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One and Another: Two Contemporary Sculptors

For Grades 7–12

Kiki Smith (American, born 1954). Born, 2002. Bronze, edition 2/3, 39 x 101 x 24 inches (99.1 x 256.5 x 61 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2002.

Related to One Another: Spiderlike, I Spin Mirrors (March 7–June 1, 2014)


Table of Contents

Featured Works
Objectives
Materials
Brief Background Information for the Teacher
Pre-Museum Activities
Museum Visit
In the Classroom
Visual Arts Activities
Creation Myths of Your Own
Related AK Lesson Plans
New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum
Audio


Featured Works

Kiki Smith
Born, 2002
Bronze, edition 2/3
39 x 101 x 24 inches (99.1 x 256.5 x 61 cm) 
Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2002

 
Kiki Smith
Born, 2002
Bronze, edition 2/3
39 x 101 x 24 inches (99.1 x 256.5 x 61 cm) 
Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2002

Alison Saar
Bareroot, 2007
Wood, bronze, ceiling tin and tar 
17 x 81 x 48 inches (43.9 x 205.7 x 121.9 cm) 
Charles Clifton Fund, by exchange, 2008


Objectives

  • Learn about two female contemporary artists, Kiki Smith and Alison Saar
  • Describe, analyze, interpret, and compare sculptural works of art through their understanding of scale, color, materials, subject matter, title, and artist’s intent  Students will use evidence from their observations and research to support their statements
  • Create their own written or visual arts expression based on a theme similar to those of the featured works

Materials


Brief Background Information for the Teacher


Collection Highlight for Kiki Smith's Born, 2002

Both Kiki Smith and Alison Saar grew up in artistic families. Kiki Smith’s father was the well-known painter, sculptor, and architect Tony Smith, whose sculpture Cigarette, 1961–67, is installed on the Albright-Knox campus. Her mother, Jane Lawrence Smith, was an actress and opera singer. Alison Saar’s mother is the artist Betye Saar, whose work comments on African American experience and history. Her father Richard Saar is a painter and conservator of ancient art.

Both works featured in this lesson are sculptures depicting a woman in combination with aspects of the natural world. In these works, each artist explores themes of identity, history, memory, and our relationship to nature.

In Born, Kiki Smith uses the image of a small deer giving birth to a much larger woman to explore our relationship to nature. She has stated, “I think I chose the body as a subject, not consciously, but because it is the one form we all share; it’s something that everybody has their own authentic experience with.” She has also been inspired by myths, religion, and spirituality, including the medieval myth of Genevieve of Brabant, who was falsely accused of infidelity by her husband, sentenced to death, spared by the executioner, and survived in the woods through the assistance of a roe deer. “In working with the body,” she explains, “I feel I’m actually making physical manifestations of psychic and spiritual dilemmas.”

Alison Saar’s Bareroot replaces a woman’s feet with branches cast in bronze. The  figure is placed on the floor, curled in a fetal or sleeping position. The artist’s deliberate choice to incorporate found materials in this work such as wood used for building construction, tin ceiling tiles, and tar, is rooted in her belief that the historical essences and memories of the materials manifest themselves in the new work. Her figures explore her identity as a woman with both European and African heritages while simultaneously encouraging viewers to make personal and cultural associations as well as universal connections to human experience through her work. When asked early in her career to be in a book about art and politics she replied, “. . . but my art isn’t political, it’s mostly about me.” However, after reading the proposed article on political issues by Lucy Lippard, she realized that while she hadn’t thought of her personal issues as political, they were in fact part of the political discourse. 

Both Smith and Saar are very thoughtful in their choice of materials. Kiki Smith has created many works in soft or fragile materials such as cloth, glass, and paper. While it might seem that bronze is more durable, the artist believes that bronze is “. . . incredibly unstable, because it’s always being melted down to make new things—primarily weapons.” Alison Saar’s choice of materials has led her to create hand-hewn wooden figures, covered in pieces of tin ceiling tiles nailed into place and smeared with tar. For the artist, these materials bring to mind mythic, historical, and personal stories of pain and protection. 


