Monday, January 25, 2016

Storytelling through Mixed Media Collage, Inspired by Carmen Lomas Garza

Last month, first grade artists created mixed media collage artworks that tell the story of a family memory or tradition. We began by looking at two paintings by the Mexican American artist, Carmen Lomas Garza. Students were asked to look at the artwork carefully and then think about what is happening and what supports their thinking.
Carmen Lomas Garza, Barbacoa para Cumpleaños (1993)
Many students thought that it was a birthday party, because the girl in the middle is hitting a pinata, which they connected to birthday parties that they have been to. Students also saw a cake and noticed that many people were gathered to help celebrate. Other students thought perhaps it was a family reunion, because there was a barbecue, family members of all ages, and a couple dancing. The painting is actually about a birthday barbecue, so our observations helped us to "read" the painting and understand the story.
Carmen Lomas Garza, Empanadas (1991)
We also looked at another painting where a family is gathered to make empanadas and we shared our own experiences with cooking or baking together with your family and making a lot of food for a celebration. We noticed that the artist paints the story, using a lot of details to help us understand what is happening, without any words. Carmen Lomas Garza is a Mexican American artist who was born in Texas. She paints about her experiences as a Mexican American and her paintings feature her family.
Students then closed their eyes and thought of a time they have spent with their family. They tried to remember who was there, where it took place, and what people were doing. Then they made their own sketches and drawings of this memory. For many students, it was a family tradition or annual event such as Christmas, Hanukkah, or Thanksgiving. For others, they remembered their birthday or a sibling's birthday. Some students drew about a family summer vacation to the beach or a long roadtrip, while others drew about playing in the park, weekend picnics, and building snowmen. 
The following week, students received their sketches. We focused on the background, or environment, in their drawing. Students painted paper with the colors in their background, whether it was yellow sand, blue sky or white snow. 
We let the painted paper dry and the next class, students began adding the people and details in their foreground using a variety of different materials. Students cut and tore shapes from colored paper, tissue paper, fabric, felt, and yarn and put them together to created a mixed media collage of their family memory. 
Students thought carefully about how the colors, patterns and textures of the materials would help tell their visual story. They tried to make the setting clear, whether it was indoors or outdoors, daytime or nighttime.
Students worked very hard on these mixed media collages, and wrote a sentence on the back about their work, describing the memory. At the end of class, we shared them with class on the rug so that everyone could take a look at the finished work, and we could learn more about each student's story. Here are some examples below, with a description written by the student. They will be on display next month downstairs in the glass case near the school entrance.
Darya, 1st grade (Massa)
I am spending time with my family. We are swimming and eating."

Luanna, 1st grade (Mandile)
This was when it was my birthday."
Abena, 1st grade (Torchio)
"I am at the park with my family."
Ellian, 1st grade (Torchio)
"The picture is Hanukkah and my aunt just sent me a menorah."
Tohka, 1st grade (Torchio)
"My mom and I make bread together."
Paulo, 1st grade (Torchio)
"I am at the park."
Morgen, 1st grade (Landay)
I went to New Hampshire with my family."
Perin, 1st grade (Landay)
I went to Florida with my family and went on a water slide!"
Mary, 1st grade (Massa)
"My mom and I went to a picnic."
Mera, 1st grade (Landay)
"I went to Maine. I stayed in a hotel with a beach."
Jasmine Serres, 1st grade (Landay)
I went to the playground with my sister and my uncle."

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