reading together +
painting the sound of the words 

A project by
Thais Sehn & Molly Briggs


This project emerged from a collaboration between Professor Molly Briggs and visiting Fulbright scholar Thais Sehn in Spring 2019. Sehn’s in-progress doctoral research combines methods from social science and visual communication design in order to examine the effect of adults reading aloud to one another. Briggs’s research examines the affiliation of the nineteenth-century large parks movement with immersive period landscape texts and images. We decided to explore the experiential nexus of scholarship, studio practice, and reading aloud by selecting texts, reading aloud to one another, and drawing while listening. Drawings take the form of two-page spreads, except in the case of Captains of the Sands, where we worked directly in the book. Together, texts and images constitute a meditative exchange of cultural, personal, artistic, and scholarly awareness.

Reading together and
painting the sound of the words

Text by Thais Sehn

AT THE MOMENT THAT THE PERSON READ OUT LOUD TO ANOTHER ONE, THE VOICE WAS TRANSFORMED IN COLORS THAT PENETRATED THE PAPER. The reading wasn’t anymore a solitary dialogue between reader and author. It evolved into a sensorial experience that involved all the senses and the other person.


To draw on words metamorphosed into the trail that shows evidence that the book was consumed. Highlighting the overlap of authors, readers, listeners, ideas, points of view... The voice mixed up to the instrumental music that was sound in the background, the tea warmed up the throat, the sound of the hairdryer was present in the ending of the pages, fixing the ink in the paper and releasing that read go on.


The sound of the hairdryer, in the beginning, was an intruder. Though in a certain way, it obfuscated the voice in the same way that the ink covers the letters in the text. Both were translucent interferences, covering but not hiding the main subject.



Thais Sehn chose a classic literature of her country, CAPTAINS OF THE SANDS, by the Brazilian author Jorge Amado (1937). The story is about a group of abandoned kids, growing up alone in the Bahia state, in northeast Brazil. Molly Briggs chose three books related to each other: LIGHT AND COLOR IN THE OUTDOORS, by Marcel Minnaert (1937); KIJKDUIN, by James Turrell (1996); and her own Ph.D. Dissertation, THE PANORAMIC MODE (2018). Minnaert is a natural scientist talking about light phenomena, so visible in our routine, that becomes invisible; Turrell developed his artwork, Kijkduin, based on Minnaert’s theory; and Briggs, when researching about panoramas, visits both writers.


These choices are so different between them, but the books become a unit because they made this way. This is only possible because of a specific circumstance. These two people, motivated by the joy of reading and the willingness to come back to paint, both board in this experiment to figure out together what could happen.



Through these meetings, at the same time that Minnaert was in prison, the police try to catch the Captains of the Sands in Amado’s book. Minnaert's phenomena, the sun crossing the tree leaves, made a shadow that hides the boys at the docks of Bahia.


Turrell tried to discover different colors of flames on the same day that the Carrousel arrived in the city, coloring the kids’ life, making them feel like ordinary kids riding at the park.


Entering in Briggs’ text comes up the delightful with the Panorama. A place designed to create an illusion of another place. The project of the painting, the curve, the distance, even the real sand added to mixed with the image, everything seemed so majestic. The enchantment was followed by a sadness when the disclosure showed the panorama was cut in pieces to be in the museum totally out of context. The change of feelings happened at Amado’s narrative as well. After the chapter of the Carrousel, that was a dot of happiness, Pedro Bala did tear apart the soul of a girl on the imaginary sands of the beach.


Readings so different, one about art and phenomena's light in the US, another a fiction about poor children in a Brazilian city, but full of crossovers and overlaps, because they were read concurrently.


Reading together made possible to discover manifold worlds. Worlds of letters, colors, sounds, and, mostly, sensitivities. Sensitivity with the other, not only with the authors that we chose, yet with the other that was really there, which read, listened, felt, commented, drew, painted, told, explained, saw, admired, shared... made the words read out loud grew into sounds that flew around the room and came back to the ear and out through the hands, coming to be the paintings on the paper that are exhibited here.


Oct 31, 2019 to Dec 7, 2019

Krannert Art Museum (KAM) - Main Level, East Gallery

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Oct 31, 2019 - 5–7 pm
Link Gallery/Krannert Art Museum

Main Level, East Gallery



Molly Catherine Briggs

Molly Catherine Briggs is a design theorist, landscape scholar, and studio practitioner whose research bridges scholarship and creative practice. She teaches design theory, methods, and history with an emphasis on reading, representing, and reimagining the shape of built space. She holds an MFA in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University and a PhD in Landscape Architecture History and Theory from Illinois. Her dissertation, The Panoramic Mode: Immersive Media and the Large Parks Movement (2018), examines the affiliation of large urban park landscapes in Europe and the United States with nineteenth-century virtual reality media.


Professor Briggs is the recipient of numerous scholarly, creative, and pedagogical grants, awards, and recognitions. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of the International Panorama Council (2018–2021) and is a member of the College Art Association and the Society of Architectural Historians. She has been represented by Zg Gallery in Chicago since 2004.

Research interests: the built environment, immersive media, visual culture, and design theory.


Thaís Cristina Martino Sehn


Thais Sehn is a Fulbright and CAPES Scholarship Grantee currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Design at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil. As part of her doctoral program, she was a Visiting Researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US with Stan Ruecker.

This project is part of her Ph.D. dissertation. She is studying adults that read out loud for each other and how Design could enhance the reading experience for the listener. Through her research, she believes that it is possible to help people to connect to each other, and strengthen the affective bonds through the reading.


Previously, she worked as a professor, teaching Graphic and Digital Design topics in two universities in Brazil, at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS, 2017) and Universidade Federal de Pelotas (UFPel, 2014-2016). After that, she established her own graphic design studio, Âme Studio Criativo.


Research interests: Emotional Design, with the focus in Positive Psychology, and Reading.

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