Exhibition Walk and Reception for Student Artists

Entry begun Monday, February 23, 7:30 am

Emma Rose and I had not planned out the Exhibition Walk in great detail.  Our main idea was to begin in the Reading Room after the day’s last Marathon reader, inviting each of the student artists to stand by his or her work here in the Reading Room or up by the display cases on the Third Floor so viewers could ask them about their work.  This worked out more or less as we had planned, and by the end of the walk most of us had drifted up to the Third Floor.

Camilla had picked the last reading slot on the first day because she knew she would not be able to stay too long with Jude.  So I made sure I got a photo of them next to her work in the show.

Camilla and Jude near mixed-media drawing from 2001

Camilla and Jude near mixed-media drawing from 2001

Just a little to the left on the same wall, Kelsea Miskell stood next to her mixed-media drawing from 2014, I Came to buy a smile—today.  Behind Kelsea’s right shoulder is Carol Scaringelli’s untitled painting of a female figure reaching for beauty; to the right of her artwork is Matt Ruiz’s Cleaving Mind.

Kelsea Miskell with her I Came to buy a smile—today from 2014

Kelsea Miskell with her I Came to buy a smile—today from 2014

My photo of Matt Ruiz and his friend Taylor Ross along the same wall earlier in the day caught only a corner of Cleaving Mind, with both of them covering John Campbell’s Bandaged Soul.

Matt Ruiz and Taylor Ross to the right of his Cleaving Mind

Matt Ruiz and Taylor Ross to the right of his Cleaving Mind

I had been very happy that this whole project had put me back in touch with Brian Morris, whose minute color pencil drawing I cannot see my soul but know ‘tis there had been such a highlight of my 2005 class in Dickinson and James.  Brian brought his brother and grandfather to the Exhibition Walk.  He was delighted to see that we had chosen his drawing for the back cover of the catalog.

Brian Morris with his brother, grandfather, drawing, and teacher

Brian Morris with his brother, grandfather, drawing, and teacher

Rachel Harpe was not here for the Exhibition Walk, but her mixed-media response to Dickinson’s My Cocoon tightens—colors tease was a favorite of Anthropology professor Judy Voelker.  Emma Rose had learned a good deal about exhibition installation from a course with Judy.  As Judy and I were talking next to Rachel’s artwork (a female silhouette surrounded by cut-out butterflies), I discovered that Judy was a favorite professor of Megan Beckerich too.

Judy Voelker and Megan Beckerich with works by Brian Morris and Rachel Harpe in Portrait section

Judy Voelker and Megan Beckerich with works by Brian Morris and Rachel Harpe in Portrait section

Over in the Landscape and Nature section, I was happy to get a photo of Jovana Vidojevic with her Orchids painting and poem.  She brought a friend to the Exhibition Walk and of course was looking forward to her return to Serbia in April.  It was probably no accident that the colors she was wearing matched those in her painting.

 

Jovana Vidojevich with her Purple Orchids painting

Jovana Vidojevich with her Purple Orchids painting

Jordan D’Addario’s Heaven is Here was to the left on the same wall, and I was happy tonight to meet her housemate.  Jordan is in the second year of law school at the University of Cincinnati and has just gotten a clerkship for the summer, so I thought she would enjoy meeting her fellow Dickinson artist Brian Morris, who is graduating from NKU’s Chase Law school this semester.

Jordan D’Addario and Brian Morris in front of her Heaven is Here

Jordan D’Addario and Brian Morris in front of her Heaven is Here

Back on the other side of the room, it was a delight to see Heather Braley alongside her quilt, which had brought us so much pleasure during the reading today.  I was delighted to meet her husband Christian after having met their son Clayton a few days before, when Heather delivered the sleeve by which the quilt is now hanging.

Heather Braley with the Dickinson quilt she had sewn with her grandmother’s thread

Heather Braley with the Dickinson quilt she had sewn with her grandmother’s thread

Heather had been a classmate of Tom Clark in my first graduate class in Dickinson and James during the Fall 2011 semester.  Tom’s final project, his fifteen-minute multi-media video of Emily’s Civil War, was now looping with three other videos on the monitor we had used for Claire’s talk the night before.  Tom had added vintage photographs and music to the Dickinson poems he had selected, and it was wonderful to see and hear the result on such excellent equipment.  Tom teaches at Conner High School and two of his students had already read in the Marathon.  He would be back with two more students the next day.

Tom Clark with “A slash of Blue— / A sweep of Gray” in Emily’s Civil War

Tom Clark with “A slash of Blue— / A sweep of Gray” in Emily’s Civil War

Before moving up to see the student artists near the display cases on the Third Floor, I was delighted to see Emily Grant Vater arrive in the company of not only her husband but of her friend Lisa Beaumont.  Lisa had been Emily’s co-star in the film trailer EDickinsonRePhLuxe that Emily created as her final project in my Spring 2008 Dickinson and James course.  I could not resist the opportunity to photograph them together in front of our video monitor as it was displaying the surreal scene in which Emily, playing a robot, was about to breathe.

Emily and Lisa in front of the monitor showing their spooky kitchen scene

Emily and Lisa in front of the monitor showing their spooky kitchen scene

Up on the Third Floor quite a large crowd had gathered around our display cases.  It was a wonderful opportunity for our student artists to reunite with some of their classmates and meet students who had created artworks in other classes.  Most of the students with artworks in these display cases were here tonight, and it was great to see them mix with each other as well as with those who came up from the installation in the Reading Room.

Gathering together near the Third Floor cases

Gathering together near the Third Floor cases

The four artists outside the vertical case looked as good as their works did inside it.

Molly Blackburn (McCuistion), Keianna Troxell (Gregory), Minadora Macheret, and Emily Christman

Molly Blackburn (McCuistion), Keianna Troxell (Gregory), Minadora Macheret, and Emily Christman outside vertical case

Here is Emily Christman standing next to Two Cents, the shadowbox featuring Dickinson Times, the fictional antique newspaper for which she wrote the kind of stories “yellow journalists” might have written about Dickinson’s life.

emily with two cents

Here is Minadora Macheret with the double-sided letter box she had filled with her own antique invention, letters she composed as if in response to three of the “Master Letters” that Dickinson had written to addressees still unknown to this day.

minadora and letter box

Here is Molly Blackburn (McCuistion) next to her diptych I’m Nobody! Who are you! and Fame is a Bee, contrasting celebrity fame with the more lasting kind Dickinson is currently enjoying.

molly with diptych 2.And here is Keianna Troxell (Gregory) next to Gib’s Room, her poignant tribute to Emily’s dear nephew who died as a child, Keianna dressing him here in photographs you can still see today on the back of the door to his room in Amherst, “across the hedge” from Emily’s house.

kianna with gib

Seeing each of these students singly was a real treat, and even more so, seeing them all together.  We also had an excellent turnout from the student artists whose artist books were displayed in the flat cases.  The only problem with this part of the exhibition is that we can only show one opening in each book at a time.  Emma Rose and I plan to turn the pages every week, so that those who are interested can see the richness and scope of each of these projects.

