Sock Super Heroes at Hill Center

Super Hero “Fin” has a red-belt in Karate, loves monsters and the military

Step aside, X-men, Batman and Wonder Woman.  Take a break, Spiderman, Iron Man and Supergirl. A new generation of Super Heroes is taking center stage at Hill Center this month. The Heroes are the invention of fourth grade students at Maury ES where art teacher, Lauren Bomba, set out to stretch their understanding of textiles, fibers, craft media and contemporary art. The study culminated with the creation of their own personal super heroes made from socks and found materials. These “avatars” incorporate the students’ ideas about their own best qualities – what makes each of them “super.”

The students began by exploring the various properties of fibers, where they come from and how they are prepared for use. The goal was for students to understand the artistic process from start to finish and to gain an appreciation for the effort, dedication and time it takes to create a textile from scratch. Handcrafted objects reflect, in a deeply personal way, the spirit and intention of their creators adding value beyond functionality.

After examining spinning, felting and dyeing, the fiber arts unit concluded with the study of knitter, print-maker, and performance artist, Mark Newport. Newport is best known for his life-size, hand-knit costumes representing both traditional super heroes and those of his own creation. His work challenges the idea that all super heroes must be strong, fast and covered in impenetrable metal in order to be heroes. He draws his own super hero strength from participating in a craft tradition passed down through generations of women in his family.  Knitting his costumes makes Newport feel safe, brave, kind and ready to protect his family.

Maury students invented their super heroes by considering their own strengths--for example, their love of animals, their compassion, their intelligence, their athletic ability . They then turned these strengths into super powers –protecting endangered species, cheering up a friend, confusing bad guys with tricky math problems or lassoing them with a well-aimed hula hoop.  They created symbols to express their powers and fabricated sock dolls reflecting these qualities.

The kids are taking the project very seriously; as Talan Manago puts it ”I get to add my own traits this time--not copy Superman's. I get to make stuff of my own, like designer stuff!... I even have my own logo already. “  For Niah Gamble, the reward is in acquiring a new skill, "I'm just now learning to sew for the very first time!"

The completed Super Heroes are on display in the ground floor gallery at Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, throughout June. Ms. Bomba invites you to come visit and “take a moment to look closely at the detail, care and heart put into each Maury super hero.”   She is convinced that encouraging her students in a deep understanding of their own power to effect change will make our world a better place for all.

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