The complexity of identity in African American art takes a variety of approaches. This lesson aims to provide viewers an experience where they will be able to explore the theme of identity through these works of art from the perspective of the past and/or present.
Description: The complexity of identity in African American art takes a variety of approaches. Some artists look to the past, some to the present, and some mix elements of time as well as place in determining their own outlook on identity. In this gallery, we examine several works by African American artists that focus on this theme, both positively and negatively. Students will explore the issue of identity and the idea of what an "accurate identity" through several types of artwork ranging from traditional paintings, to collages, to photographs. These artworks will also allow students the opportunity to engage with sociological issues of race and gender through the lens of these artists.
In exploring this lesson, students will:
- Learn that there is more than one method of art-making one can employ when expressing oneself through art.
- Explore the different elements that make up one's identity.
- Comment on individual perception as well as societal perception of what makes up one's identity (what elements constitute an identity).
- Examine different forms of identity and find both similarities and differences between the different artist representation of this "identity."
This discovery will require students to:
- Look beyond what they see on the surface and find the deeper story and/or identity that the artist is trying to portray.
- Use both their prior knowledge and new knowledge acquired about different cultures to help them understand what element of identity the artist is portraying.
Using this resource:
- Visual Art teachers will be interested in the varying forms (collage, painting, photography) that art can take.
- Social Studies teachers will be interested in the different political and social histories represented in this lesson.
For sample related classroom activities, download the PDFs available under "Related Resources."
The objects in this lesson are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web source - or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries - to look for other objects that will provie further insights into this topic.