(thanks to Professor Mary Erickson, Arizona State University)
MODELING INQUIRY ACTIVITIES
(reference the Chicano Art Archive under IMAGE BANK)
Explain that artists' choice of medium can affect the meaning their artworks have for viewers. Ask students to imagine how an artwork might look if executed in a different medium. For example, how might the portrait of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz look as a relief carving in wood, or Luis Guerra's Texas Farm Worker as a patchwork quilt, Frida Kahlo's Self Portrait Between the Borderline of Mexico and the United States as a mosaic, or the Codex Borbonicus as a computer generated image. Then ask students how they think the feeling tone, or message of each artwork would be affected by the change in medium.
Display and begin to interpret the Chicana/o print or mural you have selected as an example. Explain that interpretations are not like facts. One artwork can support more than one good interpretation. Also explain that better interpretations are those which are more strongly supported with evidence.
Begin the discussion by asking students to think about what the artwork might be about, that is, what it means. Ask students to give evidence to support their ideas. As the discussion progresses raise the issue of how the artist's choice of medium affects the meaning of her or his artwork.
After this preliminary group discussion use an overhead or handouts to introduce some of the many questions students can ask to help guide their inquiry into evidence about an artwork. Ask students to consult this list of questions as they break into small groups to investigate a specific print or mural.
What basic information can you learn about the artwork itself or about the artist?
--Who made it?
--Where was it made?
--When was it made?
--What's its title?
--Does it depict anything? If so, what? (make a detailed inventory)
--What visual elements are important in this artwork?
--How do the elements work together?
--What information can you find to help you begin to develop your own interpretation of the artwork?
--Does it have an obvious or not-so-obvious function?
--Does it use symbols to reinforce a message? (List)
--Do other artworks by the same artist (if available) give you a better sense of the meaning of the artwork?
--What viewer(s) do you think the artist intended the artwork for? What evidence within the work (or outside) supports that idea?
--Do you think contemporary viewers seeing the artwork understand it in the same way as did the viewers for whom the artwork wasoriginally made? Why or why not?
--What can you find out to help you assess the effectiveness of the artist's choice of medium ?
--What tools, materials, and processes did the artist use?
--Why do you think the artist chose this particular medium? (Imagine how it might look if executed in another medium.)
--How was the meaning of the artwork affected by (reinforced/enhanced) by the artist's choice of medium?
SMALL GROUP INQUIRY ACTIVITIES
If your students are working with a collection of several artworks, ask students to view all the other artworks you have selected. Ask students to form small groups by joining a few of their classmates who like or are interested in the same artwork. Students should consult the list of inquiry questions to guide their interpretation and to guide their search for supporting evidence.
If your focus is on a single mural (or print), you might form small groups in several ways, for example, based on students' initial ideas about the meaning of the work or by assigning groups to approach their investigation first through one of the three major inquiry categories (basic
information, evidence for interpretation, artist's choice of medium). Ask groups to share the results of their separate investigations and then go back
to small groups to see how the discoveries of classmates affect their further investigations and their conclusions.
Each group should eventually report to the entire class. Their reports should address:
--the inquiry questions you found most helpful
--your interpretation of the meaning of the artwork, supported with evidence
--your conclusions about how the artist's choice of medium affected the meaning of the artwork.
You may choose to ask each group or each individual student to write a paragraph about the artwork they have investigated.
--Listen to presentations (or read paragraphs) noting whether students can identify helpful inquiry questions, whether they support their interpretations with evidence, and whether they reach conclusions about how the medium affects the meaning of the artwork.
--Items for a Protest and Persuasion Portfolio might include:
--notes on discussion of sample Chicana/o print or mural
outline of notes for group presentation (or written paragraphs)
--Field trip arrangements to (or video tape of) a local mural or print exhibition OR a set of reproductions of either a variety of prints or multiple
reproductions of one mural.
--Information sources related to the artworks selected for study, such as exhibition catalogues or flyers, art books, or access to library and internet
sources. If you use artworks on Chicana and Chianca Space you can click on the name of the artwork for more information.
--Overhead transparency or handouts of inquiry questions
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