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Student art on display through Feb. 28

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - Updated: 11:34 AM

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

CANAJOHARIE -- Last Thursday, Canajoharie Central School District art teachers unveiled selections of their students' finest work from throughout the 2013-2014 school year at the Arkell Museum at Canajoharie, 2 Erie Blvd.

The work will be on display through Feb. 28.

Prior to the annual student art show -- which takes up three galleries -- each district art teacher, including Elementary and High School Art Teacher Keith Baker, Middle School Art Teacher Michelle Egelston and High School Art Teacher Kathy Van Loan, chooses about 40 pieces for display.

Baker's selections included third grader self portraits, which students created by looking in handheld mirrors and studying their features, along with fifth grader-created animal watercolors, and sculptural pieces from his high school studio art class. Egelston displayed pop art pieces, pantyhose sculptures, clay pieces inspired by the Green Man, and oil pastels, while VanLoan displayed a variety of art, including personalized books and drawing and painting pieces.

Baker said he loves facilitating the self portrait project annually because it teaches "observational skills," including how to portray "all the little cues and details" of a face and personality. Some, he said, ended up being realistic, looking just like the artist, while other students took a more impressionistic approach, managing to capture the creator's spirit.

The self portraits, done over four class periods, "are so full of life and energy, so much variety," commented Baker, partially because each student was allowed to incorporate designs, colors and words into their background. Many took the opportunity to express their personality in the negative space.

Third grade student Giana Murphy stated goals in creating her self portrait -- "I was trying to make it pretty and lovable. That's why I decided to do plants that were hearts," in the background surrounding her face.

Her favorite part of the project, in which another goal was to accurately capture her eyes and hair, was "being me," she said.

Fifth grade student Kelly Davidson commented on the process of creating her watercolor piece, stating, "I just wanted to do a squirrel in a forest." The squirrel was surrounded by details such as cat tails and bushes.

Davidson continued of her inspiration, "I was looking in a book, and I was going to do a wolf, but I saw this squirrel picture, so I went to the squirrel book and started to draw it."

"It was fun painting it," said Davidson, who, when asked her favorite medium, said, "I like them all," though she has a special place in her heart for watercolors.

Egelston showed a wide variety of student work, explaining that students loved creating the pop art pieces on display, where they were able to work in the style of a selected artist (many picked Andy Warhol, understandably). "Kids love that project because they pick their subject matter and style of the chosen artist," she said.

"I think a lot of them are attracted to color," Egelston continued of her middle school students, noting that many also like to draw from direct observation. The seventh grade students, she said, adore "drawing recognizable things from our culture -- from media and advertising."

In the museum's downstairs gallery is a large, colorful VanGogh-inspired piece created by about 40 middle school students in their downtime. After finishing a project, they'd contribute to the group piece, which Egelston said was not only a means to have as many of the 200 students she teaches represented in the show as possible, but was also a warm up for her eighth graders, who will soon begin creating murals.

The PTA has donated money for the students to create large, plywood murals through April and May. While in the past, grant funding has brought in a visiting artist, this year's large collaborative project will be fully student driven. The students will come up with all ideas and execute them.

"One student suggested a dummy light theme," said Egelston, noting that the murals, which the students will design from start to finish, will be placed throughout the school at their completion.

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