“Students View American Portraits” at the Parrish in Southampton

If you think that portraits can be boring and unimaginative, think again. Or better yet, go see the current student show at Southampton’s Parrish Art Museum: local pupils create their own artwork based on the Parrish’s permanent portrait collection. While this exhibit is an annual and longstanding event, we also notice that the educational staff has contributed time and effort in new areas to make the show a success. Moreover, we’re very happy to observe that creativity is alive and thriving like it is every year at the student presentation. [expand]

Portraits come in many forms and media, and the students and their teachers prove they understand that notion. For example, technique and detail are demonstrated by Southampton’s Middle School (8th grade) with small golden busts of subjects ranging from a Native American to a man with glasses. Hampton Bays’ Middle School (grades 7th and 8th) shows a similar sense of craftsmanship with their dog portraits. Each canine conveys a different personality.

Suffolk County’s Home Schoolers are contributing their own brand of technique with ceramic bowls and cups, helped by a special museum program. We can only be impressed by their worthwhile endeavors. Collage self-portraits by Cutchoque East Elementary School also stand out for their attention to detail, as do symbolic self-portraits featuring mandalas by MattituckCutchoque’s seventh grade.

Yet it isn’t only detail that makes these works noteworthy but creativity as well. Consider photo abstractions by Mattituck–Cutchoque Junior High School, where photographs of an actual person are rendered with imagination. Or consider the fractured self-portraits from Mattituck–Cutchoque Senior High School, where segmentation of facial parts evoke Surrealism.

Composition plays an effective role in several works, such as Ross School’s photographs of subjects with texts written on various bodies, like “The wind was underway, the dust settled.” We wonder if the words are composed by the students themselves and if they saw Peter Greenaway’s obscure film, The Pillow Book.

Portraits done in a classical style are the focus of Sag Harbor Elementary School with bits of fabric added to each work. Particularly, the 5th grade creates cute individual faces which have distinct personalities. Southampton’s Kindergarten class also personalizes portraits with their own pictures in the form of paper dolls. Dolls are the subject of work from Raynor Country Day School (5th grade) as well where their arms and legs are twisted in arresting and whimsical positions.

A particularly creative project comes from the Our Lady of Mercy School. Called “The Angel Project,” the students have made pairs of wings representing various artists, including Jackson Pollock: his “wings” feature paint splattered on white material. This sounds like a project that adult artists should try.


The student show will be on view until Jan. 15, 2012 at Southampton’s Parrish Art Museum (25 Jobs Lane. Tel: 631-283-2118).


More from Our Sister Sites