January 7, 2016

Art Trekkers Depart from AAC: Class Wrap-Up

We had a blast as we went on an artistic journey in our Art Trekkers class last fall, and now that the new year is upon us, we wanted to share with you some of the highlights from that adventure!

AAC instructor Jennifer Wilkin Penick looked far and wide to find nine artists to serve as inspiration for our “globetrotting” student artists. Students even got to participate in a studio visit with AAC resident artist Becca Kallem!

We have more to tell you about that special experience, as well as details on some of the artists who inspired our art projects last semester, allowing us to explore art fundamentals, concepts, techniques, and materials in a truly unique way.

Artist Inspiration: Becca Kallem (Arlington, VA)

Students participate in studio visit, and paint on canvas with Becca for a collaborative piece.
Students participate in a studio visit, and collaborate with Becca.

Class began just a few days after our summer exhibition PLAY: Tinker, Tech, & Toy closed, but our students had the very special opportunity to visit PLAY artist and AAC resident artist Becca Kallem for a studio visit.

There, they had the chance to see where Becca makes her art, and talk to her informally about what motivates her.

“Smooshy!” is how Becca describes the beginning of her work. She mixes colors, blurs, and “blobs,” which she covers with linear and geometric forms.

Becca Kallem, Pink Stratagem, 2015. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 10x8 in.
Becca Kallem, Pink Stratagem, 2015.

By topping these gestural backgrounds with geometric overlays, Becca creates a beautiful illusion of depth.

Back in the classroom students put this inspiration to work using straight edges to create linear forms while also employing a painterly method based on Becca’s discussion of imprecision and the handmade!

New Concepts: studio visit, abstract art, linear vs. nonlinear, geometric shapes, figurative vs. nonfigurative, gesture, overlay, illusion, space, handmade, collaboration


Artist Inspiration: El Anatsui (Anyako, Ghana)

El Anatsui, Dusasa II, 2007. Aluminum liquor bottle caps and copper wire. 240 x 240 x 6 in.
El Anatsui, Dusasa II, 2007.

El Anatsui uses recycled materials, and he employs hundreds of young people to help him create giant sculptures that look like glittering tapestries.

Students used photocopies of colorful bottle caps and product labels to construct their own artwork.

Using these materials helped students connect their artwork to themes of consumption, waste, and the environment, just like El Anatsui, while still focusing on the aesthetics.

New Concepts: collaboration, found objects, installation art, kente cloth, art & politics, aesthetics

Artist Inspiration: Mark Hearld (York, United Kingdom)

AAC students making art inspired by Mark Hearld.
AAC students making art inspired by Mark Hearld.

British artist Mark Hearld is a Renaissance man! He’s a print-maker, painter, fabric designer, book illustrator, and probably much more.

Instructor Jennifer Wilkin Penick loves Hearld’s painted collages, and had our students create works inspired by these. Students painted animals and what makes up their environments. Once dried, they cut out these items before pasting them into wonderfully layered scenes.

New Concepts: collage, layering, foreground, mid-ground, background

Artist Inspiration: Louise Nevelson (New York, NY)

Louise Nevelson, Sky Cathedral, 1958.
Louise Nevelson, Sky Cathedral.

Louise Nevelson is one of America’s most prominent sculptors, hailed by some critics as one of the leading most sculptors of the 20th century.

She is most well-known for her monochromatic, large-scale assemblages, made of wood. Her work transforms spaces, along with our ideas about art.

Besides all of that, how cool is Nevelson for saying that if reincarnated, she’d choose to come back as herself?

In Art Trekkers, students made their own monochromatic assemblages.

AAC Student art inspired by Louise Nevelson
AAC Student art inspired by Louise Nevelson

They problem-solved by testing various placements of their found objects, observed how each of the pieces played off one another, pasted them down, and finished off their work with a color of their own choosing.

New Concepts: monochromatic, assemblage, installation, “art,” problem-solving, found objects




Artist Inspiration: William Kentridge (Johannesburg, South Africa)

AAC student work inspired by William Kentridge
AAC student work inspired by William Kentridge

Kentridge is well known for using a wide range of media including drawing, sculpture, animation, and performance.

In Art Trekkers, students looked at a specific body of his work: Sleeping On Glass, 1999. This work is a portfolio of six etchings, which features the juxtaposition of text and imagery on old book pages.

We could probably develop more than a few lessons based on this work, but for Art Trekkers, we focused on artistic process and formal elements.

 William Kentridge, Staying Home, 1999.
William Kentridge, Staying Home, 1999.

Using one of our favorite art supplies, scratch foam, students were introduced to basic printmaking techniques and created beautiful trees of their own design, which they printed onto old book pages.

The finished projects were stunning!

New Concepts: print edition, etchings, juxtaposition, art & politics, process, formalism, scratch foam


We covered a lot of ground last fall, thanks for coming with us and letting us share what we learned about some of our new favorite artists! Stay tuned to learn about the other artists we covered – we have a special post coming up where we’ll dive deeper into the Outsider Art we learned about in Art Trekkers.

After reading about all of these fantastic artists and art projects are you now inspired to create? AAC’s winter classes are open for registration for ages 2 to beyond! Space is limited, so sign up now! For those of you thinking further into the future, we’ve even opened registration for our annual Spring Break Escape camps for ages 4-14!

Also, look out for Art Trekkers news in the coming months – we redesign this class every summer, and this spring in our atrium you’ll see a collaborative installation by our summer 2015 instructor Melanie Kehoss and her Art Trekking campers!


March 30 - May 26, 2024

NO GRIDS NO MASTERS: a Post-Cartesian Experiment is an exploration and contestation of the grid and the structured set of worldviews that are embedded in it. Incorporating digital and traditional weaving, sculpture, found objects, and transformed cast materials, the installation reflects the artist’s intense engagement with material.

Artist Talk: Clarissa Pezone

Saturday / May 18 / 3pm-4pm

Pushing the possibilities of clay, Clarissa Pezone creates human and animal figures that are lifelike yet suffused with a sense of mystery. At this talk with the artist, she will discuss The Woods of No Name, her solo exhibition on view at the museum through May 26.

Federico Cuatlacuatl: Tiaxcas Intergalácticxs, Topileastronáuticxs

April 6 - May 26, 2024

In experimental film and multimedia installation, Federico Cuatlacuatl explores transborder indigenous Nahua identities. His work envisions indigenous futurity as a means of thinking about history, diasporic legacies, and cultural identities.