Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Arachnids
Language Arts – Literature – Charlotte’s Web, Symbols, Writing, Adjectives
Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Louise Bourgeois, Odilon Redon
Louise Bourgeois’ “Spider”
In conjunction with an art history class on sculpture, I recently visited The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. Take your own virtual tour of the sculpture garden through this interactive story:
One of the works we viewed was the spider sculpture pictured above. Before studying this work, I would have passed this baby right by. I find spiders a little creepy. Bourgeois, on the other hand, views spiders as protectors, a lot like Charlotte is portrayed in the novel, Charlotte’s Web. Actually, this spider sculpture is a portrait of the artist’s mother. “What?”, you may say. Well, let me explain. Her mother used to repair tapestries, so she was a weaver just like a spider. The other reasons may best be explained by the artist herself in the following quote.
“The spider—why the spider? Because
my best friend was my mother and she
was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing,
reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable,
neat, and as useful as a spider.”
Bourgeois made many spider works in different mediums and sizes. Read more about them here.
Did you note that one sculpture version, “Maman”, is thirty feet tall? Measure out thirty feet with your students, so that they can see just how tall it is.
Find some spider projects here:
Another caring spider can be found in the picture book, Sophie’s Masterpiece by Eileen Spinelli. You can view a reading of this wonderful book here:
Find a different interpretation of a spider in this painting by Odilon Redon:
Talk with your students about symbolism. Brainstorm some adjectives which could best describe a loved one. Next think of animals that might come to mind. Here are some examples:
Speed – cheetah, hare
Industrious, hard working – ants
Loyal, unconditional love – dog
Busy, protective – bees, beaver
Wise – owl, elephant
Beautiful, graceful – swan
Proud, beauty – peacock
Shy – sheep
Slow and steady wins the race – tortoise
Graceful – gazelle
Stubborn – donkey
Peace – Dove
Eagle eyed, sharp vision – eagle
Sly – fox
Courage – lion
Like to monkey around, mischievous – monkey
Put something away for a winter’s day – squirrel
Can you think of more? Bourgeois chose a spider to symbolize her mother. Ask students to choose an animal/animals that best symbolize their mom or some other important person in their lives. Have them draw the animal/hybrid animal (like suggested in the Redon Lesson) and write an adjective filled explanation similar to Bourgeois’.
Students could also compare and contrast Bourgeois’, Redon’s and real spiders.
So, whether you are teaching a science or literature unit, how about adding Louise Bourgeois, Odilon Redon or both and enrich your lesson.
Please stop by again real soon!