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Thursday, January 29, 2009

an old poem embedded in thoughts on ottawa visual art, artists

I started hanging around the Enriched Bread Artists' Studio on Gladstone Avenue around 1995 or so, probably due to the crush I had on one of the artists, Angela McFall (everyone had a crush on Angela McFall), once staying there late enough talking and such that she and I crashed on a mattress on the studio floor. We cleared out the leftover beer from the fridge. Through the end of the 1990s, their annual open-house was a showcase for some of the best local had to offer in visual art, and a thousand people would come through over the space of the Thursday night open-house to the Saturday and Sunday continuation, wandering through two dozen artists studios. One resident, Carl Stewart, a visual artist and filmmaker was, for a few years, producing these large and magnificent hook-rug pieces from images taken from gay male pornography, creating pieces that were extremely well-crafted and graphic, basically confusing two ideas into a single piece. While walking a Saturday around Centretown, I even saw one of his pieces in a yard sale. How can you display such a piece on your front lawn, of a blue-and-white hook rug image of one man giving another a blowjob?

certain works of carl stewart, artist

the consequences, of two men

wrestling, black leotards, or
blue yarn flash

the super-8 film superimposed

sound, against the granary
of speech

impeccable timing, one goes
off at the same

turns to the left, turns back
to the singular

& rental agency, discretion
is never certain

methodology of intrusion, either watching
or then joining in

cuts a short hair, & rose
coloured glasses

This piece responds more specifically to images Stewart was working on of men's wrestling, using the images to bring out the homoerotic aspects of the sport. As far as Carl Stewart goes, I suppose, a boy can dream, and why shouldn’t he. Over the years, I've written pieces that have referenced various Ottawa visual artists, including Diane Woodward, Eric Walker, Dennis Tourbin, Germaine Koh and Danny Hussey. Poets such as Frank O'Hara nearly made a career out of such, surrounded by artwork during his day-job at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Diana Brebner wrote poems about paintings by Mary Pratt, and Stephanie Bolster wrote of Vermeer. David McFadden and George Bowering had great play working in the artwork and other references to their friend, the late London, Ontario visual artist, Greg Curnoe.

Art taken from art, the Greek ekphrasis, but does one need the one to comprehend other? If you do, then the piece has ultimately failed; it must always first stand on its own. And even worse, those pieces that do little but simply describe an artwork, this is what was in that painting, adding nothing at all else. What's the point of simply that?

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