Fit For A Crown

By CJ Mitchell, Community Access Manager

Ages: Grades 3–12+ (8 years–Adult)

Time It Takes: 20–30 minutes

What We Are Going To Do:

  • Mixed Media 
  • Collage
  • Photography

You’ll Need: 

  • Portrait of someone from a popular or personal source (i.e. from old advertisements or reproductions of family photos)
  • Watercolor
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • Glue
  • Paintbrush
  • Paper for collage (i.e magazines or patterned paper)

Before We Start: 

Let’s look at the images and videos of Lorna Simpson’s Redhead (2018), and Blue Love (2020). The artist adapted these collages into video animations that are projected on the museum’s facade from dusk until midnight each evening. In each artwork, the artist cut out just the heads from photographs of people featured in Ebony and Jet magazines, historically important magazines for primarily Black audiences. She then created animations from watercolor paintings, which she made rise from the top of the figures’ heads, like a new kind of crown. In other works in this series, she has also added collaged paper from old maps of galaxies as well as crystal formation designs. With the watercolor comes an idea of fluidity, perhaps like the fluidity one feels from having to adapt to an environment because of your race. To change and assimilate takes resilience—I think of this quote from Maya Angelou “Your crown has been bought and paid for, put it on your head and wear it.”

Think About:

  • What words come to mind when you look at the videos or images?
  • Why do you think the artist removes the background and additional content from the original photographs?
  • What is similar about these two artworks? What is different?
  • What does one’s crown say about who they are? What does your crown say about you?

Writing Activity

Before we start our art activity, let’s imagine what story these figures are telling. Consider the questions above, and write what you imagine these two are doing. What would they say? What happened just before the moment you see them? What do you think will happen next?

1. Find an image of someone posing for the camera taken in the past. This could be a headshot, an advertisement in a magazine, a reproduction of a family picture, or something you find on the internet. I used a graduation photo of my mother.

2. Cut out the figure.

3. Then cut away the hair and glue down the figure as you would like it positioned on the paper.

4. Then get watercolor, water, and brush. If you want the watercolor to spread, wet the area where you are going to paint first. If not, start with a little water on the brush, then dip into the watercolor and paint. Lifting the paper and moving it around will help spread the watercolor as well.

5. Then let it dry. 

Alternative: Collage

1. Follow steps 1 to 2 from above along with an image of an object that you would like to cut and include.

2. Cut out the object that you would like to use (using an image of a crystal).

3. Position the imagery on the paper in relationship to the other part of your collage. Once it’s positioned correctly, glue it down.

4. Now glue down the headshot in relationship to the other glued object.

5. Now it is done, you can also add more images, more watercolor, or other art mediums.