Joost de Jonge - The Convergence: Painted Poetry & Painterly Poetics – an ekphrastic notion, volume

Page 1

—Joost de Jonge The Convergence Painted Poetry & Painterly Poetics— an ekphrastic notion, volume 2

—Joost de Jonge The Convergence Painted Poetry & Painterly Poetics— an ekphrastic notion, volume 2

4 —Contents



—Richard Cándida Smith

—Dinah Berland

Introduction 06

Adagio in Yellow


—Emily Bilman The Painter




—Norman Dubie The Convergence


—Peter Frank Gopher Strike


Bosky Sworls


—Richard Garcia Abstract Variations in C


—Karen Holden Four Possibilities


—Juliën Holtrigter Go, Morning Dawns


—Mindy Kronenberg My Inner Eden


—Daniel Thomas Moran October the Twenty-Eighth


—Robert C. Morgan Red Curve




—The Long Table Poets Variations in A Minor


—Brian Turner From the Brow of the Superbrain




Studio Essay

—Emily Bilman

—Joost de Jonge

The Power of Color


—Richard Cándida Smith 50

—Noah Charney The Secret History of Art How to Forge a Joost de Jonge: On Lovecraft, Motherwell, Rorschach and Impasto Topography


—Diederik Oostdijk Introduction to “Mirror, Mirror in the Text” by Ben Shai van der Wal


—Ben Shai van der Wal Mirror, Mirror in the Text . . . Ekphrasis and Différance: “Fugue for a New Life”


—Dinah Berland Fugue for a New Life


Contributors 98

Ekphrasis, after Gerrit Joost de Jonge — The Art of Drawing with Water

Studio Essay


Plate List


About the Artist


6 —Richard Cándida Smith Introduction

The painter’s products stand before us as though they were alive, but if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. It is the same with written words; they seem to talk to you as if they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you just the same thing forever. —Plato, Phaedrus 275d

In the classical world, ekphrasis offered a set of rhetorical devices to keep thought in motion. By saying what one saw in a picture, the orator broke the “majestic silence” that Plato ascribed to finished work. Perfect in itself, as much a part of nature as the landscape a painting might represent, the work needs a speaker to insert spirit into the picture. Words themselves, however, also turn static and difficult to recall once they leave the mouth to settle on paper (or onscreen!). To keep them alive, words must be within a body in motion. Simonides of Ceos advised that rhetoricians practicing to give a speech might start by imagining they were entering a building. Visualizing movement through this space provides a sequence that can trigger recollection of what the orator wants to say. Each of the rooms should arise clearly in the mind’s eye, decorated in a manner appropriate to the subject under recall. The texts themselves are to be marked by striking icons, the contemplation of which stimulates the hidden words to flood into and animate the speaker’s body.1

This conception of thought saw every expression as inadequate,

at best provisional, if it did not stimulate a fusion of the sens-

1 Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory (London: Pimlico Press, 1992), 17.


es. In and of itself, language is too slippery to hold onto with confidence. Vision provides, within this scheme, more precise sensations, so words need to be covered with forms that the eye can master. Images, however, do not appear unless the body first puts itself in motion through space. A search for visual cues serves as prelude to an effective performance making the recalled word present in every part of the body. Tongue, eye, feet, hands, hips, chest are all equally engaged in and equally necessary to the machinery of recall and response. As Plato suggested in his dialogue Phaedrus, the notation of words on paper had proved a useful tool for reminding people of things they had forgotten. For precisely that reason, however, writing invited amnesia as it disengaged humanity from a deep, embodied connection with experience. A turn to more physical arts is needed to reignite the spirit trying to understand its place in the universe.2

In the neo-Platonist tradition, what connected all types of ex-

pressions was their status as projections from the world of forms. When language or art acted as if it was a self-sufficient, independent reality, it declined into shadows, ephemeral and therefore seemingly novel and exciting — an illusion because any return reveals how dead most supposedly creative work becomes after the initial thrill is gone. By triangulating between language, vision, song, and dance, the lover of truth might move beyond the fragmentary world of appearances to glimpse the bright world of ideas, the natural home of the soul.

The magic of the professional artist is an ability to reproduce

a sense of shared space outside of immediate face-to-face encounters. An art object connects the viewer to the artist through a

2 Plato, Phaedrus, 274c-275b.

8 —Cándida Smith

shared set of physical responses that become stronger and stronger the more the viewer explores the work. An art object connects viewers as well without them having to speak to each other. Yet people enjoy talking about work they have seen, particularly when it elicits a strong physical response. What do words add that are so important that an artwork is in danger of disappearing without their presence? Francis Ponge thought that the semantic thickness of words restores and replenishes the material thickness of things by “increasing the quantity of our qualities.”3 Every verbal account introduces new types of words that play against each other simultaneously as communities grasp to feel possibilities for connection. A verbal kaleidoscope reveals alternative modes of relating, some but not all incompatible. Gesture devolves into negotiation over preferred meanings and how unexpected responses might transform the nature of the contact. From this transfigured sense of connection should flow a future with room for broader ranges of difference. Ponge invokes a familiar, haunting dream of integration achieved through expressive gestures transcending the here and now with intimations of a previously unthinkable fullness of contact that, curiously, words convey most strongly.

When Gerrit Joost de Jonge contacted me about the second in-

stallment of his exploration of ekphrasis, he emphasized that he wanted unpredictable, open-ended exchange between people from different backgrounds: “I wish to offer you the selection of one of the paintings of which I have enclosed images below. If you like to join in, please let me know which work you’d like to receive & where I may send it! :-) You would be free to write as you like, and approach the realm of the ekphrastic from your own field, your

3 Francis Ponge, “Introduction au galet,” in Ponge, Tome premier (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1965), 197.


own professional practice, though at least in part refer to the artwork of your choice; what its workings are for you, emotional, coloristic, formal.� He offered a formidable challenge, sweetened by the opportunity to think about issues of importance to those who agreed to join him in his project. The contributors to this volume do not propose a program for the exchange of text and image. We do hope that the conversations captured in this publication will carry on as readers respond in their own way to the images, ideas, and emotions set in motion in the pages that follow.




—Dinah Berland


Adagio in Yellow After Joost de Jonge’s “Improvisation XL”

On this midsummer day, heat rises

in polyphonic waves of yellow

while the prowling lion in my mind

bursts out of its cage, ready to pounce

on anything that moves, including you.

At dusk the sun cracks into the sea,

sending bloodshot rays across the sky’s

flat canvas, setting it on edge.

That’s when you catch me

not listening but droning on

like a trombone in chartreuse dissonance. To the beach! you insist, bopping down

a flight of wooden steps in marimba rhythm.

Does that blue rivulet snaking through the sand

define the limits of a woman and a man?

We will never know, since the surf

crashes so relentlessly against the earth’s

dark cheek, erasing every track.

You tilt your face toward mine, easing

the fierceness of the day—

like that seated congregation of seagulls

breathing the ocean’s breath—

Listen, you say, we can always begin again.


—Emily Bilman


The Painter

He hooks you with thick brush-tongues as he paints his second skin with layers



layers of bright colours that cover his once hurt perception in impasto-guts in rough texture, primal life-forms in flux forever fleeting at times, sculpted scallops linked by phallic symbols stretching over the tawny brown breasts of a world swollen by paint, sculpted yet wider than his body clinging to the curvatures of the indigo tulips that sustain it – tulips almost velvet to the touch sprout from his second skin and reach outside the canvas like his hands pleading to be held


—Emily Bilman



The painter juxtaposed a yellow serpentine Curve next to a gold-streaked olive impasto To evoke the god in her womb. Like a sower planting wheat seeds, The god’s seeds oozed into her body In golden specks of pregnant light, Delivering her from the bronze sepulchre Of death devised by her father. The lovers united in the dun density Of an impasto love in brown-crimson hues, Bolstered by painted loops of royal blue. They begot Perseus, their warrior-son, The slayer of the serpent-haired Medusa, The sibilant talisman of feminine fury.


—Norman Dubie


The Convergence After Joost de Jonge

Yes, it is the neglect of solids, not the potato or significant pea, but the sphere of neglect that is unconscious belief in sky. An immigrant from the wild plateaus who calls his hat, sky? Now, Madame Cézanne is a potato. The painter sits blinded among smoking heaps of sugar. A German cash register ringing in the ear. It is not the work of the dead to clean the painter’s shoes, but, yes, the jealous rage over the dark laces: eternal, infinite eights, etc. Early spring, the many eyes in the room turning into frogs’ eggs, the cold pond saying the photoelectric sun will one day kill most of us with its kiss while still struggling to adjust her darkening paisley bonnet.


