Deanna Sirlin: Wavelength exhibition at Chastain Art Center, Atlanta, Georgia photo: M. Rooks
Introduction to WAVELENGTH
Color + the Body curated by Opal Moore
by Sharan Strange
When I read that the paintings in WAVELENGTH are concerned with the physics of light and color and their interaction with the body, I was instantly intrigued. (I’ve long been fascinated by quantum theories regarding the properties and behavior of light.) Well, as it turns out, I only thought I’d read the word “physics”—a subsequent search did not uncover the quotation—and it seems that what I had mistaken for a reference to that heady discipline was likely the statement by the artist remarking that: “The process of painting is a physical conversation with my eye and body as they move within the color. . . . My color is influenced by light and by watching and paying attention to light as it moves and changes. The flux and flicker of color engages me.”
But mine was a happy misreading! Being an amateur physics nerd, and enthralled by the glorious mysteries of the photon, I felt impelled to see what Deanna Sirlin had discovered and could show us from her investigations of the electromagnetic phenomena of light as color. The title of the exhibition also broadcasts a sense of both intimacy and community, right? I imagine Deanna offering, Let me get you on this wavelength...can I meet you there?
Can our presences—we wave beings—all particles/particulars and stream and flow—ideas, feelings, gestures, confluences of energies... Can we bring our vibrational frequencies into some kind of resonance in this space...on a brilliant Saturday afternoon, for example...awash in light and color... Can we meet HERE?
So welcome to Deanna Sirlin’s WAVELENGTH, and to “Color + the Body,” which features a suite of ekphrastic poems by several poets who have responded to these luminous works of art with the atomic energies of their words.
* * *
It is my great pleasure to introduce Opal Moore, the curator of today’s poetry readings and conversation between the poets and the artist. Opal, whose prodigious creative and critical works are often a nexus of verbal and visual languages...(and, on a personal note, who is the person responsible for me coming back to the South, and to Atlanta, in the first place.)
Opal Moore is the author of Lot’s Daughters and the text collaborator for Children of Middle Passage, a performance art work with visual artist Arturo Lindsay. More recently she worked with painter Erin Drakeford to produce “Leaving Paradise,” a poem in four paintings, part of Atlanta’s Arts Beacon collaborative.
Opal’s poems and stories appear in various journals and anthologies including Honey, Hush! An Anthology of African American Women’s Humor and Furious Flower: Seeding the Future Of African American Poetry. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Review, The Connecticut Review, Callaloo, the Notre Dame Review, and other journals. She has new poems forthcoming in the anthology, Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic, a “literary gathering” collected by the brilliant (late) Valerie Boyd.
Opal is a Fulbright scholar, Cave Canem fellow, and Bellagio fellow. She serves as poetry editor for The Art Section: An Online Journal of Art and Cultural Commentary and fiction editor for Obsidian: Literature & the Arts in the African Diaspora. And, perhaps most significant of all of her impressive accomplishments, she is a founding member of the Wintergreen Women’s Writers Collective—35 years of Black Women supporting one another’s creative production.
The Poets: Andrea Jurjević, Charleen McClure, Melba J Boyd, Sharrif Simmons, Opal Moore, and E. Hughes
Sharan Strange has published poems and essays in numerous journals and anthologies in the U.S. and abroad—most recently in Black Imagination (curated by Natasha Marin, 2020), Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry (edited by Joanne V. Gabbin and Lauren Alleyne, 2019), and Bearden’s Odyssey: Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden (edited by Kwame Dawes and Matthew Shenoda, 2016). She has also created sonic and visual art-based works for museum and gallery exhibitions in New York, Boston, Oakland, Seattle, and Atlanta, and her collaborations with composers have been performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble, the American Modern Ensemble, and The Dream Unfinished Orchestra, among others. Her honors include the Barnard Women Poets’ Prize (for her poetry collection, Ash), the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, and a 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Writers’ Association. She teaches writing at Spelman College.