WHAT IS HERE/WHAT IS THERE, 2014
Elisabeth Frost, poet
Our current project moves between abstract and figurative imagery (and language) to explore the charged experience of grief. ‘Here’ and ‘there’ are forever in flux, overlapping, one as unknowable as the other. We plan five linked ‘chapters’ that differ in form, tone, and structure, showing divergent means of experiencing, and representing, the disorienting states triggered by loss.
This work emerged from Elisabeth’s long poem “Gone.” As we sought to convey the text visually, we realized that the poem’s fragmentary form would allow for shortening, reordering, and repeating lines—
allowing the selectedtext to take on varying meanings in different visual contexts.
Merging abstraction with figuration, (T)Here deliberately disorients the viewer/reader: the ‘she’ of the
poem may be the one dying or the one bereaved. The work contrasts a modern, clinical experience of
institutionalized dying with the iconography of a more metaphysical meditation (what is ‘here’ and what is
House of Stone
Elisabeth’s text for “House of Stone” emerged as a more ironic, wry meditation on grief. Rooted in the
Pacific Northwest landscape, the images, taken in and around Oysterville, WA and Willapa Bay during a
shared artist residency, interact with the text to create a pseudo-narrative.
What is Left
Piles of discarded oyster shells--mortal remains abstracted into line--form dessicated, lifeless landscapes. The mounds bear down on the text blocks below--stasis offers no escape.
Madonna Comix, 2012
Celia Bland, Poet
Madonna Comix is based on eleven poems about a metaphoric Madonna. They speak to the multiple experiences of being a woman, especially the profound physical and emotional ones of childbearing and child rearing. Our fears, the life-choices we make, the things we take on faith are addressed.
In deciding on an approach to the poems, I kept in mind both the reverent, secular, and (to use Celia’s term) “smart-alecky” nature of the text. I grew up with “Little Lulu” comic books—a proto-feminist voice in the 1950’s. I photographed and altered “Little Lulu” comic book pages to use as visual grounds for the pieces. Importantly, these also provided me with a way to introduce a second, down-to-earth voice in response to Celia’s lyric one.
The Christian Madonna is the source of a rich iconography that I reference in the images. Although the work is no longer recognizable as photography (my working process here is much like that of painting), photographically derived imagery is central. The figures are based on my negative archive. I made additional photographs to use as needed and incorporated some appropriated imagery. I retained and used many of the residual artifacts that result from working with software.
Riding the Crescent, 2010
Blood is Time
Celia Bland, Poet
This project began with photographs i made of the blood from a slaughtered sheep collecting and coagulating in a tub, which I e-mailed to Celia. Celia responded with a story in which race, class and familial relations ride the "Carolina Crescent" and contours of blood.
“Blood is Time” bears the distressed text of a young woman’s misadventures as she misses a train; “Blood Kin,” a climactic moment in a Day’s Inn; and “Passing Strange”: riding the rails as she attempts to escape a past, pulsing like blood. The scrawled lines of text mimic the vehicles of the girl’s travels -- corvette, taxi and train – veering along the byways of blood and race and sex. As one reads the fragmented phrases overlaying the bloodscape, one might imagine much-read maps of intersecting routes. Blood remembrance underlies this collaboration of text and image. Blood, as the saying goes, always tells.
The Lore Which Nature Brings, 2009
Elisabeth Frost, Poet
In The Lore Which Nature Brings, we explore the imagery of birds’ nests to contrast two tropes:
specimen collection (the nests as objects—“Caliology” being the study of birds’ nests) and the history of
highly subjective poetry about birds and nesting. In this visual fiction, specimen pages harbor the collected object, which interacts with an over-determined poetic text.
We wanted to debunk cliches about nesting, from maternal instinct to the trope of “joyful” birdsong. Mining Romantic poetry (Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley), Elisabeth’s text is mainly found language, a radical “pruning” of famous poems about birds, birdsong, and birth.
Our title comes from Wordsworth’s “The Tables Turned,” which avers, “Sweet is the lore which Nature brings,” and decries the “meddling intellect” (“we murder to dissect,” he states). Wordsworth embraces direct emotional experience—and yet paradoxically writes a poem about it. That paradoxical artistic act is an analog for our project.
Elisabeth Frost, Poet
In our first collaboration, for The Poetic Dialogue Project, we alluded to the conventions of specimen collection and preservation for scientific study that have occupied me for many years in my work. This dovetailed with Elisabeth’s interest in importing specialized language into lyric poetry. We hoped to bridge scientific and lyric ways of knowing.
The photographed sheets of paper (front and back in each diptych) ‘impersonate’ the specimen paper used in herbariums, with stains and imperfections. For the imagery I used photographs of spider webs, scanned drawings, penciled notations, red-bordered labels, and inked text. Elisabeth used Latin terminology to reference descriptive taxonomy, including genus, species, and measurements.
Arachne was our first project to explore text and image as integral to one another. Handwriting appears as scientific notation and poetic phrase, just as the web is both a visual and a glyphic trace. Silk thread appears in the ‘ballooning’ that launches spiderlings into new habitats , in the web’s role in capturing prey  and in doubling as food . Finally, we retell the myth of Arachne (in 0005), whose acts of creation our work also honors.