Fall 2008

Unnatural Nature: Skidmore’s Freshman Perspective

By Elaine Burns and Melanie de Fiore —

As you rush to get to your first class on time, ever pause to wonder what those sculptures in front of Case Center are all about? This fall, two pre-orientation groups were given a head start on exploring Skidmore’s campus and downtown Saratoga and in the process created memorable art through movie technology and 3-D collages. Not only did the Tabula Rasa and Behind-the-Scenes of the Tang Museum pre-orientation groups get a sneak peak into college life, but the students also were challenged to apply the idea of creative thinking through the making of separate projects inspired by the themes of Dean Snyder’s exhibit at the Tang Museum. Both groups were given the opportunity to discover the educational and artistic features of the Tang and all that it has to offer to Skidmore students and outside visitors alike.

Although both groups explored all of the current exhibits at the museum, the students concentrated mainly on Dean Snyder’s “Almost Blue” exhibition. The sculptures on display represented a mixture of organic and hightech materials. Carbon fibers and steel made up most of the exterior portions of the sculptures and the shapes of the figures closely resembled those found in nature. Because of this clear clash between organic and inorganic, students of both groups applied this theme to their separate projects. Behind-the-Scenes of the Tang participant, Tucker Costello describes the pieces as, “being mechanically alive” and used this inspiration to create his group’s iMovie, “Organic vs. Inorganic”. The Tabula Rasa group crafted three sculptures based on the theme “Unnatural Nature” which permeated Dean Snyder’s work. Using industrial materials ranging from cans, foam, and wires; to organic materials of leaves and rocks, the groups created pieces that tied together seemingly disparate elements to create works that mimickednature. Says Aliza Chimene-Weiss of her group’s piece; “We really wanted to make a tree, somewhat reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’s trees.” As all artists though, “we encountered a lot of problems; there is no way we could have anticipated our big golden blob [sculpture], but I think it’s a nice addition to Skidmore.”

After close observation of Dean Snyder’s sculptures, the students of the Behind-the-Scenes group took their inspiration and transferred it into a different medium: film. In groups of three and four, the students discussed the ideas they formulated from Snyder’s work and agreed on a theme on which their subsequent iMovie was inspired by. For two days, the groups took photos and video recordings of different objects both on and off campus that related to the theme of their movie. One movie was a montage of materials that appeared to be liquid, but in fact are not. Another movie was based on the collection of objects that reflected both shapes that were organic and inorganic. Tucker Costello’s group used the pieces to inspire a movie that “explored nature by looking at the unnatural in nature. Tucker’ groups biggest challenge “was really deciding how to put everything together so we could get across our message…the editing process.”

These pre-orientation experiences are just two examples of how Skidmore students are actively engaged in a community that fosters creative thought.

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