April 09, 2014

No Small Measure: A collaboration between poet Brian Henry and artist Erika Adams

No Small Measure is a collaborative portfolio of letterpress printed broadsides, which was organized by artist Margot Ecke, curator Beth Sale and poet Ezekiel Black. Fifteen poets have been paired with fifteen artists and each group was asked to create a letterpress printed broadside. The project was made possible with funding from the University of North Georgia Art Galleries with a generous grant from the Forsyth County Arts Alliance. Over the next several weeks, each collaborative team will be interviewed and asked about their experience working on the project.

Our tenth interview features poet Brian Henry and artist Erika Adams.

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A conversation with poet Brian Henry:
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This is a lovely poem. How did it come about? The poem began after I'd been staring at a bridge over the Contoocook River in New Hampshire. I was watching the light on the water and on the underside of the bridge, the two banks (one of which I was sitting on), the bridge itself as well as the people and cars crossing it. And I was thinking about the various perspectives possible in such a simple scene and about how every aspect of it depended on every other aspect.
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Your use of parentheses and line breaks slow down and at times establish a subtle disjointed flow in the reading experience. I find myself taking those tiny moments of pause to reflect on the intersection of content and structure within the poem. What is your expectation for the reader within these moments of pause? I definitely wanted to incorporate pauses into the poem--between and across the two columns and within them. I was also trying to encourage a more visual reading rather than a more conventional linear reading.
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Erika's use of color and gesture is hopeful and powerful. What do you think of her visual response to your work?  I think the colors are gorgeous. They seem to gesture toward sunlight, water, and shade, but they establish a world of their own, too.
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A conversation with artist Erika Adams:
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The typographic orchestration of this poem strikes me as a starting point for laying out the page. Is this where you began? Yes. The pacing between the lines in What Vista resonated with me because the structure of Brian’s poem creates a visual reminder of the pauses or breaths between each line. Those interruptions certainly started my thinking process in the design. In this poem, the reader can read up or down from one line to the next, repeating a phrase before moving on. The possibility of those loops interested me, and references the water and wind imagery present in the poem. The colored ribbons in the broadside are meant to allude to those elements- movements that can be insinuated and seen. The surface of a stream may appear to repeat itself, to eddy, to follow a pattern or even to seem static, but that surface only hints at what passes underneath.
The split and shuffle of each line has a distinctive way of slowing down the reading experience. Did this slow read cause you to consider a slow see? That is an interesting question! I think with this image, Brian’s poem sets the pace. The reading is certainly slowed by the arrangement of the text, but also by the content. The last lines of the poem contain a kind of longing that changed the way I read the poem the second time through. Perhaps what happens with this broadside is the repeated see.
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You have worked with poets in the past on projects ranging from broadsides to fine press editions. Tell us about your thoughts on collaboration. How do these collaborations intersect and inform the rest of your studio practice? Collaboration has a growing presence in my practice. The conversations that take place within collaboration – particularly ones where both parties are using language to negotiate what they really mean – are integral to my work. My most recent project borrows from specific conversations and translates them (literally in some cases, from French to English and vice versa) into hole-punched text pieces. And I have been thinking more about the role of my collaborative interest in future projects. One of my favorite questions to ask other artists about my work is “what do you think should happen next?” Involving my students in those conversations could be why so many of my class demonstrations include cute internet kittens, but feline obsessions aside, the various answers to that question lead to the kinds of conversations that I think are really exciting in art making.

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To learn more about Erika Adams, please visit her website: http://erikaadams.com

To read another of Brian Henry's poems, please visit the Poetry Foundation website: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/243306

 

 

 

 

March 31, 2014

No Small Measure: A collaboration between poet Gloria Bennett and artist/printer Kassie Arcate

No Small Measure is a collaborative portfolio of letterpress printed broadsides, which was organized by artist Margot Ecke, curator Beth Sale and poet Ezekiel Black. Fifteen poets have been paired with fifteen artists and each group was asked to create a letterpress printed broadside. The project was made possible with funding from the University of North Georgia Art Galleries with a generous grant from the Forsyth County Arts Alliance. Over the next several weeks, each collaborative team will be interviewed and asked about their experience working on the project.

