It can be hard to know what to make of art, especially when the art in question is that of Vance Kirkland, Colorado's foremost abstract expressionist. Sometimes, you need a little help with the interpretation -- and as far as that goes, what better to interpret art than poetry, another artistic medium that is often oblique and hard to interp... uh... well, maybe not. Still, when you mix the two together, as tonight's "Ekphrastic Poetry" at the Kirkland Museum will (Ekphrasis, by the way, refers to the application of one artistic medium to comment on another), it's possible the two might provide an anchor for each other. At the very least, it'll be pretty entertaining.
This will be the Kirkland's third year of Ekphrastic Poetry, and for it, the museum once again draws on the local group of poets it's worked with on the event in the past, Poets Beyond Reason. "The group's kind of fallen apart," says Kirkland Events Manager Maya Wright, "but we're still working with the same people. So they come in and choose whatever they want to write about from our collection, and most of them do two or three poems. They'll stand in front of the works they wrote about and read their poems as rotating groups, and people can get hors d'oeuvres and wander around and hear different poems. If that makes any sense."
Kind of. But whatever the system is, here's a little sample of how it turns out. From poet Barbara Sorenson, a little number called "The Act of Mining," inspired by Vance Kirkland's "Nature Lovers," a watercolor from his early period.
"Nature Lovers," Vance Kirkland, watercolor, 1938
The Act of Mining
by Barbara Sorenson
These women come adorned with feathered hats
as if to speak quaintly: "Oh, my head is full
of nests and wings!" Yet, I think it full of bats
and taut night creatures creeping in to pull
at thinning skin releasing dreams of youth.
Love and beauty are adorned with death's
soft attire draped carelessly for warmth
and style, catching each woman's breath.
She can not see herself without a prop,
to bolster sagging eyes, and breasts
that once made others too enchanted to stop
watching her gently move and gently wrest
apart the hollowed hearts of men and fools.
Love mined from love beholds the rarest jewel.
"We always have a mix of international decorative artists and local artists in our permanent collection, along with Vance Kirkland, of course, so that's one of the fun things about these kinds of exercises," says Wright, "because a lot of the poems are about paintings and sculpture, but some of them might be about a chair, or a cabinet. It's just a fun way to look at art."
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Ekphrastic Poetry goes from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Kirkland Museum; tickets are $10 ($8 for members), and those interested should RSVP by calling 303-832-8576, extension 0.