The Phallusy of It All!

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As art teachers, we have all experienced it, a phallic drawing or a curiously shaped clay structure. With the students usually oblivious to the suggested representation of the erect male member, we ignore it but often, we do not display it. Why? To protect ourselves? To protect our students? This post is to question decisions about how we, as teachers, deal with such sensitive issues and also how we can find humor in it all.

While teaching a lesson on how to turn mistakes into Beautiful Oops inspired Barney Saltzberg’s book, I created an Oops of my own. While demonstrated how to turn a coffee stain on a piece of paper into an image, I unintentionally drew the intimate anatomy of a marsupial. The class of 20 six-year-olds did not say a thing, they did not notice and perhaps thought it was a joey hanging out of the kangaroo’s pouch. I, however, did notice and immediately started sweating and trying to divert student’s eyes away from the joey only to depict a very large kangaroo poo and feline hit-and-run! Still, my students did not say a word and I was not met with parent e-mails or phone calls. It made me realize, that I am allowed to make Oops too and because my artwork example was not created with the intention of being a metaphorically filled phallic flop, it was okay…everything was going to be okay.

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With the Kangaroo flop hanging in my art office, my teaching partner and I began collecting other Oops throughout the year created by students. We collected these images, creating a gallery to remind ourselves to laugh and to not take things too seriously.

The two images below were created during a unit that focused on turning observational drawings into motifs. After drawing seed pods, students made a print plate based on their drawings and create a textured print resembling the forest floor. These seed pods definitely resemble another type of seed pod.

Here is a photo of a student practicing with the play dough before making a clay cactus.

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The picture below is a drawing of a student’s family. The family member on the end is of the student’s baby brother crying.

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Nothing is wrong, or bad about art that may resemble parts of the male or female anatomy and by not displaying it, or asking students to change their artwork insinuates that there is something wrong or inappropriate. Instead, we need to reframe it and view it from the point of intention which is always to make art. So whether is a precarious scene from down under to an unsuspecting seed pod, it is art representing the innocence of a child and the way in which art can morph with the mind that views it.

 

Harbin Ice Festival

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The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is an annual winter festival that takes place in Harbin, Heilongjiang, China, and now is the largest ice and snow festival in the world! In addition to having a variety of winter activities and home to some of the largest ice sculptures ever constructed, the festival hosts the 3rd largest International Ice Sculpture Competition in the world as well. Last month I was lucky enough to attend The 34th Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival and experience the wonder and magic of this amazing ice kingdom!

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In addition to the incredible icy architecture, the ice sculptures were small representations of the artistry and skill needed to transform cool ideas into a work of art.

14 countries participated this year including India, Mexico and the United States. Given 10 blocks of ice and five days, each team has to work in sub-zero temperatures creating delicate sculptures demonstrating their understanding of their medium and threshold for the cold.

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These are a few of my favorites from the competition, because of their subject matter, intricate elements, and demonstration of skill. Having been raised in a cold climate, I have always respected the ice and snow as resources for recreation but I now have a new found respect for ice sculptures and the ways in which artists transform frozen fractals into art.

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Hong Kong Street Art Walking Tour

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With Hong Kong being one of the world’s biggest financial centres, it is no surprise that art is viewed primarily as a business. However, in the last three years artists have been using street art as a means to communicate, express and expose the growing need for art in everyday life.

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Living in Sheung Wan, I pass countless street art pieces on my daily commute. After walking past them time and time again, they simply become a part of the city, its walls, its story. Wanting to share its story, I signed up for a Street Art Walking tour and spent an hour in my own neighborhood learning about the street art and artists who created the illustrations that help tell Hong Kong’s narrative.

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The tour began at arguably one of the most famous and iconic street artworks by the local artist, Alex Croft. He was commissioned by Goods of Desire, which is at the junction of Hollywood Road and Graham Street. It depicts the skyline of Kowloon Walled City which was demolished in 1994. This densely populated ungoverned settlement was home to over 33,000 people, 1,000 businesses and 8,800 homes within 6.4 acres. Large, colourful, stylised and garnering historical significance, if you visit Hong Kong, a photo with this as your background is obligatory.

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Walking West down Hollywood road, another large work by the artist Robert Sketcherman was commissioned by it’s canvas, Hotel Maderna. It depicts entertainers from the golden age of Hollywood, an interest of the hotel owner and the street in which is it located. Inspired by comic books, Sketcherman actually wanted to work for Marvel but instead uses his artistic abilities to enter the daily lives of locals as a street artist working in the city in which he lives.

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The monochromatic work on the corner of Hollywood and Elgin Street was commissioned by the restaurants that call that corner home; La Bouffe, a French resturant, Seoul Brothers, a Korean restaurant and a locally famous Cantonese noodle stall. A french street artist was commissioned by the restaurants to create a work of art that reflects the proximity and mixture of the three different cultures.

