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Duality and Difference

“We can still understand each other and help one another even if we like differently.”

Lulu Robbins is an 8th grader at Olympus Jr. High. She’s in Mr. Whiting’s art class for the second year in a row and submitted her work of art in the Granite School District Cesar Chavez Social Justice Art Competition “Building Bridges of Peace.”

When I met Lulu at the exhibit we were masked, but eager to talk. Lulu, as you will learn, loves to be social. This was apparent from the beginning of our meeting.

As I informed Kate, Lulu’s mom, about the media release form and asked to exchange social media handles, we learned that she hadn’t yet followed her own daughter on social media. “It’s probably time I start following my 13-year-old on social media!” Kate said. While mom and daughter giggled as they exchanged handles, our photographer Lisa Gemperline arrived, and we were ready to hear Lulu tell us about her work of art.

Lulu’s work of art (see below) features two round characters in two different environments. Set in a red desert scene with a prickly carbuncle cactus was one character peering out of a box shelter. Across a bridge you find the other round character, rather reminiscent of a snowman, perched politely on a snow-encrusted hill. The moon shines on this side, while the sun bears down on the other.

Lulu’s artist statement reads “We can still understand each other and help one another even if we like differently.”

Lulu explained that she wanted to focus on the concept of duality through color, setting, and shape. “Blue and red are very opposite, like hot and cold. The desert and snowy mountains. I really like simplistic art because it’s better to get the point across than detailed art. The more realistic I get, the less meaning I can put behind my drawings.”

In conversation, Lulu and Kate enjoyed digesting all the elements of duality and applying additional meaning to Lulu’s piece. Mother and daughter discussed the rigid, box-like and rounded structures of each character, the monochromatic intention of each side of the canvas, and the interesting textures.

As we spoke, Lulu also expressed her love for art class—especially its social and relaxing aspects.

“The art class that I was enrolled in, you could talk to people in the class, because art for me doesn’t require as much focus as other subjects do. You can just draw, and it’s nice. I wanted a class to just sit down, have a breath, and just draw.”

Lulu is a high achiever, serving as concertmaster in the school orchestra and performing with a hip-hop and clogging dance company outside of school (along with keeping up grades and attending additional dance and music lessons). I can see why the calming experience of the art studio is a draw for Lulu.

Even when schools shut down due to the pandemic, Lulu said she was able to make new friends. Lulu’s mom attributed these new social connections to the art experiences her dance studio and public school provided for her and her peers.

“I have a couple of friends in class and I’ve gained a couple more. Because you can just talk about whatever. You don’t necessarily have to be talking about the subject. You can talk to people and be social without necessarily getting behind. I really do like being social with people.”

Kate, a violinist and arts educator herself, said Lulu is the most well-rounded artist of all her children. Lulu, that detail is for you! And, her words serve as an apt description of my time getting to know Lulu.

This article was written by Heather Francis, Dance Teaching Artist and Advocacy Director for UDEO (@heatherfrancisdances). Photos by Lisa Gemperline (@lisagempphotography).

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