OEI #86-87: Publishing Practices, Publishing Poetics

OEI #86-87: Publishing Practices, Publishing Poetics

OEI is a Stockholm, Sweden-based cultural magazine and literary project run by Jonas (J) Magnusson and Cecilia Grönberg. OEI exists “for extra-disciplinary spaces and de-disciplinizing moments–experimental forms of thinking, montages between poetry, art, philosophy, film, and documents; critical investigations, editorial enunciations, aesthetic technologies, non-affirmative writing, speculative archaeologies, new ecologies and counter-historiographies. OEI magazine was founded in 1999.”

OEI #86-87: Publishing Practices, Publishing Poetics contains the essay “But Print Is Dead: The Story of Kolaj Magazine” in which Ric Kasini Kadour explains the role publishing plays in his culture work. The essay is a critique of the current rhetoric that casts print publishing as a dying practice and proposes that what dying print publications are missing is a value around community service and building.

“In 2011, when I began to tell people that I was starting a print magazine about collage, their reaction was almost universal: ‘But print is dead.’ They weren’t wrong, but they weren’t right,” writes Kadour. “Culture may be irrational and idiosyncratic, but thankfully so are other human beings. The very thing that was supposedly killing print also made it possible for like-minded individuals to find one another.”

The article includes collages by German artists Kornelia Hoffmann and Denis Kollasch.

The publishers write:

Bringing together contributions from circa 130 publishing structures, publishing communities, magazines, small press endeavors, artists, poets, writers, editors, theoreticians, curators, scholars, and art bookstores, OEI # 86–87 reflects upon the challenges, pressures and possibilities of publishing and creating publics in different contexts and places in a time of far-reaching – economical, medial, political, social, technological – transformations.

The potential and the versatility of publishing open it to a diversity of practices and approaches in the arts, but as an eminently social form of art, a collective or micro-collective work with shared responsibilities, it is also a never-ending process of “crafting a variegated approach to how you create, publish, distribute, and build a social ecosystem around your efforts”, of trying to “build up and strengthen the community around these printed forms” (Temporary Services).

It is the conviction of OEI #86–87 that print has the power to play an important part in the construction of social spaces, of a social world. As Benjamin Thorel puts it in one of the essays in the issue, “conceiving of the dynamics of publishing as making publics as well as making things public is not a pun – insofar as the artists/publishers encompass, beyond the book itself, its possible ‘lives’, imagining the different spaces, and the different people, amongst whom a publication will circulate.” This is what Michael Warner has called “a public [as] poetic worldmaking”, implying “that all discourse or performance addressed to a public must characterize the world in which it attempts to circulate, projecting for that world a concrete and livable shape, and attempting to realize that world through address.”

This is also, as stressed by Annette Gilbert and others, what can make publishing such an active force, a force co-constituting texts and publications and publics. Indeed, with Michalis Pichler, it is tempting to say that in publishing as practice – perhaps more than in any other art field – “artists have been able to assert the aesthetic value of their own socio-politically informed concerns and to engage, often under precarious conditions, in cultural activities fully aligned with their political values.”

OEI #86–87 also includes sections on and with contemporary poetry from Canada; Fluxus publishing; Krister Brandt/Astrid Gogglesworth; Kalas på BORD (Öyvind Fahlström); Lars Fredrikson; Claude Royet-Journoud’s poetry magazines; Carl Einstein; Gail Scott; Ållebergshändelser; OEI #79: edit/publish/distribute!; “det offentligas försvinnande”

How to purchase an issue?
In Sweden, issues of OEI magazine and books by OEI editör can be ordered from Daidalos or from a Swedish bookstore or internet bookstore. WEBSITE


Publication Launch: OEI #86-87: Publishing Practices, Publishing Poetics
at Index – The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation
Kungsbro Strand 19, Stockholm
Thursday, 5 March 2020, 6:30-9:30PM
Please join OEI at Index for an evening on publishing practices & publishing poetics at the occasion of the release of the new 640-page issue of OEI, # 86–87. At Index a number of publishing projects, artists and writers – Art Distribution, Dark Mountain (Dougald Hine), Det Grymma Svärdet, Dockhaveri, OEI, Rab-Rab, STYX, and Carla Zaccagnini – will present their publishing practices and discuss their publishing poetics and publishing ecologies. Language: Swedish and English. WEBSITE

OEI at Melbourne Art Book Fair
at the National Gallery of Victoria International
180 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
13-15 March 2020, 10AM-5PM
The Melbourne Art Book Fair 2020 will bring together publishers, artists and designers to showcase some of the world’s best art and design publications for discussions, book launches and workshops. WEBSITE

Say Something

This essay originally appeared in Kolaj #24. A quarterly, printed magazine about contemporary collage, our goal with every issue is that Kolaj Magazine is essential reading for anyone interested in the role of contemporary collage in art, culture, and society. Visit the website to subscribe or get a copy.

I challenge you, find your voice, find the biggest, boldest idea that you can, and make work that speaks it.

In my capacity as a writer, editor, and curator, many artists reach out to me asking for their work to be featured in the magazine or included in an exhibition. These requests come in emails, in the mail, in direct messages on social media. I look at everything. I really do. I have great respect for artists putting themselves out there. I know it’s not easy. That impulse to share one’s work is scary and laborious and hard. I get it. I’ve been there myself. The work of self-promotion is draining.

While I feel artists’ pain, I also care deeply about how society sees and thinks about art. That ethos leads me to privilege the viewer’s experience over the artist’s need. If we want people to care about art, we shouldn’t ask them to care about crap. I think about this frequently in relation to my own work. Is this series self-serving? Is it about me or is it about something bigger than me? Am I saying something that I think is important for other people to hear? Am I serving my community and earning the privilege to call myself an artist and live an artist’s life? When I fall asleep, I want to feel like I made a difference and didn’t con someone out of their money and time with a shiny, metallic balloon dog.

When it isn’t obvious to me, I respond to artists by asking them why someone should care about their work. I don’t do it to be an jerk; I genuinely want to understand how they see themselves in the world and if their convictions are supported by a framework of understanding about what they are asking.

