SR Pod/Vod Series: Writer Kelle Groom

Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Kelle Groom.

Kelle GroomKelle Groom’s memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster), is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, Library Journal Best Memoir, Oprah O Magazine selection, and Oxford American Editor’s Pick. The author of three poetry collections, most recently, Five Kingdoms (Anhinga), her work has appeared in Agni, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, and Best American Poetry. A 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow in Prose, Groom is on faculty of the low-residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

Guest Post, Gray Lyons: Accidents

Gray LyonsWhen I deliver an artist lecture, I spend most of my time talking about accidents. While the finished piece hanging on the gallery wall has weight and formality to it, the process of making a cyanotype might best be described as a cross between a three-ring circus and a four-alarm fire. No matter how carefully I have sketched out my plan and laid out my materials, the moment I begin the exposure, things are frantic, dirty, sweaty, and overwrought. After I coat and dry the light-sensitive paper, I store it in light-tight bags until I’m ready to make the image. Once I take the paper out of the bag, I have fifteen seconds to arrange my body and any other materials on top of the paper, and the next twenty minutes of the exposure to contemplate all the ways that things have already gone wrong.

I practice each pose repeatedly on the ground beforehand, getting up and lying down, trying to shave a few seconds off the time it takes me to get into position. Even so, it’s not uncommon for me to miss the spot where one of my limbs was intended to rest, changing the image in small but significant ways.

I learned to make cyanotypes in a lab. It was quiet, cool, and dark. I could arrange, remove and rearrange objects at leisure until I felt confident about the image. Then I’d carry the paper over to an ultraviolet light unit, where I could set a timer for a perfect exposure. Working in these conditions, any meticulous practitioner could count on ideal results. Making large-scale exposures outside, using the sun as an exposure unit, I’ve had to adapt to the uncertainty of real-life conditions. I check the weather forecast for hot, sunny, windless days, and plan to make images on those days. Even so, a sudden gust of wind has sent panels of paper flying across the backyard, ruined. I’ve been caught in rainstorms, thunderstorms and once, a siren-screeching tornado warning. I’ve discovered pairs of robins enthusiastically bathing in my rinse trays, on top of my freshly completed works. I’ve accidentally made an exposure on an anthill, and had to lie motionless while the ants crawled all over me.  Bees, flies and spiders have all made appearances in some of the images.

Although I try to work in seclusion, I’ve had bystanders cross the grass, open the fence gate and come into my yard to ask me what I’m doing. During a recent exposure, a group of three neighbor children came over with their Chihuahua to ask why I was lying on the ground in my nightgown, covered in confetti. I had no answer to give them. Years ago, when a FedEx delivery man came to drop off a box and checked the backyard to see if anyone was home, he found myself and a model wearing nothing but roller skates, limbs entangled, sprawled across a length of doubleweight canvas. With eight minutes remaining in the exposure, all we could do was wait in immobile, horrified silence for him to leave.

I make more mistakes than I achieve successes. Each time, I’m convinced that I have ruined everything forever. Each time, though, something can be saved.  A fierce wind that flipped over all of my props taught me that moving an object partway through an exposure can create of depth in the image. A rain shower during a period of sun can create a stippled pattern across the image, something I’ve learned to hope for.  Ruinous errors have led me to better images than I could have made on my own.

When the cyanotypes are hanging in the gallery and I get dressed up to give my lecture, I tell myself not to recount any stories about bugs or thunderstorms or Chihuahuas or the FedEx man (especially not the FedEx man!). I tell myself to act like a grown-up, like a serious artist, and yet nearly every time someone asks me how I made something, I find myself answering, “It was an accident.”

SR Pod/Vod Series: Writer Vic Sizemore

Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Vic Sizemore.

Vic SizemoreVic Sizemore’s short stories are published or forthcoming in StoryQuarterly, Southern Humanities Review, Connecticut Review, Portland Review, Blue Mesa Review, Sou’wester, Silk Road Review, Atticus Review, PANK Magazine Fiction Fix, Vol.1 Brooklyn, Conclave, and elsewhere. Excerpts from his novel The Calling are published in Connecticut Review, Portland Review, Prick of the Spindle, Burrow Press Review, and elsewhere. His fiction has won the New Millennium Writings Award for Fiction, and been nominated for Best American Nonrequired Reading and a Pushcart Prize. You can find Vic at http://vicsizemore.wordpress.com/.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

Guest Post, Dara Wier: On and During and While and After

The New Novel,  Winslow Homer, 1877ON AND DURING AND WHILE AND AFTER READING BECAUSE OF READING FOR READING’S SAKE AND FOR OURS

 

Because we crave to use those parts of us by which we read.

