Sculpture, poetry, bikes and a mid-life crisis

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By Special to the Monitor

Two Los Alamos authors will sign their books from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Otowi Station Bookstore. Darla Graff Thompson will sign “erratic, ecstatic, et cetera,” her collection of poems and images of her sculpture, and Andi Kron will sign “Freewheeling at 50: Tales of a Mid-Life Bicycle Crisis.”

The two shared their thoughts on writing and creativity.

Thompson said her poetry evolved from her sculpture. “I’ve been making sculptures since about 1980. By the mid-to-late 1980s, I would write a poem for each sculpture, often coming up with the words of the poem while my hands were in the clay.

“I would write the poem on a piece of paper and stuff it inside the hollow sculpture when it was done. As more of my mental energy went into chemistry and science, graduate and post-graduate work, the sculptures became more and more a part of keeping my life’s balance.”

She continued, “By the time I met my husband, I had dozens and dozens of sculptures in the house. He had the idea to document the sculptures with photos and he began doing this. It was a natural thing for me to create pages that included both the poem and the photo of the sculpture.”

Thompson explained that the poems and the sculpture are interrelated. “The poems provide depth to the sculpture and lead the viewer in a possible direction of thinking.

“In terms of the artwork, the poems also add another dimension to the clay — the dimension of time. It means that the viewer stands in front of the sculpture long enough to read the poem; it makes my sculptures not just three–dimensional, but four.”

She added, “I love the idea of that. Likewise, the sculptures provide color, dimension and expression to the poems that they wouldn’t otherwise have. You can begin to think of the sculptures as physical extensions of the poems.”

Through the years, the audience for Thompson’s work changed as she worked.

“Because the sculptures and poems were created over the years,” she said, “the only real audience I had in mind was myself. But as the book idea matured, I really liked the thought of sharing my artwork and poetry with people who are in some ways similar to me, who might like the kinds of things I like. The book has many references to science, music, art, literature and history.

“So I think the intended audience includes people with a range of interests, and people who possibly feel aligned to my particular forms of expression.”

The best response to the book has come from strangers.

“Having feedback from strangers means I have communicated some very personal thoughts and emotions using just the pages of a book — which is, after all, the exact reason I always loved books, to feel that connection,” she said. “ Just knowing one ‘stranger’ has connected with this book makes me feel happy about putting it together.”

Kron’s book is the result of a 22-day bicycle journey from Silverton, Colo., to Klamath Falls, Ore., in June 2006.

“After I finished the trip,” she said, “my husband, Charlie, kept telling me to write something about it. He had kept a detailed diary, but he wanted my more emotional response.”

The book began to take shape in Israel, Kron said.

“After my trip, I went to Israel for three weeks as a last-minute decision to volunteer after the Lebanon war. After work at 3:00, it was too hot to go outside, so I stayed in my air-conditioned room and systematically wrote down my memories of the trip. I had taken a copy of Charlie’s log, some maps and my diary, so I could refer back to them.”

After taking a creative writing seminar, Kron took courses in InDesign and Photoshop.

She said, “It was  natural to use my writings about the bicycle trip and all of Charlie’s digital photos to create a booklet as a class project. I had to finish and polish the writing, which took lots of time, and then come up with a design. I finished practically the whole book during that winter semester.”

Like Thompson, Kron thought that her audience would be smaller and more personal than it became.

“My initial goal was to write this for our family’s sake and to share with friends,” she said, “but a friend thought it would have wider appeal, especially for others who might be going through similar life experiences. And he had owned a bike shop once and thought that many people would like to read about bicycle trips.”

For Kron, the process of writing and designing a book has a spiritual component.

“I would like to help others write their own stories,” she said.

“Everyone has a story. Perhaps I can help someone put their words together nicely with old photographs or pictures. We have such a wealth of valuable stories walking around in this town.”