Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday Muse: Denise Miller's 'Ligatures'

ligature: a thing used to tie or bind something tightly;
the action or result of tying or binding

Ligatures Cover Art

What do lynchings have to do with police body cams and dashboard cameras?

In her remarkable poem "Dear Spectators," in Ligatures (for black bodies), a 2016 Runner-Up for Rattle magazine's annual Chapbook Prize, Denise Miller makes the unexpected, provocative connection: "[. . .] first, consider the noose, that birthmarked // ligature [. . .]" around "postcarded necks of bodies // born brown [. . .]" and then recall Sandra Bland's "[. . .] question marked silhouette—her / 2015 body [. . .]" that "[. . .] looks so much like a 1913 3 & 1/4 by 5 cardboarded brown // body [. . .]" and then look ahead again to 2016 and those black bodies "shot / or dragged / or tased / or cuffed / or pounded against pavement" and "catapulted into / lifeless silent film stars—surrounded by spectators."

The media for witnessing and documenting the "horrible event" we've all come to know too well — then, public, out-in-the-open, eye-witnessed lynchings of blacks that often were photographed and printed on picture postcards for mailing; now, streaming body and dash cam recordings of fatal encounters with police — have changed but cause and result have not.

Just as the Emmitt Tills, Bunk Richardsons, and Mack Charles Parkers were denied a voice and justice in pre-Civil-Rights-Era America, so, too, have their 21st Century parallels — Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Victor Steen, and dozens of other African Americans — been deprived of voice and justice, made spectacle to be shared on endlessly looping and scrolling video on social media and news sites.


Comprising tightly written found poems as well as persona poems in the form of police "confessions" to the deaths of the African Americans who've appeared again and again on our screens, Ligatures draws on contemporary news articles, autopsy reports, and video recordings of and court testimonies, verdicts, and sentences in their cases to establish the undeniable, unsettling, ugly truth of the alternative narratives Miller offers for Scott and Garner, Rice and McDonald and Steen: systemic racism in the United States, where "black and brown / people's stories have been spun so quickly and so / thoroughly so that suddenly our lives seem to justify / the ending of them", exists still.

Here's how Miller imagines officer Daniel Pantaleo's "confession" to Eric Garner's death:

(He was illegally selling cigarettes.)

It was never supposed to be
a chokehold. Just a wrestling
move I learned at the Academy
so I locked one arm under his
slipped the other around his torso—

how else to let him know there is
no sense in resisting? His worded defense—
my hands getting tense—just let me tip
the perp, make him lose his balance.

          Just let me ground him.

More choke than hold, my arm—
the sound of begging, his breath—
his head to concrete, my hand—

my right arm around his thick of neck.
~ "What I Learned at the Academy: Another Officer's Confession (for Eric Garner)"


Just 35 pages long, Ligatures delivers a deserved punch in the gut, restoring what a headline and a hashtag cannot: name, identity, story written by "those people" denied all three. It's not at all "the child friendly bed time story" Miller acknowledges that some of us in America want:

[. . .]
See a picture of a black boy or black girl, a black man
or a black woman, a black person or a black person

and you wonder is she or isn't she, is he or isn't he, are they or
aren't they and each isn't but each is, you wonder is it another
story of or isn't it? [. . . .]
~ from "Dear Spectators 2: A Bed Time Story"

History — his story, her story, their stories — in Miller's series of strong and strongly defiant poems is the present we can't just scroll by. Our shame is, so many more names have been, could be, are still being added.

Denise Miller is not only a remarkable poet; she also is an English professor at Kalamazo Valley Community College, a mixed-media artist, a community activist, and an executive chef. 

Co-founder of Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative, a nonprofit in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that promotes social justice via the arts and culture, Miller boasts a long list of awards. Most recently, she was the 2016 William Randolph Hearst Foundation's Charlotte and Robert J. Baron Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society*, a 2016 Fall Willow Books Writer in Residence at the Carr Center, a nominee for a 2016 American Book Award (for her poetry book CORE), a nominee for a 2016 Pushcart Prize (for CORE), and a finalist for the 2016 Akron Poetry Prize. In addition, she has been a finalist for a Barbara Deming Money for Women Fund grant. The recipient of a Hedgebrook residency (2014), she has received a Waves Discussion fellowship from A Room of Her Her Own Foundation and was named 2014 Willow Books Emerging Poet. She also has been awarded an Emerging Artists Grant from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo and the Gilmore Foundation.

Miller's collection of persona poems, CORE, based on true stories about African American sharecroppers of the Great Migration, was published in November 2015 by Willow Books, an imprint of Aquarius Press. Her poetry has appeared in such literary periodicals, as African American Review, american ghostBlackberry: A MagazineDunes Review, Outlook Springs, RogueAgent Journal, and Union, and in the anthologies Illness and Grace, Terror and Transformation (Wising Up Press, 2007) and Just Like a Girl (GirlChild Press). 

