Fusion: An Ekphrastic Experiment

July 1, 2009.

In light of the Willisville Mountain Project and the Cross-Pollination Series, the Sudbury Writers’ Guild decided to try their collective hand at ekphrasis.  For the curious:  Ekphrasis is the graphic, often dramatic interpretation of a work of art, thank you Wikipedia.

I became interested in ekphrasis in graduate school during a course on the Rossetti’s.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti was founder and member of the Pre-Raphealite Brotherhood and their paintings frequently feature poetry either in the artwork itself or as part of the frame.  The verse typically described the subject of the painting. So when I had a chance to participate in something similar, I jumped at the chance.  While not true ekphrasis, the Fusion project was nonetheless interesting and fun to participate in.

Essentially, writers and artists pair up and create a composite work of writing and art.  The written work can be either prose or poetry, and the visual component, while usually painting or photography, could be anything.  In our group’s case, quiting, stained glass, and a place setting of tea and cookies on china were included in the mix.  Each interested writer from the Guild paired up with an area artist in January of 2009 with the goal of having a composite work assembled by July 1st.

My partner in crime was Robert Luopa, fine arts teacher at Espanola High School.  You might say that what we worked on was the reverse of ekphrasis.

Due to our limited ability to get together and work in a truly collaborative fashion, Robert felt that creating a painting based on one of my unpublished pieces of poetry might work out better.  I sent him a likely selection of suspects and he chose “Fire and Ice.”  From there, I described the original inspiration for the poem and Robert then when out and took some pictures.  He drew up some concept sketches and we further discussed the eventual form of the final painting.  In addition to presenting the poem with the painting, I used one of Robert’s photos and Gimp‘ed it into a background for the poem.

The Fusion Project was first displayed at Art Berries and Jazz in Espanola July 1, 2009 and then was displayed a second time at the Sudbury Theatre Centre for the month of August 2009.

Have you ever collaborated with another artist?  It doesn’t have to be ekphrastic in nature.  My poet-friend Kim Fahner had one of her poems set to music.  Some people have their stories turned into short films.  It’s good to get out of your own art-form sometimes.  I’ve found it offers respite and perspective.  What did you learn from your creative experiment?