At Sequoyah’s high school, in the SAS Art class, students have the opportunity to develop their artistic skills. Aimee Zvinakis, the SAS Art teacher this year, explains how “SAS Art is a semester-long class and it is really geared more towards serious student artists who perhaps have the inkling that they might want to apply to art school or even major in art at a big university.”
In the course, students were introduced to a variety of different projects in order to stretch themselves and improve their skills over three units. These units were: Personal Story, Identity, or Home, Gaze, and Choose Your Theme. The Gaze unit seemed to stand out to students the most due to its freedom of expression, endless possibilities, and interesting theme. Most agreed that it was an interesting project that allowed lots of room for creativity.
“The majority of students really did resonate with the ‘gaze’ for project two,” says Zvinakis, explaining that “the ‘gaze’ is about who’s looking at the work. Who is the artwork for? And if that’s the case, who are the subjects in the work and how are they being portrayed?” Zvinakis noted that the appeal of the project for her students was that “They can make it what they want, and they also can look at their own contextual facts around them in magazines, in movies, in TV shows, and ask, how are people like me portrayed? And am I seen as an individual in a full range of ways?”
At the end of the day, the Gaze unit allowed students to explore the way they see people, objects, or cultural norms and to test out new techniques of expressing those observations.
In her piece Surveillance, Collette Wilson ’23 aimed to convey “perspective and surveillance present in our society, as well as the female gaze.” To achieve this effect, she began creating a pattern and crocheting a giant eyeball using yarn and stuffing, measuring approximately 4 x 5 x 1.5 feet. Though she had crocheted many times before, Wilson believes that this project stretched her due to the scale of the eye she decided to create.“ I do a lot of crochet stuff but I think that is the biggest thing that I’ve done. It was a lot of just ‘I’m still going. Creating this rectangle,’ and then also making sure to record my stitches.”
Additionally, two other pieces that stood out to Zvinakis were Nudity by Charlotte Dumont and Cybergaze by Ulysses Spencer and Marisol Prietto.
Nudity by Charlotte Dumont originated from a quote by an art historian named John Berger, who expressed the idea that “nudity is another form of dress” due to its connection to women and how they are portrayed in movies and TV shows as an object of desire. Dumont took this idea and created the piece Nudity using her body as a stamp on a hand-sewed jumpsuit; she presented it for Talking Leaves this fall and wore it for Exhibition Night.
Finally, Cybergaze by Ulysses Spencer and Marisol Prietto focused on facial recognition and DNA. Zvinakis shared that “It’s basically the whole idea that Uly or Marisol or anybody who wanted to, could walk around with this screen-printed flat face, their face totally being covered and no camera would be able to pick up who they were.” To add to the project, Prietto and Spencer also collected objects such as cigarette butts and hair which contain bits of DNA in order to solidify their idea of human recognition.
Overall, the Gaze project allowed students to explore the inner workings of society and express those aspects through their creativity. It also provided them with the skills to move forward in their art career.