'Mincing Words': Exhibit in San Luis Obispo

‘Pecking,’ a mixed media by Bailey Kears, incorporates a poem about a woodpecker frustrated by attempting to penetrate a plastic tree.
‘Pecking,’ a mixed media by Bailey Kears, incorporates a poem about a woodpecker frustrated by attempting to penetrate a plastic tree. The Tribune

The exhibit at Linnaea’s that combines art with text is nothing new, as Picasso and cohorts explored such methods during their Synthetic Cubism period 100 years ago.

It’s an intriguing concept, however, and a refreshing change. It also ties in with National Literacy Month and the Art of the Book exhibits at local libraries.

Ursula Black’s disturbing painting includes a poem she wrote “All the rest of us took text from someone else,” said Lena Rushing, show organizer.

Although the Dadaist European artistic and literary movement of the early 20th Century used text, its intent was to mock conventional art. That is not this exhibit’s thrust. Rather this exhibit intends to honor the written word, whether it’s literature, lyrics, poetry, or famous quotes.

“Even if you’re not somebody who reads a lot, you’re probably moved by lyrics, or recall a book from childhood,” said Rushing.

Among her many entries are two paintings based on Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem “Jabberwocky.” Rushing’s mother had once painted the imaginary figure from “Through the Looking Glass” on an apartment wall, and later a photo of that work appeared in Rushing’s various childhood homes. Her brother even got a tattoo of the monster.

“It was like this theme that stayed with the whole family,” she said.

Rushing invited artists she was friends with, such as Peg Grady and Julie Frankel, whose works often incorporate written words, then spent a few months noting artists she admired during Art After Dark.

She found some, such as Robert Burridge, on Arts Obispo’s website. She was taken by his work, unaware he is a renowned artist. Burridge submitted a mixed-media collage abstract titled “I Got It on eBay Bay Bee Oh Bay Bee.”

In one of her many entries, Frankel paid homage to a favorite poem about a dog by Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate for the United States, with a collage of two pooches.

Most of the art is two dimensional, but Grady, who contributed a few entries, assembled a hand-scrawled menu, a hollow egg formed of string and a papier mache chicken titled “Mother and Child Reunion.”

A number of new names show up among the exhibitors. Laykin Hamilton, who painted “Like Mother, Like Daughter,” is also one of two artists in the show who are models for Rushing’s work. Hamilton is portrayed in Rushing’s “You Can’t Go Home Again,” along with an excerpt from Thomas Wolfe’s book of the same title.

Black, the poet, is represented as the woman screaming into a paper cup as if it were a microphone in Rushing’s “Word of Mouth.”

Some of the text among the art is obvious. In other paintings it takes on a subtle form, such as in “We Used to Count Kisses,” in which the artist known as Steinzskull creates a background design of those words along with a man and woman’s hands reaching out and barely clasping.

Like all artists, those in the show hope to touch the viewers in imaginative and unimagined ways.

Reach freelance writer Lee Sutter at