Carola Bell, who was a classmate of Heather Braley and Tom Clark in my Fall 2011 class on Dickinson and James, was here with Only Safe in Ashes, the artist book in which her original poem exploring a complex personal relationship is handprinted letter by letter on pages singed by flame and protected by a hand-colored leather cover.

carola with book

Hilda Weaver was a classmate of Minadora, Molly, Keianna, and Jordan in my Fall 2011 class in Dickinson and the Arts.  A retired psychologist, she put her own original poems in conversation with those of Dickinson in a beautifully crafted book whose every two-page opening was a pleasure to behold.

hilda with book

Megan Beckerich was here for the Exhibition Walk as she had been for the entire day.  It was particularly unfortunate that we could not display each two-page opening of her artist book because each one, in addition to a different subject, features a different artistic medium.  The “purple page” on display during the opening weekend was one of many reasons were all associating Megan with the color purple by the end of the semester.  She had chosen a skirt for the Exhibition Walk that beautifully matched not only the color but the design of the dress to which her artist book was open.

megan with book

Although John Campbell had been extremely busy this afternoon getting the ten panels of his Emily Dickinson interpretive screen assembled and installed for the evening concert, he also made it to the Exhibition Walk in time to meet with his fellow artists and enjoy what they had created.   He had been a classmate of Megan, Keianna, Kelsea, and Matt in my Spring 2014 class in Dickinson and the Arts, and he continued to associate with his young classmates with an ease not often found in one whose age and life experiences differ so sharply.  His artist book was next to Megan’s, as it had been in the classroom, and today it was open to the Bandaged Soul whose enlargement was exhibited downstairs.

John Campbell with his artist book opened to his depiction of the Bandaged Soul

John Campbell with his artist book opened to his depiction of the Bandaged Soul

By the time the collegial, comfortable gathering next to the Third Floor display cases began its migration back down to the Reading Room, the food for the Reception sponsored by the Friends of Steely Library was in place and warming up.  People continued to chat in small  groups and look at the artworks until the food was ready.  Our exhibition now had one new work.  Kathleen Piercefield had agreed to loan the multi-media print of Emily Dickinson’s white dress she had premiered the night before until the end of our show in May.

Kathleen Piercefield with the new White Dress print she has loaned to the exhibition

Kathleen Piercefield with the new White Dress print she has loaned to the exhibition

Once the lids on the hot dishes on the serving table were lifted, I made a brief announcement congratulating our student artists, and the Reception got underway in earnest.

friday reception 1

My abiding impression was of a square surrounded by a revolving circle until most of the excellent food was gone and it was time, for those who were going, to go down one floor and across the narrow plaza to Greaves Concert Hall for the Dickinson song recital.

friday receptioin 3

At some point, Emma Rose and I realized that we had not yet got a good photo of ourselves together during all the time we had been working on this project.  We had a photo taken before we left for the concert hall, and we’ll see if we need another one.

with emma rose at reception 1

Advertisements

Running a Dickinson Marathon, Part 1

Entry begun Sunday, February 22, 7:15 am         

I had never run a Dickinson Marathon before.  The first question was how much time it would take.  Cindy Dickinson, director of interpretive programming at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, has run several recently, and she said theirs usually takes 14 to 15 hours.  To be safe, I decided to run ours for 15 hours, from 9 am to 4:30 pm on two consecutive days.

The next question had been exactly when to hold the Marathon, around which our whole Arts Fest would be based.  Looking at the Spring Semester schedule, Valentine’s weekend seemed perfect.  This would help our readers remember when to come, and it would be a nice tribute to Emily’s unknown love life.  The first poem in her Complete Poems is in fact a Valentine, written during “Valentine week, 1850,” and beginning with these words:

 Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine,

Unwind the solemn twine, and tie my Valentine! (J 1)

Emily was then nineteen years old, about the age of some of my students who would be reading in this year’s Marathon.

I had decided early on to use the Johnson edition of Complete Poems because Franklin had imposed an entirely new numbering system when adding a few poems to the 1775 poems published by Johnson in 1955.  Bringing both editions into play would have been a nightmare.  We had plenty of copies of the Johnson edition on hand, thanks to the generosity of John Campbell and the Cold Spring branch of the Campbell County Public Library.

Student artist Kelsea Miskell reading on Friday

Student artist Kelsea Miskell reading on Friday

Emma Rose and Matt and I arrived at 8:30 on Friday morning to get everything set up for the 9 am start.  Jonathan from IT had arrived well before us and had moved the digital monitor used for Claire’s talk the night before to the other end of the Reading Room, where the four student videos in our exhibition would be playing in a continuous loop for the rest of the Arts Fest.  Keeping the podium in place, we moved the comfortable chairs into the semicircle for the readers, and left only a few rows of chairs from the reading the night before.  The intimacy of this arrangement was enhanced by the four fabric pieces on the nearby wall.  We were ready for our first readers–Sharyn Jones, chair of our Anthropology, Sociology, and Philosophy department, and Roxanne Kent-Drury, my colleague in the English department.

From right: Sharyn Jones and Roxanne Kent-Drury prepare to read as Matt adjusts the video equipment

From right: Sharyn Jones and Roxanne Kent-Drury prepare to read as Matt adjusts the video equipment

Also arriving before 9 am was our first shift from the student groups who were helping us run the Marathon.  Megan Beckerich was here from Honors, and she was ably assisted by her friend Constance McCafferty.  Throughout the morning one would be at the reception table to sign in readers and distribute catalogs to student artists, while the other sat near the readers and signaled the end of each ten-minute time slot.

Megan Beckerich and Constance McCafferty

Megan Beckerich and Constance McCafferty

At the registration desk, we asked each reader to announce the number of each poem before reading the poem itself. This would make it much easier for everyone to know exactly where we were.  Sharyn Jones had the honor of reading “Number 1.”

Sharyn and Roxanne getting us off to a good start

Sharyn and Roxanne getting us off to a good start

I could not hear all of the readings because there were so many other things to attend to, and so many students, friends, and colleagues to greet.  On that first morning bits of Emily came in snatches.  I was surprised early on to hear Daniel Boone’s name in one of the poems (J 3).  It was wonderful, among the early verse, to hear Emily’s first heartfelt tribute to her friend Sue (who may have been the love of her life before Sue married Emily’s brother Austin):

One Sister I have in our house, / And one, a hedge away (J 14).

And then, still very early on, came two extraordinary poems that remain among her best-known today, “Heart! We will forget him!” and “I never lost as much but twice” (J 47 and 49).  Hearing poems such as these surface among the lesser-known ones was one of many pleasures this morning.

Another pleasure was to see former students such as Sara Moore Wagner, from my first graduate class in Dickinson and James, who had since been chosen as a resident poet in Amherst.  It was also a pleasure to hear Sara reading Dickinson poems again, as she had done in the classroom.  She was reading in a sequence with three of my English department colleagues, Steven Leigh, Tonya Krouse, and Bill McKim.

Marathon readers from left: Steven Leight, Tonya Krouse, Sara Moore Wagner, and Bill McKim

Marathon readers from left: Steven Leigh, Tonya Krouse, Sara Moore Wagner, and Bill McKim

I was also happy to meet Sara’s husband Jon and son Cohen, seen from behind in the above photo.  Sara has a second child on the way, who maybe heard some soothing prenatal rhythms while his expectant mother listened to several subsequent readers.

