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Friday, June 14, 2024

It’s Ekphrastic! Poetry Meets Visual Arts

The Warren County ARTs Poetry & Art Collaboration Exhibit is on display at the Oxford Municipal Building at 11 Green Street from May 4 through June 29.

The show is a collaboration between the written word in the form of poems or haikus and visual art in 2D or 3D. The artists either chose their poems based on their art or created their artwork based on a chosen poem. The poem could be by others, but the artwork must be original.

This prospectus for the show refers to an art term that is as old as Sophocles and as contemporary as iPhone apps – “ekphrasis.” The oldest meaning of the word ekphrasis relates to describing a thing in vivid detail. Today, it refers to the literary description of a visual piece of art.

Peggy Niece, WCARTS Treasurer, in front of her Poetry & Fine Art entries.  Photo by L.Ward
Peggy Niece, Warren County ARTs treasurer, in front of her Poetry & Art Collaboration Exhibit entries. Photo by L.Ward.
Watercolor painting in gold ornate frame - blues and greens landscape abstract scene . Photo by L.Ward
Pamela Dulaff, Warren County ARTs president, watercolor original. Photo by L.Ward.

Walking into the Oxford municipal building, one is impressed with the works of art which line the lobby, hallways and main meeting room. The visual component of each entry is juxtaposed with its framed poetic muse. The striking aspect of this show is the diversified prospectus interpretation. Applications ranged from watercolor to acrylic, personal poems to others’ published poems, with a variety of mediums: ceramics, woven fabric, appliqué, montage and living sculpture.

Jennifer Saysay and Elke Herdershot, each with entries
Jennifer Saysay and Elke Hendershot, Warren County ARTs. Photo by L. Ward.

Jennifer Saysay, East Hanover resident and new Warren County ARTs member, for one entry chose watercolor and her corresponding haiku poem, “I’d Like to Hike Here.” An onlooker described her pieces as reminiscent of Japanese ukiyo-e style art, evoking a simplified, crisp floating effect. Saysay found out about Warren County ARTs while attending a Propagate Studio event in Stewartsville. She met other members of Warren County ARTs there and decided to join.

Elke Hendershot, fondly titled member-at-large by Warren County ARTs, had a natural entry consisting of a bell jar of moss, handmade ceramic and plants. The fungi are actively changing, juxtaposed with her poem “Ode to Decomposers.” Hendershot is an active member, frequently volunteering to set up the installations, hence her honorable title.

The May program reflected the show through a poetry reading with Jane Ebihara and Elaine Koplow on May 11.  The two poets took turns reading and sharing tips with the group regarding inspiration, journeys and various poetic forms.

WCARTS May Program: Poetry reading with Jane Ebihara & Elaine Koplow. The audience is a full house. Photo by L.Ward
Full house audience at WCARTS May Program: Poetry reading with Jane Ebihara & Elaine Koplow. Photo by L.Ward
Elaine Koplow and Jane Ebihara, Published Poets from WCARTS May Program.  Photo by L.Ward
Elaine Koplow and Jane Ebihara, published poets from the Warren County ARTs May Program. Photo by L.Ward.

Ebihara says when a poet lacks inspiration, sometimes the chosen form can help create a mood. One such example is the villanelle poem, which is 19 lines consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. The result can be song-like, which affects this alert audience, as Ebihara concludes the poem, “with brush of wing and meadow overgrown.”

The room let out a ubiquitous exhale and one “oh yeah.”

Up next at Warren County ARTs:
June Program – Drawing the Human Figure
June 8, 1-3 p.m. For more information, visit

Laura Ward with long pink earrings on
Laura Ward, Contributing Writer

Laura Ward is a gallerist at Infloressense in Belvidere, NJ, whose motto is "poetic synthesis of all the cultural arts." Born in West Orange, NJ, Ward had a unique childhood growing up in a three-story, three-generation, 1895 Victorian where she learned gardening with her great-grandfather, theater with her grandmother, and typing with her mom. Ward spent the last two decades in the architectural design industry, followed by her present pursuit into the entrepreneurial world of art and event planning. Ward lives in the esoteric Delaware Village Historic District and volunteers at Ramsaysburg Historic Homestead. Ward spent 11 years in Florida where she graduated with an English B.A. from FAU and later The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale with an art history minor.