Friday, June 11, 2021
My Dear Students, June, 2020. •. Remote Learning
When we rise to face a new day within the whirl of despairing global realities; working and learning within the confines of our house, our rooms, our narrow periphery—it may seem in some strange way that we are spinning in place. Amidst so much unexpected confusion, pain, and sadness, your education experience, for now, has unexpectedly become pixelated and splattered with emotional roller coasters. While you are learning, you are also trying to figure out what is going on in this world, how you fit into it, and what you can do about it. With such varied circumstances, it is certain that some are more directly and deeply affected than others. We wrestle with emotions that are cut deep from the wounds of our families, our friends, our histories. I meet you with as much pep as I can muster because it is difficult for me too—to see you waking these days with tasseled hair, bleary eyes, and with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Nevertheless, I try to teach you art—'sculpting' of all things using air-dry clay that we mix with mud found in our backyards. We make animals: frogs and chameleons to be exact. We talk about symbolism and how many cultures around the world consider them to be totems of renewal. I hope in some small way these experiences will bring you closer to nature and provide you with a brief moment of peace. We find, however, that woven between the solace and play of creating you must also face your mistakes, trial and error cycles, frustrations, smoothing out bumps, and repairing deep and superficial cracks. We pull in strategies not least of which is a sense of humor and a willingness to accept that we are all trying to do the best that we can. You notice that this process holds a mirror up to life. And, because of what I know about Art, I want you to believe, as I believe—in the magic of Art; in the power and language of aesthetics; and in the alchemy of materials. I want you to notice that turning a malleable blob of clay into something imaginative can open your heart to sensations that have nothing to do with pixels—yet, has everything to do with the nature of your Spirit, with touch, with experiencing the world and what it actually means to take an intelligent, heartfelt creative leap that translates your emotions into form.
As your last pieces take shape and find their place in the Schoology Album, I am touched and proud to see that you have learned so much. I hope if not now, then sometime in the future when you look back on this historical time and talk about it with your families, friends, children, nieces, and nephews you will also think of some of these experiences and how our Land Art video moved so many people with your sentiments and our Once Upon a Time: in the Land of the Frogs video made people smile when we all needed that the most. I hope you also enjoy the culminating video I just finished for you called Rise: Ceramics I-IV, 2020! Art can heal. I know this from the depth of my soul. I appreciate sharing this time with you and I am so moved by your willingness to learn under these very surreal and horrendous circumstances. May you stay strong, healthy, and kind—and may you always remain open to learning new things.
With much Love and Peace to you All, Ms. O.
ART = LIFE
Michele Ogilvie, MFA; Upper School Visual Art Faculty: Ceramics/Sculpture
A very long time ago, let’s say roughly 35,000 years the hands of a cave-dweller created the first known Zoomorphic sculpture that has been named Lion-Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel. The 1939 discovery of this roughly twelve-inch-tall hand-carved mammoth-tusk ritual object, as wells as over 200 stone Venus figurines from various parts of the world allows us a glimpse into humankind’s earliest examples of creative, symbolic expression. Artifacts carved, sculpted, and painted by anonymous individuals throughout history not only hold the legacy of human life on Earth but also reveal our collective search for meaning, aesthetics, and utility. Art is the guardian of our heritage, our cultures, rituals, beliefs, and curiosities. It is the common language that escorts us through historic doorways to our present musings and future contemplation.
At the level of learning to make art in school, it is often thought of as an elective, an activity that is fun and a welcomed distraction from academics. It is of course all of these things. Yet, when an individual or group dedicates their life to self-expression such as the diversity of artists that students learn about in our K-12 Visual Art classes, it has reached a level of commitment that allows us to see the greater scope of what art is, how it reflects history and culture, and how a valued artist comes to be.
