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Friendly Faces

Example by family participants. Photograph by Corinne Mucha

by Corinne Mucha

If we weren’t already, we’re now well-acquainted with everything in the four walls of our home. While we’re staying safe, how can we continually find new joy and inspiration?


H.C. Westermann, American, 1922–1981
Memorial to the Idea of Man If He Was an Idea, 1958
Pine, bottle caps, cast-tin toys, glass, metal, brass, ebony, and enamel
56 1/2 × 38 × 14 1/4 in. (143.5 × 96.5 × 36.2 cm)
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Susan and Lewis Manilow Collection of Chicago Artists, 1993.34

Photo: Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago

The boredom is real. Maybe you're looking to freshen up your space, or maybe you want to recreate a tiny part of Tom Hanks's unshowered classic, Cast Away. In both scenarios, the solution is the same: turn a part of your home into the friendliest art installation your corner of the world has ever seen, by "reframing" common objects. Creative reframing is something that artists do all the time. It's the practice of looking at something familiar with fresh eyes, and giving it a new context.

For inspiration, take a look at this artwork by HC Westermann titled Memorial to the Idea of Man if He Was an Idea. Made back in 1958 (before Pinterest even existed), this artwork really challenges the idea of what you could do with an old cabinet and some bottlecaps. Westermann brought this ordinary object to life, jazzing it up with a one-eyed castle head, a sinking ship, a headless baseball player, and an armless trapeze artist. Just like Westermann, you can look around at what you have on hand, and use your imagination to give it a new life.


Get inspired.

Take another look at H.C. Westermann’s sculpture. Can you see all the details mentioned earlier? Can you spot any other unusual details in this artwork? Westerman turned this cabinet into the cyclops from Homer's Odyssey, an ancient epic poem. Imagine that Westermann's cabinet was actually alive. What would this cyclops be like? Friendly or fierce? Wise or foolish? In Homer's Odyssey, the cyclops was named Polyphemus, which means "abounding in songs and legends." Can you tell a story about the life of this sculpture that connects all the details that you see?

Example by family participants. Photograph by Corinne Mucha

Example by family participants. Photograph by Corinne Mucha

Bring an object to life.


  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Paper
  • Sharpies
  • Colored Markers
  • Recyclables

Key words

  • reframing - looking at something familiar with fresh eyes, and giving it a new context.
  • context - where an object is in relation to other things
  • scale - how big an object is or how many of them there are


  1. Gather basic artmaking materials. Whatever you have will work! Things like markers, paper, tape, and scissors will be very helpful.
  2. Gather some recyclables. Empty soap bottles, egg cartons, or paper towel rolls all work great!
  3. Pick one to start. Think about what it might look like if it were to suddenly come alive.
  4. Start simple! Give it a face, with a sharpie, or with paper and some tape.
  5. Add more. Think about how to give this object a life or story, like Westermann’s sculpture. Make some limbs and accessories on paper. Attach them to your objects with tape. Add as much or as little to this object, until it feels complete.
  6. Once the object is complete, you can start thinking about scale (how many objects you make) and context (where is the object in relation to other things). Try placing your new friend to do some window gazing, wishing someone a socially distant happy birthday, attending a zoom wedding, or enjoying a new space.

View a demonstration of the activity.


We'd love to see what you created from this project! We invite you to share your drawing with the MCA by sending it to us via Direct Message on social media, or by tagging @mcachicago or #MCAChicago on Twitter or Instagram. We might even ask to feature your work in an upcoming post!