The Ekphrastic Review is pleased as punch to present ekphrastic work from Arrowhead Union High School. Teachers Elizabeth Jorgensen and Terri Carnell love to engage their writing students with ekphrastic lessons and exercises, and we have the very difficult task of choosing a few selections and publishing them.
There were five artworks. Today is part one of five parts, with selections corresponding to each painting.
To all of the students who participated: we applaud your creativity and your courage. You wrote your hearts out! You all took risks, contemplating and interpreting a famous work of art, being brave enough to interpret it in your own way. You let the art inspire your imagination in new ways.
It was an extremely difficult task choosing a few from many for each of the artworks. Congratulations to each and every one of you on your words. We hope this taste of ekphrasis opens for a you a lifetime in relationship to visual art and literature.
Darkness fulfills the future for all of us.
Any heart that beats will one day stop.
Even those who reside in an egg,
Their clock is bound to stop ticking.
He who tries to prevent it still fails.
I see a future of immense success for all of us,
So don't worry about your time running out,
If you do then you will never genuinely live.
Never worry about how much time you have left, because
Every moment you must live.
Very little time is all that remains.
If you worry about how much you have,
Then the crows will get you too soon.
As soon as one realizes that it is a
Blessing to be on this earth, and be able to live a
Life that you aspired to.
Every second will not be wasted.
The future. I tend to think about what will and should happen in the future, which tends to come back and bite me. I like to believe that something will become great and therefore transform the world. One day, I drew what I imagined an egg would release, a beautiful, brawny, black bird that I tend to see often. Whether it is my imagination, in a dream, or even a black crow, the image won’t escape my brain.
The past. Even in the past during my childhood, I often saw the blackbird. I remember on vacation in North Carolina, pelicans surrounded a restaurant we were eating dinner at, yet one blackbird sat on the table next to me. I felt compelled to feel like it was watching me, listening to me. In the back of my childhood imaginative mind, I thought it was a mockingjay from the Hunger Games listening to me, then going to relay it to the person who sent it. I used to tell my father and siblings how I thought it may be a sign, yet my opinion was diminished and accused of being made up.
“Stop making things up.”
“It is only your imagination trying to trick you.”
So, I kept to myself and had my own thoughts that it may be a recurring representation of something unknown.
The first. I believe the first time I saw this bird was after my mom passed. I was in the waiting room outside of her hospital room staring at the wall. I saw a painting of a blackbird sitting atop a home with vibrant colours and a family inside. It seemed like a noisy house, full of life and chaos. Sitting in the room, I was scared for my mom's health, yet this art piece provided me with a form of comfort. Numerous other patients passed by—families weeping—but my mind stayed focused on this image. The nurse came out of my mother’s room into the waiting room. She greeted my siblings, my father, and I after minutes of concern for our mother:
“I am sorry…”
Those three words were all I needed to hear. It felt like my life ended. All different thoughts flooded my brain. There is no way my father can take care of me and my siblings while maintaining a full-time job. She won’t be able to see all I accomplish. How can I continue through life without her? Bam! I felt heavy like an elephant was standing on my chest. I drew my attention back to the painting with my eyes full of tears. Calm. Cool. Collected.
Frequently people think blackbirds are a sign of bad luck like a black cat and a full moon. I kept waiting for something bad to happen when I noticed this creature. Others think blackbirds, like crows, are a symbol of death and honestly, I did too. After seeing a blackbird for the first time when my mom passed and then seeing it later in life, I thought it was the universe trying to remind me of the most difficult point in my life, and I hated the universe for that.
Later on, I noticed that I saw the bird whenever I felt lonely. When I was on vacation and noticed the bird, I was with my father. I missed my siblings because it is our family's most visited and loved destination and I missed spending time with them there. Yet, when I saw this bird I felt comfort. Also, whenever I completed something difficult like high school graduation, this creature was there.
I have had a connection with this bird and have found beauty in it where no one else did. I realized I saw my mother in this blackbird. Through every moment I have felt alone, she was there. For every accomplishment I made, she was there. So, when I look at this ordinary egg, I see a beautiful, brawny, blackbird.
Do you think I am free? I am two dimensional
Details slowly being added, my wings spread wider.
I'm not free.
I look off into the room,
It's gray, boring, like me.
The white egg is the only thing that gives me hope,
It's free, laying there with a brightness that fills the room.
I want to be the egg.
I'm gray, no vibrance.
My feathers identical,
I don't stand out.
The Girl In My Dreams
I swear I’ve seen her somewhere before.
