The American Dream
1. As a class, discuss your students’ perceptions of the American Dream. Have students seen any movies or television, or read any literature that relates to the American Dream? How is it portrayed?
Indiana saw the American Dream as “broken. . .no longer in effect for us and for lots of others.”
Have your students discuss Indiana’s statement.
2. View and discuss Indiana’s painting The Beware – Danger American Dream #4, (1963). Look at the words in the image. Can students make any connections between the words in the image and their discussion about the American Dream? Share the title of this work with your students. What might Indiana ask the viewer to beware of? What might be dangerous about the American Dream?
Indiana has often used three or four letter, single syllable words in his work. In 1963 he said: “. . . my first preference is one-syllable words. I happen to prefer the verb to the noun. I use the simple command words first of all. . .I like short, terse words—I suppose I sometimes think of their visual pattern.”
Inspired by the use of language in The Beware – Danger American Dream #4, (1963), have students use rhyming, repetition, alliteration, and only one-syllable words to create a piece of writing or poetry about the American Dream.
3. Here’s a Challenge! for you or a homework assignment for your students: go to the Whitney’s online collection for teachers and make a collection of one or more works of art that might represent and/or critique the American Dream. View and discuss these works in class. In what ways have artists represented the American Dream?
Robert Indiana, quoted in Francine Koslow Miller, “Robert Indiana,” Tema Celeste 20, no. 95, January/February 2003, 70.
Excerpt from Richard Brown Baker, “Oral History Interview with Robert Indiana, 1963, September 12-November 7,” Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.