Wire & Plaster Sculptures

Teaching Art

Our school’s Physical Education teacher always includes a dance unit in his P.E. curriculum every year and for the past two years, the P.E. teacher and I have collaborated to facilitate a integrated unit. This year students chose a pose from their group’s choreographed dance to create into a three-dimensional statue.

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Students began the unit with observational figure drawing. The classic stand-on-a-table-and-strike-a-pose activity happened which allowed students to practice breaking down the figure into simple lines and shapes.

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Students then drew a pose from their dance in a similar fashion. One of their group members, struck the pose so they could draw the move they would three-dimenstionally sculpt. I then modelled how to draw the ‘skeleton line’ which helped them prepare for the wire formation in the next lesson.

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Using 18 gauge wire, I demonstrated how to create a simple human structure. Students could also use the printed guide to help them when they got stuck. Once the body was formed, students contorted the figure into their dance pose before cutting a 4 by 4 inch styrofoam base and positioned their figure on top.

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The following lesson, students cut themselves a stack of thin plaster gauze strips and began carefully wrapped their sculpture. This process took two lessons to ensure that the figure was smooth and the base was covered completely.

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For the final step, students painted the statue in metallic jewel tones.

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The art history component that I linked to the unit was viewing and discussing the life and artwork of Edgar Degas as he was famous for his depictions of ballerina dancers in his paintings, drawings and sculptures. However, I have seen similar art projects linked to Giacometti figures. Both work, it just depends on what you want to focus on in your unit. As the last messy art project of the school year, I think I’ll take a bow.

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