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Explore More is a self-guided program for kids and families, normally taking place in the Tephra ICA gallery, with content centered around our exhibitions. The Home Edition is designed to explore contemporary art and art making from the comfort of your home. Explore More Home Edition is a free program, open to the public.

Gisela Colon Artwork

Gisela Colón, Skewed Square (Osmium Gold), 2020

About Quantum Shift

Tephra ICA is pleased to present Quantum Shift featuring the work of light and space artist Gisela Colón (b.1966). Colón’s light-activated sculptural objects have little to no edges, lines, or place for the viewer to rest their eye. As the viewer moves past the artwork, the colors and angles shift creating an experience full of energy. The artist grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico and currently lives in Los Angeles, California. The nature, light, and color in these two places have greatly influenced her work. She also finds inspiration in living organisms that you might find under a microscope such as amoebas, as well as from huge celestial bodies like galaxies in outer space. 

Colón has exhibited internationally throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Most recently, Colón presented a monumental site-specific installation in the Land Art Biennial, Desert X AlUla 2020 in Saudi Arabia. Colón’s work resides in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD), San Diego, CA; Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Miami, FL; and Mint Museum, North Carolina, among other locations.

Read More About Quantum Shift for Inspiration

Activity 1: Mini Light “Pods”, “Monoliths” and “Ellipsoids”

Shifting colors and forms are featured in the work of Gisela Colón. She uses materials such as optical acrylics and carbon fiber materials with aerospace technology to make layers in her sculptural objects. When these layers are experienced from different viewpoints, we see shifting colors, light, and forms from within the sculptures. 

Would you like to try making your own mini sculpture like Colón’s “Pods”, “Monoliths”, and “Ellipsoids”? Great! You will need: liquid glue (clear or white), a plastic container to mold the sculpture (this could be an empty plastic egg carton or plastic packaging from a toy), food coloring or watercolors, and glitter/sequins (optional).

1. Start by squeezing a small amount of liquid glue into your chosen plastic container. Using your finger or paintbrush, cover all of the surfaces inside the container (base and “walls”). Try to make sure you are using a thin-medium layer of glue; a thick layer will take much longer to dry. The glue should not fill the container.

2. Next, add a drop of food coloring or watercolor paint to your glue while still wet. You can use a toothpick to carefully swirl the color around to make a marbling effect. Add a small amount of glitter or sequins if you would like.

3. Allow the glue to dry completely (this may take a day or two). Leaving the container by a window or out in the sun will help it to dry faster. Once dry, very carefully peel the glue away from the container to reveal your mini light pod! Take your sculpture into the sun or shine a flashlight on it to reveal the way the color and glitter have dried. Bonus: experiment with layering different colors and materials in between drying periods.

Activity 2: Sweeping Sketches

Gisela Colón begins her large sculptures by creating a hand drawing using pen and ink to sketch the forms. Often with one swipe of the hand, Colón will land upon the final shape. The drawing is then enlarged and placed onto plywood, which later becomes the mold that shapes and holds many layers of optical materials.

Let’s explore the fluid, organic drawing process the artist uses in work by creating Sweeping Sketches! You will need: Paper (computer paper, tracing paper, or parchment/baking paper work well), pen or pencil, coloring utensils such as colored pencils, crayons, or watercolors (optional).

1. Begin by drawing a line across the paper in a “swooping” manner—don’t think too much; it should be a fluid, organic movement. Continue freely drawing to connect the ends of your shape. You can also create another smaller fluid shape inside the large drawing you just made to give the shape dimension. As you draw, think about the many shapes in nature—small, microscopic matter as well as large galaxies. What shapes come to mind?

2. Add color to your sweeping sketches to show dimension. Look at the artist’s wall pieces such as Super Ellipsoid (Sapphire), 2020. Do you notice how the deep blue color is concentrated in the center and the surrounding space is lighter in color? The center space is actually more elevated than the rest of the piece and “pops” out. Experiment with color to represent dimensionality.

3. When you are finished, you can cut your sketch out and hang in a window or, for smaller sketches, paste into a notebook.