When Kazimir Malevich hung The Black Square in The Last Futurist Exhibition 0.10 in 1915, he declared that his art would not be a tool for God or country. In doing this, Malevich asserted that artists must be free to make whatever, to operate in a free zone of thinking. This was a radical idea at a time when art had for centuries been a tool of the state, the church, and the elite. When art was drafted into the Cold War, Western countries used it to demonstrate that its societies were freer than their Soviet counterparts. Artists were encouraged to go wilder and farther, to consider any material possible, any act as a performance of this thing we call art. This was not a bad thing. Over the course of a century, art went from a restricted, governed thing to…anything goes.

Something got lost along the way. As artists pursued increasingly exotic forms of art, they abandoned their neighbours, their communities, and society. This was never Malevich’s intention, just the opposite. Malevich said his painting offered a viewer “the experience of pure non-objectivity in the white emptiness of a liberated nothing.” He elaborated in his manifesto on Suprematism, “Art no longer cares to serve the state and religion, it no longer wishes to illustrate the history of manners, it wants to have nothing further to do with the object, as such, and believes that it can exist, in and for itself, without ‘things’…It is attempting to set up a genuine world order, a new philosophy of life.” Malevich thought artists, free from the church and state, could liberate the people. That didn’t happen. The free artists of the West were gobbled up by a new power, Capitalism, and art became a way for some people to achieve celebrity, affluence, and status. When the Cold War ended, most artists were abandoned.

Public funding for the arts was slashed (especially in the United States) and artists were relegated to the sidelines. Nowadays, it seems, popular media often only mentions art in reference to auction prices or controversy. And society only sees art when it is cloaked in wealth or scandal.

We need to work ourselves out of this corner and rebuild our relationship with society-at-large. One way we do that is to make art that is meaningful to our neighbours. That means we need to understand the role the art we make is playing. That means we need to understand who we are speaking to and why.

Take, for example, Chicago-based Julia Arredondo, who uses commerce to disperse her ideas. She created a web bodega to spread folk empowerment and sells Avon products to challenge notions of femininity and beauty. Or Steve Tierney, whose recent body of work deconstructs gender. Or Beya Khalifa, who is challenging colonialism and Orientalism by using collage to make anew antique photographs of Bedouins. Or Lita Poliakova, whose Artist Portfolio appears in this issue. She operates from a deep understanding of what it means to cannibalize mass culture. She writes, “We can’t neglect the committed toxic affair between collage and mass media either. Mass-communication tools absorb all the clichés and then replicate them until they are outdated and perceived as trash, which is a highly exploitable concept based on a disposable attitude to resources and a greed for novelty. Meanwhile, collage itself, the cut-out type, embodied by magazines and newspapers, is always nouveau, never brand-new; it is a mixture of byproducts, an impersonal past that evolves through an artist. That’s how we’ve been shuffling the particles since the primordial bash.” All of these artists are saying something with their work that society needs to hear. Maybe the guy who’s never quite felt right in his body sees Tierney’s work and feels a little freer expressing his gender. Maybe somebody is given one of Arredondo’s Fuckboy Compensation Invoices and thinks that maybe he shouldn’t hit up that woman for a date every day after class. Maybe a young girl in Cairo sees Khalifa’s collages and realizes that she doesn’t have to accept how the West depicts her country, her community, and that she can determine for herself what images will represent her people.

I believe in the accumulation of small gestures. I do not believe one painting, one sculpture, one collage is going to change the world. But also I believe in the transformative power of art. The more we can engage people with our ideas, the more we can empower people to think, feel, dream, the better the world will be. So I challenge you, find your voice, find the biggest, boldest idea that you can, and make work that speaks it.

–Ric Kasini Kadour

Lucky Beads

Street people and artists are two archetypes that society imbues with magic, probably because, like The Bead Lady, street people and artists use mystique as a defense against “petty meanness”….Both are living outside of societal norms. Both struggle to eke out a living. Artwork is often sold like a “lucky bead”, with promises of return on investment and the potential for fame and celebrity.

This essay appeared in Kolaj #23. To see more, SUBSCRIBE to Kolaj Magazine or Get a Copy of the Issue.

Lucky Beads

by Ric Kasini Kadour

New Orleans is full of characters, past and present, and when you are drinking at a bar, the city’s denizens trade stories about them like marbles on the playground. The Bead Lady is one of them. The old woman walked the streets of the French Quarter. Strings of Mardi Gras beads hung from her neck. Sometimes she wore a parachute and hardhat, other times she appeared dressed in layers. “The first couple of times I saw her I thought she was a witch,” recalls my friend TJ. Her mystique inspired others to create mythologies about her. Some say she was a Swedish bride brought to the city by a now deceased husband. One guy who claimed she yelled at him, also claimed she cursed a friend of his who lost his leg the following day, and referred to her as either a “Crazy Israeli burnout Berkeley grad” or a “Russian Princess jilted by her French paramour.” Another source claimed, “She was said to be the ghost of a concubine of a French soldier.” I think you get the idea. If The Bead Lady caught your eye, or you caught hers, she would approach you with stories and conversation and eventually, her request, “Do you want to buy a lucky bead?”

TJ recalls, “When I first moved here about 37 years ago, there were not as many homeless people on the streets and she stood out in the crowd in the Central Business District. A couple of times, I saw her in the crowd and when I looked again she had vanished. It was kind of weird.” TJ’s husband purchased a lucky bead from her once. “It didn’t work, he met me.” Artist Mandie Lucas recalls, “Curses and dirt were her weapons against anyone who tried to get close. They worked equally well against petty meanness.”

Street people and artists are two archetypes that society imbues with magic, probably because, like The Bead Lady, street people and artists use mystique as a defense against “petty meanness”. And while I don’t mean to minimize the cruelty of mental illness and homelessness, I do think artists and street people have a lot in common with each other. Both are living outside of societal norms. Both struggle to eke out a living. Artwork is often sold like a “lucky bead”, with promises of return on investment and the potential for fame and celebrity.

In reality, The Bead Lady’s story was familiar and tragic. Her name was Leah Shpock-Luzovsky and she was from Israel and had been missing for forty years. Rabbi Mendel Rivkin of Chabad-Lubavitch of Louisiana tells her story, “Leah served in the IDF during the mid to late 1950s. Upon completing her army service she was awarded a full academic scholarship to Berkeley. Sometime during or after her four year stint at Berkeley, Leah experienced a severe mental breakdown. One can only speculate that the rampant hard core drug use in that era contributed to her situation. Somehow she wound up in New Orleans and lost all contact with her family in Israel.”