We read for our brains to do what they can.

We read so that marks make themselves into what they were not before we were reading them.

We read for everyone’s sake.

We read while we think we are reading and we are not.

We read backwards and forwards and up and down. We read into over and above.

We think we are reading and maybe we are.

We read because it is the only way into some things.

We read so as to know some things we couldn’t know otherwise.

We read for the sake of leaving ourselves behind.

For the sake of taking leave of our senses.

We read for god’s sake.

We read in a boat.

We read in a chair.

We read with no comprehension.

We read what we can’t understand because to learn to live with not understanding is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.

It astonishes us.

We read past ourselves.

We read for someone we love more than we love ourselves.

We read because lonesome requires companions.

We read because to be solitary requires attention.

We read because we are in love.

We read before we sleep.

We read by flashlight and moonlight, in sunlight, by torch and by firelight.

We read at the speed of sound.

We read at lightning speed.

We read because we are alive.

We read outloud in unison but I hate that.

We read because there are too many of us around.

We read because there is no one else around.

We read to be alone.

We make sense of what it is we are doing when we are reading.

We understand some of what we read.

I think to read and read to breathe.

We hope to get something out of what we read.

People ask us when you are reading what do you take away.

We read to think about what it is there to be read.

To think what reading can do is lead me through away from what was on my mind.

To read beyond what my mind was already thinking.

We get it in bits and pieces, what we read.

We read because to read is to be in touch with what is other than us.

We read to forget, to remember, to forget, to remember, to forget.

We remember who it was we first saw read.

We remember who it was who first read to us.

We remember a book someone gave us to read.

Who read to us memorably.

We read to know more or less what has come to or leaves us.

We read to know how we don’t know, can’t know, won’t know.

We read to know what we shouldn’t know.

We read to know how much.

To know how many and how few.

We read past what’s there.

We read to know what’s no longer there.

We read into something because we are human.

We read as ourselves and not as anyone else.

We read at varying speeds.

We read at the speed of light.

We read here to read there, to be reading and not disappearing.

We read for the sake of our ancestors.

We read for the sake of our children.

We are read to if we are lucky before we can make sense of the marks of the words on a page, on a wall, on a board, on the sky, in water, in smoke, in air.

We read something that is burning away in a fire.

We read what’s dissolving in water.

We read in water.

While we’re falling asleep we are reading.

We read in abject humility with knowledge of our lack of knowing much about what we are reading.

We read while we know we can never and never will read enough.

We read some more and we begin to want to know what happens next.

We read because reading uses our brains for something it is good at doing.

We read more because it adds to our understanding something we had not before known or understood.

We have endless understandings of understanding.

We read with trepidation. We read with caution. We read with fear.

We read as skeptics, as if reading were a competition.

We read as the faithful, as if our lives depended on what we are reading.

Some times what we are reading determines the rest of our lives.

With abandon we lose ourselves in what we read.

We read counter-intuitively.

We read respectfully, gratefully, introspectively, innocently.

We read so thoroughly, we are so thoroughly reading we forget where we are and what it is we are doing.

We read ourselves into forgetting ourselves. We forget who we are.

We stop reading and no longer know who we are.

We look up from reading and recognize nothing.

We read with pity for our kind.

We read while we are 30,000 feet above ground.

We read beneath sea level.

We read on horseback.

We read while we speed at speeds approaching the speed of sound.

We read while someone dies under the same roof sheltering our reading.

We think we had not known something before.

We read because without reading words would not have so much to do.

We read because words are all around us and let us read them.

We read because sometimes when we read we are not being stupid any more.

We read today to live tomorrow.

We read because someone gives us something to read.

We read because someone wrote what we’re reading.

We read because someone says here read this.

We read because we see someone else reading.

We read because we want to read what someone else says they are reading.

