The annual Student Art Exhibitions at both the Parrish Art Museum and Guild Hall are not only joys to behold, but also provide evidence that our local cultural establishments truly respect arts-in-education. We can’t say the same for venues in other parts of the country or even for our governmental priorities. Who are we kidding? Name one Presidential candidate who ever spoke the word, “art,” in his/ her speeches. And who ever heard of the National Endowment for the Arts nowadays?
All the more reason to celebrate the art created by our regional students with help from committed teachers and administrators. The Parrish Museum, particularly, is presenting a display that takes up three rooms of its brand new space, so that now the works of pupils exist near internationally-known artists like Chuck Close, Fairfield Porter and Eric Fischl.
Many elementary and middle school artworks are influenced by famous artists, in fact, though most examples are not living Americans. Consider, for example, Bridgehampton School’s projects inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Jim Dine‘s hearts, and Tuckahoe’s homages to William Merritt Chase and Fairfield Porter. A popular art style (Pointillism) is even featured in the piece by the Greenport Elementary School’s third grade. Finally, East Quogue’s sixth grade goes beyond artists and styles, creating an ode to art in general with its structure, “Museum Mosaic.”
Other subjects have emerged, including images with circular patterns produced in many student works. (Of all the geometric forms possible, circles always seem the most popular.) There is New Suffolk School’s “Concentric Circles,” Ross School’s “Tree Cookies,” a display of tree rings suggesting the dates of past events, and Southampton Montessori School’s “Sunflower Blossoms.” All these various pieces are arranged on a grid, evoking clarity and intentionality. Nature is also present as a theme, including a work by Raynor County Day School, where leaves and diverse objects made of paper are attached to tree branches.
Artworks by high school students are individual endeavors, while group projects are usually reserved for the elementary and middle school pupils. (Younger children love to work together.) Pierson High School presents many worthy examples involving portraits and photographs. Through the years it has become evident that teenagers especially like to feature each other in their art as a sign of friendship and loyalty. There’s probably no better present than a painting of yourself from someone who brings forth the very best qualities possible.
Of course, there are other examples of portraits as envisioned by Mattituck High School students. Here many images are not realistic, but fantasy-like instead: we’ve noticed that this non-realistic style is another growing trend. What’s surprising about the figurative works from Mattituck, however, are a few politically-oriented pieces, which we rarely see from students. One image shows a woman tied up, sitting in front of residents from the Middle East; the subject is clearly a victim of some terrible event that is about to unfold. While the source of such a narrative may come from current films or TV news, either way it indicates that our young people recognize grim times in the world today.
Another interesting observation are the “grid” constructions existing in many of the art projects, including K-12. Particularly arresting is Southampton High School’s ode to Louise Nevelson as a case-in-point. Its gold paint and composition are real stand-outs. No doubt, “stand-out” is a good description for the art in the entire exhibit.
The Student Art Exhibit at the Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, is on view until
March 3. Call 631-283-2118 for information.