The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


"Birdhouse Dialogues" on display at Chatham Art Gallery

The most recent exhibit to open in Chatham’s art gallery in Woodland Hall is the product of a collaborative effort between two different mediums: poetry and art.  The verbal and the visual are brought together in this unique collaboration, showing the synergy that the two different mediums can have when they are combined.

The exhibit features mixed media painting and poetry that both inspired and shaped each other. The poetry, written by Carol Ciavonne, inspired Chatham professor Susana Amundaraín to create several drawings based on phrases found in the poem. The two artists have collaborated before and have a friendship outside of their artistic works.

LaFi Publishers originally published this specific collaboration, Birdhouse Dialogues, as a book in 2013.

Ciavonne’s poem was written as a response to another artist’s work.  Based on an actual birdhouse created by Suellen Einarsen, the poem was written in an effort to respond to the birdhouse itself and to Ciavonne’s life as it was happening in that moment.

Ciavonne sent the poem to her Amundaraín. The two artists had met in college and attended the same studio art classes. Amundaraín began creating her abstract drawings in response to the poem, all without Ciavonne’s knowledge. “I felt they were so wonderful and visual in nature that I was compelled to draw and paint what I was seeing through them,” Amundaraín said of the process. Upon seeing the drawings, Ciavonne was inspired to add even more to the poem.

The newer additions to the poetry were different than the initial piece. They were shorter and less concrete. The birdhouse began to shift and change into the dimensions of the drawings, both the real and the imaginary. The different mediums became the shorthand dialogue between the two friends, the result of their mutual admiration and love for each other’s artwork. “We always talked, but had few opportunities to meet in person; art was our natural bridge across the continent,” Amundaraín says.

Through this process their collaboration was published and current gallery exhibition came to be. The process became more than just one intended to create; it also served to bring the friends closer across their distance.

“It is possible to sense the genuine intention of bonding over time and distance, as we supported each other through setbacks and challenges, or through times of celebration, giving each other’s work a meaning that is both personal and separate from our professional goals,” Amundaraín said.  “I think it honors the value of true long friendships, as much as the value of art to help us live more exhilarating lives. “

In its current exhibition, it is brought from the page to the gallery walls and gives its viewers an entirely different experience. On the wall, the artists continue their exploration of the travel and pathways of an imaginary bird through the abstract paintings. The pieces guide the viewer’s eyes to rest on the drawings that call to mind the plumage of birds and their flights and let the viewer follow the journey of the imaginary bird.

Each piece pulls from Ciavonne’s writing, incorporating her verbal meaning into the visual. Through the artworks, the poems are given the ability to travel and play across the page, serving to both inspire and chase the drawings. Ultimately, “these particular works are the result of a playful combination of friendship, time, and a variety of mediums,” Amundaraín said of the collaborative works.

Birdhouse Dialogues is open from September 24 through October 22 in the Chatham University Gallery, located next to Café Rachel.

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