Introducing the 2020 D-Eco-Self Intern: Justin DeMattico is a studio art major pursuing his B.A. at Monmouth University. He has a background in all types of mediums including charcoal/graphite, clay sculpting, digital media, intaglio, and acrylic/oil paint to name a few but strongly prefers working in oils. A strong influence in some of his work is his faith and love for nature and animals. He is interested in the Discovering the Ecological Self project due to his interest in nature and how humans not only influence the world around them but interpret them through symbolism and alternative meanings. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, DeMattico worked on the new D-Eco Self social media, merchandise and blog posts. In the future, DeMattico would like to become a professor at a university and help others discover and hone their love for art as well. Working with students like those from Aslan Youth Ministry on this project is beneficial in learning how to teach topics like these as well as bridging topics like the environment and art together in a classroom setting.
Each year, D-Eco-Self forms a collaboration between the Monmouth University Sculpture 2 students and the Aslan Youth Ministry ten to twelve year old group. Usually this is a series of 6-8 afternoon workshops that focus on a specific topic related to the Ecological Self. This year, Day 1 with Aslan Youth Ministry, we discussed humans and our relationship to nature. After being introduced to the project and the mission of Discovering the Ecological Self, both Monmouth and Aslan students gathered to come up with words that represented both nature and people. The goal of this exercise was to get all the participants thinking about what the distinctions between nature and our everyday lives were and if any, what overlaps there may be. There were many words brainstormed but a few stood out amongst the rest. On the nature side, students said words like sun, wind, bees, stars, etc. For the human column, one of the Aslan children said the word “subjects.” Other human words included makeup, buildings, religion and technology. The concept of subjects really jumped out from all the rest because subjects within learning are purely a mechanism of human thought, many aspects of learning overlap but humans separate them for ease of learning.
After this exercise, Aslan children were partnered up with Monmouth students to either create a large drawing/collage depicting these concepts of either nature or humans. The nature drawing depicted things like mountains, fish, large animals, and even lightening. The humans group had images such as cars, artwork, money, and jewelry. Pairing the two side by side after completion allowed everyone involved to view the distinct differences and come up with ways to bridge them together. One student proposed “planting grass, flowers, and trees on the tops of buildings.” Others wrote that we should stop pollution of our air and oceans, have teachers bring students outside for class, and set up animal sanctuaries within cities. To wrap up our first meeting, we all said one thing we learned today from our exploration of humans and nature. Aslan students had very interesting things to say. One of the girls said that animals are going extinct and that animals are not surviving well in cities as more expand. Some of the other students said that they were not going into nature enough and that there are more ways to get into nature than they originally thought.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States this was the only session we were fortunate enough to have with the students. The university was promptly closed and for the safety of everyone, any further meetings with Aslan were not possible. The program will resume next spring 2021.