Everything's better in pairs: Siegfried and Roy, shoes, art, etc. Vivo Contemporary is well aware of this. In its upcoming exhibition Give Voice to Image, 14 local poets partner up with 14 visual artists. The poet, very literally, "gives voice" to the artist's image.

For the exhibition, abstract calligrapher Patty Hammarstedt was partnered with poet Renee Gregario.

Hammarstedt says they met only once, "but we were in synch with each other." Together, these first-time acquaintances, an artist and a poet, collaborated on a project. Hammarstedt thinks of it as a "homework assignment," and it's no wonder: The exhibition is reminiscent of a "pair up in partners" middle school science project—a random outcome of ragtag teams.  

The assignment came naturally to Hammarstedt since, being a calligraphist, she works with words for a living, camouflaging letters into her canvases. Hammarstedt likens her work to Where's Waldo, but with words.

Gregario visited Hammarstedt and, after a quick meet and greet followed by a brainstorm of ideas and themes, they embarked on their Vivo-ordained mission to create two respective pieces of work—one on canvas and one in the form of a poem.

Repeat Hammarstedt and Gregario's scenario 14 times, and you've got yourself a modernly bizarre exhibition, which is especially riveting because these 28 artists had to use each other as muses.   
It's a quirky and gutsy proposition to throw two random strangers into a room together and say, "Create something." There's empathy involved in collaboration: the poet has to understand the artist and the artist, the poet; the poem gives context to the artwork, and vice versa.   

And what a darling little concept, because if you really think about it, if the world took a tip or two from Vivo Contemporary, it'd probably be a better place. Imagine national leaders pairing up and collaborating on art pieces. World peace, hands down.  

"Give Voice to Image" is split up into two receptions—one in January and the second in February—where the poets and artists will unveil their collaborations. On Friday, Jan. 4, seven poets (including Lauren Camp and Barbara Rockman) recite their poems aloud in a poetry reading-cum-gallery reception. The remaining seven will perform in February. 

Give Voice to Image: 5-7 pm Friday, Jan. 4. Free. Vivo Contemporary, 725 Canyon Road, 982-1329