Left: Meret Oppenheim, Object Right: Melissa Slattery, Hairbrush
NCC Students taking Humanities: Creative Voice recently completed an Art History Homage assignment in which they created homages to assigned artists. The course instructor Melissa Slattery explains.
By Melissa Slattery
I began this assignment by showing students the two above images and explained how I made the second image in homage to Meret Oppenheim. We discussed what homage is, a way of honoring someone, almost like giving a gift to someone you have come to understand and admire. Your homage shows a depth of investigation and knowledge that compliments its source. We also discussed Modernism and Post-Modernism in art history.
The assignment was developed to create a group investigation of the artists, art and ideas developed during the periods in art history referred to as Modernism and Post-Modernism, via study of one artist in particular and their individual body of work.
To prepare for the assignment, I gave a series of LIVE video lectures on Modernism. I also shared a gift-making art project that I have been participating in for many years with students. I posted examples of homage works being done around the world by people during their Covid-19 quarantines, which showed students the scale of the pandemic's impact (and the scale of participation) on museums and galleries world-wide.
Each student was assigned an artist chosen to align with their interests and possible connections, or common ground, so that they would come to think of the artist as “their” artist and find motivation to dig deeply into that person’s life and work, and see possible relationship to themselves.
Homage is a kind of honoring, almost like returning the gift of an artist’s unique vision. We see homage being used a lot in film, advertising, design, and in our personal lives, we do homage in our own gift-giving activities.
Where did the idea for this assignment come from?
In 2017 artist Nina Katchadurian published a series of self-portraits, taken on long flights in airplane lavatories, where she used materials found on site, to recreate 17th century Flemish genre portraits. Her idea was that art can be made in any setting, using commonplace materials. Her project received a lot of notice online in the “art world.”
I have shared her work as inspiration for my students, who are not taking a studio course, but are required to make a creative work, and often are challenged to find materials and a concept to use as inspiration.
Katchadurian’s work most likely inspired an Instagram contest launched by The Getty Art Museum, after Covid-19 social distancing was escalated to Sheltering in Place orders, out in California, where they are located.
The Getty Museum challenged the Internet to browse its online collection and re-create works of art, while sheltering at home. The idea was perfectly timed for this crisis, and people began posting homage recreations of iconic artworks, using materials they have at hand. Many used toilet paper at the outset, and lots of humor.
I shared about 20 of the best images with my class, online, to inspire them in their Art History Homage assignment. They were tasked with creating an homage, but also with writing about how their artists fit into art history, why the work is considered historic and significant, and to consider and reflect on how their artists might influence their own creative work for our class.
The homage/s that they returned with, and shared online were very thoughtful, clever, inventive, funny and honest. I was really pleased to see how well-crafted and perceptive about their artists the work they created and posted is, and I thought it would be fun for the Norwalk Community College community to see how one class, for one assignment, at least, seemed to thrive within the limitations imposed by this quarantine, limited access to materials, and working online rather than in a class room setting.
Two individual student situations that occurred while they were studying:
• Kevon Anderson works for a grocery store chain and had many hours added to his schedule, once the quarantine was in place. Online class allowed him to watch videos as his scheduled allowed. He used a bag clip stick in his homage, borrowed/sourced from work to make his homage.
• Lys Stohlhofer had to return to Europe for a family matter after NCC closed, but was able to stay in contact through online courses, and keep up with her assignments. She attended live videos, with an eight hour time difference, but has remained connected throughout.
Kevon Anderson, El Anatsui, Man’s Cloth
Kevon’s artist, El Anatsui, uses recycled materials sourced throughout Ghana. Kevon’s use of colorful clothespins was a brilliant way to represent the linked units this artist uses to build his massive textile-like sculptures. "I was assigned the Ghanaian artist known as El Anatsui for my homage project. The artwork that I was assigned was titled “Man’s Cloth” and is made up of recycled liquor bottle-tops that were stapled together with wiring. For my homage, I decided to replicate the artwork using clothespins that were attached to bag clip sticks. This idea came from the visible texture and pattern of the artwork which for some reason made me think of grouping clothespins, similar to Anatsui’s bottle-tops, in order to replicate the art. I also used rubber bands in order to attach them to each other and tried to get as close to the color scheme as possible with the pins. In addition to this, I used the studio light portrait mode function on my phone in order to get a similar lighting and effect.”