* Miller's research project during her residency at the AAS was titled "Travelogos: African American and the Struggle for Safe Passage". (See Fellows' Directory.)

Denise Miller on FaceBook

Read Miller's poems "Click-Click, An Officer's Confession", "We Are Taught, Another Officer's Confession", and "13 Seconds on Pulaski, Another Officer's Confession" at Praxis Center.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Second Sunday of Advent 2016: Art for Advent

Today, for the Second Sunday of Advent, art historian James Romaine examines The Belles Heures of Jeanne de France, duc de Berry, by the Limbourg Brothers, and discusses how the artists' visual language of depicting biblical subjects in every-day terms creates a sacred experience that connects heaven and earth.

Romaine, co-founder of the Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art, writes and directs the Art for Advent series of which this video is a part.

The Met Cloisters

Seeing Art History

Thought for the Day

The hours of wisdom are where you simply forget about time.
~ W.S. Merwin

Quoted from Alex Dueben's "Late Happiness", an interview with Merwin at the Poetry Foundation.

W.S. Merwin, 2010 U.S. Poet Laureate; Winner, Pulitzer Prize (Twice) and National Book Award; Poet, Translator, Environmental Activist

Merwin's most recently published collection is Garden Time (Copper Canyon Press, 2016).

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday Short

Film Poster

Today's short is the trailer for the award-winning Notes on Blindness (Archer's Mark/Fee Fie Foe Films/104 Films), directed by Peter Middleton and James Spinney. Released in the United Kingdom in July and in the United States on November 16, the film relates the true story of theologian John Hull (1935-2015) and his documentation, via audio diary, of his experience in "a world beyond sight". The film, a dramatization using Hull's recordings, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Notes on Blindness (Official US Trailer) from BOND/360 on Vimeo.

The film is available on DVD and on demand.

Notes on Blindness at ArteCreative 

Directors' Story Behind Notes on Blindness (The New York Times)

Virtual Reality Project Notes on Blindness : Into Darkness

Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness (SPCK Publishing, May 2016) is a new edition of John Hull's diaries, first published in 1990.

John Hull Obituary in The Guardian (August 16, 2015)

Notes on Blindness on FaceBook

Friday, December 2, 2016

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

All Art Friday Spotlights

✦ If you're in search of an art experience in virtual reality, check out Dreams of Dali, from January 23 to June 12 at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida:

✦ Performance artist Marina Abramovic has published a memoir, Walk Through Walls (Crown Archetype, October 25, 2016). A signed and numbered collector's edition is available.

✦ Photographer and artist William Christenberry died November 28 in Washington, D.C. Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York City, is exhibiting "William Christenberry: Summer | Winter" through January 21, 2017, and Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, is presenting "William A. Christenberry: Laying-by Time" from December 9 to March 12. In addition, Christenberry's sculpture River House (1980) is on view at Luce Foundation Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. (See more of Christenberry's works.) In 2017, as part of the state's Bicentennial Celebration, Alabama's Mobile Museum of Art offers from March 10 to June 4 "Christenberry: In Alabama", which will honor Christenberry's exploration of Alabama's landscape, structures, traditions, and people.

William Christenberry at Jackson Fine Art (Atlanta)

Jackson Fine Art on FaceBook

Pace/MacGill Gallery on FaceBook

Maryland Institute College of Art on FaceBook

Mobile Museum of Art on FaceBook

✦ A new permanent artwork, Message from the Unseen World, conceived as a tribute to computer scientist Alan Turing has been installed under Bishop's Bridge Road near Paddington Station in London. See Mark Sinclair's article "UVA Create Memorial Wall to Alan Turing" for information about the memorial.

✦ The Jose Guadalupe Posada collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin comprises 132 broadsides and single-sheet corridos and other songs. All the Mexican artist's works in the collection may be viewed online. Posada (1851-1913) is known as the "Printmakers of the Mexican People".

✦ The Poetry Center at the University of Arizona is exhibiting series of artworks featuring animals that have become extinct. Eight works by Kejun Li, comprising watercolors and digital collage illustrations, are showcased in "Causality: Avian Extinction Before 1987: Works by Kejun Li", which continue through February 11, 2017. Li is a master of fine arts student at UA.

✦ Ziye Liu's Themes and Variations is inspired by the artwork of Yayoi Kusama and Ai Weiwei. It uses 3-D animation to shift, move, and morph the artwork.

Ziye Liu Website

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ A selected retrospective of paintings, works on paper, photographs, and 3-D compositions comprises "Storytelling: The Georgia Review's 70th Anniversary Art Retrospective" at Georgia Museum of Art. On view through January 29, 2017, the exhibition includes work by Kael Alford, Benny Andrews, Nina Barnes, Carl Bower, Tamas Dezso, Vanessa German, Margaret Morrison, Celeste Rapone, Bianca Stone, Kara Walker, Patti Warashina, and Masao Yamamoto.

