Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Students Find Art in Found Objects

Courtney Mims' painting
of the pocket knife.

At the Baranov Museum, we strive to engage youth in Kodiak history in ways that go beyond the ordinary. For example, Curator of Education Sarah Short reaches out to village students through virtual tours of the museum. This last fall, we worked with 8th grade multi-media students to make advertisements and printed materials for our antique auction. This summer, we will again teach a history and film intensive for middle school and high school students, during which the students will make short films about Kodiak history.

Art Alejandro's painting of a
hunting hat decorated with
blue beads.
But today, I would like to acknowledge the work of art students in Bonnie Dillard's Art Survey class. These high school students collaborated with the museum on our newest exhibit, "Found on Site: Objects from Within the Magazin." As the name implies, this exhibit highlights objects that have been found in the floorboards, windows, and walls of the museum and objects that belonged to those that lived or worked in the magazin in the past. The budding artists in Mrs. Dillard's introductory art class were tasked with a challenging activity: not only paint the objects that were found on site, but also place the objects in their historic contexts.

To get students thinking about these objects as they could have been used, I spoke with the students about the history of the magazin and what we know about the objects. I left them with photos of the objects, photos of the museum over time, and some historic images of Kodiak.

Cindy Limchantha's painting includes three
objects found on site: a bead, a pocket knife,
and a model kayak.

How did the paintings come out? Incredible! Students imagined a variety of scenes and uses for the objects. For example, one of the objects found in the floorboards was a pocket knife. Students studied images of the knife and imagined historic scenes in which the knife could have been used. One student, Cindy Lamchantha, drew an Alutiiq man carving a kayak with a pocket knife. Another student, Courtney Mims, imagined someone using it to fillet a salmon. A blue bead was found in an archaeological excavation within the museum's grounds. Art Alejandro imagined the bead as once gracing an Alutiiq hunting visor. 
A wooden needle used to mend fishing nets was found in the attic floorboards back in 1979. Kiva McCarthy painted this familiar Kodiak object entangled within a net, as if someone dropped it after hanging the web.

79-101-11: A wooden net mending needle, found in the attic.

Kiva McCarthy imagined the net needle enmeshed in the net
 it was used to make.

The museum, Mrs. Dillard, and the students are excited to share these paintings with visitors. Fifty of the original paintings will be exhibited in the museum during Crab Festival weekend (Friday, May 24 through Sunday, May 26). After Crab Fest, reproductions of the paintings will be available for viewing within the "Found on Site" exhibit. A huge thank you and congratulations, goes to Kodiak's young artists!