Sara Moore Wagner and family listening to subsequent readers

Sara Moore Wagner, with husband Jon and son Cohen, listening to subsequent readers

Another highlight this morning came when we got to poem 148, “All overgrown by cunning moss.”  Katherine Frank, our Dean of Arts and Sciences, was the reader.  She was as surprised as I was to find herself reading Dickinson’s tribute to Charlotte Brontë, who had died in 1859.  Katherine had visited the gravesite of the Brontë sisters near the Haworth Parsonage when researching the juvenalia they had written as part of her dissertation.  It was a true delight to see her face light up after reading these lines that end this poem:

Oh what an afternoon for Heaven, / When ‘Bronte’ entered there!

Dean Katherine Frank (with Honors Director Belle Zembrodt) realizing she has a Brontë poem

Dean Katherine Frank (with Honors Director Belle Zembrodt) realizing she has a Brontë poem

As we got close to lunch time, I decided to make a run upstairs to Einstein’s Bagels in our library lobby to get lunch for myself and our student helpers.  The convenience of this reminded me of our first decade at NKU in the 1970s, when the only food in campus buildings came from vending machines.  Megan and Constance were on duty until 1 pm, with Kaitlin Mills and her Loch Norse colleagues arriving at 12:30 for for the transition.  The Marathon went on without a break while we had lunch, sharing good impressions of the day so far.

Megan and Emma Rose at Registration Desk (with video monitor behind Megan's head)

Megan and Emma Rose at Registration Desk (with video monitor behind Megan’s head)

One notable event during the afternoon was the reading by Taylor Ross, the music major who had sung two of Aaron Copland’s Dickinson songs at her recital back in October.  As she is Matt’s girl friend, that gave him an opportunity to sit next to her as she read.  Before Taylor left, they accepted my invitation to stand for a photograph near Matt’s Cleaving Mind painting.

Taylor Ross (reading) with Matt Ruiz

Taylor Ross (reading) with Matt Ruiz

Soon after Taylor read I had the pleasure of greeting Janet Arno, who had coordinated all the support we received from the Cold Spring branch of the Campbell County Public Library.  She brought two other Marathon readers from her reading groups at the library, Gail Blair and Sean Delisch.  It was wonderful to have this kind of support from out in the community, and all three read the poetry very well.  Janet and Gail were preceded by my English department colleague John Alberti, who, like many readers, followed along for quite some time after completing his reading.  By this point, Kaitlin Mills and Keight Versluis of Loch Norse had taken over the monitoring positions from Megan and Constance.

Janet Arno, Gail Blair, and John Alberti in the reading chairs as Keight Versluis (seated) and Kaitlin Mills follow

Janet Arno, Gail Blair, and John Alberti in the reading chairs as Keight Versluis (seated) and Kaitlin Mills follow

I would have liked to hear all of the readers and all of the poems, but at some point in the afternoon I had to break away to the concert hall to see how John and Jonathan were doing in delivering and positioning the ten screen panels for the concert that night.  John had indeed completed and delivered all the screens, and the news that there would be no marimba allowed more space for deploying them.  In part because of the scaling down of the number of works to be performed, it had been decided to invite the audience to sit on the stage near the piano and performers, making the presence of the screens even more desirable.  Having the audience on stage, there would be no need for me or Kurt Sander to use a microphone when introducing the program, and therefore no need for the sound check I had expected to have this afternoon.

Bare stage, piano, and screens, on Friday afternoon

Bare stage, piano, and screens, on Friday afternoon

One very nice surprise when I returned to the Reading Room was the appearance of Kiana Berry, who had been assigned to cover the entire Arts Fest for our school newspaper, The Northerner.  She was interested in all elements of the Fest, and particularly in Emma Rose, Matt, and the student artists whose exhibition of classroom art had provided the occasion for everything that was happening this weekend.  Last night she had been conducting video interviews with Emma Rose and Matt while the rest of us were heading downstairs to meet with Kathleen and Claire in the Archive.

Kiana Berry with Emma Rose and Matt

Kiana Berry with Emma Rose and Matt

Late in the afternoon, as we approached 4 pm, another moment of serendipity transpired. Richard Hunt, a member of our Steely Library Board, was reading.  Richard is owner of Roebling Point Books and Coffee in Covington, and he publishes books in addition to selling them. I was pretty excited when I heard him begin to read number 709, one of my favorites, “Publication—is the Auction / Of the Mind of Man.”  One problem with the kind of Marathon we were conducting, running through the entire body of work in sequence, is that no reader (except for the first one) has any idea what poems he or she will be reading.  But that also makes possible these wonderful surprises.

richard hunt

Publisher Richard Hunt reads “Publication–is the Auction / Of the Mind of Man”

Our last scheduled reader on Friday was Camilla Asplen Mecher, who had been well into her ninth month of pregnancy when our group of Moby students and alums had attended Know Theater’s production of Moby-Dick in October.  Camilla had been one of my Dickinson students too, and Emma Rose and I had chosen her multi-media drawing from my Fall 2001 class, I took my Power in my Hand, for the front cover of our catalog.  Camilla and Dan’s son Jude had been born in November, so he was getting some early exposure to the arts today.

Camilla Asplen Mecher arriving with son Jude

Camilla Asplen Mecher arriving with son Jude

It was wonderful to see Jude’s Facebook persona face to face.  Camilla kept bouncing him up and down in a soft springing motion to keep him occupied–and relatively quiet–as she waited her turn to read.  During her reading, she was sometimes holding Jude’s head in one hand and Emily’s book in the other, a wonderful way to end part 1 of our Marathon Reading.

Camilla holding Judes head and Emilys book as she reads

Camilla holding Jude’s head and Emily’s book as she reads

For a first-time experiment, Day 1 of the Marathon went very well.  All forty-five of the ten-minute slots were filled, and everyone seemed to enjoy both reading and listening.  The last poem Camilla had read was no. 771, “None can experience stint / Who Bounty—have not known.”  Those of us who had seen Claire’s presentation the night before particularly enjoyed Camilla’s reading of no. 762, “Presentiment—is that long Shadow—on the Lawn.”  Artists who create something memorable in response to a Dickinson poem enrich our experience of that poem forever.  That had been doubly true of Camilla’s artistic response to poem 540, “I took my Power in my Hand,” which inspired the title of our exhibition as well as the cover of our catalog.

scan dickinson front cover

When Day 1 ended on poem 771, Emma Rose and I were a little worried that we might not be able to complete our run through all of the poems the next day.  The mathematical midpoint of 1775 would have been 888, and we were more than a hundred short of that even though our readers had been reading without a break all day.  Many of Dickinson’s later poems, however, are much shorter than the long poetic Valentines with which Sharyn launched us this morning.  The Valentine poem from 1850 which began the Marathon has 40 lines, all of which are themselves very long.  The Valentine poem from 1852 (the one that includes the line “Hurrah for Daniel Boone!”) has 68 lines in 17 stanza of four lines each.

For now, we could only hope that the numbers would even out the next day.  As for this day, the Exhibition Walk began as soon as part 1 of the Marathon had ended.

