Writing Exercise: Visiting a Painting in the Art Institute of Chicago

In this exercise, I was to put the reader in a place using sensuous vocabulary to bring that place to life. I decided to try this in the second person. Does it come to life for you? Would you share your own approach to the same task? Stipulations: Three paragraphs only, and it doesn’t need to be a full scene. Don’t waste a sentence.

287 words

The room is quiet, and it seems quiet even when compared to a library. You hear the soft padding and occasional squeaking of rubber soles on parquet floors, a pencil shading grey-and-black trees on a sketchpad, and the moving air in the HVAC ductwork high overhead. You hear your own breathing and that of the attendant stationed between rooms. You think you can hear the scratching of the seismograph in the corner of the room, but that’s another pencil on another pad. Two students sit on the bench in the center of the space. They’re drawing what they see.

The air is drier than it is outside the museum, but is held at a constant of about 50% relative humidity. The air is comfortable, especially compared with the chilled air outside. You feel the slight breeze of climate control as you move from room to room.

You are standing at a sixty-degree angle so as not to get between the students and “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”. It’s huge – nearly seven feet tall and ten feet wide, and it holds the attention of anyone who happens into the rectangular room. Women holding parasols stand over couples, picnickers, and even a dog, in divisionistic points of color – points upon points beside points astride points. The work is framed in off-white wood trim that must be at least 5 inches wide on each side, and the whole business is protected by a chain, low to the ground and linked to bronze posts anchored in the wooden floor. You know it’s only there to signal that one should step no further than that point – it’s not going to stop anyone who wants to cross it.

– – –

For quick access, here are the other writing exercise posts from the last few weeks:

About Steve Capone

Writer hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah. Interdisciplinary teacher (read: generalist guiding inquiry) at an independent school. Adjunct instructor at a medium sized state school. Lover of learning. Favorite destination: Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, Germany. @CaponeTeaches on Twitter M.S. Philosophy (Univ. of Utah 2013) M.A. Humanities (Univ. of Chicago 2007) B.A. Philosophy & English (Washington & Jefferson College 2006
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