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This Is My Homeland (Grades K–2)

Inspired by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s Homeland, 2017

Background

Born in 1940 at the St. Ignatius Indian Mission on her reservation in Montana, Native American artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith has been creating complex abstract paintings and prints since the 1970s. With a solid arts education (a BA in art education from Framingham State College, Massachusetts, and an MA in visual arts from the University of New Mexico), Smith forges her socio-political commentary using appropriated signs (e.g., maps of the United States), art history, and personal narratives, creating a visual language that addresses American society and Native American history. Smith has made a career as an artist, garnering many awards. She currently lives and works in New Mexico.

Homeland, 2017, belongs to a body of paintings that Smith has created since the 1990s in which she explores the intersection of identity and place through the schematic map of the United States. Here, multicolored rays and a pattern of concentric circles overlay and, in places, overwhelm conventional state-based divisions. The former emanates from a point in the northwest: the location of the Flathead Reservation in Montana where Smith grew up. In redefining the contours of the country outward from this spot, Smith counters the presumption that a nation’s “heart” should be centered in its political, financial, or cultural capitals—such as Washington, D.C., New York, or Los Angeles. In doing so, she raises questions about where we find our own centers and how we form our identities in relation to our concept of home.

Homeland

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (American, born 1940). Homeland, 2017. Mixed media on canvas, 48 x 72 inches (121.9 x 182.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Bequest of John Mortimer Schiff, by exchange, 2018 (2018:12). © 2018 Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

Materials

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Dark colored pen or marker
  • Coloring tools (crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.)
  • Different sized objects for tracing circles (soup can, coffee mug, candle, water bottle, pencil holder, etc.)
  • A map of your city, town, county, or state (you can look at an image online or use a map)
  • Ruler (optional)

Vocabulary

Map: drawing of all or part of Earth's surface; its basic purpose is to show where things are; it is usually on a flat surface

Discussion and Video

Begin by using the Teaching Tips and Tools for Discussion. An example of how to bring in information about the artist from something your students observed: If they observed that it looks like the center of the artwork is in the upper left, you can share that is where the artist grew up, so that is where she wanted to put her center of the map.

When looking at the artwork, have the students trace in the air the lines that they see. Explain that the curved lines are just a part of a circle and see if they can make up the rest of the circle in the air with hand movements.

Next, watch the following video:

In the video, Smith says she likes to use maps in her art because “maps can tell stories.”

Ask the following questions to begin a discussion with your students:

  • What story would you want to share? Where does that story take place?
  • For older students: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith was told that she could never be an artist because she was a girl. Do you think that was fair for someone to say to her? What do you think about her becoming an artist anyway?

If you are not able to watch the video, we suggest showing a picture of the artist before moving on to the project. When students see an image of the artist, especially if the artist is still alive, it helps them to see that art is being made by all types of people from all over the world.

Artmaking

Overview: This activity is to encourage young students to create their own drawing that is inspired by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s use of maps, bright colors, and circles.

  • To begin, show your students a map. Depending on the locations of your students, you can display a map of the city, town, county, or state that they all live in. Ask them to draw the outline onto their paper with a pencil then go back over their line with a pen or marker.
  • Next, ask the students to pick out three to four objects for tracing circles (see materials list for ideas). Have them look at the bottoms of the objects and put them in order from smallest to biggest. (Try to make sure the smallest one is a bit smaller than their drawing from the first step.) It’s OK if part of the circles go off the page.
  • Ask each student to pick out a color that they really like from their coloring tools and put a dot in the middle of their drawing. Show how to trace the smallest object, making sure to cover the dot. Then they should trace each object, from smallest to biggest, with their dot in the center of each circle. (It’s OK if it’s not perfect! Wobbly circles add some fun.)
  • Next, ask the students to trace a few lines starting at their dot and ending at the edge of their paper. They can use a ruler or draw the lines on their own.
  • Once they have drawn their circles and lines, they are ready to add color. Ask the students to think about what colors they want to use. Do they want to use many different colors or just a few? Ask them to look back at Smith’s work for inspiration.

A teacher's example project for the artmaking activity

Storytelling

Overview: This activity encourages young students to use their artwork as inspiration to tell a story.

Ask students the following questions:

  • Where is the center of your artwork?
  • Who lives there?
  • What colors did you use?
  • Why did you choose those colors?
  • How would your story begin?

Next, ask them to use their imagination to tell a story about someone who lives inside their artwork. Ask them to use one of the colors they chose to put in their artwork in their tale.

Wrap-Up

  • If you could display your newly created artwork anywhere, where would it be?
  • Did you like using random objects to help make your artwork? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think Jaune Quick-to-See Smith used circles and lines to help show off her “center”?

Optional: Share a photo or video of your artwork on Twitter or Instagram with #AlbrightKnox and #MuseumFromHome!

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