Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2), Upper Elementary (3–5), Middle School (6–8), High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts, History–Social Science
Time Required: 2–Part Lesson
Two class periods
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

For the Classroom

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Lesson Overview

Students will analyze the 20th-century sculpture Gandydancer's Dream by Mark di Suvero. They will then use flat shapes and wire to create their own sculpture, which incorporates balance, rhythm, and movement.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• examine and discuss the components of the sculpture Gandydancer's Dream by Mark di Suvero.
• understand the use of rhythm and repetition in late-20th-century sculpture.
• incorporate balance, rhythm, and movement in an original sculpture made of flat shapes and wire.


• Image of Gandydancer's Dream by Mark di Suvero
• Colored cardstock, heavy construction paper, or sheets of colored foam
• Wire (plastic-coated wire or twisty wire)
• Scissors, glue, and pencils to draw shapes

Lesson Steps

1. Begin by showing students an image of Gandydancer's Dream and asking students to discuss shape, construction, and balance in relation to the sculpture. See the "Questions for Teaching," available in the Image Bank, or by clicking on the image in the Materials section above.

2. After reviewing the description of shapes and balance in the "Questions for Teaching," define the art elements repetition and rhythm for students. Repetition is a principle of design where the same element is repeated again and again. Rhythm in art is described as combining elements to produce the feel of movement in a work of art. Then discuss how di Suvero used repetition and rhythm in this sculpture. (For younger students, just focus on repetition.) Discuss the questions related to music in the "Questions for Teaching."

3. Explain to students that the sculpture is kinetic, meaning that it physically moves. The area of tangled red shapes, with an image of a pair of pliers, rotates in a circular motion if moved by a hand or very strong wind. How would your experience of the sculpture change as this section of the sculpture moves? (You would never experience the sculpture the same way twice.) Point out to students that the red piece of tangled-looking steel pivots, or rotates, freely on the black pin structure. Ask students how the circular movement of this part of the sculpture could relate to the rhythmic movements of gandy dancers who shift their weight in unison to move the rail track.

4. Instruct students that they will now create their own sculptures that incorporate repetition, rhythm, and visual movement. Using only flat, cut-out shapes and wires students will be expected to incorporate repetition, rhythm, and balance in their work.

5. Have students begin by cutting shapes out of the paper or foam that you supply for them. Students should use only two colors, in the same way that di Suvero used only red and black in his sculpture. Remind students that they will need to repeat some of their shapes to create a sense of rhythm and repetition in their work. For younger students, you can use pre-cut forms. Students could make a stencil to create multiple shapes that are the same shape and size.

6. Ask students to consider ways to interlock their shapes to create new three-dimensional forms. Let students explore the possibilities of creating new shapes with the paper for a while before considering what their final sculpture will look like. Students can also incorporate wire to connect their shapes together by poking holes in their shapes, inserting and twisting the wire to hold shapes in place.

7. Next, demonstrate for students how to cut slits halfway into two different shapes and slide them together to interlock them. For example, take two circles and cut a slit halfway into each, then slide the two circles together to create a three-dimensional form with two-dimensional shapes.

8. Next, as students prepare to create their final sculpture, have them consider the physical balance of their piece. Ask them to consider how they will present their final work before using glue to secure it. Have them think about how the wire will be incorporated into the sculpture and how that will affect its balance. (Wires can act as levers, or extensions for repeating shapes. Wire can also affect the positioning of shapes and the balance of the sculpture.)

9. Once students have finished their sculptures, have them write about how they created rhythm, repetition, and balance in their final sculpture. Also ask students to write about how they feel their final sculpture turned out. Did it turn out as they expected it to? How did the process of using wire to connect their shapes work for them?

10. Discuss students' works in a class critique.
• What were you thinking of as you created the sculpture?
• What does the sculpture bring to mind when you look at the finished piece?
• How is repetition incorporated in the sculpture? Balance? Rhythm?
• How is the finished sculpture different from your original conception of it in your mind?
• What would you change about your finished work to improve upon it?

Gandydancer's Dream / di Suvero
Gandydancer's Dream, Mark di Suvero, 1987–1988
Courtesy of Mark di Suvero and Spacetime C.C. Gift of Fran and Ray Stark


Students will be assessed on their participation in discussion; the incorporation into their sculptures of rhythm, repetition, and balance; and their written self-evaluation of their final sculpture.


