Field Trip Activity
This activity lesson, Sculpture Search In the Park, was written to be used in conjunction with a visit to Grounds For Sculpture. Its purpose is to familiarize high school students with contemporary sculpture by looking at examples of works on view in the park. Students are asked to observe, interpret, and record comments about what they see. Depending on time allowed and arts-related experience of the class, students may be asked to answer all or only a set number of the questions.
The questions presented focus on specific aspects of sculpture, some apply to contemporary art only, others to sculpture in general. Please note that there are no "right or wrong" answers. Although they all rely on observation, the questions were purposely worded to allow for individual interpretations and opinions. Answers may also reflect a student's personal technical and creative experiences in the arts.
This activity will fulfill some of the visual arts core curriculum standards as listed below. Students are also asked to apply the four basic elements of art criticism: to describe what they see, to analyze the elements composing the sculptures, to interpret the artist's intention and to evaluate how effectively the artist presented his/her intention.
Please note that the questions can be applied with/without modifications to visits to other venues exhibiting contemporary sculpture.
A glossary of terms is included at the end of the lesson with definitions for words in bold type.
SCULPTURE SEARCH IN THE PARK
1. Artists often work with metal or stone to create outdoor sculpture because those media are not easily damaged by rain, snow, sunlight, or changes in temperature. The plaques next to the sculptures will tell you what medium the artist has utilized. As you read the plaques in the park, check the matching words on the list below. Enter one particular characteristic that you can observe next to each medium listed. Try to find at least 8.
2. Artists can be inspired by commonplace objects or people they know. Sometimes an artist will make a sculpture that resembles that person or thing but surprise the viewer by changing the scale. List one example that you have found in the park. Write a sentence about how the scale effected the way you reacted to the work.
3. Artists can finish the surface of a sculpture in a variety of ways as allowed by the physical properties of the medium. Find 3 examples of sculpture with textured surfaces and list them below. Write a brief statement next to one of your selections stating how the texture adds to the work.
4. Focus on the metal sculptures made from bronze, aluminum or steel. Artists can either leave the metal in its natural state, or apply paint or a patina, adding color to the work. Find 3 examples where color was added to the metal surface. Next to the title, note how the selected color adds to the impact of each work. [Think about how this would change if another color was chosen. What if the metal was left in its natural state?]
5. The physical creation of a sculpture is often a collaborative effort between the artist and technicians at a foundry, fabrication plant, or stone-cutting facility. Collaborative partnerships, for example, produced Robert Murray's Hillary, Clement Meadmore's Offshoot, Isaac Witkin's The Bathers, David Hostetler's Summertime Lady, Marisol's General Bronze, and Walter Dusenbury's Tempio Bretton. Other artists, such as Rob Fisher and Bruce Beasley, work on computers for assistance in designing and engineering the structure of their works.
6. Some artists choose to follow mathematical formulas, incorporating geometric shapes or forms into the sculptures they create. Find 3 examples in the park and list them below. Notice how the elements are organized to present balance, rhythm, and symmetry or asymmetry in these geometric abstractions. Choose one and write a short statement about your reaction to that sculpture. How does the emphasis on design and abstraction effect this?
7. The human form has intrigued and inspired artists throughout history, and this continues to apply today. Observe the figurative sculptures in the park, including those that present only a segment of the figure. Choose 3 examples and identify the emotion(s) conveyed to you by each one. Based upon your observations, state how the artists presented these messages.
8. Besides thinking about the form of the finished sculpture, artists are also aware of the negative space, the space both enveloping and enclosed by the work. Some artists assign a more active role to negative space than others. Can you find one example in which the negative space is a very important part of the sculpture?
9. Sculptures can be representational, meaning that the artist chooses to represent an identifiable object, something that we can recognize. Sculptures can also be purely or partially abstract or nonobjective in style. Abstraction gained increasing prominence in the evolution of art throughout the course of the 20th century as artists continued to challenge the boundaries of traditional ideals. Study one abstract sculpture in the park. Next to its title, list some of the decisions made by the artist to make it look the way it does.
