Lesson Six:
Considering Media And Meanings



LESSON OVERVIEW:

Students visit an exhibition of prints or a local mural, or they study reproductions of prints or murals. They interpret the artworks supporting their conclusions with evidence in the work and from the contextual information. Students focus especially on the significance of the artist's choice of mural or printmaking as a medium.



OBJECTIVES:

  1. Students learn how to speculate about the meanings of artworks.

  2. Students learn how to use questions to guide their inquiry into evidence to support their interpretations.

  3. Students learn how to consider the effectiveness of an artist's choice of medium on the meaning of his or her artwork (printmaking or mural).



PREPARATION:

Choose either printmaking or mural making as the focus of the lesson. If you choose the printmaking option, plan the lesson either in conjunction with a visit to an exhibition of prints at a local museum or art gallery or by assembling a variety of reproductions of prints

(for example from art books and journals). If students are viewing reproductions rather than an original mural, be sure to provide them with dimensions so they have a better sense of the size of the original. Assemble whatever information sources you can find related to the artworks you have selected, such as exhibition catalogues or flyers, art books, or arrange access to library and internet sources. If you use artworks on Chicana and Chicano Space you can click on the name of the artwork for more information.

If your focus is on printmaking choose one of the following prints to discuss with the entire class as an example before beginning to work in small groups.

  • Enrique Chagoya's Insulae Canibalium
  • Carlos Cortez Koyokuikatl's Untitled Linocut
  • Ana Laura de la Garza's Cuata A
  • Luis Jiménez' Southwestern Pieta
  • Gilbert "Magú" Luján's Me and My Compadre
  • César Martínez' El pantalón rosa
  • Eduardo Oropeza's Hechale
  • José Guadalupe Posada's Calavera Revolucionaria
  • Alfredo Zalce's Untitled Woodcut
  • If you choose the mural option, plan the lesson either in conjunction with a visit to a local mural or by selecting a reproduction of a mural and making multiple color copies so that each small group of students has a reproduction to study. Another option is to shoot a video tape of a local mural. If students are viewing reproductions rather than an original mural, be sure to provide them with dimensions so they have a better sense of the size of the original. If your focus is on murals choose either Judith Baca's Olympic Champions, 1948-1964, Breaking Barriers or Diego Rivera's Revolt and The New Religion to discuss with the entire class as an example before beginning to work in small groups.



    MODELING INQUIRY ACTIVITIES:



    Printmaking Lesson Index


    Mural Lesson Index

    Explain that artists' choice of medium can affect the meaning their artworks have for viewers. Ask students to imagine how an artwork might look if executed in a different medium. For example, how might the portrait of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz look as a relief carving in wood, or Luis Guerra's Texas Farm Worker as a patchwork quilt, Frida Kahlo's Self Portrait Between the Borderline of Mexico and the United States as a mosaic, or the Codex Borbonicus as a computer generated image. Then ask students how they think the feeling tone, or message of each artwork would be affected by the change in medium.

    Display and begin to interpret the Chicana/o print or mural you have selected as an example. Explain that interpretations are not like facts. One artwork can support more than one good interpretation. Also explain that better interpretations are those which are more strongly supported with evidence.

    Begin the discussion by asking students to think about what the artwork might be about, that is, what it means. Ask students to give evidence to support their ideas. As the discussion progresses raise the issue of how the artist's choice of medium affects the meaning of her or his artwork.

    After this preliminary group discussion use an overhead or handouts to introduce some of the many questions students can ask to help guide their inquiry into evidence about an artwork. Ask student to consult this list of questions as they break into small groups to investigate a specific print or mural.

  • What basic information can you learn about the artwork itself or about the artist?
  • Who made it?
  • Where was it made?
  • When was it made?
  • What's its title?
  • Does it depict anything? If so, what? (make a detailed inventory)
  • What visual elements are important in this artwork?
  • How do the elements work together?
  • What information can you find to help you begin to develop your own interpretation of the artwork?
  • Does it have an obvious or not-so-obvious function?
  • Does it use symbols to reinforce a message? (List)
  • Do other artworks by the same artist (if available) give you a better sense of the meaning of the artwork?
  • What viewer(s) do you think the artist intended the artwork for? What evidence within the work (or outside) supports that idea?
  • Do you think contemporary viewers seeing the artwork understand it in the same way as did the viewers for whom the print was originally made? Why or why not?
  • What can you find out to help you assess the effectiveness of the artist's choice of medium (printmaking or mural)?
  • What tools, materials, and processes did the artist use?.
  • Why do you think the artist chose printmaking or mural making as his or her medium? (Imagine how it might look if executed in another medium.)
  • How was the meaning of the artwork affected by (reinforced/enhanced) by the artist's choice of medium?


  • SMALL GROUP INQUIRY ACTIVITIES:

    If your students are working with a collection of several artworks, ask students to view all the other muraLs or prints you have selected. Ask students to form small groups by joining a few of their classmates who like or are interested in the same artwork. Students should consult the list of inquiry questions to guide their interpretation and to guide their search for supporting evidence.

    If your focus is on a single mural (or print), you might form small groups in several ways, for example, based on students' initial ideas about the meaning of the work or by assigning groups to approach their investigation first through one of the three major inquiry categories (basic information, evidence for interpretation, artist's choice of medium). Ask groups to share the results of their separate investigations and then go back to small groups to see how the discoveries of classmates affect their further investigations and their conclusions.

    Each group should eventually report to the entire class. Their reports should address:

  • the inquiry questions you found most helpful
  • your interpretation of the meaning of the artwork, supported with evidence
  • your conclusions about how the artist's choice of medium affected the meaning of the artwork.
  • You may choose to ask each group or each individual student to write a paragraph about the artwork they have investigated.



    ASSESSMENT:

    Listen to presentations (or read paragraphs) noting whether students can identify helpful inquiry questions, whether they support their interpretations with evidence, and whether they reach conclusions about how the medium affects the meaning of the artwork.

    Items for a Protest and Persuasion Portfolio might include:

  • notes on discussion of sample Chicana/o print or mural
  • outline of notes for group presentation (or written paragraphs)


  • RESOURCES:

    Field trip arrangements to (or video tape of) a local mural or print exhibition OR a set of reproductions of either a variety of prints or multiple reproductions of one mural.

    Information sources related to the artworks selected for study, such as exhibition catalogues or flyers, art books, or access to library and internet sources. If you use artworks on Chicana and Chianca Space you can click on the name of the artwork for more information.

    Overhead transparency or handouts of inquiry questions



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