Words meet pictures
Four visual artists paired with four poets of the opposite gender to create works inspired by each other's media that will be featured at Bell House Gallery in Talent Friday evening.
The exhibit, “2 x 4: images and poems,” will run from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Readings will be held at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday. The gallery is at 104 S. Market St.
The artists — Bruce Bayard, Dan Verner, Peter Van Fleet and David Winston — meet weekly over coffee to discuss and critique their works and processes.
“It was at one of those coffee meeting brainstorms. We were talking about what kind of external input that we as artists might use for our inspiration,” said Bayard. They all liked the idea of working with poets and approached women with whom they wanted to collaborate.
“We thought it would be interesting to have it be a two-way street,” said Bayard.
Each poet gave an artist an existing work to inspire a new image. And each artist gave a poet an image designed to elicit new writings. All of the poems and images will be displayed.
In two cases, the artists worked with poets close to them. Verner collaborated with his daughter, Kayli Gordon. Bayard paired with his wife, Ann DiSalvo, a lifelong poet but known primarily for her figurative work. Photographer Winston paired with Stephanie Nead and abstract painter Van Fleet worked with Marisa Petersen.
“I’m a writer secondarily," DiSalvo said. "It’s kind of like you could do it any time, so you just don’t do it. Sometimes it is much easier to do a poem than a picture. Sometimes the words are just jumping out.”
DiSalvo had that experience after she saw Bayard’s print “Pinkie,” a model draped in thin material. She wrote “The Veil,” which explores various veils in life.
“I was very pleasantly surprised I could just sit down at the table and start creating,” said DiSalvo.
Bayard created a multimedia piece for his Disintegration Series based on a 2012 poem “The Dust,” which DiSalvo composed as the couple was driving into Los Angeles to be with Bayard’s dying father. The piece shows the underside of a bridge, representing a crossing, along with an ocean front.
“Do I do this literally, metaphorically? Do I visualize what the poem is saying?” Bayard asked during the creative process. DiSalvo’s poem referred to the L.A. landscape.
”If you had put the L.A. skyline in, it would have been a lot more literal,” said DiSalvo.
Nead worked from Winston’s photograph “The Gnarled Goddess,” which he captured while an artist in residence at Crater Lake National Park in 2010. Her work “Ancient Snag Goddess” relates how the Goddess speaks.
“It really looks like there’s an old crone, a Goddess, a witch, a woman in a tree,” said Nead. “She’s alive. There’s a spirit in there.”
Winston was challenged by Nead’s “Winds of Morning.” The poem was inspired by the places named in the Book of Exodus recounting the Hebrews wandering in the desert for 40 years. There are references to roots in the poem.
“I was just trying to do something based on feeling more than on intellect,” said Winston, who photographed a single, dying grape leaf attached to a wire that bordered a cemetery where he went to purposely capture a responding image.
There’s a lack of roots in the picture, but Nead said you can feel the roots pulling back the life force from the grape leaf.
During the process, several artists critiqued each other's works. Nead and Petersen talked about each other’s poems. Verner, usually a painter, produced a photographic response to his daughter’s poem with critique from Winston.
Bell House Gallery, most days Van Fleet’s studio and residence, transforms for exhibits a couple of times each year.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.