Sunday, April 20, 2014

ArtPoems 2014

ArtPoems by Myra Roberts
Sometimes the sum truly can be larger than its parts.  And so it is with the collaboration of artists and poets (not to mention dancers and musicians) in the ArtPoems project.  I'd heard about the project--now in its eighth year--in the past, but have never made it to the show.  This year I attended the Multimedia Stage Presentation at which the artists and poets talked about the process and the poets read their poems.  Very fun.

Here's how ArtPoems works:  Twelve artists and twelve poets get together at a meeting in the fall with five of his or her works of art or poems in hand.  At the meeting, each poet draws an artist's name and each artist draws a poet's name to determine the 24 partnerships for the show.  The result is 12 works of art that have been inspired by poems and 12 poems that have been inspired by artwork.

Sometimes the artist/poet looked at his or her choices at the meeting and made an immediate selection. But not always.  Some poets shared that they brought five paintings home and lived with them for a time to see which spoke most loudly.  And some artists brought the poems home and read them over and over, waiting for an image to emerge in their minds.  The result is an exciting show with some wonderful poetry and art work in media ranging from paintings to jewelry to sculpture to photography.

Peg Cullen
Not surprisingly, I have several favorite pairings from the show. Artist Peg Cullen's colorful work was inspired by Sid Simon's "The Grading Game Fraud," a poem about helicopter parents and the pressure on kids today to achieve from the time they leave the womb. (It's hard to tell from the photo, but the work features ribbons that have been awarded to the kids.)  The poem reads, in part:

"..You want your son or your daughter in our College?
You must begin before they enter kindergarten.
We recommend that you start grading your children, on everything!
Start posting grading sticky notes immediately on your nursery walls.

A sticky note, 0 - 100, for every activity they are involved in.
Oh, yes, when they to go the Potty, 0-100.  When they wash
their hands, or don't pick their nose, or chew with their
mouth closed, everything.  Teach them, 0-100.  Teach them..."

Poet Dorothy Brooks and photographer JR Roberts were the only pairing who provided the inspiration for each other's contributions to the show.   Dorothy's poem entitled "What Remains" was inspired by this photograph.  It reads, in part:

"Beach Tree" by JR Roberts
"Like a woodcut from long ago
the lines are firmly chiseled,
lines of water, lines of cloud,

even the perfect droplets
where a now-distant wave
has broken on the rocks, perfectly

preserved.  And in the center
that dark, brooding outline,
a skeleton of a tree

forever lifting
bare branches
to the sky---...."
"Malala" by Myra Roberts

You might remember the story last year of a young girl in Pakistan who was targeted for execution by the Taliban for taking the public position that girls are entitled to receive an education.  Her courage inspired what was perhaps my favorite pairing:  Lorraine Walker Williams' poem "Malala," which was created in response to Myra Roberts' painting of the same name.

Williams' poem reads, in part,

"...A world away a courageous girl,
Malala becomes the voice of young girls
kept in darkness, the darkness of illiteracy,
simply because they are born female,
girls who hide books under their clothes,
   girls who risk to learn...."

It was quite a special evening.  In addition to hearing from the artists and the poets, music was provided by Barbara Kraichy on the harp and Ted Myerson on the guitar during the reception before the program began.  Each of Kraichy and Myerson also performed original music while some of the poems were read.  Members of the Fort Myers' Dance Alliance similarly performed several dances whose choreography was inspired by the art/poetry pairing.

If you want to see more, you can find some of the art work and poems by going to the ArtPoems website.  (Click here.)  Mysteriously, not all of the works are included, which is a disservice both to those artists/poets whose works are not available and to arts lovers who'd like to see the entire exhibit.  If you're in the Fort Myers area this week, the show runs through Thursday at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.   It's definitely worth a visit.

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