Artist in Residence
Irrigon School - Irrigon, Oregon
In January 2010, I returned to A.C. Houghton Elementary School for a second Artist-in-Residence for two weeks. The school is in the community of Irrigon, located between Boardman and Umatilla along the Columbia River.
A total of nearly 300 students (grades K-3) participated in the mural project.
Unlike my first residency at A.C. Houghton, this time the school administration allowed students to create their mural directly on a hallway wall.
Irrigon School has no formal art program in place. Students were very excited about doing a mural. Sizing the mural at 7 ft high by 26 ft wide assured adequate room for maximum participation by each student.
LEFT and IMMEDIATELY BELOW:
The mural area is masked off with blue tape and students compositional elements are blocked into general positions.
The left half of the mural is pioneer/Oregon Trail and the right side of the mural is Native American with the Columbia River in the far right and distance.
The mural was too large to adequately photograph in the narrow hallway, so I shot two photos of each side and aligned them on this web page.
The first pair of photos below alludes to the Pioneer/Oregon Trail era of local history. Students wanted to show meal time.
The middle dividing section (seen in part on the first photo below) was omitted in the photo shoot. It was a beige border strip similar to the strips on both ends and containing silhouettes of birds, etc.
The second pair of aligned photos below shows the fart right of the mural (Native Americans) and the Columbia River in the distance. Again, mealtime is shown.
It was appropriate to show mealtime as the mural is located just outside the school cafeteria. In the Native American side, Mount Hood is visible on the horizon.
All students were very focused and interested in the creative/painting process
Right (upper and lower):
The mural in-progress. Photos show it at at about the halfway point. Shapes of objects and people and animals are being blocked in/suggested using a brownish purple wash. Reference images are taped to the walls. Some elements were created without references (such as several of the figures.
A figure of a small Indian girl started out as general shape.
Looking at this initial form, the student noticed brush strokes apparent in the paint that seemed to suggest the figure may have a blanket pulled and clutched around the body.
The figure that started out as seen in the photo at LEFT, eventually evolved into what the photo at RIGHT shows.
This was a terrific illustration of the maxim "less is more".
A school staff member who is Native American, provided students with her personal photographs of contemporary native people in traditional dress . The white dots across the figure's red robe represent elk teeth.
A sampling of painterly quality that appeared throughout the mural..
In this particular detail, notice the snake that was portrayed "crossing" the wagon tracks. Everyone who looked at the snake was convinced it looked like a victim of hit-and-run, "Pioneer-style" road kill. I attribute the appearance to a student's subconscious thoughts about snakes.
What started out as a child in the back of the wagon, evolved into a "Granny" in appearance and so a student added glasses and a bonnet.
There are great passages of layered color washes over the surface of the wagon and in the grass and goat.
The black cat that peers over the back of the wagon is my contribution to this mural and a "memory of" my 25-year-old cat, Canuck, who'd passed away in December 2009.