On a philosophical level, I ask my students to consider the many ways in which we view the world around us and how these perceptions are shaped by our individual and collective experiences. We take note of the many things that shape a life and a personality including one’s family, culture, opportunities, economics, politics, religion, and social media. It becomes clear that we are constantly and inescapably navigating the expectations and dynamics of both chosen and chance circumstances. Our purpose calls on each of us to reach towards our greatest good; to allow for mistakes, to let go of perfection, to be kind to ourselves and others—to acknowledge that we are all here on this planet—to learn, and sometimes—to forgive.
We view art as we view life. Art in all of its various forms reflects life. Art brings us closer to the authentic expression of humankind’s survival, determination, and resilience. If you understand art—you understand connections and abstractions—as art is, at its highest—a manifestation of personalized thoughts and feelings into form. It is that way with music, poetry, painting, and sculpture—in all things that channel the heart through the hand or the voice. Art on a psychological level can also serve as a map to the subconscious—the subconscious of an individual, as well as that of a society.
When teaching about art and artists from around the world I ask my students to consider not only such things as form, surface, craftsmanship, and aesthetics—but also about each artist’s experiences, obstacles, and choices. We respectfully acknowledge the privilege of peeking into their stories, their shadows and their souls. To present one’s art can sometimes feel like sharing a secret. What does an artist’s creative work tell you about their life? How do you feel about their story?
Monday, April 20, 2020
Remote Learning: 9-12th Ceramics/Sculpture
Saturday, December 23, 2017
Starting at a young age, learning to appreciate and create art sets the frame of inspiration that can lead to discovering the magic of right brain creative potential. Everything that we see and touch was designed and created by someone; or as in nature — a force greater than our selves. Through the complex process of problem solving and making art, students ultimately gain a better understanding of themselves, and the world around them. Simply said, creating art is an essential and beautiful way to launch into self-discovery.
One of the most important things that I enjoy about creating art and teaching Ceramics is the realization that Art can be so much more than just making stuff. At its' best it has the power to transform because it requires slowing down, and entering into a Zen-like frame of mind. Because clay is such a tactile material it can also physically and metaphorically connect us to the Earth while also offering a reprieve from academics and digital technologies. Making Art can be a gateway to learning and teaching about intangible things such as patience, intuition, insight and sensitivity. It can be a window into the deeper aspects of ourselves and connects us to the world in meaningful ways. I am always so grateful when students tell me that Ceramics class has given them a moment of peace in their hectic day. On the last day of the semester, I asked students to reflect on some of the most important things that they learned in the class.
This semester, I have not only grown as an artist, but as a person as well. Working with clay has taught me life lessons and lot about myself. I have learned the importance of patience. I leaned to not doubt myself, take risks and have trust that I can do anything I set my mind to. — JB, 9th
In Ceramics I, I learned many memorable skills about how to work with clay. These skills are meaningful because I now have the ability to sculpt my imagination into real life objects. The freedom in being able to transform a ball of clay into a functional piece is very valuable and does not compare to anything else. — WH, 9th
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
© M.Ogilvie, All rights reserved.
Monday, June 1, 2015
I have learned that the process of making art is a way to investigate and expand our perceptions of the world and our relationship to it. If approached honestly and intuitively the creative experience becomes an inspiration—a breath taken in—like we experience on our mats. When a work of art moves us, it reveals evidence of a personal and universal journey that contains the essence of life's unexplainable existential mysteries. Through the process of creating, slowing down to observe the world, learning to breathe intelligently, moving towards introspection, dreaming of the possibility of peace and universal healing—Yoga mind and intention weaves it all together. It is the string that connects Spirit to Absolute Intelligence, Nature, Creativity, Love, and Potential.
As a teacher and practitioner of Art and Yoga I have consistently witnessed and experienced first hand the potential of these disciplines as opportunities towards healing and realization. I am certain that Yoga and Art complement each other as personal and collective gateways towards a greater understanding of the self, the world and our responsibility to these things. It is my hope that as we learn to experience the transformative qualities of Yoga, we also open to the potential of creative expression so that our journeys can extend into the fascinating depth of our subconscious and beyond. —©Michele Ogilvie, all rights reserved.