Artist Jan Madill and sculptor Michael Yeaman's works are on exhibit at the Orcas Center on Orcas Island (Washington) in "Light and Shadow," a show inspired by geology. Exploring the planet's geological history as well as humanity's relatively short existence in comparison, the exhibit prompts viewers to consider what Yeaman calls "Deep Time." In addition, a collaborative series of paintings and poems between Jan and the poet Connee Pike reflects on Carl Jung's concept of the shadow.
The show continues until Sunday, September 27 with a closing celebration from 3:00-5:00 pm that day. A true collaborator at heart, Jan Madill often invites other artists to participate in her events, and I am thrilled to have been asked to read some of my geology-inspired poems for the closing. Thinking about the event has prompted me to think about the nature of collaboration and interdisciplinary inspiration. As a writer, I enjoy the company of other writers. As with probably any profession or discipline, the collegial conversation is especially rewarding because there is often shared knowledge or understanding of the field and its history, as well as a shared lingo, both of which lend themselves toward specialized discussion. We don't have to stop and explain what a caesura is, and when someone quotes Richard Hugo saying," Stop thinking hard for us all, Bill" we don't need to say that he's responding to William Stafford's poem, "Traveling through the Dark."
That's all lovely, and writers can explicate the vowels of villanelles all night; however, something far more inspiring happens, for me, that is, when the conversation is more interdisciplinary. Gather different artists working in different media and the discussion explodes in fascinating directions. The differences among the various art forms are fascinating to learn. The similarities in our processes are equally interesting and informative. Suddenly the visual artist wonders about color theory and whether light waves can have assonance and dissonance as in music or poetry, for example.
This summer I've been in a broadside collaboration with print artist Karen Kunc, and this December, I will continue a collaboration with the visual artist Corinne Duchesne and composer Garrett Hope. When I work with Corinne and Garrett, I have to resist the urge to have defined parameters and scope for our collaboration, if only to have the comfort of an idea of direction. When we do resist that urge we open ourselves to possibility. Seeing Jan Madill's artwork (not to mention talking with her in person), reminds me constantly of how important it is to remain open to possibility. Her artwork takes on huge topics--like geology, and even the universe. I suspect for most creatives, such ambitious themes are daunting, perhaps terrifying. What I notice about Jan, though, is that she never purports to represent the entirety of her topic. Nor does she act as expert. She opens the door to curiosity, her own and the curiosity of others. That curiosity quickly converts to wonder, which I think of as an awe-filled curiosity. And maybe that's what I love about collaboration: to be in a state of awe-filled curiosity of others' disciplines and works. It's how I feel having seen Jan's paintings, Michael's sculptures, and Connee's poems, and it's also how I feel hearing Garrett's music and Corinne's artwork, and how I feel seeing Karen's prints. Awe, admiration, and the presence of something that transcends boundaries of our how we view "art" and its various "disciplines."
Jill McCabe Johnson's research and writing practice follow the tradition of the French Medieval poetic form, the "chanson d'aventure" or song of adventure, where a writer walks into a new environment for enlightenment and inspiration.