Joseph Slusky, "Take Five," 1997, steel
& acrylic lacquer paint, 21" x 15" x 13".
Joseph Slusky. "Olimbia," 1993, steel &
acrylic lacquer paint, 30" x 27" x 25".
||Poetry brought me to the visual arts, but not via an academic route. In fact, though I was an English major in college, I didn’t take even one art history class during my undergraduate years. That’s partly because English Departments (at least the one I was in) teach literature as anything but art. It’s sociology, history, psychology, philosophy, even an expression of religious ideologies (especially true for English Lit of earlier centuries), but it’s not art. Certainly, this ill-informed point of view not only hurt my understanding and thorough grasp of the reading material I had to negotiate, but as someone whose interest in writing poetry was growing and growing through my undergraduate years, it really restricted my creative output. Just like the material I was studying, I thought the poems I was writing had to “mean” something.
When I moved to Berkeley (from Madison, Wisconsin where I was an undergraduate), all of that changed in an instant. I met Joseph Slusky there, who is a metal sculptor, and a very fine one at that. Joe had a keen interest in and love for poetry; in fact, he had taped the entire section of spoken word recordings from the Berkeley Public Library, and would listen to the likes of Auden, Pound, Dylan Thomas, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Robert Lowell, and countless other poets read their work as he labored away on his sculptures or pen and ink drawings. When he learned that I owned a record of Jack Kerouac reading his poetry to the piano accompaniment of Steve Allen (it was called, “Poetry for the Beat Generation”) he just about burst out of his skin with excitement. Of course, I lent it to him and he taped it and added it to his poetry collection.