On Saturday afternoon, people gathered at Changing Hands Bookstore near Third Avenue and Camelback Road for “In Sight: A Live Reading & Panel,” where 11 different authors read their personal responses to the artwork of 11 different artists.
The reading was a continuation of the event of “In Sight: An Ekphrastic Collaboration between eye lounge and Four Chambers Press,” a gallery show at eye lounge that paired artists and authors together.
“So, ‘In Sight’ was kind of the…result of a two- or three-month collaboration between the artists and the authors,” said Jake Friedman, founder of Four Chambers Press.
Four Chambers Press hosted the event alongside eye lounge. The two first came together in late 2015, when Cherie Buck-Hutchison and Ashley Czajkowski, two eye lounge artists, had the idea of combining both the artistic and literary communities in the Valley.
“One of our goals at the journal and the press has always been to integrate literature into a larger cultural scene or a larger conversation or discourse,” Friedman said.
Four Chambers had partnered with the Phoenix Art Museum for Art Detour last year in order to bring literature into the artistic community. “In Sight” was a continuation of that collaboration.
“We wanted to do something specifically for Art Detour, but also something that would allow us to work more closely with the artists and the authors,” Friedman said.
Prior to the start of the project, Four Chambers spent four or five weeks talking things over with eye lounge to determine what their vision was and how things would be run, as well as how they would support and cultivate the relationships between the artists and the authors.
Four Chambers then sent out a call out for applications. They received around 28 submissions, and combined both new and established voices with eye lounge artists.
In pairing the artists and authors together, Friedman said they focused on which artists the authors wanted to work with. Some authors chose an artist based off of similarities between their own literary work and the visual artwork, while some could relate to their work, and others simply enjoyed the pieces created by the artist. They worked together from December through February, and some even after that, Friedman said.
Once all of the works were completed, the collaborative pieces were displayed at the eye lounge gallery from March 18 to April 10. The exhibition featured 20 works of art, seven poems, three short stories and one mixed-media work.
When the authors read their literary responses aloud at Changing Hands Bookstore in front of around 30 people, many of them also spoke of their experience working with Four Chambers and Eye Lounge, as well as the artist they were paired with.
Author Reese Conner, who was paired with artist Ellen Nemetz, said he was incredibly overjoyed that he had the opportunity to work with her.
“I took my inspiration from (her artwork) and wrote a poem,” Conner said.
Author R. S. Mengert echoed that sentiment.
“This piece drew me in the same way his whole line drew me in,” said Mengert, speaking of Turner G. Davis, the artist he was paired with, and his artwork.
After the reading, a panel of authors and a few of the artists in attendance opened up the conversation, allowing members of the audience to ask questions regarding the project.
When the panel was asked if it was difficult to break the barrier between literature and art while still remaining true to the artwork, author and Four Chambers Assistant Director Kelsey Pinckney discussed how she was able to successfully collaborate with artist Ashley Czajkowski.
“I think I asked her once, ‘Do you ever know what you’re saying or trying to say when you do this?’” Pinckney said.
The two were then able to connect over the deep sadness they both portray through their work.
All of the authors were able to forge different connections with the artists, and each individual was able to cross over into the world of either art or literary work, which was the ultimate goal of the project.
When discussing what he enjoyed most about putting “In Sight” together, Friedman said there is a very strong and talented community of artists and authors in the valley, and he wanted to prove that those individuals are able to compete with others on a national level.
“I think it is really interesting to see the kind of work that is born of this and to hear about people’s experiences working together that closely with someone,” he said. “And I think that that makes better work and I also think that makes for a stronger, more dynamic arts and culture scene and community here in Phoenix.”
Contact the reporter at Alyssa.Hesketh@asu.edu.
Correction April 19, 2016: A previous version of this story stated Changing Hands Bookstore was in downtown Phoenix. Changing Hands is north of downtown Phoenix, and the story has been updated to reflect its actual location.