Thursday, October 28, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe

Nathan Oliveira, title page and print from the series
To Edgar Allan Poe, 1971

Halloween is approaching, and it seems like a good time to investigate visual artists who were inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. Since I have been teaching in Baltimore this fall, Poe has been on my mind. Poe lived in Baltimore (he moved often) and is also buried there. Currently, there is an Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore that now keeps the memory of the writer alive.

Édouard Manet, Lithograph, published with the poem "The Raven",1875

After some online research, I found that the Baltimore Art Museum recently had an exhibit that featured artists inspired by Edgar Allan Poe (The University of Virginia also had a similar themed exhibit). Poe’s writing is now in the public domain and much of his writing can be found online. The website The Literature Network has a thorough collection of Poe’s writing (If you do not see the links to Poe’s stories and poems on this site, look for the column on the left as you scroll down).

Odilon Redon, The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity, Plate 1 in the Series For Edgar Allan Poe, Lithograph, 1882

Artists for generations have been attracted to Edgar Allan Poe’s imagination, depth, and vividness. It is these qualities that pierce through the macabre for which his best literary works are known. Some artist’s like Edouard Manet have made more literal illustrations of Poe’s writing. Manet made lithographs to illustrate Stephane Mallarme's French translation of "The Raven". Artists Odilon Redon and Nathan Oliveira have made suites of prints inspired by Poe. For artists like Edvard Munch much of their art work is ladened with a mood akin to Poe's writing.

Odilon Redon, After Reading Edgar Allan Poe, or: The Eye, Charcoal drawing, 1883

Life is ripe with paradox. For example, one cannot truly know the lighter side of life without feeling its darkness and despair. For all of Poe's focus on the darker side of life, he also understood its opposite. For example,“The Pit and the Pendulum” is relentlessly dark. However, it would not be memorable without the light at the end.

Edvard Munch, Angst, Oil on Canvas, 1894

(For further reading about Redon's connection with Poe see: Norbert Miller's essay, pages 58-67, in the book Odilon Redon: As in a Dream. Also see: Nathan Oliveira, by Peter Selz, pages 3, 78-80, and 154)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lost and Found Part 1

Currently, I am taking digital design classes at Bucks County Community College. Numerous prints are hung in one of my classrooms below the library. After observing the various styles and techniques represented, I noticed a print that looked familiar and seemed to be part of a series. I had seen another print that looked very similar on another part of the campus. Upon closer inspection I realized that the print found in my classroom and the other print I had seen were made by Pamela DeLaura.

I met Pamela on a trip to Detroit. She is a Professor of Printmaking at Wayne State University in Detroit. I sent her an email to confirm it was her work. She was surprised because it turns out the work came from her time as a graduate student at Temple University. She was not sure how the work became a part of the college collection but was pleased to know it fell into good hands.

The print I witnessed (seen above with some glare on the glass) is an interior with writing visible as part of the printed image. The writing describes what she saw out of her window when she was a child.

Pamela's prints at Bucks County Community College seem to foreshadow her later work that depicts the form of a house filled with reminders and symbolic information. Below is an image of a more recent print by DeLuara that was included in a national print exhibit at Artlink in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Having lived for three years in the Midwest, I know that Artlink has been very active in support of contemporary art and printmaking. After doing a web search, I found that Artlink has a new website. This was a little confusing because I found Pamela’s work on what must have been their older site. Anyway, it is all good. What was lost has now been found.

Pamela Delaura, Intersections III, 2005