Lesson Plan | Christina Ramberg: Small Format Hair Drawings – MMoCA
Untitled, ca. 1975, acrylic on Masonite
Visual Art, Language Arts, Social Studies
Evy Thuli, art educator
- How do life experiences influence the way we relate to art?
- How do images influence our view of the world?
- Students will learn about the art of the Chicago Imagists, Pop artists, and specifically the work of Christina Ramberg, including her style, presentation, and the meanings behind her work. Students will discuss and consider the cultural implications, symbolism, and historical aspects of hair, as well as its use in communicating status and reflection of personal and group identity. Students will review and experiment with the element of line, and line quality, to evoke a variety of textures, patterns, and emotions. Students will create original expressive drawings.
Activity: It’s All About Hair!
This lesson examines the art of Christina Ramberg to learn more about the Chicago Imagists and the era in which Ramberg’s work was created. Students will participate in a variety of activities to prepare to make a four-part drawing. In 1968, the musical, Hair, debuted on Broadway in New York City. As class begins, play a short YouTube clip from Hair. Have students share their reactions to the video. Explain that this musical was performed just seven years before our focus artwork was created. Discuss what students might know about what was happening in the world at the end of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Ask, “What are some of the influences that could have inspired artists at this time?” Discuss ways art can move viewers emotionally. Consider ways that the things around you can influence how you feel about art.
- What do you see? What details has the artist included in his painting?
- How would you describe the sense of depth or space that he has created?
- What might the combination of objects and their arrangement suggest to you?
- What might be the significance of the title, Regulatory Body?
Part 1: Mind Map
Sensitize students to the topic of “hair.” Students will work in groups of two or three to create a “mind map” of information (see sample below). Explain that they should write everything they can think of about the topic. Suggested discussion questions:
- How and why do styles change? Why are some styles so elaborate? Can you think of a style that identifies a specific group of people?
- How is hair a mode of self-expression? Communication? Identification? How can hair be a political statement?
- Do we make judgments about people based on their hairstyle? How? How can hairstyles share powerful messages about beliefs, lifestyles, and commitments?
- Hair is important to many people. We often see our hair as a reflection of our identity because it is both personal and public. Many people feel that a “bad hair day” equals a “bad day.” Why?
- How might a hairstyle indicate wisdom, power, vanity, or other attributes?
Have groups share their mind maps with the whole class. Record their ideas on a large sheet of paper.
Part 2: Chicago Imagism and Christina Ramberg
Introduce the topic of Chicago Imagism. Explain that the work of the Imagists was different from art that was being made in New York and on the West Coast at the time. Although the Chicago Imagists shared common interests; a tendency toward finely crafted, representational art; and some had ties to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, they each had a unique approach to making art.
Show students Christina Ramberg’s Untitled, ca. 1975. As a young girl, Christina Ramberg sometimes watched her mother getting dressed for going out in the evening. She felt “stunned” by how the clothing transformed her mother’s body. Advertisements for wigs also intrigued her. She later created many images of women’s undergarments and hair styles.
Step 3: Line
Review the element of line: line quality, variety, direction, use of line to describe depth. Have students practice repeated lines to illustrate its textural ability. Demonstrate ways contour lines can be drawn to show over/under, curling/twisting, and near/far. Show examples of line drawings that use these techniques.
Step 4: Observation
Sometimes the best way to understand something is to observe it closely. Pass out drawing paper, drawing boards, and fine-tipped marker pens. Arrange chairs in a circle. Replay the soundtrack from Hair and have students move around the room. When the music stops, students should sit down. Students will then turn in their seat to look at the back of the head of the student to their left. Have them examine and attempt to draw the student’s hair, using a line quality that expresses the hair style of their classmate. Give them several minutes to accomplish this, and then repeat several times for practice. Turning the music on and off will give them a chance to move around and try again with a different hairstyle.
Step 5: Collecting Photo images
Remind students that Ramberg collected many things to use as reference material, including images of women’s hairstyles in print advertising (magazines and newspapers) and comic books. Before the next class, instruct students to search for photographs of a variety of hair styles from fashion magazines or online. Prepare paper viewfinders by cutting a 2-inch square from the center of a larger piece of black construction paper for student to place over their photographic images.
Step 6: Drawing
Have students lay their photographic images on the table in front of them. Demonstrate how students can move the viewfinder to isolate an interesting part of the hairstyle. Distribute squares of drawing paper no larger than 6 x 6 inches. Using the photographic images as references, students will create images inspired by hair using fine black markers. Shading some areas with pencil may add the illusion of depth, or indicate textures and reflected light; adding colored pencil could also indicate hair color.
Step 7: Presentation
Have students select their favorite four drawings to mount on black construction paper. Include a label with name and date of completion. The teacher can create a final display with information about Christina Ramberg and a brief synopsis of the art of the Chicago Imagists.
On Hair and Identity:
Mind Map Worksheet: use with part 1 of activity
Some concepts to consider
- Identity/fitting in/identification
- Gender/gender fluidity
- Global cultures
- People famous for their hair
- Political statement
- Good/bad hair day (emotional impact)
Pencils, erasers, sketchbooks or loose paper, ultra-fine black Sharpies, small squares of white drawing paper (no larger than 6 x 6 inches), drawing boards, magazine photos or online prints of hairstyles, shading pencils and colored pencils (optional), black construction paper (or mat board) for viewfinders and for mounting
Chicago Imagists, Pop art, line (straight, curved, angular, contour, parallel), value/shading
Share with students examples of stories, myths, or movies that have been focused on hair, such as Sampson and Delilah, Rapunzel, and Medusa, and musicals such as Hairspray (2002) and Hair (1968). What contemporary examples can they find? Have students write a new story with the theme of hair as the central focus. / Research the history of the 1960-70s. What caused the political tension between young and older generations?
Wisconsin State Standards
Art and Design: A.8.4 / B.8.1, B.8.2 / C.8.6 / D.8.6 / E.8.5 / G.8.1, G.8.2; Language Arts: C.8.3 / D.8.1; Social Studies: B.4.4, B.12.7 / E.8.2, E.8.14