Making Art When I Didn’t Know It

September 15, 2016

Image by Kyle Richardson

Image by Kyle Richardson

In 4th grade my best friend Marta and I loved making up games together. She lived around the block from me and we would walk home together every day after school. As we walked home, we would jump from shadow to shadow, trying to catch a renegade leaf that kept being blown further away by the wind. If we stepped in the sunlight we would be ‘dead’ because it was ‘lava.’ This game was called Leaf Hunter.

We also played a who-dun-it game called something like “Psycho Pool Barbie” where we filled up the only bathtub in my railroad apartment with water, turning it into a “pool.” We would turn off the lights, and when we turned them back on, one of our characters be dead (marked by fake blood in the tub and all over the bathroom), despite my grandmas wishes.

My actual Barbie dolls were always decrepit, had weird hair-cuts, were naked and limbless because we’d run them ragged. We made home made clothes for them and also used VHS tape boxes as homes for the dolls and we used marbles as currency.

Marta and I got pet hermit crabs, and we made obstacle courses out of Scrabble pieces for them to climb on.

I’d always been interested in art, so for high school I went to LaGuardia. In terms of Art History, the closest we had come to covering contemporary art was Rococo, which is probably better than most public schools. Even so, Art classes in public school had a way of putting you to sleep and relying too much on History.

The Cooper Union Outreach program was the first art program I was in that introduced me to the idea of Conceptual art, or any kind of art past 1930. Hearing these ideas at the Outreach Program validated that I had been thinking conceptually for a long time. I wouldn’t have realized that art was something worth pursuing without Outreach. My family didn’t have money to put me in an extra curricular art class, and especially if it was something where they were unsure if it’d be beneficial to my future.

Martha Friedman, my freshman 3DD teacher at Cooper Union told us she believed that as an artist you’re always working towards the same idea. Every time you make a new piece, you get closer to that idea. I believe this too; but it starts way before you are conscious of what you’re doing.

Learning about conceptual art showed me that all along, through creative play, we'd been making work.

Kyle Richardson

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.