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Kehinde Wiley-Inspired Self-Portraits with 2nd & 3rd Grade

Students in the 2nd and 3rd grade at P.S. 329, The Surfside School in Coney Island studied the artist Kehinde Wiley in conjunction with his exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. We first began our unit by discussing what identity means, and how body language can express a lot about someone’s identity. We looked at Kehinde Wiley’s paintings and discussed his works to delve deeper into these larger concepts. We also watched segments from the PBS documentary, Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace to get a better understanding of how the artist works.

There are two main components to these artworks: the background and the drawings of ourselves. After examining Wiley’s paintings, we noticed that he uses a repetition of shapes to create a wallpaper-like background. To add further meaning to our works, we used a repetition of symbols in our backgrounds to create such patterns. These symbols could be anything that helps represent our identities. As you can see below, we are all our own people here at P.S. 329: such variety!

The second component, the drawings of ourselves, is based on a body language photograph. Each student chose a word to describe their personality and then chose a pose to represent that word. The photographs were printed out and used as a stencil and guideline to help us draw ourselves more realistically. 

Finally, we cut out the drawings of ourselves and glued them onto our backgrounds. And to reflect even further, we had an end-of-unit critique using critique cards for guidance.

Click on images to see larger size.

Click here to view lesson plan in full.

Click here to view critique cards.

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