The perfect wavy butter blonde hair,
like the fresh brush stroke on a blank canvas.
I swear I’ve known her from someplace before.
Big ocean blue eyes with a void dotted in the middle,
each with its own sparkle every time she glances over.
I swear I’ve recognized her somewhen before.
With curves that connect gracefully like cursive,
a body that turns every head in her direction.
I swear I’ve heard of her sometime before.
A voice so siren silky smooth it puts any man to sleep,
yearning to listen to her story’s more and more.
I swear I've saw her in dreams once before,
dancing through moonbeams, an unbroken trance.
Her laughter, a melody, echoing a symphony.
I sense a connection, a fateful coincidence.
Birds, mainly crows, have always interested me. One, a hooded crow, came to me in a dream.
In the dream, it came out of an egg I was going to eat. When I woke up, I began painting hastily.
Right when I finished painting the nonliving vision’s right wing, the egg beside me quivered.
Dreading the possibility of it not being the vision I had seen, my curious eyes were glued to it.
I stared at it for a moment, but it laid still.
Surprised, I gently poked it with my paintbrush. Nothing. Then a slight crack.
Death rattled inside me as I let out a dry cough.
Eventually, it ceased, but the bone-white egg remained as still as a corpse.
All this time I had spent painting, had I wasted it? Has the bird died?
The egg began to hatch slowly, and a tiny, furry gray bird with a black cowl of feathers emerged.
He cawed at me, and then the coughing came back, this time more violent. It never stopped.
I sit in my same dusty, dark, dingy room,
day after day and hope my life will change.
I am so lonely, the only piece bringing life to this room
is my bright, beautiful, beaming egg.
I am hopeless, hostile, and heinous,
maybe that’s why no one comes around for my birthday anymore.
My birthday- it was yesterday, and not a single person came to my home.
I am furious, fragile, and faithless.
But this egg, it’s meaningful, magnificent, and magnetic.
I can only imagine the life it will have,
full of constant adventure.
It will move swiftly, soaring and swooping through the woods.
I don’t want to live my life inferior to an egg.
I want to be bright
I want to be magnetic
I want to be the soaring, swooping crow
I don’t want to be stuck in the same dusty, dark, dingy room.
The Black Raven
Clark was always different from his peers. Not a bad different. But just different. He seemed to be able to perceive the unperceivable. Predict the unpredictable. But he could never let anyone know. For his whole life he worked tirelessly trying to win over those around him. He attempted to mold his rigid body to fit the desired look. He wore clothes that were out of reach of his family's economic status, went to events that cost him his monthly wage, and talked as if he had all the money in the world at his disposal. One thing he could not fake however, no matter how hard he tried, was his affinity for art. More specifically painting. On days his creativity struck, Clark would spend hours upon hours at his beloved easel, letting his brush move on its own. All of his paintings consisted of every colour imaginable. From burgundy red, to a carnation yellow, or even a lavender purple. It seemed the only place he felt like himself was propped next to his bedroom window, covered in paint, and letting his mind wander.
There was one particular day he had worked extra hard to not let anyone know he is different. His mind had kept showing him images. Newspapers. Blood. Soldiers. But how was that possible? He thought. The war had ended 20 years prior when he was just a young lad. Clark sat in front of his easel as he did everyday when he came home from being someone else. His hand quivered with excitement as he slowly reached down for his paint brush. Carefully, he dipped his bristles into the milky water. Swirls of excess paint danced around as he swished his brush. As he hovered over the paint pallet, he gazed at all his wonderful colours. Yet, his mind became flooded with one word— Black. His hand was drawn towards the big black blob of darkness, as if he was being pulled by a force. He tried to just dip the tip into the paint but his mind shoved the full head into the black abyss. Quickly, he took that clump of paint and smeared it in the middle of his canvas. His hand moved from side to side, up and down, around and around. His eyes became blindfolded by his mind. He had never lost complete control of his art until that moment.
After what felt like eternity had passed, his eyes were uncovered. Clark stared out of his window, horrified to look at what was drawn. Outside, the sun had seemed to have gone to sleep and the world was quiet. He could hear the muffled barks of his neighbor's dog, the leaves rustling as the branches swayed in the wind, and his own breath wavering. When Clark slowly turned his head, what he had drawn confused him. It was a black raven flying away to the ceiling. Clark had never drawn anything so… boring. His art usually consisted of rainbows and ethereal characters. After staring at it for longer than what he usually did with his finished masterpieces, he opened his window and threw the bird into the alley. As he got ready to go to bed, he could not seem to shake off this blissful black beauty.