—Peter Frank


Gopher Strike (a stencil)

One bird leads to another. The space fuses from black to gray. Heed the young; if your ink fades you need to breathe on the corner. In an emergency this image gives itself away. No broken promises here. If you think about it, nobody gets past the farm entirely scathed. Berlin

March 26, 2016


—Peter Frank


Bosky Sworls Accompaniment to “Mondrian’s Movement,” a painting on paper by Joost de Jonge

Scene in the clouds The egg and the wood leave more than traces Fiery grape, screaming cranberry etch the sky Laughing mountain, but it is a nervous laugh Weeping river, but it is a cry of relief The only thing at rest in all of Hengelo — in all of Overijssel — is the eye of a tortoise Los Angeles January 25, 2016


—Richard Garcia


Abstract Variations in C

You are such a watery ladder my arms cannot hold you. Were colors always this musical? Shape-shifter, stay awhile. Yes, those are my arms trying to encircle the moon, I am not dumb enough to embrace your reflection. Because blue has become every color I ever forgot the name of a ring from a three-ring circus has been left behind on the shore. Here are footprints reflecting the sky, a rather obese question mark, and an escape artist’s ropes, all dancing to distant, wavering music. Yes, of course those are my tabla drums their skies, mountains and forests still drying in the sun. Leave them alone. Everything in this dream belongs to me, except of course, for you.


—Karen Holden


Four Possibilities For Joost de Jonge

1. Mountains and rivers Tense teardrop of moon Odd in a smug sky Burnt colors of resentment Brick, red madder, mahogany and bronze 2. Small oceans of desire Cool blue lozenges of love A mineral radiance Geode of the heart cracked open Split along the fault line of regret 3. Fields of rye, of russet wheat Broken fences, rough grasses Threat of rain dulling Even the brightest green Sooty blue inlets, thick with rage 4. Each pain pressed into stone Gypsum, jasper, agate The heart beating hard in its lattice Of bone, one bright moment Open to everything then no, no one none


—Juliën Holtrigter


Go, Morning Dawns

The evening falls after a scorching hot day. The streets are flooded but the sky clears. It’s still so bright not a star is to be seen but you know that they are ironclad in the sky. Sometimes you don’t remember what you did a few hours ago. You saw on the news that a man fired his gun at a market. A moment of panic becomes a night. Sometimes you know where you are but not what you are looking for at that spot. If you stood there, what would you say? Me? I’d give you riddles. How do you turn your fist into a hand? What do you share of yourself? I would take off my clothes and ask: What is a human? Go, morning dawns Let’s do what has to be done.


—Mindy Kronenberg


My Inner Eden

In the middle of winter I conjugate spring, and the frayed edges of my woolen socks beckon sandals. My heart is a map Of fields and trees, Even as the shovel’s tongue swells for snow the ground knows there are petals clinging like silken debris A butterfly’s wings quiver in the blood, rain shivers blue on my cherished topography humming with lullabies of red and green, singing of youth before exile, love before the Flood, the sinuous, hidden road to my innermost terrain.


—Daniel Thomas Moran


October the Twenty-Eighth For Joost de Jonge

The dark has grown

Cupping the river’s waters,

to overtake the days,

Bending the trees to its will.

The broad door to November

We are here again, centered

has cracked open.

in all our familiar.

The piquant colors of dying

We will pull back the drapes

flutter down the empty air.

and invite the angled light.

I awoke in a lingering nighttime,

In a chilled noon, the sky

the dawn nowhere to be found.

is its most noble blue.

Today, winter sent its

We will accept what is left.

first dispatch from the north,

To account the days until,

The rains, tonight the winds,

This Earth makes its tilt

will bring down the choir,

toward life’s green reiteration.


—Robert C. Morgan

Red Curve

Jump the catcher and all the opponents. Open ears wide and hear the wild wind, the organs beating their chests, coming home to roost in the Safire glen, in the reckless rose garden, albeit safe from the tender hook clouds, climates of old, spawned by crystals



—Robert C. Morgan


Inclusion (Worthy of Notes) Inspired by the painting “Protrusion” by Joost de Jonge

Color radiant along the way along single cellulars, apt protrusions, stealthy fringe ever dominant and recessive openly saturated, the sky Reveals the urge to suspend one against another, worthy of notes jumbled together ever heading downstream lifting up their eternal glow.


—The Long Table Poets


Variations in A Minor

You are such a watery ladder my arms cannot hold you. Were colors always this musical? Shape-shifter, stay awhile. If my arms cannot hold you may I dance in your dream? Shape-shifter: Stay. Beguile. Connect the painted organs of the spheres. May I dance in your dream? May I join your one-ring circus? Connect the painted organs of the spheres. Here, take this blue-olive offering. May I join your one-ring circus, Ride bareback on the devil-dragon? Here, take this blue-olive offering As a sign of my masked dedication. Ride bareback on the devil-dragon, jaw bone sailing watery red paths. As a sign of my masked dedication I navigate the globe by goshawk. Jaw bone sailing watery red paths, forcing you below poisoned waters. I navigate the globe by goshawk holding the memory of your tangled hair.


Forcing you below poisoned waters? Shape-shifter, marry the wind holding the memory of your tangled hair. Out-wing the day’s albatross. Shape-shifter, marry the wind that wrestles broken waves. Out-wing the day’s albatross, a night star sighing in A minor, that wrestles broken waves. O aerodynamic gilded goshawk. A night star sighing in A minor gilds your electric feathers. O gilded goshawk, plunge into shifting waters. Gliding electric feathers, become iridescent trout-scales. Plunge into shifting waters, shape-shifter, flight flyer, deep diver! Become for me iridescent trout-scales, each gleam a shimmer of whim. Shape-shifter, flight flyer, deep diver, were colors always this musical? Each gleam a shimmer of whim. You are such a watery ladder.

—Brian Turner


From the Brow of the Superbrain For Joost de Jonge

Come dogs of summer, wild tongues panting in an orchestrated confusion, where a nation of tongues gathers round their bright standard — howling with joy — the way creatures lift their voices to the moments unfurling before them when the blood instructs them so, brushstroke by brushstroke, tongue by tongue. And from the brow of the superbrain flow rivers of wine in a violet stupefaction, hues of the color wheel guiding us on into the cooling blood of dusk, as nightfall gestures toward the infinite — one gradation at a time, one degree by another descending into a world of dream.

[Note: “From the brow of the superbrain” is from David Bowie’s “Song for Bob Dylan”]





—Emily Bilman


The Power of Color in Van Gogh’s The Sower (1889)

Vincent van Gogh 1853 - 1890, The sower, circa 17 - 28 juni 1888. © Collectie Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands


and de Jonge’s Danaë (2014)

Danaë (Ode to Vincent van Gogh) (detail; see p.17), 2015



In a letter (no. 503) addressed to his brother, Vincent van Gogh said of The Sower that the painting spoke “a symbolic language through color alone.” The painting represents Van Gogh’s attempt at painting a modernist painting in bold contrasting colors characteristic of his post-impressionist period in Arles.

The painting has an allegorical meaning based on the parable

of The Sower in Matthew (3: 7–8; 7:15–20). The sower scatters seeds, which fall on four different types of ground. The hard ground prevents the seeds from sprouting. The stony ground provides enough soil for the seeds to germinate and begin to grow, but because the earth is weak, the plants do not take root and wither. The thorny ground allows the seeds to grow, but the thorns kill the seeds. The good ground allows the seeds to grow fully. The parable teaches us that our kind disposition and positive emotions will allow us to receive God’s commands in a good manner to reach the kingdom of the just after death.

The first aspect that strikes us in The Sower is the hugeness of the

sown field. Symbolically, the field is as large as a human life. The sower is represented obliquely and is painted on one side of the painting like Jean–François Millet’s representation of the same subject, which inspired Van Gogh. The open perspective emphasizes the man’s castoff figure. The sun that draws the viewer’s vision toward it becomes the painting’s vanishing point. The painting stretches the viewer’s vision to the very end of the field and beyond.

Along with the wide perspective, the painting is a modernist one

due to the contrast Van Gogh uses in his complementary colors. He juxtaposes shades of intense yellow next to purple, thus intensifying both colors. In The Sower the yellow-orange-gold nuances intensify the dynamic impact of the sown field and the sower’s movement.


The contrasting colors of yellow, orange, blue, and purple are

further emphasized by the painter’s deliberate brushstrokes or impasto, characteristic of his post-impressionist period in Arles. The impact of these brusque brushstrokes on the viewer is one of dynamic movement. The open field bulges and moves further from us as we look at it. And the sower moves upon the field as he plants.

