Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gina Alvarez: independence with a sense of place

As we prepare for the fourth Poetry Scores Art Invitational (Friday, Nov. 13 at The Luminary) and our fifth visual art show overall, it occurs to me we are developing something of a roster of house artists who show year after a year, and this is fine by me.

The rock musicians who work on the Poetry Scores CDs have been making music together for exactly twenty years, and as we start to imagine our second silent movie made to one of our poetry scores, I start with the same actors we used on the first film - I always like the idea of being an ensemble, with a core cast.

That said, it goes without saying that we don't know every creative artist out there, or that we have thought to ask everyone we do know who would fit in with our scheme of things, so I am equally delighted to add new people to the mix in every medium.

It was with this in mind that I recruited Stephen Lindsley to join our Board of Directors, since he does an active art blog and knows the local art scene pretty thoroughly. Sure enough, this year he has brought someone new to the invitational: Gina Alvarez.

I found a discursive artist statement she wrote for a Fontbonne show in May, so I know she hails from Racine, Wisconsin, flirted with attenting the U.S. Naval Academy because she is so crazy about diving, dropped out of college at one point and worked in a plywood factory, grocery store, book store and peanut shop, then did time in Charleston, South Carolina and Florence, Italy - two cities that merge, in her mind, as the birthplace(s) of her independence and love of place.

Independence, love of place: these are promising qualities in an artist who will be engaging with The Sydney Highrise Variations, a poem about a place (among other things) by a fiercely independent-minded Australian poet.

She came to St. Louis for graduate school (not an unusual visual artist paradigm) and has stayed eight years. She lives in Dogtown with her little family and cats is "thrilled that I am still making art." (Here she is, working in the studio to the strains of Gillian Welch.)

She says, "I love materials - soap, latex, paper, handmade paper, fabric, horse hair, clay and lights. I think that working heavily (for me) with materials is a strategy that I have created for myself that allows me to make mistakes. Drawing seems really precious to me and I can get really nervous if I have to put pencil to paper but if I sew into the paper, which functions exactly like a drawn mark, then I feel more at ease."

I hope she puts herself at ease, surrounded with her materials, and I am sure she will make something interesting in response to Les' poem. She will find herself in the company of a poet who also has an affection of materials. In fact, the poem opens with him getting imaginatively in the guts of the Gladesville Bridge Road over Sydney Harbor, imagined as "a space probe,"

a trajectory of strange fixed dusts, that were milled,
boxed with steel rod mesh and fired, in stages,
from sandstone point to point.
My cowriter and coproducer Matt Fuller and I also love materials and process. For this precise part of the poetry score, in fact, we decided to work with a songwriting tape we made in Coldwater Canyon above Los Angeles. We worked up a number of songs there - as a hollow in the hills, it is itself an example of highrise variations, of highs and lows - and wanted some of its atmosphere in our final project. Though Adam Long and I later added Christopher Y. Voelker, asking him to play "a trajectory of strange fixed dusts" on his violin, which he knew just how to do.


"Also, it's a space probe"
(Matt Fuller, Chris King, Les Murray)
Three Fried Men w/ Chris Voelker

More in this series

Jeremy Rabus, complex in his levels and his heights
Dante, Cromwell & the phenomenon of the century
Edmondson to make pinewood derby for Invitational
Dana Smith confirms for 2009 Art Invitational
Colin Michael Shaw confirms for 2009 Art Invitational


The image is Farrell Blue (2008), by Gina Alvarez, which of all her work I was able to find and poach online plays the most with vertical space. Not that all the work in this show will or should, but it gives me a principal of selection in picking preview images!

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