The Deeper Purposes of Art: Walking Murals
It is an undeniable fact that this past weekend’s Women’s March was a powerful and courageous antidote to the incisively degrading political rhetoric that has dominated recent headlines. Due to it being slightly polarizing to some students and families, I had no intention of discussing the March in class, as we are dead in the heat of pre-finals warfare. However, I had a sudden mind shift when I received this picture from my department chair; it’s a great real world connection to our unit on Art. We are in the midst of deconstructing Frida, along with the significance of art and its multifaceted purposes. This past week we looked at different art movements and the currents moving her work. This picture captures one of the purposes of art and could be placed in a variety of movements. I thought this was good food for thought, and my students ate it up!
Prior to digging into Frida, we looked at an article I had curated titled “Qué es el arte “(I will share this in a later post). We learned, in several class periods, the different views of art and some of the basic movements; these documents were our guiding principles that we’d revisit with each artist.
We started off with the question “what is art.” My students had a lot to say. You can see from the whiteboard collage we made in class. I had students go to the board and write their own definition of art. We read the article, which highlighted quotes from several artists and art critics. You can see the quotes below.
On the Monday following the Women’s March (we are in Chicago), we looked at the poster first and then, described the picture, discussed the impact of the words (they used their art vocabulary, which can be found clicking this link to quizlet.) and lastly impact of the social context (for aiding interpretation) and then like a math problem, we tried to solve for X.
1. ¿Qué evento fue y cómo lo sabes?
2. En tu opinión, ¿es una obra de arte? ¿En qué consiste el arte?
3. Describe lo que ves en la obra de arte. ¿Cuáles son los colores? ¿Qué impactan tienen?
4. ¿Qué rol juega el contexto en nuestra interpretación del arte?
5. ¿Cuál cita de arte (de los críticos) mejor explique la función de arte?
6. Esta “obra de arte” puede ser un ejemplo del muralismo, ¿por qué sí o no?
7. ¿Cuál es el impact que tiene sobre ti?
8. ¿A qué movimiento pertence?
This was our Campanazo (supposedly, a five- minute warm-up) and what a great catalyst for discussion it was!. We discussed the symbolism of the picture and the meaning behind the lady’s mouth being covered. Many of my students, most of the boys, had a hard time relating. When I asked if they felt an impact or connection, most responded “no”. So then, I had really dig deep and flip the question so that gender quality could be neutralized: I followed up with these questions to bring them into the conversation; I started by asking:
Have you ever felt that your voice didn’t matter?
¿Has sentido alguna vez sin el poder de decidir o sin una voz?
Have you parents made decisions about you without your input?
¿Tus padres han tomado decisiones sin involucrar tus ideas o perspectivas?
Did you have a part in contributing to your final exams (this really got their hands up).
¿Has podido colaborar con los profesores en la creación de los exámenes finales? – this really got them!
After seeing the sea of hands, and the boys finding “their voice” the lesson was, we can all relate to the lady in the painting. We have all felt “silenced” one way or another. I guess my point was “no one is off the hook” and we could all relate to each other’s experience one way or another.
The second “light bulb” moment was discussing the terms of Muralismo and then looking at the picture. From the article I curated, students had these definitions below of the art movements we studied prior to diving into Frida (I am still editing the article, and will share soon!). The lesson here was looking beyond a fixed definition and thinking more broadly in terms of the “spirit” of the movement or core philosophical values and purpose; looking at the “why” instead of being fixated on the “what.”
Muralismo- un movimiento artístico comenzado en México a principios del siglo XX. Fue creado por un grupo de intelectuales después de la revolución mexicana. Los artistas o muralistas transformaron espacios públicos en lienzos grandes donde se reflejaban sus mensajes politicos y sociales.
The primary goal was to make them think “outside the canvas” and think more about the “spirit” of a movement and not the letter. Many students clung to the textbook example Muralismo, which centers on it being fixed in public spaces; but this was a public space, and the art was fluid, could it be Muralismo? After going back and forth we came to the following conclusion:
The artwork shares various elements of Muralismo, because it:
-It shares a strong political message- directed to the people
-Transforms (albeit temporarily) a public place (I coined the term Muralismo Andante).
-Although it does not totally comply with technical definition (I am no expert, I dabble here and there in the arts), it does comply philosophically.
It was a lively debate (and review for an upcoming assessment). We spent about 30 minutes discussing the picture.
Stay tuned for more on Frida: Arte sin limites