Dirt=Time by Jeff Mather in collaboration with the On Site Team and "Think With Your Senses, Feel With Your Mind"
The following, taken from the Dirt=Time Proposal, describes this collaborative project that involved 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 11th grade students:
From the cultural significance of Georgia's famed Etowah Indian Mounds to England's White Horse of Uffington to contemporary artists such as Robert Smithson—whose famed "Spiral Jetty" will last for years—people have used the simplest of materials, such as dirt and rocks, to make culturally and scientifically significant art. These unusual structures can last for centuries and are often surrounded by mystery; why did the ancient people of England carve the symbol of a huge horse in the earth that can only be seen from the air? How did they do it? Because we don't always know the answers, earth art becomes the intersection of archeology, natural science, anthropology, sociology, math, and art history. Rather than just studying these historical sites out of the dry pages of a text book, this project takes elementary students on a journey that employs interdisciplinary skills to construct their own rammed-earth art. Using photos of the school taken from different angles, they will employ linear perspective, the Pythagorean Theorem, and geometry to create a compelling modern sculpture made out of dirt. Acclaimed artist Jeff Mather, also known as "Mr. Space-man" because he gets kids to think about three-dimensional space, teaches students about muscle memory and how drawing is "thinking with the body," which helps them overcome self-critical thoughts that often inhibit the creative process. The fun starts as the students learn how to use tools and cooperate with each other, building the forms and then pounding a special combination of sand and dirt into them until they can be removed--revealing a free-standing, rammed-earth sculpture. Afterwards, students analyze their rammed-earth sculputres as they slowly erode over time—learning about geology and archeology in the process.
Math: Pythagorean Theorem, linear perspective, geometry, applied multiplication/division, fractions, area, etc.
Science: Nature sciences, including ecology (erosion, weather), geology
Social Studies: Anthropology, Archeology, cultural history
Art: Earth art, site-specific art, Minimalsim, contemporary art
Parental Involvement: I expect this project to attract parents both in the planning/execution phases and also when it debuts at the city-wide art show in April. Because this project is unusual and does not conform to what people expect when they hear the word "art," they will be curious to understand and experience it--which is the whole point of contemporary art, i.e. to challenge people's expectations in a fun or intriguing way while simultaneously expanding intellectual horizons (through interdisciplinary connections or unusual insights).
Students with disabilities were involved in all phases of the planning and building of this temporary site-specific work.
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