Here's what I came up with. I will hand out five images of her
work, and have people work in pairs. On a sheet of paper, they
must brainstorm together "What do you see?" and "What do you
think it means?" (Terry Barrett, resource below) When they have finished, they must select an
item from the center of the table (religious amulet, telephone
directory page of plastic surgeons, stuffed animal, valentine,
photo album, Hitchcock's "The Birds" video, embroidered dish
towel, etc.) that relates to the individual work they have been looking at.
Then I will show 10 slides of different work, and at the appropriate
times I will ask the pairs of people to jump in and contribute
their findings. They can also relate the slide to one or more
of the objects they have chosen or left on the table.
I think this will work to look at Messager's artwork and
all its varied influences and complex meanings. Even though I
am doing this with graduate students, I wouldn't hesitate to try
it with younger children, just selecting fewer images and
If you are interested, I will let you know how it goes, which
images I used in slide or photocopy form, what all the "objects"
were, etc. My resource for the big questions --what do you see
and what do you think it means-- is a very good book by Terry
Barrett, _Criticizing Art: Understanding the Contemporary_,
Mayfield Publishing Company, 1994.
Terry is on ArtsEdNet, and he may respond to you, too, and know
where you could get his book in the UK.
Hope this is helpful!