We’ve got a double feature for you this week, folks! Artist profiles of two of our very own: Abigail Taubman and Maggie Rosenberg. These city girls (both hail from the Big Apple) see the flora and fauna on Chewonki through an artist’s lens. I sat down with each artist to learn about their past experiences and what inspires their work in Art and the Natural World here at Chewonki.
Byron in pen and ink by Maggie Rosenberg
At home, Maggie takes art classes both at her school and at Parsons, The New School for Design. She has found that art at Chewonki strikes the middle ground between her art worlds at home. Parsons, she says, is a more strict environment where her instructors focus on technique, while her art teacher at school is more open to experimentation and expression. Maggie likes that her assignments at Chewonki are nicely structured, but also leave room for each student to make decisions about the scope, design, and media used to complete projects.
Above is Maggie’s illustration of Byron the Barred owl, a member of Chewonki’s Traveling Natural History team. It is not every day that a wild animal visits your classroom and poses quietly and courteously for you. Maggie admits that when it comes to subject matter, she often stays within her comfort zone, “All of those feathers were intimidating! I like to draw people. Faces have such interesting shapes, and I understand emotions in humans better than in animals.” Despite her initial hesitation, it looks like she rose to the challenge with grace. Not only was she faced with unfamiliar subject matter, she experimented with media. She started with pen and ink and then added water to make an ink wash. When I asked if this method was a new favorite, she explained that she does not lean one way or another, “I don’t really have a favorite. If you stick to one medium, you don’t know what’s out there. You limit yourself.” Maggie employs pencil, ink, graphite, charcoal, acrylic and oil paints in her work.
Students in Art and the Natural World have began an extended independent project of their own design. Maggie’s eyes lit up when I asked what her proposal for her project was. Her focus will be on the relationship between domesticated animals and their wild relatives. She will illustrate pairs of animals, including a farm-raised pig and a wild boar, and a milk cow and a bison. She will extend the comparison to humans by depicting modern day humans with their historical relatives, chimpanzees. “By creating the word ‘wild’ and giving it meaning, humans have decided what is wild and what is civilized. We tend to think of farm animals as ‘more human’ than their wild counterparts, but we forget that our livestock descended from wild ancestors. We think of ourselves as civilized. Most humans don’t regularly think about our evolution from the “wild,” and some humans don’t believe it. I am so excited about this project!”
Rainbow Chard Watercolor by Abigail Taubman
Abigail has always really liked crafty things, but she started taking art classes in middle school. Her first class was photography. She admits that in the beginning, she signed up because her friends were taking it, but has kept with it. Over the years she fell more and more in love with photography and has regularly taken two photo classes at a time. When I asked her what her favorite subjects were, she said, “Always people. I can create the interaction. There is more for the viewer to do when it’s a person because they can interpret what the subject is thinking.”
Last summer, Abigail traveled to Ireland with her camera to take part in “Art on the Farm,” a summer 3-week course at Cowhouse Studios. A sampling of her prints can be found on the Cowhouse website. Abigail is loyal to film cameras, rather than digital. She is eager to explore the possibilities in printing, “I met an artist at the Common Ground Fair who was working with tin types. I want to get into more alternative process photography.”
Art at Chewonki provides an altogether new experience for Abigail. She is excited to develop her drawing skills and get into different media. For the most part, students decide what media they will use for their assignments and projects. So far this semester students have been exposed to pencil drawing, watercolor, charcoal, pen and ink, and printmaking.
Above, Abigail displays her watercolor of a rainbow chard. It is no surprise that Abigail enjoyed the assignment, if only for the time spent at the farm. Abigail loves the farm. She loves the nature of the work, especially “the cycles large and small, the tangible results after starting something and finishing it, and the satisfaction of seeing the fruit of your labor.”
Although she dabbled in watercolor at Cowhouse, this rainbow chard is Abigail’s first work solely in watercolor. She remarks that although others get frustrated by the medium, she enjoys it, “I like watercolors because it’s easy to layer and correct mistakes. It’s flexible and forgiving.”
What is next in art for Abigail? She is excited to start block printing. Her design depicts a bird flying down low across the water.