Xerox and Pen Material-Based Self-Portrait

This version of the project was developed by Olivia Gude with elementary classroom teachers in the Urban Gateways Atelier Project.

Contemporary sculptors often create meaning in their works by using non-traditional materials. This version of the project emphasizes the conceptual aspect of the project.

It is very simple in terms of the materials used. It would make a useful one or two day class project to follow up an aesthetics/art criticism/art history unit on the use of materials in traditional and contemporary art. It can easily be done as a homework or sketchbook assignment. (The project could be extended by asking students to determine the best materials to use to construct a portrait sculpture of each member of their families.) The students begin with a xerox of a photo of self. The xerox can be altered with pen, pencil, or whiteout to look like a self-portrait sculpture. Students write a statement to accompany the image which explains what materials they chose for their portrait and why. These can be compiled into a class book, which can be xeroxed and given to each student. This could be one of several projects in an Art Class Yearbook that encourages students to consider the individuality of each student and the unique collaborative community of artmakers they formed during the year.

Photograph of each student (school pictures work fine)
White out or white tempera or acrylic paint
Small brush
Black pen and/or dark pencil
White pencil
Computer and printer (optional)
Xerox machine (optional)

Portrait In Cotton by Patricia Benjamin

Medium: Red Cross Sterile Cotton

"I chose cotton as the medium to make myself because it is soft, durable, and available. I think I am considered soft in that I am generally easy to get along with. The fibers in cotton are strong. I have had to be strong through various family crises. Cotton is also available, and I have had to make myself available to others.

Cotton is very versatile. It can be used for anything from health, beauty, or craft purposes. My roles in life have also been varied. I am or have been a daughter,
wife, mother, sister, aunt, niece, etc. These roles have needed me to be a teacher, nurse, social worker, psychologist, etc."
Self Portrait by Anne Lawrence

Medium: Mud, Rocks, and Twigs

This sculpture was created by casting a mold of myself using mud, rocks, and twigs. Growing up in the south in poverty during the 40s, 50s, and 60s, I spent a lot of time outside and did a lot of pretending. My mom was always baking cakes and so I pretended to bake cakes also. One of my favorite cakes was German chocolate and this reminded me of a German chocolate cake (brown mud-brown German chocolate, rocks-nuts, and twigs-coconut).

The rich brown mud represents my strong African American heritage. Since twigs are easily crushed or broken, they represent the many times I was crushed growing up as a poor African American in the Deep South. The rocks represent how no matter how many times you are crushed or broken, you can still be strong.

This sculpture, like my life, has many crooks, turns, and bumps. This is all a part of life. I hope that others can get the message that no matter what life deals out to you, use it to be the best you can be.
Crunch and Chrome by Matthew Couture, 1998

Medium: Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chrome

This sculpture was created using chocolate chip cookie dough (Nestle) and their crunchy, cooked results outlined with supports of chrome. It was made with painstaking hours of handwork and beater licking in my mom’s kitchen, mingled with hours of shaping and shining in my father’s garage.

This piece is a testament to childrearing and, more especially, to the unconditional care of my parents in my development. My mother’s constant contribution of praise and cookies, albeit crunchy, was her display of love and care in my youth. The ’63 Grand Prix that was my father’s medium and the hours of sun-soaked chrome buffing was where his encouragement and direction came forth.

It was these two materials, cookies and chrome, combined with the motivation of 18 years of youth that created this piece. It is a symbol of my identity.