BY Stacy Driks
Art expertise isn’t needed to win an art contest for Kingsbridge International High School students, but it takes plenty of imagination.
Like the school’s name says, students come from all over the world, and some like juniors Nadia Akther from Bangladesh and Fatoumata Sanyang from Gambia in West Africa came with no experience in art. So, they decided to give it a try.
The project that took four-and-a-half months to complete was three-dimensional Roman style portraiture sculptures using recyclable materials.
They used this work, entered the annual PS citywide art competition and won. Through an education department partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, their sculptures are behind a glass display in the largest museum in the western hemisphere.
“Honestly, I feel famous,” Sanyang said, “it was really great.”
Akther’s art will also be displayed on one of the big screens in Times Square.
The PS Art Competition, celebrating 20 years of PS Art, acknowledges outstanding artwork and instruction from K-12. Its panel of professional artists and educators judge the pieces.
A challenge for the students sculpture artists was matching their facial characteristics and unique features.
“Everybody here will agree and would admit that something this difficult and having success creating it gave them a sense of confidence, which I kind of build in them,” said art teacher Bob Hechler.
Each piece of art represented the individuality of the students, he said.
Akther depicted her hijab, and Sanyang focused on how to make her hair close to perfection.
Despite working throughout the semester, Akther needed to stay after school a few times to complete her hijab because the plaster dried up very quickly.
“It’s like surgery,” Sanyang said.
To make the sculpture look as natural as possible, students had to be remove dry clay that was not manipulated correctly. Sanyang needed to remove her small pieces without damaging the other parts carefully by using specific tools.
Sanyang enjoys crocheting, and with her teacher’s guidance, she used that skill in her project. The yarn was one of the materials she used to shape and craft her hair, making it look naturally voluminous.
Entry fees for the contest were covered sparing the school’s art program any expense.
Cardboard and hot glue were used to create the armature for the sculpture, which is the framework on which the individual sculpture is built. Without it, the sculpture cannot stand on its own.
Papier mâché was used as the essence of the three-dimensional works of art. Starting as a powder, the young artists reconstituted it with water to make a sculpting clay.
“I think art is most effective when it connects to other areas,” Hechler said.
The art competition judges pieces that relate to teaching and learning visual arts.
Hechler guided the students to think differently about the world through art. And it worked. The motivation paved the way for them to express themselves while creatively thinking and asking questions to solve problems.
The art teacher used skills from other subject areas, such as biology and history helping students navigate their creativity in creating the sculptures.
“The more I kept going, and it turned out good, I’m like, ‘oh, I’ll just keep going,’” Sanyang said, “when the face was almost like oval, and it was kind of looking like me .”
By creating art projects, Hechler taught the student biology — not precisely but essentially. His students learned the musculature aspect of the sculpture making a copy of themselves, such as the eyes, nose, and where the jaw line falls in place.
Global history was another lesson he implored students to focus on. The young winners put deep learning into the Middle Ages.
Once Hechler gives them a visual representation, they try to reach that and embody it into their work.
Sculptures were a dominant part of the art culture in the Middle Ages and by tackling that history, it benefited the students to understand the style.
However, their pieces weren’t only for show and fame.
PS Art offers Selected students from grades 9-11 the opportunity to register for free art classes for the 2022-23 academic year at Studio in a School — a visual art organization partnered with DOE.
Students will work in painting, drawing, digital photography, and printmaking workshops there.
Bronx Borough Art winners
Two other Kingsbridge International students also were honored at an art competition.
Feber Herrera, a senior entered into the Bronx Borough Art Contest with something slightly different than a sculpture.
Through this competition “it shows that I’m capable of doing amazing things,” Herrera said.
She submitted an 11-foot totem pole. The piece is on display at Lehman College’s art gallery with fellow classmate Pedro Troncoso, who made a three-dimensional self-portrait sculpture. He wound up being the Bronx Borough art contest winner.
“The most difficult part was making it look like me,” Troncoso said.