Celebrating National Poetry month with Jan Owen

CalmSoDeep detail1

Celebrating National Poetry Month by showcasing works at Abecedarian Gallery that present poetic form in an interactive format.

Maine artist and musician Jan Owen works with poetic form; combining words with her own sense of rhythm. Captivated by the gestures found in handwritten letters, she often works with texts written by others. More than marks made on specific surfaces, Owen’s work integrates surface with mark. To this end she often works on translucent materials that are layered, such as in Silence of the Night, Brush Palimpsest or Binary Code.

Jan Owen - Brush Palimpsest

Not only is the material used for these works translucent (Hollytek) it is lightweight and has an ephemeral quality. Whether hanging, as the scroll books do, or presented in bound book form, when these works are on display, the slightest breeze causes a lovely shift in the relationship of the uppermost layer to the partially obscured layers underneath.

Jan also integrates mark with surface by using materials woven back into the surface. For her series of hanging accordion books, she weaves with Tyvek to which she has hand-applied surface colors. Using other paste-paper techniques, this rich surface then holds the words of a variety of poets (one reason I am so taken with these works is that she uses words by poets I resonate with – Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda, Rilke, John Muir, Thoreau and Whitman.) Rather than presenting one poets entire text, she often weaves and layers words from these different sources and presents a new way of interpreting her selections.

A stunning example of this weaving is evident in Sunflower


I love the gestural lines and pattern of hand lettered text which now faces the seductive, shiny beauty of technology. We trust binary code and the web for our communication and interaction with others. The poems included in this book remind us there are things we should do while we are young and not virtually.

Jan Owen - Sunflower, detail

Sunflower, So Calm So Deep and Each Day are hand lettered on paste paper with woven Tyvek; the form a hanging accordion fold book with case.

Each Day

Jan Owen - Each Day

When we’ve hardly begun summer, the days grow shorter. The poems selected for this hanging book are about words and writing in the darkness.

Silence of the Night uses several layers of white and black painted Hollytex to create a sense of layers of silence that Thoreau describes. It includes text by Thoreau, Neruda and Rilke.

Writing on translucent pages of Hollytex with brushes and pens allows a beautiful layers of marks and lines. The words seem permanent and fragile.

Jan Owen - Silence of the Night

Jan’s work was included in Hand Lettered, Transparent/Opaque, the Beautiful Book and will be featured in Transparent/Opaque 2 during summer of 2012. Her works are available at Abecedarian Gallery’s online shop.

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2 comments on “Celebrating National Poetry month with Jan Owen

  1. sonofwalt says:

    Lovely. I’ve never seen anything like this before, but it’s delightful to know there are artists combining mediums like this. Thanks for sharing!

  2. photobrea says:

    I love how she weaves with the Tyvek. It’s an unexpected bit of texture on what would normally be a flat surface. Beautiful.

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