What’s in a WORD?
October 8, 2008 · Updated 1:18 PM
Bainbridge Arts and Crafts artists examine the visual aspects of words in its October show — as does What's Up in its editorial structure.
I never thought it would be so difficult coming up with a batch of words to describe an art show about those very things with which I make my living.
I am a professional wordsmith, after all. A hired geek, of sorts, tasked with finding out what is up in this county, then relaying that information in a cohesive and entertaining manner for you, the reader.
Bainbridge Arts and Crafts examines the visual element of words in its October show — as does What’s Up in its editorial structure.
Usually I can find that groove where the words flow easily from my brain to the keyboard, marching seamlessly down the page like a painter’s colors adorn his canvas. But as I sit and muse on the graphic nature of words through the venue of this month’s Bainbridge Arts and Crafts’ show, my mind drifts elsewhere.
Not for any lack of excitement or intellectual stimulus in the show — it’s an exhibition with so many interesting interpretations that I walked around the two showrooms three or four times just trying to wrap my head around it all. BAC’s artists render everything from the literal to the sarcastic, the poetic to the neon depictions of the visual aesthetic of words, providing plenty of fodder for a journalist who reports on art.
But when I returned from the Gallery to the office to write this piece, I couldn’t stop thinking about What’s Up’s own artist-in-residence who works in the graphic medium of words — our longtime page designer, Bronsyn Foster Springer.
She came up with the idea for and created the rendering of “Word” on the cover of this issue. She’s been doing so, designing the pages of What’s Up for the past five years.
But, due to a recent company restructuring initiated by the changing economy, this will be Springer’s final edition of What’s Up.
She’ll be heading off to the Kitsap News Group’s corporate office to take on a much bigger job, while here, editor Celeste Cornish and I will be sharing the role of page designer.
While it’s incredibly sad to see Springer leave and always exciting to take on a new challenge, it’s fitting and quite ironic that the transition comes at the same time that the BAC artists are examining the graphic element of words. All of it — Springer’s tenure and the show — has definitely given me a much greater appreciation for the visual aspects of the many, many words that surround us.
But emotions aside, now for the show ... .
Webster’s defines “word” as “a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds, or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.”
That same dictionary is full of them. More than 1,500 pages worth of small-typed print details the many different meanings of all these units of language which we use to express ourselves.
Walking into the BAC show, I half expected to find the walls plastered with creatively depicted dictionary pages and Scrabble pieces.
But that notion was dismissed right at the entrance.
There, on a podium, is one of BAC regular Deborah Peek’s crazy contraptions called “Big Mouth.”
It’s a gray and white box with an enormous open mouth on the front, a set of five ears coming out of each side, and the word “HEY,” written in bright yellow, orange and red capital letters, placed in the back of the mouth where you’d find the tonsils.
Like a lot of Peek’s work, its an interactive assemblage.
You can control this guy’s words by rearranging the five different ear pieces to display a different term inside the mouth of the piece.
A few steps away, another of Peek’s Big Mouth assemblages called “I LOVE Words” takes that sentiment even further with an lyrical essay scribed in cursive writing around a horizontal barbershop pole type of machine inside the box. The viewer cranks the machine to read the entire text, which spirals down the cylinder.
“I LOVE WORDS,” the essay begins. “The way they whirl round the brain only to magically spout from the mouth.”
It’s poetry, written by the visual artist.
And while it doesn’t exactly portray the visual significance of words, which the show has set out to do, Peek’s piece does drive home one aspect of the human connection with text.
In the corner behind it, Laurie Lewis and Joan Peter examine the connection between humans and how words look in the arena of advertising. Lewis and Peter are neon artists who, along with their fine art, create various types of signs for businesses. In this show they’ve embellished an old record sleeve with neon, accentuating the title.
The nail the visual significance of words in their artist statement posted on a plaque on the wall.
“What makes a word graphic,” they write — The arrangement of the letters? The style? Or how the word, itself is read?
“It’s all combined,” they say, “matched with the freedom to play with their construction.”
See how the other nearly 20 artists in the show interpreted the theme at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, 151 Winslow Way on Bainbridge, through October. WU