I first proposed this collaborative corner of TQ with an appreciative glance at Robert Creeley’s work with visual artists. Poet John Yau writes that for Creeley what mattered most in collaboration was “the kind of integration that can be made to take place.” That integration was intimate, visceral, intellectual: the work emerging simultaneously from conversation, from the materials at hand, from the physical situation of the making, and from the drive toward that particular brand of strenuous abstraction that Creeley spent his life practicing.
In the spirit of this integrative aesthetic, I issued an invitation to painters to produce catalyzing works. In TQ2 we featured the works of three artists: Sara Farrell Okamura, Gabriela Vainsencher, and Karl Mullen. I then extended an invitation to poets for responses to these works.
I am beyond delighted to share with you now three collaborative results of this process: Margaret Young’s poem “California Nightmares” in conversation with Sara Farrell Okamura’s drawing “Run”; Leslie Ann Mcilroy’s poem “Peeled & Peeling” in conversation with Karl Mullen’s painting “In the Name of the Mother”; and Lawrence Raab’s poem “Gabriela’s Fish” in conversation with three paintings by Gabriela Vainsencher. In one case the friendship between poet and painter is longstanding; in another case the poet and the painter have never met; in another the acquaintance has been reanimated by the art. In all three cases the work itself is primary.
I purposely use the neutral phrase “in conversation with” to gloss the relation between text and image. I want to avoid coloring the reader’s sense of that relation. Does the one work provoke the other? Provide compensation? Open it up, close it down, stand in oscillatory relation to? The choice of verbs reveals the interpretation. For this I defer to the reader.
Enjoy these riches! And, as always, let us know what you think.
– Cassandra Cleghorn
Gabriela Vainsencher is an Argentine-born Israeli artist living and working in Brooklyn. Her drawings, installations and videos have been shown in the US and abroad, including a 2012 two-person exhibition at the Musee d’Art Moderne, Le Havre, France, that added Vainsencher’s video, Reconstruction, to their collection. Recent solo exhibitions include Recession Art gallery, New York, NY, and La Chambre Blanche, Quebec City. She has participated in artist residencies including Yaddo, The Atlantic Center for the Arts, and La Chambre Blanche (Canada). Vainsencher is the founder of the Morning Drawing Residency, writes about art The Huffington Post and occasionally teaches art at Williams College, in Williamstown, MA. She will enter the MFA program at Hunter College in January 2014.
Lawrence Raab (after Gabriela Vainsencher, “Artists Fish,” “Hopeless Fish,” “Angry Fish”)
for Gabriela Vainsencher
The fish have settled reluctantly into their names.
Are they unhappy because they thought
they knew who they were, and do not like
being remade just because one morning
you needed to make something? Or do they
understand you’ve shown them themselves?
Who is hopeless now will surely find no hope.
Who is angry has been given the words for it.
Single-minded, they cannot escape
those desires you’ve granted them. And perhaps
they have no wish to, since they remember
once having been only fish who moved steadily
all day through the light without thinking,
before they learned how to dream
as we dream, and be disappointed,
or glad, or afraid for no reason.
Lawrence Raab is the author of seven collections of poems, most recently The History of Forgetting (Penguin, 2009) and A Cup of Water Turns into a Rose, a long poem published as a chapbook by Adastra Press (2012). He teaches literature and writing at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Sara Farrell Okamura, a graduate of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has been a working artist for over 26 years. In that time she has exhibited work locally, nationally and internationally. She has been the recipient of grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the A.R.T. Fund sponsored by the Berkshire Taconic Foundation. She has exhibited work at the International Print Center in New York, participated in exhibitions at Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham, New York and Press Gallery, North Adams, MA. She is founding executive director of Northern Berkshire Creative Arts, a community based hands-on arts center.
Margaret Young (after Sara Farrell Okamura, “Run”)
We run under the pomegranate tree in
the alley, pretend the fruit are bombs.
Izzy says the word’s the same in Spanish
so we pick up granadas, and chuck them at
each other, at the fences. They don’t
explode but crack open some. We
squeeze them to make blood drip
out the pale gashes.
We go in Izzy’s closet with his dead
brother’s mp3 player, one earbud apiece.
Rhymes hate beats scream in the dark.
When we were little we built aliens
out of anything and smashed them.
Now Izzy dreams of fire, the ground
opening into lava pits. Mine’s flooding,
all of us washed down the delta,
grabbing at each other, lungs
filling with silt.
Margaret Young is the author of two collections of poetry, Willow From the Willow (Cleveland State Poetry Center 2002) and Almond Town (Bright Hill Press, 2011). She lives in Beverly, Massachusetts and is working on translations of contemporary Argentine poets.
More at margaretyoungpoet.com.
Karl Mullen, born in Dublin, Ireland, lives and works in Williamstown MA. He has developed his own non-traditional approach to art making and materials, using a combination of walnut oil, raw powder pigment, wine, tea and a wax medium that coalesce into color-saturated, luminous images. Painting largely with his hands, Karl creates distinctive, poetic figures that float on fields of color. Mullen’s work is shown in galleries throughout North America and Europe, and in the annual Outsider Art Fair in New York. His most recent residency was at the No Boundaries International Art Colony on Bald Head Island, Cape Fear, North Carolina.
Leslie Ann Mcilroy (after Karl Mullen, “In the Name of the Mother”)
PEELED & PEELING
You could say it began in a barn,
with those eyes and the way his hand ran
the croon of her ass, moonlight and split
rails don’t make babies, babies, babies.
That her hips spread so wide a sun
was born, and another, she knew herself
sacred, dancing, blind to this child’s
slippery grip. She wanted wanting, never
took anything eager in her mouth.
Oh, to grow hungry and faint with desire:
form, fiat, a bore, a bother. Only her
brush held a story; regret, a canvas
painted over and over, a miser’s dusk.
Then imagine this bed of straw, where
forgiveness lay dying, parlor paint peeled
and peeling, even her eyes a soot that stains.
Imagine us in this bruised, pretty place,
what happened and what didn’t.
Leslie Anne Mcilroy won the 1997 Slipstream Poetry Chapbook Prize for Gravel and the 2001 Word Press Poetry Prize for her full-length collection Rare Space. Her second book, Liquid Like This, was published by Word Press in 2008. She lives in Pittsburgh and is managing editor of HEArt — Human Equity through Art.
More at lamcilroy.org.