Pop Culture: A project on Body Image in the Art Classroom

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The youth of today are constantly surrounded by the visual of mass media on a daily basis.  They are bombarded with commercials on television, ads on the street and at bus stops, and in the magazines that target them as consumers.  The realization that needs to be addressed is that the media plays a big role in our adolescents’ lives.

As a part of the Psychology of the Middle School Child class, we were assigned to dive into a pop culture issue that affects the adolescents in various ways. The topic I chose was the well-known topic of “body-image”, and I looked closely at popular teen magazines and the teen celebrities that are creating the “body-perfect” ideal.

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A part of this assignment was to create an art project that centers on the topic and addresses the issue.  My art project was to create a zine, which is a mini, handmade magazine that is easily reproduced by scanning/copying to distribute to others.  The zine aligned nicely with my pop culture topic of magazine affects on body image and allowed me to focus on this topic as my theme in my sample zine (images shown).  In this project I would ask my art students to research artists that also create works of art centered around the theme they chose.

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In my example, shown in the images, I chose artists’ work with similar themes.  The first artist’s work I chose is Your body is a battlefield by Barbara Kruger, a photographer who uses text to tell the true meaning of photographs.

The second artist I chose was Lauren Greenfield, who was at the Art Institute of Chicago a year ago with a series of photographs of young adolescent women who have body image issues or are in the phase Erik Erickson would call Identity versus Identity Confusion. In the particular photograph I chose, Lauren Greenfield also interviewed the 15 year-old girl, Sheena, she photographed. In the interview Sheena discusses how she dreams of being an exotic dancer.  Sheena is the age where she is trying out personality and image roles to see what she feels comfortable in or what she is pressured to feel by her peers or mass media, a.k.a. the identity confusion.

In addition to photographers, I also mentioned a documentary film called Cover Girl Culture, which explores the impact of media on girls and women in society.

As a result, this lesson was created as a tool for discussing issues of pop culture and making the issues aware and discussed by the middle school to high school students that are affected by them.