Personal Symbols, Personal Mythology

Activity Steps:

In this activity you will choose a personal symbol and use it to write a self-portrait poem.

1. Look:
Artists use symbols to represent ideas and feelings. Look carefully at the work of Robert Gober, Louise Bourgeois, Philip Guston, and Chris Johanson to discover how they used personal symbols in their art. Think carefully about the questions for each artist.
2. Brainstorm:
Generate a list of up to ten characteristics about yourself, and think of objects that represent each of these characteristics. For example, smartness could be a lightbulb, athleticism a soccer ball, kindness, a flower, adventurousness, an airplane or a race car. Can you imagine a single symbol that could represent a large portion of your character list?
3. Create:
Using the symbol that best represents yourself, write a self-portrait poem. Think not only about how the symbol represents you, but also how it might potentially conflict with some of your other characteristics. In your poem, try to emphasize the ways in which your symbol most closely describes you.
4. Present:
Organize a class poetry slam, with everyone performing their poems aloud. Introduce the event by looking at images from the artists in Making Sense of Modern Art whose work emphasizes symbols.
5. Reflect:
In your journal, reflect on what you learned about yourself and your personal symbolism while writing your poem.