Painters make impressions on poets in Ulrich exhibit

3:35:18 PM CDT - Thursday, April 19, 2007

By Shannon Littlejohn

The premiere of “Poets on Painters,” a new exhibit co-curated by Katie Geha, is getting two previews — with an open poetry reading at Watermark Books and Café and a private preview party at the Ulrich Museum of Art — and a roundtable discussion.

Geha, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Ulrich Museum, and “Poets on Painters” co-curator Travis Nichols, a Seattle-based poet, paired 20 contemporary painters with 20 contemporary poets for an exhibit that will go on national tour after its premiere in Wichita. The result is a visual and literary experience of paintings whose poetic “wall text” goes far beyond the expected in detailing the paintings.

The paintings and poetry will grace Ulrich gallery walls from Sunday, April 22, through Sunday, Aug. 5.

“The painting and the poem, while they can work together, also create a third experience,” said Geha. “They can stand alone, but together this sort of third experience emerges out of the two working together.”

Geha’s collaboration with Nichols on this exhibit, which goes on tour after its debut at Wichita State, sprang from her longtime friendship with the poet, including her early college days pursuing her own writing.

“I used to write poetry a long time ago,” said Geha. “I often wrote about art that I saw. The idea of putting the two art forms together came from that.”

The April 20 reading at Watermark Books will include visiting poets Paul Killebrew, Sara Veglahn, Noel Eli Gordon, Corina Copp and Monica Fambrough. Nichols will also be at the reading. Students who will read include creative writing graduate students Brian Evans, Shandra Dickson and Alex Arcone.

Then, in June, the Ulrich Museum will host a roundtable discussion on artistic collaboration with Wilson Baldridge, WSU associate professor of modern and classical languages and literature; Patrick Duegaw, a local painter and member of the Wichita artist collective Fisch Haus; Margaret Dawe, chair and associate professor of WSU’s department of English; Noah Eli Gordon, Denver-based poet; and Mark Bradshaw, book reviewer and bookseller at Watermark Books.

Geha is excited about all of the work in this exhibit and has picked out some favorite pairings of poets/painters. She is hopeful that the exhibit reaches new audiences who will have their own favorites.

“I knew that I wanted to do a collaborative project,” said Geha about working with Nichols. “In terms of writing wall text, one of the things I like to do is think about how wall text is presented. Wouldn’t it be fun to have someone else write it?”

Geha chose the painters and Nichols chose the poets. They come from all parts of the country. She said they didn’t ask for poem, just for a response to the painting, so some prose is in the exhibit, too.
The painters represent contemporary painting as it exists today: figurative, bizarre, electric and lyrical. The exhibit will be accompanied by a reasonably priced color catalog, in hardback book form, designed by Jeff Clark with essays by Geha and Nichols, and an introduction by distinguished poet Anselm Berrigan. The poet’s response to a painting appears alongside each image. A complete checklist and biographical information on each artist and poet will be included.
“Poets on Painters” will travel to the following venues after its Wichita premiere: University Galleries at Illinois State University, Nov. 6-Dec. 16; Queens Library Gallery in Jamaica, N.Y., Feb. 4-March 30, 2008, and Sheldon Memorial Gallery at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, April 26-June 29, 2008.

Poetry Reading: 6 to 8 p.m., Friday, April 20, Watermark Books and Cafe, 4701 E. Douglas. Readers include poets in the exhibition as well as WSU graduate students.
Preview Party, 6-8 p.m., Saturday, April 21, Ulrich Museum of Art. Members $25; nonmembers $40.
Gallery Talk: 7 to 8 p.m., Thursday, May 3, Ulrich Museum of Art. Katie Geha will discuss the relationshop between contemporary poetry and painting.
Roundtable Discussion on Artistic Collaboration: 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, June 21, Ulrich Museum of Art. A diverse group of scholars, poets, and painters discuss the nature of artistic collaboration and how it informs their work.

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