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Alexander Calder meets Bridget Riley CD mobile.

Remember when it seemed like AOL sent you a compact disc every day in the mail? How many do you think you received over the years? Have you wanted to come up with a use for them?

Years ago I began saving discs that filled up my mailbox. I also asked friends and family to save them for me. Even though I had no idea what I was going to do with these shiny silver discs, I collected them. Occasionally I would count them and put them back in a box, still stymied as to what they could become.

One summer I decided to concentrate on how my art students could create "something," with my collection of unsolicited CDs. There I sat, with raw material and an empty mind. I had no real concept.

Holding the discs against my ears, I said "no" to earrings, but was intrigued by the idea of hanging the discs. Could they become part of a mobile? My mind was rushing ahead with visions of Alexander Calder and mobiles hanging from every ceiling in our school.

As a middle-school art teacher, seventh- and eighth-grade students can elect to take my class. I teach from a cart and see the students for only 45 minutes a day for 18 weeks (a typical class has 29 students). And, as you might guess, I am constantly looking for projects that are (1) aligned with the standards, (2) engaging and (3) not too messy.

I was inspired by an article I recently read about the Op-Art movement and artist, Bridget Riley. She is one of Britain's most famous painters, known for her unique OpArt paintings. One painting in particular caught my attention, Movement in Squares, created in 1961. This work utilized positive and negative space--or "counterchange," which means "to make checkered; variegate."

Finding information about Bridget Riley was simple. A Google search turned up hundreds of links to her life and art and, with these Internet resources, I created a simple PowerPoint presentation of her Op-Art pieces to introduce the students to her.

On my art cart were two packages of Scratch-Art Contrast-O[R], inherited from the previous art teacher and not yet put to use. The description of the product from a Nasco catalog I have reads "... this product is constructed of special plastic film. The top layer is white, the bottom black. Using a sharp knife, cut through the white layer, then peel off the sections of your design that you want black. Create a positive, negative or counterchange design." Perfect! It was time to share my discovery through a project.

To create their own Op-Art designs on the discs, students received CDs on which I had ahead of time spray-glued the Contrast-O to the graphic side, leaving the solid silver side untouched. Spraying the disc first and then laying it onto the black side of the Contrast-O worked best. Once the disc was attached, I used a utility knife to cut around the disc and free it. The discs with one side silver and the other side white were ready for the students.

With pencil, students drew lines on the white side of the disc, making sure they intersected. Some were made straight using a ruler, others were organic and free. I explained to them that too many lines were not a good idea; small shapes would then need to be cut out, which can be difficult for the less-able students.

Using utility knives (with teacher monitoring), students began to cut through the white layer on all the pencil lines. (They may cut through all the lines first or just do one area at a time.) Once the lines had been cut, the point of the knife was used to raise a section of the white to expose the black underneath. This was repeated until every other shape had been lifted and removed. Students then signed their Op-Art CDs.

Each student was required to make three discs. The rationale for this was simple: students would be more comfortable and confident by the third disc, which would be the one that was graded. To my amazement, each student mastered the medium immediately and I ended up with 180+ Op-Art CDs.

It was time to hang them up. But first, students learned more about Alexander Calder and his mobiles by doing an Internet search. Calder said, "I want to make things that are fun to look at." Me too. His art danced. We wanted ours to dance too.

I spent more than a few nights wide-awake trying to figure a way to hang these circular masterpieces. They needed a frame. My daughter had recently taken down the canopy over her bed, and I realized it would be perfect for that purpose.

The canopy was made from PVC pipe and in the shape of a rectangle, about 6' long x 4' wide. I covered the pipe with black electrical tape to make it appear a part of the mobile and not a separate element. A hula hoop was also covered with black tape and centered inside the canopy, allowing more room to hang the discs. The frame was then hung from the ceiling in my graphic-design computer lab. It was the perfect spot!

Back at home, I patiently heated a metal skewer on my gas stove and made/melted two holes in each disc, top and bottom. The three discs were attached to each other with fishing wire and hung from either the canopy or the hula hoop. This part of the assembly was done in stages with the help of several high-school students.

Finally, the mobile was complete. My students and I watched as currents of air moved the discs from side to side, constantly moving, weaving and swaying ... Calder would have liked it. We sure did.


* Discarded CDs

* Spray glue

* Scratch-Art Contrast-O[R]

* Pencils, compasses, rulers

* Utility knives

* PVC pipe and hula hoop (for frame)

* Black electrical tape

* Fishing line


Middle-school students will ...

* become familiar with the work of Bridget Riley and Alexander Calder.

* create positive and negative space.

* recognize Op Art as a valid art style.

* define the meaning of mobile.


* San Diego Museum of Art:

* www.postsershop.cxom /Riley/Riley-Movement-in-Squares-serigraph-2803038.html

Kris Fontes is an art instructor at Union City Middle School in Union City, Pennsylvania.
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Title Annotation:RECYCLING renaissance
Author:Fontes, Kris
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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