Intro week at Cape Palmas High School. A student speaks about why he likes this Gaugin painting.
I brought laminated photos of famous paintings to these initial meetings with the student participants and their principals, including Paul Gaugin’s island scenes, Henri Matisse’s abstract cutouts, Helen Frankenthaler’s abstract stain washed raw canvasses, and Chris Ofili’s modern portrait of an African woman. Each student was asked to pick the one they liked the most and to talk about why. I thought that the students wouldn’t pick any of the abstract works, but I was surprised to find otherwise.
One girl picked the Frankenthaler piece and said she could see a village and hills and mountains and sky in it. Another girl picked this same piece and said it reminded her of her lapa the Liberian name for the patterned cloth wrap so common in Africa. One piece I brought – was a scene of voting by Jakob Lawrence. One of the students who picked this one said she liked that all the people in it were dressed nice, and that the babies looked taken care of. The Gaugin piece was similarly appreciated, one student said he appreciated that the two women sitting under the tree looked like happy sisters. Many of them responded to the color use also and picked certain paintings because they liked the color in them. I think that this is a good sign how they observe and respond to the life they see happening in these paintings. It will not be such a big leap for them to start creating images of the happy lives they want for their community in the future.