Student Art Exhibition Fall 2013

December 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

This past Saturday, students from the Artist Blacksmithing, Fibre Arts, Visual Arts Fundamentals: Drawing and Painting, Photo Arts and Ceramics Certificates participated in the biannual Art Exhibition (formerly the Student Show & Sale.) There was so much talent and hardwork on display – congratulations to all of our students!

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Artist of the Week – Helen Donnelly

May 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Clowning: It’s Serious Stuff. Seriously.

Examples of porcelain masks from Greek comedy

Comedy has been around for a very long time: the Ancient Greeks roared with laughter at the masked characters of Aristophanes and Menander, Plautus and Terrence had the Romans rolling in the aisles at their stock characters, court-jesters and fools brought levity to medieval courts, Commedia dell’arte troups entertained the street crowds and royals of the Renaissance.

The character Harlequin or “Arlecchino” from Commedia dell’arte.

These characters and clowns were able to mock society, politics, famous people and rulers all under the guise of comedy. If a political commentary was made during a comedy, what would otherwise be treasonous if said by anyone else, became acceptable. And it served a crucial role in the social order.

For thousands of years, it was understood that these characters and clown figures could offer up a mirror to society and through comic lightness and pathos, had access to truths that were otherwise taboo.

Bozo the Clown

Fast forward a few (hundred) years and one person changed that image, that understanding: Bozo. That’s right. The children’s storybook clown. What was once an honoured art form turned into an industry of children’s birthday-party entertainments. (Let’s face it, making kids laugh is a fantastic calling; anyone that can make a child laugh has done a great and wondrous thing… And yet…)

So began a rift in the clown realm: clowns that entertain at birthday parties (think Bozo), and those that pursue its historic traditions (think “Cirque du Soleil”). For the first time in history there was a divide between artistic and inartistic clowns.

This past week, the Haliburton School of The Arts was able to catch up with one of the “traditional-style” artistic clowns and ask her a few questions about her incredible – and much misunderstood – art form.

Haliburton School of The Arts – First and foremost… These days there aren’t a lot of people that grow up with the intention of being a clown (some are clowns, but I think that’s mostly a lack of maturity). When did you realize that this was what you wanted to be? Did it creep into your life? Was it more of a “Eureka!” moment?

Helen Donnelly as “Leonardo da Foo”

Helen Donnelly – I have to say it was more of a creeping in; at first I resisted the artistic life. I wanted the steady teaching job, teaching art and drama. Then I tried my hand at acting and soon was seeking a more physical form of theatre and something with consistency. The gig-to-gig rhythm in the theatre world did not suit me; I wanted to dive into a discipline and devote myself to it entirely. I just never thought it would be theatrical clown!

HSTA – Many artists often are not supported (I don’t mean financially, but morally) when they finally break the news to family and friends that they will not become a lawyer or accountant or doctor… Were the people around you receptive to the idea at first? If not, have they come around since then?

Helen Donnelly as “Daisy”

HD – I can only remember my mom’s worried face when I announced I was dropping the idea of going to teacher’s college. I come from a long line of teaching, so I could empathize with her struggle! I’m fortunate that teaching found me eventually and I enjoy the 5 workshops I offer

each year, most of them in Toronto. It makes for an amazing break from the performance rhythm. Now, 20 years later, mom remains supportive and is placated by the steady work that comes my way. But I love to tease her by reminding her friends her daughter is ‘just a clown!’

HSTA – A lot of people associate clowns with funny-coloured wigs and balloon animals. How does your clowning differ from that?

HD – Yes, yes. Short answer is mine is the theatrical form of clown whereby the kind of clown you are alluding to stems from the American Circus clown and then to Bozo and then finally to the current ‘birthday party’ clown. Before Bozo, our art form was laudable, theatrical, and would never be seen on tv or in the privacy of people’s living rooms. Bozo (based on a book by the way) changed all of that. I like to refer to him as a ‘virus’, which spread throughout North America in the 50s and 60s till it reached places like Europe and South America. Now, sadly, it’s all a big mess. It’s a horrible time in history to be a theatrical clown.

Helen Donnelly as “Miss Posey”

HSTA – With the creation and subsequent success of Cirque du Soleil in recent years, have you noticed a marked difference in “clowning”. All puns aside, are people starting to take it more seriously?

HD – Well, not really. The ‘virus’ has a stranglehold on most North Americans. When I toured as a clown with Cirque du Soleil for almost 2 years, some people would come up to me after the show and ask me if I could come perform at their kid’s party…or they would walk right by, like we’re a dime a dozen. The public’s taste for clown has been sullied and I don’t know if we will ever recover. (I’m a laugh a minute, aren’t I?!) But I do feel that at the very least with companies like Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Eloise, Circus Orange, Theatre Columbus and Theatre Smith/Gilmour…at least there is a new reference out there for clown. It may make a difference in the long run.

