Visual artists, poets collaborate in new exhibition
If You Go...
What: ‘12 by 2: A Conversation Between Poets and Visual Artists’ opening reception
When: 6-8 p.m. on Friday (exhibition lasts through July 31)
Where: The Launchpad
How Much: Free
Visual art and poetry are often solitary pursuits, and the two rarely cross paths in such a literal way as in “12 by 2: A Conversation Between Poets and Visual Artists.”
The latest exhibition at the Launchpad, which opens Friday, includes work by 12 artists and 12 poets who were paired up and given the task of inspiring and reflecting upon one another’s work.
The show, curated by Jill Scher, was thought up in response to her own experiences as an artist.
“I have a sister who’s a songwriter and poet, and there are a couple of her poems I always thought, ‘These would be great to illustrate,’” she said.
Scher reached out to visual artists she knew whose work usually has a narrative quality, thinking it would be easier for poets to interpret and respond to in words. Then, she went through the Aspen Poets’ Society to find poets to partner with the artists. She tried to find places online where the artists and poets could view one another’s work, and via email they all chose their partners.
“Then I really left it up to them how they wanted to proceed,” Scher said. “For each partnership it was different. Most of them got together and conversed, but not all of them.”
One pair, artist Wewer Keohane and poet Valerie Haugen, met in person. Haugen brought a few of her favorite poems, and Keohane picked the one that elicited the greatest emotional reaction. From there, Keohane created a work of art based on that poem. Vice versa, Keohane showed some of her older art, and Haugen chose the piece that inspired her the most, and she wrote a new poem based on that painting.
“The poem I chose was about Valerie’s sister,” Keohane said. “When Valerie read the poem out loud to me, I had a gut reaction. I really worked metaphorically and from the deep feeling the poem gave me instead of the specifics within the poem.”
Haugen chose a mixed media painting from Keohane’s Target Series, where she cut old target papers used for target practice to create a negative space image. Haugen chose the image of a raven and, from that, wrote a poem about her son, who has undergone brain surgery and fought epilepsy.
“All of her artwork spoke to me, but that raven really did,” Haugen said. “It made me think of my son and his struggle with epilepsy. Out of the fabric of one thing, this target, something beautiful was revealed.”
Another pair, artist Annette Roberts-Gray and poet Alya Howe, never met in person but instead corresponded by email.
“My first thought was, ‘That sounds like a fun collaboration, and a stimulating one, too,’” Howe said.
Roberts-Gray took a more literal approach by illustrating the visual aspects of Howe’s poem — she reacted to the poem’s mention of purple rain, a rose and sleeping figures.
“The way we did it was pretty traditional,” she said.
Scher said one of her favorite parts of the exhibition has been the surprising deviation some of the artists took from their usual styles. For example, she said, she chose an artist who is known for 3-D mixed media social commentary pieces, and that artist ended up submitting a watercolor. In another case, she chose an artist she knew for clay, and that artist sent a 3-D mixed media piece.
“There is work coming in that’s very different from what I anticipated,” she said. “It’s great because I think what has happened is they’ve been really inspired by needing to reflect on someone else’s work, and it’s taken some in really different directions.”
Scher said her own piece changed based on her poet’s reaction to it.
“Her poem was so unexpected in what she focused on in my piece that once I read it, I started to shift my piece more in the direction of her poem,” Scher said. “And I feel like it’s a much stronger work of art because of that.”
Putting the exhibition together wasn’t easy — from getting the artists and poets paired up to figuring out how to present such a unique concept in the gallery — but the end result has been worth it.
“I really admire Jill and the way she put this show together,” Roberts-Gray said. “Her initial idea was inspiring to a lot of artists.”
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