Visual Arts Debuts Virtual Exhibition in May

Laura B. Coppola
Laura Coppola ’95, P’35

On May 7, Poly Arts will debut the first-ever school-wide virtual Art Exhibition at Poly, which will showcase the wide-ranging creativity and imagination of Visual Arts students from Nursery through Grade 12. After a virtual community celebration for students, the galleries will be open for the wider community to enjoy. There are more than 725 images in our virtual galleries.

“It’s pretty impressive to see how experimental and creative students can be with the limited materials we’ve been using during the pandemic,” said Chair of Visual Arts Laura Coppola ’95, P’35.  “Without being able to be in the same room with our students for much of the year, it has been challenging to support them in ways we are accustomed to, but students have taken ownership of their own experiences, in many ways, and have committed themselves to their work, new techniques, innovative composition, and conceptual approaches to artmaking.”

Lower School

Among the varied Lower School galleries, visitors to the exhibition will enjoy Nursery students’ pumpkins inspired by artist Yayoi Kusama. Students looked at examples of Kusama’s work, with a focus on her famous dotted pumpkins. Using dot markers, students decorated cardstock pumpkins. Then they learned about background and foreground. After practicing different types of mark making, students made their own backgrounds for their Kusama-inspired pumpkins by drawing lines on dark paper with white pencil. To create the finished piece, the dotted pumpkins were mounted on the lined-paper backgrounds.

In other Lower School galleries, viewers will see the results of Grade 2’s review of the elements and principles of art and design. In this gallery, second grade students demonstrated their understanding of radial symmetry, creating designs with shape, color, and pattern. Starting with the principle of balance, art teacher Patti Smith  discussed and examined examples of bilateral symmetry in nature, such as leaves, butterflies, and the human face. “We then turned to radial, or rotational, symmetry. Students examined radial symmetry in nature, architecture, and craft design around the world: Aztec and Chinese pottery, Native American and African baskets, Tibetan mandalas and Indian Rangoli designs. We also looked at the work of artists Alma Woodsey Thomas, M.C. Escher, and Ernst Haeckel.”

Enjoy a sneak peek at art from our Lower School students!

Kindergarten - Paintings and Puppets inspired by Alma Woodsey Thomas, Benjamin P. '33 Benjamin P. ’33
Grade 1: Dots Lines Colors, Sasha B. '32 Sasha B. ’32
Biomorphic Architectural Drawings inspired by Hundertwasser, Winston T. '32 Winston T. ’32
Grade 2: Radial Symmetry Candy Shop by Timothy T. ’31
Grade 3: Mapmaking Cartography, Liliana R. '30 Liliana R. ’30
Grade 4: Pop Art Soup Cans, Fiona I. '29 Fiona I. ’29
Middle School
Leonardo Y. ’28

Among the Middle School galleries, art teacher Helena Elko’s Grades 5 and 6 Visual Arts students took a deep dive into the artwork, traditional dress, and symbolism used to create the celebration known in Mexico as Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. From their research, each young artist drew and painted their own unique skull, either in honor of someone they have known, or as an aesthetic object that could tell a story. Students incorporated personal symbolism, vivid color, and purposeful patterns to create these sacred skulls.

Other Grades 5 and 6 artists created fantasy maps. Inspired by illustrative fantasy maps from such novels as The Hobbit and Harry Potter, sixth grade Visual Arts students generated their own make-believe maps based on memories or a fictional story. To gain a deeper understanding of the functionality of maps, students studied historic maps, looking at navigational elements such as the Rose Compass, which they included in their compositions.

In Grade 8, students participate in Creating and Curating with the Brooklyn Museum. This course is a partnership with the Brooklyn Museum, conceived by Poly faculty and the museum’s Education and Curatorial staff. Studying historical work from the American Collection and contemporary artwork by artists of color, as well as by women and LGBTQIA artists, students consider how curatorial choices at the Brooklyn Museum are made to critique institutional and social inequities by way of specific and paired artworks. Through artmaking, discussion, research, and writing, students explore how the artworks they choose to put into a dialogue complicate an institutional, social, or systemic issue. With this foundational basis, students use these tools to fuel their thinking around social issues that are important to them and consider how previous studies of American art and history may have left out narratives about historically marginalized communities and why it’s important to acknowledge these gaps.

