During the first week of school, three teachers and administrators at my new school told me, “All of middle school hated art and music last year. All of them.” And, they didn’t just hate it, they LOATHED it. Let me tell you, that gave me a great confidence boost to start the new school year. Yikes.
I think the students hated it for a variety of reasons – from it being treated like a core class at the school (you can FAIL ART?!) to a lack of resources for the former teacher (no projector, no sink, tiny art prints, no real classroom). I had to come in with a strong plan to change these students’ minds from Day One!
In addition to all of the procedure practice and syllabus blah blah blah, we’re going to start talking and thinking about art!
We started with The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo. On one side of the paper, I had them write two observations about the first Frida and on the other half of the paper, they wrote two observations about the second Frida. After going over (and practicing) behavior expectations and procedures for group work and for discussions, I led a full class discussion on this artwork. They ate this painting up, and we ended up spending most of a class period dissecting it!
The Two Fridas, like much of the work of Frida Kahlo, is a great painting on which to practice your art interpretation skills. Her paintings are so personal, so real, and so cool. I don’t want you to read anything below until you have clicked the link and looked at the painting on your own (the same goes for your high schooler). Go through these discussion questions and think about it first. Promise?
Questions to ask:
- What’s going on in this painting? What do you see that makes you say that?
- Who are these women? What is their relationship?
- How are they dressed? Why are they dressed that way?
- How are the two women the same? How are they different?
- What is different about the hearts? What to you think that means?
- What is she holding (look at the close-up shots in this link, scrolling down the page)? Why is she holding that? Why is she using that tool?
- What do the blood, veins, and heart symbolize?
- What emotions are present in this artwork? What do you see that makes you say that?
- How does her use of color contribute to the feeling of the painting?
- What do you think this artist is trying to say here … What is the meaning or message?
I’m hesitant to give you any information about this, because your ideas are just as important as the “real meaning.” But I’ll share a bit to whet your appetite. Did you keep your promise and look/think first? I’m trusting you. Okay, this painting shows two elements of the artist and her mixed ancestry. One side displays her father’s German-Jewish descent, and the other side illustrates her mother’s Mexican roots.
The real story shows her tumultuous relationship with famous Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera. This link has a great roll-over activity showing key elements of the painting and highlights some of the elements of her relationship with Diego.
After the discussion, I had some of the students in their groups (3 at a table) come up with a few lines of imagined dialogue between the two Fridas. I really enjoyed having the students act out their lines of dialogue. Overall, this was such a fun lesson for both me and my new students.