Yarmouth library exhibit links art, poetry

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YARMOUTH — In a nod to April as National Poetry Month, Merrill Memorial Library is hosting an exhibit that matches visual art with poetry.

The exhibit could also help residents see the library in a favorable light as they consider an upcoming bond referendum for library renovations.

The exhibit will feature about 100 artists, with 55 drawings, paintings, book art and photographs accompanied by responses from poets. The show title and format is “Ekphrasis,” a Greek word used to describe how one medium of art attempts to relate and respond to another work of art.

Organizers worked for months to bring together the artists and poets, most of whom are from southern Maine. One of the poets hails from as far away as Torino, Italy.

“It’s so exciting,” organizer Ann Mohnkern said. “The quality of the poetry knocked our socks off. They really speak to the imagery before them.”

The library’s art committee designed a submission process to have visual artists submit their work first and have poets respond to work that inspired them with poetry.

The exhibit, which opens Friday and will run through June 1, spans the entire library, from the kids and teens sections downstairs to the Reading Room and periodical section upstairs.

Although the library has been hosting group shows for at least four years, this exhibit is larger than most, Mohnkern said.

“Using the library as a place to exhibit art is wonderful,” she said, noting that the format removes the pressures of having to sell work for a show to be successful. “What we’re really trying to do is help artists develop their work. It’s not a juried situation.”

All the art in the gallery is new and original, by a range of professional and amateur artists.

“We’ve got some really accomplished artists and some that are almost apologetic about their work,” Mohnkern said.

Cornelia Walworth, another exhibit organizer, said the exhibit is organized in a fashion to appeal to different age groups, with more flamboyant and playful art in the teen and young adult sections of the library. In one of those pieces, a pink, gluttonous humanoid blob with five eyes holds a lollipop while sporting a strange grin. The piece is accompanied by a poem about consumerism.

The library art committee is also self-publishing a book of the art featured in the exhibit, Walworth said. There will be 20 copies available for purchase at the exhibit.

And although the exhibit will be featuring art, Walworth said the committee also hopes to show off the library, which is asking voters in June to approve a $1.5 million bond for upgrades and renovations

“It’s a dual mission. This is a beloved and well-used library and I think this brings more people to it,” Walworth said, noting that the library is an important part of the town- and region-wide art scene. “We’re happy to be part of that effort. We don’t claim to be the rising gallery in Maine. What we want to do is strike a balance to show someone who hasn’t shown their work and also provide space for someone who is already respected. And I think we’ve done that.”

The opening reception for “Ekphrasis” will run from 5:30-8 p.m. Friday, April 12, at the library, 215 Main St., and will feature readings of the exhibited poems.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.

Sidebar Elements

Cornelia Walworth reads from a poem titled “Coming Home to Penobscot,” Sunday, April 7, at Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth. The poem and accompanying art are part of a new exhibit called “Ekphrasis,” which opens Friday, April 12.

Poems accompany visual art along the walls at Merrill Memorial Library for the “Ekphrasis” art exhibit, which opens Friday and runs through June 1.