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Art comes to life at Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Some danced or spoke in character and others grew wobbly trying to hold a pose.

Students from 14 schools, as well as art aficionados, competed Saturday in the annual Art Alive: A Living Art Contest on the grounds of Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.

More than $1,000 in cash prizes was on the line.

The event showcased a wide variety of artists and styles, including several pieces that are part of the Albright-Knox collection.

“Anyone like to paint this picture?” Trey Giles, a sixth-grader at H.O. Brumsted Elementary School in Holland, called out. “We are the paint. You are the artist.”

Someone accepted a thick paintbrush from Trey. With a sweep of her arm, six youngsters wearing paint-flecked clothing cartwheeled, tumbled and flopped onto a canvas bearing the same colors, re-creating Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles.”

Members of the gallery’s staff presented “Magnum Opus II (The Bye-Bye),” by photographer Laurie Simmons. Re-creating the work that was the finale of Simmons’ Walking and Lying Objects series, the five staffers held painted cardboard symbols of domesticity, including a toilet and a clock.

Sean Kline is a sixth-grader at Eden Elementary School who takes private art lessons. He was representing Keep Art in Your Heart art classes with a re-creation of Francis Bacon’s “Man with Dog.”

“It’s one of his favorites at Albright-Knox,” said his mother, Tammy.

As a small group of people gathered in front of Sean’s tableau, his mother beamed: “He did this all by himself.”

Sue Zbrzezny of Buffalo and Barbara Kaczmarek of Elma were among spectators who took time to cast votes in the People’s Choice Awards. Kaczmarek’s granddaughter, Sweet Home High School senior Monica Thurston, was part of her school’s presentation of Edward Hopper’s “Chop Suey.”

“There were several that I really liked,” Zbrzezny said.

Among them was a presentation of Keith Haring’s “Red Hot + Dance” by unitard-clad students from Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart. “I think they did a nice job with that,” Zbrzezny said.

Another tableau that impressed her was Edvard Munch’s “The Dance of Life,” one of four presentations by students from Lancaster High School.

Four students posed in front of a canvas painted like the original artwork’s background. After stepping down to the ground, a young couple danced. Then the students, wearing costumes depicted in the painting, talked about its meaning.

The man in the painting is Munch, and the young man who portrayed him in the tableau talked about the artist’s life.

“They really understood the meaning of the painting and what was going on,” Zbrzezny said. “It’s just exciting to see all these young people interested in art and participating.”

It was the first time the two women had attended the annual event. “Won’t be the last, though,” Zbrzezny added.

Winners of the Judges’ Awards, chosen by a panel of eight, were:

• Best Tableau from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s Collection ($300): Stanley G. Falk School, for Hans Namuth’s Jackson Pollock painting “One and Lee Krasner.”

• Handyman Award for Best Craftsmanship ($250): Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, for Keith Haring’s “Red Hot + Dance.”

• Off-the-Beaten-Path Award for Most Unusual ($250): “Keep Art in Your Heart” student Sean M. Kline, for Francis Bacon’s “Man with Dog.”

Winners of People’s Choice Awards, chosen by spectators, were:

• Best Tableau: Grades K-8 ($200): St. Christopher School, for Charles Burchfield’s “Spring Thunderstorm, a Dream of Butterflies, Sunspots, and Onion in December.”

• Best Tableau: Grades 9-12 ($200): Springville Griffith Institute, for Jackson Pollack’s “Convergence.”

• Best Tableau: Adult ($200): Mary Ellen Bossert, for Adolph Gottlieb’s “Dialogue I.”