Media, Color, & Identity: George Gershwin as a Lens to Uncover Individual Identity
Throughout history, people have represented themselves and others through media (e.g. paintings, film, photos, song, social media, etc.). Artists and individuals make conscious and unconscious choices about how to represent a person using media and color. These representations are open to individual interpretation.
In this inquiry, students develop awareness of different perceptions and expressive qualities of color through an examination of historical sources. The first formative task entails a student exploration of the attributes of color through the "Interpreting & Communicating Color" task using paint color samples. Students then apply this understanding while analyzing portraiture and various other media through the lens of how artists represent a songwriter, George Gershwin. The second formative task involves students discussing and supporting claims about how Gershwin is represented in a text, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, and in his music and a portrait. Students then write and support claims about how Gershwin is represented in various media forms in the third formative task. The lesson concludes with a summative task during which students determine the best colors and media to represent their own identity within the creation of a self-portrait.
The 2017 NCSS Notable Trade Book, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, is intriguing because the illustrator chose to represent Gershwin in shades of blue. This text is ripe for color analysis. This Gershwin biography provides background knowledge about Gershwin's personality, thus acting as a resource that students may use to develop claims about artist's color choices as representations of Gershwin's identity. After acquiring knowledge of Gershwin's personality traits, students apply perceptions about the expressive qualities of color to various media (portraits, sculpture, photo, etc.). Many of these historical sources are from the National Portrait Gallery, a Smithsonian Institution museum, and represent treasured elements of our national history.
This inquiry will consist of four class periods [approximately].
Structure of the Inquiry
NCSS's Theme 4 Individual Development and Identity and the C3 Framework (i.e. D2.His.6.3-5.) expect that students investigate how individual perceptions effect how people are represented throughout history. Throughout the formative tasks, students gradually build skills needed to interpret and communicate about artists' color and media representations of people as well as individual perceptions about color usage within artistic works. Students interpret several portraits, namely, Wormley's 1936 George Gershwin; Auerbach's 1926 Gershwin at the Piano; and a 1934 Gershwin self-portrait. Additionally, students examine other forms of portraiture: Noguchi's 1929 Gershwin sculpture and a 1936 Gershwin photo. After examining these historical sources, students make a determination as to which historical source best represents George Gershwin and provides evidence as to why it is the best representation of Gershwin.
Students are expected to develop their personal identity as related to their time and place in society as stated in NCSS Theme 4 Individual Development and Identity. In the summative task, students apply these understandings to create a new historical source, a self-portrait, by making intentional choices about how to represent themselves through color within media.
Inquiry Questions for the Lesson:
Compelling Question: What factors influence how individuals are perceived by others and themselves?
Supporting Question: What are the attributes of color?
Supporting Question: How do media and color effect one's representation of identity?
Supporting Question: How are media and color used to represent George Gershwin's identity?
Supporting Question: What do media and color reveal about you?
These NCSS C3 Framework History Standards are the basis for the lesson content:
D2.His.10.3-5 Compare information provided by different historical sources about the past.
D2.His.13.3-5. Use information about a historical source, including the maker, date, place of origin, intended audience, and purpose to judge the extent to which the source is useful for studying a particular topic.