Some of Chico’s best writers and artists come together for 1078 Gallery’s collaborative show
The working lives of artists—poets and painters alike—are generally solitary endeavors. Interaction with outsiders can influence technique, aesthetic and perspective but in the end it boils down to one being against an empty space, the goal to fill that space with something meaningful.
Chico poet Sarah Pape doesn’t think artists should always go it alone, and to this end coordinated Ekphrasis: A Collaboration Between Poets & Artists, showing until May 15 at 1078 Gallery. “Ekphrasis” is defined as a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art, and the goal of this project is to display the results of pairing a dozen local poets with a dozen local visual artists.
Pape is a member of 1078’s board of directors and literary committee (and teaches English at Butte College), and notes that one of her first experiences in teaching writing at the gallery was a workshop themed around ekphrastic poetry.
“I’ve been thinking about a project that would gather local artists and poets for a while now,” she said. “I’ve had opportunities to work in collaboration with other poets—both in co-written poems and chapbooks—and found it to be invigorating to decentralize the importance of authorship and ownership of ideas. This project was, in my mind, a kind of experiment without an expected outcome that would value the creative process over the end product.”
Pape started e-mailing participants in February and they all met at the gallery the first week of March, artists with their portfolios and poets with a single poem to read. Everyone perused each other’s work and made a list of three people they wanted to work with.
“From those lists, I paired people,” Pape said. “And let me just say that this seems like it would be difficult, but many people both chose each other, or were close in the vicinity, and didn’t necessarily know each other beforehand, but were drawn to each others’ themes and preoccupations. From the earliest moments, there were ways that things just fit. It’s been like that all the way through. People came to this with a sense of openness and curiosity, which made it a pleasure for me as an organizer and a participant.”
Once partnered, the pursuit of the creative process and its products were left entirely to the individual pairs: “I didn’t interfere much in their collaborations. When I would run into someone, I began hearing these marvelous stories about what people were doing and I got questions here and there. It was important to me, though, not to dictate what the collaboration would look like. I gave some potential ideas, but knew that each pair would find their particular approach to this work.”
Dan Woolridge and Kathleen McPartland, for example, met alongside creeks and rivers, McPartland jotting notes while Woolridge painted, and through this process his painting and a poem by each of them collectively titled “A Monk Stood Weeping” were born. Beth Spencer and Amy Antongiovanni worked mostly through e-mail to produce their visual and written commentary on the subject of shame.
Final pieces run a gamut of visual media including painting, photography and sculpture. Joanne Allred was moved to write a poem based on Carla Resnick’s photo “General Store, Garrison, Utah,” which led Resnick to, in turn, respond with an untitled ink monoprint based on the poet’s more ethereal interpretation of the artist’s very literal photograph.
The written segments are likewise presented in different ways—a scroll, here, a bound notebook there, calligraphy on nice paper. Hilary Tellesen’s multiple pieces on Erin Wade’s sculpture “Awed Socks” capture the profundity in the act of cleaning and something else entirely—“Pulsing rhythmic strokes (better than a hot tub jet)”—on typo-ridden, typewritten slices of paper.
Pape participates herself, paired with well-known local painter/art instructor Janice Porter. In fact, Pape has put together quite a power-packed collection of local writing and visual-art heavyweights displaying work. The rest of the Ekphrasis roster includes collaborations between Cynthia Schildhauer and Linda Serrato, Peter Jodaitis and Jeanne E. Clark, Eric Richter and Maria Navarro, Mark Clarke and Doug Rathbun, Michael Diven and Heather Altfeld, Sally McNall and Giety Epting and Bob Garner and Bruce Ertle.
The monk stood weeping. Old prayers
fell and mixed with tears in the dirt;
ants carried them off to the underground.
Out all day, black dog on his chest,
he’d made mud balls, smooth as marble,
flung them towards heaven. No gods came
to the sky’s window. Full moon sat so low
he could feel its luminous kiss.
The evening sky was touched with purple—
the color of morning glories.
Over the hill, a white dog appeared.
The monk wrote poems in the dust
until he was emptied, stepped
in the water, lay back floating
in a river of stars, willing to wait
on the mercy of heaven.