At the year’s start, Liz Vorlicek’s introduction to ceramics classes created tiny, decorative sculptures inspired by Japanese netsuke, a toggle-like piece that attaches small pouches to the kimono sash. Her lessons were born of necessity and creativity: Students were learning remotely in September, away from their Ainslie Arts Center studio and kilns, and netsuke can be fashioned from air-dry clay that’s readily available.
EHS student art this fall — and the means by which it was produced — illustrates the less-than-normal state of the world. Digital design students gravitated to themes in their work drawn from Covid-19 and social-justice issues. Photography students, meanwhile, studied documentary photographers like Robert Frank (who produced the acclaimed “The Americans” in 1959) and then set out to build digital books that captured their America and their lives during these strange times.
“I tell the kids: We are living in a historical moment right now,” says photography and painting teacher David Douglas. “And everything that you do in the visual arts will be influenced by this moment.” Douglas turned to digital bookmaking as a way to structure his photography students’ work when they were learning virtually. He had toyed with the idea before, and now he quickly discovered its value even when students returned to campus in October.
“Bookmaking is an art in and of itself,” he says. “Instead of working on one image or painting a single picture, you put things together in a sequence and have to find a certain kind of rhythm.” Vorliceck found her students embraced the challenge of bringing their tiny animal forms to life with texture, gesture, and expression. Some added bow ties, ribbons, or other fanciful accessories. “Pixar and Disney might be clambering at the EHS gates to recruit these young artists,” she says.