How does an artwork tell a story? 8th grade students enrolled in IB Digital Art classes at Corning-Painted Post Middle School created digitally collaged and annotated artwork that connects to their identities. In collaboration with art teachers Maria Goldwyn and Chelsea Xidis, 65 students visited the KIDS ROCKWELL Art Lab and the Digital Dome Theater at Corning Community College (CCC) in September to draw inspiration from Apsáalooke artist Wendy Red Star, nature and the night sky. The artwork represents how the students’ personal identities are layered narratives.
Voices of Place: Past and Present Student Exhibition will be on view November 18 – December 31, 2022.
Representation matters! The exhibition, Wendy Red Star Apsáalooke: Children of the Large-Beaked Bird, sparked students’ imaginations. Red Star’s artwork inspires us to think about how we can connect more deeply to our own histories. By modifying historic photographic portraits and drawings, she pulls history forward. How we decide to share information impacts how we remember and honor the people close to us. Students considered the power of words, context, symbols, environment, people’s poses, expressions and clothing. The symbolism and details in the students’ collages represent viewpoints they are proud to share.
At the CCC Digital Dome Theater, students looked closely at the newest Alley Art Project, Worlds Collide. This mural fosters a sense of place and belonging in our community, inspired by Spencer Crest Nature Center and artwork in The Rockwell’s collection. In addition, students viewed a planetarium show about the celestial patterns visible from Earth in the northern hemisphere and how they change over time.
Goldwyn and Xidis introduced students to Adobe Photoshop and taught them how to digitally shape, scan and create images using layering techniques and geometry. Students experimented with the digital tools to blend, overlap and combine symbols, stories and drawings in their creations. After printing their artwork, students placed transparent film over their digital art to add another layer of words and imagery. The project prompted students to think about their cultural and family heritage, identity, connection to nature, storytelling, stereotypes and the power of representation.
Inspired by Wendy Red Star’s series of annotated portraits, students thought about what defines them and their relationships to others. Red Star’s use of red marker to add biographical facts, definitions and context to her portraits is a bold, creative way to incorporate a more transparent narrative. A playful, informal tone makes the work accessible to more people.
By annotating and updating existing historic documents or artwork, artists can help us advocate for people by making the past relevant to our lives today. Through art, we can give agency to people who are no longer with us. We can express important ideas and share memories, cultural knowledge and powerful messages. Discovering new stories can prompt us to reframe how we think about the past, the present and the future.
The students experimented with Red Star’s annotation process to amplify the voices and stories shared in their artwork. Students were encouraged to have fun and experiment with digital media and layering techniques. The digital collages on view connect to aspects of students’ personal identities, past and present, and include writing and symbols that express their voices in the community.
The Rockwell values collaborating with the Corning-Painted Post Area School District, Corning Community College and teachers to integrate the arts into classroom learning. This program merges artmaking with digital technology, while also educating youth about the history and resiliency of Native American communities across the United States.
Wendy Red Star Apsáalooke: Children of the Large-Beaked Bird, curated by Laura Thompson, Ed.D., was organized by MASS MoCA. Major exhibition support was provided by the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation, The Willow Tree Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, and Mass Cultural Council.
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