Sunday, February 15, 2015

4th grade...Jasper Johns

Re-thinking Symbols
Purpose and Process

Jasper Johns's, Flag
Scholastic Art Magazine
Close to the end of last school year (spring, sometime), I worked with my 4th grade students on a lesson to be published in Scholastic Art Magazine.  The focus for this issue was Jasper Johns and 'Working with Symbols", on new stands today!  

I wanted to take this opportunity to challenge my students' perceptions and ideas on the various interpretations of classic, often popular, imagery, by creating a dialogue,  re-think symbols and alter a familiar symbol's connotation.

The Stop sign.

Our discussion began with an introduction and overview to the art and life of Jasper Johns.  In researching, anything and everything about Jasper Johns, what really caught my attention was how great the impact of "Flag" was in society.  We see this encaustic, big representation of the United States flag and think nothing of it.  As art teachers, we may think, "Great, let's make Jasper Johns flags for Memorial Day."  But this was not the sentiments in 1955 when the work was created (and perhaps this is something we miss about teaching art).  

Alfred Barr, critic and curator, of the Museum of Modern Art wanted to purchase "Flag" but worried that it might be seen as unpatriotic by his board, so he arranged for someone else to buy it and later donate it to the museum.

I questioned why someone would go to such lengths to avoid scrutiny.  This notion led the class discussion on altering the viewer's perceptions of symbols.

One, amazing, moment was when a debate ensued among my students, defending the work to be art....and insulting.

As we moved forward, our focus steered towards another common, universal image...the STOP sign.
I chose the stop sign to stimulate my students' individualized ideas and use Johns' work as inspiration, not mimic what he did. 

 Our goal was to use the hexagon and S T O P, as the platform for creating an art work that makes you look twice, exploring with layers and stenciling.  At first glance, "Flag" looks like a flag.  On closer examination, "Flag" has embedded images, making the viewer to a closer look and re-think its representation and what the artwork is communicating.

Take a closer look....
Google Slide Presenation/Lesson Plan
Scholastic ART Magazine: Jasper Johns Issue

Thanks to Scholastic ART Magazine for publishing this lesson and for the great resources and teacher materials they have created to support arts education!

xoxo, SMocK you.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Process Art....

Value in the Making...

A lot of big ideas have been spinning around in my brain these past couple of months.  As I am trying to sort them out, I find myself reflecting on what I do everyday in my classroom.  One of these daily activities is creating art units and lessons that are engaging, interesting and fun.
(we can't skip fun...after all, we are working with children)

Lesson ideas are easy to come up with, yet I pause with slight hesitation with every component of the lesson, to ask myself, "Is this ok?"  I ask myself this question because I am not the art teacher who cranks out pretty projects or mattes all student work to look good.  And although that should not concern me, there is always the little voice in my head asking, "Is this ok?"

This week, I have been busy developing new 4th, 5th, and 6th grade units.  In doing so, I have covered my composition book (where I "write" all my lesson...ideas), my computer screen and my desk with sticky  notes.  A bit like a game of Tetris, I keep moving them around to make sure they fit into idea.  
A week, or so, ago, my one of my 5th grade classes asked me "What are we doing next?".  I always seem to respond with, "I don't know, what do you want to do?"  Little do they know, I know exactly-ish, what is next.  But in this instant, one young lady asked if the class could offer ideas.  After taking  a vote, from numerous suggestions, we landed on "Perceptions of Space"... my idea.:)

In my process of connecting the sticky notes, I began researching contemporary artist Richard Serra.  His monolithic, steel sculptures are amazing.  I had the pleasure of walking through one, a few years ago.  It made me feel really small.  As I was clicking away, looking at his drawings, I thought back to my college years, as a BFA student.  One assignment that I remember is choosing various artists and re-creating one of their artworks, simply by knowing measurements and materials.  I remember being down in my parents basement, with a few oil sticks, trying to figure out Richard Serra's process for one of his drawings.
And then I read...."involved in the Process Art Movement".

Hmmmm....This sparked my curiosity because even as a Art History major, 15 years ago, this movement was not entirely mentioned in my books.  But, there it was...on Wikipedia.

Process art is an artistic movement as well as a creative sentiment where the end product of art and craft, the objet d’art, is not the principal focus. The 'process' in process art refers to the process of the formation of art: the gathering, sorting, collating, associating, patterning, and moreover the initiation of actions and proceedings. Process Art is concerned with the actual doing and how actions can be defined as an actual work of art; seeing the art as pure human expression. Process art often entails an inherent motivation, rationale, and intentionality. Therefore, art is viewed as a creative journey or process, rather than as a deliverable or end product.

And, aside from developing a process oriented lesson, I thought back to what my students do everyday and how we get to the end.  

mess up
try again
step away

and we go through a process.

Sometimes we come up with something great....sometimes we do our best ;-), but it is within the process that my students grow.  It is within the process that my students build all those 'real world' skills that are necessary....
But who sees that from an art work on a wall?

Now, as I Tetris the sticky notes together and the little voice asks, "Is this ok?", I can respond...
"I think so." 

Now, all I need is a balloon animal artist.

xoxo, SMocK you.