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Soup Can Art: Ordinary or Extraordinary?

Billboards, commercials, vibrant packaging…. Invite students to focus intently on just one of the many stimuli they are bombarded with everyday by creating a reproduction of it as Andy Warhol did with his soup can art. Does focusing on something ordinary change our perception of it?

  • Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Read “Uncle Andy’s: A Faabbbulous Visit with Andy Warhol” by James Warhola. Encourage students to examine the illustrations, especially the ones of the interior of Uncle Andy’s house. What things in the house particularly appealed to his young nephew? What was the difference between how Mom described these things and how Uncle Andy did? Discuss the illustrations that show things Uncle Andy painted. Note the soup cans, soda bottles, and other products.
    2. Display reproductions of “Hamburger”, a work by Andy Warhol that was donated to the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies by Larry Gagosian, as well as one of Warhol’s soup can paintings. Point out that Andy Warhol’s paintings are now in museums all over the world. Ask students why they think such representational works are considered art rather than advertising. How do they encourage viewers to reexamine ordinary visual stimuli? When exhibited in a foreign country, what message might they convey about life in America?
    3. Invite students to examine the visual stimuli that surround them everyday. Ask each to select one common product to bring to class the next day.
    4. Ask students why they chose the objects they did. Invite them to study their objects in detail and create works of art inspired by them. Suggest that they experiment with several mediums and then select those which are most suited to depicting their particular objects. Remind them that they can achieve both fine detail as well as a painterly effect with Crayola® Watercolor Pencils. For vibrant color on a dark background Crayola Slick Stix and Crayola Gel Markers are excellent. If Slick Stix are used, they contain pigments that may stain clothing, fabrics and other household surfaces. Encourage students to wear a smock to protect clothing and cover their work surface with newspaper.
    5. As students complete their work, invite them to display it. Ask students to examine each others’ work and encourage discussion. Why did students select certain mediums? What observations can viewers make regarding the selection of certain objects and mediums? Compare the works of art with the actual objects. In what ways are they similar, in what ways are they different? What does the art convey that the original objects do not?
    6. Invite students to plan a class exhibit of their work. How will they arrange the works? Will they include any text within the exhibit? What message would they like to communicate with their exhibit?
  • Standards

    LA: Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text.

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

    SS: Describe personal connections to place – especially place as associated with immediate surroundings.

    SS: Explore ways that language, art, music, belief systems, and other cultural elements may facilitate global understanding or lead to misunderstanding.

    VA: Identify, describe, and visually document objects of personal significance.

    VA: Assess, explain, and provide evidence of how museums or other venues reflect history and values of a community.

  • Adaptations

    Hold an art debate. What is art, what is not? Are Andy Warhol’s paintings art or imitation?

    Ask students to discuss the relationship between Andy Warhol and his brother as depicted in “Uncle Andy’s: A Faabbbulous visit with Andy Warhol.” In what ways are they similar and in what ways are they different? Why is one labeled a junkman while the other is an artist? How does James Warhola feel about each one?

    Invite students to write stories about the objects they brought to class. Why did they choose what they did? What do they feel their art reflects about themselves or American life?


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