Pre-Museum Activities

Learn about the work of Alison Saar and Kiki Smith using Slides 1–11 from the One and Another PowerPoint presentation. If you plan on visiting the Albright-Knox, compare the works using Slide 12 after your visit.

For language arts or history connections, explore folk tales, fairy tales, literature, and myths that feature animals, plants, and humans. If you are already using any myths or literature in these genres, consider using these two works of sculpture as another text for study.

Sample Reading Materials:

  • Aesop’s Fables
  • Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. (Chapter 3 of Alice Through the Looking Glass is especially relevant as it details Alice entering the woods where things have no names and features an encounter with a fawn)
  • Fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm such as Cinderella, Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, and Hansel and Gretel
  • Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault, which was the first published version of a tale called Red Cap
  • Creation stories and myths from various cultures and religions, such as the book of Genesis from the Bible; Native American, Aztec, and Mayan stories; and Hindu and Buddhist creation stories
  • The story of Romulus and Remus
  • Uncle Remus stories by Joe Chandler Harris such as B’rer Rabbit and the Tar Baby
  • The Roman story of the goddess Diana

Museum Visit

Although this lesson can be accomplished through the presentation and images provided, a visit to the museum to see the works in person is always preferred. 

The featured works are currently on view in the special exhibition One Another: Spiderlike, I Spin Mirrors. During your visit to the museum, find Born and Bareroot and look at them from all sides with your students. If you have already viewed the PowerPoint lesson, ask your students if they notice anything that was not visible in the images of the works now that they are seeing them in person.


In the Classroom

Display Slide 12 in the One and Another PowerPoint presentation. Ask your students to compare the two works Born and Bareroot, and think about what statements each artist is making with her sculpture.


Visual Arts Activities

  1. Have students choose an existing creation myth, folktale, or fairy tale to depict through sculpture and/or drawing or painting.
  2. Have students choose an animal and create a sculpture, drawing, or painting that visually reflects the reasons for their animal selection. For example, if a wolf is selected for its strength and social “pack” nature, the sculpture should in some way indicate those attributes. 
  3. Have students make a figurative sculpture (either animal or human) entirely of found objects. Students should be able to explain why the found objects used are important to the meaning of the sculpture. 
  4. Have students make a sculpture, drawing, or painting about their perceptions of the human connection (or lack thereof) with nature. Both human and natural visual elements should be included in the created work.

Creation myths of your own

  1. Have each student write his or her own creation story, folktale, or fairy tale, choosing either Smith’s or Saar’s sculpture as a visual representation of that story.  They can invent names for the characters they see, invent other characters, create a plot, and add descriptive elements and a title.
  2. Have students write a creation story that combines both Born and Bareroot as its visual representation. 
  3. For any of the sculptures, paintings, or drawings they make through visual arts activities, have students compare their own (or another student’s) sculpture to the featured works by Smith and/or Saar.

Related AK Lesson Plans

If You Could Talk to the Animals featuring Franz Marc's The Wolves (Balkan War), 1913
Experiencing Video Art featuring Kelly Richardson's Twilight Avenger, 2008


New York State Learning Standards and core curriculum

New York State Learning Standards for the Arts (Visual Arts, including the museum visit) 1, 2, 3, 4
New York State Learning Standards for Math, Science, and Technology Standard 4 (for Visual Arts Activity #4)
New York State Learning Standards for Social Studies Standard 1
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language 1, 2, 3, 5
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 (New York only)
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing 3, 4 (5 if drafts are revised and edited), 8 and 9 (for Creation Myths of Your Own #4), 11


 

Audio

  • Kiki Smith, Born, 2002

  • Kiki Smith, Born, 2002

  • Audio Description: Kiki Smith, Born, 2002