Saturday, July 1, 2000 - 6-9 p.m.
A year-round event, Arts Alive! is presented by
the Humboldt Arts Council and
WORD INTO IMAGE & BACK
by JEFF DEMARK
THE FIFTH AND FINAL WRITERS ON SITE residency finished its last class in mid-May and will culminate with a month-long exhibit called "Word into Image, Image into Word and Back Again." The show, a display of both written work and visual art created in the workshop, opens July 1 in the Performance Room at the Ink People as part of Saturday Arts Alive!. The opening reception runs from 6 to 9 p.m and will feature participants reading work written in the workshop.
Starting in mid-February I was fortunate to begin my residency, the last in a series that was started by the Redwood Coast Writer's Center and the Ink People in the fall of 1998. The Writers on Site project stipulates that a coordinator combine elements of the visual arts and the written arts worlds to create a new synthesis. The other coordinators -- Celia Homesley, Vinnie Peloso, Daryl Chinn and Marci Nelligan -- took divergent paths to mix words and images creating fascinating results.
"Inner critic" masks made in the Writers on Site Residency class.
I titled my class "Word and Image into Performance." The initial idea was that the class would use the talents of a number of area visual artists to help us create paintings, masks or sculptures and that these visual pieces would expand, stimulate or give focus and clarity to written pieces. Then we would each choose a written piece or pieces to perform, using some of our created art pieces as a "setting" or integrated backdrop.
It sort of worked out that way. Sort of.
As the class evolved, it became clear that most of the participants were more interested in the interplay between the creation of art pieces and written work and that performance was a lower priority. That is, the process became much more important than the result. As in all classes, it took a few sessions to build trust and a sense of community. Once the class felt comfortable together, some wonderful work began to blossom.
First, Joy Dellas led the class in two sessions of painting. Joy stressed that many of her paintings originate from her reading of novels, mythology and poetry, and encouraged the class to paint a picture that would symbolize the emotional elements of one of our own written pieces.
Our next visitor was iconoclastic painter/sculptor Stuart Buhler. Stuart hauled in a dizzying array of his painted "found objects" and sculptures. He talked at length about his evolution as an artist and brought in some examples of his growing interest in writing. The following week he lead the class in some of our own experiments in creating sculptures and we learned how to wield a hammer tacker with authority and passion.
Installation artist and painter Michelle McCall-Wallace wowed the class with a fascinating slide presentation and talk about her work. She explained that most of her conceptual pieces begin by generating words and thoughts to jump-start the process of discovering what she wants to create visually. She stressed the importance of "playing with ideas and letting go" to discover what lives in one's subconscious. Michelle then led us in creating a playful, image-laden self-portrait poem.
Next, we journeyed to the studio of artist Joyce Radtke, leader of the Persephone Healing through Art Project, where we experienced a multilayered encounter with our "inner critic." Joyce guided us through a meditation to envision this inner critic. Then we wrote about our experience and how we might overcome the creative blockages we all feel. We concluded the class with the creation of a mask to depict this critic creature.
Finally, poet and teacher Jerry Martien graced one of our last classes. Jerry discussed some of the historical links between poetry and the visual arts and read his own work. He sent the class outside on a "reconnaissance mission" gathering images which we mixed together in a loose collaborative poem-portrait of the neighborhood.
In between the artists' visits I led the class in a number of writing experiments, each one attempting to integrate visual images and photographs with poems and stories. I never acted simply as "the teacher," but took an active part. I loved the opportunity to paint, create new work, listen and simply be a student.
On Saturday, July 1, our group will open an exhibit in the Performance Room at The Ink People. We chose the title "Word into Image, Image into Word and Back Again" because the nature of the class was a continual moving back and forth from word to image, left brain to right brain, subconscious to conscious and back again. We hope the exhibit and reading will demonstrate the artistic fruits of this fascinating process. n
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