Creating a Superhero Sculpture

Lesson Plan: Creating a Superhero Sculpture

Monkey God (Hanuman)
Artist not known, Southern India
1800s

Overview

Students will locate the country of India on a world map or globe, examine the different features of the Hanuman sculpture, and relate the character of Hanuman to contemporary superheroes. They will then brainstorm ideas for their own superhero, create a three-dimensional superhero sculpture, and compare it to Hanuman.

Age Group

Elementary (grades K-5)

Standards

21st Century Learning Skills Addressed:

  • Critical Thinking and Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Self-Direction
  • Invention

2009 Colorado Academic Standards Primary Area Addressed:
Visual Arts

  • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
  • Envision and Critique to Reflect
  • Invent and Discover to Create
  • Relate and Connect to Transfer

Additional 2009 Colorado Academic Standards Addressed:
Language Arts

  • Oral Expression and Listening
  • Reading for All Purposes
  • Writing and Composition

Length of Lesson

Two 45-minute lessons

Rationale

Tactile experiences that differ from what students experience every day enrich development in varied areas of the brain. This activity integrates visual and kinesthetic learning styles, and teaches students how to take something that is two-dimensional and recreate it three-dimensionally, stimulating critical thinking and problem solving.

Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • discuss the Hanuman sculpture using descriptive vocabulary;
  • locate the country of India on a map or globe and compare its location to wherever they live;
  • describe the importance of the original color and decoration of Hanuman;
  • recall the story of Hanuman in Hindu tradition;
  • relate the character of Hanuman to contemporary superheroes;
  • use a brainstorm list and preliminary sketch to create a three-dimensional superhero sculpture; and
  • use clay to create an imaginative sculpture.

Materials

  • Paper or journal for each student to write down thoughts and to sketch out their ideas
  • World map or globe
  • Air-hardening or air-drying clay (one brand is Sculpt It!)
  • Acrylic paints (at least the primary and secondary colors, plus others that you have on hand)
  • Assorted paintbrushes of different thicknesses
  • Newspapers or other materials to cover work areas
  • Containers with water to wash brushes
  • Paper towels or rags to dry off brushes between using different colors
  • About the Art sheet on the Hanuman sculpture (found at the end of the lesson plan) or student access to this part of Creativity Resource online
  • One color copy of the sculpture for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen

Lesson

  1. Show the students the Hanuman sculpture. Have them describe what they see using as much descriptive vocabulary as they can. Focus on each portion of the sculpture individually.
    • Head—facial features, crown, earrings, and necklaces
    • Arms and hands—position of the arms and hands, various bracelets and rings
    • Body—clothing, garland, girdle
    • Legs—position and decorations on them
  2. Using a world map and/or globe, help the students locate the country of India and look at how far away it is from where they live. How long do the students think it would take to travel to India?
  3. With information from the About the Art sheet, elaborate on how the sculpture would originally have been brightly colored and adorned with garlands of fresh flowers for festivals. To provide context, consider showing students either these images (an example of a decorated Hanuman sculpture is at the end of the series) or this video.
  4. Tell the students the story of Hanuman found in the “What Inspired It?” section of the About the Art sheet.
  5. Relate the character of Hanuman to the superheroes we are familiar with now, such as Superman, Batman, Iron Man, etc. Allow students to share what they know about different superheroes they are familiar with, asking questions such as: What kind of special powers do superheroes have? What kind of clothes do they wear? What are some similarities and differences between Hanuman and the heroes that students are familiar with? (Similarities would include Hanuman’s great speed and super strength; differences might be that he is worshipped in temples and festivals.)
  6. Have the students brainstorm and write down their answers to the following questions: If you were to design a superhero with a strong human body but an animal head (like Hanuman), what animal head would he or she have? What clothes or items would he or she wear or carry? What type of special powers would he or she have? Is there a super villain that your superhero would fight? Where does he or she come from (another country or planet)? Is there a story or legend that goes with your superhero? What pose will your superhero have?
  7. After the students have completed their brainstorm list, have them make a quick sketch of their superhero character. You should brainstorm a list as well and make a sketch of your superhero for the students to see.
  8. Distribute air-hardening or air-drying clay and have the students create their superheroes three-dimensionally. Make sure the students use their sketches as a reference and include the different elements of their superhero—the animal head, human body, and any special costume features or tools (such as a cape or magic wand). Have them look back at the Hanuman sculpture for tips on how to create three-dimensional body parts, decorations, etc.
  9. Allow the air-hardening clay to dry overnight.