Georgia Museum of Art on FaceBook, Instagram, and YouTube

GMA Blog, Holbrook's Trunk

✭ Boston's Museum of Fine Arts is exhibiting more than 100 works by interdisciplinary artist and writer Frances Stark. Continuing through January 29, 2017, "UH-OH: Frances Stark 1991-2015" offers an in-depth look at Stark's artistic practice and modes of expression, from early carbon-copy drawings and text-based works to video installations, digital slide shows, and projects involving social media. Included are Stark's Cat Videos (1999-2002), "chorus girl" collages from A Torment of Follies (2008), and a video installation, Bobby Jesus's Alma Mater b/w Reading the Books of David and/or Paying Attention Is Free (2013), set to gansta rap and featuring images of Renaissance paintings, family photos, and hip hop legends' portraits. View the slideshow at the exhibition link.

MFA on FaceBook and Instagram

✭ A comprehensive exhibition of works by African-American artist Beverly Buchanan (1940-2015), "Beverly Buchanan — Ruins and Rituals", is on view at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Approximately 200 objects, from sculpture and paintings to photography, drawings, performance documentation, and artist notebooks, may be seen through March 5, 2017. Also on view for the first time is a new video installation of Buchanan's existing earthworks. Images may be seen at the exhibition link.

Brooklyn Museum on FaceBook and Instagram

✭ The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, has mounted "Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Love, Loss, and the Cycle of Life", continuing through February 20, 2017. The ticketed exhibition brings together more than 120 paintings, drawings, and prints to examine how Jasper Johns mined the work of Edvard Munch (1863-1944) as he shifted from abstract to figurative art. For the first time in two decades, all four of Johns's Seasons paintings and his three Between the Clock and the Bed paintings are showcased. The Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, collaborated with the VMFA on the exhibition.

In the video below, curator John Ravenal talks about the exhibition:

A catalogue (see image below), Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Inspiration and Transformation, in which Ravenal discusses how and when Johns began exploring Munch's imagery and Ideas, is available. It includes 165 color illustrations.

VMFA on FaceBook, YouTube, and Instagram

✭ Oregon's Portland Museum of Art is featuring approximately 50 screenprints by Sister Corita (1918-1986) in "Corita Kent: Spiritual Pop". Drawn primarily for the museum's own collection and that of the Corita Art Center in Los Angeles, the exhibition, which runs through January 29, 2017, gives viewers a look at the full range of the artist's career. In conjunction with the exhibition, as well as an exhibition of Andy Warhol works, the museum is partnering with the Independent Publishing Resource Center to host a series of artist residencies, tours, and print classes.

Portland Art Museum on FaceBook, YouTube, and Instagram

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday's Three on Art

Today, Thursday's Three offers a look at three short art-related films.

✭ A documentary about art in performance, The Secret Life of Foley (Third Man Films) follows Foley artists as they create movie sound effects. Directed by Daniel Jewel, the short features Pete Burgis and Sue Harding. Note: The Foley technique is named for Jack Foley, a Universal Studios sound editor. Foley artists are the professionals who match a film's actions to live sound effects.

The Secret World of Foley from Short of the Week on Vimeo.

Third Man Films on Vimeo

✭ Attending the Prospect.3 biennial, New Orleans, Louisiana, Chicago's Kerry James Marshall talks with other artists about their drive, motivations, and making work for different purposes. The film, part of the Artist to Artist series, is from 2014.

✭ Animation director Laszlo Ruska's and art director David Ringeisen's award-winning Paper World brings origami wildlife alive to demonstrate Earth's fragility. The short was shown during the TED2016 Film Festival.

Paper World on FaceBook

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday Artist: Gemini G.E.L.

Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenberg, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, David Hockney, Frank Stella, and so many, many more artists of renown have made and continue to make prints at Gemini G.E.L., one of the world's great print workshops and publishers, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. Founded in 1966 and located in Los Angeles, Gemini has worked with scores of artists to create original limited-edition, hand-printed lithographs, etchings, screenprints, and woodcuts, as well as sculptures. Its most recent collaborations have involved Julie Mehretu, Richard Tuttle, Richard Serra, and Tacita Dean, among others.

Recognizing its importance in art history, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., established in 1981 the Gemini G.E.L. Archive, which, in addition to serving as a study center, maintains a complete history of the workshop and one example of each of more than 2,000 editions Gemini has published. To date, the NGO has had four major exhibitions of work drawn from the archive. The most recent was "The Serial Impulse at Gemini G.E.L.", which ran at the NGA from October 4, 2015, to February 7, 2016, and currently is at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art).

