Selma Bortner, The Journey, ca. 1990, hand colored linoleum print on paper, H. 24 x W.36 inches, Collection of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit #22.

Looking Questions:

  • What do you see? Describe all the details you can find.
  • Who do you see? How many people and animals can you find? Which group is more important? Why do you think so?
  • What textures and patterns do you see? Describe them.
  • Where is this scene taking place?
  • Which parts of this picture are light? Dark?
  • What story do you think the artist is telling? Why is she depicting this?
  • Does the title of the work help you understand the work better? Why or why not?
  • What elements of this work could be symbols? Explain your answer.

About the Artwork

Following her husband’s quintuple bypass heart surgery, Selma Bortner created this linoleum print, The Journey, to signal his transition into a healthful future. Traveling by boat, Selma and Oscar emerge from a dark, somber place and proceed toward the sunny shores to the left, where a figure enthusiastically greets them. Selma places her hand over her husband’s heart in a gesture of support, while a wolf and a snake, symbols of her husband’s chronic illness, watch and wait.

Try one of the following activities below inspired by Selma Bortner’s work!

Be the Character
Imagine that you are one of the figures in the boat. Write a story with a beginning, middle, and end from that person’s or animal’s point of view. Relate how your journey began, what happened, and how it ended.

Memory Poems
Think about a time when you, like artist Selma Bortner, had to deal with something scary or difficult (e.g., an illness, accident, death, etc.). Write a poem about your memories of this event in your life.

Animal Drawings
Study and discuss the animals in The Journey. What personalities do they have? Create an animal that symbolizes your personality using white pencil on black construction paper. Add color with oil pastels. Imagine an environment for this animal and add it to the background.

Styrofoam Monoprints
Using a Styrofoam meat or veggie tray, create a monoprint of your own! Using a pencil, draw a design or image into the foam. Then, paint a light coat of color onto your design using tempera paint, acrylic paint, or printing ink. (If you have a brayer, then roll the ink or paint onto the tray.) Take a piece of paper, lay it over the tray, and rub it slightly using the back of a spoon. Lift the paper gently off of the tray and voila, you have a print! The site KinderArt offers a good summary of this lesson.

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