And in reality, the life of the artist is more mundane than not. We wake up. We eat breakfast. We work in the studio. We take lunch. And sometimes when we are lucky, we make something magical, something that speaks to someone else. It says, “Do you want to buy a lucky bead?” And the person it speaks to, says yes.

In telling you this, I am not suggesting that the art world is full of lucky beads. Rather, my hope is that when you meet artists, that you think of them as real people with lives and stories and struggles of their own. And my hope is that you will think of your own. We remember people like The Bead Lady, not simply because of their oddity and eccentricity, not because of their ability to throw curses and dirt, but because she brought joy to people. She entertained and made people smile. She noticed you in a crowd and hoped you noticed her. She made conversation. And when we are alone in our world, a little connection to another soul is a lucky bead.

This essay appeared in Kolaj #23. To see more, SUBSCRIBE to Kolaj Magazine or Get a Copy of the Issue.

Lucky Beads
by Ric Kasini Kadour
collage, archival print

Their Charm Awaken

Sara Willadsen invited me to write the forward to the catalog that accompanies her exhibition, “Boundaries:New Work by Sara Willadsen” at Frank Juarez Gallery, September 8 – October 20, 2018. The catalog can be purchased HERE.

Their Charm Awaken

“…they make the form more exactly, definitely, and completely intuitible, and besides their charm awaken and fix our attention on the object itself.”

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment

Sara Willadsen abstracts her surroundings and renders her findings in painting; that is to say, she takes apart the world around her and puts it back together on canvas. In Critique of Judgment, Immanuel Kant argues that we experience art as either object or play. The 18th century German philosopher writes about how objects dance and pantomime in space and how the purity of those objects is not diminished by embellishment, rather marks and brush strokes add to the viewer’s experience. In the case of Willadsen’s paintings, the manner in which she rebuilds her surroundings in a painting is the source of its power. In earlier work, like the 2015 painting Cabanon, laser cut paper floats in space demarked with ink, gouache, and acrylic and embellished with color pencil and gel pen. Cabanon is an abstract fantasia. The world is exploded and the artist paused time before all the elements could return to order. The viewer is left in a state of suspended animation that feels equally a moment in time and like infinity.

Willadsen professes a dedicated interest in aesthetics and visual language. In this new body of work, her focus moves from the creation of a complete scene where the objects are in active play with one another and proposes an investigation of the objects themselves. Stated another way, Willadsen shows us how the sausage is made. She asks the viewer to consider individual fragments as works themselves. Her process is informed by collage, a technique that allows her to quickly harness the general chaos of the creative process and get the ideas down. From there, Willadsen organizes and edits in a way that brings control and discipline to her work.

As viewers, Willadsen’s work offers us a chance to reflect on the chaos in our own life. The kids need breakfast; the dog needs a walk; breaking news is coming through the television; the phone rings and an issue at the office has come up. An urgent reply is needed. A buzz reminds us. A chirp alerts us. A billboard on our commute recalls a childhood memory. Oh, right. It’s your sister’s birthday. Our lives are full of fragments, bits of data that come at us like a fat laser. What if we could pause time and investigate each of these, to fix our attention to all this information, and come to love what each of these things represent: family, work, society, our interconnectedness? Would charm awaken to this world we live in?


About the Artist

Sara Willadsen was born in Sheboygan, WI in 1987. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Painting from Northern Illinois University in 2014 and her Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and Graphic Arts from Lakeland University in 2010. Working mainly with paint and various collage elements, Willadsen’s work explores concepts of abstract spaces and objects guided by her surroundings. She has had work featured in New American Paintings and shows frequently in regional and national exhibitions. She is currently works as a visual artist and graphic designer Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. Willadsen is represented by Frank Juarez Gallery.

About the Frank Juarez Gallery

The Frank Juarez Gallery is committed to supporting artists working in painting, photography, sculpture, video, installation, and mixed media works. We aim to create an accessible, educational, and engaging exhibition space for our artists, audience, and community. The Frank Juarez Gallery exhibits and supports the works of artists who value innovation, technical discipline and artistic excellence in their chosen medium. WEBSITE

Image (top):
by Sara Willadsen
laser cut paper, color pencil, gel pen, found materials, ink, gouache, acrylic on paper

Image (center):
Same Pace 2
by Sara Willadsen
handmade paper, ink, graphite, acrylic, found materials on paper

A Builder Turns to Landscape

Edwin Owre’s New Series Pushes Landscape Painting Forward

This essay appeared in Vermont Art Guide #7. Vermont Art Guide #7 has nearly two hundred places to see art around the state. The full-color, printed magazine has artist and venue profiles as well as articles and news about Vermont Art. Our goal is to document and share the state’s incredible art scene. SUBSCRIBE TODAY

“The next one I am gonna start is with a chainsaw…I’ve never chainsawed paper but that’s not a bad idea.” Those are the last lines of a video made by Winooski documentarian Dan Higgins during a visit to Edwin Owre’s studio in December 2011. Owre’s comments speak to his particular brand of artmaking: an experimental approach to materials, a disdain for “fussiness”, and a willingness to “give it a go” and see what happens. Architect David Sellers cites Owre as instrumental in establishing a movement of design/build in which artists and sculptors and architects design and build things in the process of making something. But the cavalier buoyancy with which Owre’s approaches artmaking is tempered by a keen ability to react and respond to movements in art. Owre’s fluency with color, shape, and composition pours out of the constructions on view at the BCA Center this past winter, and, if I may be so bold, suggest that Owre is doing with landscape painting what John Chamberlain did with abstract expressionism. He is bringing it into the third dimension.

Brightly colored fragments of plywood are assembled into fields. Barometer of Mercies, with its zig-zag geometries and rambling blue shapes evoke the sky. Intersecting white rectangles of Cross Talk and a suggestive orange dotted line propose an aerial view of a cityscape. How can one not see the mountain in Fleurs du Mal? Standing works use the tabletop as a horizon and rise up from the surface like buildings in a fantastical city. Pinks, blues, and orange hues reflect the palette of today’s painters who see not only green and brown but a blazing range of colors in the atmosphere. At various times, in these works, the paint crosses and combines genres. Raw wood contrasts with refined, smooth surfaces. Thick lines of red, white, and yellow break up luscious fields of swirled paint.

