For Want of a Better Word: Two Writers Turn to Visual Art
Writers as diverse as D.H. Lawrence, Jean Cocteau, and Sylvia Plath have all practiced visual art in addition to writing. Oscillating between the image and the word, what is lost and gained in the process of crossing forms? Two writers who studied fine art at CalArts Bernard Cooper (author of the hilarious and deeply moving new memoir My Avant-Garde Education ) and Benjamin Weissman (author of Headless, which Bret Easton Ellis described as “Brilliant. Wildly inventive, profane and hilarious”) discuss their personal transitions as visual artists to writers now returning to visual art. Poet and essayist Amy Gerstler guides this illustrated discussion among three friends and colleagues who have closely observed each other’s creative shifts and artistic evolution over several decades.
Benjamin Weissman is the author of two books of short fiction, most recently Headless. He is also a visual artist who has recently appeared in half a dozen solo, group and collaborative exhibitions in Los Angeles over the past year, including What Every Showflake Knows in its Heart at the Santa Monica Museum and Men in L.A.: Three Generations of Drawing. His fiction and writing about art, books, skiing, and pornography have appeared in The Believer, McSweeney’s and Artforum, among many others. He teaches in the graduate programs of Otis College of Art and Art Center College of Design.
Bernard Cooper is an author of The Bill From My Father, and the recipient of many awards including the PEN/USA Ernest Hemingway Award, O. Henry Prize, a Guggenheim grant, and a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship in literature. His work has appeared in several anthologies, magazines and literary reviews, including five volumes of The Best American Essays, Harper’s Magazine, The Paris Review, Story, The Los Angeles Times Magazine and The New York Times Magazine. He has contributed to National Public Radio’s This American Life, and Los Angeles Magazine. Mr. Cooper currently teaches in writing programs at Bennington College and USC.
Amy Gerstler is a writer of poetry, nonfiction and journalism. Her book Dearest Creature was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book. Her previous twelve books include Ghost Girl, Medicine, Crown of Weeds (California Book Award), Nerve Storm, and Bitter Angel (National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry.) She was the 2010 guest editor of the yearly anthology Best American Poetry. Her work has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including The New Yorker, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, several volumes of Best American Poetry and The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry. She currently teaches in the MFA Writing Program at the University of California at Irvine. Scattered at Sea, a book of her poems, is forthcoming in 2015.
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