During Phoenix Art Museum's recent Exploding Plastic Inevitable celebration of Andy Warhol's work, held on March 6 as part of this month's First Friday, Four Chambers Press presented readings of works featured in their latest chapbook, titled Poetry and Prose for the Phoenix Art Museum.
Two dozen writers with pieces published in the chapbook read their work in front of the artwork that inspired it. About 60 museum-goers participated in each of two Four Chambers Press roving readings at the museum that night, according to Kelsey Pinckney, assistant director for Four Chambers Press.
Readers used a microphone attached to a speaker Pinckney wheeled about the museum atop a cart, looking a bit like those teachers of many decades ago rocking the vintage audio-visual equipment vibe. Most roving audience members hit EPI to hear the readings, says Pinckney. But they also picked up other museum-goers along the way.
"We were worried people would think we were intrusive or loud," she says. Instead, their mash-up of visual and literary arts, created in partnership with the Phoenix Art Museum, was a smashing success that engaged listeners of all ages in both seeing art and hearing poetry and prose by local writers. "It's by far the most successful event we've done in terms of participation," she adds.
In the two months that followed their open call for chapbook submissions, Four Chambers Press received 178 submissions. They came from all over, says Pinckney, and from all different circles. Thirty works were published in the chapbook, which had a small print run of just 200. Less than 100 have sold to date, but Pinckney notes that copies are available in the The Museum Store at Phoenix Art Museum.
Most submissions were inspired by artworks in contemporary and modern galleries, according to Pinckney. A few writers ran with the Warhol theme, she says, and several with a mixed-media installation with LED lights titled You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies. One or two were inspired by that museum's fashion offerings, she says.
For each piece of poetry of prose published in the chapbook, Four Chambers notes the piece of artwork that somehow informed it. A nifty diversity of works are represented, including landscape, still life, self-portrait, and more.
We especially enjoyed Portrait of the Art as a Young Girl, a trio of paragraphs by ASU MFA candidate Allegra Hyde. Each was inspired by a different piece at the Phoenix Art Museum. They begin with the following lines: Even in those days the houses felt like ice cubes; It was the age of hair; A period makes the girl a woman, she is told.
Most poetry and prose featured in the chapbook were written by locals, but writers from several other states are included as well. Many of those included are already published writers. Holly Hendin, who wrote Green Apple Candy after seeing a 1991 work by Frank Gonzalez Torres, is both a psychiatrist and published poet.
Several of these writers have connections to other enterprises offering visual, performing, or literary arts -- including Space 55 Theatre and a spoken word series dubbed Caffeine Corridor. For folks seeking a fun assortment of literary and other arts offerings in metro Phoenix, contributor biographies at the back of the chapbook reveal some cool options.
Four Chambers Press worked with Christian Adame, associate curator for education at Phoenix Art Museum, to both create the chapbook and present the EPI readings. In his Afterword for the chapbook, Adame noted that museums "should foster artists in all disciplines as a place to look with fresh eyes, to respond, to think expansively and to create something new."
Another roving reading of pieces published in Poetry and Prose for the Phoenix Art Museum is already in the works, according to Pinckney. At least one out-of-state author is flying in to read, and Four Chambers Press folks will read works for those who can't be there. This time around, all 30 works will be read in front of the artwork(s) that inspired them. Pinckney expects it'll be a 90-minute to two-hour affair.
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The Saturday, April 4, event gets underway at 2:30 p.m. Folks who attend will need to pay museum admission ($15 for adults), but there's no additional cost for making the rounds with readers as they perform their pieces.
More chapbooks are in the works as well, she says. "These seem to be what local authors like to participate in," says Pinckney, "We may have found our niche in that." Four Chambers Press folks are thinking now about possible themes, which might include other metro Phoenix locations or hot topics such as food, alcohol, and coffee. They're exploring future collaboration possibilities as well, but aren't yet ready to divulge the details.
Folks can watch the Four Chambers Press website for news of upcoming developments.
See also: Slide Show: Exploding Plastic Inevitable at Phoenix Art Musuem Follow Jackalope Ranch on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.