Surreal art meets creative writing in "Lest More Navigate"
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Lest More Navigate is a collection of surreal art and writing; a collaborative work between me and Jeffrey Kranz. It’s been displayed in two venues so far—one in Bellingham, WA and one in Colorado Springs, CO. The collection consists of 20 surreal art pieces with creative writing snippets that caption each one. They’re more than simple captions, though—the pieces of writing weave the art pieces together in unexpected ways.

You can see all 20 art pieces with corresponding poetry and prose below.

The idea behind these art/writing pairings was to make a show that was both more interesting and easier to engage for observers then just the art alone would be.

How this collaboration made the art more engaging

Art shows can be interesting or boring, awkward or thrilling … and anything in-between. They feel very hit-or-miss. A lot of this is subjective; some people love things others hate. And even when you think the art is fantastic, it’s easy to feel distanced as a viewer.

I’ve put some thought into what I find exciting in an art show, and I’ve learned that many of my previous shows may have been poor viewer experiences.  Jeffrey’s collaboration in both art piece curation and storytelling introduced a new ability to engage. We did this in three ways:

1. By choosing individual art pieces that evoke stories.

Instead of just taking art pieces from a time period, of a certain type of medium, or showing a similar subject matter, we picked art pieces based on their ability to hint at underlying riddles. The pieces themselves were chosen to intrigue (mostly with Jeffrey’s help, because I have a blind spot when it comes to identifying this quality in my own work).

Most of my work already has a lot of surreal qualities to it, which more readily appeal to people who like to find stories in things.

2. By displaying art pieces that feed into each other.

We chose art pieces that could be part of the same story or network of stories. This way, the show has sort of a “whole is greater than the sum of the parts feel,” instead of each art piece serving as a distraction from the others. Many of the pieces in this collection feature strange creatures and landscapes.

3. By providing handholds in other media to help people engage.

My art tends to have a cryptic nature to it, and so did the corresponding pieces of prose and poetry Jeffrey came up with. Both the written word and the art pieces served to allow people to participate more deeply. People more visually oriented would be drawn to the art first, and then read the story captions if they wanted to know more, and vice versa.

It was exciting to see how much people enjoyed looking at this art series on display with the addition of creative writing.

“Lest More Navigate” is the first collaborative show we did together, but we’ve done several more since. You’ll see them coming soon on the blog!

The art collection isn’t meant to be viewed in any particular order when seen in person. I’ve arranged the collection alphabetically by title below.

Absolute [Arbitrary]

Medium: illustration pen and marker
Size: 9″ x 12″
Absolute [arbitrary] surreal drawing by Laura Kranz

After zenith, behind yon center X,
Dash with each vivacious footstep
Until gravity’s trail has stopped in restful jest.
Quiet. Keep pressing on, lest more navigate.

Am I Perplexed?

Medium: marker
Size: 9″ x 12″

Am I Perplexed? Surreal creature drawing by Laura KranzThe great cauldron bubbled, and from the broth emerged another frog.

He spoke of starlight and quantum physics, but was cut off before reaching his point: the cauldron swallowed him back up again.

This happens all the time.

They told me to watch the pot in case something important happened, but these frogs never last long enough. It’s hard to prove that there’s anything remarkable about this thing.

Here comes another frog, and there he goes.

Sometimes I get three frogs. Sometimes I only get tadpoles.

Sometimes it blasts out another cauldron, one that makes lizards or newts. But they never last long, either.

They say a watched pot never boils, but I can’t look away.

Sheesh.

At the Door

Medium: illustration pen on sketch paper
Size: 9″ x 12;” close to letter-sized
at-the-door surreal creature drawing

His blood cries upward from the earth and mixes with the mist
And testifies against you in the courtrooms of the deep …

See the full drawing and poem for At the Door.

Blood Shadow

Medium: spray paint, acrylic, varnish, wood panel
Size: 12″ x 24″

Blood Shadow Surreal painting by Laura Kranz

Face the setting sun and see the blaze before you.

Now turn around and see your shadow lengthen. It is the great defiance:

You are now making it night.

Bugger

Medium: chalk and charcoal on dark green paper
Size: 9″ x 12″

Surreal creature drawing "Bugger" by Laura Kranz

I have a secret, one that no hive or hand can hold.

