Lesson Overview

Students view a variety of sculptures analyzing how space and mass interact in each and how sculptors make choices about mass and space to express meaning in their art. Students make small three-dimensional sketches experimenting with mass and space and with construction techniques.

Basic Activities
Part I: Mass and Space
Part II: Three Dimensional Experiments
Optional Activities:
Surface Texture Extension Activities
Assessment Guides



1. describe how a variety of three-dimensional artworks use space (for example, massive objects occupy but exclude space; mobiles literally move through space; some sculptures pierce or are pierced by space; etc.)

2. explain how a sculptor's use of mass and space can express meaning.

3. create a variety of visual effects with mass and space.

4. experiment with self-supporting construction techniques.

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


Decide how many class sessions to devote to which activities within the lesson. You can choose various degrees of involvement with sculpture analysis:
1) select two or three sculptures to discuss with the entire class,
2) lead a discussion of all six sculptures, or
3) divide the class into six groups providing each group with questions to guide their analysis, then asking each group to report the results of their analysis to the class as a whole.

Decide whether you will extend your lesson beyond mass and space to consider the surfaces where masses and space come together.

Be sure to read the "Tools, Materials, and Processes"; "Sensory Elements"; and "Formal Organization" subsections in the "Information about the Artwork" section provided with each sculpture.

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. Practice using the mouse to change your viewpoint of the sculptures. If you have access to an Internet-connected computer lab, you may want to download the five Quicktime reproductions on different computers before class.

Print out and display Mass & Space and Construction Icons .

If you have the materials and equipment you may choose to substitute plasticine or water-based clay for the construction paper used in Part III: Three Dimensional Experiments.


Part I: Mass and Space

Define mass as the three dimensional bulk or solid form of an object. Masses can be rounded, angular, complex, simple, thick, hollowed out, protruding, etc. Masses exist within space. They occupy it; they are surrounded by it; and they interact with it. Some masses allow in no space. Space can only move along its outside surfaces. Other masses extend out into the space around them. Still other masses open up to or are pierced through by space.

Take turns displaying Quicktime reproductions (or multiple views) of the artworks listed below. Explain that the reproductions are made up of thousands of photographs of six real, three-dimensional artworks. Demonstrate using the mouse to turn the artwork both vertically and horizontally. To reinforce the actual physical existence of the artworks, be sure to explain that four of the sculptures are located at a university in Arizona and the others are in the collections of the sculptors: one in Arizona, and another in Texas. Provide a clear indication of each sculpturešs size. For example, even though the Pérez and Jiménez sculptures look the same size on the computer, they are very different in size. The Pérez is less than a foot tall; it can sit easily on a table. The Jiménez is a large outdoor sculpture which rises six feet over its base.

Ask students to describe:
1) the actual masses of each sculpture,
2) how space is involved with each sculpture

The following questions may be helpful in guiding discussion:
  • Which is your favorite view? Why?
  • Which is your least favorite view? Why?
  • Which view gives you the most information about the actual sculpture?
  • Which view gives you the least information about the actual sculpture?
  • Describe the masses of the sculpture. Are they rounded? angular? essentially one mass? a collection of separate masses? a complex mass made up of distinct parts? hollow mass? thick mass? slender mass? etc.
  • Describe how space interacts with the masses. Do parts of the sculpture protrude out into space? Are there areas where space can move around the outside of the mass? Are there openings where space can move right through the masses?
  • Is the sculpture mostly about space, mostly about mass, or balanced between the two?
  • Why do you think the sculptors chose to use space and mass as they did?
  • How do the sculptors' selections of mass and space help express the meaning in their work?

You may want to review the themes (A - D) used to interpret the four sculptures interpreted in lesson one.

  • Luis Jiménez' Southwest Pieta large, rounded forms unify the sculpture and suggest the enduring power of love. The figures of the two lovers together seem to form a mountain shape through which flows the river of the woman's hair. Protruding forms around the sculpture extend out into the actual space of the viewer inviting the viewer to move around the sculpture.

