Justin DeMattico – 2020 D-Eco-Self Intern

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.

Nature/Humans – 2020 D-Eco-Self and Aslan Youth Ministry Collaboration

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.

D-Eco-Self Trees Exhibition 2019

2019 D-Eco Self theme was Trees. Monmouth University, AR 218 Sculpture 2 class collaborated with Aslan Youth Ministry for Discovering the Ecological Self, as well as on their own individual artworks. Monmouth University seniors Grace Roeder and Taylor Donovan volunteered their time to guide the science teachings, with support from Assistant Biology Professor Dr. Pedram Daneshgar. Students from Callas’ AR 218 Sculpture II course have helped mentor the Aslan youths on their artwork.

 

The sculpture students built an installation that was exhibited at Monmouth University’s art gallery along with other artwork from throughout the D-Eco-Self workshops. The installation, titled “Trees! Oxygen is important!” reminds us that humans and trees are connected.

 

Below, you can read their artist statement for a more detailed description of their exhibit:

 

Trees: Oxygen is Important! Artist Statement

This year, Sculpture II students collaborated with MU Science students, Aslan Youth Ministry, and other volunteers in, Discovering the Ecological Self, to learn more in depth about the topic of trees. Through weekly workshops, the MU Science and sculpture students presented fun lectures on specific aspects of trees that inspired multiple art projects and brought us closer to nature. These projects discussed how humans make symbolic meaning around trees and emphasized the impact that humans have on nature, specific to trees.

In response to their work with Aslan and the science collaborators, the sculpture students designed the installation, “Trees: Oxygen is Important!” There is a natural relationship that we, as humans, have with trees. We breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen whereas trees do the opposite. This installation emphasizes that connection, in which the students crafted an indoor canopy using fallen tree branches. From this canopy, hangs oxygen masks to remind visitors of the importance of trees to sustaining life. The artwork that accompanies the installation was made by the Aslan and sculpture II students.

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Discovering the Ecological Self is a multi-institutional Social Practice art project designed by artist, Kimberly Callas, to foster environmental stewardship, create environmental leaders and Social Practice artists. Through researching and creating art from personally and culturally significant nature-based symbols, patterns, and images, we re-awaken our deep relationship with nature. As we explore this relationship, we discover new understandings of ourselves and our place in the universe. This project is made possible by Monmouth University and our funders, The Pollination Project and Urban Coast Institute.

 

For a full gallery of images and artwork from the entire 2019 D-Eco-Self Trees, click here. 

Student Scholarship Week – D-Eco-Self 2019

AR 218 Sculpture 2 Students participated in the 2019 Service Learning Scholarship Week Poster Session sharing their work about their D-Eco-Self collaboration project and artworks that they made with Aslan Youth Ministry and MU Science. Denice Michalchuk, our D-Eco-Self 2019 Research Assistant, created the poster, and Daniella Russo, our D-Eco-Self 2019 Project Assistant, presented to a packed crowd during the event.

To view pictures of images and artwork check out the gallery or read the blog posts!

A Walk Through Weltz Park 2019

We went for a nature walk through Weltz Park, where the science students identified different things that we had previously learned about trees. They showed us the different stages of growth in plants and trees throughout the park. Some of the new things we learned about trees were specific to this landscape. We learned about an invasive species in the park that kills trees. After learning about the nature in Weltz Park and coming closer to the end of the walk, we used tracing paper to make frottage, or rubbings, of fallen leaves and the bark on different trees. This is a technique of art that allows an artist to copy the texture of its subject. As a result, we felt closer to nature because we got to learn about the nature that exists locally in our community.

 

For a full gallery of images and artwork from the entire 2019 D-Eco-Self Trees, click here. 

Tree Rings=Lifespan 2019

The science students taught us about the life cycle of a tree, as well as dendrochronology, the study of tree rings. Each year a mature tree develops another tree ring, so when a tree is chopped down, we can count approximately how many years it has been alive.

 

We then learned about the symbolism of different colors in art, and how those colors are used in art throughout the ages. For example, in some paintings and artwork yellow symbolizes happiness, so we looked at Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh, or pink represents femininity, as in Dancers in Pink by Degas, as well as other pieces. We then brought these two concepts together in order to create our own colorful tree rings. Each tree ring is assigned to an important person in the student’s life, from childhood to the present. Assigning a color based on its symbolic meaning to each person, each tree ring is unique to each individual.

 

For a full gallery of images and artwork from the entire 2019 D-Eco-Self Trees, click here. 

Seeds=Potential 2019

We took a trip to the greenhouse on Monmouth University campus, once there, the science students exchanged thoughts regarding the importance of roots, and how they provide a tree with the water it needs to grow. They also discussed how water travels like pathways through the tree to evenly distribute water. Trees also bare leaves and fruit from their branches.

 

When we returned to the classroom, we looked at botanical drawings which were once a way of documenting herbs and their medicinal purposes. By taking inspiration from these drawings in how the roots, seed and plant are shown, we made our own botanical drawings on scrolls. Using gouache paint, we painted a seed to represent our hopes and dreams. From the seeds grow an imagined plant that represents the accomplishment of that hope or dream. The roots that extend below each plant creates a foundation for the seed to grow.

 

For a full gallery of images and artwork from the entire 2019 D-Eco-Self Trees, click here. 

The Seasons 2019

There are many characteristics of a tree that we as humans can draw meaning from, as well as relate to our lives. Through studies regarding the science and symbolism in art, we have learned more about our relationship with nature.

 

We related the seasons to our own life cycles by looking at how a tree reacts to each season. The beginning of life is represented through spring, which is a time when trees begin to bloom with flowers and all living creatures are born and begin to grow. The summer is when trees begin to produce fruit and receive the most amount of sun. This is when trees do the most of their growing, so we related it to our youthful years of childhood to early adulthood. In autumn, the leaves on a tree begin to change color because they produce less chlorophyll, thereby turning the leaves yellow, orange and red. Eventually, the leaves fall off its branches which relates to adulthood and growing older. The last season, winter, is when the trees have no leaves. Since there’s little sun in the winter, it takes too much energy to grow and maintain leaves, so, instead, the trees stay dormant until spring. Together we read the poem, Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams, and related this season to the end of life, but a hope for new life again.

 

Our art project was a collage using color aid paper. The students made one tree that showed both spring and summer, then another collage of a tree that showed fall and winter. They were then able to use different colors from each of the seasons for their tree collages.

For a full gallery of images and artwork from the entire 2019 D-Eco-Self Trees, click here. 

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