Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Lulu, the Chewing Gum Artist

The vision came to her a few summers ago at camp when Lulu Nery was briefly trapped under a bowling alley table. Stuck in that position she looked up, and the amount of chewing gum under the table made a powerful impression- “thousands” of chewers’ castoffs, she guessed. “There were so many different colors, textures and patterns which gave me an idea.” Art, she thought with surprise, and that’s how the new permanent Ephesus artwork came into being.
Lulu is a 5th grader in Ms. Sheila Singh’s class who has achieved a new notoriety among her schoolmates. Although Ephesus school policy allows for chewing gum, it also stipulates that students chew quietly and dispose of gum properly. But Lulu had noticed that gum proliferated under desks. “Last year I could always identify my desk, not by the name tag, but by the gum!  My desk had a purple and white chewing gum pattern. It was kind of  fascinating but really gross.” 
As Lulu wrote in her project proposal, “What if we just stopped the growing population of gum under desks, and redirected the flow of never-ending chewing gum?  What if we made art?” 
Next step for Lulu was a conversation with the art teacher, Ms. Hannah Murphy, Principal Victoria Creamer and Assistant Principal Danielle Sutton. They devised a plan, and then Creamer sent an email to Ephesus parents, which included Lulu’s guidelines. 

They clarified that the project was open to “all Roadrunners,” and was completely voluntary. Lulu noted, “Each person can contribute to creating our own abstract Ephesus Chewing Gum Masterpiece!” Ms. Creamer added, “We will also use this project as an educational opportunity about preventing the spread of germs with regular hand-washing. Wash your hands afterwards!”
The designated canvas was set up outside the main office for a month, and during that time the blobs, streaks and shaped pieces of gum accumulated to create a distinctly Jackson Pollock-ish work. The colors range across the spectrum. Upon close examination, a red Gummi Bear and a sneaky Googly Eye show up as the two “non-gum” contributions. When it was time for Lulu to memorialize the gum for posterity, she enlisted her grandpa to find a substance to use as protective coating. “My grandpa has everything in his tool shed!”
Lulu said that she originally imagined a fully covered canvas, but now she appreciates the amount of white space still visible. 

“Like music, the silences are just as important,” she observed.
The five layers of coating haven’t entirely masked the whiff of fruit flavors still emanating from the artwork, though any germs have been neutralized. The canvas has now been set up in the atrium as a permanent contribution. Principal Creamer’s pride is evident in an email, “I am so proud of Lulu's creativity and her initiative!”
And Lulu? Her own webpage on shows a growing collection of abstract digital art for sale. She doubts she’ll spend more time exploring gum as a medium. After all, she doesn’t much like gum. Lulu had only chewed two pieces in her lifetime, before the call of the blank canvas (or the bottom of a table) inspired her to chew a few pieces more.