Have the students look up gandy-dancer songs on the Internet. Compare the songs to the sculpture by Mark di Suvero.
• How do you describe the rhythm of the songs? How do the songs' rhythms relate to the rhythm of the sculpture?
• Do you see any similarities between the songs and the sculpture?
• Discuss with students the common elements between art and music, such as mood, texture, and movement.

Di Suvero has titled many of his sculptures after types of music or composers. Research more works by di Suvero using an image search on the Internet, and see what similarities you find among the works titled after music or composers. Examples include Mozart's Birthday and Beethoven's Quartet.

Standards Addressed

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 2
1.0 Artistic Perception
1.1 Perceive and describe repetition and balance in nature, in the environment, and in works of art.

4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.3 Use the vocabulary of art to talk about what they wanted to do in their own works of art and how they succeeded.
4.4 Use appropriate vocabulary of art to describe the successful use of an element of art in a work of art.

Grade 3
1.0 Artistic Perception
1.1 Perceive and describe rhythm and movement in works of art and in the environment.
1.5 Identify and describe elements of art in works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape/form, texture, space, and value.

4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.2 Identify successful and less successful compositional and expressive qualities of their own works of art and describe what might be done to improve them.

Grade 4
1.0 Artistic Perception
1.5 Describe and analyze the elements of art (e.g., color, shape/form, line, texture, space, value), emphasizing form, as they are used in works of art and found in the environment.

2.0 Creative Expression
2.3 Use additive and subtractive processes in making simple sculptural forms.

4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.1 Describe how using the language of the visual arts helps to clarify personal responses to works of art.
4.3 Discuss how the subject and selection of media relate to the meaning or purpose of a work of art.

Grade 5
1.0 Artistic Perception
1.3 Use their knowledge of all the elements of art to describe similarities and differences in works of art and in the environment.

2.0 Creative Expression
2.4 Create an expressive abstract composition based on real objects.

4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.1 Identify how selected principles of design are used in a work of art and how they affect personal responses to and evaluation of the work of art.
4.3 Develop and use specific criteria as individuals and in groups to assess works of art.
4.4 Assess their own works of art, using specific criteria, and describe what changes they would make for improvement.

Grade 6
1.0 Artistic Perception
1.1 Identify and describe all the elements of art found in selected works of art (e.g., color, shape/form, line, texture, space, value).
1.4 Describe how balance is effectively used in a work of art (e.g., symmetrical, asymmetrical, radial).

2.0 Creative Expression
2.4 Create increasingly complex original works of art reflecting personal choices and increased technical skill.
2.5 Select specific media and processes to express moods, feelings, themes, or ideas.

4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.4 Change, edit, or revise their works of art after a critique, articulating reasons for their changes.

Grade 7
1.0 Creative Expression
1.1 Describe the environment and selected works of art, using the elements of art and the principles of design.
1.4 Analyze and describe how the elements of art and the principles of design contribute to the expressive qualities of their own works of art.

2.0 Creative Expression
2.3 Develop skill in using mixed media while guided by a selected principle of design.

4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.2 Analyze the form (how a work of art looks) and content (what a work of art communicates) of works of art.
4.4 Develop and apply specific and appropriate criteria individually or in groups to assess and critique works of art.
4.5 Identify what was done when a personal work of art was reworked and explain how those changes improved the work.

Grade 8
1.0 Artistic Perception
1.1 Use artistic terms when describing the intent and content of works of art.

2.0 Creative Expression
2.6 Design and create both additive and subtractive sculptures.

4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.3 Construct an interpretation of a work of art based on the form and content of the work.

Grades 9–12, proficient
1.0 Artistic Perception
1.1 Identify and use the principles of design to discuss, analyze, and write about visual aspects in the environment and in works of art, including their own.
1.4 Analyze and describe how the composition of a work of art is affected by the use of a particular principle of design.

2.0 Creative Expression
2.1 Solve a visual arts problem that involves the effective use of the elements of art and the principles of design.

4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.4 Articulate the process and rationale for refining and reworking one of their own works of art.

Music Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 1
4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.2 Describe how ideas or moods are communicated through music.

Grade 3
5.0 Connections, Relationships, Applications
5.1 Identify the use of similar elements in music and other art forms (e.g., form, pattern, rhythm).

Grade 7
5.0 Connections, Relationships, Applications
5.1 Identify similarities and differences in the meanings of common terms used in various arts and other subject areas.