VVP: Art 434 & Engl. 410

Website for Vision Voice and Practice: An Interdisciplinary Course in Art and Creative Writing

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Veronica Burris & Chelsea Almeter, Senior Exhibition

Veronica Burris and Chelsea Almeter were both members of this class. The semester ended with their Senior Thesis exhibitions. Themes of both thesis projects informed much of their VV&P production. This was such a rich and rewarding way to bring our semester to a close. Congratulations!

Final Collaborations

As a final collaboration the students (visual artists and writers) were directed to create a site-specific work that in some way responded to the themes of the semester. Here are a few examples.

Amber Johnson - solo project

Monday, May 23, 2011

Individual Projects: Prose

MRI Daydreams of a 7-year-old

Upon exploding, he hoped to leave behind a finger for her to hold in her manicured hands. But eight and a half minutes passed smoothly by, and then there was nothing left to draw but black. The whole page turned black, leaving no room for greetings or goodbyes. When he finished, he hurled his letter towards the Earth and followed its clean white speck to the ocean.

Her face was in the sponges, her hands in every coral reef. One-way radio waves sang to him as he pried open oysters, collecting fat white pearls for a necklace that would catch on her ankle in the morning.

And when he surfaced on a sled, he could see her fur-lined neck and hot-chocolate hands to his left. They kept his body from crashing, from crumpling up in a pool of pink. But still, the small white lights whispered to him. Since he wasn’t sure which one to follow, he carved her name into the ice and rested.

Later, he was afraid his skull might swallow and send his brain sliding down the back of his neck. And as he wondered about the stillness of head nods, forgetting and being forgotten, her hands moved over him, smoothing all his white linen wrinkles.

- Anna Moreau


The balloon would lurch and set back down—rise and lower just like that—until Jemi and I were finally in the air. We moved higher and higher toward the Western sun, rapidly setting on our day’s labors. Or maybe I thought of this as our life’s labors—and mine in particular. The canopy of our balloon was stitched together from canvas with heavy threading and the seams were sealed with hide glue. The result was strong, and I thought that if we could manage to get North in this craft, we would be away from Fort Union. That would be enough. In my quieter moments I had made plans for us to leave this no-man’s land for Jemi’s sake.

Last week, I caught Jemi taking the lizards out of the washtubs we’d been putting them in. I quickly picked her up off the floor and she cried, but I held her tight in my arms and continued to carry her while I filled the remaining washtubs with dirt that I had put outside along the barn. She did not stop crying by the time I finished adding dirt to the bins. I carried her to the house.

We left a year after we first arrived—my contract with the U.S. government about run out. We were beginning to be run out ourselves by the pests that seemed like they followed us from Mississippi ‘cept here they are lizards instead of little rats and squirrels, and things. We tried to contain the lizards mostly in the barn but the more I found houses for them, the more they just kept coming asking for rooms. I guess I was not surprised when we moved here that the reptiles did appear, but there were few choices available to me about how to take my leave of them.

The plans for the balloon were simple and I was able to execute the design on my own. This was the only way I could see that I knew the lizards couldn’t follow. Jemi and I plucked the remaining ones that stuck to our basket as we lifted off the ground. It’ll be some other plague or infestation when we touch down who knows where next. But for now, Jemi is giggling a little and holding tight onto the basket frame—a little scared and a little happy to be where she is.

- Barak Wright



“You can't love anybody but yourself.”

Those words haunted him as he walked through the empty apartment that night. They'd haunted him every day since the last day he'd seen her, the day he'd moved into this apartment.

“I love people.” He said to himself, passing the mirrors he'd left covered when he hung them months ago. “I love people besides myself. Mom, dad, Matty, Kelsey, Cherish. . . I love them. I love my family.”

His restless steps brought him into the kitchen, where a pot of water stood on the stove, waiting to be boiled for his regular Thursday night pasta dinner.

“Only love myself. . .” He stopped in front of the stove, but didn't change anything. “That's not true.”

But he hadn't loved Esther, even though they'd dated for three years. She'd felt his boredom, his lack of attachment, and broke off the relationship. He'd felt bad, but there was nothing he could do. She'd wanted to be serious, and he hadn't. It wasn't that he hadn't liked her – she was great, and gorgeous, and sweet – she just – she just wasn't enough. He had to admit, she'd tried, tried to like philosophy and football and Italian food and those other things he enjoyed so much he seemed to have been born to enjoy them – those things that were part of him. Those things that were him. They were him, and she couldn't appreciate that like he did.

