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Untitled by Louise Nevelson (circa 1975-1976)

Louise Nevelson
Untitled, circa 1975-1976

The Assemblage of Me

Social Studies Lesson


Students will be able to:

  • Describe and interpret Nevelson’s sculpture.
  • Examine their own culture of the state of Maine and identify what they value about their environment.
  • Visually express those cultural values by constructing a personal assemblage sculpture.
  • Write a label that describes their assemblage and how it represents them.


Teacher Reflection 1

The art of Louise Nevelson and life in Maine (one 45-minute classes)

  • Show Nevelson’s untitled sculpture to the class. Ask the students to describe what they see.
    • Is this a painting or a sculpture?
    • Is it abstract or representational?
    • What is this work made of?
    • How many different objects can you identify?
    • What color is it?
    • Why do you think Nevelson chose to paint it this color?
    • What effect does the one color have on the work?
  • Discuss Nevelson’s career and how her biography has impacted her art. An overview with five examples of her sculpture can be found at “The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend” on the Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc. website.
  • Explain to students that they will be thinking about their own biographies as they make an assemblage that represents them.
  • First, students will think about their home state of Maine, and what it has to offer. Note: it is best to do this lesson after students have completed a unit on Maine. Discuss as a class the following:
    • The geography and climate
    • The economics
    • The culture, language, food, and traditions
    • The natural resources available
    • How and when did the residents or native people get there and how has the population changed over time?
  • Next, have the students think about what Maine means to them. What do they do here? What do they like about living in Maine? Have them write a list of these things. Once students have a good idea, they will use the graphic organizer to connect these ideas to specific objects that will appear in their assemblages. Students will create these objects through art making or by bringing in objects from home.

Teacher Reflection 2

Assemblages of life in Maine (four or five 45-minute classes)

  • Review with students Nevelson’s art and biography. Then return to the students’ graphic organizers about objects that represent their lives in Maine. Explain that students will be creating a three-dimensional assemblage that represents something about them. While Nevelson used found objects to create abstract sculptures, here students will use found objects in a visual narrative about their lives in Maine. Before students begin work, discuss and post the following project requirements:
    • A complete and colorful background scene
    • Two or more objects that represent you
    • Two or more objects that are three-dimensional and add depth to the assemblage
  • First, students will tape the two sheets of heavy board together so they sit at an angle to form a standing display. The third board will be the base of the display. When students have reviewed their graphic organizers and know what scene they would like to create for their assemblage, students can begin drawing or painting the scene on the 12-inch square pieces of paper, which will form the background of their assemblage. Note: the art and social studies teacher taught this lesson together, so the art teacher was available to remind students of their prior learning in creating landscapes and other scenes.
  • When the background images have been pasted to the display boards, have students begin work on the three-dimensional objects. If students cannot use the real object or cannot find an object that expresses a certain idea, have them find some way to create that object through art making. They can draw the object, cut a picture out of a magazine, or sculpt it out of modeling clay; any form to express an idea will work. Students can also manipulate found objects to create the object they want or bring objects from home, with the understanding that they will become part of the assemblage.
  • When students have created their objects, they will attach them to the display board in a variety of ways. They can glue the objects on the background, assemble them in the foreground like a diorama, or use string or wire to “float” objects in the space.

Teacher Reflection 3

  • While students are working on their assemblages, ask them to work on the Self-assessment—Art process sheet. This will help students be thoughtful about using the elements of art and principles of design when creating their assemblages.
  • When students have completed their assemblages, ask them to write a short paragraph (two or three sentences) about how the assemblage reflects them and their lives in Maine. Next, divide the class into pairs of students and ask them to assess each other’s work using the Peer review—Maine Assemblage sheet. Students should then complete the Self-assessment—Maine Assemblage sheet.
  • As a culminating activity, review Louise Nevelson’s life and art with the class. Ask them to consider how Nevelson may have felt when she moved to Maine from Russia as a young child. Ask students if they have moved here from somewhere else. What do they remember about their former home? How did they feel when they moved? Ask students to consider their family history. How long has their family lived in Maine? Where did they come from before settling here? What would you ask your ancestors about their prior home? What would you tell them about life in Maine? Students should complete the final assessment, the Student reflection—Maine Assemblage sheet.

Teacher Reflection 4


  • Found objects:
    • old school supplies
    • natural objects such as shells, pine cone varieties, leaves
    • wood objects (small wood shapes, popsicle sticks, empty thread spools)
    • students’ own found objects from home (with parents’ permission if necessary)
  • Maine and New England magazines for visual inspiration
  • Modeling clay
  • Variety of drawing tools:
    • White paper
    • Construction paper
    • Pencils
    • Markers
    • Crayons
    • Oil pastels
    • Colored pencils
  • 12-inch square white drawing paper, two sheets per student
  • 12-inch square heavy board as the backing or mount (mat board, foam core, cardboard), three sheets per student
  • White glue
  • Low-temperature glue gun
  • Scissors

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