Last week I hung my very first solo gallery show up at UNT on the Square in Denton, Texas.
All the pieces for the show were done in the five months after my son Owen was born—I made probably 60 or 70 poems, threw out at least half, and kept 30.
Most of the time I post poems to the blog or Instagram right after I make them. This is how I’ve always worked, and the whole reason the project exists—if it weren’t for online feedback and response, I would’ve stopped making these things a long time ago.
But for this show, I thought I’d experiment and work the way I imagine most artists working, toiling in the solitude and secrecy of my office, keeping the work to myself, editing at the very end, and doing the “big reveal” of the work at the show. (My wife, who reads all my stuff before anybody else, didn’t see most of the poems until a week or two before the show.) I was hoping maybe this way of working would teach me something.
What it taught me is that I hate working this way! I completely take for granted what working in the open online does for me — the feedback, the sense of connection, the sense that I’m moving towards something, etc.
Since NewspaperBlackout.com has been such a big part of the project, it was important to me that in addition to my own work this show have a section where people can make their own poems. The gallery has these cool moveable walls that we could play with, so we made the middle and focus point of the show this space with tables piled with newspaper, Sharpies, and binder clips that visitors can use to hang their own poems. Much to my delight, visitors who attended the opening were already taking advantage—it’ll be great to see how those walls fill up over the next couple of weeks.
I also wanted the space to feel really inviting, so we made a sign encouraging people to take photos of their favorite pieces and post them online with the #NewspaperBlackout hashtag:
The third and final section section of the show was a sort of last-minute idea we had — originally, I was going to project a slideshow of images from NewspaperBlackout.com, but I decided instead to project timelapse videos of me working on the show. (Again, the idea was to be inviting, to let visitors in on the process—I wanted the show to make you want to try out the method on your own.)