Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Before I Die by Candy Chang

What do you want to do before you die?  

Candy Chang contextualizes this question in New Orleans after the storm, the wake of tremendous personal loss, and the Stoics’ suggestion that to contemplate death is to restore perspective and make life meaningful. Chang introduces her book with this context, and then goes on to describe her project to paint an abandoned house in her neighborhood with chalkboard paint and stencil it with a grid of the sentence, “Before I die I want to ________________.”  Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public.  This book shares highlights via text and photographs of Chang’s New Orleans installation, and then goes on to show images and quotes as the community art installation found new life in new environs.  Artists and community members in Jerusalem, Germany, South Africa, Thailand, and more created similar projects to similar effect.  The book also includes “remixes,” stats, and directions for making this kind of wall project.  This book can inspire students to talk about public art, to think about the questions worth asking, and to reflect on what they hope to accomplish, as well as evoke responses to the aspirations from around the world contained within the covers. The design of the book uses pulled quotes against solid color rectangles alongside colorful images of text, rendering it accessible for emerging readers as well as their more sophisticated peers.  Recommended for independent reading, inquiry, and art educators. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Chang, Candy.  Before I Die.  New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013.  Print.

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