The artists and writers selected as ArtAscent Gold from ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal issues.

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2023 Portraits call for artists.

Brian McClear

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2023 Portraits call for artists.

Have you ever tried to think about skin as a canvas to paint on? The representational painter Brian McClear portrays people who are like works of art, focusing on the imaginative and symbolic realm of their tattoos.

Brian’s paintings range among different subjects: still-life, small objects, and portraits, but they demonstrate stylistic coherence for balance and solidity. His selected Ink&Oil series is an original interpretation of the contemporary portrait genre, halfway between realistic—almost photographic—representation and abstract intentions. Brian chooses to portray subjects who are very different from each other but share a unique trait: the presence of numerous tattoos on their bodies as powerful forms of self-expression. They are not decorative ornaments but identity statements that express their personal history and attitude. Their body artworks are immediate insights into their personalities, intriguing and inviting the viewer to interpret.

Looking at Brian’s figurative portraits, one could wonder: why do people dress their skin with pictures? This ancient form of body art, born for tribal and therapeutic purposes, has motivations that often transcend rationality. It may arise from the need to commemorate a significant life event. They may be talismans laden with power or a sign of belonging. They could be elements of self-narration or arise from a simple impulse—the reasons are diverse and extremely personal. The painter captures the symbolic load of this choice. Like the protagonists’ tattoos, Ink&Oil portraits communicate so much, but without the use of words.

Brian’s style is akin to his content: communicative, intuitive, and energetic. These oil-on-canvases linger on the form and textures of the elements depicted, highlighting surprising visual connections. The painting process is also pure vitality. Brian starts with an archive of material references, sketches, and photos and through quick and energetic gestures, he paints them on canvas. The ideas that flow out in the first hours of work are as meaningful as the final result.

The gesture, the energetic painting process, and the vivid use of colours are elements that distinguish Brian’s practice. Therefore, among his favourite references is Jackson Pollock, the master of abstract gestural expression. In addition, the realism of Brian’s portraits embodies a symbolic dimension; it brings to mind the great American school of the 19th century, the characters portrayed by George Wesley Bellows or Winslow Homer. Each person seems to tell a story outside the frame.

Currently living and working in the United States, Brian McClear earned a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design. He worked as an illustrator and in leading marketing agencies. Recently, he decided to devote himself to painting, preferring bold brushstrokes to the mouse. His works received national awards, and private collections and museums exhibited them. Brian’s portraits do not leave you indifferent: they are full of liveliness and always allow a sense of wisdom and strength to shine through.

Brian McCLear is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent Portraits call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Portraits issue.

www.mcclearart.com

ArtAscent Gold Writer of the 2023 Portraits call for artists.

Karla Linn Merrifield

Self-Portrait Triptych

1. Gestalt

shamanwoman
poetturtle
greenvagabond
riverlakeoceanheart…

The triptych formula is frequent in art history: churches are full of altarpieces divided into three intimately related panels. However, Karla Linn Merrifield realizes triptychs with words. Her poems are masterful self-portraits divided into three acts.

Each of Karla’s poems unveils a section of her being, as a complex and dissectible artwork. Through the self-investigation tool of poetry, the author breaks down her personality into different facets. Her capacity for self-reflection is strikingly lucid. Karla borrows metaphors from technology, chemistry, and cognitive psychology, to accomplish this almost surgical operation. She is not afraid to juxtapose literature and sciences. This hybrid aspect makes her lexical choices so meaningful.

Her three poems, Gestalt, Like Totally Gizmo and In My Element, have different tones. They create mixed atmospheres. They go from Zen-like introspection to the robotic iciness of techno-speak to a lyricism achieved through chemical metaphors. Like a threepiece mirror, they reflect different angles of Karla’s experience. The same principle guides the Gestalt theory mentioned above, the construction of a technological device, and chemical formulas: they combine distinct elements to assemble a whole and functioning organism.

The writing style of this self-portrait reflects the search for varietas of the author. Neologisms obtained through compound words characterize Gestalt, a minimalist poem in which the sum of the parts gives significance. And thus, are born words like shamanwoman, poeturtle, and friendloversoul, that combine different terms to find the most accurate one to self-define. Abbreviations, acronyms, and precise technical specifications distinguish Gizmo, a poetic portrait of an enhanced woman, like a cyborg with new potentialities, a “fivestar gadget” trying to understand her programming codes. Through the metaphor of quicksilver, in the third poem, In My Element, Karla highlights her analytical but fluid spirit, a “heavy metallic liquid muse.” Even the words are arranged on the paper (or screen) following a sort of chemical structure. The technique immediately echoes the historical calligrams by Guillaume Apollinaire, in which form and content mirror each other.

