Last night my friend KK and I attended First Friday at Nickel Plate Arts. The evening was also the opening reception for a new exhibit: Creating Indiana Together, which focuses on collaboration in our creative community. I’m pleased to say one of the collaborative works on display involved me and two of my favorite creative ladies: Alys Caviness-Gober and Sue Payne!
Alys is my NICE buddy (we co-founded Noblesville Interdisciplinary Creativity Expo last year, which invites artists of any medium to make pieces inspired by classic literature). And Sue is the beloved spinning team mentor for my youth at Conner Prairie. We have collaborated on getting young’uns to spinning practices and outreaches for years! But this was my first time working with Sue on an artistic project of our own.
It was Alys who proposed we three join forces. Alys is so magnetic and bubbly – I just can’t say no to her! (And I really didn’t want to say no – I love these ladies.) Her idea was these we each create a piece in our favorite medium about owls, connecting it to how the love of art is passed through families. Our title:
Through An Owl’s Eyes: Generations
Sue was already an owl devotee. I have wanted to steal several pieces of her owl jewelry for years. But I especially love her adorable textiles owls, which she crafts from wool and other materials. She was recently juried into the Hamilton County Artists Association for her textiles artistry.
I had to keep reminding myself not to touch the art, because I really just wanted to pick one up and cuddle it. And don’t you love the wise old owl here with the glasses? Sue’s husband John crafted those spectacles.
I love Alys’ distinctive painting style – her colors and textures. Of course there is purple! (Alys’ signature color is purple. She even wears purple glasses.) She captured the whimsy of a family of owls–which afterward she realized could be stand-ins for her own family!
Sue and Alys had their pieces completed well before I finished my poem. But this proved a great advantage, because I truly let their work inspire me, especially the colors and the whimsy. My great challenge was trying to figure out how to write about the love of art being passed down through families of owls, when owls (to my knowledge) do not paint, sew, or tat. It all started to come together when I thought about how some artistic people I know, the slightly otherworldly kind who wear long colorful peasant skirts and dangling earrings, are called “strange birds.”
I also thought about a recent visit with my musician dad. We both play the euphonium, and it’s not uncommon for us to wax eloquent over the difference between conical bores and cylindrical bores. We must seem like strange birds, too!
I jotted down some puns, word-images, and phrases. But it was actually the frame that determined the form of my poem. I wanted five floating stanzas, each with five lines, and the title in the middle. Would you believe I found the perfect frame at Meijer -a family tree for the owls to hang out in?
Sorry for the glare! Here’s the poem:
They call us strange birds,
But weirdness is a family value in this
eccentric flock of artists,
these friends of Harry Potter and Athena.
this nerd bird herd.
We are the artists who haunt the night hours.
We hunt for the succulent word,
that particular shade of moonlight,
swoop in to nab
the original idea.
We are the artists who are born with farseeing eyes
and piercing vision.
We are not afraid to stare life head-on,
or blink, look again,
and swivel our heads in directions no other would.
We are the artists who ruffle feathers,
who question why and what if and WHO.
Our lyrics encompass a musical and harsh vocabulary.
We hoot, screech, whistle, bark, growl, hiss.
Some call us wise, some quirky, some scary.
We are the artists who hole up when others scurry.
We nest in our own introversion.
But when the canvas of the sky is blank and black,
we paint it with our wings
And here’s what we all look like together:
Hey, we match! I love it. Isn’t it great how three very different artists can complement each other? (And later, compliment each other. We met up at the reception and each voted the other two the best in show.)
I can’t wait to work with these ladies again!
The evening also featured music by McHalo and other great collaborative pieces. “Six in the City” was one of my favorite projects. Artists divided a picture into six pieces. Each artist painting a section, and the finished product was all six segments joined together.
KK and I tried our own hand at painting while we were there! The idea was to depict how we feel about Indiana. KK is amazing at color matching. I am hiring her to decorate my house one day. I was going for sunsets and the Hoosier Heartland. It’s been years since I picked up a paintbrush. I found it even more relaxing than an adult coloring book. I think I got more paint on my palette than my canvas, though.
Creating Indiana Together will be an exhibit at Nickel Plate Arts through the end of April.