02 May 2012

Jackson Pollock was a smoker

Remember art class when you were in elementary school?  It usually started in the Fall with pressing leaves and crayon shavings between two pieces of waxed paper and ironing the mess to produce a colorful piece to add to the stack of stuff on the dining room table or perhaps to grace the front of the refrigerator. Things would then progress to cutting snowflakes in the Winter followed by red and pink heart art and pastel-colored 'Springtime' images. Some adventurous teachers might allow you to make paintings using string and toothbrushes dipped in paint and then dragged or splattered across a sheet of paper.

Things are different for my kids.

Starting in 3rd grade, my kids' school gives them 'real' art class once a week. It is taught in french, and they explore art movements and famous artists as well as finding their own artistic voice using a variety of media. The other day Baby X came home from school with a note from her art teacher. The fourth graders have an assignment – create a diorama showing an artist is his or her milieu.

I remembered when Big G had this assignment. He chose to depict Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It was rad. Someday I'll dig it out of the garage and post a picture of it. I almost suggested we just 'recycle' it :P  But then the Good Mommy spoke up and asked Baby X what she would like to do. She was at a loss, so we discussed a number of options... Monet in his garden with the Japanese bridge and some waterlilies, VanGogh in his room, Frida Kahlo and the Flying Bed... just kidding about that last one...it's a little heavy for a 10-year old to try and fit in a shoebox.

Not sure why it popped out of my mouth, perhaps it was because none of the other dozen or so options were appealing to her, but I blurted out...

Hey, you could do Jackson Pollock and have him surrounded by empty liquor bottles in his barn with a big painting on the floor!

And she asked me...

So we watched this video together...

And looked at various examples of his art...

And she was hooked. And insistent...

We need to make sure he's smoking, mom.

Here's the outcome...she did an amazing job...

Barn in the background, cans of paint all over, paint-splattered boots, knocked-over liquor bottles...

...and a cigarette.

Did you ever have to make a diorama when you were in school? Do you remember what it was of?
– I made one that had something to do with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. I can't for the life of me remember what the heck it had to do with anything!

Have you seen the movie about Jackson Pollock starring Ed Harris as the artist and Marcia Gay Harden as his artist wife, Lee Krasner?
– Great movie. Highly recommend. Very troubled dude.


  1. That's really impressive. I never did anything like that, and I would have been terrible at it had I been required to. It makes me scared for my kids. I think they may fail out of elementary school. :^)

  2. Wow! That is so awesome! I haven;t seen the movie, but have been wanting to since seeing the play Red about an artist (no quiz...I forgot his name). I did a diorama in 5th grade that my great-grandfather helped me with. it was the Boston Tea Party and he made me a boat and tea crates. I don't know what I felt more proud about at the time...my project, or the fact that I had, not only two grandfathers, but a great-grandfather too!

  3. Wow, great job! I think your remake of Pollock's art is equally as good as some of his originals. :)

    I don't remember making any dioramas, but my oldest daughter seems to be making them all the time... mostly just for fun (yeah, her sense of fun is a little different). She did, however, recently actually make one for school, it was Benjamin Franklin flying a kite in a lightning storm.

  4. I love it. I adore it. I want to make it. The buckets are a clever touch, good thinking with the paint pots. Ah, I miss art class!

  5. I had to explain that comic when it ran too. Great diorama.

  6. I saw that cartoon a couple weeks ago and I didn't know who he was. Thanks for clueing me in.

  7. Wow, that cool! I don't think I've ever done anything like that. Very cool. Especially the cigarette. :)

  8. Wow, that's awesome!!! I can't recall having to make any diahrama's myself...but the children make them all the time in school for various projects... a great way to showcase a child's knowledge and assess their understanding on a certain topic or subject...I wonder when the state or federal government will finally CLUE IN to assessing children in different modalities rather than just grading them on paper and pencil tests after sitting for 90 minutes...hmmm

    I'll tell ya, East hampton sure doesn't look like that anymore ;)

  9. I LOVE it! She did a fantastic job. What a great assignment. And yes, I saw the movie--he was a mess, but most creative geniuses are, imho. (just finished reading the Paris Wife about Hemmingway; same mess!)

  10. This is so imaginative and amazing!! I love the bottles...nice touch.

  11. She did an amazing job! Looks like she had fun too.

  12. that is SO awesome! i love love love jackson pollock. i remember seeing one of his paintings in real life for the first time and just staring in amazement. so much to see in his art - including cigarettes that he actually threw right into his work! i remember a silent movie that was made of him in action, and it really moved me. i am an art history geek though - so this post really grabbed me! i love what your daughter did with this, and that her school has them doing projects like this. awesome!

  13. oh and yes! i have seen that movie with ed harris -- excellent.

  14. Oh wow, she did an amazing job with this!

  15. Very cool diorama. It's good she opted against doing Michael Heizer's earthworks.

  16. Love this! Jackson Pollock is a fav artist of him. Troubled but I always think of him as badass.

  17. That is a VERY impressive diorama! It looks great!

  18. Sounds like a stellar art class, and I think the diarama is awesome....but I'm a little disappointed in the low opinion of the run-of-the-mill "art" classes. It is probably a fair assessment overall, but I remember doing some interesting/exciting/different projects in my public elementary school career. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Very cool project! Much more fun that the typical diorama assignment. Definitely dig that other one out, I know I'm not the only one who would love to see it!


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