Body As Form

Projects related to Parsons first year students’ understanding of sculptural form as it relates to the body.

Project 1

Project 2

Project 3

Read all project descriptions below

Class Description

The fall semester introduced students to abstract principles of art and design.  The new spring semester will act as a pedagogical bridge between the abstract principles of art and design studied in freshman year and the move to major choice study in the fall. 

In the spring, 3D studio will begin to incorporate more concrete design principles and more abstract art and design theory.

In the spring, studio will meet once a week for three hours.  The curriculum is structured to continue to provide a student with a firm understanding of the issues, principles and elements of three-dimensional design introduced in the fall.  Unlike in the fall semester however, students choose a particular emphasis of study in three dimensions in the spring.  The common vehicle for all of our three dimensional study is the body.  The study of the body is essential to our understanding of all the art and design disciplines.  It is the consistent and ever present, essential form that is at the core of all art and design study.

In the body as form class, studio work will be focused on studies in the practical, expressive and communicative potentials of body coverings.  Projects may include the design and construction of body coverings, shelters, adornments and extensions (prostheses).  Various technologies will be appropriated to extend the capabilities of the body and enable it to physically support a variety of 3D form.  Projects will explore specific cultural contexts.

This studio option will explore the surface and anatomical properties of the human body and its ability to move.  All work will be body based; worn on or appended to the body and organized around particular parts of the body.  Projects may be associated with a piece of theater or reference an historical event or a particular cultural position.

Students will be introduced to pattern making in a broad sense, basic sewing and other joining skills, a large range of materials (including soft materials) and the structural and practical implications of working with body based materials.  Color and light will be part of a study both of the objects created and the implied performative component.  Students will be both constrained by, and liberated in, their exploration of the physical properties of the human body.  They will research historical prototypes for inspiration.

Learning Outcomes

There will be common themes studied in the different 3D sections even though the projects that are the vehicles for exploration will be quite different.

  1. To review and revisit issues in 3D from fall semester.
  2. To develop an understanding of the importance of the human figure in art and design.
  3. To develop an understanding of the physical structure and actual dimensions of the human form and to study specific functions of the human body.
  4. To develop an ability to perceive, formulate, analyze and solve problems and to orally present, promote and critique solutions.
  5. To develop an understanding of geometry and proportion, and how these principles are derived form the human figure.
  6. To develop an understanding of context and environment and their influence on the design of forms.
  7. To develop a perception of visual components and their interrelation in both the physical and the pictorial realms through the manipulation of orthographic drawing, sketches, traditional drafting and digital representation.
  8. To develop an understanding of principles related to light, color and transparency.
  9. To develop an understanding of measurement, proportion and the physical properties of the human body.
  10. To develop an understanding of patterns based on body dimensions that will be used to fabricate designed elements to be worn on the body.
  11. To understand and explore a wide range of materials that respond to the specific (soft) properties of the body.
  12. To understand and explore the relationship between designed static elements for the body and their dynamic interaction as they are worn on the body.

Class Projects

There are three projects that we will explore in this class.  For each project you will be expected to do the following:

  1. Research (History, Context, Content)
  2. Concept (three dimensional sketches, drawings, mood boards, material samples. Etc.)
  3. Production (create iterations of the design/sculpture, considering form, material and craft)
  4. Reflection (review the work through class critiques, personal reflections including writing, and revisions, and additional iterations)
  5. Documentation (Photograph, Video and compile and create a digital archive of all your notes, and research of your work)

Project Themes

1. The Head Measured …………………………….. Weeks 1 – 4

The Head Measured by Ping Ni Chen

See more student work from project 1

Through analysis and measurement of the head, anthropometrics, discover specific and particular characteristics, which will be mapped and applied in this first exercise.

Design a headpiece you can wear that protects it from a real or imagined threat.

Consider function, practicality and construction as well as metaphor. Start by investigating the structural properties of the skull and its particular formal and dimensional properties. Utilize pattern making and the choice of appropriate materials.

Research the history of headpieces from the utilitarian – bike and armored helmets for example to the ritual – Native American Navajo ceremonial feathered headdresses. Present this research in class.

2. The Body By Extension …………………………. Weeks 5 – 9

Body Extension by Anna Karpman

See more student work from project 2

The body incorporates different kinds of structural systems.  Our bones are capable of withstanding enormous compressive forces, yet they snap when placed in tension.  Our bodies reach out and cantilever and triangulate in dance and yoga.  What are the structural limitations of our body as it supports form?

This project looks at the human body to understand structure, movement and form by making a body extension with at least one clear function – to write or draw.

In the fall we learned the following concepts about structure:

  • Compression is a pressing force
  • Tension is a pulling force
  • Shear is a sliding force
  • Torsion is a twisting force

Make drawings of the body looking particularly at the movement and flexibility. Understand the movement in relation to mechanical structure of joints and cantilevers, and the forces at play in any structure. Students must be able to wear and move in the final piece.  The final design must be structurally sound, must perform the activity required of it and retain its intended shape.

3. The Body as Theater …………………………… Weeks 10-15

The Body As Theater by Vanessa

See more student work from project 3

Explore the body as both the vehicle and space in which the student will tell his or her story with garment and tableau.

Make a garment that extends into or becomes an environment/tableau. It should reference a character from fiction expressing his or her personal vision or state of mind. Color and light should be used.

Use the study and research from previous two projects to develop project.

How does the body determine form? By design?

Consider the kinds of materials used traditionally and untraditionally.

How is color and light considered formally, metaphorically in the design? Study how the use of color starts to influence form (reference Cooper Hewitt Museum “Fashion in Color” exhibition from December 2005 to March 2006). Explore light and color with particular attention to the use of transparent and translucent materials and the metaphorical aspects of both.

Utilize pattern making and the torso form to work with real body dimensions.  Students must be able to wear and move in the final piece.

Light: That which makes things visible or affords illumination.

Transparent:  Having the properties of transmitting rays of light so that objects can be seen through.

Translucent:  admitting passage of light but diffusing it so that objects beyond cannot be clearly distinguished.

Color, “a quality of visible phenomena, distinct from form and from light and shade”,

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.


The Sketchbook is a repository for written and visual ideas that rings together the information from all the Foundation studio courses*. It is a place to develop ideas, gather written and visual research, collect observations, record inspiration, collate class notes and vocabulary terms, and identify the commonalties and differences among the Foundation courses.

The Sketchbook is an in-class tool as well as a daily companion. It is a working method that should help you discover a personal process and enhance the development of your visual language. The Sketchbook should be a collection of information that expands your education beyond what you learn in class to include what you learn and observe in your daily life. The Sketchbook is fundamental to the development of critical and visual thinking and is (or photocopies of its pages) should be integral to presentations for critique. It should include but not be limited to the following:

  • visual and written materials: daily inspiration, thoughts, ideas, notes, handouts, etc.
  • personal observations: both written notes and drawn sketches
  • idea sketches: rough sketches to brainstorm and formulate ideas for class work
  • preparatory sketches for projects: drawing practice to support the development of finished compositions
  • studio course assignments, handouts, objectives, etc.: resources and materials to refer to in support of course work
  • research notes and reference images
  • notes from class lectures
  • ongoing glossary of terms (terminology): to identify and discover the commonalties and differences in each of the visual disciplines

The Sketchbook will be used during class. It will be reviewed during your individual mid-term evaluation meetings with your studio instructors. There may be also occasions that the class will review work in the Sketchbook.


© 2013 acrStudio is the arts + crafts research Studio, an atelier of Andrew Cornell Robinson


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