The thing to understand about Owre is his place in Vermont art history. From 1969 to 2003, Owre taught drawing and sculpture at the University of Vermont and over the course of those decades influenced countless contemporary Vermont artists. He taught students to unleash the possibility of mark and gesture, to consider copper tubing and bales of hay as materials, or to chainsaw paper if the mood strikes you.

About Vermont Art Guide

Vermont Art Guide is a quarterly, printed magazine about contemporary art in Vermont. We offer a curated list of places to see art and publish profiles on artists, art venues, and public art. Each issue is a celebration of the state’s great art scene. Learn more at www.vermontartguide.com.

About Edwin Owre

Edwin Owre has been working as an artist and educator for over 50 years. In his Grand Isle studio, the “constructions” he creates explore the possibilities of drawing and the gesture through abstract sculpture. “Solid and Light”, an exhibition of these abstract constructions, was at GreenTARA Space in North Hero, June 8 to July 15, 2018. Owre’s “New Constructions” was on display at the BCA Center, January 19-April 7, 2018.

“New Constructions” (installation view)
by Edwin Owre
at BCA Center, Burlington
January 19-April 7, 2018
Photos by Sam Simon

Art in Troubled Times


Art in Troubled Times

by Ric Kasini Kadour

Note: A version of this essay appears as the editorial in Vermont Art Guide #5.

The start of Summer 2017 felt pretty good. An exhibition I curated for the Vermont Arts Council opened in June. I built “Connections: The Art of Coming Together” by asking artists to nominate one another. The commentary on the artwork was as much about the relationships between artists as it was on the artwork itself. A series of essays expanded on what I learned about artist networks and communities. Overall, the experience of curating the exhibition led me to feel hopeful about the fabric of our society, that good people working together can do good things.

And then summer happened, specifically, a group of white supremacists held rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia and the rest of us got to watch it on television. Clean-cut white men marched with tiki torches and shouted “Jews will not replace us. Death to Antifa. White lives matter.” The nation was thrown into a moral crisis over the emergence of those who wish to reorder American society according to extremely racist or authoritarian values and commit the genocide of people of color, queer people, Jews, and others who do not fit a narrow definition of “American”. The President and members of his administration demonstrate a sympathy to their position. The unfathomable became a reality: hate was graced with legitimacy.

I don’t mention these events to further beat a drum. As I write this, our social media feeds and cable news outlets are doing that just fine. Sides are being taken. Questions are being asked. Morality is being debated. I mention these events because, moving forward, this is the world in which we live and if art is going to be relevant to people, if art is going to serve a meaningful function in the day-to-day lives of people, then we need to understand that this is the world that art lives in as well.

I’ve long thought that non-representation in modern art made sense after the incomprehensible horrors of World War II. Of course, abstract art existed before 1945, but there is something about bold brushstrokes, radical palettes, and kinetic compositions that help us make sense of chaos. The absoluteness of a painting is comforting in the face of moral ambiguity. And the freedom with which 20th century artists made art, particularly in America, was a beacon, a signal to choose freedom in our daily lives.

Too often contemporary political art today strikes a pedantic note, but fails to resonate beyond those predisposed to hear its message. While I enjoy its wit and the sophistication of its message, it often lacks the depth of pure concept or the punch of emotionally expressive work. And still, I would say that in times of social, political, moral crisis, art is more important than ever. One cannot underestimate the power of encountering a towering sculpture in a lush field or the joy of crawling into a mobile camper that has been turned into a miniature museum or the comfort of seeing a familiar landscape rendered in an eccentric palette. Even when art is nostalgic, it can be a force for good. Murals like Salute to Vermont, which I write about in Vermont Art Guide #5, can remind us of our values, of what we need to hold on to. Art provides an opportunity to seek out others, at a festival or an opening or by simply popping into a gallery on a Thursday and chatting with the owner. Art can deepen our emotions, give us space for contemplation, and, most importantly, reinforce our humanity. Art helps us maintain the fabric of our society, our connections to one another. Taking care of each other and fortifying our humanity is exactly what we need to be doing more of in these times.


Self-taught Sheldon Peck was a 19th century portrait painter from Cornwall, Vermont, who, in addition to art and farming, was involved with a number of social issues including abolition, racial equality, temperance, public education, women’s rights, and pacifism.

Portrait of Mary Jones, Shoreham
by Sheldon Peck
oil on academy board

The New Landscape: A History

Cove Mt. Desert by Henry Isaacs
Cove Mt. Desert by Henry Isaacs

This essay appears in the catalog Henry Isaacs: New Works for an exhibition at Maine Art Shows, August 9-September 1, 2014.

The New Landscape: A History

For much of art history, when the artist painted the land, he did so only as a backdrop, as context, rarely as subject. In fact, what little interest there was in the landscape nearly disappeared entirely during the medieval period, but in the 17th century, Dutch Golden Age painters began to flirt with the landscape as a valid genre of painterly expression. The views of Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten, a 17th century Dutch art theoretician, perfectly illustrate the complex relationship art history has with the landscape. On the one hand, van Hoogstraten thought of landscape painting as “the common footmen in the army of art”—a technical skill that was no different than the skill of painting hair or flesh tone—devoid of any deeper, intellectual or spiritual value. But van Hoogstraten also saw landscape painting as a “locus for poetic license.” As Thijs Weststeijn explains van Hoogstraten’s views, the landscape “provides scope for artistic freedom, for coloristic virtuosity and for chance: for a dialogue between Mother Nature and the artist’s own innate ability.” Or, as van Hoogstraten himself put it, “Whose artistic spirit would not burst forth with something extraordinary when he hears the poets sing of the landscape in such painterly words?” The landscape obtained a foothold on the rocky mountain of art.

Brittany by Henry Isaacs
Brittany by Henry Isaacs

Brittany contains all four great elements of landscape: sky, earth, water, and vegetation. Henry Isaacs renders the atmosphere in patches of blues and creams and yellows; the land made of oranges and greens sits on the watery cove which mirrors the sky. Vegetation creeps into the foreground like a kaleidoscope. That we recognize Brittany as a landscape painting—as opposed to a work of entirely Abstract Expressionism—says as much about our own Modern visual language as it does about Isaacs’ ability to render the three-dimensional world as a two-dimensional experience. What is remarkable about Isaacs’ work is its ability to hold our attention, its ability to pack so much visual pleasure into each patch of color. Every time we look at this painting we find something new.

