June 24, 2011 - Ruth Schowalter - aka Hallelujah Truth - sent me this stunning, wonderfully colorful piece that is a fine representation of her very distinctive style.
Ruth is a native of the southern United States. I remember her earlier work, some of it I think of as truly groundbreaking, which was done at a time when concrete poetry was evolving into something else, which we know best today as visual poetry - vispo. It's fascinating to me to see how an individual coming out of a cultural crucible of emerging L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, dispersing Fluxus (they were with us too), and the seeming triumph of critical theory has grown and changed. And, yes, Ruth has definitely been in the network before. She certainly transcended the debris of the endless poetry wars.
The particulars of Ruth Schowalter's evolution as an artist are unknown to me. My immediate response to this mail-art, other than finding complete joy in it, is to note an affinity to folk art, African-American culture, and a Caribbean influence, all of which definitely have a presence on the U.S. Gulf Coast. As a landmark to identify this, think of the amazing cultural mix in New Orleans, Louisiana. I wonder if I'm even close in naming influences. The southern states are also known as the Bible Belt, an area where you find Christianity expressed through speaking in tongues, snake handlers, and extraordinary visions and raptures - while maybe an undercurrent to the mainstream which has permeated everything, it's part of everyday life. Here's the reverse side:
Ruth Schowalter's work I also think is distinctly in the visionary tradition. While it expresses visionary states and spiritual worlds, it can also be seen as a direct connection to the unconscious. All those twining creatures that make the work so fascinating - a Jungian could go to town finding archetypes and applying dream interpretation. Jackson Pollock's early work, right before be moved into abstract expressionism, is very similar to Ruth's - and Pollock underwent deep Jungian therapy at that time. I definitely see a ghost of visual poetry here; perhaps this IS a kind of visual poetry. The images have a syntactic structure, mirroring phrases and sentences. Text and images mix. Yet this is completely UNLIKE current verbal-visual work. For that reason, it presents some exciting possibilities.
Tremendous, Ruth! I look forward to more exchanges. Ruth has a GREAT blog where you can see more work and get more background info. Hey, Arttower (German) and E (France) are already followers: