ArtsConnectEd/ArtsNet Minnesota
What is Art?

Art and Artists
Africa, Zaire
England, Higham Manor, Suffolk
Donald Judd
New Mexico (Mimbres)
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Thailand (Blue Hmong)
Robert Rauschenberg

Inner Worlds Environment   Identity Designing Spaces and Places
Thailand (Blue Hmong)
Discussion Questions/Activities

Thailand (Blue Hmong), Ceremonial Skirt
  1. This skirt was made to be worn for the Hmong New Year celebration, a festive time of year during which people danceand play games. How does this skirt reflect such an occasion? How do the lines, patterns, and colors help to make the skirt seem festive? What did the artist do to give the skirt movement?

  2. How can you tell that the Hmong women who made this skirt had high standards? In what ways would this skirt advertise the skill of its maker?

  3. The Transformation Mask and this Hmong skirt were made in the 20th century using traditional methods. How has each artist drawn upon traditions of their culture? How have they incorporated contemporary methods?

  4. Do you think this skirt is art or craft? Why? What is the difference between art and craft?

  5. Should this skirt be displayed in a museum? Why or why not? Would you would of the skirt as art if you saw someone wearing it? In the museum the skirt is hanging on the wall behind Plexiglas. Do you think this context changes your reaction to it?

  6. If a beautiful skirt from a department store were hung on the wall in a museum, would you think it was art? Why or why not? What is the difference between a piece of clothing from a department store and this skirt? What if the skirt from the department store were identical to this skirt. Would you consider it art? How can you decide if something is art?

Treatments for Textiles
This skirt uses several different needlework and textile design techniques. Try dyeing a piece of clothing such as a T-shirt using batik techniques. Try appliqué by sewing fabric pieces over areas of your clothing. Finally, cross-stitch a section (perhaps the borders) of your fabric.

Story Cloths
In recent years, many Hmong women have adapted the patterns and techniques of their clothing to create textiles called "story cloths," embroidered fabrics with scenes depicting Hmong folklore, traditional village life, celebrations, and events. Read Diai's Story Cloth by D. Cha. This book tells the story of Hmong immigration to America using story cloth images. Find an example of a story cloth and write out the story depicted on the cloth. Try using pictures to tell a story about something that has happened to you.

Plentiful Patterns
This skirt contains many complex patterns. How often are the patterns repeated? How many variations of the same patterns are there? Make a chart that represents the sequence of patterns on this skirt, assigning a letter or number to each element. Ask a friend or classmate to do the same exercise. Compare your charts. Did you both come up with the same result?

Clothing in Motion
In what ways has the creator of this skirt enhanced its sense of movement? How do you think the skirt would move as someone danced in it? Design a costume or piece of clothing that promotes a certain type of movement. For example: long and flowing, short and sharp, lively and bouncy. Think about what fabric and colors best express this movement. Create and perform a dance that highlights the costume.

Experiments with Color
Explore the effects of various color combinations on human perception. Cut two 2 x 2-inch squares out of red construction paper. Place one red square in the middle of a 3 x 3-inch square of green paper and the other in a 3 x3-inch square of orange. How does the background color change the appearance of the red? Experiment with other color combinations.

Cultural Conflicts
In the 1960s, war in Southeast Asia had a devastating impact on the Hmong, destroying their economy and food supply. By 1970, large numbers of Hmong people living in Laos had become actively involved in the war, allied with the U.S. military. When the U.S. withdrew its troops from the area, the Hmong were forced to flee to refugee camps in Thailand to escape political persecution.

Study the effects of the war in Southeast Asia on the Hmong. Interview a Hmong member of your community to find out about his or her experiences. Read tesimonials by Hmong people about their experiences in the book, Hmong Means Free: Life in Laos and America, by Sucheng Chau.

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Discussion/Activities, About the Artist, About the Art, Teacher Lessons

Inner Worlds | What Is Art? | Environment | Designing Spaces and Places | Identity
About the Art | About the Artist | Discussion Questions/Activities | Teacher Lessons