It would be easy to see Isaacs’ paintings as simply the result of the artist’s imagination. Cove Mt. Desert is a colorful expression of land and sea and sky. The boats sailing out to sea in East Boothbay, Maine are the recollection of a lazy summer day. One could draw the conclusion that because Isaacs starts his paintings en plein air and finishes them in the studio that they are rooted in the truth of Mother Nature, but finished in the imagination of the artist. But doing so ignores two hundred years of art history where artists debated a series of simple questions: Is the subject what the artist sees or how the artist sees it? Is the artist under the influence of divine inspiration or a practitioner of scientific observation? Is the landscape painting a document of the land or the artist’s painterly expressive poem about it?

Two hundred years after van Hoogstraten, a twenty-year-old Victorian art critic named John Ruskin began collecting watercolors by JMW Turner. In spite of his popularity, Turner’s dynamic compositions were an affront to conservative Victorian tastes; his shocking colors were often criticized; and Ruskin was having none of it. A particularly condescending writer remarked of Turner, “He has robbed the sun of his birthright to cast shadows.” Ruskin’s defense of Turner, his response to the accusation that his painting was “contrary to nature, and to the rules of Art”, was to write a defense of the artist that liberated landscape painting from the pictorial restrictions of academic art. Ruskin ends with a plea to trust the genius of the artist. By contrast, Turner’s greatest rival was John Constable, who declared in a lecture at the Royal Institution in 1836, “Painting is a science, and should be pursued as an inquiry into the laws of nature.” Constable rejected the notion of landscape painting as the product of divine inspiration, that as if by looking at the landscape, the hand of God took hold of the artist’s brush and did the work for him. Constable argued good painting was the result of “long and patient study, under the direction of much good sense.” The rest of the history of landscape painting is a sort of tit-for-tat series of art movements. The expressive French Impressionists were responding to the dominant realism of the Barbizon school. The Ashcan school rebelled against American Impressionism to which American Realism revolted …and so on…until Modernism, when the history of painting was so exhausted it seemed to stop. Modernism completely liberated landscape painting from the land and placed the idea of a painting in the mind of the artist. The only subject is concept.

Mount Desert by Henry Isaacs
Mount Desert by Henry Isaacs

This history begs the question, What is Isaacs doing? What is his place in this morass? Isaacs trained at the Slade School of Art, where he learned to be a draftsman with formal skills and gained an ability to look at his subject with science-like observation and render it exactly as it appears. Yet, the realism of Isaacs’ paintings cannot be found in their illustrative qualities. Being a child of Modernism, Isaacs uses the act of seeing as the conceptual foundation of his paintings, and uses color work as the method of painting. The results of all this are landscapes that bridge 20th-century Modernism and reconnect us to the history of landscape painting in a contemporary manner. The old arguments and questions of landscape painting have been resolved. In Isaacs’ paintings, experience, sight, color, and the artist’s imagination converge to give the viewer an experience that hold our attention and dazzle our mind.

The Visible World: Samuel Van Hoogstraten’s Art Theory and the Legitimation of Painting in the Dutch Golden Age by Thijs Weststeijn (Amsterdam University Press, 2008)

Introduction to the Academy of Painting; or the Visible World by Samuel Van Hoogstraten (1678)

“British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, Etc.”, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (Vol. XL, No. CLII, October 1836, p. 551)

Modern Painters, Volume 1 by John Ruskin (1843)

John Constable, Lecture IV at the Royal Institution (June 16, 1836)

Collage Is the Moment

Collage is The Moment

by Ric Kasini Kadour
from Kolaj Magazine, Pre-Issue (Fall 2011)

Note: Before we launched Kolaj Magazine, we released a “pre-issue” in which we asked our contributors two questions: Why collage? and Why now? The answers they gave us addressed the spectrum of contemporary collage. Together they expressed the purpose and direction of Kolaj Magazine: to examine collage in all its dimensions. “Collage Is the Moment” was Ric Kasini Kadour’s contribution.


“In 1912 Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso created the first papiers collés by gluing pieces of oak-grained faux bois wallpaper onto their drawings,” writes Diane Waldman, deputy director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in Collage, Assemblage, and the Found Object.

In 2012, we will mark the 100th anniversary of collage as a modern and contemporary art form. Or will we? Collage doesn’t seem to get a whole lot of respect in the art world. Collectors and curators look skeptically at the medium, concerned about its archival qualities. Critics often dismiss the medium because the use of found images violates some weird notions of authenticity. Many 20th century artists have dabbled (or more than dabbled) in collage: Hannah Höch, Kurt Schwitters, David Hockney, Damien Hirst, and Tom Wesselmann, to name a few.

Countless other recent examples of artists working in collage, exploring and developing the medium exist. In spite of this activity, there is a dearth of critical writing about the medium.

In fact, a survey of recent exhibitions reveals collage is a staple of contemporary art. Barbara Astman, whose exhibition “Daily Collage” was at at the Corkin Gallery, writes about her process, “Collage has continually been a part of my art practice in one form or another. This series developed out of my ongoing habit of reading the daily paper, as interested in the visual imagery as the newsworthy articles. There are obvious links between it and the 2006 ‘Newspaper Series’. I began saving images, which appeared in the daily papers, and would then collage selections onto pages in a small notebook. I was also thinking about Lenny Bruce and how his stand up comedy performances were like oral jazz with nothing censored, translated or mediated. I was not trying to create logical narratives nor was I commenting on the news of the day. I was just responding to the images in a very direct and impulsive way. This work is more about impulse and intuition; I let others create their own narratives from the resulting images.”

Artists make collage and people love collage because it speaks to the time we live in. It is no surprise that collage tends to peak during times when society is trying to figure itself out.

Kota Ezawa’s work is a bridge between paper collage and video. His paper cutout, Dead Troops Talk (2007), was described by Chinie Ding in Art Forum as “an intricate camouflage-like paper collage (war abstracted unto war-pattern) reformatting Jeff Wall’s 1992 photograph of the same title via computer drawing and 35-mm slide.” Curator Katherine Bussard of the Art Institute of Chicago said of Ezawa’s work, “In his paper cutouts, light boxes, and slides, only the essential shapes and colours remain, trumping all the details, shadows, and nuance that could be found in the original picture. Whether using collage technique or graphics software, Ezawa reconsiders the source image from a variety of perspectives.” Ezawa’s body of work represents an attempt to make sense of a century and a half of visual images by comparing, contrasting, and juxtaposing.

