Monday, August 31, 2009

Ekphrasis at UMF

“Reading drawings is like leafing through a book for answers, or turning a kaleidoscope until the bits fall into place.” So I wrote for my installation reading the landscape at the University of Maine/Farmington eleven years ago. I still believe that the landscape can be read, that it organizes itself in signs and equivalences, that every branch and every evening primrose is doing something that has meaning for each of us.

During a period of years from 2001 through 2005, I did some 250 gestural drawings of periwinkle shells and flowers. Those drawings have existed as discrete images until now, when in grouping them for the ekphrasis exhibition at Farmington I have been mindful of making connections between the purely visual and the literary. Sometimes the drawings tell their own stories. Other groupings are inspired by poems, as Buson’s haiku: “peony scattering/have piled up/two-three petals.” For the second time in my installation work, I have found inspiration in John Ashbery’s poetry. This time, I borrowed a title from “Some Trees” which begins “These are amazing: each/joining a neighbor, as though speech were a still performance.”

The methodology of each drawing was also simple performance. I laid down an ink or watercolor wash, dropped an ink line or periwinkle shells into it, and recorded the movement of its happening. The gestures are a calligraphy that has correspondences in Asian art, so the exhibition will include a Chinese scholar’s desk that the Curator, Sarah Maline, has very kindly offered include. I am also indebted to Sarah for the opportunity to bring a new dimension and new vocabulary to my work about the landscape.
And next week, possibly, I'll have images from the show.

Exhibition dates: September 3-24, with a reception on September 10.

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