The intensity of Van Gogh’s colors corresponds to the intensi-

ty of his emotions. In his letter, dated October 1885 (no. 428), to Theo, Van Gogh said: “These things that are relevant to complementary colors, to the simultaneous contrasting and the mutual devaluation of complementary colors, are the first and most important issue : the second is the mutual influence of two similar colors, such as carmine and vermilion, or a pink-lilac and a blue-lilac.” On another occasion, Van Gogh mentioned the liveliness and interplay of “a wedding of two complementary colors (of yellow and purple), their mingling and opposition, the mysterious vibrations of two kindred souls.”

The few barely visible white spots on the sower’s lower figure

are meant to neutralize the contrast of the complementary colors in powerful brushstrokes and

the application of paint out of the

tube directly on the canvas or the impasto. The small houses on the upper right are also painted in a bright sky-blue hue contrasting with the bright yellow sun. Thus, contrast and the open perspective are the most powerful modern techniques used in The Sower.

In Joost de Jonge’s Danaë, we move from an allegorical signifi-

cance to a mythical one with the heroine’s seduction by Zeus and their union that saves her from her angry, revengeful father afraid of being killed by his daughter’s descendants. King Acrisius of Argos was, in fact, accidentally killed by Danaë’s son Perseus. The fragmentary perspective that divides the painting into several sections reflects the different stages of Danaë’s tragic story.



De Jonge describes the subject of his painting with these words: [T]his work refers to the fertility of the spirit; the creation of life, the bliss of sexuality & procreation.”

De Jonge’s impasto of olive-yellow painted with streaks of

gold-yellow represents the gold shower of light with which Zeus penetrated into Danaë’s hermetic bronze tomb where her father had locked her up until her death. The striking contrast of de Jonge’s bright yellow and his olive-yellow impasto representing the golden light juxtaposed next to the dark colors of brown, crimson, and royal blue is the main characteristic that is comparable to Van Gogh’s The Sower. The minor contrast between the green patch on the lower left of the painting with the darker tones of brown and crimson intensifies and compartmentalizes the composition. As in Van Gogh’s painting, too, the impact of the impasto in Danaë is to render movement, in this case to the abstract shapes.

As in all abstract paintings, the viewer’s projections play an

important role in its interpretation. The two crimson curves on the right side of Danaë can be seen to represent the lovers united by a divine light. De Jonge’s painting is made up of curves and serpentine loops marked by lines which symbolize Danaë’s seduction by Zeus, like Eve’s seduction by the serpent in Eden. The curves delimit sections of the painting shaped by the fragmentary perspective which symbolizes Danaë’s death-prison. As such, Jonge’s perspective is much more constraining than Van Gogh’s.

Intense color contrast and impasto are the techniques that

Van Gogh and de Jonge share in their paintings. The impasto also contrasts the bright sides of the painting with its darker sides reflecting the symbolic narrative of good and evil behind the painting. In the myth, as in the painting, we are confronted with love against revenge, seduction against aggression, life against death.


Both Van Gogh and de Jonge are symbolic sowers who paint with the

colors of their intense emotions. The colors, in fact, are the mirrors of both painters’ overwhelming emotions and fiery temperaments. Both Van Gogh’s and de Jonge’s paintings represent the symbolic archetypes that connect us, as viewers, to the parables and myths we share in our collective unconscious and in our common humanity.

—Richard Cándida Smith


Ekphrasis, after Gerrit Joost de Jonge — The Art of Drawing with Water

In his Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein noted that in most verbal communications, “the meaning of a word is its use in the language.”1 The effort to understand what has been said involves a continuing series of paraphrases that re-proposition the original statement into parallel but never quite identical alternatives. In constructive activities like visual art, however, meaning is inseparable from form and crafting. No paraphrase is feasible. Against any verbal description stands the mute object insisting on its tactile reality. Of course, people must talk about their reactions to an exhibition, a film, or a performance in order to organize a recollection of the experience worth retaining for the future. Nonetheless, no matter how much or in what contexts a work is discussed, its objectivity eludes all of its verbal approximations. A work finds and holds onto a public precisely because it offers an experience that slips away from words and the ready-to-hand categories they provide. We turn to the visual and performing arts because these modes of expression capture aspects of experience and feeling that elude words. In one of his most famous aphorisms, Wittgenstein asserted, “What can be shown cannot be said.”2 In this case, the philosopher was contrasting the distinction between mathematical formula and everyday descriptive language, but the claim has struck most as pertinent to art objects as well.

If, as Charles Sanders Peirce argued, “all thought operates

through the medium of signs,3 a work of art is a sign that evokes a response that circulates as it is thrown off into words. In the circuit of subjectivity, verbal approximations are always tenta-

All images reproduced in this essay are by the author. 1 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967), §43. 2 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 4.1212. 3 Charles Sanders Peirce, “Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man,” in The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings, vol. 1 (1867-1893), ed. Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 11-27.


—Cándida Smith


tive; they generate responses that add on top of, often covering over, previous remarks. The verbal circuits even if prolix preserve the centrality and the purity of the object, which standing mute, is important to the degree that it provokes continuing efforts to recapture the experience it offers in other expressive forms. Since an object is not limited to the particular signs that are observed in any particular set of social relationships, the art object retains its inherent mystery. Its “quality,” in terms of its position in circuits of exchange, is its continuing ability to generate new efforts to explore a wider range of meanings that can be imputed to the sensations the object produces. It is axiomatic that meaning does not lie inherently or solely in perception as an individual relation to the object, but in the sequence/exchange of interpretations that follow interaction. An object, in Peirce’s semiotic universe, does not directly cause ideas to form; objects present puzzles that cause observers to consult the archive of previous experience and formulated knowledge to offer an interpretation, that if actionable becomes an experience contributing to new knowledge of the world. In a utilitarian object, the sequence of interpretations is short, and other than idiosyncratic responses, culminates in precise, limited understanding of what it is for. With an art object, the sequence of interpretations may not be infinite but its power as an object for thought is seen through an unfolding chain of interpretations. As Arthur Danto has expressed it, all objects are sensuous, but art objects generate a process of “interpretive seeing (…) which in effect means framing interpretive hypotheses as to meaning.”4 Each individual statement keeps in motion propositions

4 Quote from Arthur Danto, “The End of Art: A Philosophical Defense,” History and Theory 37 (1998), 133. See also Arthur Danto, “The End of Art,” in Danto, The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art (New York: 1986), 81-115.


—Cándida Smith


that may reaffirm, may expand, or may challenge the repertory available for “saying” this is who I am in relation to different people, objects, events, processes, for articulating a reaction that is the focal point of meaning. Whatever is put forward is tentative, waiting for the next relay in the circuit.

If a work of art has no fixed meaning inherent to its object

status, it is only as interesting as the responses that it generates; it is only as interesting as the people who enter the circuit emanating from a work. The community of viewers, not the artist, transforms an object into a work of art through the words that respondents use to speak of themselves. The problem of ekphrasis, then, its fundamental tragedy, is that the object purportedly being described disappears, replaced by a potentially narcissistic loop.

I see an object. What I feel transposes into an urgent message

affirming my own powers. I can speak! I will speak! There lies the nub and the essence of the problem. A reduction must take place whenever we boil the richness of lived experience down to a handful of words that can make sense to another person. Our lives are in fact infinitely tiny. My world may be just a small speck of the universe, not even big enough to fill a corner. Even so, it fits me just fine. It’s been big enough for me and the people I love. Maybe that’s why even though we speak to each other all the time, we need song, dance, and pictures to say the things we feel that words refuse to provide us. But then we need to talk about it all and throw it back into words!

Given that we communicate through relatively limited systems,

any given expression has a high likelihood of falling short in conveying what a speaker hopes to communicate. Another variation is tried, an effort to short-circuit the limitations inherent to all forms of expression, whether speech, images, gestures. The plastic arts have remained important because they escape the particular


—Cándida Smith


limitations of verbal languages to convey more direct sensory experiences that, if successful, stimulate further efforts to throw off the experience into words, that themselves, however deficient or limited, might miraculously bring into focus aspects of contemporary life otherwise stuck in the realm of ineffable feelings.

What tricks are there to discover how to express what cannot be

said but must be shown? We want responses that speak not only of how we felt, but return us to the objectivity of the original encounter. The strategy I have developed is to turn to photographs and other visual forms to propose to myself a parallel experience that stimulates but also resists words. In the end though, I must return to writing, which has been my way to achieve a more objective view of whatever topic I’ve undertaken, a view that reveals something so new that what I discovered could not have possibly already existed inside me. Reconfiguration may be a better word than discovery. To let appear forms that seem more accurate than the impressions my experience has left me. As I move through the world, I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of things, and for the most part, those thoughts are a jumbled, chaotic ball of buzzing energy. Writing allows me to discover what I “really” think as I start to escape the confusion that seems to define my most immediate relation with the world. Maybe a better way of putting it is that writing allows me to form a picture in my mind that could be called “thought.” At least a form has taken shape inside my mind. If I preserve it, the thought can be shared and may generate other thoughts.