Annakaecia C. ’25

Annakaecia C. ’25 will be exhibiting her Color and Context piece from Creating and Curating with the Brooklyn Museum. “I would like the viewer to realize and thoroughly think about what my piece represents,” said Annakaecia. “My piece, called Supporting America, showcases Uncle Sam using a cane to walk. Uncle Sam represents the United States, while the cane represents the slavery and discrimination rooted in American history. Considering these details, I tried to portray the United States ‘leaning’ on slavery and discrimination for ‘support.’ Many aspects of present-day America have developed and become what they are today because of the belittlement of others, and I wanted to make that more aware to people in my art piece.”

Annakaecia added, “Art helps me express myself because it introduces a new and easier way to get my points and thoughts across. Sometimes it can be hard to find the right words to say when trying to explain something. With art, if you have an idea of what you want to say, you can create a visual and either allow room for interpretation or express the connection between the purpose of making that piece and the artistic choices you made.”

Sylvie D. ’26 will be exhibiting an abstracted self-portrait book cover she created for her seventh grade art class. “When people look at the book cover I made,” Dorsch said, “I want them to see the parts of me that are usually not shown, as well as maybe even parts of themselves. This is not a regular self-portrait where I draw exactly how I look on the outside. This is a self-portrait where I drew the parts of me that are on the inside. I used playful pastel colors to represent the part of me that is happy and joyful, but dark blue colors to represent the stressed-out and sad part of me. Many people can probably relate to getting really stressed out one time or being really happy another. I hope that when people look at this artwork, they will relate to it and see themselves in it, too.” She added, “Art lets me take parts of myself and put them down onto paper for others to see and learn from. It lets me express myself without using many words to do so.”

Sylvie D. ’26
Zoe P. ‘26

Another seventh grader, Zoe P. ‘26, would like the viewer of her artwork “to just feel emotion but I would also like people to have different interpretations of the piece of art. I wouldn’t want everyone to feel that same exact thing.” She added, “I think that art helps me express myself because there are no boundaries. You can literally do anything. Also, at Poly there is a wide range of materials that help me create whatever I feel like creating and I am able to really step out of my comfort zone and be super and creative and colorful!” 

Sasha L. ’27

Sixth grader Sasha L. ’27 will be exhibiting a drawing of a Sugar Skull titled Living Thoughts, which she created for art class. “By looking at this piece,” Sasha said, “I would like the viewer to experience a sense of life, warmth, and the tenderness of family, but I would also like them to remember the ones they’ve loved and lost, because that’s what this piece means to me.” She explained,  “Art helps me express myself by creating a piece that takes hours of work and is intriguing to an audience, I can get others to recognize these expressions in an exciting and immersive way.”

Thomas D. ’26

In Middle and Upper School Ceramics, student projects have included Animal-Shaped Planters, Vases with Organic Textures, and Mugs with Face Designs. With the planters, students used sculpting and pinching techniques to build the basic structure of their animal and then used carving to add details. Texture is an important part of ceramics. In ancient times, when there was no way for artists to add color to their pieces, pottery was decorated only with textures. Through the Vases with Organic Textures project, students were given an opportunity to think about what textures are inspired from various cultures. Sculpting is one of the most important techniques in ceramics. For the Mugs with Face Design project, students sculpted various facial features and then attached them onto the surface of a 6-inch mug that was made using pinching and coiling techniques.

Visit the Poly Prep Visual Arts Exhibition.

Upper School

In our partnership with the Brooklyn Museum, students in Creating and Curating with the Brooklyn Museum researched and discussed a range of artworks from the 18th century to today. They also learned from the museum’s educators and curators what it means to tell a story with visual imagery, thoughtful sequencing and juxtapositions, and architectural and lighting design. Having discovered how contemporary artists often disrupt the historical narratives we think we know, students curated their own exhibitions with works from the museum, retelling a variety of histories by considering the voices of artists of color that have long been excluded from institutions of fine art.