HSTA – What is your favourite aspect of clowning? Is it the interactions with people? Helping people laugh? Taking on different personas? Something else entirely?

Helen Donnelly as “Creature Foo”

HD – It’s all of those, but most of all, I am most ‘me’ when I’m clowning. I don’t feel fully alive till I’m ‘in nose’, as strange as that may sound. I can’t explain it any other way and I feel so lucky and strangely cursed at the same time!

HSTA – How did you create your different clown personalities (all 5!)? Are they based on people you’ve encountered or were you inspired by any works of literature? Do any of them contain pieces of you?

HD – One is a hybrid (character/clown—‘Daisy’) who speaks English and is an autograph hound. She has some aspects of me but mostly I created her for Cirque when I first toured with them. The rest–Foo, Miss Posey, Mildred and Dr Flap(my healthcare persona)—are 100% rooted in me. My training is rooted in authenticity; I AM the material. The idea is to be honest with your audience; what is more honest than to be yourself, but show and reveal MORE of yourself?  I like to say clowning is you…times 10! It’s life…times 10!

HSTA – How is clowning different than acting, for example? In both, you are required to take on different characters and both are certainly performance art. But does clowning bring any new challenges with it? Is there anything that’s easier? (ie no lines to memorize?)

Daisy “breaking the wall” and interacting with people directly

HD – With clown there is no 4th wall, meaning we see and interact with our audience directly. We do not pretend they are not there. Also, even if there is a script (for example my one-woman clown gibberish musical goes up June 1 and 2nd; there is a script), the clown can ‘leave’ the script for a moment in order to ‘deal’ with an audience member. My favourite moments are latecomers to the show. I love giving them a particularly hard time! It’s funny, and honest and a great release for all. Bonus is, those people will never be late again! The other major difference is actors ‘play’ a character, clowns are ‘playing’ themselves. It’s the art of gently mocking and celebrating who you are, and not being precious and guarded. It takes a very brave, secure person to train in clown in my opinion.

HSTA – Did you grow up in a household where laughter was important? Has it always been something that comes naturally to you?

HD – Yeah, I did. We were constantly looking for ways to make each other laugh. I was the stereotypical ‘middle child’, vying for attention constantly. Humour developed very early. Growing up in a rural setting also ensured an insanely evolved fantasy life. And as a family we’d listen to old Hancock records or watch Laurel and Hardy or Lucille Ball on TV and Danny Kaye movies….I was very very lucky to be exposed to such great clown geniuses from such a young age!

Helen Donnelly as her therapeutic clown, “Dr. Flap”

HSTA – Dr. Patch Adams gained widespread renown for the ’98 movie of the same title for his experimental “laughter-is-the-best-medicine” style of practice. Since 2004, you have been working as a therapeutic clown; first at SickKids Hospital and currently at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Do you think he’s on to something? Have you noticed any marked improvements in patients over the years that have experienced the healing power of laughter? Are there any cases that stand out for you personally?

HD – I like to separate my practice from that of Patch Adams for one very important reason: he is a medical doctor who donned the nose as a tool to relate to his clients better, whereas therapeutic clown artists use the art of clown as trained actors/artistic clowns as a tool to serve clients in healthcare. That said, there is a lot to be said for people who are fortunate enough to work as a clown in healthcare. I have a plethora of stories I could tell you about what I’ve witnessed or heard from other staff members who witness the work we do. Because we are Canada’s largest rehabilitation hospital for children, we often work in tandem with staff (nurses, OTs, PTs, Child Life Specialists) to help achieve team goals as well as working in duo with clients—to play for play’s sake. It would be impossible to pick just one story…the benefits are most often immediate and obvious.

Dr Flap and sidekick Nurse Polo (Manuel Rodriguez)

But one unique thing I’m very proud of is our involvement with research in 2010. The challenge: Hospitalized children with profound disabilities can’t show or tell us if they’re benefiting from interaction with therapeutic clowns.
The solution: A Bloorview team designs the first study to measure the long-term physiological effect of therapeutic clowns. Scientists measured physiological arousal, emotion and behaviour in eight inpatients. The results were so exciting! Every child showed unique patterns of skin temperature, sweat level and heart and breathing rates during clown visits that are not seen while watching television. Behavioural and emotional data suggest the children’s physiological responses to the clowns are positive. We were interviewed by CTV and since then I’ve shared our findings globally. They are published in a medical journal. That was a thrill!

HSTA – Do you have any advice for aspiring clowns? Is there anything people should be aware of before they decide to start clowning?

HD – Yes!  For those looking to explore this unique art form as a curiousity,  I heartily encourage them to try it. It’s an amazing journey if you have the right teacher at the helm.

