The content of a dictionary is meant to be concrete and unambiguous.
Not so for artist Jane Birdsall-Lander. She uses the form of a standard dictionary definition as a pathway to abstraction. Her latest collection of work, “Dictionary Poem Project,” includes 14 framed prints, each appearing at first glance to be a dictionary definition of a word or phrase.
Birdsall-Lander starts with the fixed meaning and expands from there, composing poems that reflect back on the meaning of the word. She incorporates found images — a close-up view of a green leaf, prehistoric handprints on a rock surface — into her presentation, adding further ambiguities that interact with the text. The words she examines are fairly ordinarily, like “map,” “book,” and “storm.”
“Dictionary Poem Project” opens at High Low Gallery in Grand Center Friday and can be seen through April 10. Birdsall-Lander gives an artist talk tonight at 7 p.m.
This show is a departure in content, but not theme, for Birdsall-Lander. She’s shown her work in solo shows since 1991, principally working with three-dimensional, sculptural forms. But the two-dimensional prints in her new show continue her practice of integrating written text and visual art.
“I think people forget that the alphabet has a strong visual component, and symbolic and metaphoric meaning,” she said. “I do think about the inner lives of words, and the inner lives of civilization, and the inner lives of us, of people, of society. And the things that are unspoken.”
In this edition of Cut & Paste, we talk with Birdsall-Lander about her mergers of text and visual art, and get a tour of “Dictionary Poem Project” in advance of its opening.
The podcast is sponsored by JEMA Architects, Planners and Designers.
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