purpose of this project is to create a self-portrait that expresses
some important aspect or aspects of your personality and sense of
self. Through this project you will also become more familiar with
the ways in which contemporary artists have used non-traditional materials
to create meaning in their artworks.
White roll paper
Lead and colored pencils
Tempera or acrylic paint
Assorted materials brought by students
Computer and printer
Reference Artists (See also Artists
Artists who make figurative sculptures with
John Ahearn, Camille Claudel, Duane Hanson, Luis Jiménez,
Edmonia Lewis, Michelangelo, Auguste Rodin, Loredo Taft
Artists who have made sculptures of
Josef Beuys, Andy Goldsworthy, David Hammons, Jeff Koons, Ana Mendieta,
Meret Oppenheim, Marc Quinn, Miriam Schapiro, Tony Tasset
Show and Discuss Figurative Sculpture
Show slides of sculptures or bring in actual small sculptures or
toy action figures.
What is a sculpture? Can the students name any famous sculptures?
Are there any sculptures in the school? Are there any sculptures
in the neighborhood? Are there any sculptures downtown in your city?
What is a figurative sculpture? What kinds of poses have students
seen in figurative sculpture?
What are some of the reasons artists make figurative sculptures?
Describe the emotions and/or narrative meaning conveyed by various
poses in figurative sculpture. What materials are sculptures typically
Show and Discuss Sculpture Materials
Show images of artwork by artists who have used non-traditional
materials in their sculpting. Discuss the intended meaning of these
Create a list of materials not typically used in sculpture. One
way to approach this is to ask students to compile a list of things
found in a junkyard, a bedroom, a refrigerator, pants pockets, in
a lake, at a factory, on a spaceship, on the moon, etc.
Collaborative learning works well for this phase of the project.
Give small groups of students worksheets with various categories.
Have them add items to the worksheet for 10 or 15 minutes and then
have a whole classroom discussion. List items on the chalkboard,
on big sheets of paper, or on the overhead. It works well for "Round
1" to have groups create categories. In "Round 2"
groups trade papers and attempt to fill in as many items as possible
in the stated categories. In "Round 3" pass the papers
again and challenge the new groups to come up with at least five
more items in each category. (This exercise is a great way to get
students to practice free association and creative, non-linear thinking.)
Photograph or Trace
After discussing the tradition of generating meaning through the
pose of a human figure have the students experiment with different
poses. This can be a good time to teach or reinforce the concept
of gesture drawing.
Another interesting activity is to have the students play Living
Sculptures. Give individual or small groups of students slips of
paper with an emotion or abstract concept (such as hope) written
on it. Students form living sculptures and others in the class discuss
the meaning and aesthetics of the temporary sculpture.
Each student should choose a personally meaningful pose. Ask them
to consider how the pose and the material choice will work together--will
they create continuity of meaning or are they creating tension through
Take pictures of the students in their chosen poses. You can use
a digital camera and download the images into the computer. If this
is not an option, you can scan photographs. After the images have
been input into the computer, knock out the background and use Postermaker
(or a comparable program) to enlarge and print the images in life-size
scale. You may have to tile the images. If so, you will have to
show the students how to reconstruct the image.
A simpler, less technologically based option is to use a silhouette
tracing of the students. Use a strong light and project the student's
shadow onto paper mounted on the wall. Trace.
Have each student write two to three paragraphs about his or her
fictional sculpture and the materials he or she plans to use in
its construction. This will later be developed into an artist statement.
Prompt the students with such questions as: What is it made of?
How was it made? How large or small is it? Where is it sited? How
do these facts create the meaning you intend to convey about yourself?
Instead of an essay the students may write a poem.
A few examples of the students' material choices: "I am made
of marshmallows and rocks." "I am made of airplane tickets
and movie lights."
If working with digitally produced images, students will probably
need to reassemble and paste their images to a large sheet of paper.
Students can now develop their photographic or traced images with
adding the actual materials or drawings or xeroxes of the materials
to the work. The samples you show the students should incorporate
various production methods, such as collage, painting, changing
the photographic image with subtle shading, etc.
Write an artist statement to accompany the piece. Encourage the
students to take on the persona of an established artist. Explain
to the audience the significance of the artwork. What is it made
of? How was it made? How large or small is it? How do these facts
create the intended meaning? Write or paste on a typed artist statement
at the bottom of the page.
Display the large scale finished works in a long hallway or other
gallerylike setting. Mount a typed artist statement next to each
work. Consider asking an English class studying metaphor to view
and comment on the exhibit.
Let each student present his or her sculpture. Did anyone in the
class feel that they learned something new about a person from this
project? Ask students to reflect on whether they learned anything
new about themselves from working on this project.
Teachers who ask that students share inner thoughts and feelings
need to provide a safe and respectful environment in which to do
so. Because they are not often asked to bring their full humanity
into a classroom, the first time you conduct a more personal discussion,
students may begin to act goofy and say rude things. This should
never be permitted. Be prepared to stop and establish ground rules
in a calm and non-judgmental manner if someone says something inappropriate
or unkind. You can create a class with a climate of trust where
students feel free to reveal more about themselves.
An interesting extension of the project is to ask each student to
imagine that his or her self-portrait sculpture is public art. Where
will their sculptures be placed? How will that add to or change
the meaning of the work?
Rephotograph students standing in front of and reacting to their
same size artwork. Ask students to write about their new double
here to print out Process Plans for Materials-Based Self-Portrait