Blog / 2016 / Interpretation

August 18, 2016

Right now, I’m participating in Painted Poetry, a group show on display through August 30th at the Long Beach Island Branch of the Ocean County Library. The exhibition pairs up painters and poets, asking the word artists to respond to visual work and visual artists to respond to words.

chimpanzee and canary by Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Intuition
2016
acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches

I contributed this image of a chimpanzee and a canary, and Nancy Kunz responded with her version of Intuition:

Look at you, all dressed up in party regalia
complete with a crown of flowers in your hair.
Rainbow colors dance like electric current
around you and your feathered friend.

Why so somber when you should
be celebrating? I look into your window eyes,
wonder are you remembering or anticipating
reflecting on the past or contemplating the future.

You were a seasoned traveler of the galaxy
racing time in the glow of a billion stars.
Your earthbound friend went underground
sang her heart out for grateful coalminers.

You share a bond beyond friendship.
Both survivors celebrating freedom
no cage, no space suit, no dark mine
now only a promised safe-sanctuary.

But you know something I don’t.
You understand the consequences
of a restricted future, conventional controls
without choices, without options.

When final decision time comes
will you choose to leave your rainbow behind
travel as ordinary, but more important,
will you tell your friend to sing or fly away?

It’s fascinating to see where Nancy’s imagination and experiences took her, especially because it’s very different from my inspiration for creating the image, which I describe in this video.

Similarly, my response to her poem was not what she expected. She contributed her Straight Line Wind:

Sandburg’s fog came on little cat feet
You came to our island like a steamroller
Barreling straight though lives
Unaware of your power to destroy
You made your decision, chose your track
And never wavered from your path
Windows rattled, lights flickered, then went out
You cleared decks of flowers and furniture
Flags wrapped themselves tight around their poles
Pines bowed low to your demands
In the bay moored boats toppled into whitecaps
You paid no attention to supplications
Did your best to lay flat everything in your path
Calling down dark and destruction until
You decided to move on
In your wake came an amazing sun
Pushing the limits of orange and gold
Streaking the western sky with reds and purple
Radiating from sky to water and back again
Quietly, over the ocean, illuminated droplets
Revealed a full rainbow whose arms
Stretched north and south making a promise
To all who wanted normal

And I was inspired to paint the image below.

a storm as a lion
Gwenn Seemel
Seemel’s Superstorm (After Sandburg’s Fog)
2016
acrylic on canvas
13 x 19 inches

In this video showing the making of the piece, I revealed that I was painting a portrait of Superstorm Sandy, because I thought that was what Nancy was referring to. It was not. At the opening reception for the show, Nancy explained that Straight Line Wind came to her after a stunning but ultimately rather ordinary summer storm passed through her town.

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