September 18, 2021
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For many, science and art are opposites. We tend to think of science as precise, involving planning and calculation, while art is fluid, involving inspiration and spontaneity.

But Sandi Chitwood has combined the two disciplines for her entire life, using science to inspire art and art to illustrate science.

“I’ve been painting since I was about 5 years old,” Chitwood said. “Also, I taught 33 years at the junior high and high school level, 22 of those in 8th grade science. I was a double major at the University of Oklahoma for geology and art.”

With an architect father and a geologist grandfather, Chitwood was drawn toward both art and science, especially archaeology. Her grandmother, a piano teacher, try to encourage her in music.

“I took piano lessons for a couple of years. Then she said, ‘Let’s try art.’”

As a science teacher, Chitwood used art to reinforce science. When the class studied rock formation, she referred to some rocks she had brought back from Mount Rushmore, and talked about how Gutzon Borglum carved the presidents’ faces in granite.

“We used art for just about anything,” she recalled. “When they did an experiment, I had them do a quick sketch of it in their notebooks to help them remember what they had done.”

In 2000, Chitwood got her masters in Interdisciplinary Science at Texas Tech. She spent her last seven degree hours at the Lubbock Lake Landmark.

“Arrowheads, broken pottery – we drew everything we found, in addition to actually recording where we found it,” she said.

Chitwood brought the experience back to her students.

“I went to the Dollar Store, bought big plastic boxes and filled them with dirt and broken pottery. I taught them to use the same process I did at Lubbock Lake Landmark. The kids loved it. The hands-on experience is good, and they remember it.”

Chitwood points out that at this time, there’s a shortage of science teachers and all kinds of openings for art everywhere.

At a dinosaur dig in Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose, Chitwood drew what the dinosaur looked like and environment looked like.

“It geared me into doing art full time,” she said.

Chitwood especially enjoys working in pastels and also uses acrylics and watercolors. Some of her life’s loves are represented on the “Artist of the Month” display at the Muleshoe Area Public Library.

“I love carousels and cotton,” she said. “We grew cotton in the past. It’s beautiful and symbolic of this area.”

Chitwood noticed the mule pulling a buckboard at a parade and took a picture of it. The acrylic of the little girl and the puppy was inspired by a photo she took of her granddaughter receiving a puppy for Christmas. The flower was an experiment in watercolor, and the cat, named Shadow, was inspired by her black and white cat moving in and out between pumpkins.

Chitwood enjoys crafting as well as drawing and painting.

“Muleshoe Art Association is not just fine art,” she said. “Ann Johnson did cake decorating once, and it was really interesting. It’s a lot of talented people, interested in art in any form.”

Johnson is the president of MAA. Once a month, she and Chitwood volunteer by teaching art projects at the Senior Citizens Center.

Muleshoe Art Association meets at 2 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month at The Depot. Anyone is welcome.

“We’re lucky that the Heritage Center lets us use the Depot as meeting place,” Chitwood said. “It’s perfect for us. And we’re so thankful to the library for letting us display our work there.”

Gail M. Williams

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

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