Power Figures Dominate Highland’s Courtyard

Power+figures+as+well+as+other+art+pieces+were+placed+around+Highland%27s+courtyard.++
Power figures as well as other art pieces were placed around Highland's courtyard.

Power figures as well as other art pieces were placed around Highland's courtyard.

Power figures as well as other art pieces were placed around Highland's courtyard.

Kat Schilling, Staff Writer

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Scattered around Highland are many art pieces that were on display for Tartan Festival.  Among these impressive pieces of art are a series of statues sitting, unexplained, beneath one of the trees in the courtyard.

The statues are over a foot tall, all with varying heights, and were inspired by power figures in African culture, which usually have a powerful object like nails within the sculpture.  Carter Williams, the ceramics teacher at Highland, took his own take on these sculptures when assigning them to his students.

“There were two points to this assignment; the first was to work with paper clay which we hadn’t worked with before,” Williams said, “and the second was to see what peoples’ take on figures of either fertility or power would be.”

When giving this assignment to his students, Williams knew there would be three different routes that students could take to determine what their sculpture would be.  Some students chose a powerful creature that was humorous, others took a very literal route, and many of the students chose something that represents power in their own life, even if it wouldn’t do the same for others.

“I chose to create a bear for my power figure because bears are powerful,” sophomore Abigail Burdett said. “Carter said to think of something powerful, and that’s what came to mind.”

Burdett is an example of a student who chose to take this assignment very literally, which allowed her to create a very detailed figure, for she knew exactly what she wanted her piece to look like going in.

“The idea of making a bear was pretty straightforward, but it made it so that I could make my piece look exactly how I wanted it to because it was such a simple concept,” Burdett said.

There is a very wide range of sculptures sitting in the courtyard, with some pieces depicting things like pregnant women and chess pieces, and others that appear to be animals like bears and mice.  While some of the pieces like the bear and the fertility figures may not require as much explanation, Shayna Silk is one student whose sculpture needs some clarity to fully understand the meaning behind it.

“I wanted to create a classic Jewish Rabbi,” Silk said, “but because I am new to ceramics, I only had time to focus on certain aspects of my image.”

Silk chose to display two forms of power in her piece by creating both a Rabbi and a business man at the same time, to represent something that heavily influences her while showing one of the stereotypes often associated with the focus of her piece.

“Because I am Jewish, the concept of a Rabbi has had a powerful effect on me personally,” Silk said. “The stereotype that Jewish people are often involved in a business workplace puts them in a powerful position, so I decided to include that in my piece as well.”

The students were not given an abundance of time to finish these pieces, only two weeks along with a few extra days here and there, so some students, like Silk, didn’t have time to express every idea that came to their mind when thinking of an idea for this assignment.

Although Silk didn’t have the time to create the original concept she had in mind, there were parts of the simplicity that she liked.  Even though the time constraint may have been what caused the possible initial confusion on what her piece is representing, she is not too concerned with what people will think when they come across her piece.

“It was honestly kind of nice that some people might not have known what my piece was,” Silk said, “some people could have potentially gotten offended, even though that was not the purpose at all.  What I depicted in my piece was powerful to me, and that was the important part of this assignment.”

This assignment was not only a well-liked one, but it was able to really make students think and create something that empowers them and makes them excited to share their work with others.

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