Primary Artist Spotlight: Yayoi Kusama
Art Specialists, Vanessa Irzyk and Amy Norrod strive to introduce a variety of artwork and artists from across the globe and work to highlight female artists and people of color in their lessons. To bridge curricular connections across classrooms, artists are introduced from the continents being studied each semester. This year, students are "traveling" to Oceania and Asia in their respective continent studies and this is the drive that is prompting the current lesson about Japanese artist: Yayoi Kusama.
In Primary this semester, students have been learning about Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama in Art with Miss Vanessa. Students learned about her life and looked at images of her array of artwork, including paintings and installations. Some students have personal connections to Kusama, having visited her installation "Love is Calling" exhibit when it was at the ICA in Boston from 2019-2020. For this unit, students spent their first class painting a pumpkin with watercolors while exploring color mixing and working on their pencil (paintbrush) grip. After that initial lesson, they added dots to their paintings using q-tips for small dots and hot glue sticks for larger ones. The students were also given 3-D orange pumpkins to add dots along with participating in creating a community piece.
This was inspired by Kusama's "Obliteration Room" where she had a white room full of white furniture and invited visitors to add sticker dots to the installation and create a communal piece. Miss Vanessa created a miniature version of this white room and each Primary student received 5 colorful dot stickers to add to the room wherever they wanted. A camera was set up during this installation to capture the transformation of the space resulting in a fun time-lapse video. At the end of this class, they had time to reflect on how the room had changed and evolved with everyone's input. As the semester carries on, our work with artists continues to build upon itself as the students continuously add more skills and knowledge to their repertoire.
Students are continually exposed to works by Kusama in the classroom. Each Primary classroom has a printout of Kusama's work and facts about her. Some classes even have extension works that give step-by-step instructions on how to draw a pumpkin and add dots like the artist. This connection between art and the classroom is a rich connection because it gives students a full experience that hopefully sticks with them as they get older and continuously internalizes the work that they are doing in both spaces of the school.