We read what someone else reads to feel our mind is feeling something like their mind is feeling. Or we pretend it might be.

We read in the mirror.

We read on a train.

We read on a ferry.

We read for money. We read for time. We read for love.

We read by fire. We read by flame and flare. We read by what our eyes and fingers provide.

Because we can we read what we’ve provided for reading’s sake.

And sometimes something comes of it. We read from when we can to when we no longer can. And after that someone else reads where we left off.

Guest Post, Rachel Stiff: The Meaning and The Making

THE MEANING AND THE MAKING: A thesis on painting and process.

I know a lot about the process of getting saddled. Brushing the horse down so there are no slivers or pieces of hay stuck to mud or sweat on their backs where the saddle blanket will go and later the saddle, breast collar and cinches. When you first heave the saddle up, you will settle the piece over their withers.  Kind of rocking it up so that it sits on their back in the right way, with the curve of their spine. Taking the halter off, stick your finger in their mouths to tickle their tongue. They will open up for the bit and bridle to be placed. The way a horse will purposefully fill their belly with air to keep the cinch looser is funny and predictable. You have to ride them out a little. When you dismount to open the first gate, then re-tighten the cinch.

My addiction is work. Through process and action meaning is found. As kids, knowledge was acquire by virtue of physical labor and watching our parents work. “I can sleep when I’m dead”, my grandfather used to say, meaning if there was enough light left in the sky he ought to be outside being productive. Constantly being engaged in activities with a physical sequence, my mom would till the garden, can tomatoes, and haul cords of firewood to the house for winter heat. Feeling guilty for taking downtime and sitting still, I feel my art should be done with much rigor. Having the common mindset of a hard working, labor-intensive ranch community with several Hutterite colonies surrounding you from birth, a certain addiction gets instilled in a person, mine is work.

Beginning my work, I buy wood and the supplies needed to build a frame for the canvas I will later stretch by hand. Laying the painting on the floor and using a squeegee, I move thick layers of gesso over raw canvas. A tinted ground is created by adding paint directly to wet gesso. The gesso dries leaving what will become the underlying textures and color. The painting begins its journey into being an individual.

Resolve and agreement come through time. Becoming its own entity with a unique personality, the piece starts to demand that certain decisions be made. The dialogue is back and forth; as the painting informs me, I make suggestions to it. Physical struggles and gaps in communication make up the relationship, as well as harmony and good rhythm. When an understanding is achieved and the image becomes clear, I am able to more meticulously mix colors and infuse specific forms into the painting. Many times it is this process that will bring me to the paintings namesake.

Important to my vision is creating paintings that are not overly contrived while finding a balance between control and chaos. Allowing a paint spill to meander across the expanse of canvas without altering its path is a way of letting chance in. Reacting to the layers of spilling, I will cut directly into masking tape or use spray paint to further reinforce or abstract a form I have found. This is control. Going through a full day or two of this process can lead to an impasse with the work. At this time something drastic must be done which can cause the painting to relapse back to a juvenile state. A body of paint is created with a skin that retains its memory of mistakes and of being made.

Editing is a huge part of the process in the making. Knowing when something is finished was once one of my weakest qualities and I am heartbroken over the loss of many images. Due to insecurity, these images have been buried under unnecessary layers of paint. Leaving a section untouched is equally as valuable, if not more so, than adding elements. A delicate balance exists between the work being finished and the painting lacking. Taking risks, making decisions and committing myself to the changes are essential. A nagging feeling about an area, a mark or spill will arise. If that feeling persists over a period of time, it will become clear that the area needs re-working. Circumstances where one small thing will be altered causing a domino affect in which many other things will need to be re-adjusted. When the space to form ratio is in balance or perfectly off balance, I will stop working the piece. Letting it rest for three days, I will come back to it with fresh eyes to see if it resonates as finished. The final question I have to ask myself is whether the piece functions best with its subjective flaws.

