Art into Art takes poetic look at creative process

Friday, September 22, 2006

Elizabeth Schultz sees poetry in a photograph of a tattooed man, or paintings of a slain animal or a sharecropper.

These are pieces she's appreciated at the Spencer Museum of Art for more than three decades.

"I began to feel certain of these works in the collection have been my friends, and always have spoken to me," Schultz says.

So, after Schultz retired from Kansas University's English faculty in 2001, she started writing on paper the poetry she'd been feeling for these artworks for so long.

The tangible result is "Conversations: Art into Poetry at the Spencer Museum of Art," a collection of 27 poems about items in the Spencer's permanent collection.

But in writing the poetry, Schultz sparked a special exhibition and series of events this fall at the Spencer titled "Art into Art: Inspired Responses." The idea is to explore the interplay among various art forms, and how one piece of art can inspire another.

"Really, the whole project started with Beth's poetry work," says Kristina Mitchell, the museum's director of education. "She had written many poems inspired by our collection, and it got us thinking, how else have creative people used our permanent collection to inspire other art?"

Continual conversation

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Special to the Journal-World

This portrait of Melvin Miller of Greensburg, taken by Emporia photographer Larry Schwarm, is among the works Elizabeth Schultz wrote poetry about for her book "Conversations: Art into Poetry at the Spencer Museum of Art."

The exhibition itself includes a variety of subjects in oils, watercolors, sculpture and photography. It's hung salon-style in the museum's central courtyard.

This is one of the few times when the Spencer's permanent exhibition has been the focus of a season's programming.

In addition to the exhibition, which officially opens today with a public reception from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., "Art into Art" will include dance and musical performances, a discussion of creativity on campus, films and other presentations to fit the theme.

Mitchell says the museum is hoping to spark conversations about art.

"We kind of hope it goes beyond just what we're doing in the fall," she says. "We hope it continues into the future and can be inspiring for someone to do something in their own way."

Inspired dance

Like Schultz, Joan Stone has been inspired to create art based on the Spencer's collection.

In Stone's case, that inspiration takes the form of dance. She's been basing dances on artwork since before she came to KU in 1978, but she's used the Spencer's collection several times in her works.

Art into Art slideshow

Hear Elizabeth Schultz read her poetry titled "Poetry of Art"See audio slideshow »

Most recently, she based a dance on "86 Bends of the Kaw," a painting by Lisa Grossman that shows an aerial view of the Kansas River. The dance, titled "Into the River: Bends of the Kaw," will be performed by KU dancers at tonight's reception.

"The artist gets once chance, and they have to catch an important movement," Stone says. "But think about what movements happened before this or after this moment, and why is this gesture such a powerful movement."

Stone says she's excited the Spencer is encouraging a discussion of art inspiring art.

"(Artist Charles) Baudelaire says in his writings on art, that the way to respond to a work of art is to make a parallel work of art," Stone says. "Art begets art, and artists are inspired by other artists."

But there can be a down side to that, she says.

"Maybe it makes us somewhat insulated, and people who aren't artists may feel like we're a special club they can't join," Stone says. "I think this 'Art into Art' is meant to break that down. We want to tell people they can respond to art in many ways. There's no wrong way."

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Special to the Journal-World

"Sharecropper," a linocut by Elizabeth Catlett, is among the Spencer Museum of Art works featured in "Art into Art."

'Great friends'

Schultz has explored this idea of art inspiring art before. She curated a 1995 Spencer Museum exhibition of art inspired by the novel "Moby Dick," on which she is a nationally known authority.

Her book of poetry attempts to describe elements of artworks the casual viewer might not have noticed, explain what the artist might have been thinking or, in some cases, explore what the subject might have been thinking.

She's hoping the poetry might inspire other poetry, music, paintings, dance or other art, to keep the cycle going.

"It was pure joy to find words to express my feelings for these works," Schultz says. "There are 27 poems, and I'd say there are 27 great friends."

















Art into Art schedule

The Spencer Museum of Art has several events scheduled this fall to coincide with its "Art into Art: Inspired Responses" exhibit. Here is the schedule: ¢ Today (Sept. 22) - Opening reception, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. ¢ Thursday (Sept. 28) - "Art Moves," a work of original choreography inspired by the Spencer collection performed by the Lawrence Ballet Ensemble, 7 p.m., Central Court. ¢ Sept. 30 - "Art into Poetry," children's art appreciation class, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ¢ Oct. 1 - "Baroque Museum & Art at the Spencer Museum of Art," performance by the Spencer Consort, 2:30 p.m., Central Court. ¢ Oct. 5 - "Looking Anew: Surrealism Today," presentation by Mary Ann Caws, professor of English, French and comparative literatures at the City University of New York, 7 p.m., Spencer auditorium. ¢ Oct. 19 - Gallery Conversations by Ted Johnson, retired KU professor of French, 12:15 p.m., meet in Spencer lobby. ¢ Oct. 19 - "Statuesque," performance by Joyce Castle, professor of voice, 7 p.m., Central Court. ¢ Oct. 26 - "Art Talks: Lawrence Community Inspired Responses," with presenters Paul Hotvedt, Laura Lorson, David Loewenstein, Marty Olson and Susan Warden, 7 p.m., Central Court. ¢ Oct. 27 - "Art Talks: Faculty Inspired Responses," with presenters Dennis Christilles, Marni Kessler, Leonard Krishtalka and John Tibbetts, 9:30 a.m., Central Court. ¢ Oct. 29 - Family Day, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. ¢ Nov. 2 - Gallery Conversations by Joan Stone, retired professor of dance, 12:15 p.m., Central Court. ¢ Nov. 4 - "Art into Art" children's art appreciation class, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ¢ Nov. 5 - Gallery talk by Elizabeth Schultz, retired professor of English, 2 p.m., meet in lobby. ¢ Nov. 16 - Gallery Conversations by Rick Mitchell, gallery and special projects director at the Lawrence Arts Center, 12:15 p.m. ¢ Nov. 16 - Screening of "Frida," 7 p.m., Spencer auditorium. ¢ Nov. 30 - Student night, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Central Court.