William Carlos Williams
a red wheel
When I taught English the past three years, (which I'd like to go back to at the college level in the not-so-distant future), I liked to use art as an introduction to analyzing, interpreting, and later creating symbolism and metaphor with my students. With the help of power point, William Carlos William's "The Red Wheelbarrow," and some well-known artists with heavy symbolism in their paintings, I opened up each poetry unit with class discussions about the significance of elements in a handful of artistic works. This Williams poem is ideal because it immediately draws attention to color symbolism, (a great follow up for this is the film What Dreams May Come), as well as free association with the objects depicted, as well as incites a discussion around William's spacing of the words. I used the colors, objects, placement, etc, to launch into the analyzation of art work that I projected onto the front screen, (which I'm old enough to remember actually watching film strips on in elementary school).
Frida Kahlo is also excellent for inciting class discussion, and I chose images like the Two Fridas above, El Venadito and Border Women. She has so many details in her paintings that it was exciting for the kids to get to write down as many as they could find and then talk with each other about what the different pieces meant and how they fit together into a cohesive message. Every class period I learned something new from the kids.
And in case it wasn't obvious, I'm a huge Frida Kahlo fan. Today was especially exciting because I got to see a real Frida up close at the Harry Ransom Center on the UT campus. They had Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird on display and it was the first time I'd ever been able to see a painting of hers close enough to make out brush strokes.The discussion concluded with Edward Hopper, who I first learned about in an Asian Studies class when I was in high school. The teacher talked to us about Hopper's depictions of light and dark and the theories of the darkness as the unknown human psyche and the west's fear of exploring these shrouded parts of our selves. Etcetera. I would post the painting Gas and we would discuss the source of light in the painting, the direction the man was facing, the road dividing the natural world from the man-made world, and it always yielded new insight for me.
The culmination of this discussion was to write an eckphrastic poem about the Magritte piece, Son of Man, to see if the students could implement their new take on symbolism and its assorted manifestations in art and literature. The above painting, Homesick, is one of my favorites, though, and I've often thought of getting part or most of it as a tattoo, perhaps on my hip since I've read that's what women use to lead with when they walk, and I'd like to think I'm always walking homeward, even if starting out in the opposite direction.
Hayley, if you're feeling renegade then you could analyze my new found love - Banksy. I recommend browsing through his site to find some of his images, since he has a lot to say about modern culture in his works. Plus, having an idea of who your AP Language and Comp teacher is, I think her reaction to graffiti art would be PRICELESS. But you know... your paper, your call :)
I miss my classroom! And my lessons! And (most of) my kids! But not 8AM first period. I'll gladly trade that for my after-school program director hours. Another potential perk of college teaching - a dynamic schedule.
And on a final note - not that I'm sure where you'd go with analyzing his pieces, but I also think that Alphonse Mucha is very beautiful. If I decide to get one of his images tattooed on me, I've already got a spot picked out.
I wish I could give you some more esoteric artists, but you have to forgive me, as my studies were English literature, and I only know the art that is popular or that I stumble upon. Good luck with your analysis!