Karla’s poetics is rich in references, drawing on literature and interdisciplinary fields. The American poet William Heyen is among her cornerstones, with whom she shares the attempt to grasp the self through poetic memory. Furthermore, the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, with his visionary sensibility and lexical accuracy, is one of Karla’s great influencers.

Karla Linn Merrifield has lost count of her thousands of poems and has 16 books to her credit. Her poems appeared in specialized journals and anthologies, and her newest collection, My Body the Guitar, was recently nominated for the 2022 National Book Award. She is a contributor to literary journals, assistant editor, and a member of the Florida State Poetry Society, the New Mexico Poetry Society, and The Author’s Guild. Currently, Karla Linn Merrifield is completing a poetry manuscript about the men of her life. In the spirit of research and divergence, she opted to portray a woman she knows intimately: herself.

Karla Linn Merrifield is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent Portraits call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Portraits issue.

www.karlalinnmerrifield.org

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the October 2022 call for artists.

Kate Greenway

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the October 2022 call for artists.

The sunflower, the quintessential representation of summer, becomes a symbol of strength at the hands of artist Kate Greenway. Her artworks depict a fragile and ephemeral plant, dependent on sun and heat but capable of acts of resistance and self-determination.

Looking at Kate’s artworks, expertly crafted with mixed media techniques, the mind immediately flies to the iconic sunflowers painted by Vincent Van Gogh. But if this flower represented the search for light in times of darkness for the Dutch master, for the Canadian artist, it acquires contemporary meanings. In Kate’s works, sunflowers are charged with new metaphors: it is the flower that stands for summer vibrancy, but it also fades with the passage to Autumn. But there is more. It is the national symbol of Ukraine, currently ravaged by war, but which, like a sunflower, remains fiercely standing. What at first glance appears to be a classic still life thus becomes a symbol of pride and hope for a nation. Kate’s images are strong works that tell of a contemporary tragedy and fight for democracy.

Moreover, Kate concretely supports the Ukrainian cause with her art. The series is part of the Sunflower Project, an artist initiative that aims to raise funds for humanitarian relief, donating a percentage of proceeds to Ukraine. The attempt to break this loop of suffering and negativity is one of the most important goals of Kate’s creative practice. The artist showcases a variety of media and techniques that reflect the feeling that art could be a tool of true enlightening.

Kate works with watercolours—a medium in which colours are diluted—playing with reflections, transparencies, and layers of hues as delicate as a flower. Her skillful use of glass techniques is delightful. Some of Kate’s works are glass on glass mosaics, where she achieves saturated and crisp images through transparent and opaque pieces of glass.

Watercolours and glass works have one aspect in common: the suggestive use of light. Light passes through the glass and shines on the watercolours, infusing warmth and luminosity. Kate’s artistic technique thus becomes a metaphor for this quest for light. It is no accident that Kate’s work, particularly in its use of glass, is comparable to that of master Marc Chagall. Like Chagall, who, in addition to paintings, made spectacular religiously themed stained-glass windows, Kate also silhouetted synthetic and impressive images that use light and matter to create visions.

Kate Greenway is a Canadian artist who manages to reconcile technical skills and the symbolism of flora, fauna, and landscapes. She completed a Masters and Ph.D. in Arts Education, honing glass techniques, including fused, stained and mosaic. She exhibited across Ontario and recently in a solo exhibition in Toronto. Her mixed media pieces always carry metaphoric weight in their ability to be transparent or opaque, inviting viewers to go beyond the surface.

Kate Greenway is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent Summer call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Summer issue.

Gold Writer of the 2022 ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Summer issue

Joyce Fox

The Summer Warning

I knew something was coming, and I waited. Throughout the Summer of 2019, I waited. I didn’t know what was coming – all I knew for certain was that it wasn’t anything good. That much I knew. When I tell you my roses gave me the message, you will imagine it a strange thing to say. But they did…

How often do human beings search for answers in nature? Sometimes, we see mysterious messages in vegetation, the sky, and animals. Clever writer Joyce Fox transports us into this forest of symbols through powerful poetic images.

The Summer Warning is a piece that reaches the reader on an implicit and subconscious level. Like the symbolism it deals with, it does not speak explicitly. Joyce selects every word to evoke sensations without telling too much. In the summer of 2019, according to the author, her roses were shivering even without a breath of air. Chills ran through them, even though the air was disturbingly still. Through this cinematic image, Joyce conveys the foreboding that something terrible is about to happen after the end of summer. She tells of her fear, her trembling, inspired by what was the 2020 pre-pandemic period: a time in which we were all still oblivious to the soon-to-unfold frightening, collective crisis.

Since ancient times, humans have been investigating nature by trying to predict the future. From the omens brought by snakes and birds, seen as messengers of rebirth or misfortune, to the formation of clouds or the study of trees, nature and its transformations have always revealed underlying messages in popular culture. Joyce instinctively taps into this tradition, using nature as a symbolic, poetic, and unsettling element.

