Magazine article School Arts

Natural Forms

Magazine article School Arts

Natural Forms

Article excerpt

FIELDTRIP TO A RIVERBANK

Looking briefly at the history of sculpture, one can hardly miss the overwhelming pervasiveness of natural forms and compositions in what is one of the most interesting and complex of humankind's arts. From Michaelangelo's powerful carvings to African masks worn in religious ceremonies, and from stone statues that decorate cathedrals to metal mobiles that sway gracefully in the air, nature can be seen as one of the consistent sources of art ideas and inspiration.

So, if you're lucky enough to teach in an area near a river, your students can access a veritable treasure trove of natural forms--everything from the elegant lines and textures of driftwood and stones, to sweeping sandbanks, interesting little watercourses, and tortured trees. Of course, human-made objects are there, too--out-of-place, always surprising and sometimes interestingly modified by the powerful scouring forces of the river and sun-bleaching. While snapping photos and sketching, your students can wander along a riverbank, with imaginations alive, and witness a rather intimate partnership of materials and processes in nature.

Preparation

In the week preceding the excursion, gather up a collection of abstractly structured objects that both you and the students bring in. In short (20-minute) sessions each day, combine an exploration of the forms with a presentation of sculpture, emphasizing observation of nature. The objects could include unusually shaped vegetables, stones, tree-bark, vines, seed-pods, broken nuts--nearly anything that has interesting form, texture, or lines. Have the students distort the objects in their drawings during one or two of the sessions. Doing this makes the point that recognition of an object can be a function of imagination and emphasizes a kind of cooperative interplay between artistic creation and an observed object. …

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