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Art Lessons for Children: Sky Chimpanzee

Sky Cathedral sculpted by Louise Nevelson

Parody of the Sky Cathedral sculpture by Louise Nevelson.

Sky Chimpanzee was inspired by Louise Nevelson's sculpture Sky Cathedral. You can see the real Sky Cathedral by visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Of course, Nevelson would never have put a chimpanzee's face in her sculpture. She wasn't interested in showing things as they look in the real world. She wanted to experiment by placing forms near each other in different ways.

What is form? When talking about art, people often use the words shape and form as if they were the same thing. A form is a shape that has depth added to it. Circles, squares, and triangles are shapes. Cylinders, cubes and cones are forms. Nevelson painted shapes, and sculpted forms.

Shapes are two dimensional forms are three dimensional.

When Nevelson was younger, the world was caught in the Great Depression. Many people didn't have enough money to buy the things they needed. Nevelson wasn't as poor as many other people, but she did have trouble buying the artist materials she liked to work with. She decided that making art was more important than waiting until she could buy those materials. She started making art out of things she could find on her own.

Her favorite things to work with were pieces of broken wood she found on the New York City streets. Her friends brought her interesting pieces of old wood that they had found too. Sometimes she cut her own forms out of wood. She arranged the pieces in discarded wooden crates. Nevelson made so many small boxed sculptures that she began to stack them against the walls. Stacked together, the small sculptures became a larger sculpture.

Nevelson made many stacked wall sculptures. Although a few are painted white or gold, most are painted black. By painting all the different parts of a sculpture the same color, Nevelson keeps peoples' attention on the forms inside the sculpture. The shadows cast by the different pieces of wood were easier to see this way as well, so people could see how the forms were placed. Because of this, Louise Nevelson sometimes called herself the "Architect of Shadows."

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