Contributor Update, Emily Matyas: Sol y Tierra

Today we are happy to share news about past contributor photographer Emily Matyas. Emily has a new book releasing this spring titled “Sol y Tierra: Views Beyond the U.S. – Mexico Border, 1988-2018.” The collection of photographs explores life just south of the border, beginning a conversation between the two countries. Along with the photographs, journalists Linda Valdez and Sergio Anaya have included essays and one of the photographic subjects have included a short memoir.

Some more of Emily’s work, published in our 14th issue, can be found here. Be sure to look out this spring for more information on the book and events!

Congratulations Emily!

#ArtLitPhx: 18th Annual Self-Guided Ceramic Studio Tour

artlitphx

Date: Saturday, February 23 – Sunday, February 24
Time: 10am-5pm
Location: Ceramics Research Center, 699 S. Mill Ave.Tempe, AZ 85281
Cost: Free

Event Description:
This valley-wide event showcases the work of professional ceramic artists in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The tour offers the public a rare opportunity to view working and living spaces of participating artists and view demonstrations of wheel-throwing, hand-building and glazing techniques. Participating artists have a wide range of both functional and sculptural artwork on exhibit and for sale.

Stop at the Ceramics Research Center or any studio location to pick up a poster and passport. Visit each studio site to gather stamps on your passport. Receive 6+ stamps and bring it into the Ceramics Research Center for 20 percent off your purchase in the store.

The tour is free to the public.

Click here for more information.

Guest Blog Post, Tony Whedon: Watercolors

Painting courtesy of the contributor, Tony Whedon

A few years ago I had a shoulder injury and I smoked a lot weed to dull the pain: it didn’t get me high or provide any relief, but it woke my senses and made me want to paint. My mother had been a painter, I loved watching her paint scenes from her Louisiana childhood. Unlike Mom’s work, my new watercolors have few landscape  or people in them,. They are not “representational” — but you see a go-for-broke sunset once and it’s an occurrence; you see  it through the  years and it ends up haunting you. Recognizable shapes now appear in my work. The vacant lot behind our house interrupted  by a neighbor’s dog traipsing through it; the live oak blown down in last September’s storm suddenly commands my view.

The colors in my watercolors have changed, too. I am partial to blue. In Vermont, I translated the blue-green of hemlocks and spruce, the midnight-blue of a mountain stream into washes of watercolor crosshatched by swatches of sonic blue. But blue isn’t dominant in Georgia. Think sedgy greens, hibiscus reds, burnt oranges with mucky browns smudged in. How to get to the soul of these colors, to make more of them than a mosaic of offhand impressions?  My senses awake to new colors —and they recoil from them too. I’m a sucker for anything that activates “my blue” — a mouthful of turbid down-home south Georgia churchy blue. How to transcend well-worn cliches of the Deep South and its gothic trappings? I’ve  read too much O’Connor and Faulkner, have seen too many “charming” local color paintings of coastal Georgia to get through to the hurt, bruised blue of the horizon.

**

I  once thought all forms of landscape were biographical, and it’s  still nice to think that’s true. There’s a soundtrack to my paintings, arpeggios of turbid waterfall blue saturating my paper or canvass. I used to put on music when I worked, but now the music backbeats inside my head. The live oaks down by the marsh behind my house show scars from a hurricane that blew through here a century ago; a  rope swing hanging from one of those oaks tragically reminds me of a lynching that happened not long after that historic storm. Words can’t do these images of justice — photographs, and landscape painting won’t do it either.

A few blocks away from my house come the voices of the reborn, the saved. They sing about how they’ve survived through storms, lynchings and Jim Crow in tin roof shacks down on Cathead Creek, but if I painted folks living here, I wouldn’t do them justice, couldn’t bring their stories onto canvas or paper.

I pass the church and head down River Street toward the graveyard to do some watercolors. Through the canopy, I see Cathead Creek. Bees and dragonflies hum. Buzzards soar. A realist might depict the scene in  muddy russets, gravestones fallen into knee-high grass haunted by regret and neglect. A realist would sketch in a tumbledown shack downhill overgrown with Confederate jasmine. But I am not a realist. I try to pry loose from this landscape a story, and all I come up with is a hacked- together tale of myself. Figurative painting does much the same thing — transferring an image from nature onto paper or canvas, leaving the essence, its original story, its ur-story, untold.

**

Monet spent his life painting the same scenes at different times of the day.  The Rouen Cathedral in luminous early light or in a September rain. In his late career, he  painted water lilies floating in a blue-green evanescence. Blindness contrived to make him a great abstract painter, made him look beyond refractions of light into shifting permutations of blue.  “One instant, one aspect of nature contains it all,” Monet said. “I’m no good for anything but painting and gardening.”

In 1899, Monet completed the scene of his pond at Giverny. Across it, he built a quaint Japanese-style bridge. He was apparently quite pleased with how it turned out, as he painted the structure 17 times that very year, with each painting reflecting changes in lighting and weather conditions. 

