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Independent Project

Exploring Processes of Artmaking to Enhance Understandings of Identity and Culture 

ARE 6641 Spring 2018                                                                               View PDF essay



This independent project further explores my critical action plan on self-discovery through learning about an artist from another culture. The idea is to investigate my own unit plan to further my own understandings of myself, my culture, other cultures, and seek any biases that I may have that I need to work on and grow as a person and art educator and to deepen the unit plans’ meaning for students.


Image Summary & Narrative

My research into investigating my unit plan led me to an artist named Pablo Cano. Cano is a Cuban-American artist who used found recycled objects to create marionettes. He uses his work to tell viewers about his homeland and identity. When he was a child, his mother wrote him a story about a young boy named Calum who viewed work by the masters in a gallery and wanted to hang his own artwork up on the walls next to them. Cano created Calum into a marionette production as well as 10 master artworks. Cano's work is influenced by his culture and the history of art.

For my artwork result for the independent project and revision of my critical action plan, I decided that I would find objects given to me from family members and create my own digital marionette with images of my found objects. In learning about Cano's art, I discovered that his mother, like mine, was a huge influence to him when he was younger. His mother wrote stories for him that came to life in his mind, my mother drew pictures of me that came to life before my eyes. While we have many differences, I can appreciate the values and influences that helped shape him into the person he is and his artwork. 

I began my artwork by thoughtfully reflecting on my past memories and influences in my life. My grandmother was born and raised in India although she is of British decent. We lived with her many years when I was a child and I have heard stories of her meditating and me climbing up and laying across her belly and falling asleep. I believe there is a connection now for me to always get to that place of meditation. My mother’s Native American influence growing up helped connect me with nature. These two women were very influential in my life and helped shape my need to be surrounded by nature’s elements.


I've always loved owls and their mysterious qualities. I wanted to create myself in the image of a nocturnal owl and imagining the sounds of the night.  I started with the frame that I have had many years that was my grandmothers. I wanted to incorporate a frame similar to Cano to define a space for the marionette. I took the image of my frame and opened it in Photoshop. In considering a night representation, I used a painting that I did of two silhouette owls on a tree branch just above a city scape made of paintbrushes. The silhouettes I felt, would be great symbols for my reflections on my past and present. I incorporated my father's tree and moon photography into my painting. Next, I took a picture of my hand with strings as a symbol of taking control of my own life and future goals. I used an owl trinket that my father gave me and blended a portion of my face into the owl to create my own self portrait marionette. The front facing owl represents my future self, forward facing toward my dreams and goals with eyes wide open and patiently focused. I used an image of a rug my mother gave me and filtered it to make it look like a tree branch at the bottom foreground of the image. Lastly, I added a night sky background to complete the digital marionette image.


Karey Mortimer

Self Portrait Marionette , digital artwork

Remaining Questions & Ideas to Explore

  • What other ways can art education play a role in further understandings of identity and culture?

  • How can intentional appropriation influence original art work?

  • What other ways can found objects be used for story telling?

  • What further investigations will help re-shape my teaching practices in the future?

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