Teachers Lesson Plans

Real Life - Guy Ben-Ner and Ron Mueck

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How does the subject matter inform the design of the work?

Ron Mueck's sculptures depict momentous events in the stages of life: birth, aging, the passage of time, death.

Some of these universal themes are represented in Old Woman in Bed and A Girl. Whereas in A Girl, the larger-than-life newborn is coming into this life fighting, stretching her neck out, literally ready to take on anything, the sickly woman in Old Woman in Bed has given up. Closed in on herself, she occupies as little space as possible. The little girl opens her eyes for the first time to take in the world surrounding her, while the old woman has closed hers, maybe for ever. Her entire body is wrapped in a sheet and blanket, foreshadowing the funerary shroud to come and bringing to an ultimate conclusion the life cycle that began with an infant's swaddling clothes.

The scale renders a perfectly natural phenomenon into something surreal. A newborn, in its starkly denuded vulnerability, asserts an awesome power, filled with as-yet unlived experience. An old woman seems to be shriveling in front of our eyes, as if not only her life, but a lifetime of experience, was being expelled out of her body with her last breath.