27 Apr Freedom of Expression – Art Students from Nauset Regional High School Live that Phrase
The theme of Freedom of Expression has a particular resonance for talented art students at Nauset Regional High School, whose works are being featured at the Cape Cod Museum of Art – alongside 44 jury-selected artist from 18 states.
In March, they were part of a real-life drama when four of their works initially were rejected by the Orleans Cultural Council for a Town Hall exhibition.
While council members contended the pieces did not have required hardware to hang them, as did more than a 100 other works, the students and supporters contended it was a case of censorship.
“It’s about the larger issue of allowing people to have a reaction to what’s happening around them, and not making them wrong or shutting them down,” parent Alisa Galazzi, of Orleans, told the Cape Cod Times.
A painting by her daughter, sophomore Francesca Galazzi, that drew inspiration from the widely publicized image of a dead Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach was among the four pieces rejected.
Another painting rejected was by Gayle McNulty of North Truro, whose work reflected LGBTQ issues. She explained that she was not accustomed to controversy over LGBTQ issues because she lives so near to Provincetown, known for its many gay residents and visitors.
Eventually the dust-up was resolved and the students’ paintings were displayed. But, the incident serves as a real-life backdrop that adds particular relevance and resonance to their exhibit at the Museum of Art.
In fact, the reason her students’ work will be on exhibit at the Museum of Art is because its Director, Edith Tonelli, read articles about the controversy in Orleans, said Amy Kandall, an art teacher at the school.
“The museum reached out to me in response to our censorship article in the Times,” she said.
“At this complex time in our culture, we are being encouraged to express our thoughts and feelings, even though, at the same time, we can face increasing attacks for expressing them. We reached out to artists to discover how this conflicting message is effecting their artistic expression,’ said Tonelli.
“My philosophy in teaching is to empower my students with their voice, while giving them the skills to say what they want to say eloquently,” said Kandall. “Every student is an individual, and it’s really important that they feel the freedom to be themselves.”
Nauset High’s fine arts program is quite extensive, attracting students not only from the Nauset region, but from other districts across the Cape. It encompasses three large studios dedicated to wood, metal and clay, as well as extensive photography and printmaking programs.
“My painting class is set up with lighting, easels and beautiful painting supplies,” she said.
All classes occur during regular school hours. In addition, there are after-school art clubs. “I head a club called Youth Against Plastic Pollution. We make ceramic mugs that we sell to combat single-use plastic. Their surface is stamped with #ThisIsNotAPlasticCup.”
Amazingly, about 70 to 80 percent of Nauset’s entire student body gets involved in the art programs in some way, explained Kandall.
“Most classes are for all grades in one room all at the same time. It is a great opportunity for students to spend time with kids outside of their graduating class,” she added. Many pursue art in college.
“Personally,, I think most talent comes from hard work,” she explained. “Dedication and passion are what makes a great artist. Having supportive parents is a huge advantage. For many kids they just need permission to know that this is the place they can excel.”
The Freedom of Expression theme became the students’ final works in a series of painting exercises.
“Formal issues like contrast, color mixing and composition had been their focus for most of the class,” explained Kandall. “A focus on subject matter is an important way to marry their skills with personal voice and opinion. I asked them to choose a topic they felt passionate about and develop an original composition using their painting skills to make their point clear.”
We talked with three of Kandall’s students about their works:
McNulty – “The inspiration for my piece was transgender visibility and acceptance. I hope that my work of art can help transgendered people, mostly teens and students at our school, feel more welcome. Or, feel represented in a way.
“I’ve always been motivated to be an artist, I find it’s the most successful way to express myself, and it’s always been sort of therapeutic for me. I believe my art reflects the word today by showing its people. Especially a transgender person, with all of the current fighting for LGBTQ+ rights.
“I plan to incorporate art into my life the same way I always have. By always keeping a sketchbook at hand, and painting when I’m inspired too.
Galazzi – “The theme for my painting- Syrian refugees- was inspired by the ongoing war in Syria with specific regards to the refugee crisis and overall humanitarian displacement. The image itself was inspired by a number of images that I researched. The whale keeping the boy afloat was inspired by an image I saw of a whale swimming under a refugee raft on the ocean.
“The underwater concept was inspired by the “Raft of Lampedusa”, by an amazing underwater sculpture artist, James deCaires Taylor, in his underwater sculpture museum- Museo Atlantico.
“The boy on the surface of the water has become a symbol of the Syrian refugee crisis after an image of his body washed up on shore went viral. I combined these elements with the image of the world in the back in an effort to bring an international element to the crisis- one I believe to be a humanitarian crisis, not simply a Syrian crisis.
“I hope that those who view my painting will see it as a call to action to support refugees all over the world, specifically Syrian refugees.
“I am motivated to be an artist because I believe that art is a vehicle to express oneself and to cast light upon issues that are often considered taboo to speak or think about. This class has taught me that being an artist is much more than creating something pretty to hang on a wall. It is also about creating something that offers a new perspective, is expressive, and has intellectual value.
Logan Heilman – “My painting, ‘Love is Love,’ is kind of a response to the relatively recent election of Donald Trump. I wanted to show that the LGBTQ+ community is strong and will not be silenced.
“I hope that my artwork shows people that the love between a same-sex couple is no different than a straight-couples relationship.
“Creating art makes me happy and specifically with this painting I want to get my voice across. Again, with the whole thing with Trump, this political painting is very relevant in our world. With our president teaching intolerance and bigotry, LGBTQ rights and lives are threatened.”
Said Kandall: “We took a difficult situation (in Orleans) and turned it around by giving these students a spotlight for their voice. I am sure that the show will rectify and empower my students. We are grateful for the opportunity to exhibit in this forum.”