Lesson: Looking Closer: The Artwork of Martha Rosler

  • Grade Level: High School (9-12 grade)
  • Subject Area: Global Studies, Social Studies, Literary Arts, and Studio Arts
  • "Lounging Woman" (from the "Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful" Series), 2004."Lounging Woman" (from the "Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful" Series), 2004.
  • "Gladiators" (from the "Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful" Series), 2004."Gladiators" (from the "Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful" Series), 2004.
  • "Cellular" (from the "Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful" Series), 2004."Cellular" (from the "Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful" Series), 2004.
  • "Photo Op" (from the "Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful" Series), 2004."Photo Op" (from the "Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful" Series), 2004.


Written by Marc Mayer and Cathleen Lewis, Manager of High School Programs.

In this lesson students will learn about the artist Martha Rosler whose work tries to make the viewer more aware of their own world by using political and sociopolitical images. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, she brings a critical eye to aspects of ordinary life and the political world with a particular focus on the impact of “patriarchal” culture. She works in video, performance, installation, critical writing, photography, collage and photomontage. We are experiencing an increase in surveillance, loss of civil rights, an increase of border patrols, harsher immigration laws, and a struggling economy that has been over worked by an expensive war in Iraq. How do artists reveal these issues through their art practice? How can art increase a sense of awareness around political and social issues as well as advocating for change?


*Students will investigate how artists engage in political issues
*Students will make connections to larger political events both at home and abroad
*Students will consider how the arts can facilitate awareness around critical issues and impact society


Patriarchal is arelating to or characteristic of a culture in which men are the most powerful members.
Icononography is the symbolic representation, especially the conventional meanings attached to an image or images.
Montage is an artwork made from pieces of photographic images or prints arranged to create a new image.


Computer and Projector
Article from the Boston Globe
Martha Rosler’s Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful images Series, 2004 in the Digital Archives

Lesson Strategy

Not everyone is a politician, but art can be a powerful tool to highlight injustice and inequality around the world. Do you think art can be an effective tool to discuss important issues? Why?

What images come to mind when you think of the current war in Iraq? Brainstorm in your journal. Discuss.

Hand out article from the Boston Globe. Have students read article aloud titled, “Of war and remembrance, Martha Rosler’s montages conjure Vietnam and Iraq.”

Discuss the article with students.

Have students view Rosler’s work on the G:Class website. They should view the following artworks from the series:

Sadaams Palace
Photo Op
Lounging Women

Ask students to look at each picture and analyze it. Have them click on Sadaams Palace first. Students should fill out and complete the worksheet that answers the questions below.

*What do you see?
*What thoughts first come to your head when you see this image?
*What message do you think the artist is trying to tell you as the viewer?
*What critique on society is this piece making?

Using the Internet, find images, words, phrases, or advertisements that relate to the “War, Politics and Protest” theme of the week and print them out. In your journal, glue/tape these into a page or two and write about how this is your critique of society. How do you think this piece of art is an effective tool to spread your message?

Keywords: political, video