“Where are you really from?” is not a simple question for Bastienne Schmidt to answer.
German-born but raised in Greece and Italy, the Bridgehampton- and New York-based multimedia artist has never pinpointed her answer to one place because she is a product of them all, she explained during a recent telephone interview.
But it was only when she posed the same question to hundreds of East End students, rolling out a scroll of blank paper in front of them, and found herself met by some equally blank stares that she realized it wasn’t as straightforward a question for them, either.
“On the one hand, students from out east have a very deep sense of belonging here, but it’s also true that students come from a lot of different places,” she said. “There’s a big influx from the Latina population, but also people from Europe and different areas. It is always very important to find a point of view on how we formulate our sense of place, coming from all these different places.”
Schmidt instructed them as follows: Create something that comes from within yourself — a place, a pattern, something of value to you — and draw it. No cartoon characters, she emphasized. Use your imagination.
And they did.
“Some people thought, ‘Let me imagine how life on another planet would look like,’ and did these topographical imaginary landscapes,” she said. “Others would start with very abstract patterns. Others would play with the idea of color, really. And then the interesting thing is, if one person would start to do something, there’s a lot of cross-inspiration going on, which I really embrace. You take up one idea or one color that one kid is doing, and transform it into something else.”
Arranged into compositions, their creations now live as 20 different scrolls — or “mind maps,” as Schmidt calls them — arranged by theme that will hang as part of the 2018 Student Exhibition, opening Saturday, February 3, at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, where the artist connected her residency there to the workshops she taught to 350 local students this past winter.
“I feel inspired, incredibly inspired, by them,” Schmidt said. “I have to say, I love teaching. It’s a very intense experience because you want to give them something, but you also realize that most of the kids are actually so open to exploring, which is much harder for grown-ups, so that’s very inspiring for me, too.
“On the other hand, I don’t think I would want to teach full-time,” she continued with a laugh. “I give teachers an incredible credit. They are unsung heroes in our society. It is a very demanding and giving job.”
Coupled with the mind maps, the exhibit will feature nearly 300 group and individual works created by pre-K students to high school seniors under the direction of their art teachers in 32 public, private and home schools — continuing a 60-year tradition that celebrates youthful imagination and boundless creativity, according to Cara Conklin-Wingfield, education director at the Parrish Art Museum.
“I think the student exhibition is important because it showcases the work of our community’s young artists and art educators. There is so much to see and everyone who visits — regardless of whether they have children exhibiting — enjoys it immensely,” she said. “The range of work demonstrates how visual art is an important means of personal expression and communication for all ages. We get great feedback from visitors who aren’t connected with schools. They really are inspired by the glimpse into what goes on in art classrooms.”
The 2018 Student Exhibition will open with a young artists reception on Saturday, February 3, from 1 to 3 p.m., followed by a high school artists reception from 3 to 5 p.m., at the Parrish Art Museum, located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. The exhibit kicks off Family Month at the museum, which features films, art workshops, performances and special programs on Fridays, and will remain on view through Sunday, March 4.
Museum admission is $12, $9 for seniors or free for members, participating educators, artists and their families. For a full schedule of Family Month programming, please call (631) 283-2118 or visit parrishart.org.