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Finding Themes and Experimenting with Materials

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  • The students watch as Samuel Levi Jones walks through the paper-pulping process

    Photo: Chris Ogando

  • Samuel Levi Jones demonstrating the paper-pulping process

    Photo: Chris Ogando

  • Samuel Levi Jones forming pulp into flat sheets

    Photo: Chris Ogando

  • ETW 2008 Alum Ivan Forde leading a cyanotype workshop

    Photo: Chris Ogando

  • Forde showing students how to make cyanotypes

    Photo: Chris Ogando

  • Students proudly displaying their finished cyanotypes

    Photo: Chris Ogando

As the sixteen high school students continue on their eight-month, photography-based journey at the Museum through the Expanding the Walls program, they take time to look through and thoroughly discuss work by artists such as Lorna Simpson, Malick Sidibe, Gordon Parks and others to help shed light on the multitude of topics and themes photography can cover. The hope is that in studying these artists, the students gain an introduction to themes that they might later choose to focus their projects on. As emerging artists with newfound creative voices, the students struggle with capturing their experiences, perspectives and comments on their respective themes. Many found themselves stuck when trying to analyze and build upon the themes they have chosen, feeling that their approaches had already been employed in a multitude of projects by other artists. They strive to stretch their minds in order to come up with new and captivating methods for expressing their themes.

In an effort to push the students towards more dynamic methods of conveying their chosen topics, artists such as Samuel Levi Jones and ETW alum Ivan Forde stopped by to facilitate art-making workshops. Jones’s workshop consisted of a thorough look into his practice, ideas and methods of working. He led students in a hands-on activity in which students blended different scraps of paper in an attempt to create pulp, which in turn, would be used to create a sheet of textured mache paper.

In Ivan’s workshop, the students gained a new perspective of what photography can produce. The workshop revolved around the old printing method of cyanotype photography, where using basic chemicals, one can print a photograph in a blueish tone. Seeing images printed in this abstract, almost surreal way—coupled with their exposure to the hands-on deconstructive processes from Jones’s workshop—left the students with a curiosity for finding additional methods to articulate their themes, as well as confidence to experiment with their tools.