Lesson: Michael Patterson-Carver: Politics and Art

  • Grade Level: High School (9-12 grade)
  • Subject Area: Art, Global Studies, Government, Literature/Poetry, and English
  • "Same-Sex Marriage Demo 2," 2007."Same-Sex Marriage Demo 2," 2007.
  • "Guernica: Incident at the UN," 2007."Guernica: Incident at the UN," 2007.
  • "The Twins," 2007."The Twins," 2007.
  • "Si Se Puede 2," 2007."Si Se Puede 2," 2007.
  • "George the Terrible," 2007."George the Terrible," 2007.
  • "PETA: Anti-Fur Demo," 2007."PETA: Anti-Fur Demo," 2007.
  • "Fight for Freedom," 2007."Fight for Freedom," 2007.

Introduction

After his exposure to civil rights protesting as a child, Michael Patterson-Carver has been committed to create works that engage in a personal form of political activism. Most recently the artist has started a series of drawings that read like allegories of destruction or chronicles of complex conspiracy theories often starring George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1958, Patterson-Carver lives and works in Portland, Oregon, where he first started presenting his works on the streets.

How does art and politics interface? What issues are artists using in their creations? How can art be used as a tool for activism? This lesson is based on the visual analysis of Michael Patterson-Carver’s works and concludes with an activist artmaking activity.

Objectives

  • Students will understand and analyze the works of Michael Patterson-Carver
  • Students will identify artist point of view in narrative works
  • Students will interpret the connotations of the artistic practices of appropriation and quotation
  • Students will synthesis their understanding of activism by constructing an activism work

Vocabulary

Narrative is the representation of a story.
Appropriation is an artistic practice of borrowing preexisting forms and/or images to create a new work. Duchamp’s use of a urinal as a authored artwork is an early example of appropriation that brings into question issues of originality .
Quotation is an artistic practice of referencing an existing artwork in a new artwork.
Activism is an intentional action to bring about political or social change.
Point of view refers to the perspective a story is being told.

Materials

Michael Patterson-Carver’s in the Digital Archives

Lesson Strategy

Open Discussion

  • Who tells stories and why?
  • What are some different ways to tell/show/perform a story?
  • What are your sources for stories? What tools do you use to tell a story (blogging, writing, digital photography, Facebook…)?

Look at Michael Paterson-Carver’s Guernica, 2007. Ink and pencil on paper 15 × 20 in (38 × 50.8 cm) Collection Nancy Delman Portnoy, New York

  • Based on what you see, describe the environment and event occurring in this composition.
  • How are the figures interacting? What are they doing?
  • Narrative in art is the representation of a story. What narrative do you think the artist is trying to show?
  • Based on this, what would you predict that the painting in the background represents?

The German Luftwaffe and Italian Fascist bombing of Guernica, Spain on April 26, 1937 was the inspiration and subject of Pablo Picasso’s monumental painting Guernica. Guernica was an important city during the Spanish Civil War as it stood in the path of the Nationalists capturing the Republic city Bilbao, a key city that was seen as a means to end the civil war in northern Spain. Picasso was commissioned by the Spanish Republican Government to paint a large mural for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris, and upon its completion, Guernica was then displayed around the world. Over time, Guernica has become an iconic anti-war symbol and has served as a reminder of the horrors of war.

  • The artist has used quotation, an artistic practice of referencing an existing artwork in a new artwork. What is Patterson-Carver referencing in this work?
  • Why would someone want to quote someone’s work?
  • What issues arise when you misuse quotation?
  • What evidence has the artist provided in crediting Picasso?

A tapestry copy of Guernica was installed in the Security Council room of the United Nations building in New York City in 1985. The Security Council room is where diplomats and others make speeches about world events such as conflicts and wars. On January 27, 2003 a large blue curtain was drawn in front of the tapestry. Days later, on February 5 Secretary of State Colin Powell, appeared before the UN to argue that Iraq had not complied with UN demands to disarm and therefore posed an imminent threat.

