artists · Deacon · Uncategorized

Richard Deacon, or The Awesome Wooden Slinky

getting-personal-deacon-627I was so thrilled to jump-start my Winter Session of Museum Masters with an artist I admire greatly. Richard Deacon, a Welsh-born artist, writer and sculptor, has created, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful and compelling pieces of sculptural art in the world. Deacon’s sculptures are abstract and often constructed of everyday materials and, while a true artist at heart, Deacon prefers to speak of himself as a “fabricator” as opposed to a “sculptor.” In class today, we discussed Richard’s colorful childhood as the son of a doctor and a pilot who moved with his family every two years or so. We learned about his early dabblings in performance art, including his piece Stuff Box Interior in which he built a box and bolted himself inside, like an art-minded Harry Houdini! We also took a close look at some of his most famous works, including Let’s Not Be Stupid and Once Upon a Time. We voted on our favorite Deacon sculptures…and these were the winners!

Laocoon (a favorite because it looks like, as one child put it, an awesome wooden slinky)
Ribbon Bow (described by one student as looking like the outlines of kids at a party…i LOVED that!)
After 1998 by Richard Deacon born 1949
After 1998

In an interview, Deacon was quoted as saying that drawing and writing are very similar. And I took that to mean that both express something, both artistic practices allow us to put our feelings out into the world to be taken in and understood (or misunderstood) by others. With this in mind, our project for the day was to create Deacon-inspired “Sentence Sculptures”. The Tate Modern Kids website uses this as a project for their children’s programs and I absolutely adored the idea. So, once we got a feel for Deacon’s style, the children were given 4-5 strips of long white construction paper. They were told to write down sentences on each of the strips. These could be song lyrics, lines from a poem, bits of a story…anything that felt important for them to write down. Then, once those sentences were written, the children twisted and turned the strips into sculptural forms which we then taped together onto a foam base. Not only were the children’s creations utterly lovely, but I was so inspired and impressed by their choice of words for their strips. Some chose stories, some chose lyrics from Elvis Presley songs (!), others created onomatopoeic explosions of words! Here they are:

photo 1 (4)

photo 1 (3)

photo 1

photo 2 (3)

photo 1 (3)

Here are some fun things you can do at home!

  • The official Richard Deacon website is a gorgeous collection of his sculptures, drawings and writings. Visit it at
  • During every class, we will be doing a fun activity called a “Deedle” (named after my beloved grandma Deedles…) It’s a game my grandma used to play with me and I’m delighted to share it with my students. I will bring papers with a scribble on it for each of the children and ask them to turn that scribble into a drawing of something new and wonderful! It’s amazing how different the children’s creations are. Try this at home together!

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