Childlike wonder and adult sensibility: Green Socks and Goodnight Stars

THE BROCK PRESS/Steve Nadon

THE BROCK PRESS/Steve Nadon

Green Socks and Goodnight Stars or Chaussettes vertes et bonne nuit, les étoiles is currently open at Rodman Hall, featuring both paintings and prose aimed towards children, and created by Brock University students.

Since January, Visual Arts and French Studies students have been creating complementary pieces of text and visual images in order to fill Rodman Hall with short stories for children that pull narratives from within the paintings. This collaboration was facilitated by Brock University faculty members Catherine Parayre and Shawn Serfas.

“The students were asked to challenge traditional approaches to children’s illustrations which bordered abstraction and representation,” said Serfas. “They tried to make interesting work for both children and mature audiences.”

“Students in ‘Intermediate Painting’ (Visual Arts) started working in the fall; students in ‘Children’s Literature in French’ started much later, in January,” said Parayre. “This type of cooperation is quite challenging, as the two classes met and exchanged, but never actually worked together in the same place.”

“When we installed the exhibit, we were careful to highlight this non-coincidence by showing concretely that the texts were added at a late stage to the artworks,” said Parayre.

Vibrant colours, interesting images and mixed media highlight the strangeness, complexity and creativity within the works. Even the text is displayed in new and interesting ways, such as in the piece “A Twelve Pack Donuts on a Friday Night” by Jessica Wright, the text by Evan Arseneau, Alyssa Berardocco, Madison Lucio and Rhiannon White was written on a pair of blue jeans hung beneath the painting.

The fact that the text was developed by French Studies students means that there may be a language barrier standing between the observer and the text itself, but that also adds to the appeal of the exhibit.

“Shawn and I never doubted that our two classes could work on a common project,” said Parayre, “although most students in the studio class are anglophones while students in the literature course speak French. In fact, we think that the combination of two languages adds a sense of fun, but also mystery.”

The exhibit also attracted the attention of Francophone and French Immersion schools in the Niagara region, as students examined the display for themselves. Therefore, the children’s literature did not only present a pedagogical learning opportunity for the student creators, but for French students throughout the region as well.

“It’s important for me to show that French is used outside the classroom”, said Parayre. “Personally, being able to conduct this project with a group in visual arts is a great opportunity to be exposed to different ways of learning and producing meaning. I am grateful to Shawn Serfas for opening his studio class to my students and myself.”

“The main objective was to have our students collaborate and share ideas,” said Serfas. “[In that regard] I think the exhibition is highly successful.”

This exhibit represents one of few occasions that the VISA and FREN Departments have connected, resulting in new and engaging experiences for the students of both faculties.

“As a Concurrent Education student specializing in French I had never encountered the Arts department before, therefore being invited into Visual Arts classroom this year was a completely new experience,” said Karly Knight, a French student that worked on Green Socks. “The differences in departments were surprising, everything from the physical arrangement of the room, to the projects given. It was entering a completely new realm of the University that I didn’t know existed, which really validated the idea of multiple intelligences. It was rewarding to see our collaborative efforts, and our multiple intelligences come together in order to create the exhibit.”

The exhibit, Green Socks and Goodnight Stars will be on display at Rodman Hall until Feb. 28. There will be a closing reception at Rodman Hall at 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 27. Rodman Hall allows free admission for all students and members of the community. For more information on upcoming exhibits, visit brocku.ca/rodman-hall

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