Lesson: Found Object Art
Anything that you want to do, you can accomplish, and you can create art without buying things. I find things. It’s a big part of my art.
–Katrina Mitten, Miami of Oklahoma
Themes: Relation and Innovation
Learning Objective: Students will learn that artists can use their work to address difficult subjects. Students will create a found object sculpture.
Like many artists, Katrina Mitten incorporates things she finds into her art. For example, when she found photos of 19th-century Native American children, she used them as part of a sculpture she titled “Exposed.” This piece of found object art is about the experiences Native American children endured in American Indian boarding and residential schools in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
During this time, Native American boys and girls were removed from everything that was familiar to them—their families and communities—and sent to far-away schools. Instead of speaking the languages of their peoples, they were forced to learn English. Clothes that the children were used to wearing were taken away and replaced with items strange to them. Long hair that was a connection to cultural identity was cut short to avoid the spread of lice and to force assimilation.
Art can be so much more than a relaxing landscape or a decorative vase. Sometimes artists use beauty or humor to address difficult subjects, like American Indian boarding schools. In this piece, Katrina’s beautifully beaded butterflies draw you in and invite you to look closer. Only then do you notice the black and white photos, old camera, and the word “exposed.” What is going on in this piece? Why would Katrina pair these items together? The intent behind the piece gets clearer as you spend time looking and listening to what the artist has to say.
Making art just needs an idea, some imagination, and access to the objects you want to use. It can be as easy as looking through boxes in a closet or taking a walk through a park. Sometimes you start with an idea and find the objects; sometimes you find the objects and they give you an idea. Either way works— there’s no right way to make your art.
Make a found object sculpture! Go on a hunt for objects to use in your artwork, then create a piece of art that is about an event in your life, something you like to do, or a place that’s important to you. For example, maybe you went on a trip and you have some rocks, shells, postcards, buttons, or other things that can help you create a piece of art about the trip. Maybe like Katrina Mitten you have photographs that you can use as part of the piece of art you create (if you can’t use the actual photographs, maybe you can make photocopies of them to use). Use glue or tape to attach pieces together to create your structure (cardboard, paper towel tubes, plastic containers, sticks, etc.), then embellish with found objects and other media (paper, marker, etc.).
Words you need to know
A reciprocal connection between two or more things, thoughts, ideas, or people.
Creating something new or finding a new way of doing something.
Boarding and residential school
A school where students live while attending classes.
Found object art
A type of art made from things the artist has discovered or collected.
Conform to the cultural traditions of the dominant society.
A three dimensional a work.