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Lisa Houck
Cambridge Senior Center

Title: Multiple pieces
Location: 806 Massachusetts Avenue

Seeing and experiencing

Lisa Houck has several pieces on display at the Cambridge Senior Center in Central Square. Three are paintings, and the other is made of terra-cotta clay tiles. They are unified by Houck's distinctive style. With her sensuous use of color, patterns inspired by nature and lively markings, Houck has created her own visual language.

It's fun to go back and forth between Houck's different pieces and discover what catches your eye. Is it color? The references to nature? What do you find appealing about her work?

The four-part, two-panel painting, One Seasonal Cycle in a Temperate Climate, greets visitors as they enter the Senior Center. Weather, geography, botany and maps are all sources for Houck's imagery. Can you find examples? Can you identify the different seasons? What images, patterns and colors has Houck used to evoke summer, spring, winter and fall?

Houck loves to play with abstract markings. Her work is full of dashes, dots and lines. How many different kinds of marks can you identify? Can you find marks that are repeated across all of her works? Can you find meaning in any of the marks? When a mark takes on a specific meaning, it becomes a symbol.

Now visit Scientific Observations of the Square, an installation of terra-cotta tiles. Like the pieces of a quilt, the individual squares add up to create a greater whole. What is the piece's overall meaning? The "square" in the title refers to the shape of the tiles and perhaps also to Central Square, but what does Houck mean by "scientific observations?" How does Houck's work expand your notions of science?

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Onsite

What you will need:
Sketchpad or paper, pen or pencil.

Draw the different symbols that you see in Observations of a Square. Knowing that the piece may represent Central Square, can you guess what some of the symbols mean?

 

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Hand-on

Drawing
What you will need:
Sketchpad or paper, pens, pencils, crayons, or paint.

The seasons have inspired artists throughout history. Now let one season inspire you. Create a sketch depicting your season. Think of all the different things that happen during this season. What kind of weather is typical of this time of year? Are the plants in bloom or are they covered with snow? What are animals doing? What kinds of activities do people enjoy during this season?

Make at least two photocopies of your drawing. What colors do you associate with your season? Paint or color a photocopy of your drawing with these expected shades. What colors are the opposite of your season's palette? Add these colors to a second photocopy. When you use this second palette of color, how does it affect the feeling of the piece? Does it still feel like "your" season?

Drawing
What you will need:
Paper, pens or pencils, ruler, scissors, tape or glue.

Think about the symbols in Observations of a Square. Symbols are shapes or marks that stand for something else. What symbols would you create for your neighborhood? First make a series of marks on a piece of paper. Draw as many as you can think of: lines, zig-zags, dots, spirals, circles, squares, etc. Cut out these marks.

Now draw symbols that represent you, your home, your pet, your friends, your neighbors, your family, etc. Make ten original symbols and cut them out.

Lisa Houck and many other artists use a grid structure to organize their compositions. Use the ruler to draw an evenly spaced grid pattern on a piece of paper. Now organize your symbols on the grid to form a composition representing your neighborhood. When you come up with a composition you like, glue or tape your different symbols to the paper. You have made a paper quilt.

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