Roses—that Joyce watered, fed, and kept healthy— became as delicate as the human bodies, revealing their fragilities. The text presents metaphors related to breathing and lack of air which bring the reader’s mind to the pandemic’s terrible respiratory effects.

From the stylistic and technical point of view, The Summer Warning astonishes with a great sense of rhythm. The rhythmicity makes the text somewhere between prose and poetic composition. Joyce developed a style in which repetition plays a relevant part. The formal repetition of words and constructs emphasizes the writing, contributing to creating attention and pathos. Joyce’s vocabulary is simple and immediate and fits into the pattern of literature that uses words to portray, not to show off.

The strength of her text lies in the images she creates: as powerful as photographs and metaphorical as lines of poetry. Joyce finds inspiration in authors such as Kent Haruf, the novelist who paints life in small towns of the United States through accurate descriptions. Likewise, her scenes become intimate, silent, and symbolic.

Joyce Fox is an 89-year-old writer who embodies elements of every day in her texts: the velvet petals and palest shades of pink of her roses. Her texts have been read on BBC radio, and she recently had an hourlong two-act musical broadcast on different local radio stations. The stories written by Joyce Fox transfigure reality. They give vent to fears, emotions, and human forebodings.

Joyce Fox is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent Summer call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Summer issue.

Gold Artist of the 2022 ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Abstract issue

William Horton

Gold Artist of the 2022 ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Abstract issue

Some photographers can paint with light. William Horton creates photographs that dissolve the literal meaning of objects. His images blur into abstraction, celebrating a swirl of light and shadow.

The series of photographs entitled Shadow and Light, featured in this issue of ArtAscent, investigates abstract patterns, also displaying their materiality. What shapes, trajectories, and perspectives can sunlight create when refracting household objects? William captures them through the medium of the camera. His images capture lines of light projecting onto walls like abstract Chinese shadow plays. His pictures directly present nothing physical; everything evokes imaginary and unrecognizable forms. The photographer carefully captures light, the imperceptible element that permits the photography itself and makes it solid. William is able to give structure to this evanescent element par excellence. He creates shining architecture as if they were material structures.

William is interested in capturing the three-dimensionality of light and shadows. For this reason, he has to use an experimental technique. William does not merely observe what light projects on the wall. Rather, he zooms in and pushes the lens of his camera. He repeatedly performs various tests to achieve the desired effect. The Shadow and Light series was shot with a digital single-lens reflex camera and edited digitally. The goal is as simple as it is priceless: to make the observer’s eye more attentive, more accurate, and more inclined to read abstraction even in everyday life.

The world around us—especially its transformations and transfigurations in light—is a relevant source of inspiration for William’s photography. This is why his artistic practice can be linked more intuitively to that of painters than to that of photographers. Painters, such as the English J. M. W. Turner, abstracted natural phenomena through the medium of paint. Turner captured storms, cloudy skies, fires and glimpses of the sun to play with light and natural effects. Similarly, William’s photographs also capture the energy of brightness. His chiaroscuro-enhancing use of black and white and his focus on revealing hidden geometric patterns bring him stylistically close to the 20th-century photographer Edward Weston. Like Weston, his subjects become abstract through daring close-ups.

William Horton has experimented with photography since his first year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Interested in different technologies, he worked with both film and digital photography. His work has been displayed in art-oriented publications and many art exhibitions, like the American Society of Media Professionals Exhibition in Denver. He also won numerous awards, including the Camera Obscura Journal award. William Horton lives  photography as his preferred tool of revelation: it brings out unnoticed patterns, fleeting moments, and unseen aspects of ordinary life.

William Horton is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent Abstract call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Abstract issue.

www.williamhortonphotography.com

Gold Writer of the 2022 ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Abstract issue

Susan Nickerson

In the Room

The small chairs that lines the walls of the shrink’s office were filled with nervous, toe-tapping people, waiting for their turn on ‘the couch.’ I stood in the middle of the room. My large, heavy body is invisible to those around me. Just as well, I concluded. As previously arranged, a therapist appeared in the waiting area and called my name…

A waiting hall of a psychotherapist’s studio, several nervous people, and a flashy, big, pink elephant in the center of it all. This is the surreal scene that writer Susan Nickerson masterfully sketches in her short novel.

However, what lies behind this awkward pink character with surrealist features? What does the writer want to communicate to us with the metaphor of a pink elephant in the room? Susan plunges through her serrated writing style into an abstract territory: that of pain, psychological distress, and addictions. Through implicit clues and dialogue, the writer’s words try to let the reader understand the problem. The body of the elephant is giant but invisible to most. Its appearance should be a warning, but only a particularly sensitive few people can see it. Materializing the metaphorical idiomatic expression of “the elephant in the room,” Susan makes tangible in her story subtle and dangerous sufferings too shocking to be faced.