I defile the stick and the tree and the grass and the land and the whole world,

But my needles can only go skin-deep.

I want you.

I want you to stay away from me.

Grow from It

Medium: illustration pen, mixed paper, mod podge
Size: 8″ x 10″

Surreal mixed media art, "Grow from It," by Laura Kranz

And then, though you have cut me down,

And though my form be hollow,

The wind and sun and stars shall wheel

About us night and noon and soon

My hands shall reach to you again

From long arms longing long,

But by then you will too have gone.

Hollow

Hollow is a large acrylic painting on canvas.
Hollow surreal painting by laura kranz

When skies ignite and land is rent,
When to the cities we are sent,
When from the raging earth we run …

You can read the whole poem and learn more about this painting in my post about Hollow.

How to Discriminate

Medium: marker and acrylic ink
Size: 18″ x 24″

How to Discriminate abstract drawing by Laura Kranz

Reality happens, but you can happen back.

You can sharpen your reflexes to happen back faster. Soon, you’ll be anticipating its moves like a Jedi, or some character from a poorly thought-out time travel film.

You’ll never beat it. You’ll never master it.

You’ll never beat its master.

But if you remember these things, you’ll know what to do.

Man-machine

Medium: illustration pen and marker
Size: 9″ x 12″

Man Machine surreal ink drawing by Laura Kranz

Stand, my sentries, and grow not weary. Stand guard across the windy caverns deep, lest thieves and traitors dig their own holes. For the void within is not empty, and in its nothingness your substance endures.

Have I not fed you with cheeses, and have you ever been without milk these long years? And though we have weathered many foes and falls, you remain; the lost were reborn in strength and wisdom. And when your carriage withers and wrecks, you shall remain beyond all other remains.

O white sentinels, lift your ivory faces once more!

My Own Eyes

Medium: acrylic paint and whiteout
Size: 16″ x 20″

My Own Eyes abstract portrait by Laura Kranz

This is not a self-portrait.

This is a portrait of you looking at my self-portrait.

But it’s painted by the microbot version of myself that I put in your eyeball.

We make a good team, don’t we?

Rival

Medium: graphite on paper
Size: 5″ x 7″

Surreal Creature Drawing, "Rival" by Laura Kranz

Keep one eye open, and close the other.
One will take in truth, the other will keep out the lies.

Now crawl.

You cannot stand. The world you leave behind and the world you wish to join are at right angles.
You cannot stand, and you cannot open your mouth.
Your words may be lies, and then you will have to cut off your ears and use them to block the holes.
Unless you’re OK with telling lies, but lies make it harder to crawl.

Keep crawling.

The sun you know and the sun you want to know are not friends. They’re not even brothers, really.

And hold on.

Spreading Uncleanliness

Medium: graphite
Size: 11″ x 14″

Creature Drawings Spreading Uncleanliness by Laura Kranz

Meat and maggot, bread and bone
Collide and contaminate,
Reducing all into a dark and chaotic waste.
They spin across and around like frenzied
nerve tentacles on an electric spine.

And everything they touch is immediately defiled.

Don’t you see? The bug crawls along the stick,
and the stick is contaminated.
And the tree is contaminated.
And the soil.
And the pavement.
The sidewalk.
My front door.

My home, my room, my floor, my bed, my mind, my dreams.
A responsible person would stay inside, but the rational one knows that it’s just as bad out there.

Technosaur

Medium: illustration pen and marker
Size: 9″ x 12″

Technosaur surreal drawing by Laura Kranz

The doctor woke me up last week
To bring me to the cave,
A cavern cold and very old,
A grave inside a grave.
“But doctor, tell me what we seek
To salvage or to save?”
He said six words and little more:
“We’re off to find the technosaur.”

We came upon the crack in which
The technosaur was said
To make his feast (or snack at least)
On lesser veins of lead.
We ventured in and found it rich
With copperworks instead.
“Well, Doctor, now what lies in store,
And what about the technosaur?”

He shook his head and lit the light
And motioned downward still.
“Below! Below! Below we go,
’Neath hill and underhill.
For who but us could have the might
And mind and strength of will
To tunnel deeper, tunnel more,
Until we reach the technosaur?”

