In the fall, as the academic year commences, Headmaster Dennis Manning stands at the podium of the Johnson Theater and directs a pointed question at an often surprised member of the senior class: “Do you know the meaning of tabula rasa?”
The senior gulps and then digs deep into memories of Latin classes in the Middle School and musters up the correct translation; Mr. Manning compliments the student and take that cue to remind all students of the opportunities ahead through turning the “blank slate” of the year into a journey filled with purpose.
Artists in the Class of 2019 took inspiration from this tradition and named the final Senior Exhibit “Tabula Rasa;” the gallery statement notes the origin in the highly anticipated tradition, and it further states: “Our blank slate begins to fill with many wonderful things on our first day of life– our new world consists entirely of the senses of light, color, texture, shape, sound, smell, and taste. We must dream of these things in our first night’s sleep. No wonder they become the fundamental elements of all the world’s art.”
The show features the widely varied work of 16 artists in the senior class; pieces range from intricate pencil drawings of cities to large abstract paintings, as well as sculptures in paper, wood, and metal. Students have incorporated car doors, windows, paperback books, and old television sets into their artistic creations.
The exhibit arrives in the context of an explosion of interest in studio art at Norfolk Academy; 81 students were enrolled in studio art or art history courses this year; the courses are taught by Mr. Knox Garvin and Mr. Greg Barton.
Most of the seniors in the show have taken three years of studio art courses.While the students in studio art complete some teacher-directed assignments in core artistic skills, such as figure drawing, perspective studies, and sketchbook work, they also pursue projects that are completely self-directed, with art teachers providing guidance. The students are also guided by whole class critique sessions, which help them refine their visions.
“These are not teacher-driven assignments,” Garvin noted. “These are student-driven inquiry. Each student is on an independent journey. That is how real artists do it.”
“Tabula Rasa” in the Perrel Gallery of the John H. Tucker Jr. Art Center will be open through Upper School graduation. Please come by and explore!