10. Study 5 sculptures in the park. List the title and record what you think is each one's most outstanding or strongest feature. For example, consider its composition, color, shape, texture, balance, emotional content, etc.
11. In some of the sculptures on view, it may be evident that the artist was inspired by a period in art history. Select 2 sculptures and state what you think are the past art movements that influenced the artists. Include what it is that you see in the sculptures to make you come to this conclusion.
12. Early in the 20th century, sculptors were concerned with the presentation of their works and the role of the pedestal. Later, some sculptors decided to break away further from the idea of sculpture as statue and not use pedestals or bases at all for some of their work. They decided to set the sculpture on the ground plane to occupy the same real space as the viewer standing next to the work. Observe the different solutions found by the artists showing in the park. Identify 3 sculptures and tell how they are presented for viewing.
13. Contemporary sculptors often look to new and alternative media, beyond traditional stone or bronze, to create their works. From the mid-1900s on, many artists became interested in materials developed by industries for purposes other than the arts. Try to identify 3 of these modern industrial materials in the sculpture park and list them below.
14. It has been observed that the processes involved in creating sculpture can generally be fit into four main categories: carving, casting, modeling, and construction. Based on your experiences in creating works of art and what you have studied, try to find one example of each category and list it below.
Abstract Art: Works that do not have a recognizable subject. An abstract work of art could be based upon an actual object (see Abstraction) or convey as its subject a non-tangible idea or emotion.
Abstraction: The process of creating an artwork which simplifies or distorts the representation of subject matter through line, shape, texture or color. This can be carried to the degree where the subject matter is no longer recognizable. Works created in this manner are referred to as abstract art. The term "non-objective" is also used when referring to works with no recognizable subject matter.
Alloy: A mixture, usually of two or more metals. Bronze, for example, is an alloy of copper and tin.
Aluminum: A light-weight, silver-white metal which can be heated and cast in a mold or cut from sheets and fabricated. It is known for its resistance to corrosion.
Asymmetry: A characteristic of a composition where the two sides are unlike in appearance or unequal in distribution.
Balance: A principle of design in which a composition demonstrates proportionate elements or harmonious arrangement.
Bronze: An alloy of copper and tin, this metal is commonly used in casting because of its strong ability to form precise and detailed reproductions. The surface of a cast bronze object can be treated with a patina to add color.
Carving: A subtractive process for making sculpture where a material, such as stone or wood, is cut or chipped in order to create a form.
Casting: A mechanical process of producing sculpture where a liquid metal, typically aluminum, bronze, or iron, is heated and poured from a crucible into a mold and allowed to cool and harden.
Composition: A formulation or arrangement of artistic elements, materials, and/or principles which when combined form a complete entity.
Concrete: A material (often used in building construction) comprised of sand or gravel held together with a mortar or a cement adhesive. In its thick liquid form, it can be poured into a mold and allowed to harden or "set" to produce a three-dimensional form.
Construction: An additive process for making sculpture in which segments or combinations of materials, such as wood, steel, or found objects, are joined together.
Copper: A malleable, reddish-brown metal used in the formulation of the alloys bronze and brass.
Cor-Ten Steel: A type of steel which needs no protective covering or paint. Instead it forms its own protective oxide surface film giving it a weathered and rusted look.
Fabrication Plant: An industrial setting containing the tools and machinery needed for the construction, shaping, assemblage, or manufacturing of objects, including sculpture.
Fiber Glass: An industrial material that is composed of shards of interwoven glass mixed in resin. It is commonly found in either a cloth or mat form but can be shaped. (The brand name is spelled Fiber Glas.)
Figurative: As an art term, the word "figurative" can be used in two ways to describe a work. It can mean a representation of the human body or, in the more traditional sense, a representational rather than an abstract/non-objective work, which can encompass portraits, still-lifes, and landscapes.
Foundry: A production facility containing the materials, machinery and tools, such as a furnace or pouring pit, needed to execute the casting process.
Geometrical Abstractions: A form of abstraction that is often hard-edged and utilizes geometric shapes to form the composition. This type of work is usually associated with order and rationality rather than emotive expression.
