This article was originally published in the summer 2012 Harker Quarterly.
Harker has an excellent reputation in the local art community and beyond for providing students with exceptional visual arts offerings. In the lower and middle schools, students learn drawing, printmaking, painting, woodworking, carving, ceramics and art history. In the upper school, fine art students can choose Study of Visual Arts as their mandatory yearlong arts survey course and select from a variety of drawing vehicles, as well as stone carving, bronze casting, ceramics and architecture.
Art at Harker is widely celebrated through exhibitions spanning all three campuses; enjoy this year-end reflection of the work these talented artists produced.
Spotlight on Our Budding Young Artists
The lower school’s art exhibit, featuring works from K-5 students, went on display at the Bucknall campus in May. Exhibiting youngsters demonstrated an impressive range of abilities with their artwork, which included sculptures, drawings and architectural designs.
Pieces created by kindergartners in the Tuesday and Thursday after-school art classes were often inspired by book themes. Highlights included drawings of owls shown against blue backgrounds, sporting white feathers, from the beloved children’s book “Owl Babies,” written by Martin Waddell. Meanwhile, watercolor paintings of fish were motivated by the illustrations of Marcus Pfister’s book “The Rainbow Fish.”
Sculptures made by both kindergartners and first graders included lifelike depictions of tasty treats, including yogurt parfaits, cupcakes, truffles, cakes and fruit. Sculptures by students in grades 3 and 5 adorned the lobby outside the school’s gym, while inside – and winding their way upstairs – were brightly colored pictures from students in grades 1 and 2.
Located by the top-floor classrooms was an array of impressive masks by grade 5 artists including those of cats, pigs, people, owls, rabbits, sharks and even a deer complete with twigs for antlers. Also upstairs were architectural drawings from grade 4 students which depicted buildings familiar to students’ lives, such as Starbucks, Best Buy, the Santa Clara County Library, Target, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Intel.
Art student Andrew Lee, grade 3, was proud of his pastel oil drawing filled with beautiful butterflies. He said his picture was done in the after-school art program, which he just started this year and calls “really fun.” Standing by his side, his friend Aniket Kriplani, also grade 3, said he enjoys doing art at Harker because “you are free to do what you want, as long as you follow certain specific directions.”
Middle School Art Students Showcase Unique Styles
The middle school exhibit kicked off with an opening reception held in the main office lobby of the upper school campus in April before moving over to the middle school campus, where it ran until May 15. Artists showcased colorful paintings and ceramics, from figurines to wire sculptures and mobiles.
On display from sixth graders were assorted plates and bowls with tempting fake food such as pie, French fries, vegetables and fruit. One particularly cheery plate radiated with painted-on yellow smiley faces. Grade 7-8 ceramics included a section of sea animals titled “Formed by the Sea.” These grades also had a table at the show containing glass fusion and casting, comprising sculptures illuminated by lights revealing the intricacy of the work.
Meanwhile, eye-catching drawings themed around metamorphosis included that of an apple in various stages of being eaten (from full, to half bitten, to down to the core) and another depicting a girl whose features morphed into those of a tiger. Natalie Simonian, grade 8, had four pieces in the middle school art show, in which there were more than 75 students represented. Simonian also had artwork from the Harker exhibit selected for display in the nearby Saratoga Rotary Art Show at West Valley College.
“My first art class was the mandatory one in kindergarten,” Simonian said. “At that time, art and I were completely unrelated. My drawings of people looked more like an uncoordinated mess of squares, circles and triangles. But by the end of six years’ worth of mandatory art classes, I could draw and I developed a love for art,” she recalled, noting that in grade 6, she took an elective art course and has never looked back.
Upper School Show Exhibits Professional- Level Work
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but Harker’s top artistic talent went the extra mile by showcasing written statements alongside original artwork at this year’s AP Studio Art Exhibition in March.
Featuring unique works in various media, the exhibition was held during a long lunch in the light-filled Nichols Hall atrium. The professionally-styled show was open to both students and faculty who strolled the hall admiring projects ranging from photography to sculptures and drawings.
AP Studio Art is a high-level class for talented artists, mostly seniors, interested in both 3-D art, taught by Jaap Bongers, and 2-D art, taught by Pilar Agüero-Esparza.
Commenting on the work of his students, Bongers, who is also chair of the art department, said he had been fortunate to follow many of the exhibitors’ evolving styles over the course of several years, having had them in various previous art courses.
Many of the students enjoying the annual show were not artists themselves. However, after attending, they said they had a new appreciation for the artistic friends they’d come out to support.“Some of my friends do art; I’ll probably take it next year,” said Eric Swenson, grade 11, who especially enjoyed reading the artists’ personal statements and seeing what inspired them.
Each of the student artists chose a theme that recurred throughout their works and wrote statements explaining their inspiration for the exhibition. These artist statements were prominently displayed next to their pieces.
In a statement about her cat sketches, artist Iris Xia, grade 11, wrote that her concentration involved the objectification of feelings. By illustrating cats placed into typical household tools and later luxury items, she said she sought to demonstrate how degrading people could be when they exploit innocent animals for their own benefits. Meanwhile, senior Karen Wang’s whimsical, colorful paintings focused on the idea of freedom and escape. “What is freedom and how do I communicate my perception of it?” she questioned in her artist statement.
One thing that all of the exhibiting artists seemed to agree on was the joy they personally took in having the freedom to create their own themes, rather than following a more standard project based on a class assignment.
Explaining that process, exhibiting artist Tariq Jahshan, grade 12, stood in front of his 3-D sculpture display and allowed that most of his ideas start out as a very basic abstract form. Then he “just kind of goes with it” until it becomes more conscious. “At that point, what’s going to come out takes over and I’ll then follow that.”
Following on the successful heels of the AP Studio Art exhibit was the upper school’s regular annual art exhibition held in May, also at the Nichols Hall atrium. That show featured juried art selections and DJ music sponsored by the Spirit Club.
This year’s exhibition juror was Teresa Cunniff, adjunct professor in the fine art department of San Jose State University, and a San Francisco-based mixed media installation artist and graphic designer.
There was an impressive array of advanced ceramics and sculptures on display at this, the upper school’s final art exhibit of the year, including a bust of Superman, a number of female torsos (including that of a pregnant woman) and a Colgate toothpaste tube. Meanwhile, at a table nearby were the completed assignments of architecture students who had been charged with the daunting task of “creating a new possibility for mankind.”
Also on hand was a thought-provoking “What Matters” series of charcoal drawings depicting such controversial topics as technology, the societal concept of beauty, and hopes and worries for our global future. There were other drawings without such powerful messages, but which could be equally appreciated for their simple beauty, such as a drawing showing white sugar cubes dropping down into a mug filled with dark coffee, realistic and tempting enough to make both coffee, and art lovers, return for a second look.