Hibriten students put the work of the masters on hallway walls

Feb. 03, 2014 @ 04:12 PM

The walls of Hibriten High, like the walls of many other high schools, are made of cinderblock and covered in industrial, cream-colored paint.

The walls of Hibriten, though, are dotted with classic paintings. Picassos. Michaelangelos. Van Goghs.

They’re not the real deal, though. Art teacher Margaret Martine has her honors art students paint their own imitations on the walls each semester. So far, 19 of the classics are scattered through the school, everything from the famous yellow-horse cave painting discovered in the Lascaux Caves in France to one of Salvador Dali’s dripping clocks.

When Martine launched the project nearly three years ago, a fellow teacher asked why she didn’t just have the students paint panthers -- the school’s mascot. Panthers are all well and good, Martine told her, but she’d rather have her students learn from the masters.

Martine’s art students spend weeks, sometimes months, imitating the paintings and putting them up on the walls, piece by piece. It gives them a chance to deepen their knowledge of the process of art -- learning more about texture and color and technique -- and gives other students in the school a glimpse of that as well.

Junior Lily Stoker, who painted the yellow horse from Lascaux, said she came away with a better understanding of how to imitate texture.

“It was fun doing it, just because I had to make the texture of a cave, not the texture of a painting,” Stoker said. “And that was hard to do.”

Junior Jasmine Powell recreated Cezanne’s “Still Life with Apples and Oranges” and, as she painted the skin of oranges, learned how to nail the details of a painting.

For some, the task was daunting. One student, Adina Jan, was at first intimidated by the task of imitating what is arguably the world’s most famous painting. Her “Mona Lisa,” painted onto the wall of Hibriten’s media center, is now her favorite piece she has ever done.

Junior Megan Rhodes was afraid of heights and was shaking, she said, as her painting edged closer to the ceiling. But she loved combining different values of blue to create the sky in Rosseau’s “Sleeping Gypsy,” she said.

As the art students perched on ladders to paint, other students lingered in the hallways to watch them swirling the stars of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” or guiding DuChamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” quite literally down a staircase in the hallway near the school’s media center.

They weren’t always completely aware of what was happening -- “Everyone thought mine was a yellow dog,” Stoker cracked -- but they got a chance to see the process of art taking place, just as the other students were learning that in a deeper fashion.

“I think it’s been cool for people to see how you actually build a painting,” Martine said. “They’d come by and people would say, ‘I don’t understand it, but I love it.’”

The art students themselves feel a sense of pride when they pass by the paintings -- which are, for many, the one work they can’t take home and display.

“We’re all really attached to them,” said senior Ashley Hicks, who painted “American Gothic” on one of Hibriten’s hallway walls. “We always say if they tear the school down, they’re going to have to cut the cinderblocks out so we can take them with us.”