Exhibition on Poems and Paintings

By Premlata Venkataraman 

e-mail:  ThePatrika@aol.com 

We have seen paintings inspired by mythology and history: Da Vinci’s Last Supper, John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence  and Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings on events from Ramayana and Mahabharata, and Gandhi’s Salt March to Dandi. And add to that the famous Geetopadesham scene by countless artists.

In this tradition, the Post-Gazette inaugurated Verse Envisioned, an art exhibition at the Panza Gallery in Millvale featuring over twenty paintings inspired by the works of contemporary Pittsburgh-based poets. The cornucopia of poems spanned a wide range of themes.

On Saturday, January 16, the inaugural day of the exhibition, artists of Pittsburgh and their patrons were in full attendance, notwithstanding the cold, wintry day. The exhibition ran from January 16 to February 27. Seeing the two art forms side by side complementing and enhancing each other, was a unique experience.

The Man Who Didn't Like Anything

StacyInerst-TheManWhoDidntLikeAnythingThe exhibition was made a reality under the leadership of Greg Victor, the Op-Ed editor of the Post-Gazette, and Rachel Klipa, an independent curator and the Manager of Community Engagement at the Office of Public Art in Pittsburgh.

Welcoming the large crowd at the exhibition, Greg Victor credited Sam Hazo, Poet Laureate of Pennsylvania, who, in 1993 suggested to the Post-Gazette editors to include poetry as a feature in the newspaper. It is now featured on Saturdays. If we did not know the background, it would have been difficult to say whether the poem inspired the painting or the other way around.

Maya Weiss, one of the featured poets, read her poem titled The Man Who Didn’t Like Anything. She is a 10th grader at Shadyside Academy. It was a humorous and somewhat cynical poem juxtaposed with a painting by Stacy Innerst.  See above.

David Joseph Kutcher’s Civics was an emotional and poignant poem in which the poet recollects the supreme sacrifice of his father in WW II as the reason he goes to vote in every election. Alan Byrne’s painting showed a man in front of the voting machine with a group of soldiers (his forebears) behind him looking on. See below:

Civics Poem


Lori Jakiela’s poem on aging and dying, replayed between a woman with her aged father and her young daughter, echoed a sentiment that many of the sandwich generation are feeling.

Bringing together two very different art forms and harmonizing the themes require lots of creativity from everyone involved. So making the exhibition a reality was a treat to lovers of poetry and painting during a chilly day in January in Pittsburgh.

We thank the efforts of the editorial staff at the Post-Gazette, and the poets, painters, curators and gallery  owners for making this happen.

The book containing the paintings and the poems featured in the Post- Gazette is available online at www.store.post-gazette.com.

Note: We thank Mr. Mark Panza of the Panza Gallery in Millvale where the exhibition was held for all the pictures in this story.  ♦

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