Like the craziest grocery list ever, in preparation for interpreting a written work visually I started with my favorite concrete images in Miho Nonaka's poem Floating: jellyfish, tentacles, tea, a friend named Akiko, shaved ice, spoons, white haiku, wet black street, parasol, code, etching, a crystal ball...
As I was working on my painting I realized that the images Dr. Nonaka chose, though widely disparate, were visually linked. Lacy French parasols do indeed look like jellyfish, especially against a rainy paved street. Drippy melting ice does look like a code. The camaraderie between friends is like a nearly invisible tentacle. They all add up to the idea of the transparent connections we have to our home, our identity and to each other.
Floating begins, "All summer, I longed to become a jellyfish." I included in my painting many different types of jellyfish and tentacles to reinforce the idea of reaching out. Collaged in and mostly painted over are Japanese and Chinese calligraphy, spoons, and small areas of bright colors reminiscent of shaved ice. I included a large "A" for Akiko and "N" for Nonaka, juxtaposing thin curling lines with thick geometric ones. I used thin tools to carve into the wooden painting support, literally etching the surface. I hoped the abundance of black paint would lend the work the asian simplicity and sophistication I found in the poem.
I wasn't able to include all of my list, so I am already planning to paint another version of Floating primarily in white complete withTokyo, tea, white chalk, and gelatin. I have been really enjoying spring boarding from The Museum of Small Bones into a new understanding of the poems. The challenges in bringing them to life visually are inspiring me toward work I wouldn't have thought to create, and reminding me how parameters and limits support creativity rather than diminish it.