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Metaphorical Animal Sculptures Inhabiting the Middle School
by Rebecca Dame-Seidler, Middle School Art Teacher and BCIL Curriculum Innovator & Collaborator

Look all around the next time you enter the Middle School Library...hiding on book shelves, flying above your head, and helping the librarians do their work, you'll find a collection of animals and insects embodying the personalities of some 7th and 8th Grade students. My classes were recently challenged with identifying an animal or insect that implies a metaphorical connection to their personality, and then transforming the concept into a freestanding three-dimensional sculpture. And now the "spirit animals" have found a home on the 3rd Floor.

In class, we started by discussing how Native American culture creates animal totems connected to specific spirit animals that are meant to act as a guide throughout one's life. We share and discuss Chinese and Western zodiac symbols and animals/insects that we see often or are drawn towards and the reasons why. Students wrote a brief explanation of their personal connections to the chosen animal/insect and explained their reasoning for realistic or unrealistic color applications.  

Students used paper armature with paper mache overlay as their medium, forcing them to think three-dimensionally and create a sculpture "in the round."  It's a challenge for those who are used to creating in a two-dimensional world. The color application was open to each student's interpretation but had to be explained, along with the metaphorical parallel between the student and the animal or insect characteristics. Free-standing and at least 12 inches in height or width, the sculptures were inspired by two artists: Sayaka Ganz, a female Japanese artist who creates works inspired by her Shinto animist beliefs that all items have a soul. She uses discarded items found in thrift stores among other places and uses those materials to make up an animal; and Will Kurtz, a male German-American artist who creates life-sized paper-mache animal sculptures. 

I was so happy the sculptures found a home in the new Middle School Library. "We are thrilled to have sculptures from Ms. Dame-Seidler's class on display," said Jessica James, Middle School Librarian. "Our goal has always been to be a place where you can take in visual, written, and auditory forms of art—and having our shelves display these beautiful pieces is perfect. And because the library is such a vibrant community gathering space, students are able to really enjoy and experience their classmates' artwork!"

Artwork by: Ruby M. ’24

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