By: Karli Banas
Unique designs, intricate linework, and playful poetry are just a few features of “Parallel Play,” an exhibit that explores the connection between visual and literary art now on display in the second-floor gallery of the Manning Academic Center.
The exhibit is a collaborative work that features the digital collages of artist John P. Wise juxtaposed against the poetry of MaryIsabel Azrael. The pair began collaborating on the project in 2020 when the COVID-19 lockdown began. That created the perfect focal point for the curator who focused this semester’s exhibits on the dreaded pandemic.
The exhibit displays 36 original, collaborative pieces which come from 5 collections of their work. This is Azrael and Wise’s second time working together, as they previously have worked on a book combining their artwork and poetry. Some of the artwork features easily identifiable images and others are abstract combinations of shapes and lines.
There are a variety of themes present throughout the exhibit, but one that seemed the most engaging was how small the human existence is compared to the rest of the universe. The pieces titled “A cure,” “All I could do,” “Rattle,” “Cloud shoals,” and “Jackhammer” all fall into this category. The images in these works include drooping/wilting flowers, lines and splotches similar to bones, and an x-ray.
Some pieces had more playful, lighthearted themes. “Adazzle” featured a large black brush stroke over a rectangle that had hints of purple, green, gray, yellow, and orange. The image invoked a feeling of nature and the poem matched perfectly as it mentioned a dragonfly and gave a springy, fluttery feel.
“Neon” described the sparks of a budding romance and included eye-catching bright blue and yellow lines which worked well with the accompanying poem that reads “he hands her a glowstick.”
“Both elements have equal weight,” poet MaryIsabel Azrael said describing the relationship between her verse and visual art. She explained that she and Wise went back and forth many times sharing their work or pieces of it and then determined if the other had or could create something new to accompany it.
Azrael went on to say that she and Wise had fun collaborating and did not run into many difficulties creating the pieces.
The most difficult part, according to Azrael, was selecting which pieces to display on the walls out of the approximately 90 works they created. They considered a variety of factors in making their final choices.
“We had to consider which ones would look well together, which ones were too similar, and which ones students would enjoy.”
Smaller versions of all the pieces from the five collections are available in envelopes and viewers are encouraged to sit and look through them.
Lori Rubeling, Faculty Director of Exhibitions, said: “I hope students find a moment of self-presence with the exhibit, maybe even feel inspired for their own creative work.”
Azrael had a similar goal. “I hope they see things that speak to their own experience,” she said. “And they have some kind of emotional response. Maybe even feel inspired to make art or write a poem.”
Rubeling praised Wise and Azrael for their ability to make the most of a bad situation like COVID-19 and share that experience with others.
“In a way, the exhibit is like the pandemic,” she said. “Viewers share the overall experience, but there is much variety in what is taken away from it individually.”
Senior Leslie McAlister appreciates the abstract nature of the exhibit. “I like it because it allows the viewer to relate the works to their own lives and thoughts.”
Students are welcome to attend the reception for the exhibition which will take place on Saturday, March 26th from 12-4 pm. More information about the exhibition as well as the artists can be found here.