Those who look to clowning as a second career should know it will be a long road, and longer if there is very little artistic background and training. The art of clown, no matter where you apply it (healthcare, on stage, in the circus) involves ‘hard skills’…there is a strange assumption out there that if you have a good heart and love children you can pull it off with very little training (I think this is not their fault…again, I blame Bozo!). People like that are a little naïve and those who do it anyway with no training are a little scary. There is too much that can go wrong. So, advice for those who want to do it professionally? Proceed with caution and get great advice from those who know.

Helen Donnelly as “Foo”

HSTA – You have a workshop coming up at the Haliburton School of The Arts this July 23rd – July 27th.  What sort of things can people expect to take away with them from this workshop?

HD – It’s the kind of workshop that is very unique; it’s a mix of playful exercises, solo and group work, intro to stage. Students will be going on this personal journey of discovering who their clown is and at the same time sharing this journey with others in the class. So very private and very public at the same time. People take this workshop for many reasons, but sometimes the best reason is not knowing why they are taking it! I have been lucky in the students I’ve been honoured to teach over the last 8 years at Haliburton. They have been extremely generous and supportive of each other which, at its heart, is what clown is all about.♦

For more information about Helen Donnelly, or to contact her, please visit her website at www.helendonnelly.com

To learn more about this course, or to register, please contact the Haliburton School of The Arts at www.hsta.ca or 1-866-353-6464 x3

Advanced Individual Studies class displays their work

May 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Steve Rose’s group of artists displayed their incredible pieces in the Great Hall yesterday afternoon. We were able to snap a couple of quick pics to share online…

Expressive Arts students explore trust and learn to dance

May 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

Life is a dance.

Not ballet, not jazz, not anything choreographed.

It is movement and expression; occasionally, it is stillness.

Today, the Expressive Arts students learned to dance with new partners.

Their journey began, blindfolded, following their peers down an unseen path, with nothing but a branch of wood between them, connecting them. It was an exercise in trust: trusting each other, trusting their senses, trusting in their movements and the motions that connected them together.

Once in the woods, they were asked to breathe in the air, hear, feel, and sense their surroundings. Only after they shared this moment of sightlessness were they allowed to remove their blindfolds.

The next step of their task was to find a new dancing partner: find a tree that they could connect with, understand the movements of, and share a dance with. Not a waltz, nor a foxtrot. But, create a journey with, understand what it was to be that tree…

For many of the students, it was a journey with great rewards; for others, it brought them to a new awareness of self, and of surroundings.

For more information on the Expressive Arts Program at HSTA, please go to our website www.hsta.ca

Artist of the Week – Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman

May 17, 2012 § 11 Comments

Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman

“We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” Desmond Tutu, on ubuntu

Her eyes, even in the most dim conditions, seem to sparkle with an inner light. They dance, they laugh, they sing. She possesses one of those rare and pure gazes that has the ability of seeing right into a person. It is not invasive or unwelcome; you simply get the feeling that she wants to connect, to share stories and emotions, to bridge that part of all of us that keeps us apart: space.

The many years that Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman has spent in selfless service, being involved in missions from an early age in Asia and Europe, becoming an elementary teacher and  a professor, then using those skills as the president of a Christian humanitarian organization working in parts of Africa and the Caribbean to improve education for children, have served to shape both her and her outlook on life.

Some might argue that pulling away from those efforts, giving it all up to create art, well, it might seem a hair… selfish. Until, upon seeing her creations, you realize that she is undoubtedly doing the world a greater service by becoming an artist.

“My aim is to evoke universal emotions in the viewer that will encourage him or her to tap into the spirit of “Ubuntu”:  what it means to be truly human – “to be wrapped up in the bundle of life”,” she writes.  “I have become profoundly aware of how interconnected we are – with each other and with nature. Art is a vehicle through which I can explore and honour that.”

There is unquestionably in all of her artwork a touch of the whimsical, a hint of fancy. But when you actually look at her work, you will find countless other attributes that are nuanced and revealed with such subtlety and nobility, that you will wonder why it has taken Jennifer so long to share her inner-artist with us.

Her mixed-media pieces are liable to be made of nearly anything from metal and wood to glass and eggshells. The juxtaposition of these materials is equally as stunning as the work themselves: on the one hand there is a feeling of permanence, a sense of longevity and durability; yet, the organic materials incorporated flawlessly into the work reveal a fragility and offer the distinct impression that the function of everything on earth is ephemeral, merely awaiting its next stage where it will be re-purposed and given a new task.

