By Ruth Nerhaugen, contributor
Heartland, an art project described as “a unique marriage of words and images inspired by the geography and topography of the Upper Midwest,” will make its debut this weekend at the Anderson Center.
The artwork, Heartland: A Portfolio of Poems & Prints, is part of the center’s 20th anniversary celebration. A framed set of the broadsides will be displayed this weekend in the restored barn.
The public can view the Heartland portfolio from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the opening of a Tower View studio artist exhibition. Members will get their first look Friday evening.
Recently retired Executive Director Robert Hedin described the portfolio as “a rich, evocative suite of broadsides by 31 award-winning American and Canadian poets and printmakers.”
The project was initiated by Hedin, who is a poet, and artist Tom Virgin, a Florida resident who has completed several residencies at Tower View.
Virgin participated in a similar project in Miami in 2008 and recommended the concept to Hedin. Both know many poets and printmakers who have a connection to the Midwest.
“We’ve created a portfolio that articulates in word and image a sense of the Midwest, the Heartland” - not in clichés, but in action, Virgin said.
“If I had to choose a place that is the epitome of Midwest values, it’s the Anderson Center,” he said, “and Robert Hedin is the model of self-effacing but relentless pursuit.”
The concept is particularly appropriate here because of the way it brings together two art forms, organizers said.
“It really epitomizes what the Anderson Center tries to do with their artists - to build collaborative efforts between artists of different mediums,” said Red Wing’s Art Kenyon, one of the participating printmakers.
Hedin selected poets for the project and Virgin worked with him to pick printmakers. A total of 31 award-winning American and Canadian poets and artists joined in creating 16 loose 11-by-15-inch broadsides.
Each poem is accompanied by an original woodcut, intaglio or silk-screen illustration, and signed and numbered by both the poet and the printmaker, with the exception of two artists whose works were selected posthumously.
The broadsides are printed on “white watermarked Rives BFK, French mouldmade paper, and housed in a sage-green, custom-made wrapper constructed of Fabriano Murillo paper, with letterpress-printed photo polymer title and linocut illustration,” officials said.
Richard Stephens, a Twin Cities printmaker and letterpress operator, took charge of assembling the portfolios, and Scott King of Red Dragonfly Press at Tower View worked on printing the covers, title sheet and wrapper.
Although he’s a printmaker, Virgin said he was new to letterpress printing, so he explored that process by working with King while in residence at Tower View over the summer.
Hedin assigned him two poems, “Ole & Lena” by Sally Franson and “Passion” by Louise Erdrich. Virgin spent months “thinking about the look” before completing his illustrations.
Artist Corinne Duchesne from Toronto, Canada, was among the artists invited to participate, even though she is not known as a printmaker.
A year ago, she said, “I got one of those coveted phone calls from Robert Hedin, asking ‘What’re you doing?’” she said.
Duchesne said yes, but felt she had to do research before she could tackle the project. She studied the history of the broadside - a poem and a picture together.
“I was fascinated to learn how they were used to disseminate information, then thrown away - like ‘Wanted’ posters,” before the broadside evolved into an art form.
Hedin assigned her “Effata,” a poem by Michael Waters.
“I wanted a meld between art and word, but not illustrative,” Duchesne said while in residence at Tower View this summer.
She chose to use an image of crows, which appear frequently in her artwork, because to her they reflect the foreboding, emotional aspect of Waters’ words. Her broadside was printed in Hamilton, Canada.
To her, this successful collaboration reflects “the power of the Anderson Center to make great connections.” In addition, she added, “I learned a ton of stuff. It really pushes you out of your comfort zone.”
In Kenyon’s view, “It was a fantastic project to undertake. … It was gratifying to see how artists take the creative process” and apply it to their particular medium to create a cohesive project that brings ideas together.
He was paired with poet Jim Lenfestey, who wrote “Invocation.” It’s a short poem that talks about beams of light that illuminate the forest floor, Kenyon said.
Kenyon also played a role in securing artwork by two late Minnesota printmakers, Malcolm Myers and Herb Fritzke. Myers was Kenyon’s professor at the University of Minnesota, and Fritzke was his master printer. Both were mentors to Kenyon.