  • Summarize Michael Patterson-Carver’s narrative in this work. Whose point of views are being told?
  • Why is it important to know the point of view?
  • How would you describe the relationship of point of view in art to political narratives?

Look at Michael Paterson-Carver’s Same Sex Marriage, 2007. Ink and pencil on paper 9 × 12 in (22.8 × 30.5 cm) Collection Christopher Griffin, Portland

  • Based on what you see, describe this scene.
  • What are the figures doing? How are they interacting?
  • How do the actions of the figures add to our discussion on politics?
  • Describe the materials and techniques used in this work.
  • Where would you get these materials? How accessible are they?
  • How is the work drawn/colored?
  • Where else have you seen this style of drawing?
  • Why do you think the artist chose these materials/techniques in this work? Why is that important?
  • What inferences can you make about political art and accessibility?

Read: Michael Paterson-Carver’s biography

  • What is the artist’s point of view on protest?
  • How has the artist supported his claim about activism in this work?
  • Do you agree with the artist’s statement about activism? Why or why not?

Actvity
Become an activist. Ask students to define activism and give some examples. Discuss the definitions and record their ideas on the board. Provide students with artists/projects/movements that have used art as a tool in activism:
Sharon Hayes
Sam Durant
An Atlas of Radical Cartography by artists and cartographers Lize Mogel and Alexis Bhagat
The Constructivist movement was an artistic and architectual movement occuring in the aftermath of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia. Avant-garde artists such as Alexander Rodchenko, Vrvara Stepanova, and El Lissitzky, assumed the role of reinventing Russian society through works rooted in design yet reflecting the distinct characteristics of Soviet life. Deemed the Russian avant garde, the artists of this time were positioned in a society that was grappling with political turmoil, defending itself against counterrevolutions and foreign interventions, while making efforts to revitalize its economy.

  • What issues surround these works?
  • What mediums/techniques have the artists used?
  • Appropriation is an artistic practice of borrowing preexisting forms and/or images and claiming the artwork’s authorship. Where do you see artists using appropriation?
  • What are the differences between quotation and appropriation?
  • What issues arise when an artist uses appropriation? What are the pros and cons?
  • How do artistic practices, such as appropriation, contribute to activism?

Brainstorm issues and current events with students that impact our lives and warrant activism. Consider laws and rules as wells as domestic and international issues. Make a list on the board.

  • Which issues, situations, or laws today do you think are unfair? Why?
  • Which seem most important or applicable to you specifically? Why?

In groups or individually, have students select an issue/situation/law that they would like to focus on for their activism work. Ask students:

  • What message do you want your audience to walk away with?
  • What materials/techniques could you use that would help you carryout your message?
  • What connotations could be infered by using the selected materials/techniques?
  • How are you going to construct/carry out your activism work?

Homework

Students will create an activist work. Based on the previous conversations, students will construct a work that provides a message on the issue/situation/law selected. Students will be charged with selecting/employing the materials and techniques that would best suite the message they are conveying. Students will be asked to defend their choices in the assessment.

Assessment

Have students share their activism works. Ask students to discuss their point of view on the issue/situation/law that they chose. Have the students critique their works by asking the following questions: What message is being conveyed in their works? Was it the message that they intended? What impact do the materials/techniques used have on the message?

Extending the Lesson

Look at Michael Paterson-Carver’s Grim Reaper, 2007. Ink and pencil on paper 15 × 20 in (38 × 50.8 cm) Collection of Laurent Godin, Paris

  • What do you see?
  • How does this work fit into the artist’s other works?
  • How does this contribute to our conversations about politics?
  • What points does this work reaffirm or rebut in previous discussed works? What new insights?

Additional Resources

Artist’s webpage
Project Webpage

Lesson Plan: Michael Patterson-Carver: Politics and Art

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