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Lesson Plans

The Web of Life: The Art of John Biggers

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Nancy Walkup (walkup)
Tue, 11 Nov 1997 08:39:32 CST6CDT

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I would like to invite you all to visit ArtsEdNet's newest
online exhibition and discussion, "The Web of Life: The Art of
John Biggers."

This program focuses on the life and work of the African
American artist and art educator John Biggers. It contains
background materials about the artist, curriculum resources,
activities for both elementary and secondary students, a
conversation with the artist, galleries of his work, a list of
resources, and an opportunity to talk with the artist via

Dr.. Biggers is widely known for his complex, symbolic murals
based on African and African American cultural themes.
Throughout his long career, he continued to work as an artist
while serving as the founder and head of the art department at
Texas Southern University in Houston. Biggers, who studied under
famed art educator Viktor Lowenfeld at Pennsylvania State
University, recently was honored by major retrospective on
his work that traveled to seven art museums around the United

You might want to start with the artist biography, especially if
you are not familiar with the artist and his work. He was born in
a shotgun house and grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina. He
entered Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) intending to
become a plumber. Fortunately for us, a class taught by Viktor
Lowenfeld, one of the most important figures in the history of art
education, changed his life. A contemporary of artists more
associated with the art world in New York (such as Jacob
Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Elizabeth Catlett), Biggers chose
to stay in the south and pursue images drawn from his own
beliefs and life experiences.

In Biggers' words,
"I'm the guy who didn't go to New York. My only obsession has
been and still is to try to portray the meaning of African
American life in the South...I'm interested in the spiritual
aspiration of Black people; how their spirit soars above the
mundane and the materials and all their problems...It's been a
study of the meaning of vegetation, the landscape, the weather,
the color of the South, the color of the people..the meaning of
religion, the whole cultural pattern."

The web address for "The Web of Life: The Art of John Biggers"


Nancy Walkup, Project Coordinator
North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts
PO Box 305100, University of North Texas
Denton, TX 76203
940/565-3986 FAX 940/565-4867

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