The sun slowly woke up yet Clark hadn't fallen asleep. The whole night his mind raced about what this unusual art piece could mean. He finally decided to brush it off and become his unfamiliar mold. He put on his clothes he could not pay for, accepted attendance to an event where he did not belong, and thought of what story he would tell today.
As he strolled down the street, he realized that he forgot to grab his daily newspaper. He always made sure to keep up with the current events in case someone important would ask his opinion. Although that had yet to happen. Once he had reached the newspaper stand, there was utter chaos. Swarms of people crowded around yelling and crying. Confused, Clark pushed his way through the crowd to grab his paper. He snatched the last and trampled out of the crowd. His heart dropped as he read. War with Germany. Again. His legs went limp and his vision cut out. He slowly crumpled to the cobblestone, trying to grasp the world-ending information.
Once Clark had let the news sink in, he hung his head back and stared up at the sky. Up in the trees, there was a black raven. It peered down at Clark, spread his wings and took off.
This piece is very unique to me, it took time, patience, and effort for me to make this special. This piece means much more than just a bird flapping its wings. For you to know the true meaning of this piece I must explain the process of how it was made.
Plop, an egg is dropped into a nest, it is now in the world and begins its journey of life. Although at first, the egg is simple and white, it holds a potential for beauty that can not yet be seen. This is what sparked my interest in painting the piece you have purchased. I saw the egg and thought of its different futures: it could become someone's breakfast, hatch open and fly away, or fall out of the nest and never become anything. I picked up the egg from under a tree in my yard and placed it on a smooth silk cloth covering an old oak table. I then set my blank boring canvas up on the easel and sat on my old kitchen chair.
Staring at the white oval I found myself struggling to imagine what I wanted to create. I sat and sat, and sat, not a single drop of paint to be transferred from the brush to the canvas. Time went by and I decided to take a walk, I threw on my coat and headed towards the front door. Tick, tick, tick, the old grandfather clock next to the front entrance caused a stop in my momentum. I don’t know what it was, but the echoing click of the clock's hand had pierced its way into my head. I slowly spun on my heels and rushed back towards the easel.
Grabbing my palette full of colours, and my thin black brush I raised my hand to the and no longer thought about what would appear on the blank white, instead, I just let my body flow. Not knowing what was going to appear next I found myself peering at the egg and seeing the bird that the piece is now. It began with dark gray and with hints of blue, starting with the head, down towards the torso, then creating the glorious wings that outstretched as if it were in mid-flight. I was like a full-speed train, I couldn’t be stopped, the brush continued to fly from the canvas to the palette picking up more colours and blending it all together to make the final piece that you now possess.
Clack! I laid my brush down on the ruby-red cloth right next to the unhatched egg. Exhausted, I sat back in the chair and noticed I hadn’t taken my coat off from earlier. I glanced over my shoulder and noticed it was no longer light outside. How much time had passed? Hmm, it doesn't matter. I slowly stood up, pain shot through my legs due to the little movement over the last couple of hours. I took a step back from the painting to see it from a little different perspective.
The egg that was lying on the table had turned into its future self. So now that you own this piece. I want you to know that it is much more than a bird, it is the thought that beauty takes time to achieve and that it is not always in plain sight. Just like the egg, which is plain, boring, and white. It had a hidden beauty that won’t show itself for a long time. I hope the story I have told you helps you appreciate this piece of art just a little bit more than you did before. And, I hope that you will also follow the message that this piece of art gives, notice beauty where it doesn’t always show.
My Letter to You
March 22, 1936.
oday was not a good day, just like every other day, but I'm not going to let that bother me too much. I need to start living in the present more and stop thinking about the past; if I can’t change it, I can't stress it. I always think about how I shouldn’t have taken the job that paid more, I should’ve taken the job I would be happier working at. People always told me, “Money can’t buy happiness.” I thought it was just something cliche they said. They were just saying that because they had to. People just wanted to change what I wanted to do with my life. I disagreed because people can buy things that make them happy. I doubted them and their appalling words. But they were right because now I have money, so I should be happy, enjoy my job, and have nothing to complain about…but I am still not happy. If I didn’t paint I’m not sure what I would do with my life other than working and sleeping. Painting is what brings me joy in my life and makes me lose track of time from the troubling world around me. Without painting, I would simply end up sitting like a sad sloth in my bed all evening.
