Trena Noval, Artist-in-Residence
Peralta Elementary School, Oakland, CA
As an artist-in-residence at Peralta Elementary School, Trena has focused on arts integration and video projects exploring themes of community and environmental stewardship. William Kentridge has served as a consistent source of inspiration for her work with students. Trena also teaches at Mills College, Graduate School of Education and is a digital video artist.
I am a digital media/video artist-in-residence at the Peralta Elementary School in Oakland, CA. When I started working at Peralta about five years ago, one of the first projects I did was with a fourth-grade class. We created drawn animations about topics the students were studying in their Social Studies and Science classes. The first project was inspired by the drawn animations of William Kentridge, which my fellow artist-in-residence Ellen Oppenheimer and I had seen in the SFMoMA media gallery. We were so excited by the layering of images created with charcoal on paper: how the erased lines were still visible like shadows of the previous motion or movement, like ghosts; the “messiness” of how he worked with the media; and the mood that came across in the work. Though he was working with very simple, accessible materials, he was nonetheless able to create moving and powerful visual images.
In collaboration with Kelly Rozario, the fourth-grade teacher, we decided to tackle the study of California volcanic land forms, specifically Mt. Shasta in Northern California. We wanted the students to: 1) think about the geological history and science of Mt. Shasta, 2) explore a Native American California legend about how this volcanic mountain came to be, and 3) learn some simple drawing techniques and skills. We were looking for a simple way to create a drawn animation. We wanted to create something in a single day with imagery that had an antiquated look and feel.
We used excerpts of Kentridge animations to study how this kind of drawn technique could work for us, including excerpts from his animated film, Tide Table (2003). Our first drawn animation was titled The Great Chief Sky Spirit: The Mt. Shasta Story, after the Native American legend of Mt. Shasta.
After our first animation, we made additional drawn ones, but started to use a whiteboard and expo makers. This technique is different from the look and feel of Kentridge’s animations, but we have continued to use him as a model to show students how artists use animation to talk about their ideas and understand the world they live in. Some of our more recent whiteboard animations are The Yosemite Valley Story and Things that Spin…in our world. As artists, my students and I have been inspired by Kentridge’s work in numerous ways and are always seeing new things and new approaches to the work we do in relation to his own.