Considering Maturity

I want to share all the amazing artwork I experience with my students. Unfortunately, I teach in an elementary school and there are some topics that are just not appropriate for this age range and environment: violence, nudity, sexuality, and heavily religious themes. 

These concepts, though rich with emotion and part of the human experience, can be too intense for young students. I want to protect my students from themes that are too mature for them, but I do not want to overlook important pieces that should be part of my art history curriculum. Should I ignore the underlying message from artists like Francis Bacon? Georgia O'Keefe? Andres Serrano? Is it respectful to discuss only surface representations and techniques? If I am to teach about the timeline of aesthetic beauty, how can I omit all nudity from my curriculum? 

I have a policy of sticking to the spirit in which an art piece was created, using primary source documents when possible and tend to cringe when art pieces, especially conceptual works, are watered down and taken at face value. As I challenge myself to introduce a more diverse range of artists and art movements, however, I find that I'm trying to construct ways in which I can appropriately frame artwork that I'd otherwise have to gloss over. How do you introduce mature topics in art with your students? 

Surrealist Art and the Unconscious Mind

Surrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.

My third grade artists have been studying the Surrealist Art Movement since September, first working with words – using existing poetry to create remixed narratives. As we begin our painting unit, the third graders are preparing images that employ “Random Juxtaposition,” which forces the viewer to create links between formerly unrelated objects. Through interpreting these juxtapositions, we unlock our unconscious thoughts- one of the primary aims of the Surrealist artists. While the third grade students will be creating paintings, you can easily try this exercise at home using magazine and newspaper clippings:

Choose one item for each category listed below- try to go with your first instinct. Gather images from color prints, magazines or newspapers, cut them out and arrange on a piece of paper until you reach a balanced composition that pleases you. Paste your images down and add extra details in ink, paint or collaged blocks of color. Share your work with a friend and ask them to share the story it tells them!

Example juxtaposition worksheet