After a long day of work, I enjoy coming home and painting. Painting is therapeutic because it gives me happiness, hospitality, and healing. Today a good friend of mine stopped by my house and dropped off an egg with no context. “Take this egg and look ahead,” he said, “this egg will open your eyes for the better.” BAM! The door shouted as he left. I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I decided what better to do than to paint the egg, not physically paint on the egg, but paint a picture of the egg. How should I paint this egg? How will this egg help me look ahead and open my eyes? Would it be a moldy or broken egg? Is it just some scrambled eggs? I decided that the egg was all about how I perceived it. Having to look ahead like my friend said, I decided to paint the egg if it were in the future. No longer the egg like it is at this moment, but what the egg will become. I perceived the egg as not an egg, but instead a big beautiful bird soaring in the sky. This egg in front of me will one day crack; it won’t be an egg forever. Maybe it’s a magic, magnificent egg. It could never crack, never break, never get hurt, just an egg safe from the world around it. But, I think inside the egg is a bird waiting to emerge and start its life. The bird is trapped inside the egg, eagerly waiting to crash through the walls stopping it from being free.
While painting the egg, I painted how I see it in the future, a carefree, big beautiful bird excited to live the rest of its long healthy life. The bird will break free, be happy, be healthy, and be on its own. The bird will start small and eat and grow until it becomes old enough to fledge its nest. The bird will grow as big as a balloon, floating into the air. I know that at this moment, it’s just an egg, and maybe it will crack and the yolk will spill out. Maybe nothing that I predict will happen to the egg, but if I have a good mindset and faith then everything will become better for me. It’s all about perspective and optimism and if I’m optimistic and have a positive perspective, then the pieces in my life will turn out better. I say this with encouragement, even on my darkest and most difficult days, I look forward to seeing the good days to come.
As I look at the painting … all I can think about is depressing times. The title of the painting, Clairvoyance represents the upcoming dark times of the war. Clairvoyance means future events so I believe Rene Magritte was predicting World War Two before it happened. At first, when I was looking at the painting, all I saw was a man painting a blackbird. But after looking at the painting a couple more times, it resembles so much more than that. The man in the black suit represents sadness, and looking at the egg represents his fear of future generations. He knows something dark is on the horizon, he may not know what it is, but he’s the only person who knows something will happen. Each object in the painting is a different part of a story that connects like a magnet.
The man in the black suit looks like a normal man on the outside, but I can feel the sadness and fear he presents. The man is dressed in a black suit because he knows something dark is coming. Everyone he tells this story to laughs at him and thinks he’s crazy. He has no true friends who will understand the worries and fears that he has about the future. Instead, he has to paint about it to express his feelings. The painting he chose to represent his feelings is a painting of a black bird.
Wonder. War. Sadness. Three things come to mind when I look at this blackbird. The black bird represents a mystery and the man worries about this mysterious future. The black bird represents new beginnings and World War Two caused the world to have new beginnings. The black bird represents the dark side of the universe. There were so many deaths and so much sadness around the world that they needed a new beginning. The black bird doesn’t just represent the future, it expresses the way the man feels about life. He had to express his feelings somehow and this painting of the bird represents all of his feelings. The man and the bird aren’t the only things that bring sadness to this painting, the gray background also represents the depressing feelings.
The gray background represents the loneliness of the room. All I can feel looking inside the room is sadness. All I can hear inside the room is silence. All I can smell inside the room is the fresh paint. The room is full of nothing. Just like the man's heart when no one is willing to listen to him about the frightening future. The only thing in the room that represents hope is the egg. The egg is the future; if it’s destroyed, the world will end.
Initially, the egg looks like a weird addition to this painting. This room is full of sadness, so to have some new life ready to spring out seems odd. But the man is also fearful about the egg and future generations. He knows many people are going to die soon, so who’s going to take care of these babies that are being hatched. Many kids will grow up with no fathers and will never feel their father's love for them.
This isn’t just a story of a man painting a bird in a room. The meaning is much deeper than that. From the way the man looks to the painting he made and the egg, there are many reasons that this painting represents sadness and fearfulness. Each part is a piece of the puzzle and when I put all the pieces together, I understood the true meaning of the painting.
Dear Rene Magritte,
Your famous art piece, Clairvoyance, has inspired me and my way of thinking. My view on life has slightly shifted because of what you showed me in this piece. The transformation that is displayed in the piece has given me a new outlook on the aspects that I don’t feel so good about in life.
