The poet and the painter: A partnership in art

Publication Date

How does a writer choose words for a poem? How does a painter select color and form? What, in effect, informs a work of art?

These are among the questions raised in the new Mandeville Gallery exhibit, “Connections: Exploring the Ties Between Poet Jim McCord and Painter Bruce McColl,” which opened this week and runs through Oct. 28.

The two men – McCord is professor emeritus of English, and McColl, director of the Currier Museum Art Center in Manchester, N.H. – met more than a decade ago at the Vermont Studio Center. They spent hours discussing each other’s work, sparking a friendship that would influence both the form and content of their respective artistic endeavors.

McCord, who retired in the spring after 34 years at Union, is an avid scholar of William Blake who also specialized in Chaucer, poetry, and the relationships between art, literature and history.

He is the author of three books of poems, many of which have as their subject photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, and natural and historical places. He often found inspiration for his own poetry from visual art. McColl’s paintings inspired McCord to examine the intimacy of human interiors spaces.

McColl, on the other hand, had never been directly influenced by a poem before reading the work of McCord, and he was especially taken by Living in a Mason’s House. After noticing the basic elements of poetry, he became more conscious of emphasizing such fundamentals as line and color, and his work became more abstract.

“The pairing of poems and paintings in this exhibition allows the viewer to examine the results of this relationship,” said Marie Costello, Mandeville Gallery interim director.

She noted that throughout the exhibition, gallery goers can access recitations of the poems by members of the Union College community, including Head of Special Collections Ellen Fladger, Political Science Lecturer Thomas Lobe and McCord’s wife, Carol McCord.

As part of the exhibit, McColl with work with students in painting and drawing classes. In addition, a number of campus events are planned at the Nott Memorial. All are open to the public.

Thursday, Sept. 13, 6-7 p.m. – Opening Reception. McCord and McColl will discuss their creative process.

Thursday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m. – Reading Night. Students, faculty and staff will read their own poems.

Thursday, Oct. 18, 1-2 p.m. – Poet's Tour. McCord will discuss his work. Visitors are encouraged to bring their smartphones to hear recordings of his poems while viewing the exhibition.