Which came first? Visual Art or Literature? I relate more to a cave man drawing on the walls than Shakespeare writing a sonnet. But both tell a story. Stories throughout history have inspired visual art (Ex. The Last Supper). But how many times have I asked my students to create a visual art piece that is an interpretation of a piece of literature? Not very often.
The only time I used literature to inspire art was as a Visual Art K-12 intern. I discovered that English designer Chris Duffy was invited to create furniture based on tales from the Brothers Grimm. I had 6th grade students chose a short story from the Grimm Tales(not the cleaned up Disney version. The originals are much more like horror stories). Sixth graders love things that are gross, so this taps into the interest-driven principle that is such a part Connected Learning. The students were to create visual interpretations of their chosen story. They had cardboard, x-acto knives, glue, tape, paint, and one solar lamp to incorporate in their 3D abstraction. The kids dove in like a Kookaburra bird. The results were amazing.
Wolf Within Shadow Chair by designer Chris Duffy
Why has it taken me this long to return to the well I do not know. But I am back. And I am dipping deep. While participating in the Tar River Writing Project, hereafter to be referred as TRWP, I found the work of George Mayo. Mayo is a high school english/film teacher in Silver Springs Maryland who incorporated architecture in his 10th grade English class. The students created architecture inspired by The Catcher in the Rye. This idea was not wholeheartedly original. As Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
Mayo stole from college professor MATTEO PERICOLI . Pericoli teaches a course called The Laboratory of Literary Architecture. Matteo teaches the course at the Scuola Holden, a creative writing school in Turin, Italy. This past summer he also taught the course at the M.F.A. writing program at Columbia University School of the Arts in New York. The high school students used Skype to get guidance from Pericoli and students at Columbia University. Mayo even invited two architectural graduate students from the University of Maryland to come in and help develop the English students’ model building skills.
This exploration of Digital Is resources, prompted by #trwpconnect brought me back ‘round to using literature in our Visual Art classes. This year I plan to collaborate with the 6th, 7th, 8th English teachers. We will hack Pericoli’s and Mayo’s ideas. When the students finish reading their books, we will create digital architectural interpretations using Google Sketchup. Here’s an example of what the students are capable of doing using Sketchup on a previous assignment:
Using Sketchup, students are able to translate the visuals that authors create using words into interactive 3d designs that can make scene and setting come alive. Using this open digital platform, students can connect what they’re learning in English to what they learn in Art, understanding better the tools and techniques of each content area by producing remixed, multimodal interpretations of the places they visit in books.