Teaching with Contemporary Art

Help Wanted

Plaster sculpture by Matthew Labrake, Nyack High School

Plaster sculpture by Matthew Labrake, Nyack High School

Once in a while teachers are so amazed and proud of the work their students accomplish that they just have to share it, and I’m all about flying in that time zone this week. Two weeks ago, I wrote a column called The Same, But Different,  which discussed beginning a painting unit for the second year in a row that incorporates the theme of power with my Studio Art students. While we are well under way with forming some ideas for our paintings, I wanted to share a partial list of “powerful words”, “words we associate with power”, and “forms of power” that my Studio Art classes recently compiled. After a few partnered and small group conversations, here is a sample of what they discussed and came up with this past week:

Powerful Words: Outrageous, Wallin’, Loyalty, Perseverance, Death, Love, Hate, Faith, Pride, Terminal, Permanent, Never, Art, International, Soul, Law, Skyrocket, Boom!, Nuclear, Life, Morose, Wisdom, Cancer, Magic, Fight, Burn, Supernatural

(You can see why I’m smiling, right?)

Words We Associate with Power: Domination, Independence, Control, Strength, Bravery, Conquer, Mighty, Superiority, Confident, Intelligent, Love, Action, Wealth, Energy, Leadership, Stamina, Sexuality, Fear, Corruption, Time, Chaos

Forms of Power: One person over another; Family; Independence; Age; Manipulation; Karma; Terrorism; Co-dependence; Sexism, Rejection, Friendship, Love, Luck, Knowledge, Segregation, Censorship, Authority, Weapons, Sickness, Money, Addiction, Size

And these are just a few of the answers the students generated!

Now, here’s where the “help wanted” part comes in…..

While we discussed and viewed the work of Ida Applebroog, Cai Guo-Qiang, and Layla Ali last year, I’m looking for new artists to add to the mix. Inspired by a suggestion from my colleague Marc Mayer, I decided to share the brainstorming students have done and put the call out right here in the column: Looking at these lists so far, which artists would YOU suggest we incorporate in the new Painting About Power unit? Please share your ideas and comments!


  1. Robb says:

    How about Kara Walker, Lee Bul and Sanford Biggers?

  2. Joe Fusaro says:

    Love the Sanford Biggers suggestion especially! Thanks, Robb.

  3. Becky says:

    Jenny Saville! Images of (post-) violence, images of people bound up.

    Another take on power could be the long, long history of portraits of wealthy/famous people and the markers of power they use — recently mashed up by Kehinde Wiley, of course.

    Ghada Amer painting-tapestries?

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  5. Joe Fusaro says:

    Jenny Saville! Excellent! And a favorite painter of mine, too. Thank you, Becky.

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