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Throughout the course, you’ve looked at the works of contemporary artists who tackle societal issues—those topics that are bigger than just the individual and concern larger groups of people in society (local, national, or global). If you ask them, artists will tell you why those societal issues are important to them—what their personal connection is to something that is bigger than themselves.

In this session, you heard about Vincent Valdez’s connection to the Latino community and the struggle for social justice. As a Latino living in Texas, he wanted these “unknown, unheard of, and unspoken” stories of atrocities in his home state to be told. Fahamu Pecou examines the identity and masculinity of black males in America because he thinks deeply about how to raise his own black son in this country. You only need to remember the events that happened Ferguson, Missouri to understand his point of view. To visually tell these complex stories, Valdez and Pecou add many layers of meaning in their art—personal, societal, historical, cultural, contemporary.

For your studio project this session, you are going to work with an issue you care about and experiment with layering meaning.

  1. To begin, identify an issue that you care about. In Session 3, after learning about Nathalie Miebach’s deep concerns about climate change, you brainstormed a list of issues and topics. Go to your sketchbook and look at your list of ideas again. While you may have chosen to work with a more personal concern in Session 3, focus now on a larger societal concern. Which of the topics on your list is one that affects society?
  2. Make a new list on a fresh page in your sketchbook. Write down the societal topics from your old list and add a few more issues that concern you—in your community, state, country, or planet. Aim for 3–5 topics.
  3. For each issue on your list, write down why you care about that issue. What is your personal connection to it? It might be a memory, an event, your ancestry, or something that is instinctual and harder to explain.
  4. Choose the issue you’d like to work with artistically this session and circle or star it.
  5. Photograph your sketchbook page and add it to your Sketchbook folder on ArtSpace.

Working with your issue, create an artwork that has at least three layers. Each layer should stand alone as an artwork; when viewed together, the meaning is layered and more complex. This is a very concrete exploration of layers, so the top two layers will need to be transparent. You may work with tracing paper, transparency film, or plastic packaging from salad greens or other similar semi-rigid clear plastic, and any other art materials you need. If you prefer to work digitally, you may use any digital imaging software that has layers (such as Photoshop).

  1. To begin, create three quick thumbnail sketches in your sketchbook to help you come up with an approach.
  2. Upload photographs of your thumbnail sketches to your Sketchbook folder on ArtSpace. Be sure to look at the images of your classmates’ sketchbooks in ClassSpace to see what they are thinking—looking at other people’s work in process can help you with your own ideas.
  3. Create your studio project. You may find it helpful to have the bottom layer be opaque, such as paper.
  4. When you have finished, photograph each of your layers separately, as well as the composite, and add the images to your Studio Projects folder on ArtSpace. Include the label text, as well as a description of the work that focuses on the concept. Like Vincent Valdez, try emphasizing the concept instead of your artistic techniques in the description this time.