Our ninth interview features poet Gloria Bennett and artist/printer Kassie Arcate.

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A conversation with poet Gloria Bennett:
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You paint a vivid scene in this poem. Is this piece autobiographical? The piece is
indeed based on an event that actually took place. I'm recalling a scene from my early
childhood when my mother attempted to explain that she and my stepfather had decided to
marry. She took a dark blue dress out of her closet and told me it was her wedding dress. I
still remember my surprise when I saw it because it didn't look at all like any of the wedding
dresses I had ever seen. It looked more like a dress one would wear to a dance. I was
disappointed. I wanted her to have the fairytale experience. And I wanted to be a part of it all. 
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How would you describe the tone of the piece? Hopeful? Melancholic? How do you
feel about Kassie's visual response? The tone? Definitely melancholic. The color of the
dress reminded me of the storm clouds I identified with hurricanes and tropical storms.
Kassie's visual response to the poem, the storm clouds moving across the page, is
appropriate. She was able to capture the tone of the piece. 
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Like a wedding dress, a broadside is traditionally intended for a specific occasion (for
the occasion of a poet's reading, for instance), but like a wedding dress, this piece of
ephemera is held onto and cherished as a reminder of that event rather than
discarded. What made you select this poem for this particular project? Childhood
experiences, even sad ones, help shape us into the adults we eventually become. So our
memories are worth holding onto. I was thankful to have a visual reminder of this memory. 
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How does this poem relate to your other work? I have a small collection of poems that
were written in response to memories from my early childhood. This poem is one of those
pieces. 
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A conversation with artist/printer Kassie Arcate:

This poem is centered around a narrative. What ideas emerged when you were thinking about how to respond? Initially, I thought of lace. I thought about making a collagraph print with torn and mismatched lace. I really wanted to create a delicate texture that would not distract the reader. In the end I was afraid of the inconsistencies in printing such a large edition with collagraphy. I have done projects involving the collagraphs of lace in the past and I wanted to try something new. 

The next thing that I thought of were clouds and a storm. Gloria narrates such an ominous event that is about to partake. I felt many things while reading the poem, many of which were not the usually feelings one gets when you think of marriage. I felt unsettled, somber and even worried for, the presumed, daughter's future. To me the watercolor image is many things, it is a storm brewing, a fog rolling in, tears and hazy clouds that cover the moon. I wanted the reader to see the image moving towards the poem, as if it were to be engulfed into the mist.

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The blue watery marks are both delicate and stormy. How were these marks made? I have always loved combining multiple printmaking and artistic techniques when making artwork. For this project I was grateful for the financial support to try something that I otherwise not have been able to, offset printing. By using offset printing I was able to obtain the successful watercolor images that I made digitally in photoshop. I loved being able to have delicate image rich in shadows because it is so unlike the images that I am used to working with in letterpress printing. 
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Traditionally, a broadside collaboration between a poet and an artist/printer involves an artist receiving a piece written by a poet and then responding visually to it. Do you have any thoughts on how this process could be altered so that the poet is also responding to the artist? Perhaps the artist could present some of their visual work to the poet and a work could be written in reaction to it. I also think that it would be great to have a collaborative retreat of sorts. Though Gloria and I lived a little over and hour from each other we still have never physically met. I think in the future it would be interesting to have a planned weekend or couple of days where artists and poets could be together to brainstorm and create.
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You run a small press called Mother Hen Press. What kind of work do you do? Mother Hen Press is a small press indeed! I mainly create letterpress greeting cards and custom invitations. I love creating paper tokens for life events. I always feel very honored to be a part of such an intimate times. I love working on projects like this because it allows me the time to create work that allows me to experiment. I sometimes get stuck in a routine of sameness and am grateful for the playful opportunities that life brings.
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For more information about Gloria, please visit her this site: http://www.prickofthespindle.com/poetry/1.1/bennett/at_the_ocean.htm
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For more information about Kassie, please visit her website: http://www.motherhenpress.com