The Hearth Gallery’s latest show is a station stop on an epic journey.
From Bowen poet Jude Neale and former islander (and still artist) Jane Kenyon is “Where We Stood,” a show 30 years in the making.
The two became friends when Jude taught Jane’s daughter at BICS. “We immediately recognized in each other, a great love of each other, and also respect,” said Jude.
The idea of a collaboration percolated over the decades but Jane always felt Jude’s highly visual poetry didn’t need any visual companion.
But it all changed when Jude sent Jane “Where We Stood” in early 2020.
“It was surrealistic poem that was a flight of consciousness, really. I just started writing,” said Jude. “I kept going, kept writing down images and one thing would lead to another and then I’d come up with another image and another place.
“It’s a very long poem and I didn’t stop writing until I finished it.”
Where Jude is prolific in her work – churning out several books a year, even during a pandemic – this show is a response to just one.
“It was just like, fireworks going off,” said Jane. “It just felt very relevant to the time and relevant to the time in our lives and the journeys that we’ve been on together – me through my art and her through her writing,” said Jane. She printed off the poem in large font, hung it in her studio and covered it in notes.
The art pieces are not literal interpretations of Jude’s poem, rather they come from what the poem awoke in Jane. “I lived with that poem. I continue to live with that poem,” said Jane.
The accomplished non-objective artist (one can look her up on Instagram where she has 35,100 followers) for many years worked with textiles but about a decade ago dipped into paint. “Where We Stood” is Jane’s first foray back into textiles, mostly working with recycled clothing and domestic textiles. “That whole sense of reshaping and reusing these materials that already have a story and have already been on a journey, like we have, and then can be molded and shaped into something else and continue on their journey,” mused Jane. “I feel quite tender about this work, that it is giving new life to me and to the textiles and to my work.”
And the show is giving new life to her old work cast-offs through the Skin Series. Jane has long saved old T-shirts to use as studio rags and would sometimes save the rags because she liked the way they looked, but never knew what she’d do with them. After ten years, she finally knew. “As I worked on them they began to reform into different shapes and feel like they were becoming skins – they’ve been worn on skins and now they’re becoming skins themselves.”
And oh / the skin they touched./ Bathed skin, brown skin, bruised skin,/ palms and fingers and painted toes,” reads Jude’s poem.
“Where We Stood,” artworks and poetry is on at The Hearth Gallery from June 10 to July 5.
“Even if we never leave our town, we’ve still been on an epic journey through our lives with all of the bizarre things, and wonderful things, and awful things, and scary things that happened to us,” said Jane.