Exploring the Impact of Islamic Art
March 14, 2018
Each quarter, Graphic Design and Ceramics classes go on a joint field trip to Karmel Square Somali Mall. This trip stemmed from an Islamic sacred geometry unit collaboration between the two classes, according to Ceramics teacher LeaAnne Jasper.
Karmel Square is the largest East African Mall in North America, according to Jasper. Students searched for patterns throughout both the mosque and mall while taking part in a cultural experience.
“The people who showed us around were very warm and welcoming, and the whole square was so lively and full of color,” said AP Ceramics student Gillian McCoy (12). “It was a great experience to try the food, see the mosque, and get a taste of the culture.”
The inspiration for the project stemmed from a workshop by ceramic artist Forrest Lesch-Middleton who specialized image transfers onto pottery, according to Jasper. The collaboration involved graphic screen printing onto the clay. The designs made by the graphic design students are then transformed into transparencies which were transferred onto ceramic pieces.
“It was a natural collaboration as it creates a symbiotic relationship between the ceramic students who explore surface design on their vessels and the pattern designers who explore real-world application of their creations,” said Jasper.
The collaboration worked to teach students about the art and culture behind Islamic art. According to Jasper, Islamic art consists of calligraphy, an organic or plant-like style, and the use of geometric shapes. In particular, Islamic sacred geometry represents the infinite universe and a connection to God through the use of repetition.
For the project, students studied Islamic art and architecture from as far back as the 7th century in various Islamic populations, according to Jasper.
According to the Metropolitan of Museum of Art, geometric patterns are used heavily in Islamic architecture and as a decoration on a variety of objects.
For McCoy, art is an important way for individuals to express personal feelings, thoughts, and beliefs.
“I selected seashells because I’m very passionate about the ocean and how people tend to take advantage of it,” said McCoy. “I chose to create seashells and screen printed the tessellations on the underside, to represent the hidden beauty inside things we take for granted.”
According to Jasper, teaching culture in school allows students to understand people who are different than them, while also seeing how different cultures connect through mediums such as art.
“If we look at the word ‘culture’ we are looking at a shared bond in a society or community and a link to our past, present, and future. If you want insight into a specific culture and time period, look at the art and what was being created as artists have always had their fingers on the pulse of society,” said Jasper.
“To look at somebody’s art is to take a look into their mind, to see their culture and their values. People let their true selves shine through their art,” said McCoy. “When I want to learn more about a culture, I go straight to the art.”