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Object Portraits

The exhibition Dozie Kanu: Function explores the tension between form and function through sculptures that invoke a bodily presence. In works like Chair [ix] (For Babies), 2019, Kanu creates works that blur art and design with a visual language informed by African diasporic histories. These “pragmatic sculptures” simultaneously emphasize the absence and aura of the figure. 


 Dozie Kanu,
Dozie Kanu: Function (installation view),
Photo: Adam Reich


Inspired by this process of repurposing objects, create your own sculptures using found materials. As you create, reflect on the memories that objects can hold and transfer the memory into an object portrait as an act of healing and remembrance. 

Key Words

Found object 
A natural or man-made object, or fragment of, that is found or purchased. 

An activity or purpose natural to or intended for a person or thing. 

To adapt for use in a different purpose. 



  • Broken objects or items you no longer use (such as a chipped cup) 
  • Old clothing or fabrics (such as a stained T-shirt or worn pillowcase) 
  • Cardboard 
  • Glue of any kind  (hot, white, craft, wood, etc.) 
  • Scissors 
  • Optional items to embellish your sculpture: 
    • Yarn
    • Acrylic paint 
    • Found papers 



  1. Explore the exhibition Dozie Kanu: Function online. 
  2. Gather your scissors, glue, cardboard, old fabrics, and an object you no longer use. These can be broken or  originally intended to be thrown away.
  3. Ask yourself or a partner: How can remembering be an act of care? What does it mean to give this object a new function?
  4. With these questions in mind, create an object portrait in honor of a member of your community or a moment in your life. Use a piece of cardboard as your base and experiment with deconstructing, combining, and layering your materials.
  5. Favor the process over the final product.


When you finish your object portrait, post your work on Instagram or Twitter and tag us #studiosquared @studiomuseum 

— Developed and led by Studio Museum in Harlem teaching artist Aya Rodriguez-Izumi. This lesson was originally done at Studio Squared: The Art of Healing Objects on March 4, 2020.

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