Literary influence

(Update: the opening reception is past, but you can see my exhibit at the Octagon through December 22, 2012.)

I have an exhibit going up in the Octagon’s third floor Main Gallery (427 Douglas Ave. in downtown Ames), and there will be a special opening reception on Friday, November 9, 2012, 5:30–7:30 p.m.

Mary Swander will be reading from her works at 7 p.m. during the opening reception. Some of my art students will be there with tables set up, demonstrating drawing techniques. Unfortunately I won’t be there for the opening! (The students are calling it the “show without Jo”!) Normally I wouldn’t miss an opening of my own show, but because of a change in plans for the exhibit, I already had another commitment for that time.

Acrylic low-relief sculpture by Jo Myers-Walker

Acrylic low-relief sculpture

The show was originally intended to display works from a variety of artists, “inspired by or referring to a literary work by Iowa Poet Laureate Mary Swander.” At the submission deadline the Octagon felt they had too few applicants to hold the exhibit as originally planned and instead suggested a mixed-media retrospective display of my work during that time, including my notes about Mary’s influence. This exhibit will be at the Octagon from the opening on November 9 until December 22, 2012. After that the paintings will go on tour to the Sanford Museum in Cherokee, Iowa.

I was disappointed that I wouldn’t see how the other artists related their work to Mary’s writing, and obviously the applicants were disappointed after their hard work. Happily the Sanford Museum had additional display space to offer, so I’ve invited the other artists to send along some of their paintings when the show travels to Cherokee in January. Mary will also read at the Cherokee museum and I’ll teach a watercolor workshop there in conjunction with the exhibit.

Driving the Bodies Back to Indiana, watercolor painting by Jo Myers-Walker

Driving the Bodies Back to Indiana
(watercolor painting)

I’ve known of Mary Swander for a long time and met her about five years ago. I’ve read The Desert Pilgrim, Driving the Body Back, The Girls on the Roof… as I read, I would “see” landscapes and situations and then paint them, but as they related to my own life. To me, even her prose is like poetry. You can see the color and texture of the people and the land as she writes (other evocative writers for me include Joyce Rupp, Richard Rohr, and Mary Howard). It’s fascinating to talk to her about creativity — her creative writing, and my interpreting that into the visual.

My exhibit at the Octagon (Nov. 9–Dec. 22, 2012) will share its space during part of that time with the Festival of Trees, from Nov. 16 to Dec. 2. I’ve been thinking the Tree of Hope should participate in that Festival… I’ll let you know if it does!

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