There are many small things about me that I may not like as much as other things, such as how I do on math tests sometimes, or how I may have done in a sport I was playing. These negatives about my life are something that I would sometimes think about a little too much. This piece has shown me that just because something may be bad or useless at the moment, doesn’t mean it can’t have great potential in the future. The egg shown in the picture, to me, represents smaller things in life, either negative or unmeaningful, that fill the thoughts of many people, including me. The transformation from egg to bird means a lot to me, showing how that negative thought can turn into something beautiful, such as the gleaming, graceful, but gentle, bird on the canvas.
The artist displayed in the picture is like me going through life. I am the one changing the negative thoughts into positive ones by painting them onto the canvas. To me, the action of painting represents the conscious attempt to change those negative outcomes into positive ones and then acting on them. This means that I realize something negative and attempt to think of it in a new light and change it to good. This was something I have not always been able to do. Although I didn’t dwell on such events as much, which is good, I still didn’t do anything about them. This piece has helped me a lot more to see that process and does an amazing job of helping me envision the actual process of changing the bad into good.
Although at first, the piece appears simply, I see it in multiple different ways. I do see the image as a display of change from negative to positive, but also as a sign of growth and potential. I see the picture as evidence that a small thing in life can become something so much greater with time.
One day I was asked by some friends to go to the beach and play volleyball with them. We all went and had a great time, but I ended up playing well and they jokingly said I should sign up to play club and school volleyball during the fall and winter. Although it was a joke at first, I decided to give the sport a shot. After trying it out for the first year, I stuck with it throughout many more seasons and grew to find the sport to be a stress reliever. That small comment turned into me playing the sport for six years straight, loving every bit of it. This is just one of many examples of a small action turning into something lasting, which the art piece helps me envision. In this case, the small egg could be the joke that I should play volleyball, and the painting of the bird could represent the countless memories made playing at the various volleyball tournaments.
Although this piece was painted 87 years ago, I still look at it today with a gleam of hope. The piece has given me the motivation to do something with the negative things in life that are out of my control and I am able to turn those small things into more positive possibilities.
The Perception of Art
A journal is a way to keep track of thoughts, a way to unpack feelings. To showcase the clarity of reflection. To reflect on what has happened. To encase one's vulnerability without having to share it with others. The greatness behind a journal is that it is not just for one thing. It is for all thoughts someone may have. The meaning behind this journal is to show the thought process behind an artist. After each piece is created it needs to be unfolded. Whether that is staring or writing what meets the eye. The ups, the downs, and the relief of finally knowing the artwork means something great.
Today I painted the most beautiful piece. I called it Clairvoyance. It is the story behind perception. I felt the brush gliding between my fingers and I stared, gazing at the canvas as I painted a man painting an egg. However, his vision of the egg became a bird. I imagine the man staring at the potential behind the egg. The potential for it to become a beautiful bird. My brush glided across my canvas unfolding the beautiful piece. The art showed the true meaning behind clairvoyance: the supposed faculty of perceiving things or events in the future or beyond normal sensory contact.
While in the making I imagine myself in this piece. Reliving my everlasting stroke across the canvas. Hearing the slosh the paint makes as I spread it from left to right. I envision a painter unhinging from the norm of staring at a piece until it is perfect. Instead, I unfold the beauty behind perception and the masterpieces that come from the art of illusion.
Today I look back at my piece. I see the bird. Each stroke creates the wings. The black paint unfolds the image, making it appear to be leaving the canvas. As I gaze I hear a soft breeze whistling reminding me of the peace the bird brings.
I look at the upper-class man I have painted on the canvas. It intrigues me how he perceives the egg. His eyes stare deeply into the egg as he perceives the perfect picture he is creating. I notice the furrowed brow I gave him showing the concentration he has. He is determined to display a beautiful piece. A piece that takes not only viewing but understanding.
Last night I was restless. I laid awake thinking about my painting. “Is it good enough?” “Did I add enough detail?” “Will the message get across?” I waddled myself out of bed to peer at the painting once more. However, this time the painting is only lit by a sliver of light peeking through the window curtains. And that is when it hits me. I finally see the truth behind the painting I had just created. The light highlights the true perspective of the piece. The limits of vision, and the secrets behind perception. I see now that the painting opens that story. As I keep staring at the art I feel the smile emerging on my face as I know I have done it. I created a masterpiece. A piece that creates an illusion to mind but also a sense of clarity.
Clairvoyance. The man. The egg. The bird. The objects unlock the whole story. Whether someone sees a bird born from an egg, or an egg that turns into a bird, it is all true. There are no wrong answers–only perception. The way one sees something is never wrong because that is the beauty of perception. All may be different or similar but they all hold their own story.
The Ekphrastic Review
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