Whitman Sampler Talk at Free Library of Philadelphia

UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, my artist’s talk at the Free Library of Philadelphia has been cancelled. I’ll provide updates if something changes in the future. –Kelly

Original post:

So this is happening in April. Come if you can!

 Fri, April 24, 2020 3:00 p.m.Add to your calendar
First Floor Gallery West at Parkway Central Library

Join Voyages by Road and Sea featured artist Kelly McQuain in the West Gallery for an up-close look at his Whitman Sampler. McQuain will share the origin of this unique sculpture and explain the significance of its hidden parts.

https://libwww.freelibrary.org/calendar/event/99307


Detail of Whitman Sampler.

What is the Whitman Sampler?

The Whitman Sampler is a box designed to delight and surprise. It became a way for me to slip inside Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and grapple anew with the good gray poet’s famous life’s work. I think of it as a visual poem, an homage to Whitman’s opus and an educational tool.

Based on an advent calendar, each box of the Sampler opens to reveal excerpts of Whitman’s verse as well as found objects repurposed to reflect and critique his text. My hope is that curious viewers will use the Sampler as a springboard for investigating Whitman’s poetry more fully. Think of it as play, a means to see how Whitman’s myriad ideas echo and resonate against each other in a visual way.

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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