Sweet pea, mixed media with imitation gold leaf, 69" x 50.5”, 2012A balance of the organic nature of paint and the deliberate placement of forms with paint is something I strive for. Premeditating and with great labor over depiction my previous forms were rendered. Now they are less namable and evolve out of the process, coming about in a much more veritable way. Still reminiscent of subjects I have drawn before, the forms possess more mystery and in turn more truth while referencing stored memories. The first of the gold fringe-frame pieces is titled Sweet pea (1. Sweet pea, mixed media with imitation gold leaf, 69″ x 50.5”, 2012.). The forms within echo the shape of the flower and also the color. Sweet peas have always been in my life, from childhood in my mother’s acre large garden. With the beauty of the flowers form and the complex deterioration of paint layers flaking away with shellac moving across the surface a metaphor of our relationship is painted. The marrying of beauty and decay is constant in my work. Forms are sown and simultaneously rot, into and out of the paint surface.

One more step removed from representation, are the forms I make using shellac. It has a loose quality and after much experimentation, is predictable.The material represents a simultaneous sense of repulsion and attraction to witnessing life cycles along with decomposition. Representing visceral substances and textures is my attempt at expressing my celebratory curiosity for the inner workings of life. A story is held behind the iodine spill that took place in the horse stall, and the events, which lead to hard balls of tar in our kiddy pool on a hot summer day. Many of these forms are abstracted memories that have become engrained in my mind, all spawning from a subconscious motto to keep open eyes, to look and to be curious.

Cardio, mixed media with imitation gold leaf, 69" x 50.5”, 2012The figure/ground relationship between forms and space is why I have forms at all. Making things stand apart from each other and coaxing forms to push and pull spatially, is very important to the paintings overall integrity. Compressing my experience into a flat canvas comes directly from a rhythm that occurs. While outside I look at the ground, I look at the distance, then at the sky. Looking back at the ground, I remember I am en route. Finding my path again I look up at the distance, the sky, the weather and the clouds. Avoiding a fall I look for things I may step on; snakes, rocks, holes and thorns. There is a real pattern to it, and the same goes while on a horseback. Visual snags, like sun-bleached bones that pop out from the ground, or sage partially covered in asphalt by the side of the road are the type of figure ground relationships I watch for. They are areas where things are touching and in direct contact with one another, either delicately or with some sort of violence. Cardio (2. Cardio, mixed media with imitation gold leaf, 69″ x 50.5”, 2012.). is a declaration of this sort of moment, incorporating an aggressive rhythm with a delicate balance of natural order and visual information.

Mark Rothko, White Center, 1950Having had no real knowledge of contemporary art until attending The University of Montana in 2007, I must have been very confused. My training up to that point was mostly classical, from observation and heavy on the idea of drawing directly from life. Living in Wyoming and having a basic survey of art history that lead up to the Abstract Expressionists movement, I did know who Jackson Pollock was. Taking an abstract process class while earning my bachelor of fine arts degree was a huge turning point for my work and to discovering what art appeals to me. Since then I have discovered these basic things about how art needs to function for me: if the initial thing that strikes you is a feeling than the art is functioning. After finding out what the artist’s intention were, and still you feel your own gut reaction then the art is good allows for interpretation. Art should always possess beauty (which is subjective) and intention. I choose to be a painter and love to look at paintings because there is so much of the individual’s physical presence in the object of the work. After sitting in front of a Mark Rothko (3. Mark Rothko, White Center, 1950.) painting I always feel awe for what paint can do, how it can be so mysterious and seem to be breathing. All forms of painting interest me, but some works more than others transfix.

Leopold Rabus, The shepherd and the lumberjack, 2006The body forms of Leopold Rabus (4. Leopold Rabus, The shepherd and the lumberjack, 2006.), while seemingly disconnected with mine, evoked such a powerful initial connection for me that I bought a book on multiple artists just to study him. His figures are all very distorted and mangled up in transformation; something physical is happening to the body.  The context of his work is obviously rural. His subjects are all dressed in a site-specific kind of way, very insular and sort of backwards. Sometimes there are animals involved and always an element of nature to help build his incredibly complex compositions. The natural aspects of his work, the environments, colors, and circumstance he uses, are all underlying motivators in my process. Rabus uses his knowledge of paint and ability to render, to create action and new forms while deliberately confusing the space. Always there are elements to the work that repulse and captivate.