Brittney Carillo Ana Mendieta, Tree of Life
Brittney’s homage is very direct and visceral, and perfectly in tune with Ana Mendieta’s use of dirt and trees to make her iconic installations. "I used a hand covered in mud for my homage because it’s what we use daily, our hands are our touch, our handprint that we leave on this earth, earth being represented by the tree and the nature behind it. Ana Mendieta was an American Cuban performance artist. She is best represented by her earth-body artwork. She was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948 and moved to the United States at 12 years old after her father joined the Anti-Castro counterrevolution forces. She was a refugee and was placed with an American family away from her family. This impacted her work immensely."
Luca Connor, Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 6th version
Luca was able to suspend a bicycle wheel using fishing line to make his homage to the titan of 20th century conceptual art, Duchamp. “I decided to name my artwork "Suspension." I named it this because it portrays the concept of being suspended in air. At the same time, it is a commentary on the modern world --most modern bikes have suspension forks - which makes it much harder to take off the entire front piece in the way Duchamp did. So I was able to include the wheel fork virtually through the title.”
Lourdes Diaz, Frida Kahlo, The Love Embrace of the Universe
Lourdes structured her homage to reflect the split composition of Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait. Lourdes adapted Kahlo’s content to reflect concerns about the current environment and our attitude towards the earth. "My homage is called, "Over one night and day" or "moods." I wanted to recreate Frida's art and keep her main point like the night and day and the mother of earth, all the fauna, the fact that she thought that neither her husband and her can't live without each other. On my recreation I applied black and color representing the day and night ( I see it as it as two moods that our earth have) and the big eye representing all the destruction we've been causing to our planet. It's like we need to coexist to survive. + happy Earth Day."
Allison Koszkul, Eva Hesse Hang Up
“In creating her artwork ‘Hang Up,’ Hesse used the wire to expand out into the viewers space making the art come to life and creating an emotional and abstract feeling. This was one of her most important pieces because it resembles the abstract and extreme feeling that she was trying to achieve. My homage to this artwork is something I named "Reaching Out". This resembles the abstract and organic materials that Hesse would use in making her artwork. The paper being the artwork that is hung on the wall and my arm reaching through as the wire does, bringing the artwork to life as it is no longer just a two dimensional piece.”
Alexandria Lopez, Claes Oldenburg Giant Clothespin
“My homage is titled “Outstanding”, what I was inspired to do was to Photoshop the color/texture on these pins to make them stand out. The large scale of Oldenburgs sculpture inspired my title because his sculpture is eye drawing and that was my goal as well while editing these clothing pins, to make them eye catching and full of life! Not the normal.”
Hayley Neblock, Georgia O’Keefe, Ram's Head and White Hollyhock, New Mexico
“My homage was made and edited by me. The background was a photo I took!
The dog head is an edited photo of one of my dogs (her name is Lizzie and she’s about three years old).
I came up with this idea while looking at the colors of the original white ram’s head.
The colors reminded me a lot of Lizzie’s for some reason so I used her ^^
Georgia O'Keefe is considered the mother of American modernism and is known for painting up close flowers.”
Emily Pimental, Louise Bourgeois,Maman
“I was assigned the late French-American artist, Louise Bourgeois. Louise is well known for her oversized sculptures and installations that encompass the emotions of fear, loneliness, jealousy, and anger. I decided to pay homage to her spider sculpture, “Maman”. The sculpture is actually an homage to her relationship with her mother.”
Fowzia Poushi Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party
“The artwork "The Dinner Party" inspired the drawing I made. In my opinion, the medium of art is feminism. In my homage project, I wanted to portray the women’s feminine side, and I named it “The Garden.” I called the drawing "The Garden" because the sketch looked like a garden after I finished drawing. I got the homage idea from the ceramic plates in the dinner party, where the artist was portraying various women from history. The flowers/Butterfly patterns on the plates were representing female body parts in a very unusual way, which influenced my homage project. The material I used was also something most women use. I used one of my eyeshadow palettes as colors. I also used nail polish to stick the glitters on the homage project.”
Daria Rinde Nayland Blake, Magic, 1990
"I was assigned Nayland's sculpture "Magic" from 1990. According to Nayland, "Magic is about silenced voices and the uncanny nature of stand-ins. It’s about the drive to create characters who can say the things we can’t or won’t on our own, and whether we can trust that impulse. … When I received a picture of this sculpture, I was at a loss of how to pay homage to this piece and did not want to disrespect the original sculpture. My mind just went completely blank and I honestly hated my interpretation of it until I took a step back and saw the artistic side. Due to limited resources at the moment, I was not able to do what I had originally planned, so I had to get creative. … My homage is a drawing with colors filled in at the main part of the picture, emphasizing the person as the main "character" There are no features on the face."
