Jasper Johns has made paintings of ordinary things like flags, targets, maps, and numbers because he was interested in how their meaning might change when they are taken out of their usual role or place. In this painting, Johns changed how we usually see a flag. Instead of painting a picture of a flag blowing in the breeze, he painted the flat pattern of stars and stripes on three different-sized canvases. Then he stacked the canvases on top of each other. By turning the flag into art, Johns asks us to think critically about the power and meaning of this national symbol.
Transform a familiar image into a work of art. Choose something that you often see around you. For example, a street sign, a cereal box, a billboard or an image from your home. Look closely at the image you chose. Divide a sheet of paper into six sections. Use a pencil to reimagine your image a different way in each box.
- Focus on a close-up detail and draw only that
- Draw your image backwards! Reverse the words if there are words
- Upside down!
- Draw four mini versions of your image in one box
- Draw only with swirly lines/spirals
- Mix up the parts of the image—move things around
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Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958. Encaustic on canvas, 30 5/8 x 45 1/2 x 4 5/8 in. (77.8 x 115.6 x 11.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Gilman Foundation, Inc., The Lauder Foundation, A. Alfred Taubman, Laura–Lee Whittier Woods, Howard Lipman, and Ed Downe in honor of the Museum's 50th Anniversary 80.32. © Jasper Johns / VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY