Example poetry

Poetry Panel – Isthmus | Madison, Wis.

press release: visible from July 30, 2022 to February 19, 2023

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) presents House, a multimedia exhibition that creates conversations around concepts often linked to the sense of belonging at home – memory, comfort, loss, displacement and recovery. Sometimes described as a state of mind, home occupies both physical and emotional space. Each artist in the exhibition examines how the concept of home can alternate depending on an individual’s perception, simultaneously serving as a place of renewal or rejection, desire or resistance.

Sept. 8, 6-8 p.m.: The Sept. 8 poetry panel will focus on displacement, specifically how artists of color deal with the sense of displacement in Madison. The panel is in tandem with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Home” exhibition, as both focus on how art creates the space to ruminate on one’s experiences. After their performance, they will engage in conversation about the impact their lives have had on their art, as well as how to navigate the thin line of catharsis and trauma dumping. The poetry panel will be held in the museum’s conference room. We invite you to discover the exhibition at the Henry Street Gallery before Thursday’s Panel. Admission to the Panel and galleries is free.

Poets include: Kai Brown (They/Them), a BLK Queer poet and visual artist from Des Moines, Iowa. Brown is a First Wave Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Alpha Stokes (She/She), a junior student from Buffalo, New York, majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, as well as a certificate in Political Economy, Philosophy, and Politics. She is a First Wave Fellow and Peer Mentor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Tatiyana Benson (She/She), a rising junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is studying personal finance. She is the author of the book, Illusion is a hell of a drug; and Zack Lesmeister, (They/Them) a queer Vietnamese-American poet based in St. Louis, Missouri and Madison. They are First Wave Fellows at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying creative writing.

Whether it is voluntary displacement or forced exile, each artist grapples with the impact of displacement and uses their work to provide a space for meditation on the experience. Taking its title from the Warsan Shire poem Housewhich will be shared in the space, the exhibition mixes written art and visual art.

Reminiscent of letters home and quiet reflections in a diary, the interplay between text and image is integral to the process of many featured artists. A central example is the portfolio of Ben Shahn For the love of a single verse (1968), based on the only novel by Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malta Laurids Brigge (1910). Shahn created the portfolio 40 years after reading Rilke’s book. Combining the story of a young man left homeless by the untimely death of his parents and written in the form of a diary, the book speaks of the pursuit of artistic creation that stems from his reflections on the past as well than his engagement with the world he sees around him.

Mona Hatoum Distance measurements (1988), which premiered at the MMoCA in 1989, superimposes the script of letters the artist’s mother wrote to him over filmed video footage. Born to Palestinian parents living in exile in Lebanon, Hatoum also went into exile when war broke out in Lebanon while she was visiting London. She could not return, leaving her communications with her family limited to the intermittent exchange of letters. Tangled up in loss, loneliness and longing, the work becomes a visual celebration of the reunion of mother and daughter, the frankness of their conversations and the intimacy of their relationship.

Also included are loaned works by regional artists Tom Jones and Pao Houa Her. FromJones Strong Relentless Spirits series, Cameryn Collins (2021) combines photography and beadwork as a meditation on Ho-Chunk’s identity and geographic location. Hers untitled (portrait) (2017) series After the fall of Hmong Teb Chaw combines imagined homelands and fabricated realities with examinations of Hmong American history and lived experience. Jones and Her refer to the studio portrait in explorations of identity and affirmation of self, family and home.

The inspiration for the exhibition came from the recent acceptance by the MMoCA of a work by Marc Chagall into its collection. An extraordinary artist who created fantasy worlds inspired by his youth in Vitebsk (in present-day Belarus) and his later life in France, Chagall was also keenly aware of the traumas of displacement. Unable to return to Vitebsk and at one time a refugee in the United States, Chagall worked with a group of artists to establish a portfolio of prints that is still used to raise funds for those displaced by humanitarian crises. The work to see, Chrysanthemums (1949), was created shortly after his return to Paris from New York. When viewed through the lens of her personal story, the freshly cut flowers from the garden on the table with a ghostly form of two women floating in the background suddenly move to reveal a meditation on what makes and creates a sense of belonging – the people it is shared with and small moments of beauty.

The artists featured in House include Lida Abdul, Marc Chagall, Mona Hatoum, Pao Houa Her, Bessie Scottie Iquginnaaq, Tom Jones, Mohammed Omar Khalil, Louise Nevelson, Milton Resnick, Ben Shahn and Warsan Shire.


The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art offers free admission to the gallery. Its vision is to be an organization that fosters the exchange of ideas and creates experiences that will inspire a wide audience; be a nexus for the work of emerging and established regional, national and international artists; serve as a catalyst for the continued development of a vibrant community of artists; and to provide a forum that will encourage people to engage, reflect and make connections between art and the world around them.

The museum includes four galleries and The Shop, a space to share interactive contemporary art experiences and educational workshops with the community.

The museum’s rooftop sculpture garden provides an urban oasis with incredible views that serves as a charming venue for weddings, art previews, and cinema. The MMoCA galleries are open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

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