Welcome to my Art Spotlight series. In this series, I delve a little deeper into individual works of art to help give you ideas for how to use them in your classroom. For each artwork, I will include discussion questions, a short description of its significance and context, learning activities, and curriculum connections.
The artwork today is Cerrado por brujería [Closed by Witchcraft], created by Argentinian artist Luis Felipe Noé in 1963. Because of copyright, I have include a small, low quality thumbnail here for reference. To see a larger version of the image, click over to the Blanton Museum website.I know this looks a little scary, and if it is not your bag, that’s okay. Feel free to click on over to this happier post (or this, this, or this) to help you forget this one. Although it is dark, this is one of my favorite artworks to discuss with students. I usually show it the first day of my college art appreciation course as there is so much to pick apart and so many directions the interpretations could go. I usually don’t show the title until later, so it won’t impact the students’ personal interpretations. Try not to let the title have too much sway over your thoughts when you look at it.
As always, use these tips for how to look at art with kids. Always let them look and think about it before you give them any information!
Recommended Age: High School and Adult. It’s a little dark, but they can take it.
Art Questions to Ask
- What do you notice in this painting?
- Inspect every inch of this picture. This painting is about 6.5 feet by 8 feet. How would the size influence your experience as a viewer?
- What symbols do you notice?
- What emotions do you notice? Where have you seen emotions like this conveyed?
- Where have you seen heads in boxes before?
- What meaning was the artist trying to convey? What is the story happening here? What do you see that makes you say that?
- How do you think this painting relates to how we live our lives today? Think about tv, the internet, twitter, YouTube, etc.
This is a fascinating artwork that made a big impact on me when I saw it in person. It is huge, and those faces are so very creepy. The contrasting colors and drippy red add to that feeling. My students usually hate this artwork as they often come into an art class thinking that it is not art unless it is beautiful. They also hate it because in this Christian country we live in, people tend to shy away from things that seem devilish.
I love this painting even though I generally dislike creepy things. I love artworks where you can feel the presence of the artist. You can see how he or she slashed the painted onto the canvas, and you can feel what he or she was feeling at the time. The drips and smooshes and scribbles connect me to that person in an intimate way. The interpretation that I most connect with is that the dudes at the bottom are the main guy’s inner demons. He is trying to keep them back with the crucifix (notice the white crucified form on the bright red cross) and jail them behind bars.
The label text for this artwork gives another idea. (And, we must remember with art that our interpretations of art are just as valid as what the almighty Museum says. Art is just as much about the viewer as it is the artist.) It talks about the rise of television, in particular the talking heads of the news. The artist himself quit painting for about 10 years and was a journalist. He was very aware that the Latin government often told the TV stations what to say.
Even though this was painted in 1963 in Argentina, it couldn’t be more relevant to the 24 hour news cycle talk talk talk talk of today. Each box in the picture is another channel, another pundit, another opinion, another debate. Although, with the up-to-the-second updates on twitter, we are learning that the major news channels are become more and more irrelevant. Watching the news makes me so stressed so I very rarely watch–not to the point of crucifixes and scary animals coming out of my head, but close. It’s also probably why I have a hard time getting into twitter. Too much noise.
Art Learning Activities
- Poetry. I know, I know. It is probably becoming a pattern that I am always mentioning poetry in this section, but poetry is such a natural fit with art. With all the emotions and strong imagery in this painting, connecting through writing works. Try poetry or simply journaling about this artwork. Spoken word poetry might be cool too. Maybe 5 students all reading spoken word at the same time. Yes. Do that, please.
- Storytelling. After working up a narrative by looking at that art, use the tips in this post about exploring narrative in art to explore the painting more deeply.
- Kinesthetic Learning. Have students make these facial expressions and make the sounds with their voices that they might imagine hearing in conjunction with this painting. Have them move their bodies like these people would move. How does it feel? How does it help you understand the painting more?
Cerrado por brujería [Closed by Sorcery] by Luis Felipe Noé, 1963
199.6 cm x 249.7 cm (78 9/16 in. x 98 5/16 in.)
Oil and collage on canvas
Jack S Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX, Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1973
Link to Artwork
Thanks for reading!
What do you think about this artwork? Did you show it to your students? How did they react? Let me know in the comments.
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