Granite: This igneous metamorphic stone originates from volcanic activity, and is typically course-grained. It varies in color from very light to black, and the quartz and feldspar crystals it contains give the stone a reflective quality. Classified as a #8 on a standard scale of hardness (a diamond is a #10), this indicates that granite is an extremely difficult stone to carve, but it is still a popular medium for sculpture because of its durability. The surface can be smoothed to a high polish.
Iron: A magnetic and malleable silvery-white metal commonly used in the casting process. It is often combined with other materials to produce alloys such as steel. Iron has a tendency to rust.
Limestone: This sedimentary rock composed mostly of the mineral calcite (a crystalline form of natural calcium carbonate). Because it is formed by compacted organic remains, usually of marine origin, shells and fossils can be found in some varieties. It is usually buff or light grey, but other colors can be found. Limestone has a #4 classification on a standard scale of hardness, making it a soft stone, and it can be finely grained. Because of its characteristics, it is not often polished.
Marble: A metamorphic rock that is composed mainly of calcite since it is recrystalized limestone. It is usually white veined with grey, though it can range from pure white to black and colors can vary according to impurities. Marble has a hardness of #6 on the standard scale and can be smoothed to a glossy finish. It has been a popular medium for sculptors throughout history. Italian marble, especially the stone from Carrara carved by Michelangelo, is still considered to be some of the best.
Media: The specific materials which an artist utilizes when creating an expressive artwork.
Medium: The singular form of media, this is a material, such as bronze, marble, or paint, which the artist had chosen to work in when creating a piece of artwork.
Modeling: A manipulative, usually additive, process of creating sculpture where a pliable material, such as clay or wax, is changed or altered in form.
Negative Space: The interspace, void, or area between objects or forms in an artwork in which no matter is directly represented, yet this space still contributes to the composition.
Non-objective: A type of artwork in which no elements bear a likeness to natural objects or recognizable images.
Patina: The process of finishing or covering the surface of materials such as metal, wood, or plaster either naturally, through exposure to water, air or earth, or chemically through applied solutions.
Pedestal: An element of a sculpture which is used as a base or stand for the work. It functions to give the structure support and set it apart from the its background, but it can also conceptually serve a purpose.
Real Space: The actual or true space that sculpture physically occupies.
Representational: A quality of an artwork which attempts to depict or present a recognizable subject.
Rhythm: A characteristic of a composition or design where the work demonstrates a pattern or movement through line, form, and/or color.
Scale: The proportions or measured differences in size between an actual object and its representation.
Slate: A fine-grained sedimentary rock which is relatively easy to cut and is usually available in thin smooth slabs.
Stainless Steel: A type of steel containing an amount of chromium to give it the ability to resist corrosion, oxidation, and rusting.
Steel: An alloy of iron and carbon often with small amounts of other elements, this strong, malleable and durable material is most commonly found in either sheets or rods. It is generally fabricated to produce sculpture.
Stone Cutting Facility: An industrial setting or studio which is equipped with the tools, such as saws and chisels, and machinery needed to break up masses of stone. The stone may also be carved and polished at this facility.
Symmetry: The structural or visual quality of a composition or object in which the two equal halves are balanced or identical.
Texture: The quality of the surface, rough or smooth, for example, of a material or object which can be discerned by both touch and sight. Texture can be a natural characteristic of a material or it can be created.
Travertine: This light yellow- or pink-colored, porous stone with a classification of #6 on a standard scale is used for both sculpture and building construction purposes. It is a sedimentary rock often found in caves and is composed mostly of calcite formed from the solution deposits of ground or surface water.
Tufa or Tufo: A variety of travertine, which is extremely porous.
Wood: A natural fibrous material deriving from a variety of trees or shrubs. It is a popular material for sculpting but can decay easily in wet conditions. Wood can be carved using the subtractive process of carving or cut and assembled.
Table of Contents
About the Curriculum | Units of Study | Field Trip Activity | Resources
NJ Resources | Studying Contemporary Sculpture | Public Relations
Reference Chart for Standards | Extension Activities | Standards
Forming School Partnerships | Acknowledgements | Meet the Team
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