Lesson Overview:

Students are introduced to the unit theme, Images of Me, drawing on examples from their own lives. They use several broad identity themes to help them interpret artworks by four Chicana/o artists. The lesson concludes with students brainstorming characteristics of their own identity that they might use in constructing sculptures which express various aspects of themselves.

Basic Activities
Part I: Focusing on Our Identities
Part II: Using Themes of Identity to Interpret Artworks
Part III:Ideas for Sculptures
Optional Activities
Alternative Extended Activity for Using Themes to Interpret Artworks
Our Identities as Girls and Boys, Women and Men



1. name several identities they sometimes choose.

2. name ways their identities are affected by their cultures.

3. identify ways they may change their appearance as they transform their identities.

4. use broad themes to help interpret artworks.

5. list characteristics of themselves as ideas for their own art making.

Click here for Assessment Guides that you can use to determine the level of mastery your students have achieved in reaching these objectives.


Read through the entire lesson plan. Decide whether you will use either of the optional activities. You may want to print out a copy of the lesson plan. Decide how many class sessions to devote to which activities within the lesson.

Print out and display a large Images of Me Icon in your classroom.

Print out copies of the Images of Me theme introduction for each of your students. Print out and display Images of Me and Theme icons. You may want to write the four identity themes (A-D) in Part II and the questions in Part III on overhead transparencies or copy them onto class handouts with space for students to write responses.

To display key artworks arrange access to computer facilities, connect a computer to a large video monitor, or print out sets of multiple views of the artworks. Because the Quicktime "movable" reproductions of sculptures are large files, you may want to download them before class.

Read through detailed information provided with the Hernández , Jiménez , Luján , and Pérez sculptures highlighting information you judge appropriate to share with your students. If you choose the optional alternative interpretation activity or if you plan to ask students to read and report on artists' identities, printout two copies of all the information for each artist.


Part I: Focusing on Our Identities

Distribute to each student a copy of the Images of Me theme introduction. Explain that a person's identity is who s/he thinks s/he is. Read or ask a student to read aloud the introduction. Discuss ways that we change our identity as we move from situation to situation in our lives. Next discuss how we can change our appearance as we transform our identities. Questions such as the following may be useful in leading your discussion:

  • How much is your identity shaped by your culture? Do you sometimes walk, talk, or dress in ways that reflect your cultural identity? (For example, Mexican American, African American, Native American, European American or other, perhaps more specific culture)

  • Do people in your culture share beliefs that help them define who they are? (for example, ideas about love, death, family, politics, religion, or social issues)

  • How do you think others see you?

  • As you get older what are some important ways that your identity is changing? How has your sense of yourself changed since you were in elementary school? How has (do you expect) your identity to change as a teenager? How do you imagine yourself ten years from now?

  • Think about how you act and feel with your friends at school. Are there situations in which you act quite differently than at school or with friends? (with older relatives, at a job, during a religious ceremony, at home with family, at a sporting event, at a concert, in a museum, on a downtown street, etc.)

  • In those situations do you feel as if you almost change into another person? (with older relatives, at a job, during a religious ceremony, at home with family, at a sporting event, at a concert, in a museum, on a downtown street, etc.)

  • How do people transform their appearance as they move from situation to situation? (hairdos, clothing. make-up or jewelry, facial expressions, posture)

  • Describe ways you have changed your appearance to express a somewhat different identity in some particular place or at some special event? (wearing team colors at a game; dressing up for a wedding or funeral; changing your hair, jewelry, or make-up for a date; or wearing a uniform to work; etc.)

  • Have you ever pretended to change your identity and transformed your facial expression, posture, and bodily movements to match that new identity? (putting on an act in a Halloween costume; playing a character in a skit or play; or walking or talking like a TV character, movie star, or music performer, etc.)

Part II: Using Themes of Identity to Interpret Artworks

Explain that because artworks are reflections of the culture in which they are made, they contains visual clues about cultural traditions, beliefs, and the roles people play and that others perceive for individuals within those cultures. Explain further that broad themes are general ideas that we can use to help us consider the meaning or importance of an artwork.

Write the following four broad identity themes on the board or on an overhead:
A. We define ourselves through the roles we play.
B. We define ourselves through cultural traditions.
C. We define ourselves through our beliefs about life and death.
D. We define ourselves through the people we love.

Display reproductions of the following three-dimensional artworks by Ester Hernández, Luis Jiménez, Eva Pérez, and Gilbert Luján . Read the basic information (artist, title, date, medium, size, and location) about each artwork.