Of all of her pieces, each one unique with no duplications, perhaps one of the most striking and powerful is that titled Offering. Made of river stones, burlap, concrete, branches, and metal it depicts a woman kneeling with her arms raised, hands in a gesture of giving, and face tilted toward the heavens. When looking at it, you’re struck by an overwhelming sense of power; there is no surrender in her offer, no weakness. The woman is offering herself, as she is – heart, body, mind, and soul – to a greater power, and in this way shows her vulnerability as well. There is no weakness, true, but in offering everything she has to give, there is without question a sense of vulnerability: what if her offering is refused?

       

Jennifer cast various pieces of herself for the project: hands, feet, face, torso, buttocks. And, while it was a very emotional piece to create due to its symbolic connections with the artist’s own beliefs, the sculpture itself maps out beautifully what it means to truly be a woman: strength and sacrifice.

And, what it takes to be human: courage and hope.

We can’t wait to see what Jennifer creates next. She has been recognized by the college not only for her exceptional work but also her consistently positive outlook on life, and will be the valedictorian for this year’s graduating class. Jennifer was also recently nominated for the BMO Student Art Competition and our fingers are crossed for her!

For more information about Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman, please contact her by email at jwilsonbridgman@sympatico.ca or by phone at 905-730-8839 . Her website will be coming soon!

picture of jennifer wilson-bridgman

Jen, doing teacher development training in Kenya, makes friends with a couple of “orphelines”…

Artist of the Week – Matthew Mancini

May 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

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Matthew Mancini

 

 

Growing up, art has always been an integral part of Matthew’s life – that and dreams of one day playing professional baseball. During his early teens Matthew spent his summers on house league and competitive teams, but as it started to get more serious, the fun seemed to slip away. The fun from drawing all his favorite comic book characters, however, never did. Although making millions of dollars batting a ball around was attractive, playing with pencils and paints seemed to take precedence.

Was it the right choice? Probably.

After attending an arts high school Matthew Mancini went on to study in the fine arts program at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. However, after his first trip to Italy, it became clear that traditional figurative and landscape work was something he wanted to explore. OCAD leaned more towards the conceptual and abstract aspect of art which did not appeal to him.

Upon his return, he left OCAD after completing two years to pursue a more classical realist approach that led him on a six-year study at a private atelier in Toronto of the techniques used in the 19th Century ateliers of Paris, France; those of which are based on trade secrets handed down since the Renaissance. Much of his work seeks to return to the archival craftsmanship of the old masters, as well as the humanist principles found throughout past movements of art. Most influential to his work are the paintings of John Singer Sargent, Joachim Sorolla, Zorn, Ilya Repin, Kramskoi, Rembrandt, Monet, and Annigoni to name a few, where the techniques of each combine to find their way into his own paintings.

Having a foremost interest in portraiture, landscape painting has become increasingly of interest. With Matthew’s spouse getting work in Minden, Ontario, in 2011, the move has given him ample opportunity and inspiration that Toronto can’t offer in the same way. The Canadian landscape is some of the best in the world and with formal portrait paintings taking anywhere from 1 to 3 months, the immediacy of landscape painting is quite satisfying. Becoming part of the Fleming College community in the fall of 2011 has been a great experience for Mancini as well, teaching workshop courses, and soon to be joining the talented roster of the Visual Arts Fundamentals: Drawing and Painting instructors.

This summer he will be attending ‘Art in Action’ in London, England: an annual event in which artists set up their studio and work while onlookers interact with them. Artists travel from across the UK and, in celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee, from commonwealth countries, as well. This event attracts more than 25,000 visitors over four days, and Matthew will have the honor of representing Canada.

Matthew’s days are spent learning, painting and teaching, as well as preparing works for upcoming events.

He can be reached via his website at http://www.matthewmanciniart.com/

Matt will be teaching summer art courses at HSTA, as well as courses at the Peterborough campus in the fall:

Painting – Design & Composition, July 9-13

Figure in the Landscape, Aug 13-17

Portraiture Workshop, Oct 27th, 9am – 5pm, Peterborough Campus

For more information on the courses including course descriptions, please go to http://flemingcollege.ca/school/haliburton-school-of-the-arts#course-calendar

Calling All Metal and Glass Sculptors!

May 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Are you ready for the UEFA Cup?

Heineken is looking to create some aluminum can art for an upcoming event on May 19th. They were told that HSTA is a great place to start looking for some talent…

They’re looking for two idea submissions as soon as possible, to be created in time for the 19th of May for an upcoming Heineken UEFA (world cup soccer) screening party in Toronto. Art must reflect Heineken and/or soccer imagery. Materials will mainly be cans or bottles and will be provided by us. Other materials are acceptable as long as the main component is Heineken cans or bottles.

 

You will be paid for your work! Interested parties should submit ideas to matt.mcguinness@molsoncoors.com as soon as possible!

 

If anyone is interested they must be of legal drinking age, 19+.

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