THE AESTHETIC WORD
Working alongside my grandfather, cubist-impressionist and genocide survivor Simon Samsonian, taught me something, but I’m not exactly sure what it is. Although I’ve never had any institutionalized formal training per se, I’ve experimented with visual, written, and performance art for several years. As the caretaker of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Interpretive Center and State Historic Site and co-founder of its experimental arts forum, The Body Electric, I’ve been privy to many different kinds of art events. There is an interdisciplinary tendency in all my work, and these Artpoems, I think, are not an exception. I’ve displayed my work at the Orchard Street Grill in Manhattan, the Munchaba Lounge (as part of the Infusion2 art event and feature nights) in Levittown, NY, The Cup in Wantagh, NY and the 2005 Armenian Students Association Annual Artists' Ball.
These drawings challenge the traditional reactions one
has when standing in front of a visual work of art. For one thing, they’re
made up entirely of words- some recognizable, some not. They haphazardly appear
and disappear on various parts of the field. Sometimes, the eye follows a
phrase or clause to its completion. Other times, words run into each other
and meaning blurs, a visual enjambment of sorts, not unlike how color fields
cause a visual dissonance through the manipulation and slight variation of
colors standing “alongside” each other. Here, color and word mingle
to produce a similar effect. Also, these drawings each have separate and very
different schemas used in the process of their creation. Some of these include:
words found and taken from a given environment (conversations in an Indian
restaurant), reflections on a landscape, writing in the dark, a short story,
a repeated line or word (mantras), different media, etc.
The way the words spill onto the page is sometimes very premeditated and other times chaotic. The process is similar, philosophically, to poet Charles Olsen’s notion of projective verse. Olsen believes that words in a poem fall into certain energy pockets on the page; they often cannot be contained in the parameters of “closed forms” verse. Poems spread in a process he calls “Composition by Field.” The page is the canvas and the poet’s breath dictates the line and spacing of the words. This creates an organic, almost gutteral manifestation of the heart of the poem. Form is never more than an extension of content.
In a sense, these “ArtPoems” here incorporate some of Olsen’s ideas, as well as the aforementioned color fields (Rothko), a bit of “drip and splash” (J.P.), a little Rorschach, and Surrealist psychic automatism. What this amounts to is a reassessment of what brings aesthetic pleasure when viewing visual art. Is it merely form? What about content? What if content is blurred? Isn’t content always blurred in translation? Does knowing the process or needing to know how a piece of art was created change the aesthetic experience? How? And what about handwriting? Words are always meaning; don’t they need to mood too?