SchoolArts Magazine

APR 2018

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 APRIL 2018 SchoolArts L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G ARTIST Q&A SchoolArts: What are some of the biggest influences on your work? Thea Alvin: I am influenced by the natural world, archi- tecture in Europe (primarily vernacular structures and churches with large arches and domes), as well as all carved stone. I love higher math, and Fibonacci. I take inspiration from laughter and smart people. The smartest people I know are usually four-year-olds. I was inspired by Andy Goldswor - thy, Harvey Fite, and Robert Smithson. The thing is that none of the materials we have here on the planet are really original, and none of the ideas are original, so I try very hard to stay away from being influenced by artists altogether so that my work can come from me. SA: When did you first become interested in stone and architecture? TA: My father was a mason, my mother a hippy artist. I was motivated to work in stone because I was my father's tender, the person who helps the mason. I had to work hard as a very young teen and went to work full-time by the time I turned sixteen. I returned to school briefly at sixteen and left when I was seventeen only to finish after I married at eighteen. As a young mother, stonework kept us fed and I made our clothes. It was always hard and always at that time a subsistence. SA: Can you walk us through a typical project, from design to completed construction? TA: I travel around the world. I book up more than a year in advance, but I always know what projects are out there and brewing, so as I travel, say, to Italy in April, I know that I have a sculpture in Jackson to build in May, so my April time will fuel my ideas for what to build in May...shapes, sun play, shadows, lines of silhouette against the sky, shapes and intersections of straight lines and curves, etc. SA: How do current global issues and social trends influence your work? TA: I am a small woman and have spent a long time of my life fighting stereotypes about what a woman can do and should do and what she cannot. I have specialized in the "you can't do that" part. I try to have a tiny carbon footprint while at home. I am a goat farmer and grow my own food, aspire to be solar independent, and live in an art colony of my own making on my farm with six other adult artists, living together and sharing meals and at least the roof so that our art can be made and inspiration gathered from each other. My children are grown and I try to teach in local schools and inspire kids to try hard things and do good things and be happy and say yes instead of no. I believe that the world is very small and we need to take care of each other and be aware of the spaces around us. SA: How does place influence your work? TA: Place is one-third of all my work. I am able to work because I am incredibly grounded and understand that I come from a place of love and awareness and appreciation of art and effort. But in terms of an installation, that place is one-third of the conversation. The budget enters the conver - sation a one-third partner because it can describe "how big" the work should be, and then I am the other third because I want to continue to push boundaries and expectations and myself. I don't want to repeat work and I want to be open to what each space has to teach me, and each opportunity must be married to the sculpture so being present in that place and aware of possibilities there is critical. SA: What important lessons did you learn from your art teachers? TA: My art teachers were wonderful, starting with my mother, who inspired me by stitching sun faces on my skirts and drawing for the Grateful Dead and other bands, and my grandfather, who was a sculptor and photographer. At school, I was always in the presence of creative friends and teachers, and had plenty of supplies. DISCUSSION Show students examples of arches, stone walls, and stone buildings from throughout history, such as Stonehenge, the Arc de Triomphe (Paris), the Gateway Arch (St. Louis, MO), the India Gate (New Delhi), Patuxai Victory Gate (Vientiane, Laos), Sacsayhuamán (Peru), and the Great Zimbabwe Wall. Lead a discussion comparing the different buildings, walls, materials, and construction methods. Next, introduce stu - dents to Thea Alvin's work. Ask: • How do you think these pieces were constructed? • How would you categorize Alvin's work: sculpture, architecture, or something else? • What steps might Alvin take to plan for works like these? • How does Alvin's work transform the spaces where it is installed? • What stereotypes about stone and construction workers does Thea Alvin defy? How does that add to her work? STUDIO EXPLORATIONS • Construct a 3D model for a public sculpture that people can interact with. • In groups of three to five, create an architectural sculpture using wooden blocks and scraps, plastic building blocks, stones, and other natural materials. Decide where it should be placed on your school campus or community, give it an interesting title, and present it to the class. • Create a proposal for a public architectural sculpture including a written description, artist's statement, concept drawing, and scale model. Include a list of materials, time - line, and estimated costs. Your piece should transform the location where it is installed in a meaningful way. Written by Karl Cole, Art Historian and Curator of Images at Davis Publications and Robb Sandagata, Digital Curriculum Director and Editor at Davis Publications. RESOURCE

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