Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2014  Vol. 13  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Artist’s Statement: A Different Kind of Telling

The paintings for Tom Sleigh’s “KM4” are not illustrations (from the Latin word illustrāre, to illuminate, make clear). The imagery in the poem is already clear and traverses beautifully between naturalism and the surreal. So why paint? Because the poem inspired me to mark the feelings and patterns it brought up when I read it.

This poem is not directive, logical, or descriptive. It is more like a living being with contradictions and multiple views, rapidly forming feelings, rhythms, and changing scenery. Both observer and observed appear in the poem, visions of what happened and what will happen. The flow of words caused figures and abstractions made of ink and paint, my experience of the poem, not my description of it.

I have only been to KM4 Mogadishu through Tom Sleigh’s poem, which is the only way I can go to the relevant moment when a hundred young humans were killed at once. My paintings are in ten parts corresponding to the ten parts of the poem. They are another view of the same event in the same time and space created by Sleigh.

Painting from poems could easily fall into the trap of illustration. Illustrations are what we expect when reading a word—a logical picture of the word. But the duplication is deadly to any artistic creation. When I paint for a poem, in itself a work of art, I try to enter the time and space of the poem; I try not to butcher the original. The challenge is to paint without repeating what is already in the poem, to instead let something be born of the words, something that will combine with the poem and create an alternate experience—a brother to the poem.  end  

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