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The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Dittmar Gallery explores intersection of art and poetry in ‘Well Versed’

Carlotta Angiolillo/The Daily Northwestern
Students, community members and artists survey the different paintings, sculptures and collages in “Well Versed.”

Students and community members joined artists Tuesday night in Norris University Center to celebrate the opening of the Dittmar Gallery’s latest exhibit, “Well Versed.” 

The exhibit features paintings, sculptures and collages from Evanston artists. Each visual piece is based on a poem chosen by the artist. 

Anupriya Nagarathnam, a second-year Kellogg MBA student, showcased her artwork in the gallery. Titled “Essence Unveiled,” her piece is an acrylic on canvas based on the poem “Essence” by Kai Coggin, depicting an abstract swirl of green leaves and flowers.

“One of my best friends had gifted me a book of poetry for Christmas, and the timing just worked out really well that it was a book of poems, inspired by nature and finding small joys in life,” Nagarathnam said. “There was a poem in there that I really enjoyed, and it spoke to me when I was trying to create something new.” 

Nagarathnam said she had an arm injury while creating her piece, making the process significantly more difficult. 

To finish the piece, she painted for two to three hours per day for about two weeks, she said. 

“I was very determined to finish this piece,” Nagarathnam said. “Because it’s very small detail work, it took a little bit of extra time because I’d have to rest and put it down in between to wait for layers to dry.” 

Local artist Richard Gessert said the idea for his artwork was sparked by a poem about “thương” that he found during his time in Vietnam on a Fulbright grant researching Vietnamese calligraphy.

“That word in Vietnamese can be used for platonic or romantic love,” Gessert said. “I was searching the definitions and then found what I thought were really rich meanings of the word, and I compiled them and then highlighted what I thought was particularly evocative.”

Gessert’s art is a poster with different uses of “thương,” including vernacular Vietnamese uses, Sino-Vietnamese definitions and derived phrases and terms.

As they examined the art, attendees ate from a selection of cheese and crackers, listened to light tunes from Northwestern’s Jazz Club, and conversed with the artists and other community members.  

Communications sophomore and Dittmar Gallery Exhibitions Assistant Maggie Munday Odom said the gallery decided which of the many submissions to display based on two factors: how well the art related to its corresponding poem and the cohesiveness of the piece overall. 

“I really feel like each of the pieces did a unique job of having conversation with poetry and in different ways,” Odom said. “I enjoy how there’s contemporary poetry (and) poetry from long ago and how they all work together to create this conversation.”

The exhibit will be available for viewing in the Dittmar Gallery until March 15. 

Odom said she is excited for people to explore and interact with the literature in the gallery. 

“I think that often at Northwestern and in the world, we get put into bubbles in which we don’t think cross-disciplinarily, and we get caught up in our bubbles,” Odom said. “I think this is a really cool opportunity for folks to hop out of those bubbles and think about art in many different ways.”

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