Musings about the importance and impact of art and art education in the 21st century.

Musings about the importance of art and art education

O'Keeffe-Where Does Your Ladder Go? 4th grade

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in at 1:54 PM

Ladder to the Moon (1958)  by Georgia O'Keeffe

I first saw this painting at the Whitney Museum of American Art.  The museum has collected this piece as part of its permanent collection.  I have yet to meet a person who doesn't like the artwork of Georgia O'Keeffe but most enthusiasts don't realize her repertoire includes all sorts of landscapes, cityscapes, minimalist abstracted bone paintings, and even these sort of surreal or ethereal paintings. In my opinion some of the work she created towards the end of her life is the best. 

When I first saw this picture, the description on that placard that accompanied it mentioned that this may have been the artists depiction of spirituality.  It said something like this:  In the painting the desert is dwarfed to a silhouetted landscape and the moon, is reduced to a sliver of silver light barely visible among the strong turquoise blue of the sky.  The central ladder is the largest, most prominent feature in the work and acts as a bridge between the metaphorical 'life' of the desert and 'afterlife' of the moon.  The ladder is the symbolic journey between the two.

Apparently O'Keeffe was inspired to create this painting after spending many nights on the roof of her Ghost Ranch. (Check out Architectural Digest's photo slideshow of Ghost Ranch HeRe)

 No one knows exactly why artists create the images they do but the first thing I thought after reading the placard and seeing this beautiful work was "where would my  ladder go if I had a ladder to that could take me anywhere?" My second thought was "wow, that would be a really great art lesson!"  And so...I had my students create an artwork that answered the question "where does your ladder go?"

To begin the project I had students create a hilly Elmer's glue-landscape about half way up the page.
 Then, when dry, I had the students color in the hills using warm colored chalk pastels. Most students loved the bright and messy experience of using the chalks.

 Once finished with the chalks, students sketch out an idea for a scene.  The scene could have been fictional or realistic, It could have been somewhere they had been or somewhere they dreamed of going.  It could have been someplace as simple as their bedroom or as far away as space.  My only caveat was that they had to put enough details in their scene to make sure the viewer could tell where it was and what some of its features were.
 Some children chose to depict a fun candy-land or favorite scene from a movie or book they love.  Some chose realistic places like the grand canyon, London, or vacation spot like the Caribbean. 
 What was great about this lesson was the originality and personality each piece contained.