However it originated, the phrase “go with the flow” has passed beyond jargon, and into artistic expression. Take, for one example, a song by that title, written and recorded by the rock band Queens of the Stone Age. The song was nominated for Best Hard Rock performance at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards, and has been made into a video by the British visual artists’ collective Shynola. The collective’s video was, in turn, inspired by a mash-up of other artistic works.
“We drew from lots of things we liked, such as the original animated ‘Lord of the Rings,’ Spielberg’s (motion picture) ‘Duel,’ ‘Yellow Submarine,’” Shynola’s Jason Groves has said.
In Telluride, Kristin Kwasniewski, gallery coordinator at the Ah Haa School, was similarly inspired to go with the flow in a mash-up of creative works, only her task was to combine the pieces — and the visions — of two very different artists in a display in Ah Haa’s Daniel Tucker Gallery.
The pressure was on: the resulting exhibit, “Piplantri,” was to be the centerpiece of Ah Haa’s New Year’s Eve Benefit Gala, one of the social (and artistic) highlights of Telluride’s winter season. The results of Kwasniewski’s efforts, “an exhibition of collaborative creativity” featuring poetry by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer and paintings and drawings by Meredith Nemirov, is up until the end of the month.
“Piplantri” takes its name from a story about a village in India, where 111 trees are planted every time a girl child is born. Local residents are responsible for the care and feeding of the trees, which ensures their financial security. The exhibit at Ah Ha benefits both the art school’s financial security and (for that matter) the economic security of the arts in general; a portion of the proceeds raised by the sale of these works goes to the Merwin Conservancy, named for poet WS Merwin, who passed away last year.
“On the last day of the world/I would want to plant a tree,” Merwin wrote. The show in Telluride, with the sound of the spoken word “tree” embedded in the pronunciation of “Piplantri,” and the planting of trees as its inspiration, is also inspired by literal trees Nemirov has drawn and painted — aspen, in her Ridgway backyard, and cypress, from annual forays to teach art in Spain — and the trees that often appear in Trommer’s works, which are so often saturated with images of nature.
“Only because the trees are so empty/that the moon shines so,” one of Trommer’s phrases goes, sandwiched between depictions of Nemirov’s aspens in a display of words-and-imagery against the Daniel Tucker Gallery’s back wall. And, “That aspen tree/this manual on ‘brilliance’/which would you rather read?” There are 111 of Nemirov’s images and Trommer’s short poems on offer here, which can be paired for a total of (as you might guess) $111. More than a third of the works have been sold (Nemirov’s larger pieces, which flank the verbal-and-visual centerpiece, are also for sale).
“When Kris asked me to be the gala artist, I cried. I was really touched,” Nemirov said. She has a long history of teaming up with Trommer and teaching classes, and also of exhibiting at Ah Haa’s depot. “I was the first artist to have a one-person show in this building, and I believe I’ll be the last artist to have a one-person show there,” Nemirov observed (the Ah Haa School will relocate to new quarters in September).
To assemble the big wall of poetry-and-words at the center of this exhibit, Kwasniewski asked both artists to submit 111 pieces. “I pretty much gave them carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, provided that their works were of the same dimensions,” she recalled. “When they both arrived with their pieces, I laid them all out on a clean swath of fabric on the floor, to see how they might all go together. It was very important that this not feel like a patchwork, or broken up. The effect should be as if you’re skipping stones,” hopping from words to images to words as you move along the wall.
“Happily, these works lend themselves to that,” she added. “Meredith’s pieces really do flow from one to the other, and so do Rosemerry’s poems.” Collectively, the works “add up to a larger conversation” that each piece, as Kwasniewski put it, “only hints at.”
“Rosemerry’s words seem to kind of drip from the pages; there’s a movement and flow to her work.” The same is true for Nemirov’s imagery. “I feel like the whole exhibit kind of moves together, the way a forest breathes. It felt really natural. It’s easy to curate a show when you love both artists,” Kwasniewski summed up, “and a joy to hang works that make you happy. What better way to celebrate the darkest time of year than in a room surrounded by poetry and light and trees?”
“Piplantri” is open weekdays through the end of the month.