Los Altos Art Docents were treated to a special performance for the November General Meeting on Wednesday. George Seurat paid them a visit! No, he wasn't a ghost or a zombie, it was the unique art education technique of Ken Young, teacher, artist and actor.
Donning the costume of a 19th century gentleman, including top hat and starched collar, a French accent and scraggly false beard, Mr Young told the story of the life of the Impressionist artist.
Seurat first became interested in art when he met an uncle who was an amateur artist. He felt that art was like a magic trick. When he was sixteen he attended drawing classes. He was taught that drawing did not consist of lines but shadows. 'There are no lines in nature only changes in tone and colour.' He carried this ethos into his later painting. Ken Young then produced a remarkable drawing of a face made purely from shadows, no lines. It took him less than a minute.
Seurat was intrigue by the way the Impressionists used colour, which he observed at the 3rd Impressionist Exhibition. Instead of painting from a tube of green paint, they would place dabs of blue and yellow paint close together on the canvas. This would have the effect of appearing green. From this inspiration and from his study of optics, a new science at the time, Seurat developed the technique which he called 'Divisionism', usually known as Pointilism.
The sensitivity and reserve of Ken Young's performance brought the character of George Seurat and art history to life in the plain school Multi. It was riveting. The art docents peppered him with questions after his presentation, clearly entertained and educated by this unique experience.
Ken Young began performing in 1978. He was an art teacher and wanted to find a way to inspire his students about art history. One day, he told his students they would be having a guest speaker. He wrapped a bandage daubed with fake blood around his head, wore some old clothes and presented the tragic life of Vincent Van Gogh. His students were enthralled. He had them!
That year he performed 12 characters from Art History and has developed performances for about 50 figures all together, including Rembrandt, Picasso, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin and Wayne Theibaud. He has performed for schools, art groups, conferences and the California Art Education Association. In January next year, Ken Young will be running Art History classes based on his artist characters at the Mountain View/ Los Altos Adult Education Program.
The Los Altos Art Docent program was founded in 1970 in response to budget cuts in art instruction in the local public schools, and has been serving the Los Altos School district ever since, providing upwards of 700 lessons per year throughout the district's seven elementary schools. For more information about the program, please visit their web site at www.losaltosartdocents.org or call 650.947.1195.