Fiona Ray, Untitled (yellow with circles I), 2001The work of Fiona Rae (5. Fiona Ray, Untitled (yellow with circles I), 2001.) is more removed from recognizable imagery and relates on many levels to my work and process. Her manipulation of paint properties, how she edits and allows that process to be part of the finished piece in tandem with conscious placement of forms, are all things I employ in my process. This type of process allows room for chance and the trajectory of thought is evident. Works by Fiona that are of particular interest and embody this process are; Untitled (yellow with circles I), and Untitled (Orange and Turquois). These paintings, like mine, contain frenetic energy with moments of contemplative space.

David Reed, #482, 2002

 

David Reeds (6. David Reed, #482, 2002.) paintings are much like those of Rae, but with a stronger figure/ground relationship. Loose applications of paint made over clean flat bars of color are the predominant elements. These two opposites sit on the surface of the canvas in static conflict. Moments of unease and gestures that gracefully transition into the very structural space of flatness, creating instances of beauty in an uncomfortable environment are much like the spaces I created in Sweet pea.

 

 

Jay Defeo, The Rose, 1958-66.Paintings that exhibit great physicality with a demanding presence are what I make. Jay DeFeo’s, The Rose, (7. Jay Defeo, The Rose, 1958-66.) which ended up weighing nearly one thousand pounds, is a good example of the addiction to how physical work manifests in painting. Works less epic in scale but still possessing similar qualities are those by Anselm Kiefer. Kiefer’s burly paintings look and feel like a field covered in mud and hay. The weight and the three-dimensionality of paintings by DeFeo and Kiefer are qualities present in my work. The fringe-frames oppose the rigid structure of the stretchers bars underneath and garnet gel crusted in shellac protrudes from the surface of the canvas.

 

Joan Mitchell, untitled, 1992The direct and aggressive stabbing and cutting of Lucio Fontana’s canvases conjure up images of the artist’s actions. Joan Mitchell’s paintings (8. Joan Mitchell, untitled, 1992.) nearly double her height and reveal large arm span brushstrokes. The object of a painting in relation to the body is important and affords the viewer hints and clues about it’s making. Scale and the movement of the paintings that exist within my tediously gold leafed fringe-frames are my way of utilizing physical touch and repetition.

Processing life through the addiction of work, I paint. My relationship with the paintings is like a mirror, helping me to see myself. Learning about my personal tendencies and trusting my initial gut reaction is my most valued lesson. Allowing my physical actions to lead me to deeper meaning is the essence of what I do. The beauty I find in decay, my habitual ground searches and the need for tactility are all qualities that have been inherited from my upbringing and now manifest themselves through the images I make. Continually finding new places to work and be fed as an artist, I gain new perspective. In my mind’s eye I see work that moves off their frames and traverse across the wall. Mixed media is in store with the solid grounding of being paintings.

SR Pod/Vod Series: Poet Liz Robbins

Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Liz Robbins.

Liz RobbinsLiz Robbins’ third collection, Freaked, won the 2014 Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award, judged by Bruce Bond. Her second collection, Play Button, won the 2010 Cider Press Review Book Award, judged by Patricia Smith. Poems are in recent or forthcoming issues of Beloit Poetry Journal, Cortland Review, Cream City Review, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and The Kenyon Review. She’s an associate professor of creative writing at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

Guest Post, Megan Richmond: Gray Area at Step Gallery

Gray Area 1

I drove to downtown Phoenix tonight for a friend’s art opening called Gray Area at Step Gallery. A BFA honor’s thesis exhibition centralized around abuse by Haylee Schiavo. I was taken aback walking into a space where so much celebration as well as healing was taking place.

Gray Area 2

 

 

Haylee photographed a young woman named Sally who became the central figure and story in the images. This woman had been through a lot. I could tell this from the tone in the artist statement, but Sally was there; standing and confronting pictures in the gallery. This was her life to be told in photographs, so I could tell she was anxious. She looked at the photographs for what seemed like several minutes at a time and even asked Haylee to give her a few more minutes before taking them down.

 

Gray Area 3

I knew photographs had power, but seeing someone react to them as other photographers would was something that was out of the ordinary for me. This made me look closer at the work and how the photographs spoke to one another.

Scans of old family photos mixed with portraiture of Sally through Schiavo’s perspective filled the white walls with something more. This was a way to understand and process abuse by taking photographs on a journey that has affected them both…but it has also brought them together.