About Fleeting Moments

Amanda Outcalt, Trying to Keep it Together (detail), 2020

About Fleeting Moments

Tephra ICA is pleased to share Fleeting Moments featuring the work of Amanda Outcalt (b. 1985, Raleigh, North Carolina). The artist explores connections to moments and experiences using extremely detailed illustrations of large animals such as bears, bison, and elephants. Outcalt uses the intaglio printmaking technique (etching) in which an image is incised or cut into a copper plate surface with lines holding ink. The inked plate is rolled through a press onto a sheet of paper and the image, with all of its details, is transferred to the paper. Outcalt then adds embellishments to the print such as embroidery, gold leaf, and watercolor. 

Amanda Outcalt, currently living and working in Washington, D.C., graduated in 2008 with a BFA in Painting and Metalworking from East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, and she pursued a K–12 Art Education License at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk VA. Since 2017, Outcalt has traveled the country participating in prestigious juried art festivals and winning awards of distinction at 22 of the 31 shows she participated in, including the 2019 Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival presented by Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art. Her work has been included in group shows at The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, VA.; and the Charles Taylor Art Center in Hampton, VA., among others.

Read More About Fleeting Moments for Inspiration

Activity 1: A-Z Animal Emotions Journal

Amanda Outcalt uses illustrations of animals to represent emotions and make connections to moments in her life. For example, an elephant might represent memory while a hippopotamus might represent feelings about the body. 

Let’s make an A-Z Animal Emotions Journal! You will need: 14 sheets of paper, a stapler, pencil/pen, and colors (optional)

1. Fold the 14 sheets of paper in half together. Staple the pages together at the middle fold. You now have a journal with 28 pages (a front and back page, plus one page for each of the 26 letters in the alphabet).

2. Open the cover to the first page and draw an “A”. Think about an animal that begins with A and a corresponding animal. For example- A for Alligator. What emotions do you think about with an alligator? Snappy, annoyed, lazy? Try to depict these in your drawing of the alligator. Alternatively, you can think of an emotion or life event that begins with the letter (ex. A for Awkward and then draw an animal which is awkward like a newborn giraffe).

3. Continue the alphabet, with a new letter on each page. Add details to the animals to make the emotions more pronounced, such as a happy hedgehog with a big smile, wearing a birthday hat and music notes to depict it singing.

Activity 2: Scene of Contrast

Take a look at Amanda Outcalt’s work entitled Hope During the Storm (2020). You will notice a large and heavy camel with weights attached to its body. It seems to be going very slowly. There are also grey rainclouds depicted above the animal with more weights being showered down. The storm and weights might depict a heavy feeling like sadness or loneliness. This is contrasted by the glittering birds that encircle the camel. The birds might represent hope for better days ahead of the sadness someone is currently experiencing.

To create a Scene of Contrast, you will need the following: A sheet of paper, pencil/pen, colors, glitter/other materials to decorate (optional).

1. Think of two contrasting emotions that can be felt. Examples could include excited/nervous, angry/empathetic, happy/jealous. Try to think of animals that might correlate to these emotions. For example, you could choose a monkey to represent excitement and a rabbit to represent nervousness. 

2. Choose a scene for your emotive animals. Add details to help deliver your message of contrasting feelings. For example, this could be a theater before a school play. On one side of the stage, your excited monkey could be hopping up and down with excitement, shaking his arms, while on the other side, your rabbit could be crouched down, hiding its eyes behind its floppy ears.

3. Choose a name for your artworks. Examples of Amanda Outcalt’s work include On the Rise and Relishing the Rain.

About Buoyant Force

Sue Wrbican, Buoyant Force, 2020

Buoyant Force

Tephra ICA is pleased to present Buoyant Force, a 50-foot steel sculpture by artist Sue Wrbican. The sculpture is inspired by the work of another American artist named Kay Sage (b. 1898, New York; d. 1963, Connecticut). Sage created Surrealist paintings of tall structures that resemble scaffolding with rolled up pieces of fabric. Often the structures appear in dark and empty spaces. You will notice some of these elements in Wrbican’s sculpture, for example in the curled steel which appears to be attached by giant clothespins. The Buoyant Force sculpture is based off a maquette (a small model) Wrbican made and which was displayed in an exhibition at Tephra ICA in 2017.

Wrbican is an Associate Professor and Director of Photography at the School of Art at George Mason University. She holds an MFA in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in English Writing with a concentration in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh.

Read More About Buoyant Force for Inspiration

Activity 1: Upcycled Bug Buddies

Recommended age group: Pre-k – Early elementary school

Buoyant Force, the title of Sue Wrbican’s sculpture, is made of recycled materials such as reclaimed steel pipes. Instead of becoming discarded garbage, these pipes were used to create a work of art that can be enjoyed by all.

