Hilton Head fifth-graders create Peter Max-style self-portraits

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comApril 18, 2012 

For fifth-graders at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts who were painting their self-portraits this week, The colors of choice were electric blue and or neon orange.

After all, those are the choices artists Peter Max, known for his psychedelic art awash in bold colors, would have used.

"They're supposed to have a cosmic look to them," Kolby Minckler said. "So I added lots of colors."

The portraits feature a kaleidoscope of bright hues and emphasize bold lines. Each of the about 160 students modeled their work on Max's painting "Mystic Sailing."

Students said having the ability to give themselves purple hair or hot pink skin was different from their normal art class projects.

"Usually we use normal colors, not whatever we want," Henry Pitts said. "It was hard to mess this up because you could go in any direction."

The projects, which students have worked on for several weeks, were inspired by the upcoming Max exhibit at Karis Gallery on Hilton Head Island. The artist will be at the gallery for receptions. A field trip to see the exhibit is scheduled for the students.

"They can see a work come full circle, from the process of production to putting it in a gallery," art teacher Sylvia Pitts said. "Plus they can see someone make a living from art."

Some of the students will get to live out that progression: 18 student works will be on display at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina beginning this weekend.

Students said they enjoyed not only creating the art, but learning more about Max. Several said they had never heard of him before Sylvia Pitts gave them a brief biography, and showed them works from the five decades he has been painting.

"It became real for them. He's not just someone in art history. He's someone still making art history," she said.

One story stood out from Max's life in the students' minds. Fifth-grader Morgan Caramello said that when Max was a child, his mother encouraged his creativity by scattering art supplies around the house and allowing him to create when and where he felt inspired. Then, his mom would clean up after him, she said.

Would the students' moms do that for them?

No way, they said.

But they're getting a dose of creativity at school.

"It taught us to be unique, and be yourself," Caitlin Rapp said of the project. "(Max) is not like other artists."

Related content

  1. Peter Max's website
  2. Karis Art Gallery
  3. Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

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