This exhibit is grounded in a long conversation with Lithuanian-American poet Jonas Zdanys that includes collaboration on a book of poems and paintings called Red Stones (Lamar University Press, 2016). In his introduction to that project, Jonas invoked the “epiphanic moment” in lyric poetry. As a poet and as a painter, I share Jonas’s fascination with such moments, and I see this exhibit as an extension of the exploration we began in that book.

The phrase Jonas uses to name the driving force of his poems combines a matter of light (epiphany) with a bit of time (the moment), a combination that is critical not only to lyric poetry but also to painting. Dwelling on the poems and on the combination adds an experience of space we all know as embodied beings. Whatever we set out to do takes place; and, in the process of doing it, we make places. In Red Stones, Jonas painted with words while I painted with pigment. We made a shared space in which to paint, but we did not paint at the same time in the same light with the same thing in mind (even when what we had in mind was nothing). And I think that sheds some light on how dwelling together over time makes a place that has a character that is distinctive and may be interesting.

My work with Jonas took the form of close reading, and this is a process that I often use in my work -- in this case, reading the poems again and again before I painted and as I painted. In the process, I found images that caught my eye and often brought other images to mind. In painting, I followed as many as I could, knowing that one thing leads to another. When Jonas wrote of a blue dream paling in a flat land, I responded to a paling I knew in my bones from the Texas Panhandle and South Plains. And the long yellow grass in my mind’s eye was the tall grass of the prairie that stretches across the Flint Hills of Kansas and the Osage Hills of Oklahoma into the Texas Panhandle. Every time I turned over a red stone, I saw shale cliffs, thought of Wichita River mud, and heard red dirt music. And the trees with their tangled roots were made more vivid by the memory of their absence. I found myself reading “alder” and thinking “mesquite.” And that took me back to my father including a little bit of mesquite in the harp he made for my daughter Regina before he died.

Part of my fascination with epiphany is how consistently it defies containment. It seems to me that lyric poems don’t contain epiphanic moments so much as they are such moments. And one beauty of moments like that when you dwell on them is that they take you places you have never been, places that surprise you. The paintings in this show grow out of an ongoing dialogue with lyric poetry, and I hope they offer that same possibility for viewers who dwell on them.

Chalice Abbey is an inclusive, contemplative community with a passion for justice, and environmental stewardship. Our mission is to work for a just and sustainable world through fair trade goods, creative arts, and nurturing the spirit. We are a self-governing community, affiliated with The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Southwest. more...