All a gamble. The process of discovering meaning in the ineffa-

ble I see as equivalent to drawing with water. Images, the beautiful ones no less than the ugly and banal, start fading away before they are finished.

57 —Richard Cándida Smith

A Boat Unloads

A boat unloads A boyfriend buys a new jacket A door opens onto another universe A leap into the light A young girl who enjoyed a good time And Another slate wiped clean Another person ready to roam Arithmetic For a moment of light As arid as a desert Coming at you fast Far away Broken by love for the real Birds carry them up to the gods in their heaven As fast as they can Eyes filled with hunger Diving into the bodies of the faithful Filling them with pleasure But where you will all be Dead without even knowing it Geometry Going back to the source Her eyes closed when she made love I followed the wind Her head sinks into the pillow I open my body to the sun’s heat

—Cåndida Smith


Her breasts pretty and warm Like sumptuous summer thunderheads Men with their sporty clothes Midnight Oh Pretty breasts The breath of desire To brighten their way wherever they go While everybody else listens to their iPods The fullness of life bursting against the barriers The gods nod in approval and take the plunge She has nice legs The sky comes falling On the moon When walls tumble The whole world sings They wish for the water of life The world comes in


—Noah Charney


The Secret History of Art How to Forge a Joost de Jonge: On Lovecraft, Motherwell, Rorschach, and Impasto Topography

“Impasto, the thick, almost sculptural, three-dimensional buildup of paint, is the hardest thing to forge. You’d think that Van Gogh, the artist most associated with gooey globs of oil paint that lean out of the canvas and try to hook your sweater as you pass, would be nearly unforgeable. But art forgers have long sought to ape his works (see the recent review in this magazine), and they tried it the old-fashioned way: by hand.”

–Alan Hirsch, “Those Wacky Whacker Van Gogh’s”

There is something intimidating, almost gruesome about heavy impasto. At least, when you get up close. From afar, the topographical texture, like a range of miniature mad mountains, does not reveal itself, the waves of pigment retracting into two dimensions. See this in Van Gogh’s Night Café, an almost sickly slobber of boogerlike globules of paint, in rancid curry yellow and pigeon-blood red, that somehow manage to be beautiful, at a distance. Not a painting I’d hang in my dining room, wonderful though it may be.

Then consider the works of Robert Motherwell. His paint is not

impasto, relatively smooth and flat, but what he paints imposes its presence and willfully disconcerts. I once wrote of Motherwell that looking at his paintings feels like that moment when you first wake, still groggy, eyes as yet unopened, but you can feel that someone is in the room, leaning over you. This sensation is created by painting an intimidating mountain of black pushing itself forward to blot out

Reprinted from Versopolis: European Review of Poetry, Books and Culture, online at




a white ground. No wonder Motherwell called the work in question Disquieting Presence.

My writing about these works has added to their power. I’m an-

thropomorphizing them, bestowing upon inanimate paint the ability to move with intent. Of course it can’t. But the genius of the artist is to use ground-up pigment on canvas to trick our minds into thinking it can. Impasto blurs the boundaries between painting and sculpture, much like Lucio Fontana’s Spatial Concept, his “paintings” that are in fact mounted canvas that has been pierced or slashed. These create wounds in the canvas, whereas impasto adds pustules, some of them nearly bubonic.

I’m a proud participant in the Ekphrasis Project of Dutch artist

Joost de Jonge. A painter in an abstract, impasto-heavy style reminiscent of a more colorful Philip Guston (who was, incidentally, the husband of my high school art teacher), he invites writers and poets to pen something inspired by one of his paintings, offering the painting as a gift in return. It’s a pretty sweet deal. But the painting he sent me creeps me out. In a good way, and demonstrating that it is an effective work of art. But I remain creeped nevertheless.

A picture is worth at least a hundred words, and I won’t try to

describe it here (that would be the true meaning of ekphrasis, with its origins in the writing of the ancient Greek, Philostratus, who described paintings in an art gallery in Naples, trying to outdo the paintings with his poetic descriptions of them, demonstrating that writing is inherently superior to other art forms). Works of abstraction like de Jonge’s are like Rorschach tests. It’s a game to see what you see in them.

What I see immediately reminded me of Van Gogh, of Motherwell,

but most of all of H. P. Lovecraft. WTF, you may be quietly thinking to yourself.


Lovecraft is the scariest writer I’ve ever read, and I am in good company with that sentiment. Writing in the first half of the 20th century, he was a very weird guy and a master of what we might call New England Gothic, with many of his baroquely written stories taking place in the Dunwich Valley of backwoods, rural Massachusetts, where the sun don’t shine and all manner of prehistoric creepiness dwells. He’s best known for the Call of Cthulu, but the stories that get me every time, and I think are the best introductions to him, are “The Dunwich Horror” and “The Colour Out of Space,” the latter being the creepiest short story I know of, and I’m a man who enjoys creepy short stories. How scary can an intangible waft of colored light that lands from outer space and lurks at the bottom of a well beside an old farmhouse actually be? Mm-hmm. Add this to two other Lovecraftian stories, “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” and you have my immediate response to de Jonge’s painting. The former is the tale of Arctic explorers who manage to fly over an impossibly high prehistoric mountain range and see something out the plane window that is so horrifying that it drives them mad. The latter is about a weird population of shadowy people in a seaside New England fishing village who appear to be a Boschian hybrid of humans and fish ... so horrifying that it drives anyone who sees them mad. You start to see the theme.

The two tadpole-like squiggles, in brown and green, dripping

with frozen impasto, in de Jonge’s painting are, to me, Lovecraftian shadow horrors moving through the twilight-blue night, along a golden road. But what I see more than the abstract and interpretable forms of color, colors out of space, is the impasto, jutting out like thorns from the canvas.

As a specialist in art crime, with a recent book on forgery, I

instinctively look at art and wonder a) if it might be a forgery and b) if not, how it might be forged. Call this an occupational



hazard. Impasto is the hardest thing to forge, because of the random three-dimensionality of it. But these days, with threedimensional scanners and printers, it too is game. Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum has a very expensive offer out to collectors and museums — you can buy identical replicas of the museum’s greatest hits, scanned and three-dimensionally printed, so that they are precise down to the shape of that thorny impasto. The result was not created by Van Gogh’s hand, and is made with new paint on a new support, but it replicates the original, down to the millimeter. What cannot be replicated is the soul that lives in a painting, if you believe in that sort of thing (which I think I do). Forgeries have soul, because they were created by an artist, even if he was mimicking the style of someone else. I knew de Jonge’s work was authentic because I felt the “vibe” of that soul, if you believe in that sort of thing (which I think I do).

So while it is authentic, well-executed, and induces all man-

ner of Rorschachian, Lovecraftian associations, I’m not quite sure where I can hang it in my house, to avoid getting the willies each time I walk past. Well done, Mr. de Jonge, well done.


—Diederik Oostdijk


Introduction to “Mirror, Mirror in the Text” by Ben Shai van der Wal

Ben Shai van der Wal, a graduate student at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, wrote the essay “Mirror, Mirror in the Text” (see page 68),following a guest lecture by Joost de Jonge about his art practice during the course “Visual Art and the American Poet” in December 2015. Each week students were asked to respond to the course material, which for that week included Dinah Berland’s poem “Fugue for a New Life” (see page 80), based on de Jonge’s Fughetta on Paper (see page 67). I shared a picture of de Jonge’s work online for students to study how Berland had responded to de Jonge. Van der Wal cleverly picked up on the reflection that is clearly visible in the photograph of de Jonge’s artwork. The glass pane allows us to look through it to de Jonge’s imaginative abstract colors and make sense of that world as Berland does. Yet the glass pane also reflects outwardly to another world of which the photographer may not have been aware that is forever captured in this snapshot. Van der Wal takes that awareness as a departure point to explore an essential element of ekphrasis: how the verbal representation of visual representation always entails an inadvertent reflection of those who engage with the material, poets but also readers. And that makes all the différance, as Jacques Derrida might have said.


Photograph of Joost de Jonge’s framed work Fughetta on Paper.

