with poet Elisabeth Frost


The beginning of this project were apocalyptic prose poems that Elisabeth had in her archive.  At the time she showed them to me, I was making photos of animal bones.  We decided to pair the text with skeletal remains of animals.  In some cases she wrote text for the images and in others I made images for text.  The text is adjacent to the i images.




House of Stone
with poet Elisabeth Frost


House of Stone is a meditation on grief.  We excerpted and altered lines from a long poem Elisabeth wrote to make this book.  I photographed many of the landscapes during a residency we shared at Willapa Bay in Washington State.  Others are from trips I made to the Northwest Territories and the Arctic Circle.




For All We Know / Rose Was All There Was
with poet Elisabeth Frost


What do we discover when we look? How do we know what it is we’re seeing? The questions behind For All We Know / Rose Was All There Was concern visual perception and evidentiary knowledge.

With the intent of creating a series of images about the preservation and scientific interpretation of jelly fish embryos at Friday Harbor Labs, I was taken instead with the beautiful effects of time and color on these microscope slides: the aging and cracked glass, the apparent decay of the medium used to preserve the specimens, and the accidents of line and color that result. We deliberately leave behind the original purpose of these artifacts—that of scientific study—along with their identifying marks, to ask how we experience something as fundamental as light, as transformative as color, as fragile as glass.

In meditating on the luminous images in Rose Was All There Was, Elisabeth embraced the notion of the circle and its color fields to write about vision itself. In For All We Know, the wordless rectangles are visual abstractions. The very absence of text other than the title signals a wide-ranging openness to subjective interpretation.­




What is Left
with poet Elisabeth Frost

What is Left moves between the abstract and the concrete, in both image and text, to explore the charged and disorienting experience of grief. Each panel displays a massive pile of discarded oyster shells, which Dianne photographed while she and Elisabeth shared an artist’s residency at the Willapa Bay AiR in Oysterville, WA. Abstracted into pure line, these mounds of mortal remains become desiccated, lifeless landscapes that bear down on the text, excerpts from Elisabeth’s poem “Gone,” a meditation on dying and grief.



Madonna Comix
with poet Celia Bland

Madonna Comix is based on eleven poems about a metaphoric Madonna. The poems speak to the multiple experiences of being a woman, especially the profound physical and emotional ones of childbearing and child rearing. Our fears, the life-choices we make, the things we take on faith are addressed.

In deciding on an approach to the poems, I kept in mind both the reverent, secular, and (to use Celia’s term) “smart-alecky” nature of the text.  I grew up with “Little Lulu” comic books—a proto-feminist voice in the 1950’s.  I photographed and altered “Little Lulu” comic book pages to use as visual grounds for the pieces. Importantly, these also provided me with a way to introduce a second, down-to-earth voice in response to Celia’s lyric one.

The Christian Madonna is the source of a rich iconography that I reference in the images.   Although the work is no longer recognizable as photography (my working process here is much like that of painting), photographically derived imagery is central. The figures are based on my negative archive. I made additional photographs to use as needed.  I retained and used many of the residual artifacts that result from working with software.



Riding the Crescent
with poet Celia Bland


This project began with photographs I made of the blood from a slaughtered sheep collecting and coagulating in a tub.  I emailed them to Celia and she responded with a story in which race, class and familial relations ride the "Carolina Crescent" on contours of blood.

“Blood is Time” bears the distressed text of a young woman’s misadventures as she misses a train; “Blood Kin,” a climactic moment  in a Day’s Inn; and “Passing Strange”: riding the rails as she attempts to escape a past, pulsing like blood.  The scrawled lines of text mimic the vehicles of the girl’s travels -- corvette, taxi and train – veering along the byways of blood and race and sex. As one reads the fragmented phrases overlaying the bloodscape, one might imagine much-read maps of intersecting routes. Blood remembrance underlies this collaboration of text and image.  Blood, as the saying goes, always tells.



The Lore Which Nature Brings
with poet Elisabeth Frost

In The Lore Which Nature Brings, we explore the imagery of birds' nests to contrast two tropes:  specimen collection (the nests as objects--"Caliology" being the study of birds' nests) and the history of highly subjective poetry about birds and nesting.  In this visual fiction, specimen pages harbor the collected object, which interacts with an over-determined poetic text.

We wanted to debunk cliches about nesting, from maternal instinct to the trope of “joyful” birdsong. Mining Romantic poetry (Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley), Elisabeth’s text is mainly found language, a radical “pruning” of famous poems about birds, birdsong, and birth.

Our title comes from Wordsworth’s “The Tables Turned,” which avers, “Sweet is the lore which Nature brings,” and decries the “meddling intellect” (“we murder to dissect,” he states). Wordsworth embraces direct emotional experience—and yet paradoxically writes a poem about it. That paradoxical artistic act is an analog for our project.



with poet Elisabeth Frost


In our first collaboration for The Poetic Dialogue Project, we alluded to the conventions of specimen collection and preservation for scientific study that have occupied me for many years in my work.  This dovetailed with Elisabeth's interest in importing specialized language into lyric poetry.  We hoped to bridge scientific and lyric ways of knowing.

The photographed sheets of paper (front and back in each diptych) ‘impersonate’ the specimen paper used in herbariums, with stains and imperfections. For the imagery I used photographs of spider webs, scanned drawings, penciled notations, red-bordered labels, and inked text. Elisabeth used Latin terminology to reference descriptive taxonomy, including genus, species, and measurements.

Arachne was our first project to explore text and image as integral to one another. Handwriting appears as scientific notation and poetic phrase, just as the web is both a visual and a glyphic trace. Silk thread appears in the ‘ballooning’ that launches spiderlings into new habitats [0001], in the web’s role in capturing prey [0003] and in doubling as food [0004]. Finally, we retell the myth of Arachne (in 0005), whose acts of creation our work also honors.