Lara Giordano: Shaping a CommunitySeptember 14, 2015
A conceptual artist explores gender roles by dipping dolls in pink and blue paint. An animator designs a multi-screen video piece involving a character climbing through each connected screen like a large canvas. A printmaker creates a letterpress series listing reasons to live, prompted by a friend’s contemplated suicide. These are not works by renowned artists at an art gallery. These are thesis projects made by high school students as part of an art exploration class taught by Lara Giordano.
Lara has been a leader in the Kingston arts community for several years, an art educator at Kingston High School for 25 years, a friend of WSW for nearly 30 years, and a practicing artist all her life. Her dedication to her students, the community, and the arts is why WSW is honoring her at our 8th Annual Gala Dinner and Auction on November 15, 2015.
“My classroom creates an environment where kids are free to be who they are and express themselves,” she says. “Teaching art is about modeling a creative, hard-working, out-of-the-box existence and encouraging kids to think for themselves.”
Thirty years ago, after living in Kansas City, Boston, and New York City, Lara wanted to move to Kingston but had no luck finding anywhere to rent. During her search, Lara decided to visit Women’s Studio Workshop and as fate would have it, driving down Binnewater, she saw a man hammering a “For Sale” sign in front of a little house just around the corner. For several years, Lara was a short walk from the workshop where she taught papermaking for Hands on Art. Through this program, she made a connection with Patricia Gould Peck, Kingston’s Arts Program administrator, who offered her a job teaching for the school district. Lara found a home teaching high school art classes.
Being a practicing artist has influenced how Lara teaches, causing her to look at things differently by constantly investigating the world around her. This curiosity drives her more recent work, which combines her love for geometry with her fascination with how the world fits together. In Lara’s practice, geometry became a place where she could focus in, providing a structure within which she could play. “If someone asked me to draw a star,” Lara says, “I’d ask them to give me a ruler and a compass.”
In her most recent completed series, Lara uses ink and graphite on paper to create what she refers to as “vessels,” inviting the viewer to question the world as she does and explore the ambiguity of the picture plane. Is this space empty or is it full? Lara answers, “I see this flat shape as an entrance into something more.”
After creating hundreds and hundreds of these vessels, Lara has returned to working with oil paints and experimenting with colors. Lara laughs, confiding that she remembers why she put away the oils in the first place: “It takes so long! Now that the summer is over and I’m back at school, I just don’t have enough time in the day. But I don’t know where this new project is going to lead. Maybe back to geometry!”
Lara has worked with the kids at Kingston High School for so long that she’s cultivated the program into something to be proud of. In New York state, one credit of art classes is required to graduate. Lara pushes the boundaries of the kind of education you can get for that single credit, with interesting classes like Chemistry and Art. In this class, students look closely at the science of art materials, like paint and paper, and consider their connection to art history and importance in contemporary practice.
Lara points to WSW, as well as her own artistic curiosity, as being key in expanding and developing her program. Her students will come to the workshop in October to look at the materials used in papermaking processes and in etching. “I’ve always taken my kids to the workshop,” Lara says, “so that they can see real artists work, the materials they use in their work, and how they grow an idea through craft and experimentation.” Chemistry and Art has also made connections within the Kingston arts community through guest speakers giving lectures on their practice.
Only recently has Lara gotten more involved in the blossoming Kingston arts community, and she says it’s because of her own students. “So many of the people that go through WSW end up in Kingston and so many of my past students end up in Kingston,” she says. “To me, Kingston is almost at this tipping point, where it could really become an arts-driven place.”
As part of the newly formed Kingston Arts Commission, Lara will work with the arts community and municipality in order to secure grants and coordinate citywide events. Lara has been on the board at WSW, on the program committee for the Midtown Arts District Group, and played a major role in the Kingston High School art department, but working with the Arts Commission offers Lara the chance to facilitate projects on a bigger scale and to underscore the importance of the arts in the wider community.
Lara has dedicated her life to supporting art and speaking of its importance in life. “Art is necessary because it creates,” Lara says. “It is created, but it also creates. It creates beauty, it creates a dialogue, it creates community, and it creates pathways to through culture.”