—Ben Shai van der Wal


Mirror, Mirror in the Text… Ekphrasis and Différance; “Fugue for a New Life” One of the main advantages of dealing with a “verbal representation of visual representation” (Mitchell 152) is the opportunity to consider “poets and artists collabora[ting] with each other, producing image texts of many kinds” (Loizeaux 3). Joost de Jonge’s The Ekphrasis Project (TEP) is such collaboration, and when asked to react to one of the examples of TEP many of my fellow students enrolled in “Visual Art and the American Poet,” a master of art’s degree course on ekphrasis, were at a loss in being able to identify what was being depicted in the paintings in relation to the poems. In writing about Dinah Berland’s poem “Fugue for a New Life” (see page 80) one student acknowledged “a coexistence of something dark and something bright. I couldn’t make more of it” (VAAP, Blog post), and another conceded that “Since Joost de Jonge’s work is rather abstract, it seems hard to see a narrative in this particular painting” (VAAP, Blog post). A general sense of bewilderment underlined the proposed connection between Fughetta on Paper (see page 67) and “Fugue for a New Life.” For me, the context of encountering the painting was significant; the painting as posted online strikes an eerie chord with me because it is not merely a picture of the painting but rather a photograph of it in which the reflection of windows can be seen in the painting’s glass frame (see page 67). Although most likely unintentional, this reflection still ties in with the idea that by trying to represent an image (whether pictorial or linguistically), we are invariably reflected in its representation.

This insight, in turn, reminded me of a famous fairytale rhyme:

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Why? For one, it seems that if we are represented in any act of representation, and I have become aware of that as a means to uncover the text’s meaning, then it follows that I am in a question/answer relationship with the text — the text here being the mirror and I,


metaphorically, the evil queen who, once she has the answer, goes on scheming and plotting. Not wanting to draw the analogy too far for fear of being actually marked an evil queen, however, I would like to propose to take a meta-perspective on the mirroring effect of the question/answer relationship between reader/viewer and text/ image that ekphrasis so readily provides. Within the parameters of the semiotic theory of deconstruction, I posit that ekphrasis reflects the semantic congruency of Jacques Derrida’s notion of différance (or difference and deferral of meaning). Looking closely at Berland’s “Fugue for a New Life” and De Jonge’s Fughetta on Paper, I will argue that their interaction constitutes (1) reflection as a mode of reading, imploring the reader to “look” underlines the pictorial aspect of sounds/words/language/music and (2) a serendipitous revelation of the fragmented state of meaning (aporia) and the reader’s desire to de-fragment it, to close it, which is constitutive of meaning through its referential characteristic. Referentiality as the State of Meaning Derrida envisions that différance is “the systematic play of difference” (Différance 13). Meaning is evoked through a play of differing as well as deferring, whereas différance reflects both these processes in the evocation of meaning. To strengthen my claim that ekphrasis (the concept to which it refers, not the word itself) functions in much the same way, I will first show how both concepts refer to the “endless play of signification” (Silverman 34) that ensues in practice as well as in their revelatory effects on such practices. All meaning is referential; that is, a claim to truth that reflects its temporary recognition as un-referential, as something that is in itself meaningful. This state of pre-language is unattainable because, once identified, it is only identified through its

—Van der Wal


referent. Ekphrasis foregrounds this paradox: the acts of writing and of painting are both expressions of a need to understand, recognize, and identify their own materialization. Berland’s poem is reflective of this as well.

One way to show how “Fugue for a New Life” can be seen as an

expression of the desire to understand itself is by considering the effect of the poem´s narrative situation as informative of the creation of structure. Mieke Bal defines a narrative text as “a text in which an agent or subject conveys to an addressee a story in a particular medium” (Narratology 5). Berland´s poem is very much a narrative; events follow events in a certain progression and infliction by an agent (an external narrator), who tells the story of the woman on horseback. One of the properties of ekphrasis is to relate the structure of one sign-system with another and reveal how structuring itself is taking place. For instance, an image, like a linguistic text, can never be comprehended fully in one glance, it needs to be defragmented and put into some sort of order, or sequence, to be understood (Bulling & Gellersen 2010). Indeed, it needs to be read. What Berland’s poem shows us, then, is that a certain convention of reading images is being demonstrated in the poem; it acts as a reading of the painting from top to bottom. That is not to claim that there is a right or wrong way to look, but by imparting the poem with narrative properties, it comments on the act of veering an image into linguistic signs. Neither the painting nor the poem has a structure in itself other than the recognition, and imposition, of structure by the reader/viewer.

By structuring the poem as a narrative, “Fugue for a New Life”

recognizes the forceful structuring that accompanies any reading of a painting that does not, at first, claim a mimetic relation to the painting. As a reaction to the painting, the narrator in the poem seems to tentatively search for signs of recognition; while riding


on horseback “across pink foothills,” “the world slips and slides, changing / every second,” when “all at once, / out of nowhere, a diminutive house appears” (Berland 1/7/9). First the narrative aspect of the poem is reflective of imposing order, imposing truth, in the ever-changing landscape of the deferral of meaning. Then, out of the painting itself, it seems, “a diminutive house appears” (9), almost forcing its recognition onto the viewer, making its identification inescapable. Although the pink foothills, the seasick road, the grizzled river could also be considered as being identified as signs of recognition by the narrator as they are indeed shapes that are interpreted and fixed by their linguistic estimation, it is the appearance of the house that is interesting in regard to the moment of identification in the narrative progression. Before the appearance of the house, shapes were already recognized but not highlighted for their appearance as signs of recognition. That those other — and, in temporal terms, previous — signs of recognition are posited as a sort of given establishes their state as signs that are un-referential, un-disturbing, and unproblematic. It is the appearance of the house that signifies an attitude of surprise and delight that prompts us, as well as “her,” to wonder, ask, and reflect: “Will she reach it / before sunset?” (10/11). In other words, the poem reflects the reader’s attitude in the identification of abstract shapes for the evocation of meaning while at the same time revealing that the linguistic translation of the reading of the image is an attempt at creating fixity, creating temporary respite from the fluidity of “nothing stays the same” (10).

Both ekphrasis and différance equally present the reader with a

reading of a visual

image; in other words, a mode of reading visu-

ality that addresses the relational status between speech-as-image and speech-as-sound. It is this logocentristic aspect of the poem I will expand on to argue that when we interpret a poem or an image,

—Van der Wal


especially in relation to one another, we are able to reflect on our dealings with texts as pretending to contain a presence of voices, as speaking entities that convey sound through images.

“Fugue for a New Life” is riddled with musical terminology

that evokes the presence of sound as un-representational, that is, whether by the poem’s linguistic code, or via the painting’s visual elements, the presence of sound/music is being highlighted as both absent as well as present. This interplay of the represented absence of sound urges us to ponder on the relationship between sounds and their representation. According to the concept of logocentrism, the written word (image) is seen as a derivative form of speech (sound), a lesser representation of its source, and is therefore ontologically less sound (pun intended). However, both ekphrasis and différance reveal that it is the relational status between sound and image that actually gives both speech and writing their ontological status. For instance, the variance in spelling between difference and différance suggests that the listener has to look at its written form in order to know if the speaker means difference or deference.1 The listener must become a reader by looking. This then reflects the illusion of power that written language has as a fixer of meaning, and reveals as well as undermines the metaphysical preference of speech over writing. In this, différance is the condition that exposes the relation between presence and absence.

Equally, Berland’s poem introduces the representation of music

by using musical terminology to implore the reader to become aware that sound (music and speech) is not the primary un-representational source of signification, but rather, it represents the origin of

1 At least, in French they are homophones (phonetically indistinguishable).


presence and absence of such a source. All the references to musical terminology in Berland’s poem are allusions to a particular, relational state of music: “humming a melody in counterpoint” (a musical technique, often used in fugues, in which one melody is in a simultaneous reaction to another)2 (2); “tintinnabulation” (5); “diminutive” (from diminuendo) (9); “serenaded” (voiced sound) (18); “crumpled cadenza” (an oxymoron, because a cadenza is an extensive, usually improvised, solo near the end of a musical performance) (19); “harmonious” (26); and the adhesive to which these musical references are stuck, a “Fugue.” Their relationship to one another proposes a pretense of musical presence. For instance, the appearance of the house is accompanied by a particular musical infliction, “a diminutive house” (my emphasis). Diminuendo is a musical term used to signify that certain parts of a musical composition should be played in a way that diminishes the current volume, usually having a calming effect on the listener. Much like the effect on the listener, the appearance of the house rears back the suggested volume of “tintinnabulation” (5) and offers a moment of reflection, represented by the pondering questions that follow that encounter: no less than four questions spread over seven lines.

2 Although in Derrida‟s treatise Writing and Difference there is no mention of music counting as an instance of speech, one might assume that music and speech are similar for the purposes of this paper in that our approach to them is always in a representational mode. For instance, this is another representation of counterpoint in a fugue: This underlines again how one representation, picture or language, relies on another for its ontological estimation.

This underlines again how one representation, picture or language, relies on another for its ontological estimation.