Maybe he was just supposed to be alone.

He leaned over the pot to see how much water he'd put in, and caught himself staring at his reflection.

Why did he need anybody, anyway? He knew what he wanted out of his life, and he knew how to achieve that. He didn't need Esther, or Pietra, or Rosamund – he didn't need any of them. He didn't need anybody, just himself. He could take care of everything. Girlfriends just messed up his routine, anyway. Always wanted to be held, always wanted to watch their own stupid movies, always wanted to know how they looked, if blue or yellow looked better on them –

Just the thought of it made him cringe, and he shook his head. His reflection caught his eye again.

Maybe he was just supposed to be alone.

- Alysa Spolidoro

Individual Projects: Poetry

Us girls

Us girls never back down,

like the Spanish color yellow:

boom-boom, bounce back,

catapult upward with fast-luck,

conditioned to roll with the punch.

Bend us arrows and tightly pull

so that we can fly and hit the bulls'

eye square in the mouth

to break his teeth.

One pound flesh-and-bone we mix

into shepherdess pie. 'Mid

genderized beef, the mashed

potatoes smother the deed

which we waited,

for so long,

to eat.

- Katelynn Camp



Unexpected splendor yielded by inner-city excursions

manifests in sun burnt kids with bare feet, wandering

their gated yards, lying so close to the metro tracks

that their mothers cast a wary eye every time it passes.

The leathery old men walk the baked cement sidewalks

of humming Los Angeles, shuffling unconcerned amidst

rushing middle class crowds pouring out of offices

For the too-short lunch hour, heads down and feet forward.

They, the thick life-blood of the city, chugging through

its intravenous structures, keep the California conurbation

alive and kicking, however rebelliously, or eagerly, or what-have-you,

moving the city-scape along, the creaking cogs and lynch-pins

of the sprawling metropolis, faces so fantastically various

that one could never be bored, the trains and buses

offering up their carriage for impertinent observation

as long as the observer manages not to get caught.

History is the substructure of the city, culture bursts out

On the streets in so many forms, art blooming unexpected

Appearing in stations, on sidewalks, in vacant store windows

Giving the rushing throngs something to look up at, to think about.

These the invaluable treasures the city keeps

and displays to its visitors and residents, a constant show

now veiled, now glowing, fading in and out of the smog

to astonish when least expected with its majesty.

- Candace Arce-Lindsay


Common Moments

One day you'll come home and trample

the carpet, flinging yourself out of

your coat like splitting skin.

You'll wash my nude lipstick

off the side of one of my favorite

baroque mugs,

listening for the sound of my voice

whose gratitude invites you in

to the grandeur of my embrace,

and then enter fully into a moment

that can overwhelm, like a river

running wild.

As the throat is tugged hard by the

rush of time, you calmly speak aloud,

in a current pounding past,

I won't remember much and I'll forget

the days which passed like single squares,

without a sound of carpet or coat.

- Delia Baltierra



You move through lost origins, not obvious,

Possible loop-holes of soft turquoise foam,

Or shove to fortress rocks above

Bold shadows of broken octagons-

Forget those for now; hot stones force

you down toward shore, freedom

Removed to move, to explore. Go now

To homes known only to moss-covered

Bones, or golden coins lost forever.

You drop below the gloss, tones of

Loss so frozen for moments, so open for

Movements. Silhouettes become gone so

Often, only to shoot out of coves

Once unnoticed. Above, before you drown.

Without rhetoric of topaz roars,

Orations of horizons pointing to

Other shores, onyx-mouthed oceans

Would lose voice, groaning only

Apologies of driftwood, driftwood.

- Jonny Mueller



Water in the river was always red

and before I thought it was just the dirt

but turns out the river is made of blood

and the blood is actually Jesus’ blood

who is a carpenter who made me. His

blood is in all the rivers, and if you

float your pain in one of them for long enough

it will all get washed away into a kingdom

that is under the river. You go there too.

- Megan Jackson

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Long Game

Ira Glass on the life of the maker. Our student Veronica Burris sent this video to us.

Another student sent us to this tumblr, a working out, for the sake of it, of what interests one person in writing and vision.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Individual Projects, II

Art work of AJ Ranson

Art work of Jesse Greenwood

We did another round of individual student's work. Today visual works were presented by AJ Ranson and Jesse Greenwood and text based works presented by Kelsey Vandeventer and Daniel Austell.


