Crossings/Chassé-Croisé, 2003 (EN)

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Ten poems written in English by Mary Julia Klimenko; thirteen silver-gelatin prints printed in 2003 by Iris Davis from photographs of Mary Julia Klimenko taken by M. Lee Fatherree during the summer of 1980, eleven hand-painted with oil-based pigments by Manuel Neri; and an original printing on printed paper by Manuel Neri. Introduction in French by Paul van Melle; interpretive Introduction in English by Armelle Vanazzi Futterman. Poems and text were translated in Frency by Armelle Vanazzi Futterman. The book was designed by Peter Rutledge Koch; the binding structure was designed and executed by Daniel E Kelm. Published by Editions Koch, Berkeley, California in 2002-03. Edition of 45 with 10 deluxe copies.

Introduction to Crossings/Chasse-Croisse
Introduction written in French by Paul Van Melle, 2002 was translated by Armelle Futterman

Word and Image: A Collaboration

When artists working in different mediums collaborate on a project, they bring into existence — in the event of a successful joining of will and vision — a new creation, an entity that would not exist by the hand of any one of them working alone. Collaboration begins with an agreement among artists to bring to a creative process their individual abilities and qualities — contributions that each acknowledges as being of equal weight or value. With this project, the collaboration of Manuel Neri, sculptor and painter, M. Lee Fatherree, fine-art photographer, Mary Julia Klimenko, poet and model, and Peter Koch, fine-art printer and book designer, has produced a limited-edition artists’ book.

On opening an artists’ book, one must pose two questions: Do the images have a direct relationship with the text? Or have they been selected purely for their beauty and similarity of themes? In the second instance, it is obvious that the text would be the more important part of the book, reflecting precisely the author’s intentions and personality. At best, the images would be only an aesthetic addition supporting the text. But when both artist and photographer are also close to the poet, then conditions are propitious for their creating a cohesive, harmonious, and unified work. And if their relationship includes love, not only of the same things and subjects, but also love for each other, then a kind of perfection is at hand.

This is manifestly the case with Crossings — ten poems that almost exclusively address betrayal, desertion, despair, and solitude, in which the poet Mary Julia Klimenko expresses herself without reserve. Complementing the poems is a series of M. Lee Fatherree’s photographs of Mary Julia made especially for this book project, some of which Manuel Neri has altered by painting.

Mary Julia Klimenko has been writing for more than thirty years; her poetry has been published in a number of literary magazines. She and Neri have produced two other artists’ books: She Said: I Tell You It Doesn’t Hurt Me, a portfolio of eight poems and eight hand-colored etchings published in 1984 by Brighton Press, San Diego; and Territory, twenty-one poems and an original drawing published in 1992, also by Brighton Press. In this new collection, the poet draws from the panorama of her interior landscapes and deep within the secret strata of the subconscious, where all the taboos of our poorly civilized societies still reside.

Manuel Neri has the advantage of knowing Mary Julia as perhaps no one else can, by virtue of thirty years of working with her in the studio, as she poses for his paintings and sculptures, as they converse and listen to poetry and music while ideas take physical form — Neri making sculpture and painting, Mary Julia writing fragments of thoughts that will develop into poems.

M. Lee Fatherree has achieved a distinguished reputation for his photographs of artists and their work, and he has known Mary Julia for more than twenty years. Since 1979, he has made numerous photographs of Neri working in his studio as well as of Neri and Mary Julia working there together. He is also the primary photographer of all of Neri’s paintings and sculptures.

Lee Fatherree first made images of Mary Julia during a series of photo sessions in the summer of 1980. In working with her, he discovered via his lens her energy, vitality, and relationship to her own body — the connection that so inspires Neri. Through his artistic eye and technical skill, Fatherree is able to transform on film the person of Mary Julia into what she conveys by her movements and her presence: the archetypal and unresolvable mystery of woman.

Peter Koch, the renowned San Francisco-based printer and book designer, is the fourth artist in this collaboration. He is the maker of this book, and his vision of it is the catalyst that unifies the work of Klimenko, Fatherree, and Neri. Koch has made the form in which their poems and images abide — a form that both secludes and exposes them, one in which their work reposes, and from which it ventures forth to speak to us.

From such sources come this book’s poetry and art. Fatherree approaches the poet with his own creative vision. His photographs capture not so much a personality as the body of woman, of gesture — a universal language paradoxically inexpressible in words. Neri, starting with the touchstones of these images, reconstructs the poet’s innermost being, with all its richness and unpredictability. He has painted the photographs with large, expressive brush strokes; their surfaces are crossed out, gouged, and almost violated with color.

Mary Julia Klimenko’s poems must be read with a similar feeling of re-creation, as their style, characteristic of all her writing, lends itself admirably to an array of feelings at once strong and delicate. The complicity — no lesser word is adequate — between the poet Mary Julia Klimenko and the painter and sculptor Manuel Neri is of such an order of intensity that in their work, each evokes the other. It has become virtually impossible to separate them, so much do they reflect a unique universe of their own creating.

Paul Van Melle, Belgian writer and journalist, was born in 1926. He has published fourteen books, novels, short stories, essays and poems. He received the Grand Prix de la Toison d’Or in 1992 for his poetic work, the Prix de l’editorial des Amis de la Poésie de Bergerac in 1995 and the Grand Prix de la Critique Poétique de la Société des Poetes Français in 1999.

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