A.S. Brahlek is a visual artist and poet based in South Florida. Her work has been published in Coastlines Literary Magazine and her paintings have been exhibited in many galleries across South Florida, including The Armory Art Center. She holds a B.A. in English from Florida Atlantic University and currently teaches at a special-learning needs school.
In this interview with editor Dariel Suarez, she talks about the intersection of Visual Art and Poetry, about the experience of teaching at a special-learning needs school, and about life in South Florida.
DS: How does your visual artwork influence your poetry and vice versa?
ASB: In many ways I see my poetry and visual art as a continuation of one creative expression.
In my visual art, as well as my poetry I focus on ‘the self-portrait,’ and using as little excess as possible to convey emotion.
DS: What themes are you most interested in exploring in your writing and paintings? Why do you find these themes relevant?
ASB: In my writing I like to focus on ekphrasis, which is poetry that speaks for existing visual art, such as "Son of Man," a poem in reference to Magritte's painting and "To Gabrielle d'Estree," in reference to the painting "Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses sœurs." I believe the poetry should stand on its own, but have a symbiotic relationship with the visual art it references. I have always admired the work of the poet Susan Howe, who has been able to achieve visual art through the visual form of her poetry. Unlike Susan Howe, my work is image based in content, and often lingers in the surreal.
I believe it is important for visual art and poetry to speak in harmony. The poetic and art traditions have been considered sister arts for quite some time, and it is only recently that they have diverged as separate. This being said, I am also very aware that each art form has its strength that the other cannot achieve and that is why I believe it is essential to create both.
Ekphrasis is a great avenue to expose visual art to poets, and vice versa. I do not think that either art form should simply exist separate from the world.
DS: How does living in South Florida influence your personal viewpoints and artistic work?
ASB: South Florida is such a wonderful place to live. Here, there is the mix of the young and old, as well as many different cultures. I grew up among many Latin, Caribbean, and African American cultures, which has added a complexity of voice to my work.
DS: You mentioned in your bio that you teach at a special-learning needs school. How has this experience impacted you as a person and artist?
ASB: I love working with the special-learning needs students. Although I have yet to use the subject matter explicitly in my work, I try to adopt my students’ unique use of syntax and language. I had one of those “ah-ha” moments one day when a student said to me, “He can paint his mouth blood,” I just found this so poetically beautiful.
Through my work, I have found a deeper appreciation for poetry and art. Many of my students are on the Autistic spectrum and struggle to understand the meaning of figurative language, which makes me profoundly sad that they cannot appreciate the poetry the same way I do, but very thankful that I can. Overall, I cannot think of a job that is more fun. I go into work every day excited to see my students and eager to learn from them.
DS: What poets do you enjoy reading the most? What about their writing do you find most attractive?
ASB: I read a wide range of poets, both from the past and the contemporary. I tend to be captivated by poets that take an interest in visual art, like Susan Howe, Michael Palmer, and John Ashbery. These poets offer a unique style, and voice for visual art, while contributing to the poetic tradition.
DS: Where can readers find your work, both written and visual?
ASB: I have both visual and written work published in Coastlines Literary Magazine, and you can find my visual art on display at galleries throughout South Florida. I have had work on display at galleries, such as; Ritter Gallery, One West Gallery, and The Armory Art Center.
DS: Where do you see yourself going as an artist in the coming years? Are you
working on any specific projects at this time?
ASB: I hope to start at an MFA in poetry this Fall. I have been producing the visual portion of a collaborative book-length work with the poet, Ian Rice, while I continue to work on my own visual and poetic works.
As for my future as an artist, I hope to add a unique voice to the poetic and artistic tradition. I have some ideas for conceptual art/poetry that involves a three-dimensional aspect, but for now, that is on the back burner.