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Paintings on the Wall

Kirby Kromelow | kkromelow19@dtechhs.org | August 27, 2018
Photo by Maria McAlister-Young

One doesn’t have to wander around the classroom neighborhood of Pierce-Wilgus-Wall and Groat long to notice that there is something substantially different about it than all of the other classroom neighborhoods.  Whereas most of the building is bleak and dull, with few forms of art upon its walls, the exterior of Chris Wall’s classroom radiates an exorbitant amount of flavorful colors and tasty art, which contribute to a relaxing atmosphere — not unlike Wall’s personality.

Wall, d.tech’s physics teacher, has a plethora of varying artforms hung up around his classroom. The myriad of different oil paintings and sculptures, while seemingly not following any consistent trend, are overall reflective of Wall as a person. Wall commented “I don’t really plan what I am going to create, but instead it comes to me as I go along.”  It doesn’t take one to know Wall for very long to know that he is what most people would refer to as a “free spirit” and is a very relaxed person.

This philosophy of “do as you go” isn’t just limited to his art, either. For the two years and a half years at d.tech’s Rollins Campus, Wall’s classrooms featured extravagant wooden structures. When Wall started building those, he knew what he wanted them to do, but he didn’t plan out or spend time engineering them. Wall commented: “For the structure I had in my first physics classroom, it had a bunch of stuff I wanted it to do, but I didn’t have any sort of idea what it was going to [look] like until I finished it. After you build enough things, you don’t have to spend time engineering them or thinking, ‘is this strong enough?’ you just know.”

This hasn’t stopped his students, however, from fervently worrying about the structural rigidity of the structure. Wall went on to explain:  “Students always asked, isn’t it going to break? So this one time I started doing pull ups on the the thing. And if it can support a 175 pound man doing pull ups, I’m pretty sure it can hold a lab experiment that weighs, like, a pound.”

The influence of Wall’s personality doesn’t end at his classroom door. Senior Tyler McMahon often works outside of Wall’s classroom during his FIT periods. McMahon said he likes to work outside of Wall’s room because of the atmosphere created by the paintings. McMahon said,  “I feel like it’s something that adds a calming feeling, which is kinda hard to get from other parts of the building.” Evan Curry, a sophomore who recently took Wall’s physics class.  said that Wall’s paintings have inspired him to flex his artistic muscles. Curry said, “I started creating these dumb sketches in MS paint…partly I really liked the paintings Wall created.”

Wall’s art has done much to influence his students and his teaching as well. While Wall displays painting done primarily in oil with brush strokes, recently, a new and completely new style of pointillist paintings has invaded Wall’s classroom. Pointillism s a technique of using tiny dots of various pure colors, which blend in the eye of the observer. It was developed by Frenchman Georges Seurat during the Impressionist era, with the aim of producing a greater degree of luminosity and brilliance of color.

These paintings in Wall’s class are unique, not only because they contrast the preexisting oil paintings Wall did, but also because they are actually student creations.  Wall said, “So often I have students who sketch these incredible drawings on their test, but don’t actually finish the test. So I thought, [it] wouId be nice if there was a way they could show they know something about a topic in physics. And so: Optical Mixing, just three primary colors, and with pointillism from far away you can get brown, green, purple and orange.”  These pointillist paintings are alternatives to the unit exam for the physics unit on light and color.

Wall has done and hasn’t done many things in his life. He got an aerospace engineering degree from UCLA. He never finished high school. He was also apart of an international peacekeeping force during the Yugoslav Wars. It was here where Wall picked up art after, as he said, “I was bored, sitting in an aircraft hangar, and one day one of my buddies came up to me and asked, ’Hey, I’m trying oil painting, do you want to try it with me?’”

While we can’t always be sure of what Wall will do next, one thing that we can be sure of is that as long as there is a Wall, there will be artwork as well.

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