In August, I got to be an Artist-in-Residence at Surel’s Place, an art center in Garden City that hosts artists from around the world.
The center was originally the home of Surel Lee Mitchell, an Idaho-based visual artist who helped create the Surel Mitchell Live-Work-Create District.
The residency was awarded through a grant I received from the Covid Cultural Commissioning Fund.
The project I worked on contains writing about COVID-19 and historical pandemics, like the Second Plague Pandemic. I sought to answer a number of questions, including:
- How do we write about scientific or historical events? What balance between subjectivity and objectivity should be struck?
- What does living through a pandemic feel like? What does it look like when our social systems break down? How do we navigate our own hysteria?
- How do we understand the way different groups (like women) are impacted?
The project uses both primary and secondary sources as inspiration. For example, I used narratives from Boccaccio, Petrarch, Agnolo di Tura, Kathrine Porter, and Abraham a Sancta Clara; archival photographs and newspaper articles; and books like Johannes Nohl’s The Black Death: A Chronicle of the Plague and John Kelly’s The Great Mortality.
One project poem has been purchased by the Boise City Department of Arts & History to be included in the city’s official archive.
You can check out photos of the residency and the art center below.
The two paintings are by Surel Mitchell’s father (Ulek Tosher, also an accomplished artist) and Surel Mitchell.
To hear me read poetry from the residency, check out this video.