Fifty years later New York’s Museum of Modern Art displayed a permanent exhibition of  Monet’s water lilies — one painting occupies an entire wall — intriguing painters of the New York School who considered them an early iteration of abstract expressionism. The paintings are not so much about plant life, garden life, as they are an extended meditation on Blue shifting out of darkness into silvery aquatic light. Monet spent years painting his beloved water-garden, moving closer and closer to its watery essence. The edges of his pond moved to the limits of the frame until he had erased the horizon altogether. From there, his work becomes a study of water and how it reflects light and the world above it. That is, he moved closer and closer to abstraction.

**

Today the light’s diffused through clusters of ocean cloud, shadowing the tombstones darkening Cathead Creek a quarter mile away. But I’m not a real painter, I have given up trying to imitate what I see in either prose or in watercolors. I look across River Street to Cathead Creek. whose story includes an ancient shrimp boat scuttled in tidal muck. A snow-white egret hunched shank-deep in the outgoing  tide.

The rest is stillness, silence.

**

I joined AA thirty years ago, and the stories I heard from other recovering drunks changed how I saw the world. I realized that the pain and suffering these folks caused in others are part of my story; that they’re collective property. Listening to other drunks has triggered stories in me. How to use what I’ve learned in “the rooms” of AA to see beyond what pains me to the barely discernible landscape of sobriety?

All landscape has a subtext. Proust wrote a book’s-worth of pages about the garden outside his childhood house, but his word-paintings were attached to a narrative of childhood loneliness. These were stand-alone descriptions — Colombe on an exceedingly lovely summer evening, Proust drifting in and out of childhood dreams. Like Proust, like Monet, ex-drunks tell the same story till they get it right. At some point they  tumble into dark self-realization and see the world differently, and are changed.

Walking down River Street from the cemetery, I pass a rusted-out trailer, a growling  junkyard dog chained to its front porch fiercely alive in his aloneness. A Chevy pickup with flat tires squats in the front yard, its truck bed brimmed over with empty beer cans.

Down River Street are other shacks and trailers; none aspire to be stand-alone beautiful, but an abstract truth links them together. No matter how poor their occupants, each has a potted plant or two, a winterberry tree to welcome the stranger. The truth lurks in a latticework of stories those on River Street tell one-another. If I were up to it, I’d paint their arrival, following emancipation, from Sapelo Island, settling in to grow turnip greens, and raise hogs and chickens.

Paint the past a translucent isinglass blue. And me, a white guy hovering into spectacular invisibility: as in much of my life, I’m incognito, a drunk although I don’t drink anymore, and farther down the street, I’m neither here nor there.

Editorial Preferences in Art: Shalanndra Benally

Through the process of curating art, I would say that I have gained new eyes for looking at different pieces of work. I can admit that I was never one to look at art in the manner of color, context, and composition before. I mainly base what I like on no other context other than just liking the way things look.

I think art as a medium can be something over saturated with the sheer number of artists, but I believe that I have learned so much. Through this journey I was also able to differentiate an artist from a hobbyist.

Looking at art now, I am finding myself drawn to artists that have a lot of work and specifically work that contains the three C’s. The first aspect I like to look for is composition. I really like to take composition into consideration and make sure that it matches the Superstition Review and what the audience would engage with. Secondly, I like to look into the context of the piece. Not simply understanding what the piece looks like, but taking the time to understand what the underlying theme is or what the piece is trying to say. And of course, taking color into consideration with each piece. All of these elements have helped me understand on a different level of viewing and appreciating art.

With that being said, I don’t particularly have a specific type of art I enjoy, I can look at any piece of work from any medium and still be able to apply what I have learned.

Overall, I am very grateful and pleased that I am able to see art differently. And I will continue to utilize what I have learned as I flourish throughout the art community.

Shalanndra Benally is the art editor for issue 23. She is currently in her first semester of her Senior year at Arizona State University studying Digital Culture with a concentration in Design. Currently she is working on the design team for TEDx at ASU, as well as being the sole designer for the 40th annual Ms. and Mr. Indian ASU. She is always looking for new opportunities to show off her artistic abilities and demonstrate her extensive design experience. After graduation she hopes to work in digital media or another creative field.

#ArtLitPhx: POETRY WORKSHOP – Merle Nudelman: “Ekphrasis Poetry”

artlitphx

Date: February 12, 2019
Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Location: Changing Hands Tempe, 6428 South McClintock Drive, Tempe, AZ 85283
Cost: $25+

Register for the event here.

Event Description:
Poet Merle Nudelman hosts a creative writing workshop on ekphrasis poetry.