  • Ester Hernández' La Pelona has a clear front and back sides. Existing, as it does, largely in one plane, La Pelona resembles a relief sculpture, but it is not, since the back is finished. Unlike relief sculptures, which are attached to a surface, the viewer can hold the sculpture in the hand, turn it over, move the braids and even swing the dangling earring. The movement of the little sculpture suggests life, while the skull suggests death. The two sides of La Pelona are always there, even if we can only see one side at a time. This duality reinforces the ideas that life and death are always together, that our lives are only momentary, and that death is always present.

  • Gilbert Luján's Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie looks very different from different angles. The masses are light and planar (made up of flat planes). Space dominates the piece. The sculpture shows the space between two young "people" meeting. Both figures are in active poses. We can see the "energy forces" trailing from the edges of Hot Dog's body as he strides forward. The space of the sculpture suggests the potential of a meeting of the two people. Who will speak? Will they come nearer? How near? Will one thing lead to another? Will the meeting become a friendship, a love relationship, or a passing moment?

  • Eva Pérez' Little People Series #6 is almost pyramidal in form. Rounded forms unify the masses of the sculpture. Although space moves through and around the sculpture, no forms extend out into the space surrounding the sculpture. The masses and space express security and completeness in the relationship between mother and child.

  • Larry Yáñez' Monthter What Ate the Thity has a clear front and back, though it can be viewed from many angles. The masses are defined by planes. There is a contrast in scale between the large, hollow mass with its extending planes and the smaller forms emerging from the hollow. The contrast in scale (as well as the facial features) reinforce the idea of a "Monthter."

  • Riley Roca's Virgen de Guadalupe is a vertical mass with an undulating surface. The grooves and angles of the sculpture express a more forceful idea of the Virgin than would smooth, gently curved surfaces.

Part II: Three Dimensional Experiments

Explain that you are asking students to experiment with mass and space and with construction techniques to make sturdy bases in preparation for making their own identity sculptures. Explain that a mass is a solid form, like a block of wood or a ball of clay. Explain further that planes (flat or curved), such as those in a box or a balloon, can also enclose space to create volume and suggest mass.

Provide each student with a 9" x 12" sheet of construction paper. Ask students to experiment with constructing a variety of three-dimensional forms from the two dimensional paper. Ask them also to experiment with forms that are involved with space in a variety of ways. They may try various techniques, such as cutting or tearing into the paper or removing areas of the paper. Suggest that they try curling, twisting, or folding the paper to get interesting forms. They may attach one part of their sheet to another part with a stapler.

Next ask students to experiment with different construction techniques such as cutting, folding, or notching paper as they plan a sturdy base for their identity figure. They might try roiling a cylinder, folding a triangle or square base, or cutting a notch at the top of one piece and at the bottom of another and sliding them together at right angles. You may find pop-up books or paper dolls (or other children's toys) to be useful examples of paper (or cardboard) construction techniques. As students complete experiments, display them around the room. If student experiments do not include a wide range of techniques, demonstrate key techniques.

Explain that in the next lesson you will be asking students to match up interesting masses and spaces, using three dimensional construction techniques, with aspects of their own identities as they refine their ideas for their sculptures.


Use the following guide to assess students' description and interpretation of Chicana/o sculptures.

Beginner Students can describe the masses of a sculpture.

Competent Students can describe the masses of a sculpture and how space is involved with those masses.

Exceptional Students can describe the masses of a sculpture and how space is involved with those masses. They can also explain how a sculptor's choice of mass and space reinforces the meaning of her/his sculpture.

Use the following guide to assess students' experimentation with construction paper techniques.

Beginner Students can use at least two different paper construction techniques.

Competent Students can use at least two different paper construction techniques and can construct a form that is self supporting.

Exceptional Students can use three or more different paper construction techniques and can construct forms that support themselves by means of more than one construction technique.


Newspapers to protect working surfaces
9" x 12" colored construction paper
Staplers (You may want to borrow additional staplers from other teachers.)
Classroom Display Icons of Mass & Space and Construction

Optional Resources

Water-based clay
Click here and scroll down for additional multiple views of an ancient Greek sculpture
Click here and select additional ancient Greek and Roman sculptures reproduced with multiple views.

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