ELEVATED | A Poet’s Debut, Painting Side by Side, and a Disappearing Island
by Leslie Vreeland
04.10.13 - 03:13 pm

Poetry Reading in Ridgway


Erika Moss Gordon’s love of horror films inspired the recent Undead horror-movie retrospective at the Wilkinson. She also programs family film fare Sundays at the Palm. Cat People one week, A Cat in Paris the next. She’s also a poet, and you could say the dichotomy between family and the fearsome that informs her work for the Telluride Film Festival – in which capacity, as Vice President of Filmanthropy, she brings movies to the Palm and the Wilkinson – finds its way into her poetry, too. The poet’s task is to embrace this sort  of tension, and play it out. In “You Cannot Know,” a sense of the unknown gives way to a feeling of wonder.


You cannot know

in the time

right before the darkness


when all things

are almost blue,

when the colors are here,


but not

and there is a soft feeling

in the eye…


you cannot know

and so you don’t


and are left standing


with your blinking eyes


facing into

the center

of things.


Films and poetry are actually not so different, to Gordon’s way of thinking. They are both forms of storytelling, which she is big on. Growing up, “I lived with a bunch of storytellers,” she said. “There was a high value placed on the spoken word. My brother and I used to each give my Dad a topic, and he’d have to weave them into a story.” It’s a highlight of her childhood.


Gordon’s first book of poetry, entitled Of Eyes and Iris, has recently been published. She’ll read from, and sign, her new work at 3 p.m. this Sunday, at Ridgway’s Cimarron Café. The title suggests a lot of what the book is about: the act of looking closely. Both out, at nature, and more importantly, within. “When I sit down to write, I ask, ‘Is this real? Is it true?’ That means I have to show up with my emotions, which also means I’m vulnerable. That’s what people respond to,” Gordon said. “And sometimes the best way to find out what’s real is to interface with nature. I’m so intrigued by the human experience, and how that is informed by the world.”


Gordon reads a lot of poets: Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, Yeats, Rumi. Here is Rumi, in honor of National Poetry Month, also on the subject of the unknown.


No matter how fast you run,

your shadow more than keeps up.

Sometimes it’s in front.

Only full, overhead sun diminishes your shadow.

But that shadow has been serving you!

What hurts you, blesses you.

Darkness is your candle.

Your boundaries are your quest.


Painting Side by Side: George Kernan and Ilene Greene in Ridgway


The painters George Kernan and Ilene Greene are married. And, as their press release for their Ridgway library exhibit, Side by Side, puts it, “They have shared a studio space on their Ridgway property for 18 years.” Note the language. They have shared a studio space. That doesn’t mean they have painted together.


In fact, “We don’t [even] talk to each other,” Kernan said. “We get along really well,” he added. “I think that has a lot to do with it. We respect each other’s privacy.” They do offer suggestions about each other’s work (when asked for) as well as criticisms (seldom taken). And, as artists, they do have some things in common. Though they’re painters now – she works in mixed media, and has worked in watercolors and pastels, while he is an oil painter – for 12 years they travelled all over the U.S., selling raku pottery they made in trade shows. Raku is known for its vibrant colors. “We both love a lot of colors,” Kernan said. Today, their works continue to be filled with brilliant tones – glowing aspen, brilliant red barns (“I’ll paint any barn that I like,” he said), mountain stone that looks almost purple. Part of it is a love of color, but part is also the setting. “When I lived in California, I painted sailboats. When I moved here and first saw the fall colors, I just couldn’t believe it.” He had to paint them.


Ilene is mostly working in mixed media today (acrylics with a resin coating). “I’m coming back to something more textured,” she said. “Something more 3D, like ceramics.” They may not chat a lot when they’re working, but, he said, given how many years they’ve been together, “I’m sure we do; we must influence each other.” The proof may be in one corner of the library – there sits his “October Rockies,” and, adjacent to it, her “Centennial Ranch.” The colors appear nearly identical – as if the two works of art were mirroring each other. “That was completely unintentional,” she said, meaning not only the two works’ resemblance, but the way in which they are situated in the exhibit. This will be the couple’s last public collaboration for a while. “Who knows what’s next?” she said. “It’s always something new, and that’s what keeps it interesting.” It hardly mattered if she was referring to their art, or their partnership: it sounded like both were coming along just fine.


In Telluride: The Island President


The latest documentary from director Jon Shenk, who made The Lost Boys of Sudan, screens at the Wilkinson Library this Wednesday at 6 p.m. The Island President is the story of democratically-elected Mohamed Nasheed, president of the 1,200 low-lying islands known as the Maldives. As sea levels rise due to global warming, his nation is predicted to sink into the ocean (climatologists believe some of the islands could be submerged in as few as 20 years). President concerns Nasheed’s first year in office, and his feverish attempts to call the world’s attention to this problem. Shenk was given extraordinary access to the intelligent, charismatic new president, including a front-row seat during his key role as negotiator at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit. Unfortunately, viewers learn in a postscript to the film, Nasheed was removed from office two years after the movie was completed, and in that time, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have continued to rise. “It is impossible, while watching it, to root against Mr. Nasheed or to believe that he will fail,” wrote critic A.O. Scott in the New York Times. “The hope that infuses this movie makes it all the more upsetting to walk out of the theater and contemplate a looming disaster that the world’s leaders seem unable to prevent.” If you can’t make the library screening, The Island President is also scheduled to be shown on the Rocky Mountain PBS TV series Independent Lens at 9 p.m. on Monday, April 22.

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