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From Balloon Dogs to Puppets, Jeff Koons Teaches an Art Class

Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - 09:40 AM

An artist known for his monumental metal sculptures of balloonlike animals helped teach an East Harlem elementary school on Monday.

Jeff Koons visited second graders at Public School 112 Jose Celson Barbosa and showed them how to make moveable animal puppets using paper and fasteners. His visit kicked off Visual Arts Appreciation Week, during which high-profile artists visit New York City school classrooms to talk about making art.

First, the students talked with Mr. Koons about his iconic 2,000-pound "Balloon Dog" sculptures.

Pointing to a picture of a blue version of "Balloon Dog," held up by the students' art teacher, Cathy Ramey, Mr. Koons explained the piece to the class.

"That's in stainless steel and it's polished so it has a mirror surface, very reflective ... it's like a spoon," he said.

Mr. Koons explained that he made his sculptures shiny "so that you could walk by and you could see yourself and realize that by your movement you are affecting the different reflections in the piece and the perception of it."

Before he scaled his pieces and cast them in steel, he told the children the sculptures were in fact balloons.

"The blue one - the legs down here - looks like it's going to pop," said one student, David Marcano.

Then the class got busy making their own moving Godzillas, lizards and butterflies using paper, fasteners and hole punchers.

Janny Moran was having trouble deciding what kind of bird to make.

"Maybe a peacock?" she said. "Or I don't know what bird ... I like birds a lot."

Mr. Koons said he remembered fondly making art in kindergarten.

"It was a very important aspect of my upbringing," he said. "Learning about myself, my own possibilities, letting you know you can affect the way you feel through color, line, shape."

The program that brought Mr. Koons into the classroom is organized by Studio in a School, a group that provides arts instruction to students at 110 Title I schools in the five boroughs. Click here for the week's schedule of schools and visiting artists.

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