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Cleon Peterson, a former drug addict, created a work above the entrance to the French restaurant, Les Fils à Maman in a small alley off Hollywood Road. Peterson’s motifs are unmistakable. Monochromatic and violent, his figures, which he calls ‘the shadows’, represent conflict; man versus man, man versus himself and man versus society. These violent images have no geographical borders but apply to every region of the world.

In the courtyard that Les Fils à Maman faces, is the former building where Sun Yat-Sen began the democratic revolution of 1911. Several works in and around the courtyard reference Sun Yat-Sen as well as the significance of this place.

After heading through the park, turn left towards Aberdeen Street where you will find an ever-changing alley of art. If you are lucky, one of Cath Love’s Jeli Boos will be waiting for you. Curvy and connected to location in which she has been created, there are dozens of Jelly Boos fiercely fashioned on facades all over the city.

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Take a left down Gough Street where you will find yourself near another famous noodle stall as well as a large work by street artist, Finn Dec. Known for his ability to create fine details with only aerosol cans, Fin Dac usually depicts women from different countries and cultures, but this work is unusual and special as it also includes a man.

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Head up the stairs back towards Hollywood Road and see if you can spot a cat and a dragon. The cat known as Mr. Chat first appeared in Paris in 1997 and is by an unknown artist. His cheeky smile can be spotted in cities all over the world. The French artist, Invader, also has art work around the world and with several in and around Hong Kong. The dragon here is one of his ‘Invaders’ which are pixel-like tile creations. Other invaders have invaded the Leuvre, the ocean, high altitudes and even space! Fingers crossed these two works will still be there, as they were illegally done and often disappear overnight.

Home to an ever changing spot for commissioned street art, the top of the stairway has showcased hundreds of works over the years. This year, Shepherds Ferry has a large red, black and white work representing his iconic style and a common message in his art – peace. Shepherds Ferry is well known for his Obey clothing line and the 2008 Obama campaign poster.

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Below is the tour provider if you are keen to book with them tour. Note that is costs $150 HKD and last just over an hour. If you live in Hong Kong, I would recommend doing the tour yourself with the aid of the info above. My only add-in would be to start with a Bloody Mary at the Globe prior to starting beginning your walk about and then finish with lunch as one of the local noodle stalls or Fast Gourmet. Fast Gourmet’s chicken salad does not disappoint!

http://accidentalart.co/hk-street-art-tour/

Create Whatever, Whenever, Wherever

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‘It’s good as an artist to always remember to see things in a new, weird way.’ – Tim Burton

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As an art educator, I gain inspiration and ideas for lessons, units and themes by attending art exhibitions. This is true in the case after my attendance at The World of Tim Burton exhibition that spent three months in Taikoo Place in Quarry Bay, Hong Kong. The maze of rooms, drawings, influences and sculptures was just a small glimpse into the mind of a wonderfully, weird, dark and brilliant mind who makes the strange and unusual accepted and appreciated.

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One aspect of the exhibition stuck with me like toilet paper on the bottom of my shoe. It was the hundreds of napkin drawings that Burton has created over the years in bars, restaurants, coffee shops and hotel lobbies. Inspired but the ‘whatever, whenever, wherever’ nature of Burtons napkin drawings, I wanted to encourage such spontaneity and impulsivity to draw wherever you are by any means possible. Also, to draw fearlessly regarding no rules or expectations put upon yourself or by others. As Burton also said, ‘Don’t worry about how you ‘should’ draw it. Just draw it in the way you see it.’

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I then created a 45 minute lesson for Upper Primary students that focused on this idea. After presenting napkin, newspaper and sketchbook drawings by Tim Burton, students rotated to four different stations spending 5 – 7 minutes drawing at each.

  • Station 1 materials: Napkins, black felt tip pens, Tim Burton character feature examples
  • Station 2 materials: Ripped pieces of newspaper, black markers, Tim Burton character feature examples
  • Station 3 materials: Post-it notes, ball point pens, Tim Burton character feature examples
  • Station 4 materials: Student sketchbooks, pencils, Tim Burton character feature examples

Here are the links to the Tim Burton character feature examples I used at each station:

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The kids absolutely loved it! Although only a few of them attended the exhibition, in a way I brought the exhibition to them. Tim Burton’s message is so important to young people – don’t worry about how you ‘should’ draw it, just draw! Also, I tried to express to my students not to wait for the paper or a time to create, just create whatever, whenever, wherever!

 

Walls

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While traveling, I don’t always get to visit art museums. Don’t get me wrong, I love art museums and in fact I hold a minor in Museum Studies and Art History, but art museums don’t house art of the people. The streets are where you find it.

From a tag to a sprawling mural, street and graffiti art are the tattoos of a town. Like ink to skin, paint to walls tell stories of the people who live in their confines.

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London, 2015

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Detroit, 2016

I don’t know the artists who use brick and skin as canvas but I can begin to understand the buildings an people that wear them. Some are a whisper, some are a yell and each one has a different story to tell.

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Chicago, 2016

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Sarasota, 2013

Finland 2012 384

Helsinki, 2012