Canadian artist Elizabeth McIntosh works in collage on a large scale. At Goodwater Gallery in 2009, she covered an entire wall of the long, narrow space. At the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, she built two large-format collages: one wrapped the exterior of the gallery, using the window vitrines, and the other filled the Balkind Gallery in a unified form. “Her collages and paintings carry a similar language, one of solid planes, layered forms and bold colours. They inform each other, running in tandem, offering a visible language…,” explained the gallery.

Countless other recent examples of artists working in collage, exploring and developing the medium exist. In spite of this activity, there is a dearth of critical writing about the medium. In fact, Diane Waldman’s lively and thorough opus on the subject is out-of-print.

Artists make collage and people love collage because it speaks to the time we live in. It is no surprise that collage tends to peak during times when society is trying to figure itself out. Braque and Picasso were forging a new art, an art for the 20th century in the face of World War I. Richard Hamilton, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg began exploring collage in the 1950’s, at a time when all sorts of writers, poets, and artists were creating the intellectual foundation of the 1960’s. Today, we live in a dramatically different world than we did ten years ago: We carry media in our pocket. We are constantly sharing images through social media. And entertainment has become increasingly dynamic and interactive through video games. Meanwhile, political and economic turbulence has become the norm.

Today, we see artists using collage to explore printmaking and photography. We see painters using the visual language of collage in their composition, using collage to make a new art.

Richard Hamilton’s iconic collage, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?, came at a time when artists were discovering the visual language that became Pop art. Today, we see artists using collage to explore printmaking and photography. We see painters using the visual language of collage in their composition, using collage to make a new art. At a time when we are bombarded with images, collage becomes a means of processing those images, of figuring out what goes with what.

Contemporary collage since its beginning has been about collaboration. Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg were working together in a manner similar to Braque and Picasso and inspired by the creative collaboration between choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage. Johns and Rauschenberg began an exploration of visual art.

Because collage is about mixing images, it lends itself to two or more people coming together. This is a highly contemporary act. The internet has made the world a more collaborative place.

Because collage is about mixing images, it lends itself to two or more people coming together. This is a highly contemporary act. The internet has made the world a more collaborative place. People work on documents in real time without having to be in the same country, much less the same room. One can record a guitar track in Paris, lay the drums and beats in Montreal, sing the lyrics in a Cairo recording studio and a producer in Los Angeles can assemble and mix the song. Duets are recorded without the two singers ever meeting.

The acts of juxtaposition, comparison, and contrast are integral to the process of collage; they are also how many people live today. The media has largely abandoned nuance in favor of presenting conflict. Internet memes like “Selleck Waterfall Sandwich,” smash together the famous moustached actor with a picture of a waterfall and, usually, a giant sandwich. This is a form of collage in its most rudimentary form in the sense that those images that are successful not only contain the necessary elements, the elements are presented in such a manner that they please the viewer. Isn’t this what collage does?

Collage is the moment we live in. With one hundred years of contemporary collage and one hundred years of collage to come, it seems about time to give the medium its due.


Kolaj Magazine is the world’s only internationally-oriented art magazine dedicated to contemporary collage.




The Role of Organizations in Artist Communities


The Role of Organizations in Artist Communities

In my role as editor of the Vermont Art Guide and in my writing about regionalism in a modernist context, I am interested in communities and the art they produce. The exhibition, “Connection: the Art of Coming Together”, is an extension of that work, but where my focus tends to be on works of art, this exhibition is focused on the artist as an individual participating in a network of artists. As an experiment, I asked four artists or professionals from different corners of the state to submit the name of an artist they feel is part of their community or network. I then went to those people and so on until we had enough people to fill the exhibition.

I learned two things: Arts organizations play a vital role in artist networks. Nearly all of the artists cited some organization or event as the reason they knew their selection. Often we forget how important galleries, art events, cooperatives, working groups, and councils are to the fabric of art communities. Not only do these organizations engage the public, they provide important opportunities for artists to bond with each other.

I also learned that artists think of the people they are affiliated in a variety of ways. All the artists selected people whose artwork they deeply admire. Some artists chose people whose work they felt was undervalued and needed a spotlight. Others chose artists they wanted to exhibit with. Some artists chose people they have known for decades, other artists selected someone they didn’t know well, but knew their reputation and were familiar with their work. Regardless, admiration and mutual respect runs deep in Vermont’s art community.

“Connection: the Art of Coming Together” is a survey of Vermont art. All of the work was made in the last ten years. An array of media is represented—painting, photography, monoprints, and a quilt. The art on view also shows the diversity of the artists’ approaches, from painters rendering abstraction found in the natural world to photographers documenting people in their towns to various interpretations of landscape from traditional to surreal. Sometimes with art, the story behind the work is as important as the work itself. This exhibition asks viewers to consider those stories.

I spent most of May speaking with artists about their community. I feel lucky. My purpose was to curate a survey of Vermont contemporary art organized around artists’ connections to one another by asking artists to select someone for the exhibition. The results of this experiment, the exhibition “Connection: the Art of Coming Together” were on view June 5th through October 6th, 2017 at the Vermont Arts Council Spotlight Gallery in Montpelier.

Art communities rarely get the attention they deserve. It’s easy to conceptualize them when they are rooted in geography. The histories of art towns like Provincetown and Rockport are well documented. More often than not, artists operate in networks. It is a subtle but important difference. Communities live and die by the people in them. Participants rely on one another to maintain a social structure, protect and save each other in times of crisis, and nurture and celebrate each other in good times. Geography always defines a community because it forces definitions and interactions. Networks may function in a similar way, but without geography, participants are free to engage or withdraw at their discretion. One can choose not to speak to their neighbor, but one cannot choose to be free of the consequences of living next to them. If a social network is not nurtured, it dies and goes away. This is particularly true of artist networks which trade on mutual admiration and shared engagement to maintain themselves.

