After 24 years at Jakarta International School in Indonesia, Bindu Bammi was looking for a new way to introduce the elements of design to her eighth-grade students.
She scoured the Internet, looking for something that would make her class challenging and fun. That’s when she discovered Wichita artist Eric Carbrey’s work. Bammi was moved by Carbrey’s Lines Project, which uses lines and shapes on two-foot squares, and created a lesson plan based on his work that focused on layers, overlap, line and shape composition.
She struck up an e-mail correspondence with Carbrey in early February. After the initial shock – Carbrey recalled thinking “Is this real? Is somebody literally halfway around the world creating a lesson plan around my art?” – Carbrey agreed to speak to the class via Skype after the students had all completed their works.
Before the scheduled March 4 chat, Carbrey, 31, received an e-mail with a file containing about 15 images of artwork designed by the class.
“It looks remarkably like mine,” said Carbrey, who has been working professionally for about five years, showing regularly in Wichita and Oklahoma. “This is an incredibly sharp group of students, and it’s an amazing experience to have people studying you.”
Before the talk, Carbrey was concerned there would be a language barrier, but every student spoke perfect English.
For their part, Bammi’s students worried that Carbrey would be arrogant or think their work was terrible, Bammi said.
Carbrey spoke for about 45 minutes, sharing his education and art background before answering questions: Where do you get your inspiration? What are your practices? What are your materials?
Once Carbrey appeared on the screen, the students quickly fell at ease, and the chat lasted 25 to 30 minutes longer than planned, Bammi said. Carbrey offered take-home points for the students: “Just be slightly better than average, and that will take you places,” he said. “There’s a lot of average in the world. Go that extra mile, and you will go places.”
He explained to them how being an abstract artist in Wichita has been difficult, how people think of the “Meccas” for fine art as New York and San Francisco but that “it’s possible anywhere; you can do it even in Kansas.”
Although Bammi and Carbrey have talked about making this a reoccurring aspect of Bammi’s classroom, nothing has been made official yet, Carbrey said.
“It’s exciting to have been found by somebody this far away,” Carbrey said. “Not only found, but I didn’t even pursue it. A lot of times, you’re trying to get that kind of exposure, but here somebody contacted me. I’m lucky to have it.”