Curating creativity

Prints and poetry come together at Turner debut

“La Cirque Russ” (1987), by Mihail Chemiakin

“La Cirque Russ” (1987), by Mihail Chemiakin

Visual Metrics, showing through Oct. 1, at The Turner. Exhibition talk, Sept. 15, 5:30 p.m. (in Zingg Recital Hall) with reception to follow. Poetry reading, Sept. 20, 5 p.m.
Turner Print Museum
Arts & Humanities Building
Chico State

One of the main benefits of bringing together so many disciplines and resources together under the one roof of Chico State’s new Arts & Humanities Building is the opportunity for collaboration.

In that spirit, and in honor of this year’s College of Humanities and Fine Arts theme—The Year of Creativity—Janet Turner Print Museum curator Catherine Sullivan and a poetry-writing class for English instructor Jeanne Clark have collaborated on Visual Metrics, a prints-and-poems exhibit that kicks off the gallery’s first season in its new digs on the first floor of the building.

Last spring semester, Clark’s advanced poetry writing class spent the term using prints from the Turner’s collection “as inspiration for creative writing students, providing a relationship between poem and print that deepens our engagement with each.”

The show is an interesting mix of visual and literary art forms, well suited to the academic setting. The prints and the poems are arranged comfortably side-by-side on the gallery walls. In the center of the room is a table holding a set of binders filled with biographies of the printmakers, copies of Clark’s original assignments, and notes about their work from each poet.

The prints themselves are a spectacular display of varied techniques and approaches to creating visual imagery. Chilean surrealist Roberto Matta’s 1962 color etching/aquatint “Come detta dentro vo significado” presents two panels evocative of architectural drawings for a satellite, set among globular red eye or egg shapes. Poet Eli Coyle’s “Weight” explores that imagery via such lines as: “Dragged by the eternal pull of celestial motion,/solar satellites orbiting the way watered strawberry feels tangerine.”

I was particularly drawn to Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s 1971 color lithograph/mixed-media/serigraph “Eyebalance No. 5,” a brilliantly colored abstract piece that could be interpreted as an aerial view of geological phenomena or perhaps some biomorphic interior. For Jason Deane, the piece inspired the primitivistic, ritualistic “Heliolatry: A Pantoum,” in which the repeated lines, rhymes, and rhythms of the pantoum form complement the printed image’s concentric patterns and colors.

Hiroyuki Tajima’s 1973 color woodcut “Broken Oven” is a beautifully textured piece with rich browns accented with pale turquoise blue. The shapes are linear, and somehow reminiscent of a Picasso guitar, but pleasantly decayed, beautifully conveying a sense of depth and age. In her poem “Come Hiroyuki Tajima,” Rose Weidert addresses the artist directly: “Come from the shadows of the mind,/climb this ancient strut and pluck/strong the massive strings./Come sing to me of color/turquoise and aquamarine/amidst sanded lined and/wood-grained hues.”

For color and movement, Mihail Chemiakin’s 1987 lithograph “La Cirque Russe” is hard to top. The human figures are cartoonish and harlequinesque; whimsical, but also surreal in the interplay of perspective. The colorful figures are juxtaposed with what appear to be black and white etchings superimposed from a different context, giving the image a dreamlike quality. With the image as prompt, Marcos Renton composed “Belfry: A Pantoum,” which conveys a more violent, nightmarish quality in its imagery than this viewer found in the original image: “Decapitated, jesters’ parade/Guillotine impulse, the crows [sic] is lustful./Our savior, Lord, you are my sire/offer me your chalice, gratify my thirst.”

This sampler of descriptions and excerpts touches on only a few of the many pieces and poems in the exhibition, which can be viewed not only in the Turner but also in the display cases in the first-floor hallway of Ayres Hall, across First Street from the Arts & Humanities Building. It’s a rich and varied collection and well worth exploring.