I will be going into the city on Tuesday, the 16th of September. You are not required to go on this day, but you must find your way at some point to a museum, gallery, or public artwork, to write your short paper. Depending on the interest, we can go to either the Museum of Contemporary Art (which is free on Tuesdays), the Chicago Cultural Center (free everyday), or the Art Institute (which is free all the time for you as Wheaton students). Because of timing, we won’t have class at 8:30. Instead, I will plan to meet anyone interested in going at the College Ave station to catch the 9:57am train, which will get into Chicago at 10:50am. We can take the 3:40pm train back to arrive at College Avenue 50 minutes later, but if you need to get back before then, you can always catch the 2:40 (getting back at 3:30) if you need, or stay later if you want to enjoy dinner in the city. Train tickets are $4.50 each way, and I would bring some money for lunch or a packed one from bon appetit. We’ll walk from the station to one of the museums, so wear comfortable shoes.
Paper Instructions: Your task for the final paper is to spend significant time, around thirty (30) minutes, in person with a single work of art. It will seem difficult at first, but try to slow down your pace, and look deeply and intently at the piece.
1. Take notes. Make sketches. Be as specific and descriptive as possible of what you see. Use plentiful adjectives and active verbs to enrich your writing. Consider the formal elements and principles of design (don’t just list them, but engage those that are most evident): If there is line what is its quality (eg. sinuous and delicate or rough, jagged, etc…). Is form created through the depiction of geometric shapes and planes or is it more textural, or massive? Are brushstrokes or the marks of a chisel evident, or are surfaces smooth? Does negative space flow in and around the volumes, or is it trapped, dense and solid? What hues have been chosen, and what is their specific quality (value, intensity, or saturation)? How have the elements been composed or arranged in relation to one another, the location, and the audience, and in what manner or style has the subject been visually executed? How does this contribute to the feel or possible meaning(s) of the work?
When you think you have seen everything there is to see, put your pencil down and close your eyes. When you open them, look at the piece again. Look at the title if you haven’t already, and any additional information which might help to give some further context for the piece.
2. Next, interpret the work in light of at least one of the major themes we have been thinking about: the Earth as Art, Representations of the Divine, Pilgrimage, the shifting role of the artist in relation to her patrons, the idea of Utopia and Dystopia, and the Spirit World and the Inner Mind. Refer back to a specific work we looked at either in the text, in class, or online in the blog.
3. And finally, end with some concluding thoughts. The entire paper should be between 500-750 words and fit on a single page (make your type smaller or single spaced). Better to be short and interesting than rambling and incoherent. On a cover page or the back, include a color image of yourself in front of the work and your name. Due in my box (2nd floor of Adams) by 4:30pm on Thursday, October 9th, but you may bring it to me earlier if you like.
* For those of you who are unable to make it to the field trip or to one of the Chicago museums on your own, you may choose a work that is at another local gallery or museum, like one of the shows at the Chicago Cultural Center. You might also consider an outdoor piece of sculpture and its context (another FREE alternative), as Chicago is a wonderful city for public sculpture. Also, Benedictine University in nearby Lisle has a good collection of contemporary religious works throughout its campus, and in the architecturally significant abbey: St Procopius. (The above images are by Edgar Degas in the Art Institute and work from the CHGO DSGN exhibition at the Cultural Center, and below, is Lari Pittman, from the Earthy Delights show at the Museum of Contemporary Art).