Family Workshop: Forms and Figures

Written by: Kaitlyn Yeager – Visitor Assistant

In February the curator of education at David Owsley Museum of Art, Maureen Nicholson, held a family workshop for children and parents to learn about Larry Day’s early abstract art in the exhibition titled Body Language. Larry Day (1921 – 1998) was an American artist residing in Pennsylvania for nearly all his life, where he created his works and taught as a professor at the Philadelphia College of Art. Day’s work can be divided into three themes: abstractions, figures and forms, and cityscapes. His paintings and drawings can be described as “ironic realism”, as these works are not quite the photorealistic reproduction of a depicted scene but rather an idea or a comment about such. The artist uses references from the past, such as works by the old masters for inspiration.

For this workshop we took a tour through the museum to first view Larry Day’s abstract artwork on the main floor in the Brown Study Room, where students had the opportunity to critically analyze the work by asking questions about why the artist had abstracted the subject and how this was done. Afterward, we practiced our abstracting skills by using the artist’s work in the Special Exhibition upstairs as inspiration. Both the parents and their children took part in sketching one of Day’s original works of their choice, and then simplifying it into shapes and lines to experiment with abstraction.

For the last portion of the event, we moved to the workshop area to use the skills and knowledge learned through viewing Day’s artwork and create our own abstracted pieces using oil pastels on paper. The children and adults chose an object or artwork in the museum as a reference to draw an abstracted version, which could be done by adding new colors, simplifying or transforming the shapes and figures, or by fixating on only a portion of the original work. During this time everyone got the chance to draw and color, listen to some music, and chat with one another. At the end of the event all of the kids were photographed with their artwork.

This workshop was one of the first opportunities to hold an in-person, family-friendly art event at the David Owsley Museum of Art since before the pandemic. I worked with Maureen as her assistant to help with the event, and I personally loved it! The kids were enthusiastic and a joy to be around, and the parents were so kind. It was exciting to see all of the families making art together, and we were very happy to provide them with the art supplies and opportunity to do so. I would love to see more of these experiences here at DOMA and, based on the many positive reports from our recent participants, we hope to hold more family workshops in the near future!

As always, thank you for reading the DOMA insider and make sure to come visit the museum soon! DOMA is free and open to the public; we are open Tuesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and Saturday from 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Check out our website at bsu.edu/doma.

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