January 22, 2022
Symposium Students Blend Art & Poetry
This year our Symposium students have done a deep dive into the poetry of Tracy K. Smith whose work deals with weighty questions of love, life, the universe. To organize her class, Mela Frye, this year’s Symposium teacher, asked her students to self-identify into one of two paths for the semester – a “smithy” or a “tracer.” “Smithys’” focus was community building where their work was shared in the form of podcasts, blogs, or presentations and discussions to the Middle School. “Tracers’” projects traced a single idea or theme in Smith’s oeuvre over time with several students engaging in visual art projects that are currently displayed in the Roberts gallery.
Elsa Ciscel ’22 had been looking forward to the Symposium class all through high school and was grateful to be able to delve into the subject of poetry which she wasn’t very familiar with. As a “tracer”, Ciscel decided to trace Smith’s use of color throughout her poems and create a tapestry of the images. While reading each of Smith’s five collections, Ciscel would record the color that was mentioned within the poems and the page number the color appeared on. “There was a lot of listing,” she said. I was surprised at how much more complicated color is. There are a lot of different ways you can interpret color. For example, Smith describes the eye of a cow as a “chemical blue” which is very different than the image of the beautiful blue sea.”
After recording the use of color in the poems, Ciscel decided to make small rag rugs for each collection rather than one large piece. Cisecel was raised watching her mother and grandmother weave rag rugs from old clothes and thought the project would be a meaningful one. While driving to Tenessee over the winter break, Ciscel used that time to create her artwork, a process that she considers a “calming activity.” Ciscel noted that in Smith’s earlier poems, she uses much more color so the rug for this collection has more variety of color. For Smith’s Wade in the Water collection, the use of blue is unsurprisingly more prominently featured in Ciscel’s rug. For Ciscel’s graphic poster using stenciling, she wrote the name of the title of the poems in the most oft-cited color in the work. In creating her artwork, Ciscel said she would remember certain sections of the poems as repeating the color brown and making those connections between the poems and her project.
Megan Murphy created two works: acrylic on wood and cardboard focusing on Smith’s poem “Unrest in Baton Rouge” and “Museum of Obsolescence.” Smith’s poem “Unrest” is based on a powerful photographic image that captured the moment when a young black woman faced three police officers with their guns drawn on her during a protest. Murphy’s stark abstract work features a split pavement with blood emerging from the crack. “The images created in those two poems impacted me the most,” Murphy said. “My artwork represents what appeared in my mind while reading the poems. The blood represents the blood of the victims of police brutality that have been shot and killed for the color of their skin.” Murphy’s playful pink and red heart painting represents a sign announcing an installation at a museum that “depicts how in sci-fi love and illness could go away and become something historic that people would go see in a museum.”
News Main News