Piercefield and Illouz present New Dickinson Artworks

Entry begun Sunday, February 15, 4:50 pm

Claire arrived in the Reading Room right at 5 pm on the evening of her lecture.  Adam from IT was there for the tech check, and everything went well.  It’s great how Powerpoints from Europe are now compatible with our systems here.  I remember a session at our International Melville Conference in Rome in 2011 (at which Claire also spoke) that was almost ruined because someone brought in a file for her talk at the very last minute whose incompatibility caused a delay that robbed all the speakers of some of their time.

The period from 5 to 7 Thursday evening was the one time Kimberly and Ingrid had invited me to sit in on part of their rehearsal if I wished.  So Claire and I slipped into the concert hall before getting something to eat.  I had been delighted to hear from Kimberly and Ingrid this morning that Kimberly was much better, though still not herself.  She now fully expected to be able to perform tomorrow night.  This good news helped to balance the bad news that Kurt Sander had reluctantly conveyed this morning.  He had finished his third Dickinson composition in tme to share it with the performers, but they had not had sufficient time to prepare it for the concert.  Because the three compositions were a set, Kurt felt he had to pull all three pieces from the program, and had revised the printed program accordingly.  Claire and I kept our discussion of all of this brief, so that Kimberly and Ingrid could continue with their rehearsal.  The two songs we heard from them made us very eager for the concert the following night.

Kimberly and Ingrid rehearsing on Thursday evening

Kimberly and Ingrid rehearsing on Thursday evening

I had been excited when Kathleen Piercefield had requested three easels for her presentation this evening.  I had seen her first portrait of Dickinson at the exhibition in Fort Thomas last summer, but the other two works that she brought tonight were entirely new.  The  portrait in brown tones of Emily with reddish hair, holding a letter or a poem, beneath which is a bird, is absolutely beautiful and evocative.   So is Kathleen’s rendering of Emily’s famous white dress, a mixed-media print that resonated intimately with Lindsay Alley’s white poem dress only a few feet away on the wall to the left.  Kathleen’s talk was expert, fluent, and engaging.  The reddish hair in the brown-tone portrait had been inspired by Dickinson’s word portrait of herself in a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the same letter in which she had described herself as “small as a wren.”  Kathleen had already included the small wren-like bird in this portrait before encountering this letter.

Kathleen Piercefield, Emily Dickinson in brown tones, monotype and collagraph, 2015.

Kathleen Piercefield, Emily Dickinson in brown tones, monotype and collagraph, 2015

For all of these prints Kathleen had combined the printmaking techniques of monotype and collagraph.  She loves monotype because spreading ink on a smooth plate and then “wiping it away” invites bold gestures.  With collagraph, she is able build up the image with a variety of textures.  She left the white dress uninhabited to symbolize “all that we don’t know about Dickinson herself.”  I was glad to hear Kathleen say that “this white dress concept is still very much in process” and that there will be more works to come.

Kathleen Piercefield’s three Emily Dickinson prints, with Februray 12 audience. Still from video by Mat Ruiz.

Kathleen Piercefield’s three Emily Dickinson prints, with February 12 audience. Still from video by Matt Ruiz.

Kathleen concluded her talk by quoting the letter to Higginson in which Dickinson asked him whether her poems “breathe.”  This is Kathleen’s deepest wish as a printmaker, that once a work leaves her studio, it will live in the lives of its viewers.  I loved that Andrea Knarr, Kathleen’s printmaking teacher at NKU, was front and center for this talk, on the left in the image below as Kathleen returns to the audience after her talk.

Andrea Knarr, lower left, after Kathleen Piercefield has completed her talk

Andrea Knarr, lower left, after Kathleen Piercefield has completed her talk

Kathleen and Claire greatly admire each other’s work, and it was a deep pleasure to see and hear them present back-to-back.  Each is a Moby-Dick artist turning to Dickinson for the first time, and it was fascinating to compare the subjects they chose and the techniques they used, Kathleen creating prints by combining monotype and collagraph, Claire creating an artist book with engraving and embossing.  Each began with a single Dickinson poem that had spoken to her.  With Kathleen, it was “My Cocoon tightens—Colors tease,” the poem in which “A dim capacity for Wings / Demeans the Dress I wear” (J 1099).  Kathleen had already been deeply engaged with the depiction of moths and butterfies when she encountered this poem, and before long it was leading her into the new work we were now seeing.  The one poem that had immediately struck Claire was “Presentiment—is that long Shadow—on the Lawn” (J 764).   This was the first poem she had ever read by Dickinson, and “I just felt that the poem was written for me.”   Throughout the talk Claire made excellent use of the state-of-the-art video monitor that Tracy Insko had set up for her.

Claire showing one of her earlier artist books

Claire showing one of her earlier artist books

Before moving sequentially through the three parts of her artist book Summer Boughs, Claire quickly addressed how this new project relates to her previous printmaking and bookmaking process.  Like many of the other artist books, including The Whiteness, this one relates to a literary subject.  Each, however, does so in a very different way.  Recently Claire had come across a quote from the current head of the Rare Books Division of the Library of Congress that expressed very well her own intention in creating any artist book: “to lead the text and reader into an unexplored land, to an uninhabited space, to a perception of both text and image different” than was seen before.  Claire had read quite a bit about Dickinson at the beginning of this project, but once she had chosen her three poems, she tried to “forget what I knew about her.  The meaning of her poems is strong enough to stand alone.”  Claire would read and reread each poem, absorbing each text until she feels it has become “cramped for room. Then and only then, I know it’s in need” of the kind of “translation” she can provide as a printmaker.  For her, Dickinson is all about “sensation.”  In her poetry, “the whole world, the whole universe, is loaded with meaning.”  Claire “would not dare to say” her book is in “conversation with Emily Dickinson.”  She feels more as if she was “walking with her for a short while through three landscapes unknown to us both.”

Claire illustrating her love of books as she speaks about coming to terms with Dickinson

Claire illustrating her love of books as she speaks about coming to terms with Dickinson

Although some of Claire’s artist books (including The Whiteness and the landscape in red posted above) can be opened and unfolded in accordion style, Summer Boughs is printed on simple, discreet, single sheets of paper, folded so that each sheet can hold four images, one on the front and back of each fold.  Each folded sheet is in this sense comparable to one of Dickinson’s compact, four-line stanzas.  Each folded sheet is physically free from the others, a style the French call cahier libre (free pages), but they can be placed in a way in which the outer folds speak to each other.  I did not fully understand the magic of this—comparable to the process of reading a beautifully distilled Dickinson poem one line, and then one stanza, and then another stanza, at a time—until I got to hold the book in my own hands in the copy we acquired for the Steely Library Archive.  You read each page in this layered book by turning each folded sheet one half-sheet at a time.

A dramatic moment in the "Presentiment" section of Summer Boughs

An open fold in the “Presentiment” section of Summer Boughs

Claire had asked me, when introducing her, to comment briefly on the three poems she had chosen for this book.  After noting the sequence in which Dickinson is thought to have written them, I suggested it would be important to look at the sequence in which Claire presents them in the book.  That certainly turned out to be the case.

