Exercise: Painting to Be Stepped On

odd shaped piece of canvas on the floor

Yoko Ono, “Painting to be Stepped On” (1960)


“Leave a piece of canvas or finished painting on the floor or street.”

Variation for the classroom:

Consider Painting to be Stepped On by Yoko Ono, which states, “Leave a piece of canvas or finished painting on the floor or street.”

  1. Find a piece of canvas, paper, or a painting, photograph, etc. that you will collect foot prints on.
  2. Locate a high-traffic area to place the item. For example a doorway, etc.
  3. Allow passersby to step on the item for a predetermined amount of time.
  4. Display the work.
  5. Discuss the role of chance in its creation.

History [credit]:

Narrator: In July 1961, George Maciunas, an architect, designer, and co-director of the AG Gallery offered Ono her first solo show.

Yoko Ono: And I said, oh my god, this is the first time somebody wanted to do my show. I went to an Army surplus shop. There was a rolled canvas – it was just in a corner. I said could I buy this? He said – sure. And I went home to the loft, and I started to cut pieces.

And I just felt so good about it because I never thought I wanted to do it, like, you know, stretch the canvas. I thought that was rather contrived, and everybody was doing that.

So I kept cutting, and, when I wanted to do Painting to Be Stepped On, I didn’t have enough canvas. So then I realized that after I did Water Painting, and after cutting the circle, there was a kind of strange shape that was you know, remaining there. I said, well, this will be a Painting to Be Stepped On, why not?

And I thought that was beautiful, you know, different kind of beauty. And the fact that each one had a function that was totally different from each other, and that, too, I thought was very important.

So it was a very strange show. It’s right in the middle of the summer and was very hot in New York. I think the first opening, five people came. One was John Cage, one was Isamu Noguchi. And whenever they came, I started to explain what the function of each painting was.

And I thought, well, I can’t do that. I just have to have something written, you know? Each one had an instructions.

I just wanted to make those things. And I wasn’t thinking how many people saw it or, you know, that kind of thing. In other words, there was a certain pride in what I did, for myself.”