Exploring Our Identities
December 12, 2015–February 20, 2016
An exhibition by artists from Immaculate Conception—St. Joseph School, Chicago at LUMA
Sixth graders at Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph School (ICSJ) are at an age when they are beginning to discover and create their identities – their individual, family, community, and religious identities, among others. Developing a strong sense of self is key for students as they begin to navigate middle school and face difficult choices as individuals. Art is one way through which children can explore their identities in new and unique ways. Therefore, it was fitting that students at ICSJ used a variety of media to experiment with materials and deepen their senses of self.
In a school-wide program called Odyssey through the Arts, students began their exploration with a lesson in how various artists, including Chuck Close and Andy Warhol, used art to express their personal identities. They utilized skills in observation and art criticism to identify the messages that they wanted to convey about themselves. Close, for example, requires the use of a wheelchair; however, the intense focus he puts on his face in his self-portraits reveals how his identity is tied more closely to being an artist than to his disability. Warhol, on the other hand, constructed his identity – a persona of fame and fashion – through extremely bright lithographs and photographs.
Boys and girls next brainstormed words they thought best related to their identities. Some were adjectives. Others were nouns. By recognizing that some words held more positive connotations than others, the children learned how to hone their words carefully.
As their projects took shape, students looked at examples of mixed-media art that combined photographs with paint and other media. Students thought through how their chosen materials would help to convey their ideas. They created sketches and worked with images and words as they developed their concepts.
To execute their work, students were photographed in poses they carefully selected. They then created backgrounds that emphasized aspects of their identity. Some opted to employ the “bleeding tissue paper” process in which oil pastels were used to resist watercolor. Others worked with collage, pencil, Sharpie, or additional photographs. They assembled their mixed media collages and applied their photographs using Mod Podge (an acid-free glue).
In reflecting on their self-portraits, ICSJ students want their portraits to reveal their enthusiasm for life. They proclaim:
I am creative. I am a baseball player. I like to laugh a lot and be happy, and I want people to know that.
This program is partially supported by grants from The Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation and the Kinder Morgan Foundation.
Image: Scarlett, 6th grade