They Fell

We're the wispy ones
that shudder at the light
under the covers, withholding our palms
but drawn to the flame, nonetheless.

Entrusted with reality
but unable to bear it, it remains
our craving, our necessity,
super-glued to our souls, a beloved parasite.

Nature has turned on itself,
a fissure of heart and mind,
so we must break the chains of death
and hallow the depths of hell.

- Kelsey Vandeventer


from "Watermelon Caves"

"Sweetie," she said. "Children don't know better. They are mean because they, they are self-conscious. They hurt others because they've been hurt." Of course, that was what everyone said.

He wiped his eyes with his sticky hands and began to gain composure.

"But why did they make fun of me?" he wailed. "Why do people have to say things like that?" Anger took hold of his being, reminding her of the man she once loved, and she became fearful. She blinked to hold back the tears.

"Jeff," she said, "The world is a place of awful things. People do things they shouldn't. All we can do is our best and forgive those who hurt us. If we don't--" She trailed off and stared at her left hand. It was barren, adorned with scars instead of rings.

- Daniel Austell

Friday, April 15, 2011

Individual Projects

Work of Veronica Burris

Work of Erin Vaughan

The students are starting to present individual portfolios. These are works from their individual practice that have been informed by the collaborative class. We started with two visual artists and three writers: writers Richard Gaffin, Christian Koons, and Maegan Taylor (below), and visual artists Erin Vaughan and Veronica Burris (above).

from "Pieces":

The door was cracked for him; he let himself in. She was sitting in the kitchen. She looked sick. Her cheeks were wet.

"What is it," Russell asked.

"I need to show you something," she said.


"Ok," she said. "Don't freak out."


"Come here."


She walked him into the bathroom. "My stomach started cramping out of nowhere," she said. "I was too scared to call an ambulance."

On the sink was a baby's leg. From heel to thigh it was the size of an eggplant, and of a similar bruised shade.

He look at her. She covered her mouth with her hands.

"Where's the rest," he asked.

She shrugged, started shaking her head, and started crying again all at once.

"What does that mean," he asked.

"There wasn't any."

He looked back at the leg. The top of the thigh, where it would normally attach, was covered by smooth skin. It looked like it grew as an independent unit. Fully intent on becoming only what it was.

"I need you to take it," she said.


She looked at him.

"What the hell."

"I don't know!" she cried.

He looked back at the leg.

"I just--" She was trembling. "I can't."

Russell's mouth opened, but he hesitated. She was sniffling. He asked her, "Is it mine?"

"Yes," she said. "It's ours." He looked at her. "But, Russell," she said, "I'm sorry," she said. "I can't."

"Ok," he said. "Ok."

- Christian Koons



The icon of the Virgin Mary holds a small,

grown man we believe is Jesus. A full, whole man,

proportional to ten

times less than his mother. Her halo and his cross

are at odds and there is no quick-smile-loving

embrace between them.

He has outgrown his hand-holding mother, her

holy gilded-glow sparkles in the daylight and

he, full God and full man,

cannot sleep in a house with her permeating

body-light and she weeps, weeps, weeps at his bloodshot

eyes but not his bloodied

prayers. Still, to the incarnate God, to Jesus the

Nazarite, his mother, who would not leave him

to his Father's work, who

is surely not the woman-judge of Israel,

has not driven a tent-peg through the temple of

a breathing man, and is not

even the one who hides bits of apple in her

pocket for hungry children, is the woman who

grew her Creator and

birthed, from her fleshy-imperfect womb, our savior.

And now she has no body (but a brand-new soul)

and is dead, blind, rotting

in her stone-rolled-close tomb. But he is the body

and the bread, the good that died young. Happy are

those whom you love, Lord, Lord, Lord.

- Maegan Taylor


Here’s to the Blues and Greens

When the housemaids scrub the floors they get the spaces in between. I appreciate that about them—it’s hard to get good help these days, to find people who give a damn about doing the small things. Their names all blend into each other though; so do their faces, the dark Spanish features running together until I can’t tell one from another. I also have a guy who does the garden, tending the flowers and things. I don’t recall what exactly is in there, or the guy’s name either.

