"I used a balloon, twisted it into a shape like a dog," said Koons. "Then I made a mold and filled the mold with polished metal, which creates a surface like a mirror. And do you know why I made the dogs shiny? To reflect you. I did it to celebrate YOU."
Today Koons was also celebrating Studio in a School's Visual Arts Appreciation Week, kicking off the 35th anniversary festivities marking the founding of STUDIO. A longtime friend and supporter of STUDIO, Koons said: "I'm really moved to be here, to see first hand the vast impact that STUDIO makes on these kids' lives. The artwork here is amazing. You can feel the sense of interior life developing and relating to the outside world. Children are learning about their own possibilities, and art will carry them throughout their lives. Art is a vocabulary that really lets people connect to the world."
The Jose Celso Barbosa School has partnered with Studio in a School for 22 years and the hallways and art room are brimming with imaginative creations -- silver and black collograph prints of collage animals, a water color of a two-headed walrus/elephant, papier mache masks "inspired by Mascaras Vejigartes from Puerto Rico," oil pastel self-portraits and much more. Longtime STUDIO artist/instructor Cathy Ramey is a professional painter who runs the visual arts program in this Title I School for over 300 students in pre-kindergarten through second grade and today Jeff Koons was helping her teach the children to make paper animals with moving parts.
The second-graders were bursting with questions for Koons. Eight-year-old Jonathan showed Koons a picture of three horses. "I wanted to know something about horses and thought he would know how to make a horse sculpture." Koons told him they reminded him of his balloon dogs. "These New York City children are very curious and practical about art. Art has reality in their lives."
"How do you get your mind ready for what you make?" one student asked. Koons told them to "follow your interests. The wonderful thing about art is that it’s a place of freedom. You can make anything. It's impossible to make anything wrong."
Another student asked Koons how he became an artist. "When I was about three, my parents told me I was good at drawing. It was the first time I can remember doing something better than my sister -- who was three years older. It gave me a sense of self. You become who you are because of things like that."