The first poem in the sequence is “Presentiment” (J 764), increasingly black as the rising of the night overtakes the soft blue sky and suddenly swallows the light above the “startled Grass.”  The language of the poem itself leaves open the possibility that the passing of the night might itself “pass,” but in this rendering by Illouz the stark and the dark predominate.  In the facing pages immediately below, the horizontality of the landscape and of the poetic line are stretched to their limit as the shadows of the rising night infiltrate the grass, setting up intricate, nervous rhythms within and between the verbal and visual spaces.  Illouz feels that Dickinson writes with such “devilish precision” that the “meaning of the text will hold” even when stretched almost to the breaking point..

Open fold of "Presentiment" sheet

Rhythmic spacing of early  “Presentiment” opening

“Of all the Sounds dispatched abroad” (J 321), the central section of the artist book, is a virtuoso deployment of ink on paper.  Its engravings are inked in black, blue, green,and red, these contrasting with colorless embossing in surprising shapes and shadings as the gusty, breezy wind that surges through Dickinson’s poem.  Itself invisible to the eye, Dickinson’s wind is made visible through its visceral, variable effect on all who see and feel its force.  Illouz in her medium conveys both the visible and audible force of wind.  We cannot hear the sound of the wind rushing through her sheets, but instead see its effect on the printed shapes, including the “Summer Boughs” from which the book takes its title.  I love the way a visible trace of the sound of the wind orchestrates the shapes of the swirling birds in the sky before running into, and through, the boughs of a rustling tree, changing colors, as in musical modulations, in each stage of its unstoppable path.  Claire explained that her work on this section of the poem was greatly enhanced by information provided by her son Leo, an acoustical engineer.

Claire showing sound waves sent by her son, the acoustical engineer

Claire showing sound waves sent by her son, the acoustical engineer

Claire’s son Leo sent her images of actual sound waves so beautiful and colorful she would have loved to use them as they were.  But she had to make them her own in the context of the book she was making.  She had decided to “make the wind blow through every stanza” of this long, complex poem.  Here is the open fold for those “Who never heard the fleshless Chant.”

sb--who never heard that fleshless chant spread

Here the “merry Dust” of the deceased is magically embossed into the receptive paper by granules of salt.

"I cannot vouch the merry Dust /  do not arise and play"

“I cannot vouch the merry Dust / do not arise and play”

One reason Illouz chose this poem is that the wind “had always upset, bothered, and even frightened me.”  Facing the wind head on in her studio, as well as under every windblown tree she could find in the course of this project, Illouz had finally come to terms with “the mystery of this irresistible force,” which “has no substance,” yet is “eternally part of us.”  Through all of the ways in which she makes the invisible motion of the sound of the wind visible, Illouz gives  unforgettable expression to such phrases in the poem as “phraseless Melody,” “tufts of Tune,” “merry Dust,” “fleshless Chant,” and the last image in the poem, the “Caravan of Sound” that “knit—and swept— / In Seamless Company.”  Separately and together, Illouz and Dickinson have enabled us to see, and to feel, more of “all the Sounds dispatched abroad” than any of us would be able to see or feel with such intensity on our own.  There is something almost Holy in the Spirit of the wind as depicted by these two artists, in Dickinson’s words more “inner than the Bone.”

The closing opening of the “Summer Boughs” section of the book

The closing opening of the “Summer Boughs” section of the book

After the exuberance, the ecstasy, of “All the Sounds dispatched abroad,” Illouz takes the reader of her book, as she took her Thursday night audience, through the process by which “We become accustomed to the Dark” (J 419).  We do so by facing it head on.  Claire’s black ground for this section of Summer Boughs corresponds to the pitch black of “Those Evenings of the Brain— / When not a Moon disclose a sign— / Or Star—come out—within.”  The words of this stanza, like all of the words until the concluding line of the poem, are printed in silver so subtle on jet black paper that your eyes must literally become “accustomed to the Dark” to read them.

sb III either ther darkenss alters page

Dickinson’s words on Illouz’s “Dark”

Once you do read those words, though, and persist, you do reach that condition in which “something in the sight / Adjusts itself to Midnight– / And Life steps almost straight.”  Claire’s final image delivers this poem’s courageous, self-generated response to that sudden Darkness in the coming of the night in the “Presentiment” section of Summer Boughs.  Dickinson has shown us how to find light, not through some trick by which it magically supplants darkness, but, rather, through “our own habituation to its absence.”  Illouz concluded her lecture by asking whether “there could be any better lesson than that.  I think we should thank Emily Dickinson for this optimist touch.  What a wonderful truth for finishing the book.”

The light of Life in the Blackness of Darkness

The light of Life in the Blackness of Darkness

The shape of the light in the dark of Illouz’s concluding open fold enacts the closing gesture in which “Life steps almost straight.”  The combination of image and words also reminds me of Dickinson’s “Experience is the Angled Road” (J 910).  And of “that precarious Gait / Some call Experience” in “I stepped from Plank to Plank” (J 875).

What a journey of creative exploration Claire took us on in her 35-minute lecture.  And what a visible, tactile, visceral experience for all future visitors to the Steely Library Archive who will be examining the copy of Summer Boughs we acquired on the occasion of Claire’s visit, no. 8 in the worldwide edition of 30.

SB in box

After Kathleen and Claire’s presentations, we moved directly down to the Archive, where each artist could show her newest work in a more intimate setting.  Lois Hamill had generously kept the Archive open long past her normally scheduled hours, and the result was much to the satisfaction of all.  Kathleen had brought various materials that allowed her to demonstrate the evolution of the images in her prints and the process of combining monotype and collagraph in a single, layered print.  Claire took questions, and showed examples from her new Summer Boughs, and Lois had also laid out our copy of the Whiteness book for visitors to examine.

Claire describing the wind moving through the boughs to audience in Archive

Claire describing the wind moving through the boughs to audience in Archive

As with Claire’s previous lecture here, we had a wonderful mix of printmakers from Cincinnati (introduced to Claire and her work by John Campbell), printmakers from northern Kentucky (mentored for decades by Andrea Knarr), and students from my Moby-Dick and Dickinson classes (several of whom had artworks in the exhibition upstairs).  Many of the printmakers in the room would be returning to our campus for a two-day printmaking workshop on Saturday and Sunday that Claire was to be conducting in Andrea’s print room.  This remarkable evening opened the Arts Fest in more splendid and stimulating fashion, really, than I had even imagined.  Among the many photos we took in the Archive before leaving, I will post one in which Kathleen, Claire, and I are joined by John Campbell, impresario of the evening, and Matt Ruiz, the trouble-shooter from my recent Moby-Dick and Dickinson classes who was this evening’s videographer.

From left: John Campbell, Matt Ruiz, Kathleen Piercefield, Claire Illouz, and the author

From left: John Campbell, Matt Ruiz, Kathleen Piercefield, Claire Illouz, and the author

Matt Ruiz, our student-artist trouble-shooter for the Arts Fest, videotaped the lecture / presentation by Kathleen and Claire, which you can now see on this YouTube posting which Michael Providenti has uploaded to the Steely Library website:

.

