A Walt Whitman Sampler

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Nov. 15, 2019

My art project on Walt Whitman, “A Whitman Sampler” is now on display at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s exhibition, Voyages by Road and Sea: Philadelphia Perspectives on Walt Whitman and Herman Melville. The artwork is now installed in the West Gallery at the Parkway Central Library, Free Library of Philadelphia, located on the Ben Franklin Parkway. This project is a collaboration of the Free Library and the Rosenbach Center and features historical context on the authors as well as newly commissioned artwork related to the works of Melville and Whitman.

That’s where I come in. The Library commissioned artwork from me that consists of a box similar to an advent calendar. Each box contains pictures and text that correspond with Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Part puzzle, part Whitman fortune-telling device, the box is designed as an interactive tool to help readers engage with the Great Gray Bard in a new and compelling way. In the spring I will be participating in an event where I take the box out of its display case to show off its possibilities. Time and date to be announced.

Special thanks to the team that created the exhibition: graphic designer Nathanael Roesch, writer/editor Clare Fentress, registrar Jobi Zink, FLP Deputy Director Andrew Nurkin, the Rosenbach’s Alexander Ames, and co-curator Professor Ed Whitley. In the coming year, a series of related events and programs in support of the exhibition will be held. Watch for details!

 

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Update: On the back of the sampler there is an illustration of Walt for the 21st century, departing as air, waiting for us along life’s path in the grass beneath our soles/souls:

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

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Too Bad for Cats

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Did you ever play that game Lifeboat, where you have one lifeboat and you have to decide who gets to jump into it? You know, priest vs. pregnant mother vs. sailor vs. rich banker vs. yadda, yadda, yadda?

There’s a similar thing called the trolley problem in situational ethics. Well, MIT is working on a database to help self-driving cars play their own version of the who-to-save game. It makes one wonder how we’ll program (teach?) all sorts of machines we will come to rely on, and how those machines in turn will have to program (teach?) ethics to that which they create. On and on… Our ethical codes are handed down to us via our myths and stories, philosophies and laws, traditions and taboos. However, the idealism they aspire toward is often left unexercised in everyday practice. Will AI face that same conundrum? In the article on the project at The Economist we learn that, sadly, cats don’t so well in this process. Not sure about kittens.

Hitchcock made a movie called Lifeboat based on a script by John Steinbeck and featuring the lovely Tallaullah Bankhead. Maybe we need a new version of Lifeboat now that we have ruined the planet. A movie featuring the Terminator, C3PO, The Jetsons’ Rosie, a Dalek and the Lost in Space robot. Maybe they should decide if we humans are worthy of shooting into the stars.

 

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#RobotEthics

https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2018/10/27/whom-should-self-driving-cars-protect-in-an-accident

http://moralmachine.mit.edu/

Visit the #BarnesCollection for FREE!

#letsconnectPhilly  Now through IMG_1664June 4, 2018 get free admission to the Barnes in honor of their Let’s Connect Exhibition. I’m one of 310 Philadelphia artists who have work in the show. Participating artists chose a work in the Barnes Collection that inspired them, and then did their own 8″ x 10″ work inspired by the original. (For me, the hardest part was working that small.) The public gets to visit the Barnes for free and vote for four artists who will each get a three-month studio residency at the Barnes over the next year. Admission is free to encourage public participation in voting. If you’ve never been, the permanent collection is amazing–arguably the best assemblage of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in the county.  Barnes created the collection to educate artists about form and technique. My painting is titled Mind, Heart, Soul, which alludes to what Albert Barnes sought to cultivate in the students who studied the masterworks he painstakingly displayed for them. The museum is open 11 am – 5 pm Wednesday through Monday. For FREE admission, you must register in advance at

https://barnesfoundation.formstack.com/forms/connect_voter_registration.

If you go, please consider voting for #1295, my version of Van Gogh’s The Postman. Why did I choose The Postman? Here’s the Artist Statement I sent along with my project.

Albert C. Barnes didn’t collect work based on historical or social context; he assembled his works as a testament to the pleasure of form. Barnes’ method, however, poses a dilemma for contemporary artists: in this Age of (overwhelming) Information, is it possible to create work apart from the context from which it rises?

