Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Area artists mix media to create ‘Image Word' exhibit

Takoma Park event pairs artists, poets, improv dancers, musicians for unique results

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J. Adam Fenster/The Gazette
Takoma Park residents Jill Corr and Bill Mallari chat Thursday night in front of the eight-part photo series "With Silence," by poet Anne Dykers and visual artist Margot Neuhaus, during the closing reception for Image Word, an exhibit at the Takoma Park Community Center that paired seven poets each with a visual artist to create single works combining both media.

"To go across, you have to crawl on your hands and knees," a poet chants to meditative flute and percussion. Four dancers painstakingly creep across the floor in front of eight consecutive panels of poetry and photography floating on spacious white paper.

"Perhaps your heart opens," the poet continues, then pauses as the dancers crawl past the series of photographs of poet Anne Dykers' face and hands in front of a tree. "And the world, on its perfect axis, becomes itself."

The dancers complete their journey and kneel before the poet, looking finally at peace.

Dykers read her work and watched it come to life at the Thursday closing of Image Word, an exhibit at the Takoma Park Community Center that paired seven poets each with a visual artist to create single works combining both media. The exhibit followed last year's artist-poet collaboration, Inspired Results, in which artists and poets reacted to each others' pieces.

Dykers produced her piece with visual artist Margot Neuhaus after the two were paired by Anne Becker, poet laureate of Takoma Park and co-curator of the exhibit. Becker felt they shared a motif in their work.

"What I said to both of them was in their work, in Anne's poetry, in Margot's visual art, that they have a very similar connection with silence," Becker said.

After agreeing to collaborate, Dykers and Neuhaus shared the process of selecting the final poem from words Dykers composed. Together, they cropped the photographs Neuhaus took of Dykers reenacting the dream that inspired her poem, in which she crossed a trestle over a river gorge, and produced the piece, "With Silence."

Collaborating with another artist was a new experience for Neuhaus.

"To be part of a shared work and a community has been very satisfying to me as artist," she said. "I put in words a process that is subconscious or unconscious. I think becoming aware of my process by sharing it with Anne, that was very rich for me."

"Through the whole exhibit, what was really interesting to me was the process, whereby your techniques, your feelings, your experiences are enlarged by working with other artists in various formats," said Becker, who also participated as poet and dancer.

The theme of the show, "creation," played out both in the awareness artists developed of their creative processes and the themes inherent in their work.

"[The exhibit] was pretty matronly," said Eric Rydzewski, who came to the exhibit with his aunt. "There were lots of references to flowers and rebirth [in the poetry], and I felt that way about the artwork as well."

One of the more abstract pieces incorporated 2,000 plastic eggs arranged in a circle of stacks with additional stacks in the middle, accompanied by a series of haiku involving themes of creation from the perspective of a single woman. The piece, "In the Garden," was created by visual artist Jim Landry and poet Greta Ehrig.

"Jim and I would describe our working process as sort of a ping pong match, bouncing ideas off each other," Ehrig said. She added that the collaboration was exciting, "but at the same time there's a certain giving up of control that happens and a certain unexpectedness of it all."

David Fogel, co-curator and visual arts coordinator for the Takoma Park Community Center, said he wanted the show to bring artists out of their niches, but he agreed that collaborative exhibits can produce some trepidation.

"When you curate a typical show, you know what you're going to get," he said. "This exhibit was: Let's just believe in the creative process, believe in the talents [of the artists], that what's going to be produced is going to be inspiring and insightful and thought-provoking and hopefully emotional, too, all the things that great art should be."

For Dykers and others, trust in the process paid off.

"It was a really wonderful experience," she said. "We really did the piece together. … [And] I felt like the musicians and the movers and the poem were working very well with each other, like there was a real responsiveness, a real interplay between the movers, the music and the poem."

Fogel and Becker plan to host another poet-artist collaboration in 2009. They also plan to move a reworked version of the current exhibit to Space 88 in Silver Spring in mid- to late October.