—Van der Wal


Reading this poem aloud has the same effect in terms of calming the reader coming out of the mild galloping movement of the first stanza. Mild because only when contrasted with “beneath a swooping bough” (10) does the reader acknowledge a sense of restlessness, of galloping, in the preceding verses. The skipping word-couple “Up and down she gallops” (3), and alliterations such as, “As she rides the world slips and slides, changing / every second” (7–8), all represent the woman’s movement as a gallop. This, then, underlines that she as well as the reader are on their way to “a miracle” (22) of understanding, of certainty, and ultimately of reaching closure.

As much as Fughetta on Paper may have inspired Berland to appropri-

ate musicality in the poem, it is still the representational that is being underscored here, and not as logocentrism might suggest, a kind of lack, or absence of presence, that the written word represents. Indeed, the poem uses musicality to inflict a presence of absence on the painting, where “the formal essence of the signified is presence, and the proximity to the logos as phoné is the privilege of presence” (OG 314). In other words, musical sounds are as much represented in Fughetta on Paper (a determining title in its own right) as “Fugue for a New Life” determines and enhances their presence, thereby revealing the status of sound, and ultimately meaning itself, as being in a relational and referential state. Aporia and the Need to Understand Un-referentially So far I have shown that both différance and ekphrasis expose and thereby evoke referentiality. The next step would be to show how even though “Fugue for a New Life” foregrounds the imposition of the structure of the referent, we are still bound by our search for that “transcendental signified,” “that master name” (Différance 22), and through that search we attain meaning by actively performing in-


terpretive closure. The operative attitude here is an active one, because, as I will argue, by becoming aware of the interpretive processes that display the tension between constituting meaning as well the deferral of meaning, we can reflect on the inevitability and necessity of closure.

In “Fugue for a New Life” the mode of reading (both text and

image-text) is reflected by the narrative structure of the poem and commented on by the language (the linguistic codes) of the poem. The narrator implores the rider to “abandon bridle and reins / and all will become transparent” (19). This advice has an informative effect on the matter of closure. For one, it seems that in order to attain transparency (clarity), one needs to do something, to perform an act of submission that will facilitate insight and understanding. The question is then, to what should the woman on horseback submit herself? To what exactly should we? To answer these we must first acknowledge where we are in our reading of the painting. Again, from top to bottom then, I infer the colors at the bottom as “a river” of “Whirling blue” from which a “strangely harmonious friend” counts as the performer of absolution from uncertainty; she/he “sees you as you were, / as you will be, /as you really are” (26–28). The position in the narrative marks this part as the end, but it is not a linguistic act of closure. Rather, it comments on our need for transparency, certainty, and other such words that denote calmness as opposed to a “whirling” motion (24). This poem then remarkably promises “kisses just over the horizon” (6), by also commenting on the un-attainability of closure; “A miracle awaits you,” “a mirror in the river” (22–23) at the bottom of the painting is suggestive of closure as an act of mirroring rather than constituting finality.

This ties in with Derrida’s notion of aporia as the state in

which the text manifests itself when it requires active interpreta-

—Van der Wal


tion to overcome that state of puzzlement or sense of incompleteness, a kind of impasse. As suggested before, the letter a in différance counts as such an impasse because there is a logical necessity to understand the difference, or difference itself, between difference and deference. Only when looked at do we overcome ignorance and confusion. I should remark that this is a paradoxical state. For even if the gap between difference and deference is acknowledged, its meaning still denotes unresolvedness. W. J. T. Mitchell describes ekphrasis as the attempt to overcome the cultural fallacy that “[w]ords can ‘cite’ but never ‘sight’ their objects” (152). In that sense, ekphrasis is able to highlight its unresolvedness and, therefore, reflect on and deflect that state of mirroring back to the reader/viewer.

Incidentally, or not so incidentally, the word “fugue” also re-

fers to a dissociative disorder caused by a trauma of suddenly leaving one’s home, of psychological aporia. In this definition of the word, we find a symbolic mental-health related reason for the desire to perform closure, to overcome that mental state of disorder. The reader/viewer is made aware that aporia/fugue is at the root, or even the cause, of understanding and therefore underlines the necessity to overcome its unresolvedness. Namely, understanding signifies the desire to overcome the lack of order imposed by the restlessness of the referent. One way of demarcating order is through the recognition of a beginning and an end of signification. However, the ending and beginning of “Fugue for a New Life” mirror aporia, but by no means exclusively, in two ways. First, the poem starts with the woman “humming a melody in counterpoint” (2), which is an impressive feat to do alone, since counterpoint necessarily entails at least two melodies (unless in a surrealistic turn the horse is humming along, but since the woman is the grammatical subject of the sen-


tence this seems unlikely). Therefore, our starting point is the defragmented state of the inherently fragmented text, for only textually can such an opposition be represented/executed. Second,


strangely harmonious friend” (26) is equally vexing as a resolution. A harmony is almost, for lack of a better phrase, by definition not strange, and neither is a friend; both are recognized as un-strange, as familiar. These three seemingly contradictory terms allow the reader to resolve the aporetic state of the text by accepting the end as a comment on contradiction, thereby internalizing the paradox as a sense of closure.

Even though reading the painting, as well as the poem, would

suggest that we begin at some point and we end on another, when they are in a referential state, both are enthralled with understanding themselves. This paradoxical state is supported by the unclear delineation of beginning and end, the fading colors on the paper surface mark the end of paint but not of signification. The painting does not end where the frame starts, neither does the paint stop abruptly in congruency with a pictorial representation of finality. As such, their state is aporetic and perpetual, because both exist in order to understand themselves by referring to each other continuously and therefore cannot achieve closure. Because they are in a referential state, no matter how we might interpret certain textual elements, other elements will distort the coherence. Certain details will not line up with those surrounding it and therefore count as “a text evoking a text in order to distort it” (Bal 63). Indeed, the end of the narrative signifies closure but does not provide that same feeling with its linguistic code. Even the linguistic code contains paradoxes that allow us to reinterpret and re-contextualize their meaning perpetually.

—Van der Wal


Conclusion To conclude, I have demonstrated through a deconstruction of “Fugue for a New Life” that différance and ekphrasis both reveal how meaning is always structured around the referential and the relational, and the presence of absence of sound in representation. The narrative aspects of the poem allow for a reflection on the meaning of the painting to surface through structure, and therefore comment on structuring as a means to meaning. In much the same way, by analyzing the relational status of speech-as-sound and speech-as-image I have demonstrated that speech is not the origin of which image-words are merely representations, but rather, that referentiality is all encompassing between Berland’s poem and De Jonge’s painting.

In the second section, I have argued that even though the ref-

erent is the paradoxical center of meaning, there is still the need to identify, interpret, and solidify the state of things. By showing how signs of contradiction are in need of closure and are resolved by the reader’s desire to have an answer to the question he/she asks the text. The conclusion is as elusive as it is enticing; the text reflects and deflects its answer back to the reader/viewer.

If by chance — and by now the reader is convinced that non-

closure is also a form of closure — I would like to end on a note of reflection on the more threatening side of finding closure in nonclosure; mainly, what in turn does that signify? Up until now I have been attempting to demonstrate how the poem and the painting may come to mean something to me, but not yet what they actually mean. If indeed a text is a mirror, and this essay could by all means be considered a word-picture taken, what in turn is inadvertently being mirrored in this essay? The poem invites me to contemplate by posing questions in its exploration of the painting’s colors and shapes: “will she ride alone forever?” and I concede that even if she meets


her “strangely harmonious friend,” that does not mean the same will happen for me, or any other critic who is willing to allow himself to be convinced that there is such a thing as knowing “who you really are.” Even if such a certainty is attainable it is hard to retain because the mirror answers only what we allow it to show us, causing me to take refuge in the confines of the referent. Works cited Bal, Mieke. “Dis-semination: ‘Rembrandt’ and the Navel of the Text.” Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory 2.2 (1990): 145–66 Bal, Mieke. Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative.

3rd ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

Bulling, Andreas and Gellersen, Hans. “Toward Mobile Eye-Based

Human-Computer Interaction.”IEEE Pervasive Computing 9.4 (2010):

8–12. Print. Derrida, Jacques. “Différance.” Trans. Alan Bass, In Margins of Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1982): 3–27. Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty

Spivak. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1974.

Print. Mitchell, W. J. T. “Ekphrasis and the Other.” In Picture Theory:

Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. Chicago: University

of Chicago Press, 1994. 151–81.

Silverman, Kaja. “From Sign to Subject: A Short History.” In The

Subject of Semiotics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Appendix Joost de Jonge's “Fughetta on Paper” as uploaded on the BlackBoard webpage of VAAP.