Read more about “Connections: The Art of Coming Together”

Who Knows Who: How Connections Came Together

Who Knows Who
How Connections Came Together

The exhibition, “Connection: the Art of Coming Together”, presents a survey of contemporary Vermont art organized by artist networks rather than aesthetics or media. As an experiment, I asked four artists or professionals from different corners of the state to submit the name of an artist they feel is part of their community or network. I then went to those people and so on until we had enough people to fill the exhibition.

In Northwest Vermont, I selected Carol MacDonald because when I think of Vermont artist networks, I think of her years of working as a community organizer. The spiritual overtones in Carol’s practice, the use of totems and symbols, makes her choice of Gail Salzman a logical one. When Gail makes a painting, she engages in a meditation of sorts, engaging with the paint, reflecting, reacting. Gail selected Jessica Scriver in part because she admires Scriver’s ability to employ detail and structure in her paintings while holding onto a sense of lyricism. Jessica thinks big when she paints, as if she is viewing the planet from the atmosphere. Jessica chose Linda E Jones, who does the opposite. Linda paints cells gathering together, the intimacy of biology. I asked Janie Cohen, director of the Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont to select an artist and she chose Matthew Monk, the academic dean at the Vermont College of Fine Art and an artist she met while at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson for Vermont Artists Week.

I started with Erika Lawlor Schmidt in Southwest Vermont because her large collages show a keen sense of how things relate to one another. I’ve also been impressed by her work with Stone Valley Arts in Poultney, which will be exhibiting George Bouret’s photographs later this summer. George selected Gabrielle McDermit because he feels like more people should see her work and, in turn, Gabrielle selected Mary McKay Lower because she admires her work as an art educator and thinks Lower deserves more recognition for her painting.

From the Northeast Kingdom, I selected Keith Chamberlin because I appreciate his eye for things that often go overlooked, how a gas station reflects in the window of a house, for example. He chose Meri Stiles because he admires her dedication to artmaking and her willingness to put mental machinations out into the world. Meri’s Buddhism helps her appreciate the contemplative nature of Linda Bryan’s photographs. Bryan’s project, photographing the citizens of Newbury, speaks to a value for community that Thea Storz shares. Storz’s Kirby Quilts are love letters to her town. They tell a story using photographs the way quilts and tapestries have used patterns to tell stories for centuries.

In the Southeast, I asked Danny Lichtenfeld, director of the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center to select an artist and he chose Charlie Hunter because he is “unabashed about being a landscape painter and rebels against what people think about Vermont landscapes.” Charlie shares this view with Susan Abbott whose bright, bold paintings eschew nostalgia. Abbott paints power lines on the coastal highway because it’s honest. Neil Riley strives for a different kind of honesty in his painting; a truth of the eye, something painters have strived for centuries to achieve. It’s a similar truth in Joseph Salerno’s paintings where the Wood’s Edge is not necessarily the truth of what we see but the veracity of what we feel.

In old art traditions, artists organized themselves by aesthetic tradition, in workshops and studios. In modernism, every artist is an island. Relationships are not limited to master and apprentice or peer in a rival studio. Two artists may collaborate extensively on projects or exhibitions, share styles, and teach each other or they may have entirely different approaches to artmaking. Nevertheless, these relationships form an unseen web of connections that bring people together in a spirit of fellowship and support. To know these connections is to know more of the story of contemporary art.

Boundary IV by Jessica Scriver
(24″x36″; acrylic and roving on birch panel; 2017)
Courtesy of the artist

Philip Frey: Lavish Attention

Deep Waters by Philip Frey

This essay appears in the catalog Philip Frey: New Works for an exhibition at Maine Art Shows, June 27-July 16, 2015.

Philip Frey: Lavish Attention

The respect for and service to the viewer is, perhaps, one the best attributes of Frey’s paintings. “I am a student of aesthetics: the study of beauty,” he writes. “I paint what is interesting and beautiful to me.” What is beautiful to Frey is the Maine landscape and the people who live in it. The view in Deep Waters captures the striking natural beauty of mountains pouring into lakes. Double Cannon Ball speaks to the joy and excitement of seaside summer fun. Gestural and expressive use of paint conveys a sense of immediacy—a nowness—to Frey’s work that helps bring the viewer into the moment. There is no agenda here, no greater purpose, than to share a love for the world and a deep sense of place.

Art history is full of examples where paintings defined a nation or rebuilt a country’s identity in the face of defeat. The history of painting is littered with patriotic propaganda, religious liturgy, and moral lecture, but only in the last 150 years have artists been interested or able to step away from a political master and truly serve the viewer.

In the wake of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, Claude Monet found himself back in his hometown of Le Havre making a series of paintings of the city’s busy port. Monet had spent the war in England studying with John Constable and J.M.W. Turner, both of whom deeply influenced his work. France was abuzz with patriotic renewal in the face of a humiliating defeat by the Germans and artists were quick at work attempting to reestablish the glory of France. Painters like Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville were busy rendering scenes from the war. Neuville’s Les Dernières Cartouches shows French snipers ambushing Bavarian troops in Bazeilles before the Battle of Sedan. Jean-Léon Gérôme was painting Pollice Verso, a moral allegory set in ancient Rome. It was around this time William-Adolphe Bouguereau painted the erotically charged Nymphs & Satyr. French painting was academic, politically charged, and intent on reclaiming France’s pride. Monet was none of these things.

In Le Havre, Monet worked on a series of paintings of the port. Impression, Sunrise was painted from his hotel room overlooking the bay. Monet worked from a base of gray, relying on subtle shifts in tone to distinguish the water from the sky, and quick, almost rudimentary marks to draw the cranes in the background and two small boats in the foreground. Dots, dashes, and squiggles make up most of the piece. The painting is a wash of understatedness except for the salmon-orange sun and a bevy of equally brilliant strokes that capture its reflection on the water. Peter Gay in his book, Modernism: The Lure of Heresy, describes the painting, “Altogether truly an impression, a highly accomplished impression, looking far more casual a piece than it really was. A characteristic specimen of the new painting, it tells no stories and offers no lessons; it does not aim at making its viewers more devout, more moral, more patriotic, or for that matter, more sexually aroused.”

