(Posted April 15, 2020)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
One might look at Caleb Herrli’s sculpture of a fantastical insect-like creature and think, “That’s pretty cool.” But what would they say when they learn it’s made of real animal bones?
“It’s eerie and quite awesome!”
That’s what Stacey Hallowes, art teacher at London High School, says about Herrli’s creation, one of six art pieces made by Madison County students to land in the top 300 of this year’s Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition competition.
Not surprisingly, this is the first time one of Hallowes’ students has used animal bones as an art medium. She said the idea, the preparation, and the creative process were fascinating, if not a little offputting. Herrli put the details in a description accompanying the piece.
“Towards the end of my junior year in high school, I had the idea for a sculpture made out of animal bones,” wrote the senior, who lives on land populated by wildlife. “Soon after that, I collected the corpses of a deer, raccoon and a snapping turtle and buried them in my backyard.”
Four months later, after the animals had decomposed, he dug up the bones and soaked them for three weeks in buckets filled with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water.
“Once I had soaked and cleaned the bones a total of three times, I brought them into school and began planning my creature,” Herrli continued. “I selected bones that would create the shape I was going for, incorporating all three animals’ bones into different sections of the body.”
A metal wire provided a framework and support, allowing Herrli to grind down the bones to achieve the desired shape. Adhesives made the creature into a solid structure. He went with a Latin-inspired name for the creature and the piece as a whole, “C. Lotorians.”
Four other London High School students also made the competition’s top 300. While Herrli used the most unique medium, his classmates also weren’t shy about using a variety of materials and techniques, including embroidery, charcoal, glass, and ceramics.
“That’s what’s so great about my job. The students aren’t afraid to try things. It represents how well-rounded they are,” Hallowes said.
Ciara Cooney’s “The River Stitch” is a study in summer fun, presented intricately through thread. Using an embroidery hoop as a frame, the London senior stitched a circular river bordered inside and out by green land. Looking closely, one sees girls in bathing suits in the water, some floating in inner tubes.
“Ciara is extremely good with small work. This involved her sewing hours upon hours to get everything right,” Hallowes said. “You have to study it and really look at it to appreciate how much detail and time went into it.”
Whereas Cooney went small, London junior Lindsay Logue went big, creating “A Day at Balkan City,” a glass mosaic measuring roughly 16×20 inches.
Originally, Logue planned to create a smaller, three-dimensional stained glass project but switched gears. The glass mosaic route led her down a time-consuming but ultimately rewarding path.
“She’s really good at pushing herself and trying new things,” Hallowes said.
Emily Lutz, a junior at London, used charcoal and conte (another form of charcoal) to great effect in her piece, “Visceral,” featuring a flowing mass of interlocking faces.
“It’s on black paper, so she drew with white. She used a soft brush to blend and make things softer and smoother and added black for depth,” Hallowes said. “Her thing is 2-D art. She loves to draw.”
Sophomore Derek Moore, also from London High School, plotted out his ceramics piece, “Lighthouse,” with precision.
He fired the lighthouse in two separate pieces; he ground down a glass beaker to fit between the pieces and serve as the light; and he made the base hollow to allow light to shine through windows in the base.
“Derek knows what he wants and figures it out so that it ends successfully. He is very detail-oriented,” Hallowes said.
Detail and imagination shine in Sophia Tonti’s “Shoe-Billed Stork,” a piece the Jonathan Alder High School senior created as part of her independent art study with teacher Jennifer Moore.
Tonti earned the opportunity to take a self-directed art course this year by taking most of the art classes offered at Jonathan Alder and excelling in them. Over last summer, she came up with the idea of taking animal names literally and turning them into whimsical versions of the real thing–like a bottle-nosed dolphin with a bottle for a nose and, as in her winning piece, a shoe-billed stork with a shoe for a bill.
“She came up with a whole series,” said Moore, who at first balked at Tonti’s idea to do them all in colored pencil.
Moore worried that the medium wouldn’t allow for enough detail and depth, so she asked Tonti to do a test drawing. The result was more than enough to win Moore over. Tonti spent the school year bringing her fun animals to life.
Both Moore and Hallowes are proud of their students for winning spots in the top 300 of the 2020 Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition. At the same time, they are sad.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, organizers of the competition cancelled the awards ceremony and are unsure if they will be able to hold the exhibition, which usually take place at the Rhodes Tower in Columbus.
While the students may be missing out on the spotlight, their teachers are still beaming.
“Those kiddos rocked it,” Hallowes said.