In the Foreword to Molly Bang’s Picture This, Rudolf Arnheim writes that Bang’s “special talent derives from her natural response to what comes alive when one is open to the elements of vision, the disks and the rectangles, the reds and the blacks. Far from being mere shapes, they transmit joy and fear, awe and gentleness. . . . These simple shapes, animated by Molly Bang, do more than tell a story: they offer an order, a kind of grammar for the eyes, a recipe for yet further things to say. Therefore, they also teach” (x). These are 10 (though by no means all) of Bang’s insights (all are direct quotations from Bang):
- Smooth, flat, horizontal shapes give us a sense of stability and calm. See Bang, pp. 42-43.
- Vertical shapes are more exciting and more active. Vertical shapes rebel against the earth’s gravity. They imply energy and a reaching toward heights or the heavens. See Bang, pp. 44-46
- Diagonal shapes are dynamic because they imply motion or tension. See Bang, pp. 46-54.
- The upper half of a picture is a place of freedom, happiness and triumph; objects placed in the top half often feel more “spiritual.” The bottom half of a picture feels more threatened, heavier, sadder, or more constrained; objects placed in the bottom half also feel more “grounded.” An object placed higher up on the page has “greater pictorial weight.” See Bang, pp. 54-62.
- The center of the page is the most effective “center of attention.” It is the point of greatest attraction. The edges and corners of the picture are the edges and corners of the picture world.
- Light backgrounds feel safer to us than dark backgrounds because we can see well during the day and only poorly at night. See Bang, pp. 68-69.
- We feel more scared looking at pointed shapes; we feel more secure or comforted looking at rounded shapes or curves. See Bang, pp. 70-71.
- The larger an object is in a picture, the stronger it feels. See Bang, pp. 72-76.
- We associate the same or similar colors much more strongly than we associate the same or similar shapes. See Bang, pp. 76-80.
- We notice contrasts; contrast enables us to see. See Bang, p. 80.
Assignment: Create a picture in which you combine four colors (including background) and distinctive shapes in order to illustrate some aspect of Bang’s principles. You might use a particular scene from “Harrison Bergeron” or your image may represent a theme from the story. Remember: Strong emotions are easier to depict than weak ones. Don’t be too realistic: follow the abstract style of Bang’s depiction of “Little Red Riding Hood”(where she relies on a red triangle to characterize and represent the heroine).
PART TWO (you must submit both the visual and the essay)
Write a 4-page (typed in Times New Roman font, 12 pt., double-spaced) explanation of your final picture. Tell me what you originally wanted to produce (in terms of effect — focus particularly on emotion); tell me how you experimented before finalizing the project and what emotion you’re trying to evoke, what you’re trying to accomplish with your arrangement. If you need a model for structuring your essay, consult theessay guidelines below. Your final picture doesn’t need to be pretty, but it does need to demonstrate that you have learned something from your exposure to Picture This and, most importantly, that you have applied this knowledge to your understanding of the themes in the short story “Harrison Bergeron.”
Note: You must include a minimum of two direct quotations from the story “Harrison Bergerson” and three from Picture This. Both must be cited in MLA format at the end of the essay.
Please be sure to address how each choice that you made for your image demonstrates your unique understanding of the story “Harrison Bergeron.”