For several years, I have been working on a manuscript called
Reciprocity. In Judy's Journal (February 2005), I shared
portions of the preface which explained the experience of making
paintings that inspire poems or vice-versa. This month, I want
to share the origins of four painting/poem pairs and show how
Henry Miller's above quotation rings true. If you would like
to view the painting and read the poem, go to Bibliography at
the top of this page. There is a link in the second paragraph
that will take you to each of these painting/poem pairs.
Painting: The Arrival, Poem: At Home - I made
the painting "The Arrival" the day after my friend's
death at home. The title refers to the mortician's arrival at
dawn. He looms in the upper right hand corner. Here was one
event full of emotions, details, and images. There was no rest
until I started to draft a poem. Scenes played over and over
in my mind - the sounds of "the stretcher wheels/thudding
down the stairs" and "the rolling crunch of ice,"
the sight of its "tracks, engraved there for days."
The poem gave meaning and substance to the painting; the painting
gives substance and meaning to the poem. In their mutual relationship,
they became a singular and reciprocal way of expressing my grief.
Painting: Energy, Poem: First Light - Inspired
by Leonard Bernstein's and George Gershwin's music, this painting
led me into its own world; there was no holding back in its
colors and fantastic shapes. I began the poem during an extended
New England heat wave. From out of nowhere came the connection
to the memory of seeing Vincent Minnelli's An American in
Paris. I remembered being eight years old, walking home
from the neighborhood theater, and how stunned I was by the
beauty of the film. All that chaotic color. The poem contains
a reference to the Catherine wheel, named after St. Catherine,
who lived in the 4th century. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase
and Fable states that the Roman emperor, Maximinus, ordered
her to defend the Christian faith in a public debate. She won,
so he ordered that she be placed on a chaff-cutter-like wheel.
Legend has it that as soon as it began to turn, her bonds broke.
She was then beheaded. The Roman Catholic Church named her patron
saint of wheelwrights. The poem remains a call to shrug off
worry and take the high road to bliss through art.
Painting: Houses at Night, Poem: Veteran's Day Tableaux
- 1953 - This painting of tipped and disoriented houses
came after the poem, but look at those houses! At first, I did
not realize that it was a reciprocal response to the poem. The
event took place on a summer evening, when all was peaceful.
But the energy in the air can change in an instant with the
intrusion of a stranger. It also made me realize that sometimes
adults who are caught in a moment of crisis can behave in heroic
and sympathetic ways. Children become unwitting witnesses, and
are left to process the event.
Painting: Town V, Poem: To Lightning - A friend
told me a story about her mother, who while standing at her
back door, was struck by lightning and survived. I made myself
imagine how she could have felt by writing this poem. The painting
came the next year. When pink became a dominant color, then
fizzing white lines, I knew I was painting that poem.
In January, www.paletteandpen.com
will launch a new feature. When you open the home page and click
onto Judy's Journal, you be brought into a menu/index from which
you can choose a journal to open up. Each month will have a
brief description to help in your selection. Your first choice
will be January's journal, which will be focused on art. Contact
if you would like to talk about art or poetry.