In the late 70's, Jean-Michel Basquiat began his reign as one of the most successful American artists in history by tagging obscure messages around New York City with his friend and fellow artist, Al Diaz, and labeling them with the name, "Samo," which stood for "same old..." Unlike other graffiti artists, he did not just leave his name. He wrote messages that made people think; messages about society, life, love, family, the city, anything that he felt was worth expressing. These messages began to stand out and become recognizable by the public as he slowly made his way to becoming an artist full time. The SAMO project ended with the epitaph "SAMO IS DEAD," inscribed on the walls of SoHo buildings in 1979. He first began painting while living with his girlfriend's apartment and using found objects as canvases. He would use anything from old doors, salvaged wood, refrigerators, tires and scrap paper.
In November 1982, Basquiat worked from the ground-floor studio space Larry Gagosian had built below his Venice home and began a series of paintings for a 1983 show, his second at Gagosian Gallery, then in West Hollywood. Throughout the 1980's, Basquiat began to sell art to the highest of collectors and quickly became one of the most successful American artists in history. He was rumored to have millions of dollars, but no bank account. He would have people come over to his apartment to buy art and if he did not like them right away, he would kick them out and throw things at them from the window when they reached the street outside. No matter how much they were willing to pay for his art, no one valued it more than him and he was not going to sell it to anyone he did not respect or whom he thought did not respect him.
Basquiat died at the age of 27 as a result of a substance abuse problem and had created thousands of works by this time. He made more art and had more success in less than a decade than most artists do in their entire lives. He is a true symbol of the cultural statements one can make through art and he will live on forever through his art and the way it changed our culture, both high and low, forever.
As we drove up the mountain towards my family’s village, my eyes feasted on the street scenes that played like a movie through the car window. I saw the hope of Lebanon as we passed the beautiful gold stone architecture of Centre Ville with its high-end stores, cafes and restaurants. I felt the pain of war as we drove through streets where homes were still wounded with bullet holes. And I felt the adrenaline of life as it played before my eyes in conversations, smiles, kisses and car horns. Although this was not my first time in my father’s homeland, this visit, like all the rest, felt like the first.
I saw my grandmother’s face peering over the balcony as we approached her house. Dressed in black and a smile, she greeted me with kisses and a stream of affectionate words of love and nicknames. Days at my grandmother’s house passed by quickly in a cluster of boiling pots, a tummy full of Lebanese food, fresh fruit, coffee, orange sunsets on the Mediterranean Sea and the soft whisper of her prayers under her grape-vine veranda at twilight. I truly love this time with my Teta (the Lebanese word for grandmother) where I am left to fend for myself in broken Lebanese and sign language as I try explaining to her that walking barefoot around the house is totally cool. She stubbornly disagrees as she chases me around the house with a pair of slippers, shouting ‘Shay! Shay!” as if summoning a pot of hot tea from the heavens to drop down on my head and prevent me from catching a cold. My Island girl ways have often reminded me of the great difference between the Lebanese side of the family and myself. But despite our disputes on barefoot living and other western-Caribbean traits of mine, I have always felt nothing but love and acceptance. As much as I enjoyed all the time spent with my family, I was yearning to spend my vacation in Lebanon a little differently than I had in the past.
I decided to volunteer my time at St. Joseph Orphanage, which was located a few miles from our village. When I arrived, the nuns were thrilled to have a music and art teacher as well as the students, whose days were filled with only Math, Language and Science. They did not let the opportunity of my presence pass them by and every hour I taught a full classroom of almost 25 students until the bell rang at the end of the day. My resources and language skills were limited, but luckily with music and art you don’t need a large vocabulary. The children, who were between the ages of 5 and 11, were thrilled to have me and giggled at my invented language of Arabic, French, English and funny facial expressions.
Upon arrival on my second day at the orphanage, the children greeted me in a giant mob fighting to hold my hand, pass me flowers and notes and shouting my name “Ms. Natasha! Ms. Natasha!” I will always remember one little boy who proudly herded me through the crowd of children to my classroom. I spent the week teaching nursery rhymes on recorders, playing games of improvisation with an electric keyboard and handmade percussion instruments and of course, musical chairs! Towards the end of the week I taught them how to draw a self-portrait, make butterflies with multi-color paper and create Aboriginal-inspired art with black construction paper and acrylic paint.
The week passed to quickly and on the last day I found it hard to pull myself from the group of children I came to love. That time spent sharing and creating at St. Joseph Orphanage has given me one of the greatest experiences of my life. As I grew up in the safety and warmth of the Caribbean Sun, these orphans were growing up in the landscape of a war-torn country full of uncertainty. Seeing how happy they were to make music and color their lives with paint made me understand first-hand the power of art to communicate cross-culturally and touch lives. I now wake every day with a grateful heart and a hope that through my art and life I can continue to give. Thank you for reading.
~Contributed by Natasha Kozaily, Vocal & Piano Instructor
Prodigy: How did you decide that you wanted art to be the main focus of your college studies and career?
Amy: It was a very clear and natural path for me to choose. From the time I began school as a small child all the way up through high school I was always most interested and excited by assignments which required or allowed me to show what I had learned by way of making art. I felt like those were times when I shined brightest. When I entered college I was thrilled by the opportunity to begin making art full time …and not just making art full time, but sharing it and presenting it to my fellow artist classmates and hearing their feedback. College was an amazing time period in my life as an artist. I truly began to discover who I am and how to tell my story to the world.
Prodigy: What is the most rewarding part of being an art instructor?
Amy: I feel most rewarded when I am able to help a student work through a difficult and frustrating piece in their art…it feels good to be a part of their triumph!
