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Interpreting Self Portraits
A lunch meeting on Friday found me sitting next to studio art teacher and European Art Classroom co-director, David Fleming. As we left the meeting and brought our dishes to the dish room, he suggested I follow him to Slocumb Hall to check out the still life artwork his students have been working on over the past week.

Two things struck me as I walked into Slocumb: 1) the intricate beauty in the artwork students are producing and 2) the enthusiasm with which students wanted to show off their work. Both simply blew me away as I walked around checking out still lifes and listening to Fleming share the process students have undergone over the past week. All were beautiful, some simply breathtaking, and as Fleming noted, “An amazing amount of work and depth of vision for students to complete in just three class blocks, or about three hours time.”

As we walked around the studio, Duong and Tucker were both eager to show me their interpretive self-portraits that have been an ongoing project over the course of the term. Fleming described the interpretive self-portrait process as, “Starting with painting chaos and then students identify pieces of who they are within the image. Some enter the process with clear expectations and vision, but usually the best pieces allow for the piece to take on a life of its own. And eventually, it becomes a self portrait without you really knowing it.”

Fleming continued conversation with his students about the impact of adding texture, wax, glass, glitter and layers can have on your piece of art. “Textured art will always be changing depending on the light, perspective or point of view. Don’t worry about mistakes, don’t try to hide them. Find them, celebrate them and turn them into something you never planned on creating.”

As teacher and student shared the process of art, the metaphor of adolescent life as artwork struck me. Some students come to Proctor with a clear vision of who they want to be, but what we appreciate is that just as art is a process, so, too, is adolescence. Textured artwork like the studio art class is creating is ever-changing and that is what makes it so special. If you try too hard to shape that artwork ahead of time, and stamp out creative inspiration because it is not in the plan ahead of time, how authentic will that artwork be?

Sometimes, we need to loosen the grip on how closely we are trying to shape our own identity as individuals. We can most certainly have vision, that is a good thing. But there will be moments in our lives when creative inspiration encourages us to take a left turn despite our directions telling us to go straight. Will you listen to that creative side? Will you be willing to change course?

Our hope is that a Proctor education consistently encourages you to take that left turn, to listen to that inspiration and see where it takes you. Maybe it means you enroll for Ocean Classroom even though you fear spending a term so intimately engaged with twenty of your peers. Maybe it means taking a class you’ve never dreamed of taking or starting a student-club on campus even though you are nervous what others might say about you.

If you too rigidly attempt to draw a self-portrait, the image created will no longer be you. It is our goal to value authenticity as a school as much as the artists I observed Friday do in their work, for it is this authenticity that allows us to thrive and continually evolve as a community.

To see student artwork in person, be sure to attend the fall end of term art show in the Wilkins Meeting House from 5:30-7:00 pm on Friday November 15th. You will not be disappointed!
As students work to create interpretive self-portraits, it is important they allow the art to evolve and change over time.
Duong's artwork has evolved tremendously over the past two years. The key to his success, "Freedom to express himself!"
If you try too hard to shape artwork beforehand, and stamp out creative inspiration because it is not in the plan ahead of time, how authentic will that artwork be?
Do not dread mistakes in art (or life), but learn from them, celebrate what you have learned and turn them into something beautiful!
Student pride in the artwork they create is infectious. Come check out the art show on November 15th from 5:30-7:00 pm in the Wilkins Meeting House!