Look at this.
It is my mirror.
This is me.
How do you see me?
Do you see yourself ?
Understanding and exploring the self is a concern investigated by all art makers at one time or another, from very young children to renowned visual artists. Not only are we, as young art makers, adult amateur artists and professional artists, striving to clarify who we are, but we are compelled to communicate this information to others. An art work which takes as its subject the self becomes a complex device, for it can reflect and illuminate. It may be a realistic rendering of the artist’s appearance, an oblique, symbolic representation, or a surrealistic conundrum. For the astute viewer and scholarly student, the art work is a window into the psyche of the artist. The art work holds yet another possibility for the viewer. This other possibility rests in the awareness by the viewer that the art work contains the capacity to reveal truths about her or himself. By looking deeply at self-portraits and in the making of self-portraits following the example of artists, one is drawn into the discourse of identity.
Reflections in the Mirror examines identity through the creation of two contrasting forms of visual expression- a personal visual journal (vj) and public mural. The inspiration and catalyst for this exploration is found in the history of twentieth century Mexican art. Two artists, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera serve as exemplars. Similar to her delicate physique, Kahlo’s artistic production consists of small paintings of her life and an illustrated diary, illuminating her innermost spirit with words and pictures. In contrast, Rivera was a very large man. His best known artistic output consists of monumental frescoes. Kahlo and Rivera must have been an eye-catching couple in their day. Today, their art work offers a fascinating example of contrasting approaches to the expression of identity. The fact that they married, worked closely, shared similar cultures, experiences and political ideology and yet produced highly differing, individualized expressions of self, is even more interesting. Their work provides a glimpse into two enormously interesting individuals, their relation to society as well as the forming of the modern Mexican identity.
The unit is written for middle school students grades 5-8, but is adaptable for use with younger or older students. It is designed to take place in an art studio, but a variety of educational settings are suitable.