Vol. 13, No. 2 (page 1)
A LIGHTER SIDE OF ART
...OR IS IT?
A Unit of Study
Have you ever been somewhere when you and a stranger have
shared a laugh? An instant bond was formed. Humor is a universal
human experience. When two people find humor in the same thing/event,
a bond is created. There is an instant connection that both
will remember fondly forever.
Humor in art can be found in the unexpected or fantastic.
It can be found in the past and the present. Examples from
the past will be taken from the work of Guisseppe Arcimboldo.
The immediate reaction to Arcimboldo's composite heads is
that of , fascination and attraction. The reputation of this
so-called Mannerist painter was based on his use of fantasy
and surprise. His paintings were called “bizarre inventions”
and were a great success in the Hapsburg (also spelled Habsburg)
court of first in Vienna and then in Prague during the mid-1500s.
The examples of contemporary works are taken from the works
Moore, an artist from Laguna, California. His prints are
inspired by childhood experiences. Even though his works may
be considered "surreal", they have aspects of visual
puns because of the titles attributed to them. In this lesson,
we will use two of his works: Up
on Her Soap Box and Tooth
Arcimboldo’s transformation of the human
face does contain an aspect of humor, of the ridiculous. Yet,
they can be interpreted on several levels of understanding.
These multiple meanings reflect a belief that art should not
be taken simply at face-value (pun intended!), but examined
for less obvious ideas and insights.
This unit will take students through the process of examining
two levels of interpretation: the visual pun and the historical
allegory. The two composite portraits selected for this unit
Librarian (1566), thought to be Arcimboldo’s
first of this type; and Vertumnus
(1590), acclaimed as his finest, culminating work.
Note: The target audience for this unit is sixth grade.
This grade level was selected since in Texas their focus of
study in art and social studies is the world and its cultures.
(continued on page 2)
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