A dark-haired girl, lying eyes-closed beneath the surface of bathtub water as fish swim nearby, was the subject of a large print affixed to a glass wall of the library at the Stony Brook Southampton college campus in Shinnecock Hills one recent school day.
Along the wall and spilling across the floor were dozens of other prints featuring people, places and abstract images. They were all the work of Pierson High School students participating in a new pilot program expected to lead to the expansion of the Young American Writers Project, or YAWP, from creative writing to the visual arts.
Pierson is the first school to participate in the program, but organizers hope other schools will follow suit. Pierson’s involvement comes as a result, in part, of a connection between art teacher Peter Solow and Scott Sandell, the director of visual arts at the college and the director of the humorously named Almost Beachfront Digital Print Studio. The two are friends who have also worked together on many projects.
The idea, Mr. Sandell explained in the library-based studio, is to bring arts students to campus to allow them to do printmaking just like professional artists do.
Eleven Pierson students, out of 17 or 18 who applied, spent three full school days, from November 27 to 29, doing just that—using a large-scale Epson printer to print out their final projects. At their disposal was paper made in a Florence, Italy, mill that began production in 1547, as well as more contemporary papers, some of which were specifically geared for digital printmaking, Mr. Sandell said.
One student, 15-year-old Joy Tagliasacchi, a sophomore, said she enjoyed being able to leave her regular school schedule behind for three days to focus solely on art, a field she would like to pursue as a writer and illustrator. “It just doesn’t seem like work,” said the teenager, whose relatives own and do the art for two Italian restaurants, Cappelletti in Noyac and Il Capuccino in Sag Harbor.
Dressed in an Almost Beachfront Print Studio shirt that she altered by adding a zipper, and out of which she crafted the shorts she was wearing, Joy described herself as a “minimalist” kind of person who wanted to make her art stand out despite its simplicity. Using prints based on drawings in her sketchbook—an eye, a pair of lips, an owl—she selected a brush to paint over them on an upper floor at the library.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Emma Buckner, a senior, the artist behind the girl in the bathtub scene, explained her inspiration, a combination of her dual interests in photography and marine science.
Using an underwater camera she had received as a Christmas present, Emma snapped several shots of sea life, including a turtle, while snorkeling on a recent vacation in Hawaii. She overlaid those shots on top of one she took about three years ago of her younger sister Maya, now 15, in the bathtub.
“I was just kind of experimenting,” she explained. “I didn’t know what to expect until I got here,” she said, adding that this was the first time she had done double negatives.
“Hopefully, my dad will build me a frame,” she smiled as she stood next to three of her large prints that day, “because I want to put them up, not forget about them.”
As for her sister, the artistic bathtub shot had become her new profile picture on Facebook the day before and was rapidly gaining “likes,” Emma said.
Another student, senior William Broich, 17, who was busy working on what he called a “crazy street art-influenced piece,” said he appreciated having the time to delve into a piece of work without being rushed into the 45-minute class periods at school.
“Pierson tends to get these kids who stay focused on art their whole four years in high school,” Mr. Sandell said.
The students’ artwork was exhibited at the college on Saturday.