Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wild Week of Art, Town Meeting, Firing, and Glazing

Artist Eric Hopkins, in his Rockland studio, explains his creative process to students.

The highlight of my week was the field trip to Rockland with my fifth and sixth grade art students. I wasn't too excited about the early rise (4:30 a.m.) and four hours each way on a bus with kids totally jacked on mountain dew and other assorted sugary confections, but once we were in Rockland, it was all worth it.

After an early lunch in the courtyard, we began our tour of the Farnsworth Art Museum, which houses, I would guess, Maine's largest collection of regional works. Students were divided into two groups and led by docents to view and discuss works, focusing on mood, theme, and historical backgrounds of artists. Lubec students were most excited to see Andrew Wyeth's work, but were equally impressed with Louise Nevelson and Robert Indiana's sculptural works.

After the museum, we ventured upon the gallery and studio of Eric Hopkins. I must admit, I was a bit starstruck myself since I have LOVED Hopkins' work for years. I have tried my hand at painting, but feel that I have never been able to just let go and express - I get so caught up in "doing it right" that I miss the bigger picture. But Hopkins' work is full of expression, it's colorful, wild, fun, and spiritual too. If you aren't familiar with his work, you must check it out. He paints a lot of aerial scenes, inspired by the images he sees (and feels) when flying. Very cool stuff!

An interesting moment for me was watching the care a student used when holding one of Hopkins' blown glass seashells. The student walked slowly to a table, glass shell in hand, eyes focused, and almost as though holding his breath, gently and slowly placed the glass piece on the table. I knew then that my students understood the value of these works on a deeper level than I had imagined.

It was an interesting contrast, and a great lesson, for the kids to first visit a museum, where the lights are dim, voices quiet, the space with a feeling of sacredness, almost as if in a church. They understood not to touch artwork, or horseplay, or holler across the room. I think this sometimes gives students the idea that art is unapproachable, although it helps to develop a deeper reverence. In contrast, we visited Hopkins' studio - where the art was colorful, alive, room brightly lit, windows and doors wide open, and the artist was completely approachable, welcoming, vibrant, humorous, and willing to share a part of himself. They now have a better understanding of artists and the process of being an artist and how the art world operates in general. This experience will stay with these young students for a lifetime.

My week didn't slow down. Thursday night I had to speak at the town board meeting about the upcoming community art project this summer: Lubec Arts Alive 2009. (original name Arting-up Lubec). We have a committee together here in Lubec, ideas are flying, excitement building. I have been working closely with Natasha Mayers who is drumming up support amongst UMVA members. this will be the first of its kind in Lubec: a week-long interactive arts event where several projects are occurring simultaneously throughout town. I plan to begin a blog about the event within the next few weeks as more details are finalized. But keep it on your calendar for August 17-22 to come to Lubec if you want to see great Maine artists doing what they do best! I suggest making reservations at the inns, motel, and campgrounds before they are all booked. The weekend of the 14th-16th is the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival, just down the road a stretch - so make plans to attend both events and take in as much "way down east" art as possible. And don't forget, we have the most amazing Summer Keys live concerts on Wednesday nights too, during the summer - free! A new shop is opening downtown, I think it is called "Wags n' Wools" - with fabulous yarns and dog supplies (strange combo, I know!). Of course, there is shopping at my nifty little studio, and Northern Tides, find the best chocolate at Monica's Chocolates. The hikes are amazing, ocean views breathtaking. Lubec has changed so much since we first came here nine years ago. We really do love living here.

Enough tourism speech for now - I must get back to the studio for glazing. I hope to fire the kiln by mid week. The first glaze firing of the season is always the most exciting!

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