Jasper says, "Arms be bound with rope and shame"

One thing about Jasper, he gets his hands dirty. Sometimes he comments about the art he sees and hears, but sometimes he’s got his hands down in it, making something. So sometimes we’ll write about what we’re doing.

So: I’ve been cutting up Jesus. Will I go to hell for this?

I’m working with a collaborative of artists –visual artists, filmmakers, performance artists—on a show called Saint Sebastian: From Martyr to Gay Starlet. The one-night-only gallery show will be Sept. 1 at Friday Cottage Artspace downtown (1830 Henderson). (Yes, we know, we know: same night as First Thursday.) The event was planned in conjunction with SC Gay Pride on Sept 3; the idea was to add an art element to the week of events.



The show, conceived by Alejandro García-Lemos and Leslie Pierce, explores the quirky iconography of Saint Sebastian, martyred twice (the first time didn’t work—Saint Irene pulled all the arrows out), his eyes always raised to heaven but his body writhing across this history of Western art in masochistic ecstasy. How does a Christian martyr become a gay icon? What is it about his story, his image, the representations of his martyred body? (The publicity art—which juxtaposes a male pin-up with stained glass, by Leslie Pierce—captures, I think, some of the weirdness of this icon.)

There’s a great image of Sebastian in the Columbia Museum of Art. The Virgin and Child are pure Byzantine, blue and gold and flat, but Sebastian is looking over the Virgin’s shoulder like the Renaissance, naturalistic, a real body, the cords of his strong neck.

The Sebastian show will include visual art, performance art, photography, film, a small souvenir chapbook of original art and poetry, a DJ, a cash bar, and a couple of boys standing around with arrows.

I’ve been writing poems about Sebastian—some about the image and history, some responding to specific works by the other artists. The interactions and collaborations have been rich and rewarding. (Note to self: there should be more interdisciplinary artist collaborations. Such a great way to generate new work.) A film visually responds to a poem which responds to a print, the film incorporating a voiceover of the poem and the imagery of the print. A photo documents a performance art piece which uses a poem which responds to a print (the poem projected—performance art into film—onto a male body).

I was asked to turn a small room into a poetry chapel. I’ve got icons, prayer cards (with a prayer to Sebastian.) Among other things, I wanted some prayer banners. My partner found some huge folk religious art canvases at a local auction—interesting because the artist was painting traditional Christian images, but clearly had a special interest in the textures of men’s bodies—the veins on arms, the carefully painted chest hair on an apostle. (And that carefully draped loincloth across the fisher of men, looking so like a wardrobe malfunction about to happen, the hand of Jesus so carefully positioned there, as if he’s about to rip it off.)

So for the banners I cut up bodies—Jesus, apostles, thieves on crosses. Something wicked and vaguely erotic about it. Disembodied arms. An arrow (real arrow) in the side. Wrists bound with golden rope. A prayer. “Arms be bound with rope and shame.”

-- Ed Madden


Poet Cassie Premo Steele responds to artist Bonnie Goldberg

Last year at one of Mark Plessinger's multi-disciplinary arts events at Frame of Mind, the local writer and poet, Cassie Premo Steele, created poetry in response to some of the paintings by artist, Bonnie Goldberg, whose work you saw in Jasper's last message. At Jasper, we love it when artists come together to inspire one another and share their gifts with each other and those of us who are lucky enough to stand and watch.

Here are two of the poems Cassie wrote for that night. For more of Cassie, please visit her at www.cassiepremosteele.com.


Look this way


Look this way, he said,

as she turned her head

away from him, again.


Her own shoulder

makes a better bed

than his ever did.


It took her years

to believe it, though.

His hard bones,


she thought,

were the best

she could do.


Hand on hip,

she finally said

the words: We're through.


For Goldberg's Drawing 202, ‘nude female standing.’


Your daughter turns from you


Your daughter turns from you daily now,

with the grace of a dancer, and somehow

you learn to accept it, that carpet she weaves

and walks away upon each day.


You knew this day would come, even

before she could walk and you spent

hours drumming on her thighs and

humming lullabies. You were preparing.


You saw flashes of it at two and ten,

her rage slicing the way for her to cut

away from you. You were smug

and thought you knew wisdom.


Becoming daughter to mother, we learn cutting.

As mothers, we learn waving goodbye and staying.

The lesson of grandmothering: Crying. Smiling.

Never saying how hard it is to see them leaving.


For Goldberg's Painting 145, ‘promises.’

Cassie Premo Steele is the author of eight books and teaches writing and everyday creativity at The Co-Creating Studio. Check her out at www.cassiepremosteele.com

A poem by Ed Madden

Dream fathers

By Ed Madden

We drive across the bridge, late at night, a hundred feet or so of clattering boards—

no rail, no rim, just jagged planks, and river flowing slow and brown below. The bridge

collapsed last year. I cross it every night in sleep—sometimes alone, sometimes with him—

but always away from home. The bridge's end may veer; each night I go someplace else,

dark cypress swamp on either side. One night my father is the driver and the car.

He opens up the door of his side, and I climb in. I cross the bridge again,

riding in the body of my father.



Dream fathers and more of Ed’s poetry can be found in his most recent book of poetry, Prodigal: Variations, 2011. Ed is the poetry editor for Jasper Magazine.