Sunday, June 30, 2019

Josephine Sacabo & NOCCA's Ekphrastic Writers

The well known photographer, Josephine Sacabo, has for some time maintained a relationship with the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts writing program. Although words and images are usually considered two totally different forms of expression, the truth is more nuanced. Nothing demonstrates that more than NOCCA's Ekphrastic Writing class taught by Andy Young. If "Ekphrastic Writing" sounds exotic, it is actually an antique Greek rhetorical exercise based on vivid verbal descriptions of a visual artwork. Since Sacabo's studio is conveniently near NOCCA, a local Ekphrastic tradition has evolved that this year resulted in an exhibition at the New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery. Here six NOCCA students, Jillian Chatelain, Katherine Edwards, Maggie Malone, Kristian Palmer, Campbell Smith, and Finn Yekple, displayed their texts along side Sacabo's photographs that inspired them.
If this sounds like another feel good story about an accomplished artist mentoring local high school kids, think again. The writings in this “Shadows In Ink” collaboration reveal a highly developed poetic lucidity. For instance, Finn Yekple's “Obscene Bird of Night” poems are uniquely surreal impressions of Sacabo's Rorschach-like abstractions, themselves partly inspired by Chilean writer José Donoso's novel of the same name. Maggie Malone's fictive journal entries based on Sacabo's ghostly portraits of women, such as “A Geometry of Discord,” top, are verbal vignettes. One involves a mysterious dream about a woman's search for a loved one felt as sensations within her bodily organs. In another, a man is attempting to whistle as he waits for a train. His breath emerges as a cloud of ice and the train does not stop. All six of these these young writers hark to literary history and Sacabo's images, yet all possess a freshness and a singularity of vision that is rare at any age. The result is a collaboration that was illuminating for all concerned. As Sacabo put it, “I am deeply grateful to them for showing me things in my own work I never knew were there.” ~Bookhardt / Shadows In Ink: Images and Texts by Josephine Sacabo and Six New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts Writing Students, Through July 21, New Orleans Photo Alliance, 1111 St. Mary Street, 513-8030.