Design your own glittering mosaic of geometric shapes inspired by artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, who used her imagination to explore diamond-like patterns that reflected her Iranian culture.
Time: 45+ mins
Grade Level: 2nd-5th, adaptable for older students
Art Speak: mosaic, geometric shapes
DCPS Arts Curricula: becoming
Let your eyes wander across the artwork. Grab a piece of paper and pencil and draw the shapes that you see. How many different shapes can you find? How are these shapes similar?
You may have noticed many geometric shapes in Untitled. Geometric shapes are mathematical shapes that are perfect and regular like circles, triangles, and polygons. In this artwork, the artist uses diamonds, rectangles, triangles, and hexagrams (six pointed stars)!
Look closely at the work again. You might notice that, at first glance, it appears to be symmetrical–the left side mirrors the right–and yet, if you look again, you might notice slight variances from one side to the other.
This type of artwork is called a mosaic. A mosaic is an arrangement of small pieces that when placed together make a large image. This mosaic is made from pieces of mirror and glass!
The artist, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, was deeply inspired by the glittering mosaics of the Shah Cheragh mosque (a place of worship for Shia Muslims) in Shiraz, Iran. When she visited the mosque in 1966 with her friends from New York City, she sat inside for several hours marveling at the beauty and artistry of shimmering mirrored mosaics that reflected and covered every surface inside the historic mosque. She described her experience as being “inside the center of a diamond…staring at the sun.” After her visit to the Shah Cheragh, Farmanfarmaian made hundreds of mirror mosaics. What places inspire you? Why?
ABOUT MONIR SHAHROUDY FARMANFARMAIAN
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (b. Qazvin, Iran, 1922-2019) was an Iranian artist known for her glittering mosaics of mirror, metal, and glass. When she was 23, Farmanfarmaian left her home in Tehran, Iran to study art in New York City. When she returned to Iran twelve years later, she explored her country and culture with new eyes, discovering all different kinds of cultures and buildings. She sketched the shapes and patterns she found covering the walls of Islamic buildings and turned them into glittering mirror mosaics.
She broke barriers by becoming the first woman to make mirror mosaics in Iran. During the Iranian Revolution her studio and mirror mosaics were destroyed. She lived in New York to be safe and did not return home to Iran for 25 years.Unable to make mirror mosaics, she instead created drawings, paintings, and collages that reminded her of childhood home, saying “my love for my culture is in everything I create.” At age 81, she finally returned to her studio in Tehran, Iran.
Want to learn more? Read more about Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian’s life and work.
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to step inside a sparkling diamond? Monir Farmanfarmaian arranges geometric shapes to create patterns inspired by glittering diamonds in the mirror mosaic Untitled. For this project, you will make your own mosaic using lots of geometric forms.
- Gather materials. You will need a variety of colored paper, tin foil (or metallic paper if you have it), a pencil, scissors, glue stick, ruler, and protractor (or something round to trace works too!)
- Choose your palette. Spend a few minutes reflecting on the colors Farmanfarmaian used in her mosaic. How do the colors make you feel? What mood do you want your mosaic to convey? Choose 4-5 different colors. You may want to choose complementary or contrasting colors for the background mosaic pieces.
- Trace your shapes. Farrmanfarmaian uses circles, triangles, rectangles, hexagons, and stars in her mosaics. Use a ruler, protractor, or stencils to trace geometric shapes on your tin foil and colored paper. Farmanfarmaian cut 15-20 mirror pieces in the same shape to create elaborate patterns in her work! Try to create multiples of at least 5 different shapes. Tip: If you’d like to make several of the same shape at once try folding your paper accordion style and cutting your shape on the folded paper.
- Cut your shapes. Using scissors, carefully cut out your geometric shapes.
- Arrange your shapes. Lay your geometric shapes on your background and explore what different patterns you can make. Like Farmanfarmaian, start by placing one large shape in the middle and place smaller shapes in a pattern around it. Then surround the smaller shapes with more shapes until you reach the edges of your paper. Explore what different patterns you can make.
- Glue your shapes. Once you are happy with your patterns, you can begin to glue your shapes to the background. Tip: put glue on the side of the paper with the pencil marks for a clean mosaic.
- Exhibit your mirror mosaic. After your work is dried, hang it somewhere where your friends can see it. While looking at your artwork, move from side to side. What do you see reflected in your mirror mosaic? How would you describe the mood of your mosaic? Is it what you expected? Why or why not?
- Title your mosaic. Farmanfarmaian would name her mosaics after the shapes found inside them or after something the mosaic made her think about. We titled ours “Shimmering Midnight Sun.” What will you title your mosaic?