First Year Connections (FYC) students enrolled in the arts seminars “Thinking in Clay” with Professor Paul Chaleff and “What Is a Museum?” with Professor Martha Hollander had a chance to display original works of art and the results of their studies in the FORM Gallery earlier this spring.
“Thinking in Clay,” a beginning course in ceramics, incorporated the history of clay development from the Paleolithic to the present and correlate it to the hands-on creative process. On display were two student projects assigned as part of the course curriculum– “Construction, Deconstruction, Reconstruction” and “Elegant Form.”
“Construction, Deconstruction, Reconstruction” required students to construct a hollow cube using 6 x 6 x 6 slabs of clay. They were then asked to “deconstruct” it by making a diagonal slice through three faces of the cube and remove the pieces. Reconstruction involved removing more parts of the cube and reconfiguring them onto the piece to make a dynamic sculptural form that uses movement and light as its theme.
Marco Rubero, a film major, exhibited his work at the show and learned a lot from the experience. “It taught me to not treat everything I make so preciously,” he said. “I learned how to take what I have been given and to turn it into something different which is a complete shift in perspective for me.” He added, “Professor Chaleff was pretty brilliant in assigning this project because it taught us how to take something we see every day and change it into something we want to see.”
The second project, “Elegant Form”, required students to look at forms from the Neolithic period and to construct an elegant form by coiling clay as was done 10,000 years ago.
Adriana Medina, a first year student studying forensic science and art, also exhibited her work in the show. She said, “The Elegant Form project showed me how malleable clay is and how easy it is to fix mistakes. On a larger scale, it taught me that it’s ok to make mistakes.”
And that’s exactly what Professor Chaleff hoped his students would gain from the experience. “By taking a work they thought was perfect and reconfiguring it into a personalized statement they learn the difference between perfection and beauty and also how to fall down and get up again – stronger and better for it, “ he said. “ The finished works end up being much more beautiful and meaningful than the original cube.”
“What Is a Museum” asked students to think about where ideas of museums come from, and what types of people work, play at, and support museums. They were also asked to consider the role of museums in contemporary society, finances, the often conflicting goals of research and public display, exhibit design, legal and ethical issues, and other challenges. Students created their own communal art project and “shoebox museum.” Many of the shoebox museums were also on display at Undergraduate Research Day in May.