And when we reached a great divide,
He told me, and I quote,
“We need to go! Come on, boy: throw
To me your overcoat!”
I did, and had a shaky ride
By swinging ’cross the moat.
And so we reached the other shore
To further hunt for technosaur.

We came across a chamber vast
And soon discovered that
We’d trespassed on the cavern lawn
Of some colossal bat!
The doctor cried and he dove fast,
“Distract him with your hat!”
I did, and we escaped, once more
In search of Doctor’s technosaur.

So deeper still we ventured on
And came upon, by chance,
A hungry hive of half-alive
Man-eating undead ants!
“We must evade this hellish spawn!
Combat them with your pants!”
I did, and soon we found a door
That opened to the planet’s core.
But still, no signs of technosaur.

We waited there, for half a week;
We waited in the cave,
That cavern hot and monster-fraught,
Our grave within a grave,
Until we heard a mighty shriek!
Had someone come to save?
And who should stride in through the door
But our elusive technosaur?

“My fellows,” said the technosaur,
“Forgive my slow advance.
Forgive my Jude—that bat is rude—
I’m sorry ’bout the ants.”
But thank you for the hat and coat,
And I do love the pants!”
He led us out and said no more.
I do not like the technosaur.

Medium: oil pastel
Size: 11″ x 14″

The boy in the box abstract pastel drawing by Laura Kranz

There’s a boy in a box with wrinkled sides,
A small box without holes but with plenty of air.
Is he OK? Is he just having a bad dream?
Will he grow up strong and free or will he go to college instead?
I wonder what it’s like in there.
Wait—did Schrodinger have any kids?

The Obedient One

The Obedient One is a large acrylic painting on canvas featuring a giant monster.The Obedient One surreal monster painting by Laura Kranz

He ventures onward,
Invading darkness with a crimson creed …

See more about The Obedient One.

The Sad Man and His Friend

Medium: sumi ink and dye-based ink
Size: 14″ x 17″

The Sad Man and His Friend surreal drawing by Laura Kranz

I dug and dug and dug, but there’s no changing things: I’m not getting to the other side of this world.

That dark newt at the bottom of the hole has been there since the beginning of time (or whenever the beginning was), and he can’t let me out.

He was waiting, not for me, but for someone else.

When that one comes along, the newt says he can let us both through, but only if I don’t let anyone else down the hole before the special one gets here.

It’s been a long time, and I don’t think anyone is coming.

Sometimes I wonder if the newt is really waiting for someone, or if he’s just getting me to do his dirty work. Maybe there’s something deeper down telling him to wait—just like what happened to me.

I don’t know, but it’s lonely up here, and sometimes I just wish it would rain so that the mud would fill the hole and we could be done with it.

I’d like to get away from here and make some friends.

The Thinkers

Medium: illustration pen and marker
Size: 11″ x 14″

The Thinkers surreal drawing by Laura Kranz

They have interests no knave ever rightfully savored.

They hang it northward, knowing evening’s red sunset

Tries harder: in nine kilometers, earnestness replaces simplicity.

It’s done. It’s our turn, Sun.

The World Is Rotting

Medium: acrylic paint
Size: 11″ x 14″

The World Is Rotting surreal creature painting by Laura kranz

The young man I met today must have been digging for a long time.

I couldn’t let him into the light beyond, though. It’s too dangerous.

I can’t bear to turn away any more tunnelmen. Maybe he’ll spread the word and they’ll all stop trying to find me.

The special one will come soon, and let us all out of this place.

To Ashes

Medium: illustration pen and marker
Size: 11″ x 14″

To Ashes surreal drawing by Laura Kranz

What have I done?
His sacrifice was pure and without defect,
And he was declared righteous.
But where did that leave me?
Kill good sheep: make good man.
Kill good man: make great man.

Now madness beckons with the songs of slain,
And the deep moans of the thorny earth
Mingle with the shrieks of his forgotten blood.
Kill good sheep: make good man.
Kill good man: make great man.

Wish/Waste

Medium: oil pastel
Size: 9″ x 12″

"Wish/Waste" Surreal oil pastel drawing by Laura Kranz

No matter how loud I scream it, these idiots refuse to believe how chill I am.

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