 

Setting the Stage

Entry begun Monday, February 9, 8 am

Back on Saturday, Jack Campbell asked if I would like to see his current idea for the broadside.  Claire had sent the image of a drawing in color for him to place in conversation with the poem “I would not be—a painter.”   In the red crayon style of Watteau and other French draughtsmen two centuries ago, Claire had drawn the human organs and appendages through humans we register and express the art forms rendered in the poem.  John and I were sitting in my living room in Bellevue, and the direct light through the front window on a sunny day lit it up beautifully.

saturday john holding drawing repo

On Tuesday, February 10, Emma Rose and I met as usual from 2 to 3.  We had taken our final edit of the Moby-Dick catalog to CJK on Friday, so for this week we had only Dickinson to deal with.  We had a few catalogs still to inscribe, and we had to come up with a strategy for ordering additional Dickinson catalogs if we sell out on the weekend.  But this meeting was less pressured than some of the others had been, now that we had left the text of the Moby catalog at the printer’s and could no more be looking for errors.  When our meeting was over, I went over Greaves Concert Hall, where I had understood that John Campbell had arranged to bring sample panels of the Dickinson screen he was designing for the concert on Friday night.  Jonathan Eaton, the stage manager, needed to see them so he could decide whether there would be room for the full set of ten panels on stage.  In addition to Kimberly, Ingrid, and the piano, Jonathan needed to have room for the marimba and musicians to be featured in the world premiere of three instrumental settings of Dickinson poems that Kurt Sander was composing especially for this concert.  Kimberly had set the order of the program the week before, and Kurt and I had supplied the program notes.  Kurt’s three instrumental works would be followd by the Copland songs and then the Heggie songs.

A page from the proof of the February 13 Emily Dickinson concert program

A page from the proof of the February 13 Emily Dickinson concert program

When I got to the concert stage in hopes of seeing John, Jonathan, and the sample screens, I found instead a chamber orchestra rehearsing on stage.  Jonathan’s elevated control room is visible from the stage, but it was quite a convoluted process to reach the door to it—by returning to the lobby, finding a long corridor to the left, passing an out-of-order elevator to the second floor, walking through the corridor to the attached building, and walking up the stairs to the second-floor corridor along which Jonathan’s door, next to that of the Music Department office, was open.  He was very interested in the idea of incorporating the screens on stage, and did not seem to mind the complications that might present in an already overloaded week.  After chatting with Jonathan, not yet seeing John, I headed back over the to library to see archivist Lois Hamill about a special little show we were putting together in honor of Claire.  And here, on the plaza between the two buildings, was John, who had just arrived with six of his screen panels.  I had seen digital images of two of them but here they were in person.  They were beautiful in concept and execution, with all sorts of bold and subtle touches related to Dickinson’s life and works (including “Bolts of Melody” on the black-and-white panel)..

john unloading screees 2

We found Jonathan and took the panels inside.  The stage was now empty, and John and Jonathan discussed how they might deploy and support the screens.  Once they determined that we had plenty of room for all ten panels, we moved most of the ones John had brought today into a spacious room backstage, John sliding the other two back into his car for some overnight touch-up work.

fasciscles in car

Making this connection about the screens on stage was very satisfying, and it helped overcome somewhat our concern from the email I had received from Kimberly that morning, indicating that she was not well and might not be able to perform on Friday.  She said she would be going to a doctor who would be giving her steroids or antibiotics, whatever would be needed to make her better, but she had wanted me to know that it was possible that the concert might not take place.  Jonathan Eaton and spoken to her earlier in the day and was still hopeful that she would recover in time, as “she is a real trooper.”  But this development left even less time for her and Ingrid, who had just flown in from Oregon, to rehearse the 12 Copland and 5 Heggie songs.  All we could do was hope that Kimberly would recover enough to sing at her best, and that the program could go on as scheduled.

afternoon stage shot

After all the preparation, all of the moving parts for the Arts Fest were now coming together.  Claire would be flying from San Francisco overnight on Wednesday, arriving here on Thursday morning in time to rest for her joint presentation with Kathleen on Thursday evening.  On Wednesday afternoon I went to the Archive to help with the surprise exhibition Lois and I were planning for Claire.  At 1 pm on Thursday, Emma Rose and I met in the Reading Room with Tracy Insko and his media crew, who brought all of the equipment needed in the Reading Room throughout the weekend.

After setting up the podium, computer, speakers, and a beautiful video monitor for the Thursday night presentations, Tracy showed us where he and his associates could position the monitor for the rest of the weekend so visitors could see a continuous loop of the four student videos that were part of the exhibition.  Matt Ruiz, our trouble-shooter, and Sandi Webster and Michael Providenti from the library staff, attended this orientation session, at the end of which Tracy showed Matt how to run the portable video camera with which he could record the presentations by Kathleen and Claire that evening.  In this, as in the entire run-up to the Fest, Emma Rose and I were blessed with excellent, generous help.  Michael Providenti in the last few days had installed the two student websites and four student videos that would be running on a dedicated computer in the Reading Room until the end of the exhibition in May.

awaiting hte lecture

Awaiting the start of the Thursday evening presentations, hours after Tracy Insko had installed the equipment (Michael with the beard at the left, Matt readying the video recorder in the middle)

John Campbell had met Claire Illouz at the airport at 5 in the morning and had gotten her installed in the studio of an artist friend at the top of a very steep hill in Cincinnati.  He would be bringing her to campus for a “tech check” with the media crew at 5 in the evening.  The surprise exhibition we had mounted in the Archive was called Living Books and Nature: Engravings and Embossings by Claire Illouz.  It featured six prints and one zinc plate from my personal collection.  The one zinc plate is the printing element with which Claire had embossed the whale’s tail on the last page of her Whiteness book, a variant print of which image Lois had just mounted in the Archive, near the zinc plate that had impressed it.

tail and embossing

Completing the Hang

Entry begun Saturday, February 7, 2:50 pm

As the walls of the Reading Room kept filling with art, artworks kept making their way into other venues.  On our first installation day in the Reading Room, John Campbell brought in the artist book he had made in my 2014 Spring Semester class, now destined for one of the display cases on the Third Floor.  He also brought in the newest sample of the broadside he is making in honor of Claire Illouz’s visit, each of which will feature a beautiful imprint of Dickinson’s poem “I would not paint—a picture—“ (J 505) surrounded a variety of designs of John’s own invention, eventually to be supplemented by a design element to be sent by Claire from France.  I love the way the broadside is beginning to look.  In this early proof, the words of the poem stand out against a black ground as starkly as the white words of our catalog stand out against the black ground Emma Rose has given them.  This made the sample broadside the perfect prop to display—and read from—at the most recent Loch Norse meeting at Bow Tie in Cincinnati.

First view of broadside poem on computer screen

First view of broadside poem on computer screen

I had already decided to read poem 505 at the Loch Norse meeting because of the brilliant attention it gives to all three of the arts to be featured in our Fest: painting, music, and poetry.  It is also a poem about discovering one’s own artistic vocation: “Had I the Art to stun myself / With Bolts of Melody!” After I read the poem to the Bow Tie students and made a few brief comments, John followed with some words about the broadside itself—which he had mounted on the white board of the coffee house.  Again it was thrilling to see the collegiality of our college students sharing their blossoming literary artistry across the river in Cincinnati.