Accompanying "The Serial Impulse at Gemini G.E.L." at LACMA is the excellent video below, which features co-founder Sidney Felsen. On view through January 2, 2017, the exhibition explores artists' approaches to serial production and showcases 15 print series that include important work by Johns, Rauschenberg, Stella, Serra, and Mehretu. 

Gemini G.E.L. Catalogue Raisonne at National Gallery of Art

Gemini G.E.L. on FaceBook and Vimeo

LACMA on FaceBook, TwitterInstagram, and YouTube

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Holly Corfield Carr's 'Aft' (Videopoem)

As you will see below, Holly Corfield Carr's poem "AFT", an October "Poem of the Day" at The Poetry School, lends itself beautifully to film treatment.

Spike Island, a contemporary art and design center in Bristol, England, and Bristol Ferry commissioned the site-specific poem. According to Carr, she wrote the poem while listening to a 1950 recording of a Bristol sailor's sea shanties. Its couplets, she points out, "were measured to fit thirteen windows of a passenger ferry called Matilda". The film itself was shot through Matilda's windows and the words then set as a sea shanty. (For additional information about Carr's research and the production of "AFT", see Carr's blogpost "bark safely".)

Carr, who has been Writer-in-Residence at Spike Island, has taught for The Poetry School, Bristol Poetry Institute, and Cambridge University and has conducted a number of poetry workshops. Her work has been broadcast on the BBC and appeared in magazines and artist books, as well as many nontraditional locations, including a crystal grotto, a car park, former factories, and a floating island. She has been honored with the Frieze Writer's Prize (2015) and Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors (2012). (See Carr's Projects page to learn more about her books, collaborations, commissions, installations, performances, residencies, and writing. Also see Publications.)

Text of "AFT" (The text also appears in the blogpost "bark safely", as indicated above, and on the Commissions project page of Carr's Website.)

The Poetry School on FaceBook and Instagram

Bristol Poetry Institute on FaceBook

Spike Island on FaceBook and Instagram

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Muse Asks Did You Know. . .

This is another in an occasional series presenting facts about poets and poetry that you might not know.

✦ In partnership with the charity Maggie's Centre Oxford and the spoken-word site Apples and Snakes, the Arts Council of England has created the multi-media project One Stage at a Time, for individuals with cancer, their caregivers, their loved ones, and anyone who'd just like to connect. You'll find at the site a mix of poetry prompts, texts, audio, digital postcards to send, live-events news, and more.

One Stage at a Time on FaceBookTwitter, and SoundCloud

Maggie's Centres on FaceBook and YouTube

Apples and Snakes on FaceBook and YouTube

✦ San Francisco's Arion Press has published a number of beautiful, limited-edition books of poetry, among them Sampler, with poetry by Emily Dickinson and more than 200 prints by Kiki Smith; The Structure of Rime, with prose poems by Robert Duncan and etchings by Frank Lobdell; I Love My Love, with a 14-stanza ballad by Helen Adam (the ballad is inspired by a Celtic interpretation of the Medusa theme) and 16 images by Kiki Smith; T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, with illustrations by R.B. Kitaj from his painting If Not, a Helen Vendler essay on the poem, and a Marco Livingstone essay on the painting; and Poetry of Sappho, with prints by Julie Mehretu. Forthcoming is Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, selections by Helen Vendler, and prints by John Newman.

Arion Press on FaceBook

✦ The Funeral Services Northern Ireland National Poetry Competition is an annual prize event limited to poets of Northern Ireland. Launched in 2012, the event typically mirrors the theme of the United Kingdom's National Poetry Day.

Funeral Services Northern Ireland National Poetry Competition on FaceBook

✦ The latest project from Sundress Publications is the free online reading series "Poets in Pajamas". The series was announced in early October.

Poets in Pajamas on FaceBook and Twitter 

✦ English poet Wendy Cope wrote what may be the first poem about "mansplaining". According to Cope's profile at the British Council Literature site, "Wendy Cope's poetry is perhaps best known for its humour and wit", with the joke most often "centred on men." The poem has been shared widely.

Read a selection from "Differences of Opinion" at Mashable.

✦ Having been buried in the grave of poet, artist, and model Elizabeth Siddal (1829-1862), Dante Gabriel Rossetti's manuscript for Poems could only be recovered by exhuming Siddal's body in 1869 from its resting place in Highgate Cemetery, London. Siddal, who was married to Rossetti, died from an overdose of laudanum.

"Worm-Eaten Manuscripts in Lizzie Siddal's Coffin" at Burying Books Blog

Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Sunday of Advent 2016: Art for Advent

Today, for the First Sunday of Advent, art historian James Romaine discusses the devotional prayer book, The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux, created for the Queen of France by French manuscript illuminator and miniaturist painter Jean Pucelle (1300-1355).

The Met Cloisters

Seeing Art History