AP Students Study Art in Seattle

by Laura Gilmore. Grade 12

On Thursday, January 29th, a group of AP Studio Art and AP Art History students embarked on a journey to Seattle to visit various art exhibitions. After an exciting afternoon voyage on the Clipper, we arrived at Seattle in the evening and made our way to our hotel close to the Space Needle. The following morning, after an early wakeup, a “mandatory” hour of shopping was undertaken before meeting at the Seattle Art Museum. Two docents met us at the museum and we embarked on our tour.

As we toured the gallery we learned about the development of modern art during the years 1860-1970. This period involved popular themes expressing feminism, war, depression, and the industrial revolution. Many of the traditional rules of composition and artistic creation were changed and often broken during this period. Materials and techniques also evolved dramatically. One of the pieces we focused on was Temperature, a painting by Jasper Johns created in 1959.

This artist broke the rules with the introduction of a “found object” into his piece. The word abstract, in terms of modern art, means to pull-out, to take something from life and show it in a new light. This is exactly what Jasper Johns did when he placed a thermometer in the center of his piece. Along with this new technique, he also showed great expression and creativity in his brush strokes and interplay of colors. New techniques such as these helped define art during the modern movement. Another piece by Jackson Pollock, entitled Seachange, also showed great expression. Wild brush strokes, splatters, and drippings of paint on canvas were the hallmarks of Pollock’s creations.

After the tour of the gallery, the students split up. The art history students continued to tour the museum enjoying pieces that were under study during the previous school term. The studio art students attended a workshop introducing them to the challenges of creative “rule breaking” with various media. After a busy morning, the two groups boarded a bus for Tacoma.

Our first stop was the Tacoma art museum where we were allowed to explore the galleries at our own pace. One of the main exhibits there was a collection of sketches by David MaCaulay from his new book, The Way We Work, illustrating the inner workings of the human body in humorous and interesting ways.

The next stop was the Tacoma glass museum. On the bridge leading to the museum were beautiful displays of glass blown creations sealed in the ceilings and walls of the bridge itself. Once inside we sat in on a glass blowing competition where we watched and listened to the artists explain their designs and techniques.

Finally, we boarded the bus and made our way back to Seattle for some power shopping, dinner and a good night’s rest. In the morning we bid farewell to Seattle and took the Clipper home.

The trip was beneficial for all in attendance. Art history students gained insight into the minds and lives of artists during the modern era, providing much needed additional material for future AP essays. Studio art students gained inspiration for new pieces and the encouragement to step out of the box and break some rules with their art. Overall, it was a very worthwhile and enjoyable trip and one that I would love to do again.

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