The Art of Words With a Poet Turned Painter
BELU by Sally Van Doren Photo courtesy the artist

The Art of Words With a Poet Turned Painter

Sally Van Doren is the Walt Whitman Award-winning author of three volumes of poetry whose carefully chosen words tempt readers toward interpretations, but as an emerging painter, her work is purposefully inscrutable.

“All of my work relates to asemic drawings, that’s the source I draw from,” Van Doren said during a phone interview from her home in Cornwall, Conn.

Free from linguistic context, asemic writing is an avant-garde expression of movement and writing without communication. This illegible form of calligraphy invites us to rethink the relationship between writing and drawing and has been used by artists like Mirtha Dermisache, Brion Gysin, and perhaps most famously by American painter Cy Twombly. Asemic writing in art has often been about capturing the frenetic movement of the pen in hand, leaving the viewer with motion, but not meaning.

For nearly 20 years Van Doren has started her day with this meditation on paper. “I do it every morning, so I now have thousands of pages of this asemic writing. I have always written in journals, but at a certain point I no longer cared if I could read them, and as my handwriting became increasingly sloppy, I began to like that my writing was illegible. Eventually, what I realized is that I was not writing, I was drawing.”

Well-known in the area as a poet, in 2017 Van Doren unveiled her visual work to her New England community at a gallery show held at The Cornwall Library. “That show was the first time I liberated this asemic drawing from the pages of my notebook and put it out into the world. I was nervous about it then, a few years later now I’m much more comfortable and confident in this artistic exploration.”

Since the library showcase, Van Doren’s work has been seen at Cornwall’s annual Rose Algrant art exhibition and at the Longview Farm House Art Gallery in St. Louis, Mo. She enrolled in an undergraduate art program at Hunter College in New York City and now has a dedicated art studio in West Cornwall.

“Having a studio space  has had a big impact on both the work I have been making and my increased visibility as an artist. It has enabled me to have studio visits with artists, collectors, curators, and sometimes lost tourists. I’ve done commissions for private collectors and just finished a large public print commission.”

New works by Van Doren will be unveiled at her upcoming solo show at Furnace - Art on Paper Archive in Falls Village, Conn. Curated by gallerist Kathleen Kucka, paintings in “Tangled Language” combine Van Doren’s signature scrawling with blocky, stenciled letters reminiscent of Cecil Touchon, floating out of order as shapes to be seen, but not read.

“My art is a liberation from the poet’s pressure of being specific with the use of words. In my painting I look for a freedom I don’t have in poetry.”

 

"Tangled Language" opens on Feb. 11 at Furnace - Art on Paper Archive in Falls Village, Conn. Van Doren will also read from her upcoming collection " Sibilance," and will be joined by Cornwall, Conn., author Roxana Robinson reading from the 2020 edition of "Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life." For more information go to www.furnace-artonpaperarchive.com

Latest News

Pirates win Little League championship

The Pirates pose with their trophies beneath the scoreboard after winning the Northwest District 6 Majors 2024 title.

Riley Klein

THOMASTON — The Steve Blass Northwest Connecticut Pirates defeated the Tri-Town Braves 11-1 in the Northwest District 6 Majors League Championship game June 14.

The Pirates, made up of players aged 10 to 12 from the six Region One towns and Norfolk, won by run rule with a 10-point lead after five innings, a fitting end to a dominant season. The 2024 champs did not commit a single error in the game.

Keep ReadingShow less
‘Old Glory’ finds new home for Flag Day

North Canaan Elementary School students applaud as the flag reaches the peak of a new 35-foot flagpole.

Riley Klein

NORTH CANAAN — Students of North Canaan Elementary School gathered at Sam Eddy Field Wednesday, June 12, to witness the stars and stripes hoisted high on a newly installed flagpole.

Celebrated two days early due to school ending, the Flag Day ceremony took place on a pristine spring morning. Patriotism was palpable as the students sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Grand Old Flag” beneath a clear blue sky.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy at The Playhouse

The Sharon Playhouse honors Bobbie Olsen at its annual Spotlight Gala.

Justin Boccitto

The Annual Sharon Playhouse Spotlight Gala cast their theater light upon a worthy honoree this year: Bobbie Olsen, Bobbie Olsen, former president of The Playhouse board and namesake of a well-known location, The Bobbie Olsen Theatre, where residents pack the seats each summer to see the mainstage production plays and musicals. Held on Saturday, June 1, the dinner, cocktail, and musical review at the Olsen Theatre was a celebration of all she has contributed to keeping live theater active and alive in Sharon, even in the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Bobbie Olsen is an incredible supporter of not just this theater, but this community,” said Sharon Playhouse Artistic Director Carl Andress. “She supports the Sharon Playhouse in her leadership, and in the beauty of her person-hood. We’re just so grateful that she’s been in our lives and that she continues to be such a good friend to the theater, Sharon Playhouse, and the theater in general.”

Keep ReadingShow less
NWCT Arts Council: Arts Connected

Matica Circus duo from Harwinton, Connecticut performing at NWCT ARTS Connected event in May

Jennifer Almquist

The Northwest Connecticut Arts Council (NWCT Arts) recently held Arts Connected, their first fundraiser, at the Spring Hill Vineyard in Washington, Connecticut. The evening celebration, a combination of Fellini movie, carnival, and Renaissance Fair, featured an aerialist from Matica Circus in Harwinton, and a flame and flow performer out in the courtyard under the stars. Momix, based in Washington Connecticut, under the artistic direction of founders Moses Pendleton and Cynthia Quinn, also performed. Two dancers wore Jeff Koons-style inflated red dog suits, and Momix dancer Jared Bogart wafted through the space wearing an immense, two-stories tall silk fan. Persian calligraphic painter Alibaba Awrang created a community work of art, while Ameen Mokdad, a violinist from Iraq, made music with Hartford’s Cuatro Puntos Ensemble. A young musician, Adelaide Punkin, performed an original song from the balcony of the vast space, while a giant puppet from Sova Dance and Puppet waltzed through the festivities. DJ Arvolyn Hill from Kent spun the tunes, an African drum circle set the rhythm, and there was abundant food and drink for the gathered crowd.

Keep ReadingShow less