Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Ocean of Earth"

With my online exhibition now in its third week (see it here), the crush of completing the work and photographing it, getting the word out, is largely behind me; most of the responses I can expect have come and gone, as life returns to its quotidian ripples. I've thought of all my other artist friends who work toward shows, mount exhibitions, put out the press, and then take it all down and start again. Our productive lives are necessary to us and so unnecessary in the grand scheme; or that is how it seems. I am reminded of the admonishment by Lao Tzu in the Tao te ching: To live long, be of no use.

Today I recieved a response to the work from a special friend who has also been a model and a mentor to me over the years, Judith Serin. Judith is a poet, fiction writer, and consulting editor. Her latest collection of poems is Hiding in the World (Eidolon) (click here for a link to see or purchase the book). Judith has also published an artist's book and a chapbook, both with Deconstructed Artichoke Press. Judith is a professor of literature and writing at California College of Arts in Oakland, CA.

Judith has known my work for decades now and is a close reader. She asked me in particular about the piece below, asking if I'd read "Ocean of Earth" by Guillame Apollinaire, which I had not; I have added the text of this poem below the photo, and I won't attempt to comment upon it, except to say how remarkable it is: a wave carries along with it something that has been to sea, almost to shore, and back again, the way our ideas cycle through us and each other, across time and space - the marvel of eternal return. 

Ravenna Taylor, "Instrumental Dwellings 2," 2012, collage, 13.5 x 14 inches

"Ocean of Earth," Guillame Apollinaire

to G. de Chirico

I built a house in the middle of the ocean
Its windows are rivers which flow out of my eyes
Octopus stir all around its walls
Listen to the triple beat of their hearts and their beaks which
  tap on the window panes
                      Humid house
                      Burning house
                      Rapid season
                      Season which sings
         Airplanes drop eggs
         Watch out for the anchor
Watch out for the ink which they squirt
It's a good thing you came from the sky
The honeysuckle of the sky climbs up
The earthly octopus throb
And then we are closer and closer to being our own gravediggers
Pale octopus of chalky waves O Octopus with pale beaks
Around the house there is this ocean which you know
And which is never still

Translated from the French by Roger Shattuck
This translation was found online via Birds, Beasts, and Seas: Nature Poems from New Directions, by Jeffrey Yang.


  1. Reading this poem, it seems as though your piece was made in response to it. Each enhances the other. It's a beautiful partnership.

    1. It really is as if one had been made upon seeing the other, and the "influence" might be read from either direction. I'm amazed and slightly awed by the sense of comraderie with a poet of the 19th C., whose work I haven't read. I write poetry, and read poetry; but I haven't studied poetry and am not well cultivated in its movements and history. But I feel about this poem a little as I feel when standing in front of a painting by Cezanne, looking at the little marks from his brushes and imagining his arm as he made them, knowing what that feels like.

  2. I have to share this whole thing with my family/ all half sea creatures.


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