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.