AiA Lesson Highlight – 1-9 Bearden, She-Ba

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Romare Bearden was born in 1912 and grew up in Harlem, NY where African-American literature, art, music, and dance flourished. This African-American cultural movement became known as the Harlem Renaissance. Bearden painted in the social realist style which combines themes from African-American history and life in New York. He thought of art as an universal language so he wanted to reflect the techniques of artists from many ethical backgrounds.


The medium Bearden used for She-Ba was paper, cloth and paint on board. This Art in Action lesson takes from Bearden’s use of abstract figures, figure placements and color contrasts. The figures are abstract since we don’t see details in their faces, and their skin color is exaggerated to show their African-American heritage. Bearden places the queen, She-Ba, in the center to show her importance, while the boy is less important and placed in the background. Bearden also contrasts the black skin with the colors of the yellow background. The clothes of the two figures also contrast each other. The boy wears plain black and white clothes while She-Ba’s clothes are very brightly colored. 





In this Art in Action lesson, students will use different fabrics to imitate Bearden’s use of texture in collages. By creating figures with patterned paper, students will give the clothes visual texture. The bright colors of the paper materials will also help emphasize contrast, like Bearden’s used color in his figures to show their differences. Making a simple collage will help the students understand what colors go well together and how to bring life to a 2D figure. 







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