your progress and invite the community to see the completed artwork. Written by Karl Cole, Art Historian and Curator of Images at Davis Publications; Robb Sandagata, Digital Curriculum Director at Davis Publications; and Emily Sandagata, Artist and Art Educator.

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