Student Artwork: Collaborative Quilt of Transformation

by Helen Seigel

This quilt image was created by twenty students (grades 3-5) at Diamond Elementary School who are participants in the Special Studio art program with artist Helen Seigel. Together the student artists and the professional artist worked to construct an image that would be both visually stunning and conceptually challenging. Each student was photographed in three positions: receiving, observing, and giving an object. Next, students used oil pastels to design a wall and floor background, applying their knowledge of basic color theory and pattern. They voted to alternate warm and cool colors on the walls and to be free to choose their own colors for the floors. Conceptual planning discussions included issues such as how to work together successfully as a group. Inherent in this process was the establishing of guidelines or rules for everyone to follow. Equally important were opportunities for free expression by each individual member of the group. After gluing the photographs onto the completed backgrounds, students gathered to plan the objects which they would be passing on to one another. With the group seated in the configuration of the actual artwork, Ms. Seigel "handed" the world to Marta Navarro (top left), who picked it up, transformed it first into a baseball (considering its round form), and then into a balloon. Her neighbor (to the right), Isidro Montoya, took her balloon and changed it into a circular frisbee, and then into a dog (for its conceptual connection). This pattern continues throughout the piece, each student receiving something, reinterpreting and reinventing that object, making formal or conceptual associations as they worked. Students used colored pencils and markers to draw their objects. They had to carefully consider the scale and position of each item so that it would fit into their hands. Upon completion of these mixed media collages (oil pastels, colored pencils, markers, and photography) the technology of color copying was employed to unify diverse textures into a harmonious and magical blend.

The resulting "quilt" of giving and taking not only demonstrates the students' mastery of art elements, design, and techniques, but also illustrates how visual art is a powerful vehicle for critical thinking, exploration, invention, and collaboration.

Young Special Studio artists (grades 3-5) at Harvey Elementary School brain-stormed together to make a list of things that they could not do without the help of others. Then they each selected a theme which they would develop into a piece of art. Individual students could invite up to four other students to participate in their work. Acting as directors, students advised their peers as to how they might most successfully pose to communicate their idea. Photographs include the student artist and his/her "actors." Students then combined the resulting photographs with colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, and magazine images to create evocative mixed media collages. Finally, the collages were turned into color prints which seem to make their fantasies appear to be real!

These pieces are truly mixed media works as they combine art materials, mass media imagery, drama, and student collaboration to yield striking, original statements.


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