Scott Horstein (left), Theatre Arts, checks out an imitative art project made by students from a Freshman Learning Community who were charged with imitating the approach of sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. Ryan Novak (right), Marie Orozco, Brianne Martinez and Jessica Galperson created one of many site-specific works using natural materials found on the SSU campus to learn about transitional issues facing them as they enter the University life.
Life, art and nature all correspond with one commonly heard phrase; timing is everything. Andy Goldsworthy, an environmental artist living in Scotland, understands how all three of these relate to one another by considering the idea that nothing lasts forever, which he demonstrates through his temporary site-specific artwork.
Motivated by the artistic process of Goldsworthy's sculptures and the 2001 documentary film about him, "Rivers and Tides," Theatre Arts and Dance instructors Judy Navas, Scott Horstein and Christine Cali came together and created a student-centered project focusing on imitation art.
All 120 students of the course, THAR 160: Seeing Theatre Today, a Freshman Learning Community, were involved in these projects. They were split up into groups of 25 with five students per group, resulting in there being 25 different sculptures located around campus.
Each project was created using natural found materials, often incorporating other living things that were there, not through manipulating them but through using them almost as a canvas.
People created pieces with shapes and colors making them even more interesting, and allowing an individual to become aware of the natural composition of the place in a slightly different way; there is a change of perception.
"The first time around it was just magic," said Navas. "People really made great things."
Being a part of a citizen-run community and going through transitional life issues was something heavily reflected in the artistic process that Navas and Horstein crafted. Developing it as a metaphor for a student's transition to college, they broke it down into three parts: risk-taking, improvisation and re-inventing your self-image.
These are things that people have to focus on doing all the time, but the instructors see it as an important way to help students frame their own experience at the University almost as a work of art. In relation to this project, and when dealing with a work of art, everything matters.
"If you're looking at a painting, every brush stroke is important," said Horstein. "If the brush strokes are not in alignment with the rest of what's going on, as the viewer, you notice."
A sense of isolation and not knowing what to do is echoed throughout the core of Goldsworthy's art, which was one of the primary reasons the instructors chose to have their students imitate him in particular.
The film, "Rivers and Tides," reveals Goldsworthy in the field, where he works in nature. Having a relationship to nature invokes a powerful context, and when individuals are able to access it there is a tremendous feeling of wholeness, joy and wonder.
Documentarian and director of "Rivers and Tides," Thomas Riedelsheimer followed Goldsworthy throughout many areas of the world to capture his art and watch it unfold during the filming process. According to the Oliver Ranch Foundation, Goldsworthy was appointed as an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.
Another goal that the instructors had in mind was that by actually being an artist for a moment, and understanding the challenges of making a piece of art, enables more appreciation for the effort as well as the agony and ecstasy of designing something.
The final goal was the ability to relate the effort back to the students' own lives, and their experience at the University. Whether it's taking more risks by raising a hand in a big lecture, improvising on papers or projects by trying different things, or the aspect of redefining one's self-image by acknowledging the results of the finished product.
The final goal was the ability to relate the effort back to the students' own lives, and their experience at the university. Whether it's taking more risks by raising a hand in a big lecture, improvising on papers or projects by trying different things, or the aspect of redefining one's self-image by acknowledging the results of the finished product.
"We are trying to find projects that are like a kaleidoscope or a mirror ball," said Navas. "Where you have one thing that can reach out and touch all the elements that we are teaching these students, and that they are experiencing it first before grasping it intellectually."
The reactions of the students have been positive overall, with many showing that they had put a lot of time, pride and joy in what they had accomplished in their work.
"I had a good time doing this project; I thought it gave students a good opportunity to show their creative side instead of just sitting in the classroom," said freshman Ryan Novak, a pre-business major who plans to minor in music. "It gave them a chance to go out around campus and build something, anything they wanted."
As instructors it is difficult to completely know how people will respond, but according to Horstein, he could tell there was a lot of time and care that went into many of the projects, some being very inventive to the specific place.
"Here's the fun part, it's there right now, and it will go away when it goes away," said Horstein. "What Goldsworthy says about his art is that nature doesn't destroy it; nature takes it and makes it better than he ever could have done."
"We were looking around for larger branches in the area, we gathered a bunch of the longer branches, and some of the green leaves, because that was kind of important," said Novak. "We wanted to put the green leaves on the inside of it, so we went and picked some off of the plants."
When strolling around campus, for a brief moment of time throughout the day try to take advantage and scout out these sculptures, because when it comes to life, art and nature as the old saying goes, nothing lasts forever.
Above, left - Rock pile created by Rachel Argent, Hannah Gehring, Lexi Selverston and Alession Goerra, behind Ives by Salazar.
Above, right - Serpentine shape made with flowers was created by Ashlea Thomas, Stephanie Ramirez, Alessia Paciulli and Val Ruiz.
Bottom, Judy Navas, Theatre Arts instructor
-- Dylan Sirdofsky