Day 2      

  1. Review background information from the About the Art sheet.
  2. Review the procedures from the previous day’s assignment and allow time for questions.
  3. Once again, elaborate on the colors and adornments that would have originally decorated the sculpture and revisit the websites mentioned above.
  4. Demonstrate how to carefully paint the superhero sculpture using only a little paint at a time, the tip of the brush, and washing the brushes between colors.
  5. When the students are done, look back at the Hanuman sculpture and ask the students: What would Hanuman look like if he was as brightly colored as your superheroes? What would be different? What colors would they paint on Hanuman? How are Hanuman and your superhero posed the in the same ways? In different ways? What physical features do they have in common? What physical features are different?

Popular Creativity Resource Lesson Plans

About the Art

Monkey God (Hanuman) by Artist not known, Southern India, 1800s

Who Made It?

This wooden sculpture was carved by an unknown artist during the 1800s in Southern India (perhaps in the regions of Tamil Nadu or Kerala). This sculpture shows Hanuman, the Hindu monkey-god, kneeling in devotion to the god Rama. Rama is a form of the Hindu god Vishnu, one of the most important gods in the Hindu tradition and the protector and preserver of the universe. The figure, carved on all sides, would originally have been painted in vivid colors and carried in a Hindu festival procession. This sculpture would have probably been regularly re-painted for festival appearances. The artist carved carefully defined muscles to show Hanuman’s incredible strength, and flowers and jewelry to decorate the body.

What Inspired It?

This sculpture was carved to honor the monkey-god Hanuman during Hindu festivals. In Hindu tradition, Hanuman was the son of the wind god. As a youth, Hanuman got in trouble with the gods and was struck down. His father, seeing his beloved son lying helpless, drew in a mighty breath and sucked away all the air from the cosmos. "Let all those who have harmed my son choke to death," he thought aloud. Predictably, there was panic in the cosmos. Without air, life on every level was threatened. The gods, realizing their folly, went in unison and asked for forgiveness. To make amends, they showered blessings and powers on the monkey child. As a result, Hanuman received a power greater than even that of his father: speed faster than the mightiest wind. One well-known story tells of Hanuman’s strength when he helped Rama, one of the most important Hindu deities, recover his wife from a demon. In his devotion to Rama, Hanuman is upheld as a model for human devotion to the gods. His image reminds the viewer to humbly and devotedly serve god. This sculpture shows Hanuman kneeling in devotion to Rama, his face animated and his hands gesturing elegantly. During festivals, villagers would have placed garlands of fresh flowers (marigolds and chrysanthemums were frequently used) over the carved flowers that Hanuman wears. The figure was carried on the shoulders of several men.

For more resources related to this artwork, check out the "Find Out More" section for this object on Creativity Resource online.

Things to Look For

Monkey God (Hanuman) by Artist not known, Southern India, 1800s

jewelry

Elaborate Jewelry

Hanuman wears a crown, earrings, multiple necklaces, upper and lower arm bracelets (some decorated with bells), and multiple rings.

traces of color

Traces of Color

Look for traces of color that once covered sculpture. There are traces of green in the garland, orange-red on the side decorations, and pink on the body. Hanuman probably had his colors regularly re-painted for festival processions.

shoulder

Shoulder

On the back of Hanuman’s shoulder is a slot where a metal bar used to hold the arm to the shoulder. There is a similar bar in the inside of the thigh.

strength vs deference

Strength vs. Reverence

Hanuman’s physical strength is apparent throughout this sculpture. Notice the thick muscles of his calves, chest, and buttocks. And yet, don’t forget that Hanuman is shown in an act of kneeling devotion to his lord, Rama.


Monkey God (Hanuman)
Artist not known, Southern India
1800s

Funds from Collector's Choice, 1991.1012
Photograph © Denver Art Museum 2009. All Rights Reserved.

This image is intended for classroom use only and may not be reproduced for other reasons without the permission of the Denver Art Museum.
This piece may not currently be on display at the museum.