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Meredith Healy-Kurz
Art Teacher, Baldwin High School

Art Class Portfolio Critique

Clara Lieu, RISD Adjunct Professor

Clara Lieu
Art Prof & Partner

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Partial Video Transcript

“Congratulations to the students in art teacher Meredith Healy-Kurz’s art class at Baldwin High School for winning the Art Teacher’s Prize in the 2017 January Art Dare, which was titled “My 2016”. Our staff here at Art Prof is really excited to see their class submission, because it was really clear to us looking at their pieces that every student really honed their own distinctive unique voice in their images.

We love that the students seem to really push themselves in terms of the themes that they were exploring and also that they used a lot of imagery that was very gutsy and really had a very strong visual impact. The Art Teacher’s Prize is such a great opportunity for students to get an outside opinion on their artwork from somebody who they’ve never worked with before and that’s so valuable because the thing about visual arts is it’s totally subjective.

There’s no one way to do something. There’s no correct or wrong way to do something. So in my opinion the more perspectives that you can get on your artwork, the more that’s going to really enrich your artistic development.

This ink drawing, which has been done directly on somebody’s arm, I think is a really startling image because the thing about muscles and tendons is that that’s an image that you really would only see in a scientific illustration or a medical poster or something like that.

It’s not an image that you expect to see on an actual person’s arm and so there’s something very unsettling about that, but that’s exactly what I love about this piece is that it’s a piece that I think really grabs your attention and sustains it for a long period of time.

My favorite part of this piece is this area up here towards the fingertips because that’s a section where the ink starts to dissolve into the skin of the finger. That’s so exciting because that’s a strange area where the two merged really seamlessly, so you have the ink dissolving into the actual skin and that’s so different than this part of the arm down here where there’s a very clear boundary.

This section has ink this section does not and I think in some ways this transition to me it’s a little bit blunt, and I love this section here because it’s not blunt. And so I’m wondering moving forward with this piece, if you want to develop upon this in the future, that maybe you could pick a couple of areas on the arm where the ink does disappear and where you let the actual skin come forward or just think about those transitions, how you get from the ink into the skin so that things are a little bit more seamless.

Another thing you could try is getting all different shades of reds and oranges and browns to really get more color variety in the muscle area, because that area I think because it is colored really leaps out at us, but the thing is when I look at the color it’s very limited. It seems like it’s only one pen and so if you’ve got a whole wide range of different pens I think you could make that area a little bit more volumetric.

This is a really risky piece though, I’m really excited by the innovation about using your own body as a surface. It’s not something that you anticipate and I think you did a great job with it. This acrylic painting is really emotionally expressive.

I think a lot of it is the different ranges of eyes that are in the middle. Some of the eyes seem very, angry some of them seem overwhelmed. You really get the mix of emotion within that area. I also like the fact that there’s so much happening in this composition. The fact that there are the two hands that are coming in on the left and right hand side, and then this almost gargantuan blob of stuff in the middle is also interesting because it’s a little bit ambiguous.

The eyes and the hands, I understand what those are, but the area in the middle I’m really curious about because I think it has a lot of possibility. First of all what I like about that big section in the middle is I think it’s obvious that whatever that is, it’s not a good thing.

It looks really intimidating, it’s a little bit scary looking. I like that a lot about that area. However what I would think about is maybe getting a little bit more specific about what types of physical qualities you want that area in the middle to have. For example I’m not sure if it’s meant to be a pulsating brain-like blob, is it meant to be more like smoke, I’m not quite sure. I think it’s a little bit unclear right now, so maybe that’s an area that you could be a little bit more specific about.

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6 responses on "High School Art Class Critique: Meredith Healy-Kurz"

  1. I am really impressed by all the works in this collection! Each student really went above and beyond with their imagery and especially their compositions. My eye keeps getting drawn into the still lives and through into the open ribcage, all of the work is quite impressive.

    I also really enjoyed the vibrancy of the color, and the overall variety of mediums used by this class. I know when I was in high school, I always stayed in my comfort zone of watercolor and charcoal, so its really great seeing so much variety in just one class. Thank you so much for sharing with us, a job well done to Baldwin High School!

  2. This is an amazing body of work! Each piece here has such a strong narrative and personal voice, even when dealing with traditional still-lives, and I really admire that. It is wonderful to see the students pursuing complex concepts and doing it so effectively and expressively. I love the wide exploration of techniques and blending of mediums that is taking place throughout this portfolio of work.

    This class is definitely not shy of experimenting with colour and they can keep pushing the boundaries of it even further. I would encourage the students to mix and create more personal and distinctive colours, it would enhance their already strong ideas. I think it is starting to happen with the cubist still life as well as with the carved book piece and the painting with the eyes.

    It is great to see the various manners in which the still-lives are playing with composition. I personally always feel that composition tends to get more tricky with abstraction and when we start building things out of our imagination as there are no physical objects to move around in different positions. I think revisiting design principles is useful in those situations. Another practice that is extremely useful is creating thumbnail sketches before starting out, allowing to experiment and having various compositions side by side for comparison.

    This is an impressive body of work with bold stories, thank you for your submission!

  3. This is definitely an art class I would have loved to have! I enjoy the range of techniques used by the students, from painting to mixed media to drawing on skin, it is really nice to see such variety. One piece in particular that caught my eye is the portrait of the girl with words on her face done in acrylic paint. It has such an evocative depth to it, that I simply admire and identify so strongly with. However, I do agree with Prof. Lieu in regards to the crown symbol, in a piece so dense with such important symbols and themes, the crown seems to distract from them, especially with the bright yellow used to highlight it. The painting overall is really compelling. Thank you for this submission!

  4. This is a really interesting collection of artworks! There are so many different ideas, techniques, and mediums being explored by everyone, which is impressive. I really love the use of symbolism and abstraction in some of these pieces as well, and the potential stories that go along with each piece.

    One thing that I gathered from these pieces is a strong presence of imagination and confidence, which is fantastic and will really help you in the future with creating. Thank you for sharing your works with us!

  5. This body of work has been such a pleasant experience to look through! There have been several times with this class when I assume that one medium has been used, but actually it’s a totally different medium, and that’s such a cool realization! I find this happening both with the body art piece which doesn’t even look real, and the cardboard heart drawing that looks like a screen print.

    I see so much variety in composition, content, and medium. These are strong points for this class. I would love to see some bold exploration with color in your group next! I see some great understanding of how neutrals work in the cubist-like drawing of skull and mannequin. I also like the complementary yellow and purple scheme going on in the image with the eyes. It might be worth doing a color mixing exercise where you mix as many different colors as you possibly can, just so you can learn to work beyond the limits of straight up tube colors.

    Thank you for your class submission, there is some really beautiful and expressive work here!

  6. What a great collection of work! I find it really exciting to see a high school class on this level experimenting so much with mixed media, and working on unconventional surfaces – from corrugated cardboard or the artist’s own skin!

    What’s particularly interesting about the latter is the way the graphic style of the ink seems to almost flatten the photographed arm into a 2-dimensional image… At first glance I thought the whole thing was a drawing!

    This class is really thinking outside of the box. Even the more traditional portraits and still-lives in this group have some really creative and compelling elements; whether it’s a bold color choice or a striking composition. A job well done!

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