I recently spoke with Christopher Ross of TheAddison Independent, a family-owned independent newspaper in Middlebury, VT. He interviewed me for an article on The Language of Art, a group show at Edgewater Gallery that I’m a part of. The show has brought together poetry and visual art by having poets write original verse in response to different paintings in the show. The texts have been posted in the gallery next to the paintings that inspired them. As someone who studied poetry for many years, I’m especially excited to be part of this show.
Christopher was only able to use a small part of our conversation, but you can check out the article here. And I’ve included our exchange in this blog entry.
Christopher Ross: Theresa Harris (the director at Edgewater Gallery) told me you were a writer/poet before you took up painting—how has that work affected your painting?
Holly Harrison: My work is definitely affected by my training as a poet. I am drawn to structure, so when I began to work visually, I made paintings that were largely composed of horizontal bands of pattern, color and imagery. I thought of these bands as poetic stanzas, each one focusing on a single idea or image while also being part of a larger narrative. Juxtaposition is important in poetry, and so for me, there is meaning in how things are placed in relation to each other. This gives the viewer a chance to think about those placements and explore the relationships between things. I’m still working like this, only the work I’m doing right now is more abstract. But it’s the same idea: create the structure, then find ways to work creatively within it.
CR: Theresa said your work is horizontal, linear and could almost read as a poem—do you feel that's true in some way? What else would you add?
HH: I would agree with that. I became interested in bird imagery through my love of the poet Wallace Stevens, in particular the poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. So early on in my visual work, I included a lot of bird references. Eventually this led me to focus more on the birds themselves, on how wild and unknowable they are even as they are completely familiar and integrated into the everyday. A lot of the linear bird paintings in this show are from this series. These paintings are less obviously striped, and they focus more on a single image, but I think the poetry comes in through the rhythms of the horizontal lines and the way the disparate materials come together to create an integrated visual whole.
CR: Did the idea that poems could be displayed alongside your work change your approach to any of the work?
HH: Not really since these are all paintings that I had already made. But Theresa and I worked together to choose pieces that would work well for this show. And I can’t wait to see what poems are going to be paired with the work.
CR: What do you think of the whole painters/poets idea?
HH: I love the idea for this show! Not only is it a great fit for my work, it’s also a lot of fun to mix things up. I think so many interesting dialogues can come out of mixing genres in a show.
For more information about the gallery and this show (the opening is Friday, April 5, 5-7pm), click here.