We Can Work It Out

by Paul Constant
(from The Stranger March 17, 2009)

...In 2005, the Frye decided to unleash the museum's founding collection and allow it to collude and commingle with new artists' works.

The most visible product of that decision was the 2007 exhibition in which Victoria Haven created an altar for Franz von Stuck's 1908 painting Sin. The giant golden construction is gaudy and marvelous, at once canonizing the art and humbling it from its Wagnerian scope. But less obviously, for the last three years, Rebecca Brown has been curating a reading series of pieces that respond to art that belongs to or has visited the Frye. Collected together in Looking Together, the book becomes something similar to Haven's altar: It's a true collaboration between writer and artist.

You'd also be hard-pressed to find a better survey of the array of literary talent available in Seattle, and for the most part the writers are up to the task. Like Haven's altar, Frances McCue deepens Von Stuck's Sin with a five-part poem that could have been written in the same nauseous-green color as the painting itself: "Sin, we learned from M_____/congeals in craft and ornament:/lamp shades of human skin, pricked/with lanyard strings along the seams; or/sketches of those girls, lippy/in the killer's journal. Residue." It's an altar unto itself, glimmering around the work, simultaneously poking at it and petting it.

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