Any collection of work by Minnesota printmakers really should include them, he said. Kenyon selected their works to match the assigned poets and printed the broadsides.
Hedin said he chose participants for their expertise and excellence, and for their understanding of the Midwest. “Many of the poets and printmakers offer stunning testimony to the spirit of Middle America.”
One of his poems, “The Old Scandinavians,” is paired with a print by Jim Westergard.
“This is a side of literature that not too many people know about,” Hedin pointed out. “In this day and age, people think about books and movies.
“The portfolio matches images and words and creates a beautiful marriage of the two. … This is the kind of portfolio that will be sought after by readers of fine literature, book collectors, university and college rare book rooms and antiquarian book dealers.”
Heartland is printed in a limited edition of 75 portfolios, of which 44 will be for sale. Eight signed, unnumbered artist proof copies also will be for sale. For information, email email@example.com or write to the Anderson Center.
The portfolio was funded in part by a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council.
From January into February, the collection will be exhibited at the Red Wing Arts Association Depot Gallery, then from February to March it will be at the Loft in Minneapolis.
Masters of words and images meld their crafts in portfolio
Sixteen poets and 15 artists combined efforts to create Heartland: a Portfolio of Poems & Prints inspired by Midwest geography, topography and place. The project is being unveiled this weekend at the Anderson Center.
Aliki Barnstone - Barnstone is a professor at the University of Missouri.
Robert Bly - The first poet laureate of Minnesota, Bly is recipient of the National Book Award for Poetry.
Marianne Boruch - She is poet in residence at Purdue University.
Louise Erdrich - The poet and novelist from Minneapolis received the A.P. Anderson Award in 2013.
Sally Franson - She is a Minneapolis teacher and writer.
Robert Hedin - Anderson Center co-founder, award-winning poet and translator.
Michael Hettich - He received the 2013 Tampa Review Poetry Prize.
Jim Heynen - The St. Paul resident has written books of poetry and prose.
H.L. Hix - A Fulbright Scholar and National Book Award finalist, Hix teaches at the University of Wyoming.
Ted Kooser - Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, Kooser was U.S. poet laureate in 2004-06.
James Lenfestey - The former Twin Cities journalist has published numerous volumes.
Sherod Santos - A Chicago resident, Santos is a poet, playwright, essayist and translator.
Joyce Sutphen - A former Minnesota poet laureate, Sutphen teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.
Connie Wanek - The author of three books of poetry, Wanek lives near Duluth, Minnesota.
Michael Waters - A professor at Drew University, Waters is an editor and author of poetry and translations.
Paul Zimmer - A resident of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, Zimmer founded press poetry series in Georgia and Iowa.
Karen Kunc - Currently professor at the University of Nebraska, Kunc has work in permanent collections worldwide.
Wilbur H. Schilling - He owns Indulgence Press in Minneapolis. His work is seen worldwide.
Cathy Ryan - The recipient of a Jerome Foundation Book Arts Fellowship, Ryan exhibits around the country.
Tom Virgin - A Michigan native living in Florida, Virgin has exhibited internationally.
Jim Westergard - He is an award-winning wood engraver here and in Great Britain.
John McCaffrey - A freelance graphic design specialist and owner of Indulgence Press, McCaffrey teaches in the Twin Cities.
Stacy Elko - An Ohio native, Elko lives and teaches in Texas; her work has been exhibited internationally.
C.B. Sherlock - She founded Seymour Press and Accordion Press with Regula Russelle.
Richard Stephens - He founded supersessionpress and is now in publishing.
Art Kenyon - A Red Wing artist, Kenyon draws and paints in addition to doing printmaking.
Herb Fritzke - A graduate of the U of M, he was master printmaker in the Department of Art.
Jody Williams - A Minneapolis resident, Williams has exhibited worldwide.
Regula Russelle - Educated in Minnesota, Russelle is a founder of Accordion Press and a teacher.
Corinne Duchesne - An artist teaching at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, Duchesne has exhibited across the continent.
Malcolm Myers - He is one of the Midwest’s most significant 20th century printmakers.