“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
– Georgia O’Keeffe
I was just recently given an awesome opportunity to be a part of an art exhibit. Yep, you heard that right. An art exhibit. Me…the girl who can’t even draw stick figures…in an ART exhibit! How do ya like them apples?!
Okay, so there was a bit of a catch. I wasn’t allowed to draw. Or paint. Or color. Or create stick figures. They just wanted my words.
Words. In an art exhibit!
When I first heard about this idea, I was a little confused. Um…you want my words in your art exhibit? Come again? But once I started getting into and realizing what this whole thing was about, I was blown away by the idea.
So, here’s how it worked. Our local Ashe County Arts Council paired up local writers with local artists. (What their criteria was in this selection process is beyond me, but somehow they managed to pair me with exactly the right person. I know that without a doubt. My artist partner Gerry and I clicked from the get-go.) Once our pairs were determined, we were given a “project.” I was to give Gerry something I had written, and she was to give me something she had painted. She was to use the writing I had given her to inspire a new work of art. And I, in turn, was to use her painting to inspire a new written work of art.
Pretty cool, huh?
And then, as part of an exhibit that opened up on September 10, each artist/writer pair’s work was hung in the art gallery together – side-by-side with the piece of art that inspired their creation. The official reception for the artists and writers and anyone who wanted to view their works was on the night of Friday, September 12. Gerry and I found each other and, while standing near our display, found ourselves overcome with the emotional responses our work brought about.
Now, I can’t speak for Gerry, but as a writer – this was pretty new to me. I’m not used to “watching” people read my work. You know? I write it – I send it out in the world – and then I just hope it touches someone somewhere who may have needed to hear it. I may get feedback sometimes, but it’s rare that I get to actually see their responses. This night, though? Oh, this night was so different.
This picture here to the right is a photo that my dear friend and fellow writer Chris Arvidson took that night. I would have remembered this moment forever even without the photographic evidence, but I can’t believe that she was so eloquently able to capture it at just the right time. This woman, among others, was actually moved to tears after reading what I had written and seeing Gerry’s painting that accompanied it. The photo captured her turning back to us to tell us how much it had meant to her.
Isn’t that the coolest?
This is why I do what I do, people. This is why musicians make music. Why singers sing. Why painters paint. Why actors act. We do these things for this moment right here. To know that for just one moment in time, two human beings became one in their emotions. Someone out there looked at what we created and said, “Yes.” That’s it. Just yes. Yes, I have felt that. Yes, I know that feeling. Yes, I know you. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I’m telling you people, there’s nothing like it.
So, if you’re local, do yourself a favor. Go by and check out this exhibit. It will be on display through October 4th at the Ashe Arts Center, located at 303 School Avenue, West Jefferson, North Carolina. Gerry and I are just one of many pairs that have contributed to this, and each story, poem, painting, and piece of artwork tells a story that you need to hear. Come by and have your emotions reawakened. After all, that’s the beauty of art in all its forms, isn’t it?
(And by the way, you’ll definitely want to see what Gerry created from my poem Escape. A photo just wouldn’t do it justice. You’re going to want to see this one in person.)
And now, in closing, I’ll leave you with the poem Gerry’s market painting inspired me to write. It’s entitled “Market Visitor.”
Thanks for being here, my fellow humans! Stop to notice something special today, won’t you?
What’s that I see coming near?
She must be lost. Why’s she here?
She stops to stare—is it at me?
Oh how I wonder what she sees.
What’s that she’s taking—a photograph?
She wants my picture? What a laugh!
Surely there must be some mistake,
What image is here for her to take?
“Hello there, old girl,” she says with glee,
“Oh, what a sight you are to see.
The forgotten beauty of a long-lost saint—
Ah, what a joy you’ll be to paint.”
An artist? With an interest in me?
Underneath all this ruin, could she see?
The people I’ve seen come and go,
The life I’ve lived—how does she know?
Does she see beyond the tattered boards,
The broken windows, rotting doors?
As she gazes at outer walls worn thin,
Does she know of all the life within?
Can she hear the laughter of children at play,
Hear the hustle and bustle from back in the day?
Does she see the past once filled with life
The fun-filled days, the peaceful nights?
The pleasantries once exchanged within
The constant motion, ceaseless din—
Are now only memories in this silent shrine
Slowly fading away with the passage of time.
And yet with one visit, something feels refreshed
I pull myself together, try to look my very best
For the story behind these shadows might finally be seen
All because one artist took the time to stop and notice me.
– Melissa Halsey Caudill, 2014