Abstraction around the heart


From oil paintings to massive glass structures, abstraction colors the contemporary art world. The Abstraction movement, which is also referred to as Abstract Expressionism, challenges viewers by connecting works with ideas and emotions, rather than displaying a literal image. At Sacred Heart Greenwich, students create abstract pieces, and illustrate critical inquiry through the art department.

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí 1931; Oil on Canvas
Courtesy of moma.org

Abstraction as an artistic movement arose in New York City in the 1940s and 50s in response to the violence and tension of World War II and the Cold War. Since then, what qualifies as abstract art has expanded to include a wide range of symbolic, expressive works, according to theartstory.org.
“Abstract art is more of a window into an artist’s soul or feelings than non-abstract art. Every line or stroke or splatter has some sort of reason or purpose, and every feeling the viewer has about it is equally valid,” senior and Advanced Placement (AP) Studio Art student Andy Bella said.
A subgenre within the Abstract Expressionism movement is Surrealism. Surrealism juxtaposes two or more conventional images in unexpected and thought-provoking ways.
Artists employing Surrealism use large or warped shapes and bold colors to evoke emotion within viewers. For example, Mr. Salvador Dalí, a well-known surrealist painter, depicted contemporary technology such as clocks and telephones in unexpected ways as a form of social commentary. 
Persian Pond and Fiori, by Dale Chihuly, melds with the environment of the gardens. Daisy Steinthal ’19

“Abstract art, and especially Surrealism, fosters a new way of looking at things and encourages questions that are fundamental to our understanding of the world around us, which I think is an important aspect of being students and engaged citizens,” senior and AP Studio Art Student Nina Rosenblum said.
Artists also explore Surrealism through sculpture. Mr. Dale Chihuly, a contemporary sculptor, combines art with various plant life to form an atypical environment in his current exhibit at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Gardens. The natural beauty of the gardens inspired Mr. Chihuly’s display of massive glass sculptures, according to nybg.orgThe artworks both blend into various floral environments and create a stark contrast between the artificial and organic.
Nina Rosenblum ’18 explores societal expectations of art through abstract paintings such as this ink piece.
Nina Rosenblum ’18

This year, Sacred Heart Upper School art students focus on abstract projects. Currently, juniors taking Advanced Portfolio are creating abstract paintings, expanding on samples of famous artworks. The juniors also created abstract prints in their sophomore year in the Drawing and Painting course. These prints are now on display along the Upper School hallway. Last year, freshmen Foundations of Art students participated in an abstraction unit. These works are currently hanging at the entrance of the School Chapel. 
“I feel that all students should learn about abstract art as part of a well-rounded education. A person may not be drawn to that style of art but should be open-minded and try to understand what the artist intended,” Upper School Art Teacher, Mrs. Paula Westcott said. “Seeing art in person can help the viewer to be drawn in by the luminous color or scale of a piece that would not be possible to see in books or online.”
Sacred Heart senior artists apply abstraction in their portfolios for AP Studio Art. Andy and Nina, for example, combine figure drawings, forming abstract works that question traditional expectations of art. Their goals are to encourage viewers to think more deeply about the intention behind the pieces.
Nina strives to create art which illustrates a deep inquiry of societal values through the symbolic shapes and composition of her pieces.
A spread from Andy Bella’s ’18 current sketchbook.
Daisy Steinthal ’19

“‘Why is this art?’ is such an important question because it makes the public viewer challenge their understanding of art and its purpose,” Nina said. “In my art, I try to break down forms of an object into compositional structures that give ideas a place in our image-driven world and hopefully cause a reaction in the viewer that compels to action or realization to some degree. Creating art in an abstract way is so freeing because it helps me express my feelings in a way that has no limit to possibility.”

“I try to incorporate abstraction into my work mainly through my sketchbook. My sketchbook work is a lot more freeform and messy than my other work,” Andy said. “That being said, my sketches let me express myself more than my other work. So, abstraction is of pretty great value to me because it creates an outlet for emotions that I wouldn’t be able to express otherwise.”

-Daisy Steinthal, Photo Editor and Features Editor