A Review of Tension : Rupture: Artifacts of Memory Recall by Bryan Faller

The performative nature of the collection is evident from the first prose; Framework : a Vessel introduces the audience to the image of one engaging a creative act—act one, scene one—as it were, reflecting on how the creative process informs both the creator and the created referring to the fluidity of this feedback between the sculptor and the clay. Framework dually describes the relationship between the poet and draughtsman whose works unfold in a succession of waves that articulate both the thoughts and emotions exchanged between the collaborators in performance. The poems and visual works act as artifacts, a collection of breadcrumbs through the dialogue of the creators from idea to completion of the collected works.

The works in the publication serve as artifacts of Streeby’s and Haight’s highly interactive process. Haight’s paintings are about Streeby’s poems, but instead of acting as illustrations his narrative works respond and react to the themes explored by Streeby’s prose; they do not narrate. Themes such as coming of age, addiction and healing are central to both the poet’s and artist’s work throughout the book. They deliberately focus on the information that is recalled from one’s memory as seen in Streeby’s phrases and Haight’s imagery both of which take on a surreal identity. The prose and visual works transformed specific sense-memories that each had from traumatic or highly intimate moments throughout their collective adolescence and at moments when their addiction symptoms were most active. The interaction between Streeby and Haight became increasingly intimate as they moved through what Haight refers to as landmarks that serve as moments in time in which specific people or experiences dominate the creatives’ memories. 

The imagery and prose concern themselves with the interaction between the poet and artist, the memories that they share and exchange, the people they’ve loved, lost and continue to engage through the peaks and valleys of addition and recovery. Haight and Streeby maintain a keen focus and lens of mental health self-awareness throughout each work. This collection of works similarly functions like a scab that has resulted from a wound in the process of healing. The imagery and text simultaneously wrestle with memories, but the memories and experiences are unique to both Streeby and Haight. Haight’s visualizations express recall of specific memories unrelated to Streeby’s, and Streeby’s memories are similarly unrelated to Haight’s, but together in this collaboration both coordinated how they processed these separate experiences together through what became a cathartic creative process. 

Streeby creates a structural arc based entirely on emotions of what he remembers feeling; he paints with his words to create visceral phrases particularly in details of poems to highlight emotional perceptions of memory recall. “Detail:  Heliotrope” in particular defines the dissociated nature of the thoughts and feelings one encounters in the process of working through trauma. “Genre of sun, two things, flower and stone, the forest of [us] of [us].” Haight creates a narrative with his imagery whereas Streeby establishes mood and sets a specific tone with his prose. Haight, the artist, takes on an identity of narrator, which is traditionally performed by text. Streeby’s prose takes on an illustrative identity, which is traditionally accomplished through visual imagery. Both Haight and Streeby destabilize and deconstruct their chosen medium’s identities (that of illustrator and narrator) to play and interact in a space inhabited by the two men in their collaborative performance. When spending time with both artists one more clearly understands that their relationship acts as the basis for this intimate exchange to take place. They engender different means of creativity–one visual, one textual–but they inhabit a similar head and heart space. Like thoughts and feelings in one’s own internal dialogue, so do Streeby and Haight’s prose and images interact. 

Streeby and Haight parallel each other in the visceral nature of their works by creating emotions that roll over the reader/viewer like wave after wave of subtle experience as the audience encounters each new poem or image. Each poem is a new experience; each painting is a new feeling. Through each collaboration Haight and Streeby encounter a new understanding for one another, which helps to inform and evolve the individual perceptions that each has of memory and recall. Streeby freely admits to taking direct quotations from Haight’s artwork titles to enrich his text. Blurred lines, indeed. Exploring the relationship between image and text Haight clearly aims to define the spaces of ambiguity for the infrastructure which Streeby’s text provides. The process that Streeby and Haight engaged became highly performative. The dance between the two men left the text and images remaining as artifacts of their performance and interaction over the five years that they took to create this collection of works. 

After this project began it went through an iterative process four to five times back and forth between Streeby and Haight. Each iteration took months to complete. Streeby began first and passed the project to Haight. Roughly eight months passed between each iteration. Eight months of refining, polishing, conversation and deconstruction created the resulting paintings and poetry. The artifacts from this performance between Streeby and Haight and their collective memory recall leave the reader/viewer to feel so viscerally connected to the trauma they endured and to enjoy the beauty and order that has been created from the chaos and pain of their suffering and addiction. 

Both artists are in their mid-thirties and met while attending The University of California Riverside completing BA programs in creative writing. Michael Haight received his MFA in studio arts from Claremont Graduate University. He focuses on painting but has also made films and other performative art works. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Cutter Streeby holds an MFA from the University of East Anglia and an MA in Literature from King’s College, London. He has delivered many lectures on poetics, translation, and translation theory, including “Navigating Lèse- Majesté: Translating the Poetry of Zakariya Amataya” at universities across Thailand and Malaysia while teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Publications, translations, and anthologies include The White Review, Anthology of South East Asian Poets (Vagabond Press), Chicago Quarterly Review,  Chestnut ReviewHayden’s Ferry Review,  Cincinnati Review and World Literature Today among others. He successfully exited his first marketing startup, GraylingAgency.com, in 2020.

Bryan Faller works as a financial advisor and has expertise working in the primary Contemporary and secondary Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art markets, respectively. He has worked for notable galleries such as Ann Kendall Richards, Inc. (New York, Washington, Aspen), The Pace Gallery (New York) and Newman Galleries (Philadelphia) before establishing and operating his own non-profit exhibition space, and eventually Faller Arts LLC focusing on private sales. Faller has worked with many of the most important artists and estates of the 20th and 21st centuries in addition to the academics, collectors and institutions with whom they are associated.

He taught for the art business program at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York and co-edited a scholarly collection of essays commissioned for a book titled Creative Legacies, which was published in December 2020. He completed his BA at The College of New Jersey in the history of art and psychology—his MA in Art Business from the University of Manchester (UK) and Sotheby’s Institute of Art and graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University Business School for his MBA. He advises individuals and organizations on investments with offices in the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas and structures transactions of fine art. He splits his time between New York City and just outside Philadelphia in New Jersey.