Spontaneous portraits in writing on a manual typewriter and other poetic experiments
Lately my focus has been on working with a subject to create spontaneous portraits in writing. These are one page poems I type on a manual typewriter on a single page, after meeting a stranger for the first time, and after asking 3-5 questions.
There is a central idea to my work that boils down to to the fact that we all need a witness; we all want to be seen. We are wired to crave connection and validation from each other, and we are also wired to give it. Sometimes social rules and other baggage restrict that process -- especially with those close to us. But two strangers can connect in extraordinary ways given the right conditions.
I'm drawn to portraits in both photography and writing. I'm interested in how much we want to be seen and validated, how deeply someone can open up in just a few questions, and how poetry with its dense and layered language can compress an immense amount of information and insights on a person into a very small space, if you allow your unconscious mind to do much of the processing.
A lot people leave my studio crying. And most subjects end up hugging me before they leave. Those are usually signs that we have gotten somewhere together, artist and subject. We have created a document that is important, is now sacred to the subject, that says something true about the subject that needed or wanted be said.
Q & A WITH KEVIN PECKHAM
Where are you from, originally?
I grew up in a small rural town in the mountains of New Hampshire.
What key events in your life have shaped who you are today?
I spent my late twenties and early thirties as a musician in NYC. Those were some of the most experience-rich days of my life. Every day was filled with unique challenges and unique discoveries, and it was a personal testing ground for me, flexing my writing and performance skills, devoting myself to art, learning to make it centrally important to my life no matter the cost.
What do like about having a studio at the Millworks?
In San Antonio, it isn't always easy to walk down the street and feel like you are surrounded by artists, musicians, and creativity the way it felt in NYC in my earlier days. But that feeling is home. And that feeling exists at the Millworks, where I can be surrounded by artists and creative thinkers -- my people.
PORTRAIT POEMS by kevin peckham
Portrait poems are short spontaneous portraits of a subject in poetry. I write these from my studio at Hausmann Millworks, and sometimes by commission. Strangers come in, I ask a few question. Then I bang out a poem on my 1940s mechanical typewriter.