I’m drawn to a painting like Van Gogh’s The Postman not only because of its virtuoso brushwork but also because of its unintentional commentary on so many things: the bearded hipsters of my Philly neighborhood; the fact that few people write letters anymore; the way internet businesses have staved off the Postal Service’s obsolescence; that Philadelphia has offered massive tax incentives to lure Amazon.com’s new headquarters here—a bid that could turn life here on its head.

I like art that talks to me and keeps the conversation moving forward. The Barnes Collection does this, whether its founder intended it to or not. When Albert Barnes paired paintings with old hinges and primitive sculptures, he created a series of “eye rhymes”–visual pairings that call to each other and echo back. In doing so he created a living conversation about art, one that surmounts time. I’m inspired by the collection’s interplay of forms as well as its interplay of ideas. I believe that Barnes’ singular arrangement is a conceptual artwork itself. It teaches me to see the times I’m living through in new ways and to curate my life carefully. Barnes’ collection teaches me to honor the old, reflect my now, and imagine a future. That feels like a fragile message, but it’s one that needs delivering.

–Kelly McQuain, Artist Statement, May 2018

 

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#vangogh @the_barnes @kellymcquain

Free Writer Events in Philadelphia – March 2018

#CCP #writing #Philadelphia   #VietDinh
Writer friends! CCP peeps! Community College of Philadelphia has several cool workshops and readings open to the public this week, and I especially recommend
Viet Đinh‘s event on his Penn/Faulkner Award-finalist novel, After Disasters. (Full sched. with times and locations at https://www.myccp.online/2018-poets-writers-festivalviet-dinh-large)
 
Dinh teaches at the University of Delaware. AFTER DISASTERS is an aMAZingly well researched novel about international and domestic relief workers struggling to provide aid after a disastrous 2001 earthquake in the Indian city of Bhuj. Dinh weaves together the stories of several intriguing characters–Dev, a married Indian doctor who works with HIV patients; Piotr, a disaster relief logistics expert facing burnout; Andy, a UK fire rescue worker on his first international assignment; and much more! It’s rare to find a novel with such rich characterization and an exacting eye for the logistics of the global world. My students and I are learning a great about how international relief works as well as the competing philosophies behind providing aid. We’re learning too the painful ironies and human failings that sometimes arise amid best intentions.
 
Dinh will also discuss his story “Substitutes” in a later session. This story won an O’Henry Prize and centers on Vietnamese schoolchildren left in the lurch during the fall of Saigon. Its use of first-person plural is a masterful example of a rarely used point of view.
 
All this, and he’s a snappy dresser to boot. Come if you can!
You can read the review of After Disasters at the LA Review of Books here.

Wolves, Whores, Trump & Immigration

Read poet Shelley Puhak’s essay at the Columbia Journal.

Is it any surprise then, that after passing from one iron cage to another, passing from one blue-serge inspector to another, my great-grandmother was detained for further inspection?

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“Freedom is notoriously unpunctual, apparently, even in Germany…”

http://www.ericthomasnorris.com/i-am-a-part-of-all-that-i-have-met/november-10th-2014

Friends, if you are looking for a good travel blog to follow, might I suggest this one by poet Eric Thomas Norris? He’s abandoned the US for a year-long sojourn across Europe and Asia, and right now he’s in Germany celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall. Eric is wry, witty, and exceedingly well-read. I made his acquaintance a few years ago when he accepted my poem, “Torn”, for his online journal Kin. I got to meet him in person this past winter in New York, where he lived until recently. This year, I’ll be living vicariously through Eric’s eyes as he couch surfs his way across the globe. You can, too. –Kelly

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About Eric:

I am an American writer.

I am living out of my backpack for the next year as I circumnavigate the globe. This blog will tell the story of that journey. I have no particular destination in mind. I have no idea what kind of joys and hardships I will encounter. But the wind seems fair, and you are there, and my memory is packed with pistols, poems and puns, in case I am captured by pirates.

I do not travel alone. (From the blog at www.ericthomasnorris.com)