Saturday, May 26, 2012

The magic of Calder and Children

Alexander Calder embodied a spirit of play. 
He invented the whimsical mobile and created a fantastic traveling circus from cork, wire, buttons, scraps of fabric, wood and paper. He breathed life into his work with boundless imagination.
He packed his clever circus in 5 amazing suitcases and traveled back and forth between Paris and New York delighting audiences young and old. When he was a child his artistic parents encouraged him to experiment with shapes and motion. As art and music is being cut from public schools I'm passionate about encouraging young minds to stretch their artistic muscles like Sandy did.

I teamed up with the incredible fourth graders at the San Diego Cooperative Charter School and art teacher Allison Bell. We created mobiles to evoke the spirit of Sandy Calder and students crafted original animals to re-create his circus from found materials. Together with their teachers they read inspiring books; Sandy's Circus by Tanya Lee Stone with great illustrations by Boris Kulikov and The Calder Game written by Blue Balliett, pictures by Brett Helquist. Along with the art making each child researched books and websites like the wonderful Whitney for Kids and wrote personal essays that were put on display all about Alexander. Thanks to parent volunteers who in a few short hours stepped in to help me put together the project for Art Night.
Sandy's Circus and The Calder Game

I worked in my studio last week to assemble an art salon worthy of their creations. Visiting local thrift shops I recycled large white sheets into canvas for Calder inspired graphics. These were used to transform their classroom into a gallery that resembled a circus tent. Using cardboard and paint I created fantastic animals including a leaping red bull and seal that juggled beach balls. 

Juggling seal made from painted cardboard

I remember taking my son to the National Gallery of Art and we were fascinated by the shapes and shadows of Calder's mobiles and sheet metal animals. I cut circus forms out of painted cardboard and hot-glued them to sturdy plastic straws so kids could play with shape and scale.

Playing with shape and scale in the shadow theatre

Paintings on white sheets pay tribute to Calder's wire sculptures

Getting lost in a forest of whimsical mobiles created by children.
Vintage travel stickers were pasted on old suitcases
in the background paying tribute to the traveling circus.

A fantastical flea circus performed in the Calder Salon on Art Night. Children approached me in wide-eyed wonder to see the beauty of their own sculptures and marvel at their classroom changed in just one afternoon by the magic of art.