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In which we meet with Indianapolis-based artist Lauren Zoll and are challenged to see what we find when we turn OFF our screens.


1. Turn off a screen

2. Take a photo of only the screen

3. Make sure to think of color, pattern, and form. Don't include any humans in the frame.

4. Upload it to your social media platform of choice using #theartassignment

5. Fame and glory (your work might be in a future episode)

Learn more about Lauren's work:
And watch another video about her:

Find out more about The Art Assignment and how to submit your response:
John: Well, it's a beautiful spring day here in Indianapolis; the warmth is just overpowering.    Sarah: [Laughs] Yeah. Well, believe it or not, we're here on this gray day to talk about color.    John: Oh yeah? I feel like there will never be color ever again in my life.   Sarah: We're here to meet with Lauren Zoll, an Indianapolis-based artist who most recently has used a lot of black latex poured paint in her work, and has shown that black, like white, is not a neutral color; there's a lot of color within it.   John: It's a fascinating conversation, and I look forward to continuing it, but I'm hoping that we can continue it in, like, not the snow.    Sarah: You wanna go inside?   John: I wanna go inside.    Sarah: Alright, let's go see Lauren.   John: Alright.   I'm Lauren Zoll, and this is your Art Assignment.    I was trained as a metal smith, uh, blacksmithing, fabrication. You know, I was just always in love and attracted to metal. I-- I feel like I grew up around it; it's part of me.    But, at a certain point, um, I decided to give that up. Like, I wasn't feeling well when it was dirty, and it was costly. And then, actually, I did get sick, and so I was spending a lot of time sleeping and my eyes were closed. And, it occurred to me-- well, I had the desire to make a void.    So, I wanted to make this void, but then after you make a void, it immediately materializes into something. So, how do you... solve that problem?    So, I just went and I started pouring black paint. I was like, I've had it, I don't know, I'm just gonna pour this. I knew that the painting had an ability that was something other than being a painting.    It was, like, talking to me, and it was saying, "I can see, too." The viewers are always staring at paintings, but I want the painting to stare back. And that was the beginning of this process.   Lauren: When we see reflections in something, like a screen, or even a window, like, to me that's information. Maybe it's mystical information, but pulling those in and making sense of them, is another, alternative way of seeing.   Your assignment is to demonstrate that a flat, black, static screen has the potential to show a dynamic visual world.    So step one is "Turn off a screen." Step two's, "Take a photo of only the screen." Step three is, "While you're taking that photo, think of color, pattern, and form to help demonstrate this multi-dimensional world that's around this screen. Oh, and this is not figurative work, so leave yourself and others out of it.    John: Oh, I could do this with my old phone in my bedside table, or one of my other old phones in my bedside table; it occurs to me that I have a bunch.   Sarah: I am aware. But it's interesting with this assignment to think about reflections in art, perhaps with something like Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergere," which is this wonderfully puzzling image that art historians love to discuss, where what's reflected in the glass is different than what's in front of it.   John: Oh, I think that's just because it involves vampires.   Sarah: Oh, boy, John. This is a really high level of discourse today.   John: I know, thank you, I'm bringing my A-game.   Sarah: Yeah.   John: But, no, but Lauren said specifically that there shouldn't be people--   Sarah: Right.   John: --in her assignment, and there're definitely people there.   Sarah: Fair point. What about Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate" in Chicago?   John: Oh, the Bean?   Sarah: Yeah, the Bean!   John: I love the Bean! I love how you, uh, like, see the city reflected in this funhouse mirror, but you also yourself, so you also see yourself seeing the city. It's super cool.   Sarah: Yeah, it is great. But, I think I have a better idea of what it relates to.    Sarah: In the 18th century, a number of artists and tourists in Europe and North America started to carry around a small convex mirror with a tinted black surface. To use it, you would turn your back on an especially lovely landscape, and you would hold the mirror in front of you to view the reflected scene.   The reflected black had the effect of simplifying the tonal range and shaping the image into a neater view. It became known as a Claude glass, named after Seventeenth-century artist Claude Lauren, whose then popular landscape paintings display a similarly subtle gradation of tones.   Tourists put them to use to give a vista a painterly look, while artists used them to help frame their image and achieve a quality like a Lauren's.    Eighteenth-century writer Gilpin thought the Claude glass should be used to better appreciate the picturesque, which he described as "that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture."    Looking through either a Claude glass, the surface of one of Lauren Zoll's paintings, or the off-screen of your phone, all frame and shape the world around you in a specific and sometimes revelatory way.    Lauren: I think this is a good exercise because it shows that when something is off, it can still have the potential to, um, be productive, to see something different, whether, um, it's things being off around, and how that makes you feel, or when you're kind of in the state of, you're just off today, like, that, other ideas might come to you, you know, other, um thoughts or feelings kind of creep up to you, and those are important moments to have.    That's how the assignment came to me. Like, I was just in off-mode, and sitting on the couch, and, it hit me like that. So, I wanted to express how important being off was. And then, I think, that's when I said, "Okay, turn off your phone, turn off your television, and take a photo of that off-screen."   You know, kind of find the space that the screen is showing you, and moving things in, like, it could be a pile of books, you know, it could be colored paper, and, if you can use natural light within that setup, and, you know, that also really helps.    I will never forget my instructor telling me about variation, and what that means is to, you know, not have the same size of anything, but have varying sizes, or varying patterns.    When it's interesting to you, it's a successful composition.   Find the first reflection that you see on your way out, and smile at it.