New Orleans, LA
At the heart of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s mission is educating the public in the visual arts and culture of the American South. Since 2001, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s residency program, Artist and Sense of Place, has paired professional artists with local schools to explore the history, practices, and identity of the student’s world. Working with elementary school children in the medium of the artist’s choice, the artist spends three weeks with students exploring the influence of geography and sense of place. Upon completion of the residency, the students visit the museum to view their finished works of art.
Imagination, expression, exploration, mastery of a new medium, conceptual thinking – these are among the tools of an artist’s trade and what Airline Park Academy students explored during this project. Drawing with pencil, a comfortable medium for young artists, primed their conceptual pump, and watercolor painting challenged their skills. Students were introduced to ideas and images about microorganisms, or microbes, specifically in the pond and swamp water of Southern Louisiana, and asked to imagine their eyes were microscopes looking into the swamps at these micro-inhabitants.
Microbes are found everywhere in abundance, including inside of us (our microbiome), and are the oldest living things on earth. They are now placed at the base of the Tree of Life. Scientists say that there are more microbes on the back of our hand than all the people on the earth combined. Introducing students to this larger community of organisms serves to engender a sense of stewardship toward unseen but important aspects of Louisiana life and nature in general. This opportunity gives them a chance to develop a sense of wonder and a new understanding about the world that surrounds us. The micro world is also a new frontier for us, as scientists are just beginning to understand the scope and scale of these communities. Imagination and thoughtful expression, like the kind shown in this student work, is a building block to their bright futures and perhaps even our understanding of microorganisms.
Shawn Hall is a New Orleans-based multidisciplinary artist working with painting, video, installation and performance art. Shawn views her practice as an act of participation in the biological world through intuition and action. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and she’s represented in New Orleans by Cole Pratt Gallery.
Exhibition overview from museum website