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

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