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Cracked Cups: Fractured Beauty

Does something need to be perfect to be beautiful? Middle school students will reflect on broken objects and create “fractured art” to demonstrate the beauty to be found in imperfections.

  • Grade 6
    Grades 7 and 8
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Show students a reproduction of Elizabeth Murray’s “Yellow Cracked Cup-Up” which she donated to the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies. Ask for their first impressions. Why would an artist choose to paint a picture of something that is broken rather than something that is beautiful and whole? Discuss portraiture. Show photographs of models from magazine advertisements. Ask students to compare these models to those used for art photography such as Dorthea Lang’s “Migrant Mother” or paintings such as Diego Rivera’s “The Flower Carrier” or Van Gogh’s “Portrait of the Postman.”
    2. Can students think of instances where artists have used broken or worn objects to create new and beautiful things? Mention that some artists have used broken china to create mosaics and that others have turned it into beautiful jewelry.
    3. Ask each student to bring a cup, bowl, vase, or other object from home for a drawing project.
    4. Before drawing, invite students to examine their objects closely noting shape, texture, color, and special designs. Ask them to consider what medium might best reflect the qualities of their object. Crayola® Watercolors or Crayola Colored Pencils might be best for delicate china; but they might want to consider bolder colors such as Crayola Twistables Slick Stix or Crayola Dry Erase Crayons for vibrant folk art. If students choose to use Slick Stix, they contain pigments that may stain clothing, fabrics and other household surfaces. Suggest that students wear smocks to protect clothing and cover their work surface with recycled newspaper.
    5. Allow time for students to select appropriate papers and mediums, and then invite them to create colorful drawings of their objects. As they finish, ask each to cut out the shape of their drawing.
    6. Invite students to look at their images and imagine what their objects might look like if they were broken. Suggest that they turn their drawings over and draw a jagged line across the back. Provide scissors and ask them to cut along the jagged line. Then turn the pieces right side up to see what the objects might look like if they were broken.
    7. Suggest that students place their broken pieces on background paper and move them around in various ways. Once students are satisfied with their newly created images, invite them to paste the broken pieces onto the background paper using a Crayola Glue Stick. Suggest that they draw an outline around the outer edge of each piece using a dark, bold line.
    8. When they are finished, invite students to create a class exhibit of their work. How do they feel their drawings can best be exhibited? What do they want visitors to learn from the exhibit? Will they have a title and /or any accompanying text?
  • Standards

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

    LA: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

    SS: Explore factors that contribute to one’s personal identity such as interests, capabilities, and perceptions.

    VA: Apply visual organization strategies to design and produce a work of art, design, or media that clearly communicates information or ideas.

    VA: Collaboratively prepare and present selected artworks based on a theme for display and formulate exhibition narratives for the viewer.

  • Adaptations

    Invite students to write short narratives or poems in tribute to their broken objects. Hold a Poetry Slam and provide time for each student to perform a reading.

    Introduce younger students to “fractured” or abstract art by inviting them to cut magazine pictures into multiple pieces and turn them into puzzles. Encourage students to move the pieces around to form various patterns. Arrange some into abstract forms and glue them to a paper backing. Display and discuss.

    Invite a social worker or guidance counselor to speak to the class about issues that affect young people. How do things like divorce, drugs, alcohol, accidents, and illness “fracture” lives? How can we move beyond what is broken to achieve lives that are whole and good?


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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