Library experiments with creative fusion: art, and the poems it inspired



A new exhibit at the New Haven Public Library showcases the fusion of prints by a New Haven artist and the poems that her artwork inspired.

“Enchanted Vision: An Exhibit of Mutually Inspired Prints and Poems” features the prints of New Haven artist Oi Fortin, and the first public showing of the poetry of Neil Edwards.

Until four years ago, the Thai-born Fortin was working in the corporate sector and had no experience as an artist. After taking a break and subsequently leaving her job after the birth of her daughter, she realized that she wanted to do something different with her life and took a course in printmaking at the Creative Arts Workshop.

“I needed another activity apart from being a mother and nursing my daughter,” she said. “I can express my feelings through paintings. It’s such a sanctuary to go into my studio.”

Fortin works in monoprints — a process in which an artist paints on plexiglass and then transfers the pattern to paper. Her designs use very bright colors, a characteristic she attributes partially to her childhood in Thailand.

“I grew up in a temple area in Thailand where the colors are extremely vibrant. I would just look around and there would be rice paddies of the brightest green,” she said. “I love working in reds, blacks and oranges.”

Fortin said she also gets inspiration from current events and also from her travels, including her work in a refugee camp in Afghanistan.

Fortin and Edwards teamed up after Edwards saw Fortin’s work at the Pirelli Building at the “City-wide Open Studios” exhibit last year.

“One of her paintings I saw was of a ruin in Thailand that I had actually visited,” he said. “I wrote a poem about that painting and Oi was so impressed she decided to show me more.”

Edwards and Oi then decided to put up an exhibit together, with his poetry complementing her prints. All the poetry on display has been written in the last year, from Oct. 2002 up until September of this year.

Edwards has been writing since he was a young boy but has never published his work. This exhibit is the first time he has shown his poems publicly, and he said he hopes he and Oi will publish a book together someday.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Fortin said of her work with Edwards. “It’s very one sided. He says what he sees, which is often something I hadn’t seen, and then he writes about it.”

Fortin said she hopes her work will be shown more widely in the future.

“I have a pipe dream to go to a modern art museum, something like MoMA, or the Guggenheim. But I’ve been accepted as well as rejected so many times; I’ve learned to accept whatever comes,” she said. “Some people like your art and some people don’t, and you can’t let it upset you.”

“Enchanted Vision” will run from Sept. 5 through Sept. 30, Monday through Friday on the lower level of the New Haven Public Library. It is free and open to the public.

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