The house is empty tonight. It often is these days, since the kids moved out, taking their groups of friends and their oppressively cheerful music with them. They were all popular in high school. I wasn’t popular in high school, and neither was their mom—the gene must be recessive or something. I got the family male-pattern baldness instead, and they say that skips a generation too. Once, not long after my wife left, I came home from a business trip to find a full-on rager going on at the house, the red-cup kind that I thought existed primarily on movie screens. I remember standing on the front lawn, looking at the way the multi-faceted window in the front door diffused the light from inside the house, like a stained-glass window in a cathedral. I remember hearing the bass notes pound out from inside, as if in my absence the house had gotten a heartbeat and an adrenaline shot. I remember hearing the voices from inside the house, voices of strangers, a crowd taking up a space reserved for individuals.

- Richard Gaffin

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spot Collaboration: Poems

On Tuesday, we showed the students a series of images from Google's image search. These images were of, respectively, a man sleeping, an Ikea bedroom set, a furniture warehouse, a factory, a forest, a forest during clear-cutting, a line drawing of a boy eating lunch, a plate of assorted fruit, a stack of thick-cut steaks (next to a steak knife standing on its tip), and a woman wearing a meat hat. Each of these images were shown for about forty seconds, and students were asked to write down their impressions ("first thought, best thought") as long as the image lasted. They could describe the image itself, or feelings and memories the image evoked, or whatever popped into their minds. Afterward, we randomly assigned students to groups of three, giving them twenty minutes to make out of the words they wrote down either a twenty-line poem or a ten-sentence paragraph. Below are the, ahem, meaty results.

The morning after, she wasn't there
Thank God I washed my pillowcase finally
The morning after, she wasn't there
Let me try sleeping in the drawer under the bed tonight
The morning after, she wasn't there
Jammed and packed and crowded, nowhere to move
The morning after, she wasn't there.

High walls give me and my father anxiety
The ceiling would make just anything echo
High walls give me and my father anxiety
The earth must look lovely from the sky, like clockwork
High walls give me and my father anxiety
If I was big enough, I'd sleep here, on top of the trees
High walls give me and my father anxiety.

I don't eat red meat
I think of human muscle when I look at raw meat
I don't eat red meat
It might be meat, it might be chocolate cake. Enjoy it
I don't eat red meat
In some cultures, meat headgear is a sign of the priesthood
I don't eat red meat.
Alabama, As Seen by God

I ain't got legs
But my mom makes a mean ham sandwich
I never had good lunches as a kid
I always wanted something sweeter
My mom wants me to be jealous
When I grow up

A finely groomed bed-chamber
Looks cold out of focus
Smoke & mirrors
to make it look bigger
I used to love
Now I smell the formaldehyde
That used to be blood
In its veins
And you're just laughing

The gentiles were told not to strangle meat
Because it would separate them
From the pagans

Why are you so dark?

You smell your worst
when you wake up in the morning,
like a sexy, Indian man
eating a cheese sandwich
and afterwards wanting to vomit.
In your celebrity bedroom
on a mattress spaceship
you realize you belong with
potatoes and gravy.
But, it's peanut butter & jelly time again.
Let's have a picnic!
Crustacean innards. Right now!
My mom made fruit salads
but mostly I like blood.
Eat it or die.
But make it yourself--it'll be cheaper
with a meat dagger.
Meat wood.
What the hell is this?
Tenderloin bonnet.
For Borges

Though it looks packed full,
the farm is gilded
under studio lighting.
Ugly, we destroy what is so orderly.
Cut open like a dried-up orange, no juices:
the murder of a fake home.
Calming room, congested tune, closed,
too clean to live in.
Would I rather be eating hair at lunch?
Why did the cool kids use paper bags?
I am home, past Chicago
sleeping in, alone,
reminded of how
I cut his heart out with a dull knife,
bloody freedom, consumption.
Whatever is in the middle
visits the sun
like an evergreen forest,
mass murder.
Different Shades of White

Only looking at the
American Northeast as far
as the eye can see.

Tendrils, but that was just my first
thought, the representation
is half eaten.

Pig-nosed boy, asleep in the style of
viking landscape art or

fruit that is neither ripe nor rotten,
smelling like anemone, feels
like home--too much space--
Are we selling a beauty
product? Anonymous
people and things which
are too neat and
organized to be ugly in appearance.

Why do you eat on a board
little lunchtime child?
Strange spots of orange, volcanic
in a way. Gooey South America:
no ice, but it looks cold.

