The path leads out to the lawn, which sprawls up to the studios. The huge garage doors are raised; the studios have become part of the environment. We wander in and out of them talking, joking, meeting, waiting. Our first activity is to draw the name of a fellow camper a hat and make them a nametag. People share scissors, glue, and magazine clippings. We get to know each other. Later that night we play Extreme Pictionary, teams organized by dorm. With my new dorm mates, I spend most of that night talking, joking, blasting tunes.
The next morning, cold and clear, we all stumble to the dining hall, slumping into chairs and wake up with jibes, laughter and new friends. The crisp ring of a gong breaks the jovial screeches. The day is outlined, the counselors introduced and the opportunity to “bravo” one another.
Pulling on hoodies and hats, we clear out of our dorms and onto the grass lawn first, and then into the studios where we will attend our classes. These are held in the massive, garage-like structures near the lawn: concrete floors splattered with paint, ink, scraps, and dried plaster. The walls are bare or covered in art, stained with paint and stacked with supplies. The teachers flood us with concepts, theories, and beautiful art, not all of it the stuffy old masters traditionally taught. These are drawings, paintings, and sculptures that speak to the emotions. This is real art. This is the main focus of the classes; real art.
Our teachers challenge us, the capacity of our skills and imaginations, to recreate our own emotions. On paper. On canvas. Out of tape in 3D. On Photoshop and iMovie. We challenge each other during peer critiques, in our dorms while madly scribbling in our sketchbooks. All too soon we are faced with the pinnacle challenge of the two week program; Final Projects.
We are challenged to compose vision statements, in series of frenzied conversations with our counselors, friends, late nights pouring over inspirational material, and vision statement workshops. Once our plans are formulated and the energy level is jacked up superhigh we are assigned studios to work in and faculty advisors to mentor the last leg of our two-week journey.
These projects become struggles with our own artistic styles and the viable mutilation of inspiration and public reception that is what so much modern art is based upon. We each ride highs and lows of the creation process, crashing for maybe a whole day, soaring for perhaps all six.
Finally the pieces are hung, pinned up, or otherwise displayed. Hoards of family, friends, and alum crowd the walkways, paths, pads, and lawn up to the studios. They have been converted into a series of galleries for this climactic evening. Hugs and handshakes. Explanations and theoretical conversations. Admiring friends finished pieces.
As soon as proud guests clear out, we all head to the final campfire. This is our last chance to reflect on our accomplishments and bond as a group. Stumbling back to the dorms, happy and exhausted. Crawling to the couches and cranking up the tunes one last time, discussing what we’ll be doing the coming school year, when we’ll all hang out next.
Guest Writer – Max Saalisi
Max is an alumnus of the Oxbow Summer Camp.