Blue Sky, Blue Wall
For Grades 3–5
Related to Sweet Dreams, Baby! Life of Pop, London to Warhol (May 31–September 8, 2013)
Table of Contents
(American, born 1935)
Child’s Blue Wall, 1962
Oil on canvas, wood, metal, and light bulb
60 x 72 inches (152.4 x 182.9 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1963.
Background Information for Educators
- Become familiar with Jim Dine’s Child’s Blue Wall through observation and discussion
- Learn that a work of art can have multiple interpretations
- Create a work of art through observation and manipulation of basic art materials
- Write one or more narratives based on their own artwork by selecting a character or characters to interact with their artwork or the artwork of others
- Learn the terms/concepts symmetry, symmetrical, asymmetry, and asymmetrical and apply them to other works of art (see discussion about symmetry)
- Image for class display
- Copies of Activity Sheet (PDF)
- Paper and pencils
- Colored pencils, markers, or crayons
- Old magazines and newspapers
- Students’ family photographs that can be cut up (optional)
- Choose one wall in the classroom and arrange different classroom objects in an interesting way against (and on) the wall.
- Ask your students to carefully examine the wall for one minute and then ask them to name and describe the objects they see.
- As they answer, make a list of their observations.
- Ask the students to describe the wall itself – its texture, color, and size.
- Using the list of observations, now ask the students about the objects. What are they used for? Would you find them anywhere else besides a classroom? If so, where?
Display Jim Dine’s Child’s Blue Wall. Do not reveal the title. Ask your students to try to identify or guess what the objects are in the painting. If they are having trouble, you can guide them with questions. For example, ask if they can find a lamp, a light bulb, and a light switch. Can they identify the toy soldier in the lamp? What is the painted background supposed to be?
Explain to the students that this artwork is made up of a combination of different materials. It contains a painted canvas, a real child’s lamp, and a real light switch. Ask the students to imagine what the painting would look like if the lamp were turned off. What would look the same? What would look different?
Discuss how the painting can be interpreted in different ways. For example, the painting may be seen as part of a child’s room, or as an evening sky. Can your students think of any other interpretations?
If you draw an imaginary line through the middle of Jim Dine’s Child’s Blue Wall, are the two sides exactly the same? No! The lamp and the light switch cause one half to be different from the other. This is an example of a picture that is asymmetrical, not symmetrical. Now compare this to Andy Warhol’s 100 Cans, comprised of rows of cans placed in straight lines. If you imagine dividing the painting in half to show five cans on either side, each side is almost exactly the same. This means that the painting is symmetrical. Have your students practice finding symmetrical and asymmetrical pictures!
Have the students take home and complete the Activity Sheet (PDF). Students are asked to sketch, in pencil, their favorite wall in their home and then write a paragraph describing it in detail. Ask them to describe the actual wall and the objects around and on it, the same way they did in the classroom exercise. They should conclude their essays by saying why they like this wall the best.
Also ask them to return the Activity Sheet with magazine/newspaper clippings of objects that are alike or similar to the objects in their sketch.
Have students bring in a photograph of a family member or a picture from a magazine of their favorite athlete, musician, or movie star.
In the Classroom:
Have students complete their artworks by adding color with the colored pencils, markers, or crayons. At this time, they should also glue their magazine/newspaper clippings to their sketches to make a collage. Make sure they do not attach the photo/picture of their favorite family member, athlete, movie star, etc. Instead, have them cut out this figure.
Hang the completed works up around the classroom. Allow the students to take their cut-out figures and hold them up to their work of art and the works by other students.
Discuss with the class the differences between their work with and without the cut-out figure. Ask them to create a story about the figure with their drawing as the setting for the action. What are they doing there? What are they thinking? What are they saying?
Activity Sheet (PDF)
- New York State Learning Standards for the Arts (Visual Arts, including the museum visit) 1, 2, 3, 4
- New York State Learning Standard for Math, Science, and Technology 3
- New York State Learning Standards for Mathematical Practice 1, 3, 7, 8 (for the discussion about symmetry)
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language: 1, 2 (if stories are written), 3
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11 (New York only)
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening 1, 2
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing 2, 3 (if stories are written), 5, 6 (if drafts and presentations are developed from the writing)
Audio for High School Students