Across the River
Across the River March 2015 ...a collaborative Installation with 14 writers in Johnson Vermont
I spent the month at the Vermont Studio Center in the company of 57 other creative people, 33 were visual artists and 14 were writers. There were lively discussions while we ate most of our meals together at the Red Mill. While exchanging backgrounds, stories, anecdotes, frustrations and elation, we come to know each other as the days passed.
All the visual artists had a master key that opened the doors to the visual studios. We could visit each other and witness our progress. The writers however didn't have access to the visual studios and the two groups could only visit each other by invitation.
I know why this was the case, writing is difficult. It is so grueling that I don't understand why anyone - of their own free will - would ever choose to be a writer.
Maverick, the writers studio was across the river from my studio in the Wolf Kahn Barn. At night I would look across and see their silhouettes in the windows. Though I was coming to understand and appreciate different techniques that the visual artists were using, the writing process continued to evade me. How do writers persevere day after day, to condense this multidimensional world into words?
Magritte's "The Treachery of Images" (his painting of a pipe) came to mind, but working with the visual, is to me a natural extension of our reality, whereas words are an abstracted code that have to be lined up one after another, each looking for it's perfect place. I was not getting any closer to understanding the process of the written word - so I asked the writers to help me better comprehend what they do.
To facilitate this, I created a very loose 'questionnaire' that in a broad way asked for approaches, influences and geographic / cultural links. The one visual area was font style and size preference. I also asked for some pages of work in progress -they would ultimately be shredded.
Fourteen of the fifteen writers responded. The fifteenth graciously bowed out.
While I waited for the responses, I created a template for a 'scientific label' and tracked down a 'specimen container' for each 'sample.' The obvious first choice was specimen jars -but not practical in every way. Clear print sleeves would work. I was ready!
What I didn't expect from my part of the project was the joy I experienced, while generating the individual labels, shredding, filling and installing. The individuality and distinctiveness of each response. The density of the type, single or double sided pages, method of note making during editing and even the number of pages, distinguished each from the other.
I invited everyone to take their specimen home at the end of our residency and tried to photograph each one when they picked up their piece.
I want to thank each writer for generously reaching Across the River to participate in this project.
LInda Shere Emily Robbins
Molly Gallentine April Bradley
Cherie Jones Staci Schoenfeld
Gary Hawkins Antoinette LaFarge
Katie Mayfield Elizabeth Dickinson
MIndy Zhang Kristen Fogdall
Lajla Cline Alison Stine