Samuella Sekplorm-Awadzi, Yinka Shinobare, Woman Shooting Cherry Blossoms
“After looking at a couple of his artworks, I noticed the recurring appearance of wax prints. This gave me inspiration because I have a lot of wax prints at home. Instead of a sculpture I decided to make a collage painting of Yaa Asantewaa. Yaa Asantewaa was an influential person in Ghana's history. This is because she led her people to fight against the invading British Empire…. For Nana Yaa Asantewaa to have the influence she had at that time was very remarkable. Honestly she is the only woman I know of in our history that is admired by all Ghanaians. The sculpture immediately reminded me of her, especially the way she held the gun. So I tried to depict Yaa Asantewaa in the painting called “The Last Stand.” With the painting I decided to flip it and put the wax prints on the branches instead of the woman. I also tried to depict the war garb of the asantes, which was a smok with talismans in it. The talismans were believed to have magical powers of protection. i used a black Garbage bag for the smoke and glued cut out pieces of cloth into it. The rest was painted on.”
Lysia-Paulin Stolhofer, Romare Bearden, Circe
"First, I had many ideas how to create an homage for Bearden`s “Circe”. Of course I thought about patchwork and collages as my first thought. But then I wanted to create something that has less focus on his most famous pieces since those are what he is known for. I wanted to make people understand how many different visual forms Bearden was actually experiencing with during his life as an artist.”
David Villarreal, Andy Warhol, Green Coca Cola Bottles
“While doing this project I also found motivation while thinking about my mom, my grandmother and my two sisters. Because I would hate to see them suffering because of the society we live in. I got my idea from looking at the green Coca-Cola bottles. I have always seen the Coca-Cola bottle as a symbol of the women body. Therefore, I decided to fill one Coca-Cola bottle up with some green leaves and grass and also create a green body con dress with different types of leaves. First I drew the dress then pasted the different leaves in to decorate the dress.”
Jewls Douge, Kara Walker, The Katastwof Karavan, 2018
“Hey ya'll, The artist I was assigned is, Kara Walker, and the piece I was given is called, Katastwóf Karavan. My homage is a poem, and it is titled "El Leon Dormido" which in translation from Spanish to English is: The Sleeping Lion. My homage idea is based on an extremely heavy piece that I was assigned. I know we each had something special, but what makes Kara Walker stand out most is her EXTREME bluntness. Her piece, Katastwóf Karavan, and other arts she has done touches upon slavery, and she uses insulting stereotypes (at times) in horrific imagery, to give true rawness and reality of what slavery was. Her work is made to be stared at, and with Katastwóf Karavan she chooses to make it even fun, by placing her art upon a parade wagon and having music and steam come out from the spaces. Racism really hurts, truly. Anyone of color and a basic sense could break down the ill-feeling of what it is like to be ridiculed for something you cannot help nor ever change- who you are. My homage is a poem from not necessarily my perspective, but a Latinx pov of always being "slept on" (if ya know what I mean lol), pretty much being doubted upon because "people" don't see the potential, due to racism. But from the past, present, and future, a flame grows within every being in the universe, and it is up to us just how bright we want to shine :) *TRANSLATION OF SPANISH WORDS ARE HIGHLIGHTED IN BOLD BTW
El Leon Dormido The Sleeping Lion
I always look like I’m sleeping
but I’m actually never tired.
Despite my words of encouragement, my winnings in dominoes, and my determined eyes,
they’ve seemed to believe that I’ve been too busy sleeping.
When I told them I looked like Mila Kunis, they stared in confusion and with a laugh they said
“you are you.” ¿Que significa esa mierda? What the f does that mean?
I’ve only gone upstairs once when I wanted a peek, and I was sent back.
They said it was like I was
walking to something I cannot see. But because of my squinty eyes, I wasn’t given a blindfold like the 3/4,
I can see clearly. My eyes see the vegetarian restaurants, the shootings, the anger, the poverty, the perverts, and the killers
My eyes are the borders separating truth from wrong.
And as my teacher spoke from honesty,
I saw the roots of a tree start to rise in her neck.
“¿El león pierde su sueño por lo que piensas las ovejas?” “The lion loses sleep over what sheep think?” She asked me.
It made me think about a squinting lion staring out into the border with the 3/4’s behind.
“¿Usted me entiendes?” “You understand me?” She chuckled “tenias los ojos abierto en la oscuridad.” “You had your eyes open in the dark” -jewls”