We’re making a book

Posted by on Sep 11, 2013

Pfister artist-in-residence Stephanie Barenz is compiling a book that will include the works that she created / creates during her one-year tenure at the hotel and I am excited and honored to contribute copy.

“My intention for the book is to visually record the stories that walked into my studio as well as communicating themes of memory, travel / transience, personal and public histories, folktales and storytelling,” says Barenz. “I wanted it to be more than just a catalog of my work and that is where the idea of collaborating with the Pfister Narrator came from.”

Stephanie says she has always loved collaborations – and so have I. Also, I really adore that Stephanie’s paintings are visual stories. I live for stories and rarely think of them told in a way that doesn’t include words. This is one of the many reasons why Stephanie’s art blows my mind.

Originally we talked about me writing poems or haiku as reactions to the pieces. We also considered lifting excerpts from my blogs and articles. Maybe a mix of all of the above. But one recent Friday night I could not sleep and I was awake for hours in the early morning blue light of my bedroom thinking about the project and finally it dawned on me.

Stephanie’s paintings are stories. I write stories. And so the copy for the book could not simply be my interpretations of her art. No.

The copy must tell stories.

And with that, a new voice sparked from my creative flame and singed the edges of my creative vision. The voice is strong and sweet and hopeful; playful and melancholy and matter of fact.

Stephanie recently told me this:

“It has been really fascinating to see how you have taken the storytelling / narrative theme that I have been using in my work and have created text that is a lot like the artwork itself. It is poetic and descriptive, while leaving a lot up to the imagination and the viewer/readers interpretation. I think it is really beautiful and love the way you have strung the paintings together to tell a whimsical story.”

For three weeks now the collaboration is in full swing. Stephanie tells me the story behind the painting and then I unfurl a retelling.

For example, she told me that her painting, “Omniscient Narrator,” was created before she knew if she had won the Pfister residency or not.

“Everything was kind of intimidating but I felt very excited and thrilled at the possibility of being chosen,” she said. “The omniscient narrator refers to the Pfister narrator position as well – the idea is that the chandelier sees all and knows all. I personified these ornate, opulent objects and to me they appeared much like a chorus from a Greek tragedy.”

I thought about this. I looked at the painting. Then I grabbed two sticks, rubbed them together and sparked this:

She created the chandelier before she knew she had won the competition. She felt its life force and she wanted to capture it like a firefly in a glass jar and give it breath through brushstroke. She knew the chandelier beheld all of the beauty of the lobby: the celebration flowers, the damp rings on napkins, the silk linings in suitcases and the sparky moments when strangers became acquainted. And she knew if she could ignite her canvas with the chandelier’s warm stories and secrets it might flip the switch on a brand new dawn for her as a creator. Please, she thought, please let there be light.

The book, with the working title “The Carriers,” will be available in 2014. I will keep you posted.


Painting "Omniscient Narrator."

Working on “Omniscient Narrator.”


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