Prodigy: How much time are you able to spend creating art, outside of the classroom? What are some projects that you are really focused on right now? Describe your process when you have art time at home.
Amy: Being a mother of two young boys, my time as an artist is very limited. Before I had kids I would spend endless hours every day and night at my easel painting. In my free time I would set up my canvas and paints outside and work until it became dark. Then I would pick up all my gear and shuffle into my garage and continue to paint until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. These days, I have to make art after my boys go to sleep. By this time I am pretty exhausted already so I choose to make art that doesn’t involve a lot of clean up or take up too much room. Lately I have been very interested in creating hanging sculptures using a combo of wire, beads, feathers and random pieces of brightly colored plastic that would normally be put into the recycling can (play-do lids, water bottle lids, assorted caps and straws). I twist and weave and arrange all of these elements together to create strange and colorful balance in mid air.
Prodigy: If you could pass on one very important piece of advice for aspiring young art students, what would it be?
Amy: Make mistakes!! I believe a good piece of art contains at least some if not many mistakes.
Prodigy: What do you like to do in your free time (besides art)?
Amy: I am always looking for places of nature to explore and hike with my two young sons. I love to be outside.
Prodigy: What do you like most about working at Prodigy?
Amy: Besides watching my art students doing what they love?? I love hearing music going on all around me... I'm also a big music lover!!
What good is knowledge if it isn’t shared with others? "Sharing knowledge is not about giving people something, or getting something from them. That is only valid for information sharing. Sharing knowledge occurs when people are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action; it is about creating learning processes." -Peter Senge.
It has truly been an honor teaching the art classes here at Prodigy this past year. Moving from upstate NY, Prodigy School of Arts very much became a new home for me to explore San Diego and its art scene. The students I have worked with are all astoundingly talented, intelligent, and prodigious in every aspect, not just the visual arts.
Facilitating the learning process has always fascinated me; I love to see how people incorporate new ideas and use them to further make sense of themselves and the world around them. At Prodigy School of Arts, the atmosphere is rich with the desire to learn, grow, be challenged, and constantly strive to become a better version of self. What a fantastic atmosphere in which to teach.
The gallery shows have been very rewarding experiences; In addition to seeing the finished product that students and parents see walking through the door, I am able to open up a folder full of sketches, drawings, paintings, and thoughts that have accumulated over the course of twelve or thirteen weeks. It is in these folders that lie treasures of creativity, trying new techniques, exploring subject matter, and problem-solving that comes naturally in the process of creation.
As I move on to new adventures, Prodigy will always have a special place in my heart. I wish all of my students the best of luck, and challenge them to keep their hands in the creative process.
Contributed by Aimee Dupuis, Art Instructor
Art! We all love it, we all enjoy meandering through museums and marveling at the various works created by the masters. However, how often have you considered that one of the most fascinating and beautiful art forms surrounds us constantly, in the buildings that we walk in and out of everyday? That's right, ARCHITECTURE is an evolving art form, telling rich tales of the past and future by the structures that hold up our homes, work areas, and gathering places.
I lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the fall of 2006, and took an amazing course on the local architecture. We visited the Buenos Aires Cathedral and learned that it was built over three centuries and many different architects took part in designing it, resulting in several distinct styles. The cathedral has an unharmonious look and feel to it, as a result of the long development of its construction. Specifically, the interior of the cathedral was built in a different style than the exterior. Being built by different architects in different centuries is the reason that there is no correspondence between the front and interior ground plan of the cathedral.
Construction on the interior began in 1753 by architect Antonio Masella and was finished over a century later. There are three naves and two aisles inside, along with many small chapels, each dedicated to a different saint. Even today, people come into the cathedral to pray in the chapels to a specific saint. Of course, there is a main altar in the front which was built by Isidro Lorea in 1782. This was later modified to better fit the rest of the cathedral. Finally, the flooring in the cathedral is a Venetian mosaic. This is much more modern and was designed in 1907 by Carlos Morra. The patterns characterize particular parts of Christ’s crucifixion. Also inside the cathedral is kept the remains of General Jose de San Martin, the South American liberator regarded as Father of Argentina. Next to him are the remains of two other generals: Tomas Guido and Juan Gregorio Las Heras.
Even though the cathedral was consecrated in 1791, the current façade was not built until 1822. Construction took many years; it was even halted temporarily in 1827, then resumed and finally completed. The engineer on this project was Catelin. He designed the façade in the neoclassical style, which in reality has no association or synchronization with the rest of the cathedral. The overwhelming look of the cathedral was changed from a traditional Spanish colonial look to a Greek style, with a pediment and colonnade in front, though the sides and back remain similar to the original style. The exterior has twelve columns in a Corinthian style, each representing one of the twelve apostles. Above the columns there is a scene of carvings telling the story of Jacob and his sons, Joseph among them.
The façade was planned and designed in this way because it was reflecting the neoclassical style of the day. Neoclassical meant leaving the old behind and having order and a reason for each part of the construction. It imitated Greek and Roman architecture, which is easily recognizable in the twelve columns. The cathedral is a very important building in a central part of the city; therefore the architect probably wanted it to be very modern and for it to make a statement.
The time when the façade was constructed (1820s) was a very important time for Buenos Aires. In 1826, Bernadino Rivadavia became the first president of Argentina. During his time in office he focused on improving Buenos Aires. He wanted the city to look more European so he constructed large avenues and schools, paved and lighted streets, and founded the University of Buenos Aires. He also founded many museums and expanded the national library. This period in history was also when Buenos Aires was on the threshold of a great transformation and of the Industrial Revolution. It is probable that these factors contributed to the design of the cathedral’s façade.
--Contributed by Anna Roberts, vocal & piano instructor.