Featuring Lucas Samaras’sReconstruction #28, 1977
Fascinated with a variety of unique materials such as kitschy textiles and tinfoil, contemporary artist Lucas Samaras reconstructs salvaged scraps into energetic compositions filled with shapes, lines, and angles. Inspired by the artmaking process of Samaras, your students can reassemble recycled materials such as labels, newsprint, and scrap papers into a detailed composition.
(American, born Greece, 1936)
Reconstruction #28, 1977
Sewn fabrics on canvas
104 x 77 inches (264.2 x. 195.6 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Charles Clifton and Edmund Hayes Fund, 1979
- Become familiar with the artist Lucas Samaras and his artmaking process of reconstruction.
- Increase awareness of recycling for the purposes of art.
- Support the understanding of basic art elements and principles.
- Create an assemblage with a focus on shapes, lines, and angles.
- Glue sticks or liquid glue
- Thick paper used for the base of the assemblage
- Scrap paper material (can include labels, newsprint, magazine pages, wallpaper samples, wrapping paper, construction paper scraps, tinfoil, etc.)
- Painters’ tape or ribbon (optional)
About the Artist
Lucas Samaras was born in Greece in 1936 and immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of twelve. Samara’s fascination with, and the use of, a variety of different materials in his artwork were in part inspired by the colorful, richly decorated churches of Greece and by the many hours spent as a child in his cousin’s dressmaking shop. The artist’s versatility is also displayed in the variety of media he has worked with over the course of his career, including paintings, film, sculptures, and photographs. During the 1970s Samaras was a pioneer in the field of photography as a result of the innovative ways he worked with Polaroid cameras. With portraits as a theme, he created a series called “Photo-Transformations,” in which he manually manipulated the Polaroid image before it dried. A contemporary artist, Samaras currently lives and works in New York City.
About the Art
At first glance, Reconstruction #28, 1977, may appear to be an abstract painting. Upon closer inspection, one realizes it is in actuality a patchwork fabric construction sewn on a sewing machine. Fabrics cut into various strips and shapes have been rejoined together to create this composition. To create this work, Samaras began by cutting one large piece of fabric from end to end and then rejoining the two halves by stitching in a second, different piece of fabric between them. This process was repeated again with the newly assembled fabric being cut at a different angle and then stitched back together with a new added piece between the two cut sections. Samaras repeated this process many times, introducing new angles and fabrics with each cut. The final construction unifies the different fabrics, patterns, textures, and colors.
composition: a way in which something is put together or arranged
assemblage: an art process of making three-dimensional or two-dimensional artistic compositions by putting together found objects
reconstruction: the act of putting something back together
overlapping: the process of laying one object on top of another
focal point: the center of interest or activity in a work of art (the focal point does not need to be centrally located in the work)
unity: principle of art—occurs when elements of a work combine to make the composition balanced and harmonious
“Ticket in the Door” Writing Prompt
Using a “ticket in the door” allows students to transition into your classroom, get settled, and obtain focus for your lesson. While there are a variety of options or activities one can use for their ticket, writing prompts, such as imaginative scenarios or reflection questions, are creative writing exercises that can connect English Language Arts (ELA) into your lesson.
Display an image of Lucas Samaras’s Reconstruction #28 for students as they arrive. With the image, include your “ticket in the door” writing prompt. As students walk in, instruct them to complete their writing prompt during the first minutes of class. This can be done as an introduction to a new lesson or done throughout multiple class days.
Writing prompts allow for students to observe the artwork. Sharing a few writing pieces from students can open up discussion about the art and segue into your lesson plan. The following prompts can be used in conjunction with Samaras’s Reconstruction #28:
- Imagine this work is a picture of scattered pieces of a puzzle. If you were to reassemble the puzzle, what would the final image reveal? Sketch out this image.
- Pretend that this artwork is the cover of a new novel. What would the title be? What would the story be about?
Begin the artmaking activity by allowing students to choose scrap materials. You can even encourage them to bring in found materials prior to the lesson.
Using rulers, create different angles and shapes on a variety of scrap papers. Note, the use of straight lines and geometric shapes will give the artwork a clean look. Measure the shapes and lines as you draw and try to create different sized objects, including large elongated shapes. Introducing terms such as obtuse, acute, and right angles as well as reinforcing measuring skills with rulers can give this section of the activity an added math component.
When students are done drawing their shapes, have them cut them out. Students can share their shapes, swapping with one another for variety. Introduce the concept of creating a composition with their different shapes. Students will “build” their composition beginning with larger shapes to fill up surface space. Encourage students to try overlapping and layering the pieces in their assemblage. Once students have laid out their pieces, they can begin the gluing process.
When the base of their assemblages are glued and complete, discuss the aspect of the focal point in Samaras’s Reconstruction #28. Green and pink lines of ribbon converge at the central point of the work. Explain to students that their eyes are drawn to that focal point per the artist’s intention. For the final layer of their artwork, students will use one pattern or colored material to create their focal points while simultaneously creating unity in their works. To create their focal point, each student can use a long strip of paper positioned across their paper or even use a multitude of shapes that meet together. Remind students that their focal points can be at different locations in their works and do not have to be at the center of the works. Once students have arranged their focal points, they can glue down this layer.
Lesson Tips: This lesson can be tailored to focus on color theory. Students can create analogous, complementary, or even primary collages using a limited color palate.
- Having students present the recycled reconstructions they have created, including what they have learned, to their classmates can reinforce the lesson as well as enhance the students’ understanding of what they have learned or experienced.
- A short writing assignment or reflection about their artmaking process can give teachers insight for the next time students do this lesson.
- Ask students to brainstorm different ways they can use recycled materials in art and other subjects in school.
- New York State Learning Standards for the Arts: 1, 2, and 3
- New York State Learning Standards for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education: 7
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing: 2, 3
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening: 1, 2, 4, 5
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language: 1, 2, 3, 6
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading: 2, 6, 7
- College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Mathematical Practice: 1, 4, 5, 6