John Campbell showing poster-size proof of his Claire Illouz (J 505) broadside

John Campbell showing poster-size proof of his Claire Illouz (J 505) broadside

On Friday, February 8, Emma Rose and I got everything hanging on the north wall of the Reading Room and re-installed one watercolor that had fallen from the Landscape and Garden section overnight.  On Sunday we came back to finish the rest of the south wall.  She brought her mother and her friend Andrew to help with the hang.  We had returned the ladder we had borrowed from the Fine Arts building on Friday, so Emma Rose brought one from home.  She also brought little “sticky things” to help certain works hug the wall.  I could only stay for the very beginning of this hang, as I had to walk across campus to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony honoring the 2007-08 women’s basketball that had provided the perfect Epilogue to the book I had written about the previous year’s team by winning the Division II NCAA National Championship in Kearney, Nebraska.  It was great to see these players seven years after their communal moment of glory.  They were all as impressive as persons now as they had been on the court during their championship run in 2008.

NKU Women’s Basketball 2008 National Champs in NKU 2015 Hall of Fame

NKU Women’s Basketball 2008 National Champs in NKU 2015 Hall of Fame

When I returned to the Reading Room after the Hall of Fame presentations, the whole show was beautifully installed, all the works snug to the wall.  The Portrait section was complete now that I had gotten Sarah Dewald’s Modern Daguerreotype back from the framer.

full portrait row feb 8

The 2014 photo of Sarah herself on the left side of her Modern Daguerreotype diptych related well to Jill Schlarman’s self-portrait in charcoal to its immediate left.  Sarah’s reproduction of the Emily Dickinson daguerreotype on the right side of her diptych related equally well to Brian Morris’s depiction of that same daguerreotype as the negative space in his drawing to the immediate right of Sarah’s work in our show.

Sarah Dewald,, Modern Daguerreotype

Sarah Dewald, Modern Daguerreotype

The Fabric section was looking great now that Heather Braley’s quilt was up with its three companions.  Heather had very kindly added a removable sleeve to the back of her quilt to help us hang it, and I got to see her baby Clayton for the first time when she brought him with the quilt to the library.

full fabric row feb 8 It was great to see the quilted window frames in Stacey Barnes’s Emily’s Garden against the actual window frames looking out from our Reading Room.

garden quilt feb 6

I had previously known all of these fabric pieces very well, as two of them are from my collection at home, and I had placed the other two on extended loan to the reception area of our Honors House.  Even so, they look much different evenly hung in good light together with each other.  Now it is very easy to read the three Dickinson poems Lindsay Alley had painted in vertical lines on her white poem dress, and until now I had never fully appreciated the absolutely beautiful texture of the fabric worn by the lady we see from behind in Laura Beth Thrasher’s Henry and Emily.

laura beht detail 2

The Landscape and Garden section is looking so much better now that the watercolor that had slipped to the floor has regained its place.  It is amazing how one gap in a sequence can destroy an otherwise excellent installation.  It is also amazing what a difference it makes when every work is snug to the wall, evenly hung, and proportionally spaced.  Emma Rose’s courses in gallery installation have prepared her beautifully for such work.

full landscape and garden row feb 8

On this wall, now that I could savor the installation, I particularly loved the coloristic and spatial play between Alan Johnston’s photograph of an Alaskan sunset and Emma Clixby’s sunset sculpture whose spread wings and fluted body at once suggest Emily herself, a bird, and an angel.  The visual play becomes even richer when you realize that Alan’s Alaskan mountain scene is named for Dickinson’s “The Sun went down—no Man looked on,” a poem whose final words are equally applicable to Emma’s ceramic sculpture: “The Earth and I and One / A nameless Bird—a Stranger / Were Witness of the Crown—“ (J 1079).

Alaska landscape and Amherst bird

The newest pleasure on this day was to see the fourth section of the exhibition in this room up on the wall and perfectly installed.  This section depicts the Human Figure along a rich continuum from representational to abstract.  Spatially and coloristically, Emma Rose’s hang engages the eye throughout, with the two large views of the female figure, by Carol Scaringelli and Camilla Apslen, framing the works by Kelsea Miskell, Matt Ruiz, and John Campbell in the middle.  Carol’s mixed-media riff on Dickinson on the left gives us only a partial portrait of the face of the enraptured woman whose eager, grasping fingers reach out for beauty—in contrast to the boldness with which every letter and gesture of Camilla’s full-body figure says I took my Power in my Hand, which itself plays of beautifully against John’s adjacent, abstract depiction of Dickinson’s Bandaged Soul.

full figurative row feb 8

The contrast between figurative and abstract is equally striking in the two smaller works, both predominantly purple, in this section.  The figurative, narrative, dramatic ambiguity of Kelsea Miskell’s I Came to buy a smile—today is a stark contrast to Matt Ruiz’s radically abstract Cleaving Mind, inspired by Dickinson’s “I felt a Cleaving in my Mind—“ (J 937).  Matt’s acrylic painting immediately follows Kelsea’s mixed-media image in our catalog, but it is even better to see them right next to each other on the wall.  This entire section presents a rich variety of left brains and right brains in action and interaction.

two figure piefces

On the next day, Monday, February 9, Emma Rose and I had our last meeting with members of the four student groups who were helping us plan and organize the Marathon.  It was great to meet in the exhibition space where the Marathon would be run, with the artworks now on the walls, making it easier to project how everything would be playing out a few days from now.  All four groups were represented, and the electronic sign-up sheet for the Marathon was already filling up nicely.  We had originally thought that each Marathon reader would use the microphone and podium that would be installed for the Thursday night lecture, but at this meeting we unanimously decided to make it more informal by deploying a half circle of comfortable chairs face-to-face with a few rows of chairs for the audience, with no microphone necessary.  We verified the procedures by which two students from each group would cover each four-hour shift, one to register the readers and oversee our catalogs, the other to monitor the ten-minute time slots and the sequence of poems for the Marathon readers.  We got done before we planned, so I had time to take a photo of the student reps before we left.

From left; Minadora Macheret (AEGS), Caitlin Mills (Loch Norse), Matt Ruiz (trouble-shooter-in-chief), Rebecca Hudgins (Sigma Tau Delta), and Megan Beckerich (Honors)

From left; Minadora Macheret (AEGS), Kaitlin Mills (Loch Norse), Matt Ruiz (trouble-shooter-in-chief), Rebecca Hudgins (Sigma Tau Delta), and Megan Beckerich (Honors)

We left the Reading Room that day fully installed and ready for the Marathon.

whole east wall feb 8

Installing the Reading Room

Entry begun Saturday, February 7, 11:10 am

My job was to deliver the artworks to the Reading Room.  Emma Rose’s was to deploy the artworks on the walls.  We had grouped the works by subject and genre in the catalog, and we were following those groupings on the Third Floor, with the artist books in the horizontal cases and most of the 3-D works and assemblages in the vertical case.  That one section of the north wall in the Reading Room was perfect for the quilts and dress.  But we had three other sections in the Reading Room and four kinds of subjects to fill them—those we had grouped as Portraits and the Human Subjects in one section of the catalog, and those we had grouped as Landscape and Nature Subjects in another.  Fortunately, some of the artworks had elements of both portraits and the human figure, so Emma Rose selected an excellent sequence of frontal portraits for the north wall, across from a more miscellaneous depiction of the human figure on the south wall, devoting the section of the south wall across from the fabric works to landscape and nature scenes.

