Education

Giuseppe Penone: Nature and The Body

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Patterns Preschool
Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

In Spring 2021, we invited Patterns Preschool in Brooklyn to collaborate with the Education team at Marian Goodman Gallery and create a lesson plan concurrent to Penone’s exhibition Leaves of Grass at the New York Gallery (March 9 - April 17, 2021). The workshop introduced various techniques utilized by Italian artist Guiseppe Penone, which often employs natural materials and imagery– leaves, grass, clay, fingerprints, skin, tree bark, etc., to their young students, age range between 2 to 6. They discovered his work through video content and books, as well as hand’s on activities with gallery staff in their school.

The collaboration, spearheaded by the founder of Patterns Allison Bosworth, culminated in an outdoor exhibition in the nearby Herbert Von King Park, where the kids were able to showcase their creations to their families and friends. A special work station, using the same tools as in class, was also set up for other neighborhood kids and parents to join in and experiment with Penone’s unique artistic process.

Download Lesson Plan

The Exhibition

Giuseppe Penone‘s practice centers around the relationship between nature and the human body. In particular, Penone urges the viewers to envision themselves as part of nature through his unique use of the human body as both subject and object of creation.  His work often plays with the traces and impressions made through the pressure of hands, which act as memories of life and movement that make up the substance of a material like clay.

Leaves of Grass is a series of 12 large-format green paintings created by the artist by pressing the imprints of his fingers dipped in oil paint on canvas.  These works are inspired by the first edition of American poet Walt Whitman’s first book, published in 1855. The accumulated fingerprints create a surface like the foliage of trees, giving the illusion of a faded landscape. Hanging in front of each painting is a handful of earth from different parts of the United States.

“The fascination and the fear stirred by the continual mutation of nature makes me think of humanity’s interference with the living things of the world and how it is ignorant of the fact that it is itself part of nature.”

– Giuseppe Penone

Process

The children worked together to create a landscape painting using their fingerprints on a large piece of kraft paper roll....

The children worked together to create a landscape painting using their fingerprints on a large piece of kraft paper roll. They were reminded that each human fingerprint is unique and that the closer and more layered the prints are, the more opaque the color becomes, and the less visible their own fingerprints became. This playful activity also allowed them to gain a new awareness of their bodies as they used their own hands to paint rather than traditional tools like paintbrushes.

The children were also invited to work with clay, using their hand gestures and movements imprinted in the matter. The...

The children were also invited to work with clay, using their hand gestures and movements imprinted in the matter. The shapes created were then utilized as clay stamps to add texture to their green fingerprint paintings. The individual volumes were also placed on the green landscape as many abstract figures or fantastical animals populating the green landscape made up of their fingerprints.  Similar to Penone, the young students also gathered natural materials in the park and garden nearby (sticks, leaves, grass) which they used to add to their large-scale paintings.

Penone is also known for employing rubbing techniques in his drawings. The young students used crayons over the top of...

Penone is also known for employing rubbing techniques in his drawings. The young students used crayons over the top of tree bark or other surfaces gathered by the teachers. Grass was also used to stain the paper too, furthering their understanding that all the colors come from nature. Through these activities, we engaged the children in these natural and simple print-making techniques which they can replicate in future projects.  Furthermore, this group of kids gained a sense of understanding that they are part of the natural world; their skin and fingerprints being similar to trees and leaves.

Final Works

“We want to encourage our young students to come up with connections between our relationship to the natural world and our treatment of the environment as a species.”

–Allison Bosworth

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