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"Groom"-ing the students.

Art educators are aware that one way to inspire students is to introduce them to prominent artists. We all know that many students have preconceived notions that artists only become well-known after death, or that a life of art means a life of poverty. To open my students' eyes, I always try to include lessons about successful, living artists, people they can see and hear, and maybe even talk to.

Recently, I had the opportunity to view a Red Grooms exhibit at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, N.Y. His life-size sculptures provide a glimpse into our society's fascination with sports, fame and commerce. I was inspired by Grooms' use of humor and distortion of popular entertainment, and decided to incorporate his work into my final art project.

I like my final art projects to integrate many of the skills and art concepts covered throughout the term. In order to do this with Red Grooms' work, I created a presentation of his work for the class to view, during which they discussed expression, distortion and exaggeration. This enabled my students to understand they could freely express themselves without the constraints of a sculptural figure needing to be proportional or anatomically correct.

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I told my students we would begin the project by creating two pieces: a face and the back of a head. The face would be created using celluclay and a small plastic face mold. In order to get them thinking about their face, I asked them questions: Who do you admire and why? Who is your hero? Who is the funniest person you know? What do you like/dislike? What's your favorite subject? Why?

Usually the students were able to come up with an idea to begin their piece or, for some, the sculpture took on a life of its own as they continued through the process.

For the back of the head, the students would have to wad newspaper and masking tape and cover it with celluclay. The two pieces are joined with more celluclay. A dowel or stick is used between the face and back of the head pieces for neck support. The front and back pieces must be dry before this can be done.

At this point, students should have a head with a dowel or stick coming out. If students know they want to make a rock star, actress or baseball player, they can use references and enhance the basic features of the face.

A water bottle or something similar is used for the torso or the rest of the body, depending on how they are portraying their character. This enables the sculpture to stand on its own. More celluclay is added around the neck to help attach the head to the body. At first, the figure will be top heavy and need to lie down until the bottom half is built up enough to hold up the head.

Decisions need to be made as to the arms and hands in order to reflect the personality of the figure. The inside of the arm can be newspaper rolled up with masking tape. Some students may want to create the arms separately and then attach them afterwards; different techniques may need to be tested. Hands are the hardest to make, so whenever it was needed, we hid the hands by adding pompoms, a baseball glove, flowers, etc.

After all the celluclay has hardened and details are added, the students cover the figure with a thin layer of spackle to fill in cracks or smooth out surfaces. Do not use it in areas where detail is wanted. After the spackle has dried, a very damp sponge is used to essentially sand the surface. Gesso is then used to prime the piece.

Finally, the time comes for the students to paint and clothe their figures. We start by mixing an ample supply of different skin-colored paint. I demonstrate how to paint eyes and create a lip color using the skin tone. Hair and clothes can be painted or attached with a hot glue gun.

With their pieces completed, I asked students to name their character and write a short biography. The students got quite a laugh when we read them out loud. The class helped me put a display of the pieces together for all the students to see.

Even though this can be a long, arduous project, the students really inspired each other and wanted to create something with integrity. In addition, I tell them there are no mistakes in art, only learning experiences.

Karen Cunningham teaches art at George W. Hewlett (N.Y.) High School.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

High-school students will ...

* recognize the works of Red Grooms.

* understand specific design elements.

* discover "humor" in artwork.

* use paint to communicate a facial expression.

* understand 3-D concepts and techniques.

* explain how weighted balance was achieved.

* develop a character/personality.

* explore their work through writing.

MATERIALS

* Sketchbooks

* Newspaper

* Celluclay

* Scissors and/or craft knives

* Masking tape

* Gesso

* Internet for references

* Plastic face molds

* Old water bottles

* Acrylic paints

* Spackle

* Brushes

* Hot-glue gun

* Assorted used fabrics

* Yarn
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Title Annotation:art project inspired by the works of sculptor Red Grooms
Author:Cunningham, Karen
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2010
Words:857
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