Emma Rose sorting out which works would best go where

Emma Rose sorting out which works would best go where

Once the sequence for a particular wall was chosen, Emma Rose got out the tape measure and a calculating pad while I went to the Fine Arts building to borrow a tall ladder and electric screwdriver from gallery director David Knight.  The aluminum ladder was light enough for me to lift and carry, but I almost hit the head of a student who was quietly reading on a couch before I got adjusted to its length before and behind me.  The Farris Reading Room has overhead tracks along the walls, into which can be inserted wires from which to hang individual artworks.  As the previous show had just come down, Emma Rose had plenty of wires to work with as she began the hang.  After she had measured the height and width of each individual artwork (and used the electronic screwdriver to install any hardware needed for hanging), she determined the height of the eye level (the imaginary horizontal line against which all artworks would be vertically centered).  Having done this, and having done more calculations, she now ascended the ladder with the tape measure to slide the top of each wire into exactly the alignment that would place the artwork it supported in the best possible relation to its companions on either side.  My role during this process was to help move the ladder and get an occasional shot of her doing her work.

Emma Rose, after measuring and spacing the sequence of fabric works, hanging the dress near one of the quilts

Emma Rose, after measuring and spacing the sequence of fabric works, hanging the dress near one of the quilts

Of course any task as meticulous as this lends itself to welcome interruptions.  We had several the first day we got some works up on the wall,  None of them more delightful than the visit from Jovana Vidojevic, who brought in her painting of black and lavender orchids for us to hang.  Jovana is a double major in Economics and English who graduated in December and is returning home to Serbia in April, but she was nevertheless happy to loan her artwork to our show.  I said that she could take the painting back with her when she flew home in April, as the most important thing was having it up during the Arts Fest in February, but she wanted us to exhibit it as long as the show was up, saying she had an uncle who would be happy to bring it with him when he visited Serbia in the summer.  Jovana in her artist statement had explained that the black orchid, which is the largest shape in the painting, was her response to the darkness and sorrow that Dickinson saw in human life, whereas the smaller, lighter lavender orchids floating over it symbolized Dickinson’s ability to find beauty and joy in spite of the sadness.  Thinking now of Jovana going back to Serbia, I wondered if the violence and bitterness of her nation’s war with with Bosnia about the time she was born had anything to do with the darkness of the black orchid.  She said, no, she did not think of it that way: “It’s just the way we Serbians are, we always try to find some kind of good energy even in the darkest situations.”  Someone came by as she was leaving and took a nice photo of the three of us, before there were any artworks on the walls.

Jovana Vidojevic with the two co-curators

Jovana Vidojevic with the two co-curators

Because the section with the fabric works had sorted itself out so quickly, we spent much of this day working on the sequence of portraits.  Because one of these works was still out being framed, Emma Rose could not make her final, final measurements, but we were able to get the rest of the sequence laid out and begin getting a sense of how best to work the wires and hooks that would support the artworks.  It is always a revelation to see how works play off against each other in color and scale, and once you see them actually on the wall, you sometimes change your mind about best sequence in which place them.  When we had the four fabric pieces up for the first time, we thought that section would be hard to match, but now this one was showing itself to be equally satisfying in its ensemble as well as its individual components.  In laying out this north wall of the exhibition, we also had to begin to think about how the two sections played off against each other as well as how each would compose as its own ensemble.

Partial hang on the north wall of the Farris Reading Room on first installation day

Partial hang on the north wall of the Farris Reading Room on first installation day

Although Emma Rose had plenty to think about both mathematically and aesthetically, we had one other task to attend to that first day of the hang.  Now that we had gotten our 80 Dickinson catalogs from the printer, we wanted to be able to inscribe one for each of the 39 student artists before distributing them to those who lived out of town and those who would come to pick them up before or during the Marathon.  I loved the opportunity to write a personal note to each of these students, some of whom I had not seen for ten years or more, but whose artworks have maintained a daily presence in my office or my home.  I was very impressed with the notes Emma Rose wrote to these student artists, most of whom she had never met (since she had been in my Moby-Dick but not in my Dickinson class).  Just from seeing their artworks and reading their artist statements, and then figuring out the best way to represent each one in a two-page spread in the catalog, she had come to feel as if she did know each Dickinson artist.

Measuring the artworks, inscribing the catalogs

Measuring the artworks, inscribing the catalogs

We did leave a few artworks from the first day up on the wall overnight.  Returning to the Reading Room later in the day, I enjoyed conversing with the students who were studying at tables near them.  Sitting comfortably in the couches in front of the fabric pieces were two freshmen from Ryle High School in Boone County, both of whom said they were enjoying their first year on campus very much.  I also enjoyed talking with Maria from Monroe, a small town for known for its outlet stores halfway between here and Dayton, Ohio.  She too is enjoying her first year at NKU and I loved the way the shape of her face is echoed by that in Nicci Mechler’s Susie’s Girl.

Maria sitting in front of Nicci Mechler’s Susie’s Girl, with matching pinks

Maria sitting in front of Nicci Mechler’s Susie’s Girl, with matching pinks

Part 3. Emily Dickinson Arts Fest, February 12-14, 2015

Entry begun Wednesday, February 4, 7:25 a.m

Our Emily Dickinson Arts Fest is suddenly only a week away.  One week from tonight Claire Illouz will board a red-eye flight in San Francisco and fly through the night to arrive here in the very early hours of the Thursday on which she will present Summer Boughs, her brand-new artist book, in the evening.  We can only hope the weather is better than on the day in February 2011 on which she flew from San Francisco to encounter an ice storm on the evening she presented her Whiteness book to a highly appreciative audience that braved the treacherous roads.

In my mind, our actual Arts Fest began late last week when Emma Rose and I began installing the art exhibition in the exhibition space.  By Thursday, January 29, nearly all of the artworks were on hand, and the previous exhibition in the Farris Reading Room on the second floor of the library was taken down.   On the third floor of the library, a third horizontal case had been brought for the artist books in our show, and the one vertical case had now been positioned in close relation to them. On that morning, I began bringing in art works from my house, from the Honors House, and from my office as Emma Rose began to think about how best to deploy them in our two exhibition spaces.

The third floor was relatively easy.  We had six artist books that would fit in the three horizontal cases two to a case.   The vertical case was more complicated because we had a variety of 2- and 3-dimensional works that could potentially be positioned inside, on top of, of next to the case.   Within about half an hour, however, we had this one figured out.  All of the pieces we were considering for this case fit comfortably inside it.  So we left this floor for now while we began to address the more complicated challenges of the second floor.

Emma Rose adjusting Julie Viltrakis’ Over the Fence in the third floor display case

Emma Rose adjusting Julie Viltrakis’ Over the Fence in the third floor display case

On the second floor we had a lot more artwork and a lot more wall space on which to hang it.  One area resolved itself quickly.  We saw that the first four works in our Dickinson catalog, the four fabric pieces consisting of three quilts and a dress, would fit perfectly on the section of the north wall nearest the east window.  Once we had them laid out in the sequence we planned to hang them, we could move on to address the rest of the room.

Three quilts and a dress claim their spot on the wall

Three quilts and a dress claim their spot on the wall

Until we came back the next day to address the rest of the room, we stored everything overnight in a conference room, along with some works that had been taken down from the previous show.

Overnight storage in conference room with works from previous show.

Overnight storage in conference room with works from previous show.