Breaking down the different elements in an artwork allows students to build abstract thoughts based on their concrete observations. It is an interactive way to teach visual literacy in your classroom. Without revealing the title of the work, display Jim Dine’s Child’s Blue Wall. Use the following questions to guide students throughout the discussion process.
Explain to students that the artwork is made of a combination of different materials, making it a mixed-media work. Ask students to identify the different elements in the artwork. The painted canvas serves as the background of the work. The child’s lamp and working light switch balance each other on opposite sides of the canvas.
What could the background represent? Examining the background, discuss how artwork can be interpreted in different ways. For example, the canvas may be seen as part of a child’s room or as an evening sky. Can students think of any other interpretations? Have students imagine what the work would look like if the light was turned off.
Why would Jim Dine want to create this artwork? Can students form a personal connection with the artwork? Do they have a painted or wallpapered wall in their bedroom? Do they have a night light? Have students focus on a special space, such as their bedroom. Ask them to visualize the different décor or items they have around the space. Do they have any feelings or emotions about the space? What about memories?
Students can brainstorm different elements or reflections about this space. Inform students that they will be creating their own mixed-media artwork depicting their space. Have students revisit their space and note the textures, fabrics, wall surface, and decorations they see. If students are able, have them bring in a small object from their space to be used in the artwork. This activity will transition into the artmaking process.