Interpreting the Heavens

Activity Steps:

Write an essay in which you compare and contrast how two artists employ cosmic imagery.

Activity Steps

1. Look:
Artists use symbols to represent ideas and feelings. Look carefully at the work of Joseph Cornell and Anselm Kiefer to discover how they used images of the cosmos in their art.
2. Focus:
Choose one work by each artist, then compare and contrast the artists' use of cosmic imagery.
3. Brainstorm:
With a partner learn about the artists' work and consider the following questions:
  1. What do you know about the life history of each artist? In what socio-cultural climate were these works produced? Would anything in the artists' backgrounds have affected their conceptions of the cosmos and the heavens?
  2. Describe the composition of each work, paying particular attention to how the cosmos has been depicted.
  3. Based upon what you know of the artists' backgrounds, what do you think the cosmos represents to each artist, in this particular artwork?
4. Draft:
Write an essay in which you compare the ways that Joseph Cornell and Anselm Kiefer integrate cosmic imagery into their art. How does the life history and background of each of these artists affect their relationship to and conception of the heavens? What is your own relationship to the sky and heavens? Explain.
5. Peer Edit:
Bring a printout of your draft to class. Read each other's work and provide constructive criticism. While reading one another's work, students should keep the following questions in mind:
  1. Did the author convey a well-defined perspective and tightly reasoned argument?
  2. Were you able to get a strong sense of how Cornell and Kiefer each use cosmic imagery? Is the author's argument supported by concrete examples?
  3. Your reaction to the work
  4. How could the author improve his or her writing and make it more vivid?
6. Discuss:
Get together with your peer editor and discuss comments you have made on each other's papers. Be sure to ask about anything that is unclear. This is your opportunity to get the most out of having an editor.
7. Rewrite:
Revise and rewrite your first draft. Pay careful attention to your editor's comments. You will be sharing your final drafts with the class.
8. Reflect:
In your journal, reflect on the following questions:
  1. What did you learn about yourself as a writer through this process?
  2. Did your perception of the heavens change in the course of this activity? If so, how?
  3. In what way can artists use their work to reveal their culture's (and their own) hidden or unheard voices?