Sunday, August 8, 2010

Louise Nevelson Art Project

This past week, I had the awesome privelege to attend trainings at three of the great museums that we have here in Fort Worth. I was able to spend one day each at The Modern Art Musuem of Fort Worth, The Kimbell Art Museum, and The Amon Carter of American Art (all of these museums, btw, have great educational classes for adults and kids).

As always, I found inspiration and beauty at every museum, but I particularly enjoyed the "Constructive Spirit" exhibit currently on display at the Amon Carter. The art is a collection of abstract paintings, sculpture, and video from the 1920's to 1950's created by North and South American artists. Now, let me tell you up front that I in no way claim to understand all of the art that I saw, but I can still appreciate the purpose behind it and the simple beauty found in the color and composition of the works.

One of the pieces that caught my attention was a sculpture by Louise Nevelson. She became famous for her sculptures made from a collection of found objects, called assemblages, (sometimes even items found on the street) attached together and painted a single color. It seems like a very simple concept, but the effect is beautiful. The piece on display at the Amon Carter was created from wood scraps glued together in a vertical arrangement and painted black, resulting in a 6 foot tall work resembling a Totem pole.

Another teacher at the training mentioned that he was already thinking of doing an assemblage art project with his kids this year, and I thought that it was just a great idea and decided to steal it! :) Don't worry, he won't mind... I think. This would also be a very simple project for you parents to do at home with your kids. You could use it to introduce your kids, and maybe yourelf, to abstract art. Here's all you need to do:

Find a base. You will need something to use as a base for the sculpture, either something like a piece of plywood or a shoebox. Keep in mind whether you want your art to hang on a wall, be free standing, or hang from the ceiling. For examples, see the "Louise Nevelson" link above.

Collect your "stuff". Gather up a bunch of found objects. It's a good idea to get more than you'll actually need so that you have some choices for your art. You can use anything from scraps of wood to small toys. On the piece that I made (below), I used wood, a gum box, a toy car, nails, screws, pennies, a picture frame hook, a spray paint lid, a pencil, an eraser, and an electric chord adapter (and I still feel that mine looks a little bare compared to Nevelson's). Some of Nevelson's works were only wood scraps and others were a collection of different types of materials, so feel free to play around with it.

Arrange it before you glue it! Be sure to experiment with the placement of your objects, don't just glue them down in the first place you lay them. Move things around, flip them over, set them on end. Find the arrangement you like best, and then you can glue it down.

Paint it! This is where the artwork really comes together. Regardless of how it looked before, once you paint everything in a monochromatic (one color) scheme, your sculpture will be completely transformed! This custom paint job will bring an undeniable sense of unity to your work. It doesn't matter if you've got a pair of scissors right next to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle; they'll look like they were made for each other.

And... Done! Now all that's left is to display it proudly. If you're an art teacher, perhaps you can find a way to install multiple small pieces together to create one large piece (her piece above exceeded 10 feet tall), or if your a writing teacher, you could have your students study and write about the artist (she was female, Jewish, and wanted to be an artist in the 1920's... I'm sure they could find one or two things of interest).

If you decide to give this art project a try, I would love to see it and post it on my blog. Send your stories and/or photos to me at Maybe I'll steal your great idea next!

Happy Creating!

Find more great ideas on my website @!


Anonymous said...

Kinsy---I'm totally doing this! She also wore mink eyelashes! I have always loved her work. Another idea would be to use an old drawer as the base for your work. Then you have instant walls that can frame your piece and you can build on to create depth. ---fun stuff!

Kinsy McVay said...

Great idea! Now, can I borrow your dresser? :)

Sara Klein said...

So glad you liked the workshop last week at the Carter and found inspiration in the Constructive Spirit exhibition. Your Nevelson project sounds great--very classroom and student-friendly.--sk

Kinsy McVay said...

Thanks, Sara! I'll let you know how it turns out. :)

Violet Koncz said...

Love this idea! Im going to try it :) Thanks!