—Dinah Berland


Fugue for a New Life After Joost de Jonge’s “Fughetta on Paper”

A woman rides horseback across pink foothills, humming a melody in counterpoint. Up and down she gallops across the seasick road, the grizzled river, where bell-shaped peaks beckon with tintinnabulation, promising kisses just over the horizon. As she rides the world slips and slides, changing every second. Nothing stays the same. All at once, out of nowhere, a diminutive house appears beneath a swooping bough. Will she reach it before sunset, she wonders, now that the golden orb is breaking like an egg yolk at the edge of the sky? Will she ride alone forever? What stories will she tell her children at the brink of night, looming like black lapels above her? Why can’t she recover the lost path she once walked, where waterfalls crashed into graceful archipelagos and shorebirds serenaded her in the sand? Just tuck that crumpled cadenza behind your right ear, she hears a voice whisper. Let your horse go. Abandon bridle and reins, and all will become transparent. A miracle awaits you, my dear, a mirror in the river: Out of the whirling blue comes someone from another lifetime— a strangely harmonious friend who sees you as you were, as you will be, as you really are.



Studio Essay
















Dinah Berland

Emily Bilman

Dinah Berland is a poet and book editor with a background in art. Her poems have appeared in more than two dozen literary magazines, including The Antioch Review, The Iowa Review, Margie, New Letters, and Ploughshares, and in anthologies such as Verse and Universe: Poems about Science and Mathematics, edited by Kurt Brown (Milkweed Editions, 1998), and So Luminous the Wildflowers: An Anthology of California Poets, edited by Paul Suntup (Tebot Bach, 2003). Berland received an international poetry prize from the Atlanta Review, was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, and was granted an Individual Artist’s Fellowship in Poetry from the California Arts Council. She earned her MA in visual art (photography) from California State University, Northridge, and her MFA in creative writing (poetry) from Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina. Her book Hours of Devotion: Fanny Neuda’s Book of Prayers for Jewish Women (Schocken, 2007) is a verse adaptation of the first prayer book written by a Jewish woman for women. She lives in Los Angeles, where she is an independent book editor, having worked at Getty Publications from 1994 to 2014, most recently as senior editor. She is currently working on a chapbook of poems, tentatively titled “Fugue for a New Life.”

Emily Bilman writes poetry and literary criticism in Geneva, where she is the representative of the Poetry Society in London. She earned her MFA in writing from Vermont College, and her PhD from East Anglia University, where she taught literature. Her poetry book in French is entitled La rivière de soi. An amateur astronomer, she is a member of Les Poètes de la Cité and the Geneva Writing Group. She is a regular contributor to literary magazines in the humanities. She has given poetry readings in England, France, Spain, Switzerland, and the USA and read her poems on the BBC. Her doctoral thesis, “The Psychodynamics of Poetry: Poetic Virtuality and Oedipal Sublimation in the Poetry of T. S. Eliot and Paul Valéry,” demonstrates her theory of literary creativity, called “virtuality,” which involves the sublimation of narcissistic trauma through the writing of poetry. Modern Ekphrasis, a book on the painting-poetry analogy from Plato to Derrida, was published in 2013. Essays on T. S. Eliot and Paul Valéry have appeared in the Battersea Review and the T. S. Eliot Journal. Her poetry book A Woman by a Well was published by Melinda Cochrane International in Québec in 2014, with all profit going to Better the Youth Movement in Detroit, Michigan. Her poems have also appeared in The London Magazine, Battersea Review, The Linnet’s Wings, Lakeview Literary Journal, Orbis, Offshoots, Hunger Mountain, Ydgrasil, Iodine, The Inspired Heart Anthologies, Salzburg Poetry Review, BBC, and other magazines. Her most recent book of poems, Resilience, was published in the UK in 2015. She recently won the gold medal from New York Literary Magazine for her poem “The Tear-Catcher.” She blogs at


Richard Cándida Smith

Noah Charney

Richard Cándida Smith is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Berkeley. His work has centered on the intellectual and cultural history of the United States. His books have explored the changing social position of the fine arts in modern, liberal societies. He is the author of Utopia and Dissent: Art, Poetry, and Politics in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), Mallarmé’s Children: Symbolism and the Renewal of Experience (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), The Modern Moves West: California Artists and Democratic Culture in the Twentieth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), and Circuitos de Subjetividade: História Oral, O Acervo e as Artes (São Paulo: Letra e Voz, 2012). His next book, Improvised Continent: Pan-Americanism and Cultural Exchange, is forthcoming from University of Pennsylvania Press. He has published thirty-seven essays in publications from the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, France, and Britain He is the editor of Art and the Performance of Memory: Sounds and Gestures of Recollection (London: Routledge, 2002), and, with Ellen DuBois, of Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Feminist as Thinker (New York: New York University Press, 2007). He served as director of the Regional Oral History Office from 2001 to 2012. He has been active in the Working Group on Memory and Narrative, an international, interdisciplinary forum of scholars and is currently on the editorial board of an on-line dictionary of trans-Atlantic cultural and intellectual history. From time to time, he has published poems and short narrative pieces in several small journals.

Noah Charney is a professor of art history and best-selling author, most recently, of The Art of Forgery: The Minds, Motives and Methods of the Master Forgers (New York: Phaidon, 2015).

More information is available on his web pages:ándida-smith


Norman Dubie

Peter Frank

Norman Dubie is the author of twenty-four books, including most recently The Quotations of Boone, The Volcano (2010), The Insomniac Liar of Topo (2007), Ordinary Mornings of a Coliseum (2004), and The Mercy Seat: Collected & New Poems 1967-2001 (2001), all from Copper Canyon Press, as well as a collection of aphorisms, The Clouds of Magellan (Recursos de Santa Fe, 1991) and his earlier Selected and New Poems (Norton, 1983), among many other notable collections. He is the recipient of the Griffin Poetry Prize 2016, the Bess Hokin Award from the Modern Poetry Association, the PEN USA prize for best poetry collection in 2002, and fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Tempe, Arizona.

Peter Frank is a poet and an independent art critic, curator and editor. He was born in 1950 in New York, where he wrote art criticism for The Village Voice and The SoHo Weekly News, and moved to Los Angeles in 1988. He contributes articles to numerous publications and has written many catalogues for one-person and group exhibitions. Frank has also organized numerous theme and survey shows, most notably: 19 Artists – Emergent Americans, the 1981 Exxon National Exhibition mounted at the Guggenheim Museum.


Richard Garcia

Karen Holden

Richard Garcia was born in San Francisco in 1941 and began writing in his teens. After publishing his chapbook, Selected Poems, in 1972, he stopped writing for a number of years until an encouraging letter from Octavio Paz convinced him to continue. In 1978 he published a bilingual book for children, My Aunt Otilia’s Spirits. He earned his MFA degree in creative writing from Warren Wilson College in 1994, during which time his first fulllength collection, The Flying Garcias, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. His book The Other Odyssey (Dream Horse Press, 2014) won the American Poetry Journal Book Award for 2014; The Chair (BOA Editions, 2015) was chosen as the best poetry book of 2015 by the editor of Poetry in an article that appeared on the Literary Hub website; and he won the 2016 award from Press 53, publisher of his book Porridge. His poems have appeared in many journals, including The Georgia Review and Spillway. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, and his work has been published in numerous anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2005. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina, and is a core faculty member in the MFA in Creative Writing Low-Residency program at Antioch University Los Angeles.

Karen Holden is a poet, artist and educator. Published widely, her poetry crosses disciplines. Book of Changes is based on the I Ching and This Music is comprised of poems written to music. Her artists’ book Behind My Own Disguise was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she was commissioned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to write poems about artworks in its collection. She has taught writing at schools, museums, and conferences, served on the faculty of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and was senior writer at the USC Marshall School of Business, among other adventures. She is currently communication and social media specialist for the president of California State University, Long Beach.


Juliën Holterigter

Mindy Kronenberg

Although Juliën Holterigter, whose real name is Henk van Loenen (Hilversum, 1946), had always been artistic and loved drawing from an early age, it was not until the 1990’s that he began to write poetry as well. In addition to his job as an arts teacher he increasingly directed his attention toward writing, painting, and photography. He has published five volumes of poetry under the pseudonym of Julien Holtrigter at the independent Dutch publishing house The Harmonie, Amsterdam.

Mindy Kronenberg is an award-winning writer whose poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in print and online in the US and abroad. Her writing accolades include film, video, theater, and her work has been featured in art installations and recordings. She teaches writing, literature, and arts courses at SUNY Empire State College, and has offered community writing workshops across the U.S. She publishes Book/Mark Quarterly Review, reviews books for Weave Magazine and The Mom Egg, is the author of Dismantling the Playground, a poetry chapbook by Birnham Wood, and co-authored Images of America: Miller Place, a pictorial history published by Arcadia. She is editor of Oberon, an international journal of poetry.