You were once an animal Ricky
Martin--¡comida! ¡comida!
There are mints that come from this
butchered thing.
Well, That Slaughterhouse Was Nice

I live in red velvet cake. Why I do declare, I must have found the right wardrobe door to step through. Oh he has no legs, but "I can fly!" Almost like my favorite blanket to picnic over. Fresh meat, PB & J make for a great, stale banqueting table. In the meadow, I must have found perfect, sterile fluorescent lighting. Is that supposed to be fresh air? In cluttered stillness a door got bigger. Except it was too well decorated. No one lives here. Now can we eat?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Last Week

Madeleine Avirov

Last week was very full. We read some Borges ("The Theologians"--with its dire implications for [mis]interpretation) and some Bonhoeffer (on polyphony, from Letters and Papers from Prison). We learned a bit about the work of Steve Roden. And we were visited by the L.A. artist Madeleine Avirov, who showed us slides of several of her paintings, and how her work--or her work-making practice--finds grounding in poetry. She wrote about it here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Two Exquisite Corpses

Some students this week gave a presentation on Frank O'Hara, and his connections to the painter Robert Motherwell. During the presentation, the class was split in two, and each half made a poem. The first student wrote a line, passed it to his/her neighbor, who added a second line. This student then passed it on to the next student, who added a line. And so on. The results are below.

A Girl & No Jazz

A girl & no jazz is like static at midnight:
go shopping, pack a bag, feed the dog, book a flight;
be a man, have a plan, Afghanistan, be polite.
Invite darkness, like a dentist drill, harsh screaming,
beaming, beaming--as if darkness doesn't exist
and if with a sip of Coke the world fades away in a mist.
But as with any magic, illusions are just lights on a list
like boats on a mist.
And then we kissed (again).


I Woke Up Naked

I woke up naked and stubbed my toe.
A curse almost rolled off my tongue, it was low.
The clock went slower, slowest now, slow
As I drank and drank--How much? I don't know.

Refractions through the glass--drink deep, drink low
Down to the last of the night, in the sunrise glow
And drown. The morning's always the first to go,
Followed by afternoon's sickening glow.

You end up discovering more than you should know.
The cuss I am, you know.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Went to LACMA

The class went to LACMA yesterday, where we looked at a pair of Joseph Cornell boxes. Then, standing in front of the massive Robert Motherwell canvas (absurdly tiny in the link), we listened as Dan read to us excerpts from a correspondence between Motherwell and the poet Frank O'Hara. Talking about it afterwards, Dan and I agreed that we should have given the students some sort of task after our brief foray into Sound + Vision, but we weren't sure what it would have been. At any rate, seeing the stuff in person is always better than in a book or on a screen, as I was reminded by looking at the museum's enchanting Mondrian, with its marble-like cracks and expressive brush strokes, which are invisible in reproduction.

My eight-year-old son Troy came with us, and he was a good museum companion. He put his face up to the AbEx paintings in order to immerse himself in their canvases, side-stepping back and forth to observe how the colors in front of his eyes changed. He loved the various assemblages, he was disturbed by Victor Brauner's Suicide at Dawn, and he was told by a museum worker to stop running as he wound his way around Richard Serra's Bend and Sequence. He also thought the Mondrian-inspired chair was neat, and he was amused by the gigantic litter box. ("Lucy [our cat] would love this!") He was not as taken with Jeff Koons's balloon dog or floating basketballs or giant eggshell, though we did make a joke about how the balloon dog may have been born from that egg. When he saw Quad Elvis, he asked, "Why would that woman agree to be naked like that?" And then, "Wouldn't she be embarrassed to have everyone see her naked in a museum?"

Art Incursion! A Salvo of Softness and Color Fired on the Streets of Paris!

More here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Matter and Spirit: An Exhibition

Matter and Spirit: An Exhibition
Biola University Library
Jan. 1 - July 1, 2011

The following posts have been compiled from text submitted by VV&P student observations.

Mary Ellen Long's books

Mary Ellen Long's relationship to book is unique in the way it expresses her relationship between earth and spirit in a very physical way. She displays three books that were without covers and damaged to the point where they were all unreadable and held together by three cords of wrapped wire. The books had been left to the elements and as a result their appearance was decayed, fragile, almost romantically beautiful. These books had been part of an installation, a performance work and now are presented as sculpture. By removing the binding, and replacing it with wire, she was able to seal and bury the book and let natural corrosion take place. The installation portion of this work reads as a sort of funeral. She releases the book (along with its original content) to nature and in turn nature acts on it. It (nature) both acts on the text and well as reads the book. One finds one self asking if the original content was still there in the physical aspect of the book or did it leave the book along with the ability to read it? Samantha Leaden, Chelsea Almeter