Ekphrastic poems are written in response to works of art and engage with the subject piece. Ekphrasis dates back to Homer’s description of Achilles’ shield in the Iliad. For the past eleven years Merle Nudelman has been part of a collaboration between the Long Dash Poetry Group and studio artists of the Women’s Art Association of Canada. Many of the poems in Merle’s most recent collection, The Seeker Ascends, were born of this artistic exploration. The Seeker Ascends follows the poet’s emotional and spiritual journey during and after her son’s arduous battle with cancer. The Seeker Ascends is a meditation on strength, survival, healing, and love.

Merle Nudelman will discuss the process of crafting ekphrastic poems. She will illustrate this literary form with some of her own ekphrastic poetry from The Seeker Ascends accompanied by the paintings that inspired these poems. Participants in this workshop will have the opportunity to experience this creative process directly by writing their own ekphrastic poems in dialogue with original paintings that will be displayed. Participants will also have the option of sharing their poems with the group.

WORKSHOP DETAILS
Cost: $25 + fees.
Refunds will not be issued within one day of the event.
Bring pen/pencil and a notebook.

ABOUT THE HOST
Merle Nudelman is a poet, essayist, memoirist, educator, and lawyer. She has written five books of poetry ̶ most recently The Seeker Ascends. Merle’s first collection, Borrowed Light, won the 2004 Canadian Jewish Book Award for Poetry and a prize in the Arizona Authors Association 2004 Literary Contest. Merle’s prize-winning poems appear in literary journals, zines, and anthologies in Canada and in the United States and her essays have been included in academic texts. Merle teaches memoir and poetry writing and gives workshops on healing through writing. For the past eleven years Merle has been part of a collaboration between the Long Dash Poetry Group and studio artists of the Women’s Art Association of Canada. Many of the poems in Merle’s most recent collection, The Seeker Ascends, were born of this artistic exploration.

#ArtLitPhx: Art for Justice with Nikky Finney

artlitphx

Date: Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Time: 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Location: Singer Hall, Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Cost: Free, please RSVP here.

Event Description:
The University of Arizona Poetry Center is proud to present Nikky Finney, who will read from her work commissioned for the Poetry Center’s Art for Justice grant.  After the reading, there will be a short Q&A and a book signing.

Please note: while this event is open to the public and free, you must RSVP in order to attend. Seats may be available the day of the event. However, as seating is limited, we recommend reserving your seats in advance. Any unclaimed seats will be released to the public five minutes before the start of the reading.

The University of Arizona Poetry Center’s Art for Justice grant funds a three-year project that will commission new work from leading writers in conversation with the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States, with the goal of creating new awareness and empathy through presentation and publication.  In particular, through the work of leading poets, the project will seek to confront racial inequities within the criminal justice system to promote social justice and change.  Learn more about the project.

Readings in Phoenix are presented in collaboration with the Phoenix Art Museum and with support from lead sponsor the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, with additional support from the ASU Creative Writing Program, the Literary & Prologue Society, and Superstition Review.

About the Author:
Nikky Finney was born by the sea in South Carolina and raised during the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Arts Movements. She began reading and writing poetry as a teenager growing up in the spectacle and human theatre of the deep South. At Talladega College, she began to autodidactically explore the great intersections between art, history, politics, and culture. These same arenas of exploration are ongoing today in her writing, teaching and spirited belief in one-on-one activism. She is the author of four books of poetry, On Wings Made of Gauze, RICE, The World Is Round, and Head Off & Split, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011. She has written extensively for journals, magazines, and other publications. For twenty-one years she taught creative writing at the University of Kentucky and now holds the John Bennett, Jr., Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She travels extensively, never lecturing, always inviting and hoping for conversations that just might improve the human condition.

Editorial Preferences in Poetry: Alyssa Lindsey

One of my first professors of poetry was Dr. Henry Quintero. While his lectures were full of intensity and a passion for what he did, it was how he ended his classes that taught me the most. While his students packed up their backpacks and filed out the door, Dr. Q would stand up and in that wonderful, warm, booming voice of his he would tell us to take care of ourselves because you are the most important piece of poetry you will write.

Dr. Quintero taught me that poetry is less of an art form, strict and unforgiving then it is an action. The actions we go through each day and the experiences that we share with other people in our lives. When reading poetry, I am looking for action and reaction. For a truly strong voice to jump out through the pages, making it impossible not to give that voice the space and attention it craves. Consider the work of Lorna Dee Cervantes, a proud Chicana whose works include “Emplumada” and “Sueño”. Cervantes knows how to use her actions to get the reader to pay attention, implementing line break and rhythm like just another tool in her toolbox. She writes about immigration and Chicano heritage but refuses to let her words stand alone. Her poetry is presented with action, purposeful line breaks and meaningful rhythmic and repeating phrases. These are some things that I read for in a poem for publication, mechanisms that work to expand the main idea and a speaker who is not afraid to use them. This is the poetry that brought me to creative writing; poems that speak through their actions and the people who read them.

Alyssa Lindsey is the poetry editor for issue 22. She is a Junior at Arizona State University. She is majoring in both creative writing and global health with a pre-health emphasis. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school and go on to work in pediatrics.