Subject: Proportions of objects
Activity: Abstracted still life
Materials: Object of choice, three pieces of 8.5 x 11 paper, pencil, acrylic paint (or other coloring materials of your choice)
Vocabulary: Ceremonial, commemorative, proportions, ritual, replica, sentinel, tryptic
Simone Leigh’s sculpture is inspired by West and South African traditions. Sentinel IV, her work for Landmarks, is modeled after a Zulu ceremonial spoon used in wedding ceremonies. Representing the joining of two families, the wooden object is kept and displayed in the married couple’s home. The sculpture is also inspired by a sentinel, or guard, who stands watch over and protects people.
Sentinel IV is slender bronze guardian with elongated proportions and a faceless bowl crown. It is a combination of a watchful guardian and the Zulu spoon that celebrates marriage.
Can you think of any ceremonial, spiritual, or commemorative objects in your life?
What is a ritual in your life? What objects do you use for it?
Are the proportions in Sentinel IV true to life?
Look at the sculpture solely as a spoon, and then solely as a person. What human-like qualities have been modified to look like a spoon? What spoon-like qualities have been modified to look like a human?
Think of ritual object that is special to you. It could also be an object you use in your everyday life. Start by drawing your object, exactly as it is. What are some qualities your object has? What qualities of your object are important for it to be recognizable? For your next two drawings, change the proportions of your object in different ways. How different can you make your object look from your original drawing? Add color to your drawings using acrylic paint.
Replicas of the Zulu ceremonial spoon that inspired Leigh’s sculpture can be bought by tourists visiting the region of Southern Africa (notably the KwaZulu-Natal province). The spoon is so popular that miniature plastic replicas can also be purchased online.
Leigh celebrates Black women with her work. Sentinel IV is a larger-than-life celebration of Black women who protect their families and culture.
Does the sculpture seem grand to you? Look back at your drawings. Do they celebrate certain people? Why is it important to celebrate them?
Ceremonial ‒ Something that is a part of or used for a religious or public event
Commemorative ‒ Acting as a memorial or mark of an event or person
Proportions ‒ A part, share, or number considered in comparative relation to a whole. The dimensions of a composition and relationships between height, width and depth
Ritual ‒ A repeated activity or movement during a religious or important event
Replica ‒ Copies of an original work that can be mass produced and are often less expensive and detailed than the original
Sentinel ‒ A guardian whose job is to keep watch