More information can be found on his website:


The Long Table Poets

Daniel Thomas Moran

The Long Table Poets: (left to right) Tim Taylor, Susan Meyers, Susan Finch Stevens, Mary Harris, Barbara Hagerty, Maria Martin, Helen Brandenburg, Katherine Williams.

Daniel Thomas Moran was born in New York City in 1957 and is the author of nine collections of poetry. He has had more than 350 poems published in some twenty different countries. His most recent collection, A Shed for Wood, was published in Ireland by Salmon Poetry in 2014. His book Looking for the Uncertain Past was published in Austria by Poetry Salzburg in 2006. He was Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, New York, from 2005 to 2007, served as vice president of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association, and currently serves on the Board of New Hampshire Humanities Council. He has collaborated with artists on a number of projects including the renowned Password Project, based in Austria. He retired in 2013 as clinical assistant professor from Boston University’s School of Dental Medicine, where in 2011 he delivered the school’s commencement address. He was twice awarded the Outstanding Clinical Faculty Award by the graduating class. His collected papers are being archived by the Department of Special Collections at the Frank Melville Jr. Memorial Library at his alma mater, the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is a master Windsor chair maker; plays harmonica, drums, and piano; and is an occasional vocalist with the Windham Swing Band. He lives with his wife, Karen, on the Warner River in New Hampshire.

Not shown: Debra Conner, Richard Garcia, Debbie Scott, and Joe Zealburg

His work can be found on Facebook and at


Robert C. Morgan

Diederik Oostdijk

Robert C. Morgan is an internationally renowned art critic, curator, artist, writer, art historian, poet, and lecturer. He holds an MFA in Sculpture from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1975), and a PhD in contemporary art history from the School of Education, New York University (1978). He lives in New York, where he lectures at the School of Visual Arts and is an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Fine Arts at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He is professor emeritus in art history from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Diederik Oostdijk is professor of English literature at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In 2000 he received his PhD from Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, with his thesis on the editorship from 1950 to 1955 of the poet Karl Shapiro at Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. Oostdijk is the author of Among the Nightmare Fighters: American Poets of World War II (2011). He has received two Fulbright scholarships and research fellowships from Emory University, Indiana University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Netherlands-America Foundation and was a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences in the first semester of 2014–15.

More information on his work may be found at


Brian Turner

Ben Shai van der Wal

Brian Turner’s latest book, My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir (UK: Jonathan Cape; US: W. W. Norton; The Netherlands: Arbeiderspers, 2014) has been called “Achingly, disturbingly, shockingly beautiful” by Nick Flynn and “a humane, heartbreaking, and expertly crafted work of literature” by Tim O’Brien. His two collections of poetry, Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005; Bloodaxe Books, 2007) and Phantom Noise (Alice James Books, 2010; Bloodaxe Books, October 2010), have also been published in Swedish. His poems have been published and translated into Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, and Swedish. His poetry and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Georgia Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and other journals. Turner was featured in the documentary film Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, which was nominated for an Academy Award. He received a USA Hillcrest Fellowship in Literature, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Poetry, the Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship, a US–Japan Friendship Commission Fellowship, the Poets’ Prize, and a fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. Phantom Noise was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize in England. Turner earned his MFA from the University of Oregon before serving for seven years in the US Army. He was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division (1999–2000). He directs the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College. Brian lives in Orlando, Florida, and is married to the poet Ilyse Kusnetz.

Ben Shai van der Wal is a freelance writer, editor, and literary critic. His master’s thesis, titled “The (T)error of Existence,” is concerned with the relationship between semiotics and existentialism. Having recently received his degree in English literature (cum laude) from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, he is currently scouting research positions in the academic arena.

106 —Plate list NOTE: All works of art reproduced in this book are by Joost de Jonge (Dutch, b. 1975), unless otherwise indicated in captions or notes. The following list identifies the works by Joost de Jonge that are reproduced on these pages.

Page 2 Forms of Feeling XL 2, 2014 Oil on canvas, 71 x 71 in.

Page 33 Impasto Improvisation, 2015 Acrylic and oil on panel, 14 x 8 in.

Page 13 Improvisation XL, 2014 Acrylic and oil on panel, 47 x 47 x 2 in.

Page 35 Studio Essay 8 (July 2016), 2016, showing Red Curve, 2004 Mixed media on paper, 20 x 25 in.

Page 15 Self-portrait of Joost de Jonge with unfinished painting, 2016 Acrylic and oil on canvas, 91 x 55 in.

Page 37 Protrusion, 2014–16 Acrylic and oil on panel, 47 x 47 x 2 in.

Page 17 Danaë (Ode to Vincent van Gogh), 2015 Oil on canvas, 79 x 55 in.

Page 41 Impasto Improvisation, 2015 Acrylic and oil on panel, 14 x 8 in.

Page 19 Impasto Improvisation, 2015 Acrylic and oil on panel, 14

Page 45 Danaë (Ode to Vincent van Gogh) (detail; see page 17), 2015 x

8 in.

Page 21 Paint-Draw (Ode to Cézanne), 2015 Mixed media on paper, 12 x 19 in. Page 23 Mondrian’s Movement, 2015 Oil on paper, 25 x 20 in. Page 25 Abstract Variation C, 2015 Mixed media on paper, 13 x 19 in. Page 27 Impasto Improvisation, 2015 Acrylic and oil on panel, 14 x 8 in. Page 29 Studio Essay 21, showing Chrysalis, no. 2, 2016 Acrylic and oil on paper, 26 x 20 in. Page 31 Impasto Improvisation, 2015 Acrylic and oil on panel, 14 x 8 in.

Page 59 Impasto Improvisation, 2015 Acrylic and oil on panel, 14 x 8 in. Page 61 Impasto Improvisation 5, 2014 Acrylic and oil on canvas, 20 x 14 in. Page 67 Fughetta, 2012 Mixed media on paper, 10 x 10 in. Page 84 Studio Essay, no. 15, showing Bruckner’s 5th, 2011 Acrylic and oil on canvas, 47 x 39 in. Page 85 Studio Essay, no. 9 (July 2016), showing Shell Variation, 2011 Mixed media on paper, 40 x 55 in. Page 86 Studio Essay, no. 11, showing Interlocking Motive (Caught in the Same Gel) B, 2013 Acrylic and oil on board, 28 x 28 in.

107 —About the artist

Joost de Jonge

Page 87 Studio Essay, no. 6 (July 2016), showing Toward that Inner Fire, 2001 Mixed media on paper, 19 x 18 in. Pages 88–89 Studio Essay, no. 15a (detail; see page 92) Page 90 Studio Essay, no. 7 (July 2016), showing Impasto Improvisation, 2015 Acrylic and oil on panel, 14 x 8 in. Page 91 Studio Essay, no. 19, showing Estate of the Dreamer, Acrylic and oil on paper, 20 x 25 in. 2011 Page 92 Studio Essay, no. 15a, showing Bruckner’s 5th, second movement, 2011 Acrylic and oil on canvas, 47 x 39 in. Page 93 Studio Essay, no. 6 (July 2016), showing Composition, 2014–16 Acrylic and oil on panel, 47 x 47 x 2 in. Page 94 Studio Essay, no. 1, showing A Thingy Thing, 2014 Acrylic and oil on canvas, 43 x 28 in. Page 95 Studio Essay, no. 4 (July 2016), showing Ode to My Grandmother, 2016 Acrylic and oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in.

Joost de Jonge is a widely exhibited Dutch artist with work in many international collections. He was educated at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and ’s-Hertogenbosch, and at the Universitat de Barcelona, and earned his BFA in painting with honors at the School of the Arts in Utrecht, followed by an artist residency at the Fundación Cultural Knecht-Drenth in Callosa d’en Sarrià, Spain. In 2008 he began publishing catalogues of his work. In 2011 he initiated the Ekphrasis Project with his book The Ekphrasis Project: Oceanen van Kleur, inviting art critics, art historians, and poets to respond to his paintings with original writings. In 2014 the series became an online publication, and in 2015 he produced his first e-book with its own domain at Painted Poetry & Painterly Poetics—an ekphrastic notion. The collaborative project flourished with contributions from across Europe as well as from important American poets and writers. This is de Jonge’s seventh book. In 2014 the art critic and curator Peter Frank interviewed him for a YouTube video, titled “Joost de Jonge: A Life of Art,” directed by Juri Koll and produced by the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art:

—Joost de Jonge The Convergence Painted Poetry & Painterly Poetics— an ekphrastic notion, volume 2

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