When You’re Dead, You’re Dead
Assignment Sheet for Essay on Individual Artwork
For this essay, choose a piece of art by an individual artist working today, ideally an artwork that you have seen in
person. Your task is to analyze what kind of cultural commentary the piece makes. Consider carefully which artifact
or performance you choose to write about. Not each work of art will allow you to articulate its cultural significance
with equal clarity.
A successful essay will present a well-developed argument on the content, form, and context of the piece. Consider
both conceptual and material aspects of the work. A well-developed argument means that your essay needs a thesis
statement: you have to make an assertion about the cultural relevance of the artwork. Your essay should present
evidence to support the thesis statement. Look to the artwork for evidence: what do you see? Which formal and
material choices evident in the work strike you as meaningful? Does the artist try to make a statement? How does
the artwork communicate that statement? How do you make meaning with it? What kind of cultural commentary do
you see in the work? The essay should conclude with a well-supported statement on the overall significance of the
work and your experience with it.
A successful essay will include a detailed description of the selected piece. Subject the object you choose to a careful
process of visual scrutiny and analysis. Connect what you see to what you think the piece says and articulate that
connection for your readers.
Your audience for this essay is anyone unfamiliar with the art piece in question.
Your essay has to have a title, be typed and double-spaced, in a standard typeface (Times New Roman or Cambria).
The text should be 12-point size, surrounded by margins no wider than one inch. All written assignments should
include a header with the course number, title, your name, and the assignment’s title in the top left corner of the first
page. The title for your essay should be centered on the first page. Remember that all essays have to include page
numbers. If you include citations, use MLA rules. Minimum length: three full pages.
(1) Length and formal requirements: Does the essay meet the required minimum length and all the formal
An essay that meets all of the formal requirements explained on the assignment sheet will receive full
points. A successful essay will identify the artist, title of the work, and date.
(2) Structure/ organization: Does the essay present the writer’s ideas in a well-considered sequence?
A well-considered structure means that the essay begins with an engaging introduction and a clearly stated
thesis; proceeds with an organized sequence of ideas through a number of internally organized and
sufficiently developed paragraphs; and ends with a conclusion that explains the overall significance of the
essay’s argument. A successful essay directs the reader from one idea/paragraph to the next and pays
attention to both the global structure of the argument as well as the smaller “local” structures of each
(3) Grammar and Style: Is the essay composed of complete sentences that abide by the rules of English
grammar? Does the writer pay attention to word choices and make an effort to present ideas in expressive
and interesting prose?
A successful essay abides by the rules of English grammar and presents ideas in expressive language and
a variety of sentence patterns. In order to write an engaging text, avoid repetition, passive voice, filler
phrases, and tentative language choices.
(4) Insight/Understanding: Does the essay focus on an individual artwork suitable for examining its cultural
The successful essay establishes a clear connection between the subject discussed and a relevant cultural
context in the essay’s thesis statement. The writer demonstrates an in-depth understanding of the point and
purpose of the assignment and discusses the subject with a firmly established connection to a culturally
relevant issue or context.
(5) Analysis: Does the essay present a clear and coherent analysis of how the piece functions as a kind of
The successful essay presents a coherent and persuasive argument that establishes how and why the
artwork makes a cultural commentary or contribution. An analysis should consider the formal
characteristics of the piece or exhibition in detail and should connect them to the cultural framework
relevant for making sense of and with the work. As all successful arguments, the essay should proceed from
a clearly stated thesis to supporting evidence to a conclusion.
Four points equal highest achievement in each respective category.
When You’re Dead, You’re Dead, 2013
artist Mathew Zefeldt