Eyton Ng ‘24

Students in Art and Social Change explored modern and contemporary artists whose work begins with familiar objects and then radically transforms them by imposing upon them a series of discomfiting actions. These oftentimes simple but impactful gestures turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, and hooking the viewers with something from everyday life draws them into much deeper issues like social identity. 

Eyton Ng ‘24 is exhibiting an embroidery piece that manipulates the meaning behind Christopher Columbus’ significance, which he did for Coppola’s Art and Social Change class.  “The prompt was to communicate a clear and sensitive message for social change through the juxtaposition of historical and manipulated imagery and text,” Ng said. When visitors to the online gallery see his artwork, he said, “I would like them to experience the dark history behind Columbus’ greatest achievements.” He added,  “Art helps me express myself because it reflects all the hard work and effort I put into that piece and it is really satisfying once complete. It also allows me to tap into my more perfectionist side and labor over all the little details.” 

Leo Wang ‘23

Leo Yihan Wang ‘23 has two works in the exhibition, one from his Advanced Drawing class and the second from his Painting class, where the investigation of watercolor is both scientific and accidental, and the pair contributes to its beauty. When asked about his piece from the drawing class, he remarked, “You can never tell how much this peacock has experienced to have feathers like these.” He added, “I think everything they [the viewers] see or feel in my work is valid and valuable, and to be honest, my intention as an artist is not important. It is a super subjective process, and everything they experience by looking at my work really is a part of the art, which is also the beauty of it. So I hope the viewer will enjoy the process and hopefully, they will think my art is cool.”

“I think there are two parts of self-expression in my art,” Wang continued. “The first part is the process of making art, where I can freely express myself without any fears of being judged. I feel the power to be brave enough to express all my vulnerabilities and desires. The other part is when the message in my art is conveyed to the audience, creating the connection between me, represented by my art, and the viewers. I read about this group of artists called Mavo, and one of their purposes of making art is demanding understanding, but not appreciation. I relate to them a lot. Art is a way for me to express different aspects of myself and look for these understandings about my own identities and stories.”

Digital photography students give visitors to the exhibition a glimpse into their world.

Samantha Chan ‘21 is exhibiting work that she created for a portfolio for her Digital Photography Independent Study. In her photo, “In His Element,” she said, “I want the viewer to experience the same child-like awe and wonder the stranger presumably feels as he gazes down Canal St. It’s almost as if the photograph captures the very moment he’s taking in surroundings and appreciating the typically overlooked and rundown subways and buildings. Moreover, when looking at the piece, “The Night-Shift,” I wanted to convey a sense of detachment and quietude. Though there might be others on the train, the only person that the view can see and resonate with is the driver who seems at peace with driving into night.”

Photography helps me express myself,” said Chan, “because I am able to capture the moments and details of city life, living with my family, and aging while weaving my perspective into them—whether this is through composition or specific edits in the post-processing stage. I really like to create photographs that center around the themes of alienation and self-reflection.”

Samantha Chan ‘21

“I’ll be exhibiting a photo essay I created as the final project for my Digital Photography class last semester,” said William Ling Regan ‘24. “For my final project, I collected still life photography of objects around my house. In these photos, I focused on finding patterns of light and shadow falling on everyday objects, and turning ordinary moments into art. When I was shooting this project, I began noticing things around me in a different way: I started seeing interesting compositions everywhere I looked. When it came to editing the photos, I primarily used the Tune Image, Curves and Vig,nette tools in the app Snapseed. I wanted my editing to keep the focus on the subject, so I made subtle changes rather than dramatic ones. In particular, I used the Warmth setting in Tune Images to give the photos a warm light and evoke the peaceful, comfortable feeling of home.”

William Ling Regan ‘24

Visit the Poly Prep Visual Arts Exhibition.