Read Into It 

"Artists and Writers" at the Flippo Gallery explores the relationships of words and pictures, and the people who work with them.

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Artists and Writers," on display through April 20 at Randolph-Macon College's Flippo Gallery, explores the interrelationships between visual art and written or spoken language.

For the exhibit, five pairs of locally based artists and writers were invited to work together. Some contributors share details of their collaborative processes openly. Others guard the inspirational thread and pique curiosity. In both cases, the dynamics of collaboration emerge as a strong subtheme.

A documentary on Max Ernst by artist Dawn Latane and writer David Latane welcomes visitors, providing an intellectual and sensory journey via motion picture and radio clips, bird sounds, literary and artistic references, and still pictures. The film is accompanied by mixed-media images created by Dawn and text illuminating the significance of bird references in the pair's work.

Artist Brad Birchett offers a mixed-media installation investigating the significance of daily events and the relationship of art to time. A series of black-and-white photographs alludes to Birchett repeatedly throwing a stick to the family dog. The meditative and ritual nature of the activity emerges as one listens to sounds of the dog running for the stick, returning, panting, drinking. Writer Stacie Birchett cleverly demonstrates the weight of demands placed unwittingly on the writing process through prose and an assemblage of empty journals. The imprint of this pair's collaboration is subtle. Their works seem to stand apart from one another as reminders that inspiration manifests itself in myriad ways.

"Ruminations," by sculptor Allison Andrews and musician Julia Dooley, feels like the product of one creative spirit, though it juxtaposes image, text, spoken word and different languages to posit a harmonious coexistence of seemingly divergent belief systems and values. They present a projected film of water gently lapping at a shoreline, over which is superimposed the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, translated into Arabic and poignantly revised. A woman's voice reads in English the revised Preamble interspersed with lines from Christian and Islamic prayers.

Creative and collaborative processes are made beautifully transparent in "The Sand Fence," composed of writing by Susan Hankla and relief prints by Jack Glover. In diarylike text, Hankla explains her process of composing the eponymous sestina. Alongside the poem itself, Glover's prints evoke the imagery expressed in Hankla's words, creating a sense of intimacy and true partnership.

Sculptor Carole Garmon and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Claudia Emerson reflect on the sewing bird, a clamp used to hold fabric taut while working. Garmon's piece evokes textile creations that might be facilitated by the implement as well as the aerial domain of its namesake. Emerson's musings on the subject take form in poetry. Each work complements the other brilliantly, yet stands on its own.

To complete "Artists and Writers," Emerson, Hankla, Stacie Birchett, and Dooley will give a public reading of pieces from the exhibit and other works April 15. This event extends the collaborative spirit of the exhibit and promises an enhanced experience of the installations through nuanced readings of related works in the writers' own voices. S

"Artists and Writers" runs through April 20 at Randolph-Macon College's Flippo Gallery. The reading is April 15 at 3 p.m. in the Topping Room of Old Chapel, followed by the closing reception in the Flippo Gallery. 752-3018.

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