– Before I headed off for President’s Week, our February recess, I posted on the Art Docent Facebook site….this quote
“Enjoy the week off school – and discover ART in your travels or free time!”
Little did I realize how much my connections with Art Docents connected me to Art in the world today.
I took a trip to Washington D.C. to visit my newly relocated son during this vacation. One of our docents told me about the new portraits that were just unveiled, just before I left.
I was so excited to see if I could find time to visit the National Portrait Gallery while I was there. It was so much fun to take what we teach in Art Docents and realize we are learning and being connected to our own world…making history today.
In our 5th grade lesson called, “Grade 5 Lesson Four: American Art – Portraiture, we cover the
State Standard: 1.3 which is to have students use their knowledge of all the elements of art to describe similarities and differences in works of art and the environment.
“George Washington After 1796”
Artist: Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828)
The Huntington Library, Pasadena, CA (approx. life-size)
We discuss both Color and Value with the students using these two famous American portraits.
Both portraits use color contrast to emphasize the subject matter, but how are these contrasts different? In the Stuart painting, the background is dark so that George Washington’s face in the portrait stands out.
In the Whistler portrait, the subject matter, Whistler’s mother, is dressed in dark colors with a lighter background, again emphasizing the portrait subject, but using a light background instead.
The background in each portrait creates a focal point, despite the very different use of color in these prints.
The white color in the Stuart print is predominately in the middle of the portrait; whereas, the lighter colors are spread throughout the portrait created by Whistler. Note the use red in the rosy cheeks in both portraits
“Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1”
Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
The 5th grade students are presented with two prints to compare, but in this case, there will be two portraits to compare and contrast by two different American artists.
There will be differences in style, technique, and the medium used by the artists.
Through discussion and questions, the students should evaluate how or whether each painting has achieved unity and harmony in its composition
and use their knowledge of the elements of art while describing similarities and differences in the works of art presented.
Back to my ART CONNECTIONS…
Barack Obama, born 1961
Forty-fourth president, 2009–2017
Artist: Kehinde Wiley (born 1977)
Oil on canvas, 2018
Barack chose to have his portrait done by Kehinde Wiley, the first ever African-American artist to produce an official presidential portrait for the National Portrait Gallery,
The piece features Obama seated in front of a fortress of leaves.
From this deep green background emerges three types of flowers, each representing a part of the former president’s history.
The white flowers are jasmine, representing Obama’s birthplace and childhood in Hawaii.
The pink and gold flowers are chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago, where Obama became a community organizer and, ultimately, a senator of Illinois.
purple flowers are African blue lilies, a reminder of his father, Barack Obama, Sr., a Kenyan man.
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama
Born Chicago, Illinois
The quilting tradition in Gee’s Bend goes back beyond the 19th century perhaps influenced in part by patterned Native American and African textiles.
African-American women pieced together strips of cloth to make bedcovers. Throughout the post-bellum years and into the 20th century,
Gee’s Bend women made quilts to keep themselves and their children warm in unheated shacks that lacked running water, telephones and electricity.
Along the way they developed a distinctive style, noted for its lively improvisations and geometric simplicity.
Many of the quilts are a departure from classical quilt making, bringing to mind a minimalist quality.
This is could have also been influenced by the isolation of their location, which caused them to use whatever materials were on hand, often recycling from old clothing and textiles.
ART CONNECTION….with children!
And back to working with students to teach Art and Art Appreciation….making things current and connecting with our daily lives….here is a fun story from just this week
…this is just what the artist was hoping for when she contemplated painting Mrs. Obama.
The Baltimore-based artist considers the former first lady to be someone “women can relate to—no matter what shape, size, race, or color. . . .
We see our best selves in her.” Here, she portrays Mrs. Obama as both confident and approachable, in a dress by Michelle Smith’s label Milly.
Little girl awestruck by Michelle Obama’s portrait believes she’s ‘a queen’
Two-year-old Parker Curry was so awestruck by the towering portrait of Michelle Obama that every time her mother would try to get her to turn around to take a picture, she would not stop staring at it.
“In further discussion with (Parker) yesterday and today, I realized that she believes Michelle Obama is a queen,
and she wants to be a queen as well …,” Curry said.
“As a female and as a girl of color, It’s really important that I show her people who look like her that are doing amazing things and are making history so that she knows she can do it.”