In a Strange Place: Writing Lesson From The Woman In Gold

Since April 2 this year, Gustav Klimt’s painting Adele Bloch-Bauer I, the Woman in Gold, has been the centerpiece of a special exhibition at the Neue Galerie in New York.

In the painting, Adele stands radiant, hands delicately curved towards her chest, wearing a dazzling bejewelled dress, dark hair coiffed high.

On a lower floor of the Neue Galerie, in a passage near the toilets, hangs a related display of pictures. These were created by students in Vienna, the original home of the painting, who were asked to imagine Adele in America.

The students’ paintings show us Adele on the beach, in a hot air balloon, working at a hot dog stand…

In these new situations, Adele remains coiffed and dressed as in the original Klimt painting.

The striking clash between the woman and her appearance and where she is and what she is doing, is both irresistibly hilarious and the source of tremendous liveliness.

I loved these pictures! Personally, I would have hung them in a much more prominent position.

I was even inspired to try and paint my own picture of Adele canoeing on Lac Brome.

A Writing Lesson From Adele

  • Starting a story? Put your character in a location or doing something that is totally alien to her or him. Send them somewhere they might not normally go, or where they will feel uncomfortable. (For example, I feel uncomfortable and totally out of place in a garage, in upscale hair salons!)
  • Stuck in a story? Do the same thing – put your character in a location or setting that is totally unfamiliar to her/him. Give them something to do that they have never done before. This will have them on edge. Do they try to fit in? Do they resist fitting in? What are they worried about? (In my canoe idea, what do people at the marina say when Adele asks to rent a canoe? What does she think of the way the others are dressed? Is she embarrassed that her canoe is going in circles while everyone else surges forward? Is she scared of being left behind? Is she annoyed with the instructor because she just can’t manage her J-stroke the way he tells her?)

These particular scenes may not end up being much use in your final story, but you may well find out something interesting about your character that will help propel your story forward.

Hurry – the exhibition closes September 7.

And Central Park was certainly a strange place for me…I managed to get us totally lost when we crossed it to get back to our hotel!


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