Artists complete OAC Press print shop’s first project

By Colin Willard, Staff Writer
Posted 8/2/23

BELLE — Three Osage Arts Community (OAC) resident artists recently completed the first project in the new OAC Press print shop.

Poets Jonathan S. Baker, Tony S. Brewer and Snow Mathews, …

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Artists complete OAC Press print shop’s first project


BELLE — Three Osage Arts Community (OAC) resident artists recently completed the first project in the new OAC Press print shop.

Poets Jonathan S. Baker, Tony S. Brewer and Snow Mathews, all of Indiana, spent a week in residence with OAC to complete the collaborative chapbook “Ekphrasis.” The title, from Greek origin, refers to a description of a work of art as a literary exercise. The poets took inspiration from the favorite artworks of other artists.

Mathews carved the cover in the style of ancient Greek pottery.

“It took me like 90 hours to carve,” she said. “It was a bitch-and-a-half, but I’m really proud of how much work we put into this, and I’m really grateful to my co-contributors.”

OAC Executive Director Mark McClane said the artists completed the project on a 19th-century Chandler & Price press that OAC acquired from a print shop that closed in downtown Columbia. It took four trips to the shop to eventually wrangle the forklift needed to load the one-ton press for transport back to Belle.

Baker said previous experiences printing chapbooks had been unsatisfying, so the opportunity to use a press for printing was exciting.

At the end of the week, Barb’s Books featured each of the three poets at a reading on July 22. Each shared poems they had written during their week-long residencies, selections from “Ekphrasis” and previous works.

Baker began with new poems before getting into “Ekphrasis.” His inspiration for the poem “Love Affair” was the surrealist painting “Inventions of the Monsters” by Salvador Dali. The painting depicts several strange figures including a flaming giraffe and women contorted into the shapes of horses.

Another poem, “Idolatry,” took inspiration from the sculpture “Eternal Idol” by Auguste Rodin. The sculpture depicts two nude figures, a man and a woman, in an embrace. It was part of Rodin’s The Gates of Hell series, which itself found inspiration in another work: “Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri.

Brewer read next. He recommended that anyone reading “Ekphrasis” look up the pieces of art that inspired the poems. One of his poems, “Over Your Cities Stars Still Glow,” reflected his thoughts after seeing one of the paintings in the “Sternenfall (Falling Stars)” series by Anselm Kiefer.

“It’s just this epic, massive piece that you really have to get up close to see,” Brewer said about the painting. “I went looking for it online and you really have to zoom in to get an idea of how much detail.”

Brewer also read a poem inspired by the painting “Sacrifice of Isaac” by Baroque artist Caravaggio. The painting depicts the biblical scene when Abraham plans to sacrifice his son before an angel intervenes. Caravaggio made two versions of the painting; the version that now resides in Florence, Italy’s Uffizi Gallery is the one referenced in “Ekphrasis.”

Mathews also shared poems inspired by “Inventions of the Monsters” and “Sacrifice of Isaac” in addition to other published and unpublished original works.

After the featured poetry, McClane thanked the artists for sharing their project. He also shared a new tradition at Barb’s Books.

Recently, OAC purchased a large-format printer and began creating posters for events at the bookstore. Beginning with that evening’s reading, featured readers and performers will sign their posters. OAC will frame the posters and they will decorate the walls of Barb’s Books.

“(They’re) more than just posters that end up on the market in town and get tossed away,” McClane said. “They’re going to start living in this bookstore to celebrate what happens in here.”

The next event at Barb’s Books will be on Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. featuring readings by Caitlin Jones, Donna Featherston and Mack Thorn with an open mic session to follow.