You can also make a piece of art while helping the environment. Would you like to try? Wonderful! Follow the steps below to use recycled materials and found objects to make your own upcycled insect!

You will need: scissors, pencil, tape or glue, a toilet paper or paper towel tube, old newspapers or magazines, drawing materials (markers, crayons, etc.), pipe cleaners or twigs from outside (ask your parents if you can go outside to look for these), and yarn or string (optional).

1. Take your paper towel or toilet paper tube. This will be the body of your bug. Decorate the body any way you wish—stripes and spots are great choices, or you might choose to wrap colorful yarn or string around the tube for a textured effect.

2. Now it’s time to construct your bug’s wings. Find some old newspaper or magazines (make sure to ask permission from an adult to use). Use a pencil to draw a circle about 4-5 inches across. Cut out your circle. Draw a line down the center of the circle and cut along the line. You now have two wings (trim to adjust to the shape you would like)! Color your wings if you wish and attach them to your bug’s body with glue or tape. Alternatively, you can find two leaves for your wings.

3. Make your bugs legs by attaching pipe cleaners or by finding small twigs outside. Your bug can have as many legs as you like! You can also use these materials to attach antennae to your bug’s head.

4. The final step is making your bug’s face. You can cut out two circles from newspaper, and then fill in a smaller circle in black. You can also use recycled water bottle caps or buttons.


Activity 2: Paper Engineering

Recommended age group: Upper elementary school

A large sculpture is typically created with the help of a team who collaborates to create a finished product. As discussed, Sue Wrbican is the artist who envisioned and designed the Buoyant Force sculpture. From here, she worked with a team including a curator, metal fabricators, painters, and engineers, among others. Engineers are experts in various materials and help to make sure structures are installed correctly.

You can experiment in engineering by using lots of materials, including simple paper. To make your own paper sculpture, just follow the steps below. 

You will need: several sheets of paper (construction paper, computer paper, and cardstock all work great), a pencil, scissors, and glue/tape/stapler

1. Take a sheet of paper and experiment with 3-D techniques. A few suggestions are:

Tab: Cut a strip of paper to the size you like. Fold back the end and crease. Place a small amount of tape or glue under the “tab” and attach to your paper or a larger structure.
Roll or loop: Cut a strip of paper and attach the two ends together with tape/glue/stapler. You can also wind the strip of paper around your finger, hold in place, and then unravel to create a curl or loop.
Accordion pleats: Cut a strip of paper and fold over 1 inch. Flip the strip of paper over and fold back. Continue this pattern until the end of the paper.
Fringe: Cut a strip of paper. Hold the paper so that it is horizontal and cut small slits into the paper which are close together

2. Combine different techniques to build up a paper sculpture of your own. Pay attention to how the paper balances—you may have to use certain techniques to help some areas stand up.

3. Add color by using different colored paper or by coloring the strips of paper before you begin folding and gluing them into place.


Activity 3: Public Art Sketchbook

Recommended age group: Middle school – High school

The Buoyant Force sculpture is considered public art. Public art is located in a public space for everyone to enjoy. Oftentimes, public art is located where many people gather, such as a park. There are many things to think about when creating a public art sculpture, such as materials, the environment in which it placed, the colors and shape it will be, and the name. Additionally, signs installed around the structure can help to better explain it to the public.

With just a few simple materials, you can make a Public Art Sketchbook to visualize your own creations.

You will need: several sheets of paper (computer or construction paper), a stapler, a pencil, and colored pencils/markers (optional).

1. To begin, make your sketchbook by folding 4–5 sheets of paper in half together. Make sure your paper is laid out horizontally in front of you when you fold into a notebook size.

2. Staple along the fold of papers three times.

3. Flip your sketchbook open to the first page (after the cover) and begin brainstorming your public art piece. You can make doodles or write down ideas. A few things to think about are:

The name of the sculpture
The materials it is made of
The size
The environment (i.e. urban city, park, desert, metro station)
The shape and color
The overall concept (What is the purpose of the sculpture? What does it stand for?)

4. Flip the page and begin sketching your sculpture. Try to add details like trees, people, cars, and buildings to show the scale of the artwork in comparison. You can also add color with colored pencils or markers.


Anne C. Smith Explore More Home Edition
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