Thursday, August 18, 2005

What do These Drawings Tell Me? By Jon Fasanelli-Cawelti

“Draw whatever you want" is all I said but no one needed me to get them going in this direction.

The participants included children from the USA group, and Kosovar children in Liz Shropshire’s music program, and children of earliest elementary age through high school from one school “ZR” in Gjakove, Dujake Village School, a Roma school within Gjakove and Slovene Village.

The drawings became mixed up deliberately when and accident upon unloading finished this project “by chance” (Marcel Duchamp would understand). There were enough examples of strength from each place as to merit unity over separation. If I were to draw attention to any salient feature of difference it would involve Slovene Village, where the overall vision was narrower. These children had as much in them but many had been born there or lived much of their lives there. Their architectural images were plainer, less ornate, there were less objects in their images in general. At this camp the only destroyed images occurred when one little boy drew for most of 3-hours and finished by ripping his pictures (violent layers of dense crayon systems of mostly straight marks-non objective) into pieces and throwing them under the desks nearby. Looking at this kids’ world is consistent with living in a box where the public toilets are a hole in the ground flooded by a collapsing floor; where piles of garbage and excrement are the norm.

Outside of this singular example everyone else is telling a different story-thesis, hour after hour. Images of peaceful scenes, hope, suns, balloons, favorite animals, colorful rainbows, and picture frames were common themes. Bridges, swimming, boats, sailing, mountains (Gjakove is a valley surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains). Block-letter designs abound, usually with names or places, always showing pride and often ability. 3-dimensional rendering, recessional spaces, perspective images can be found in each classroom.

The children and adults from home who helped in the art class are mixed in with the Kosovar children. Some of these children, mostly musicians, could pursue visual arts as well. All were very willing and generous with their efforts to help and share and all set a great example by always working hard and using their imagination and creative abilities. The collaborative figure made by Ben, Nick, Katy and Joe is interesting and beautiful piece that seems to me to sum up and symbolize our trip in general. NO one told them what to do; they shaped this themselves with a powerful and imaginative result. Emma, Fitore, Ben, Shqiprim are all people who draw instinctively but others too numerous to list showed wonderful efforts. Nick and Sam both stepped into simple pencil and eraser images of great depth and imagination; Sam, using his unbroken arm, not the one he thought did all the drawing, produced and effort any art major in college could learn from. (What happens if one doesn’t try?) What one sees out of the corner eye may be more relevant than what is in front of one.

Other often-seen images contain hopeful homes, flowers, hearts, LOVE spelled out, basketball courts, symbols of things to stop, i.e.; smoking, pollution, trash, the dot-patterned hand symbolizing “stop hurting children” (done by a teen-age Kosovar girl) reminds me of one of the cultures who have used the hand as a symbol of signature, Melanesia, Aboriginal, Australian etc. among others.

A number of portraits stand out, Blendona, Ben, Blendiana, some unknown, Shqiprim to name a few. The pencil portrait of their hero Skenderbeg on horseback seen in profile stands out for the deftness of touch for a kid willing to draw what many would consider to be one of the most difficult and sophisticated of compositions, horse and rider.

In closing I can only say thanks again and again to Liz Shropshire and the kids in her program in Gjakove, Kosovo, and to the 31 other Americans in our group and all of the people who helped us realize this stage of this project.

I hope to use these drawings to spread the word visually as an accompaniment to the music these people are making to bring me peace to this world in any amount possible.

Jon Fasanelli-Cawelti