Convergence by Philip Frey
Convergence by Philip Frey

In contemporary terms, such non-objective art is usually reserved for abstract painting, where the lack of representation suggests an emotional or aesthetic exploration on the part of the artist. Increasingly, as we move into the 21st century, we see painters, like Frey, incorporating the lessons of abstract art into representational works. We see this in paintings like Convergence that are small, immediate, and relatively free of details. Frey breaks down the scene in Convergence into its basic elements: a blue underpainting, a wide stroke of yellow for the sun, a softer stroke below the sun for its reflection on the water; a dozen or so marks of green, a few strokes of white for clouds. It is casual and free and yet completely conveys the breathtaking view one gets when looking out at an island across the water. Convergence is what you feel when you remember the view.

“My work begins with a feeling­—a connection to my everyday experience: evocative colors; unexpected patterns of light or the sublime quality of ordinary objects,” writes Frey. “From that feeling, I build a colorful and painterly world in response to it.”

Monet was working against a backdrop of patriotic fervor; Frey is working in a different context. Never in its history has so much art been so removed from people’s lives. Much of contemporary art demonstrates a contempt for the viewer, an unabashed lack of concern. One has only to take a brief tour of art fairs in Miami, New York, or Basel, to see a parade of narcissism, mundanity, and disdain that too often alienates everyday people from art. Frey is a refreshing counterbalance to contemporary art that is driven by concept and executed only to the point where the point is made. In contrast to this other work, Frey cradles the viewer, takes them by the hand, and walks them to a majestic view.

Pier Patterns by Philip Frey
Pier Patterns by Philip Frey

This approach to painting comes from our Impressionist forefathers. “Impressionist painters were carrying out Baudelaire’s influential agenda to lavish all of their attention on the present in which they lived and to which they responded,” explained Gay. And while Frey is not an Impressionist, the Impressionist spirit lives on in his work. He not only lavishes his attention on the present, he invites us to do the same, to join the boy jumping into the water in Dive, to take a walk in the woods in Forest Floor, to stroll the boardwalk in In the Moment, and enjoy the vibrant, colorful symphony of life in Pier Patterns. This is how Frey respects and serves the viewer.

In the Moment by Philip Frey
In the Moment by Philip Frey

About Altar Making


Notes on The Practice

A component of my art practice is altar making in the spirit of Betye Saar but with the ephemeral nature of  Barbara Ellmann’s Flower Altar. The installation of the altar is a vehicle for engaging the view and an opportunity to document the materials which are then collaged into prints. The exhibition component is also an opportunity to engage with a community and have the community contribute to the imagery collected.  

“I like things with religious overtones. As a child, I collected random things and built altars in my room or in the backyard. In my twenties, I maintained an altar of small objects, some of which were intended for rituals—bells and dorje and such—but others were entirely mundane: a small teapot, a wooden bowl, pieces of rope, and stones and twigs I found in the forest that had some undetermined meaning. I like things that evoke a certain amount of religiosity: Buddha-shaped cocktail glasses, anything shaped like a cow, statues of Chinese warriors.”

From Object & Joy in My Junk Tastes Like Flowers



I Don’t Care About David Byrne Anymore?


On October 10, 2014, Hyperallergic published Ric Kasini Kadour’s essay, “I Don’t Care About David Byrne Anymore?” in response to Mr. Byrne’s blog post, “I Don’t Care About Contemporary Art Anymore?”


I Don’t Care About David Byrne Anymore?

by Ric Kasini Kadour

David, I received your missive in my Facebook feed. You know, the one where you pseudo-declare, “I Don’t Care About Contemporary Art Anymore?” The one where you complain that the art on view in the galleries you “peruse … when I return from jogging” are failing to raise your curiosity.


Duncan Johnson: Reaching Across History


Ric Kasini Kadour’s essay, “Duncan Johnson: Reaching Across History”, is published in the catalog Duncan Johnson which accompanies the August 16-October 31, 2014 exhibition “Stone. Glass. Wood.” at the West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park. In the essay, Kadour examines how Johnson’s use of material weaves multiple histories into a single work.

Duncan-Johnson-CoverDuncan Johnson: Reaching Across History

By Ric Kasini Kadour

Every work of art poses some basic questions to the viewer. What is it? What does it show? Who made it? Why did the artist make it? And some art—that art which is more complex, perhaps more sophisticated, or simply difficult to look at or understand—raises other questions. Where does the art fit into the broader visual landscape? How is the artwork related to the larger narrative of art history? One doesn’t need to answer all of these questions to enjoy a work of art or even to understand and appreciate it, but asking these questions can make art a deeper, more meaningful experience.


State of Affairs


In the September/October 2014 Issue of Art New England, Ric Kasini Kadour took stock of the current state of contemporary art galleries in New England and profiled a number of galleries doing well in spite of the challenges: Kobalt Gallery in Provincetown, MA; West Branch Gallery in Stowe, VT; Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA; Yellow Peril in Providence, RI.

ANE_SO14_CoverState of Affairs: How New England Galleries Make Their Way

by Ric Kasini Kadour

As businesses go, the art gallery is simple. Artist makes art. Gallerist hangs art on wall. Collector sees art and buys it. Everybody is happy.

If only it were that simple.

Imagine a business whose primary focus is the exposition of ideas in the hopes that someone will be so dazzled by them that he or she is willing to spend a small fortune on them. Imagine those ideas coming from a horde of eccentric children whose temperaments and idiosyncrasies become the business’s job to appease. Now imagine that business existing in a society that doesn’t really appreciate abstract ideas. Now you are approaching the reality of the contemporary art gallery.



Paul Schwieder’s Glass Poems


Ric Kasini Kadour’s essay, “Paul Schwieder’s Glass Poems”, is published in the catalog Paul Schwieder which accompanies the August 16-October 31, 2014 exhibition “Stone. Glass. Wood.” at the West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park. In the essay, Kadour charts the history of the studio glass movement from its humble beginnings in a shed behind the Toledo Museum of Art.


Paul Schwieder’s Glass Poems

By Ric Kasini Kadour

Having a beautiful object is like owning a poem. A jumble of words are aesthetically, sometimes rhythmically, arranged to convey a meaning greater than its prosaic self, a gestalt. Art objects are similar in that they combine complex histories, a myriad of narratives, into single forms. One can reduce a piece of sculpture to its basic elements—glass, stone, wood, etc.—but in doing so, one misses the entire point of the object’s existence: to show the viewer something greater than the sum of its parts; to expose the viewer to a greater, deeper meaning. This is what a poem does. This is how having beautiful objects is like owning a poem.