What is your favorite title of an art work?
I’ve always loved the painter Paul Klee’s titles, and the way their presence as text impacts your orientation to his works. For instance, a beautifully intricate, multi-layered, and color-saturated image gets labeled rather firmly With the Egg, suddenly drawing your eye to a single yoke-endowed, ivory splash in the lower center of the image, which gains a different kind of buoyant gravity and hovering importance as a result.
On the other hand, a small, simple line drawing of two elongated, lumpy, and top-heavy androgynous figures—who in their leaning into one another seem to almost merge together—gets affixed with a description that is something far more than merely a “title” for what’s occurring before your eyes. Instead, appended is a mini-narrative that reads: “Occasionally I’d fool people some, / I’d put acid in their drinks, / I’d put poison in their food, / And make it hurt when they mate. / I founded an order with merrily dancing tears on its banner.” I love the joyful labor that necessarily happens as the viewer tries to put those two somewhat incongruous verbal and visual discourses in contact with one another.
How does residing in this region contribute to your artistic practice?
I’ve never considered myself to be a regional writer or to fit into the category of a “writer of place.” For lack of a better way to say it, I’m definitely more a “poet who lives in Philadelphia,” as opposed to a “Philadelphia poet.” [However,] the current dynamics of Pennsylvania politics profoundly shape my understanding of the obstacles that preclude our achievement of individual and collective health, well-being, self-determination, and, ultimately, emancipation (be it cognitive or physical in nature). This, in turn, informs my sense of what art has a mandate to attempt to, first, make legible and, then, to confront. I don’t by any stretch think this is art’s only mandate but, from my perspective, it is a primary one of them. Perhaps since I used the artist Paul Klee as an example to speak about titling, it makes sense to offer his comment that “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” I hope that my work sometimes achieves that.