Paintings inspire poetry

Sonia Waraich

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Creative writing students respond to campus art exhibits

Inspiration comes in many shapes and sizes. For a few creative writing students, it came from the campus art gallery.

“Some of the best inspiration comes from some specific input from the outside world,” said Jessica Breheny, English professor. “Art is a really good place to get that.”

Eight of Breheny’s students returned to share poems they wrote amid some of the paintings that inspired them at the Carmen Castellano Fine Arts Center Gallery on March 17 for the Women’s History Month Ekphrastic Poetry Open Mic.

“I really like ekphrasis poetry, which is poetry based on art,” said Breheny, who was the first to share a poem.

Despite examining the same paintings, reactions to them varied based on the personal experiences of the observers, which led to the poems covering a broad range of themes.

Mildred Davila Perez, art major, said she was inspired by Johanna Uribes’ “Iridescence,” which captured a portion of a bespectacled woman’s face. Davila Perez said she saw wisdom, knowledge, experience, hard work and tears in the woman’s eyes.

“Every time I see a person with glasses, it brings alive the face of my mother,” Davila Perez read from her poem.

Linda Balcazar, English major, took a fantasy-based approach when writing about Uribes’ “Intense Eyes.”

“I was thinking is it a cat, a wolf, a witch,” Balcazar said. “I said I’ll make make her a witch.”

Sheena Henson, 24, art major, wrote about the works of Sandra Smith-Dugan using themes relevant to her own and many college-aged students’ experiences, such as the darkness that accompanies a good time.

“I knew I could write about that,” Henson said, “just because it’s a lifestyle I know about.”

She said her poem was about the party scene, full of young people who do not express their emotions and are only looking to have fun.

“After everything is done, it’s a reflection of how you feel,” Henson said. “I could just kind of therapeutically let it out.

A similar sentiment was expressed by Eva Floyd, psychology major, who said she was inspired by Smith-Dugan’s paintings “Good Times” and “Single.”

“I thought they were related,” Floyd said. “One had a beginning and the other one finished it, but it was unfinished.”

Floyd said she saw darkness in the painting “Good Times” and wrote about the confusion of youth, when there can often be a fine line between having a good time and a bad time.

“A lot of times a piece of art will pull you in, but you don’t really know why; you just have a reaction,” Breheny said. “The writing process can help you unpack that reaction.”