Current Issue / DU Alumni

Artistic alums collaborate on mix of poetry and painting

A selection from "Within/Without," by Kathryn Bass and Kimberly Graham

Writers and painters typically work in isolation. So when poet Kathryn (Stitt) Bass and painter Kimberly Graham decided to collaborate, they had to leave their comfort zones. In the end, their risk brought personal peace and critical acclaim.

Their exhibit “Within/Without: A Conversation in Poetry and Painting” contains 14 painting/poem artworks.

“Each month, we met and brought a new painting and poem,” explains Graham, MA art history ’97. “We discussed our inspiration for our own work. Then, I would take her poem and she would take my painting, and we responded to each other through our art.”

The process was sometimes jarring. “I almost never have overt discussions about what I’m trying to accomplish with my poems,” says Bass, MA English ’92, PhD English ’95.

Through the process, the two discovered that they were asking similar questions and coping with similar concerns.

“We were both exploring the idea of having children while maintaining our art,” Graham says. “We thought about our roles as daughters and wives, and our art helped us to explore those issues.”

But, Bass points out that her poems do not explain Graham’s paintings, or vice versa.

“When Kimberly showed me the painting Milkweed, she talked about the figures as spirits headed home,” Bass explains. “But I became interested in the concept of plenty in the sense that life gives us a certain amount of opportunities. Some pan out, some don’t.

“The milkweed pod is a perfect analogy,” Bass continues. “It produces many more seeds than will ever come to life. My poem was triggered by her painting, not directed by it.”

The two women met in 2002 at a Denver art show where Graham was displaying her work. Bass purchased a painting and, within a few months, the collaboration began.

Recently, the paintings and poems were exhibited at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts in Grand Junction. The exhibit also is showcased in a book of the same title.

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