Explain that students will be analyzing these four sculptures looking for visual clues that relate to the four broad identity themes. As you focus students' attention in turn on each artwork, ask them to make an attempt to apply all four broad identity themes (A-D above) to each work and decide which one or two themes most closely relate(s) to each artwork. Ask for a show of hands for the most suitable identity theme for each artwork. Lead a discussion of reasons why particular themes are appropriate for specific sculptures.

If you do not choose the more extensive interpretive activity [ANCHOR to "Alternative Extended Activity for Using Themes to Interpret Artworks" on the Optional Activities section below], be sure to share information about 1) each sculptor's personal background (see the "Information about the Art Maker" section as well as the "Maker's Intention" subsection of the "Viewpoints for Interpretation" section posted with each artwork) and 2) the sculptor's culture (see the "Cultural Context" and "Cultural Understanding" subsections of the "Contextual Information" and "Viewpoints for Interpretation" sections respectively posted with each artwork).

Point out how the idea of roles, mentioned in theme A, relates to three of the works (the roles of lovers are suggested by the Jiménez; the roles of mother and child, by the Pérez; as well as the possible posturing and flirtatious roles of the figures in the LujŠn.)

Cultural ideas, mentioned in theme B, are involved in at least two of the sculptures. Hernández' sculpture uses a skull, an image often seen in Chicana/o and Mexican art, commonly associated with the Day of the Dead. Jiménez' sculpture depicts a traditional Aztec legend, well known in Mexico and in the United States by many people with strong roots in Mexico.

The theme of life and death, in theme C, is associated with at least two sculptures. Hernández' sculpture depicting a skull suggests the constant co-existence of life and death. Jiménez' sculpture shows the grief of a warrior for his dead lover.

The theme of love or romance is associated with at least three of the sculptures. Pérez' sculpture is an expression of the love between mother and child. Jiménez sculpture tells a story of a tragic love. Luján's sculpture suggests the flirtation of boy meets girl, perhaps leading to love.

Explain that broad themes can apply to many different artworks and that different people can interpret the same artwork differently. Explain further that there are a great many different themes addressed by artworks from different times and cultures around the world. The theme of identity is just one. Ask students what other general ideas any of the four sculptures might be about, for example, tragedy, urban life, young adulthood, strength, stability, and spontaneity. Explain the theme of identity, Images of Me, is the focus of this unit and that you are asking them to develop their own sculpture to express their own ideas within that general theme.

Review the theme introduction and remind students that we develop our sense of identity from many sources, including from our cultures, our roles in life, and our personal experience.

Part III: Ideas for Sculptures

Ask students to begin thinking about possibilities for their sculptures by making a list of ideas that are important to them personally or culturally. They may want to talk with friends about how they are perceived by others and add these ideas to their brainstorming list. Write the following questions on the board or overhead, or provide them to students on a handout might be helpful:

  • What roles do you play within your family? at school? among your friends?

  • How do you transform (change) your appearance for different roles?

  • How you see yourself as a young woman or as a young man?

  • What ideas from your culture are especially important to you?

  • Do certain animals or plants carry special mean in your culture?

  • What personal qualities do your strive for?

  • Do you have role models? Who?

  • What have been some of the most important events in your own life?

  • How do you imagine yourself in the future? in your dreams?

You may want to divide the class into small groups to work together generating individual identity ideas and reporting those ideas back to the class as a whole.

Assessment Guides

Use the following guide to assess students' discussion of their own identities in Part I: Focusing on Our Identities.

Beginner: Students can name at least two roles they play or have played.

Competent: Students can name at least three roles they play or have played and can identify at least three ways their appearance has changed with their role or in different life situations. They can also identify some way that their culture affects their identity or can describe ways they imagine their identities changing as they grow older.

Exceptional: Students can name at least five roles they play or have played and can provide detailed descriptions of how they have changed their appearance as they change roles and life situations. They can also identify some way that their culture affects their identity and can describe ways they imagine their identities changing as they grow older.

Use the following guide to assess students' discussion of four sculptures in Part II: Using Themes of Identity to Interpret Artworks.

Beginner: Students can match an artwork with a theme.

Competent: Students can identify evidence to support their conclusion that an artwork expresses a particular theme.

Exceptional: Students can identify evidence to support their conclusion that an artwork expresses a particular theme. They can also propose and support alternative or additional themes in their interpretations of artworks.


Student access to Internet connected computer display facilities; an Internet connected computer linked to large classroom video; monitor or printouts of several views of four Chicana/o sculptures by Hernández, Jiménez , Luján , and Pérez.

Classroom Display Icons of Images of Me and Theme Icons.

Optional Handouts:
Four Broad Identity Themes (A-D) from Part II
Questions to Help YourGet Ideas for Your Sculpture from Part III

© 2001 Hispanic Research Center, Arizona State University. All Rights Reserved.