Days 1 and 2: Identifying key themes, issues, ideas in Lange's work.
Students work in small groups, each assigned to learn about a different image by Lange. After reading the background information (provided in the curriculum resource) about that image, students discuss and write answers to questions below as a means of identifying key ideas, themes, or issues that their image might represent:
Describe the image. What does it show?
If there are people in the image, what are they doing?
If there is more than one person, what is their relationship? How do you know?
Based on what you read, what event(s) in American history does this image relate to?
What is the artist saying about that event with this image?
List as many nouns, verbs, and adjectives as you can for your image.
Think of some one-word titles you might give this image.
Review what you have written above and list one or two key themes or ideas that your image represents.
Students share their findings with the rest of the class. From the presentations, students and teacher decide upon key themes, issues, or events around which to plan several mini-exhibitions, pairing one or more images by Lange with one or more images by another artist. (Suggested themes: workers, farming, migration, hardship, hunger, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, etc.). Students divide into groups again and each is assigned a different theme.
Days 3-5: Learning about related artists in the library/Internet lab. Students are directed to books or Web resources for information about artists whose work may provide good points of comparison to Lange's art. Examples of artists who responded to some of the same events or general issues that Lange did, include:
Thomas Hart Benton, Elizabeth Catlett, Alexandre Hogue, Jacob Lawrence, José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, Ben Shahn, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Raphael and Issac Soyer, and Grant Wood. Examples of earlier artists who explored similar themes include: Gustave Courbet, Käthe Kollwitz, and Jean-François Millet. Examples of other photographers include Margaret Bourke-White and Walker Evans.
With assigned themes in mind, each group selects an artist, identifying three to five artworks by him/her that have some relationship in content and/or style to one or more images by Lange.
Grades 9-12 Homework (students in each group divide research tasks among themselves): Students research the biographies of both Lange and the second artist, the historical events or social issues related to their theme, and the specific images they selected. (How have art historians and critics interpreted each of those works? What did the artist say about them?)
Days 6-8 (and homework): Preparing the exhibition. Students share their findings with fellow group members and narrow or revise the selection of images for their exhibition. Students identify a title for their exhibition.
Students divide the following responsibilities below among themselves:
Writing exhibition texts: Labels for images should include the artist's name, title of artwork, date it was made, its medium and measurements, and name of the collection or institution it belongs to. Labels should also include a paragraph that will help others understand key information about the artwork, drawing attention to specific details or formal elements and explaining its historical or social context and relationship to the theme.
Wall texts comprising one to two paragraphs each should explain the basic theme for the exhibition, provide biographical information about the artists, and describe the relationship between the works selected for the exhibition.
When examined together, what story do they tell? One wall text should also discuss the way in which the media represented in the exhibition are uniquely suited to tell that story.
Gathering reproductions (photocopies from books, images downloaded and printed from the World Wide Web, or postcards).
Designing the exhibition: Determine how images will be displayed and arranged in relation to one another (side by side or in a group or grid formation, for example), and choose the typeface and format used for labels and wall texts.
Hanging the exhibition.
Grades 6-8: This process can be simplified for younger students. Students choose one image by Lange to pair with one image by a second artist who worked in a different medium. Students write texts explaining the story the two images tell and describing how the artists show the same theme while using different media.
Each group takes turns presenting its exhibition to the rest of the class or to others in the school.
Homework: Students write about what they learned by developing their exhibition.
Visual-Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
1.2–Discuss works of art as to theme, genre, style, idea, and differences in media.
1.3–Describe how artists can show the same theme by using different media and styles.
Historical and Cultural Context
3.1–Research and discuss the role of the visual arts in selected periods of history, using a variety of resources (both print and electronic).
4.1–Construct and describe plausible interpretations of what they perceive in works of art.
Connections, Relationships, and Applications
5.5–Establish criteria to use for selecting artwork for a specific type of art exhibition.
4.3–Take an active part in a small-group discussion about the artistic value of specific works of art in which a wide range of the viewpoints of peers is considered.
4.4–Develop and apply specific and appropriate criteria individually or in groups
to assess and critique works of art.
Historical and Cultural Context
3.1–Examine and describe or report on the role of artwork created to make a social comment or protest social conditions.
4.3–Construct an interpretation of a work of art based on the form and content of the work.
Grades 9-12 ("Proficient")
1.3–Research and analyze the work of an artist and write about the artist's distinctive style and its contribution to the meaning of the work.
1.5–Analyze the materials used by a given artist and describe how their use influences the meaning of the work.
Historical and Cultural Context
3.3–Identify and describe trends in the visual arts and discuss how the diverse issues of time, place, and cultural influence are reflected in selected artworks.
4.5–Employ the conventions of art criticism in writing and speaking about artworks.
National Standards for Visual Arts
3. Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures ("Advanced")
Students analyze and interpret artworks for relationships among form, context, purposes, and critical models, showing understanding of the work of critics, historians, aestheticians, and artists.
5. Reflecting upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of Their Work and the Work of Others
Students describe meanings of artworks by analyzing how specific works are created and how they relate to historical and cultural contexts.