Body Echo book cover. Published by Body Echo Publications 2005. Hugh O'Donnell, 2005
The Body Echo Project is a drawing project developed by Hugh O'Donnell to evolve a new practice of drawing from nature. e title Body Echo refers to qualities of likeness that are reflected between the natural world and the human body. The Body Echo drawings are a visualization of this likeness; they reflect a kinesthetic and tactile perception of patterns of movement experienced by the artist as both external and internal physical sensation. Subject matter includes specific organic forms found in nature as well as interior somatic sensations of the body.
There is a pedagogical component to this project called The Growing Things Workshop. The workshop is designed to bridge the distance between innocence and experience by freeing the expert from the narrow mindedness of specialization, and the beginner from the nervousness of taking their first steps. Young and old can come together on a level playing field that mixes the widest range of age and skill in a collective pursuit of creative discovery.
This 96 page catalogue style book contains selected Body Echo artworks and writings by Hugh O'Donnell from 1988-2005, reviews, essays by Dr. Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (philosopher and author) and Dr. Al Hurwitz (educator, advisor and author). The book also contains a section on the Growing Things Workshop, a pedagogical component to the Body Echo project, and a selection of artworks created by students.
In her essay Dr. Maxine Sheets-Johnstone writes:
".A specific experiential point of departure is typical for O'Donnell. In fact, the point of origin of his work is as important as its actual insertion in the world in the form of a drawing or painting. This is why space-natural bodily space and artistic painterly space-ultimately share a common natural ground in his work. "Body Echo " drawings engender the same natural spatial rhythms as the body itself. This is furthermore why in viewing the drawings, we are reconnected to our bodies not as things in the world, but as natural forms, forms that grow and decline, that expand, contract, and pulsate, that veer off exuberantly now in this direction, now in that, that churn and quiver in agitation, that joyously burst forth. We are there in the form of complex contours, volumes, intensities, and above all, movement.
In her 1992 ARTnews review of Hugh O'Donnell's exhibition of Body Echo works at the Denise Cade gallery in New York Nancy Grimes writes:
".Composed of quivering linear arabesques that wind through the void of the drawing ground, the works suggest, simultaneously, water and air currents, sound waves, energy fields....
The idea here seems to be that even the simplest physical event the drawing of a breath, the rush of an eddy of water forms part of a complex, interdependent chain of activity whose pattern is affected by factors such as gravity, air pressure, wind velocity, and metabolic rate. In other words, O'Donnell's vision is holistic we are part of, rather than independent of, nature. By suspending the will in relatively spontaneous acts of drawing, the gentle, invisible dynamics of our bodies the nature within us become manifest."
In his essay on the Growing Things Workshop Dr. Al Hurwitz writes:
"(O'Donnell) ..believes that playful invention is as important as observational rigor if we are to support the student's ability to move on to more demanding intellectual inquiry. The thinking processes of imagination and observation and the dichotomy between innocence and experience is at the heart of this belief and it is of particular interest to contemporary psychologists and art educators. In the opinion of many observers it is education's failure to communicate the relationship between art and cognition that continues to hinder art's progress in the schools.
Drawing, when well taught can help students to see the world anew -- to understand how a pencil moving across the surface of a sheet of paper can fuse the processes of seeing and thinking. O'Donnell can show you how a good teacher can make this happen and how such experiences can alter the lives of the young. On second thought, why just the young -- why not all of us?"
Dr. Maxine Sheets-Johnstone is an independent scholar affiliated with the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. She is the author of numerous articles in the arts, humanities, and sciences, the editor of Giving the Body Its Due and Illuminating Dance: Philosophical Investigations, and the author of The Primacy of Movement; The Roots of Power: Animate Form and Gendered Bodies; The Roots of Thinking; and The Phenomenology of Dance. She is currently completing her third (and final) "roots" book, The Roots of Morality.
Dr. Al Hurwitz is Chair Emeritus in Art Education at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has taught and advised at many educational institutions nationwide and has authored and coauthored many books on education including Children and Their Art, a best selling text book (7th edition), the most comprehensive text book available for teaching art education methods.
This book can be signed by Hugh O'Donnell on request.
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