Art : Class distinction at Featherstone
There is a significant gap between learning and applying, between experiencing something in the sanctuary of a classroom and exposing yourself to the competitive, often harsh environment of everyday routine. And as some art students at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) have discovered, it often brings out the best in both the work and people.
The first of three consecutive exhibits of high school art opens tomorrow, Friday, March 5, at Featherstone Center for the Arts and features the paintings of seniors Lonni Phillips and Augusta Dillon and the pottery of Brianna Buchanan. Hello, real world.
The idea of featuring selected students in art shows at Featherstone began in 2004 as an inspired collaboration between MVRHS art teachers Janice Frame and Scott Campbell, both artists themselves, and Francine Kelly, director of Featherstone.
Mr. Campbell invited his former student, Brianna Buchanan, to exhibit in the first show. Awarded a Gold Key for her Art Portfolio in this year's Boston Globe Scholastic Art Show, Brianna completed her credits for graduation early and works as an intern at Chilmark Pottery.
"Most of the pieces I'm showing are functional," Brianna says. "More than just being looked at, I like them to be used. The more something is used, the closer you get to the artist."
Mr. Campbell recalls, "Something about throwing on the wheel caught her attention. The whole idea of being able to center clay and turn it into something that actually functions is a challenge...It takes over."
Brianna agrees, saying, "One thing that drew me to the wheel was that while I was trying to center the clay - to understand its essence - I found myself becoming centered. It has a calming effect."
Ms. Frame, a teacher for close to 35 years, selected the two painters. "I choose kids who I know are strong and who would be capable of handling things - to do 10 pieces and do them well, to do the presentation and the hanging of all of it," she says. "It's about the entire process...They really have learned how to see...They don't know it yet, but it's their passion."
Although Augusta Dillon has no plans to pursue art professionally, she has more than just an inkling of what Ms. Frame refers to. "Artists try to make a living by doing the thing they love," Augusta says, "and then they lose the thing they love by trying to make a living. I think the idea of selling [your art] messes with your own perceptions. You're more concerned with selling than with expressing yourself."
Lonni, sitting across the worktable they share, adds, "For me, everyone is good at art. There's no one way to say how things should be expressed. Art is not specific in any one way."
Although both choose portraits and the human figure as their preferred subjects, they approach art differently. Each piece has been painted on sanded, treated driftwood - their idea - but Augusta does not try to match or incorporate the wood with her image. "They have nothing in common with the board I choose," she says. "I love the contrast - taking something not necessarily nice looking and turning it into something polished."
Lonni likes using driftwood for its earthy quality and Island theme, and she uses its surface to add texture and effect to her subjects. She outlines the entire image, while Augusta completes one part before moving on to another.
"I guess it would be more prudent," Augusta says, "to lay out the entire image, but maybe that's my way of not coloring in the lines. If it goes to the edges, that's just the way it is."
Both credit Ms. Frame for her expertise and the creative freedom she advocates, and Ms. Frame responds, "This is what I do...my joy. It's watching kids grow and develop and learn how to see."
It's Monday, and the painters are still finishing their offerings for their first show. "It's kind of nerve-racking," Lonni says, but kind of exciting.
Augusta says, "I'm kind of nervous to see what people think, and how others will perceive me." She quickly adds, "No one really needs to like what I do, but I would like their respect."
MVRHS Art Shows, Featherstone Center for the Arts, Oak Bluffs: Opening Sunday, March 7, 4-6 pm. Featured artists: Lonni Phillips, Augusta Dillon, Brianna Buchanan. 12 noon-4 pm, through March 12.
Opening Sunday, March 14, 4-6 pm. Featured artists Melanie Krauss, Hannah Marlin, Abby Enter, Seneca Craig. 12 noon-4 pm, through Friday, March 19.
Opening Sunday, March 21, 4-6pm, "Paper & Pottery IV" featuring the students of Janice Frame and Scott Campbell.
For more information: 508-693-1850; featherstoneart.org.