Magazine article School Arts

Visions of the World

Magazine article School Arts

Visions of the World

Article excerpt

Last year, teachers in our school used the theme "Visions of the World" to integrate the study of other cultures throughout the general curriculum. The second grade focused on the study of Mexico and the art of Frida Kahlo.

We wanted the children to understand several key things about Kahlo's colorful and expressive self-portraits that were appropriate for their developmental level in art: facial proportion, color, and the use of symbols to tell a story.

Getting to Know the Artist

For an in-depth study, we were careful to select several self-portraits that depicted some of the plants and animals of Mexico. Children discussed reasons why they thought Frida Kahlo chose to include monkeys, parrots, and various types of plants and flowers into her self-portraits. The children thought about Kahlo as someone who might have loved animals, and several of them thought she chose certain flowers because of their color and shape. One boy noticed that the designs painted into her clothing copied the colors and shapes of the background flowers.

Because I thought there was a significant facial proportion lesson embedded into the portraits, we spent time discussing and sketching our faces using a traditional portrait grid. The children did a head and shoulders portrait, using mirrors propped up on their desks. Because of the strong examples of the Kahlo images, I did not get any of the usual tiny figures in the middle of the page.

We used pastels on 12 x 18" (31 x 46 cm) construction paper in various colors. The color of the paper with the pastels created a vibrant contrast which seemed in keeping with Kahlo's paintings.

Creating Our Own Portraits

After sketching their self-portraits, students were given a large selection of materials for collage. The mixed media approach alleviated some of the frustration of trying to draw a realistic looking flower or bird. …

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