Take this apart: “cut down her presence remains comforting me no accusation recrimination just her love.” What are you left with? Syllables, a rhythmic cadence, layers of meaning left to interpretation absent their original context. That, at least, is what local artist Blair Vaughn-Gruler drew from her reading of Jane Lipman’s poem, “Requiem,” when she was first tasked with creating a piece of art incorporating the words of a poet she had never met.
As part of the Odes & Offerings exhibit, Vaughn-Gruler and 35 additional local artists were paired with local poets—or poems, rather—and asked to explore creative ways of integrating the written word into their work. It’s an important distinction: integration, rather than interpretation—no easy task when the ultimate goal of the exhibit is for words to resonate as powerfully and artistically as the artwork. Ultimately, Vaughn-Gruler ended up deconstructing the stanzas from the bottom up, creating a shingled trellis, in minimalist tones, which imitates the syllabic structure of the verses.
“This piece came from multiple places,” Vaughn-Gruler explains. “I’d been experimenting a lot with the layering of geometric shapes, but I think what I really wanted was to rebuild the tree for Jane.” Out of miniature pieces of birchwood, Vaughn-Gruler’s piece tells an intimate, if somewhat melancholy, story of a juniper tree, cut down in an act of self-preservation and proceeded by the shadow of regret—“cut down her presence remains.”
Vaughn-Gruler’s process of translation is a relatable struggle, as any creative person who has observed the original kernel of an idea evolve in infinite ways can attest. And clearly, she wasn’t the only artist wrestling with how to incorporate the written word into her pieces; the work of the other 35 collaborators reflects a similar tension.
“As I was working, I became incredibly interested the process,” Vaughn-Gruler told me recently. “And knowing how interesting the project had been for me, I invited some of the other artists to share their own process pieces.” This sister exhibit, appropriately called Odes & Offerings Deconstructed, is a lovely meditation on the genesis of creativity. One artist layers individual sentences into glass; another color-codes the lines of her poem, cutting and pasting associative imagery around the margins. Vaughn-Gruler built a small-scale model, which, in its raw form, gives visitors a clearer sense of the nuanced complexity of the finished piece. To see the process is to glimpse the thought and simultaneous spontaneity that it takes to adequately render the intention of another’s words. The exhibits substantiate each other, and it’s worth paying a visit to both if you have time. One displays the full force of artistic sublimity, while the other is a more honest examination of process. And as any artist knows, one could not exist without the other.
Odes & Offerings
Through June 8
201 W Marcy St., 955-6707
Odes & Offerings Deconstructed
Through April 10
202 Canyon Road, 982-1494