More Than Words

‘More Than Words’ is the name of my neighbor’s shop; she has beautiful paper I use in design and writing projects. Paper and words are the materials of English studies and the substance of my surroundings professionally and as a student. These days it feels like I am wrapped in a cocoon of words inscribed on every type of paper. I am writing bothered, reading obsessed and loving every minute.

Reading is a common obsession according to an exhibit of André Kertész’s work titled On Reading. The exhibit is a collection of photographs of people reading. Imagine that; reading is so fascinating it made Kertesz and me into a reading voyeur. I enjoyed this exhibit because it made me laugh then think. I laughed because it reminded me of all the unusual places I read these days; anywhere a sentence or two can be absorbed is now a luxurious reading nook. It also made me think about the number of words I encounter everyday and how they are presented.

Words can be bewitching; just ask Socrates. They are beaded together as phrases, sentences and stories in astonishing ways. Gertrude Stein felt her writing was a form of Cubism. Her friend Picasso described Cubism as the discovery of painting as a language and not a reflection of the outside world; he considered it a collection of signs. I agree with him; but for me understanding the words in collages by Picasso or Braque changes everything about engagement with their art.  My community has a remarkable arts scene where words are full of vitality; Gertrude Stein was born here, it is Andy Warhol’s home town and August Wilson’s family home is just around the corner.

The August Wilson Center for African American Culture is currently presenting Hip Hop History Month. The exhibit is an amazing chronicle of contemporary language. The Andy Warhol Museum is also deeply involved with words; from Jonathan Waters to Nellie McKay’s interpretation of ‘the great American song book.’ Andy Warhol correctly observed so many things; for me his use of repetition, form and words to ensnare the mind and senses are among the most brilliant examples.

These brilliant artists are the fabric of a remarkable, expressive community I participate in every day.  I enjoyed these venues during the last two weeks plus several more; they help form my cocoon of words.  In addition to this incredible community my professional life involves writing and designing materials which convey an impression or idea; although I never know how ideas take flight with readers or viewers. For me, the idea of totally different ideas taking shape for others is the most wonderful thing.

It is also wonderful finding the language of Shakespeare and Coleridge on the pages of Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde.’ “He liveth well that loveth well” and the enchanting language of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ are right there in my ‘Riverside Chaucer’ like beautiful gifts. It inspires me to be a better reader; for me they truly are more than words. (Kertesz) (Hip-Hop History Month) (Nellie McKay at the Andy Warhol Museum)

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