Background, virus, race, home truth, mask and triangle are the six words local artist Jane Birdsall-Lander used in her latest edition of the Dictionary Poem Project.
In this project, Birdsall-Lander explores the relationship between language and objects or images by first selecting a word, then writing a poem and illustrating it with an image that “comes out of the language itself” . In previous editions, she has explored human relationships and connections using words such as birthday, new year, card, and storm.
Birdsall-Lander describes word selection as a partnership between itself and the word. “I always collect words. I start by looking at the etymology, and some words just don’t go anywhere, ”she says. “I don’t know if it’s me, or if some words are hiding and later I’ll come back and it will open. It probably has to do with me, but I associate with the word because that’s how I feel. “
Some words just don’t work, like the word change. “I just can’t find the catwalk to take her somewhere. I tried. It’s such a powerful word, and I always have it on my list, ”says Birdsall-Lander. Other words that she will hear in a conversation or read in a book, and she should stop and write them down immediately.
The latest edition of the project, which she calls ‘The Pandemic Edition’ because it was conceived in her forties, “takes the viewer / reader into a deep dive into the root of racism in America, social justice, individual loss and world, the false illusion born of wishful thinking, the case of reciprocal human empathy and the challenge of choice in the face of climate change. This climate threat continues, the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer and the coronavirus weighed heavily on Birdsall-Lander’s mind and prompted his word searches. She picked out some words that she hopes will help others absorb their experiences of the past year and a half.
The reasoning behind selecting certain words seems obvious, but for others it is not so obvious. Birdsall-Lander chose the wishbone, for example, because there is so much wishful thinking in the world right now, but the differences between those wishes can actually cause even more division. “Everyone wants the best in their own way,” she says. “It separates us, but we are all connected. ”
The six prints containing the poems will be part of the Missouri History Museum’s fine art collection, where they will be featured in an exhibit of works made during the pandemic. The pieces are currently in the examination phase and will then pass to the museum’s acquisition committee.