So, So Surreal Self-Portraits
How it works:
Take your class on a virtual trip back
in time to 1924 when a Dada manifesto sparked the Surrealist movement in
Europe and the United States. Students learn about the history of
Surrealism and visit online galleries of notable artists of the past and
present, immersing themselves in the dream-like qualities of Surrealism
and discussing its influence on contemporary art, design, and
entertainment. They plan a surreal image of and/or about themselves by
merging a digital photo with a painting or other illustration and write
two paragraphs describing what the portrait represents about them. They
also combine their digital photo with images from the Internet, alter the
portrait using Photoshop or another imaging program, and then write an artist's
statement to accompany the finished work. A classroom bulletin board or
online gallery can then be assembled to display these creative works of
Students understand the visual arts in
relation to history and cultures; apply media, techniques, and processes
related to the visual arts; use viewing skills and strategies to interpret
visual media; understand the characteristics and components of the media;
and gather and use information for research purposes.
This program uses a networked Macintosh lab with Internet
connection, Adobe Photoshop, and Microsoft Word. A digital camera and a
scanner are optional.
So, So Surreal Self-Portraits was created for heterogeneously mixed 6-12th grade students at the
Institute for Collaborative Education (I.C.E.), a small, diverse New York
City public school. It was one of the workshops offered at the 2003
I.C.E. Opening Project, a tradition wherein during the first week of each
year the entire school body works together in mixed-grade
interdisciplinary workshops on a specific theme.
This is a project that students with little or no art
history and digital art skills can jump into and get results quickly. The
Surrealistic movement appeals to young people today and feels as fresh as
ever, demonstrating the adage "everything old is new again."
Students are amazed to learn that artists who are older than their
grandparents did work that was exciting and rivals/inspires the images
they see on MTV or their favorite CD. They can gather imagery from
Internet resources and bring in their own photos to scan or draw upon.
This unit was designed to be a quick
introduction to the integration of history and hands-on digital imaging. Elicit from the students how a piece of art can be a
portrait without showing the face (possible answers: use the hand, the person's
favorite things, etc.). Encourage the students to follow their daydreams
and make their So, So Surreal Self-Portraits as wild or
dreamy as their imagination allows. You can make a Web project quickly out
of the students' images and statements with Photoshop's Automated Web
Photo Gallery capability.
About the teacher:
Meryl Meisler, digital
art teacher at the Institute for Collaborative Education. began teaching
in 1979. She has received a Disney American Teacher Award in visual arts,
serves on the Teachers Network Board of Directors, and is a consultant to
the Whitney Museum's online learning department. Meryl is an accomplished
artist in her own right.