The Self in Clay

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By Laura

The other night I went to a movie called, “The Great Beauty,” an Italian film about a sixty-five year old man reflecting on his life and the process of getting older. One scene depicts him attending an art exhibition of a photographer. The artist’s father took a photo of his face every day for his entire boyhood and the artist continued this process into his adulthood. All of the photos were displayed in chronological order. This was a deeply moving moment in the movie–watching this older man examine this photo calendar of another man’s life. It made me think about our self-portrait projects over the years, how they, too, mark time by recording a child’s interpretation of self and their developing relationship with different art media. Sometimes with so many play themes and other projects and passions emerging, it can be difficult to make the time to ensure that every single child has an opportunity to do the same project. But every single time the children impress me with their focus, their interest in studying themselves in the mirrors and their desire to create themselves anew. And, after all, they change so rapidly during this early childhood period that in many ways they truly are representing a whole new person each time.

DSC_0055And so, today, I held an appointment with the first group this year to sculpt their faces in clay. Before passing out the clay, we spent some time studying our facial features. Because you can sculpt clay in three dimensions–we talked together about which features “go in” and which ones “stick out”. They noticed that mouths go in, but tongues stick out. That our ears stick out from the sides. That noses stick out and eyes go in. That hair goes down or sticks out.

DSC_0054We talked about how sometimes with clay, in order to get the right shape and form you need to cut away or scoop out some of the clay and other times you need to had pieces or shapes to your sculpture. Each child worked with a flat slap and an additional hunk of clay to create their self-portraits.

Below are photos of the children working, alongside their finished product (carefully photographed before smooshing them back into the clay bag). I love being able to literally see the hands of each artist imprinted into these representations of themselves.

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