Inspired by a postcard depicting a drunkard and a pink elephant, Susan continued to elaborate on this metaphor, often used to indicate states of drunken hallucinations, as it happens with Jack London’s pink elephants or the ones in the Dumbo Disney cartoon. Her style, at times ironic and grotesque, resembles a children’s fairy tale. This makes it powerful: Susan’s writing is simple and curious but deals with stomach-punching issues. The sense of estrangement is strong, and it is created by the clash of an almost naïve character, such as the pink elephant, and the abstract and burdensome concept it represents.

Although Susan calls herself an essayist, her story is strongly emotional without ever being explicitly tragic. The writer grasps the fun challenge of the writing game, but one senses that it springs from a deep need. Her short stories echo the fluidity and emotionality of American novelist Wally Lamb. The symbolic weight of this story joins an established literary tradition, which often sees, starting with fairy tales, animals as bearers of allegories and abstract concepts. Recall Franz Kafka’s cockroach, a symbol of alienation and social stigma, or the fierce whale of Moby Dick, a metaphor for the struggle between good and evil. In The Room, the pink elephant is the symbol of defeat. It makes the reader feel frustrated and angry, like when you realize too late that you could have helped someone in pain.

Susan Nickerson was born and raised in Salem (Massachusetts, US) and currently lives in Florida. Her short stories have been published in several magazines and were awarded in Writers-Editors International Writing Competition.

Susan Nickerson is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent Abstract call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Abstract issue.

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2022 Cold call for artists.

Vicky Knowler

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2022 Cold call for artists.

We live in complex times, where the metaphorical cold of loneliness is commonplace. In a context of destabilizing detachment, Vicky Knowler searches through the medium of photography for a deep and steady connection between souls.

Vicky takes photographs set in an icy setting that are far from emotionless. Moved by the alienating experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, the artist searched for elements that could restore warmth and emotional contact. Interestingly, she found emotional support for her and her family in the household pet, Wendy the cat. This genuine and authentic relationship becomes the motor of her photographic project, My Dog and Me, which portrays children with their beloved dogs, close and safe in mutual trust even under the snowstorm. Vicky’s photos thus become the storybook of this peculiar bond. The art project presented here involves several families who recognized the spontaneous relationship between humans and animals in their children and pets captured by the artist. What makes Vicky’s photographs so special is that her point of view is never that of adults. She truly investigates what excites and interests children. Her photos try to give back the sense of wonder and imagination of their world.

Stylistically, Vicky’s photographic practice is highly narrative. Each image is captured as a precise frame of a larger story and then edited in Lightroom or Photoshop, enhancing its more dreamlike aspects. But that’s not all: Vicky accompanies the vision with a textual apparatus, which tells the characteristics of the protagonists, children, and animals, allowing the viewer to get in touch with their simplicity. Best friend, brother, sister, guardian, or confidant…many roles are entrusted to the dog of the house. These roles are based on a bond that creates deep memories even in cold stress or discomfort. The photographs were taken in harsh outdoor conditions, specifically in January 2022 on the coldest days in the Kawartha Lakes. Vicky’s photography fits within a particular artistic genre of portraying the world of childhood because of its joy and lack of fictional artifice. Although staged and elaborately premeditated, her photos—like those of the famous photographer Anne Geddes or those dedicated to children created by Elliott Erwitt—retain the purity and vulnerability of the tender age of infancy.

Vicky Knowler was born in Québec, Canada and moved to Toronto in 1997. She has come a long way before finding her mission and deciding to fulfill her passion for art and photography. She specializes in newborn, family, and children photography, winning several awards from International Baby Photography Contests. As a single mom who raised two children, she finds a powerful source of inspiration in their dreamlike world and expectations. Capable of keeping you warm from the cold.

Vicky Knowler is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent Cold call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Cold issue.

www.champagne.photo

ArtAscent Gold Writer of the 2022 Cold call for writers.

Kesja Dabrowska

Everest

Supposedly
there comes a rainbow after rain
So where the hell
is mine hiding…

With its 8850 meters of height, Mount Everest is the highest mountain above sea level. Freezing temperatures, constant winds, and sudden storms make its environment unsuitable for life. Everest became a sharp symbolic image in the poetry of Kesja Dabrowska.

The emotional potential of nature inspires Kesja. Meteorological phenomena such as rainbows and storms blend with the changing seasons and the summer or winter days’ hot and cold climates. However, nothing in her poetry is literal: everything becomes a metaphor to speak of moods, an observation of her sentimental flow. The poem Everest refers to the subject of cold, exploring it on a physical, instinctive, emotional level. So, rainbows, radiant and positive days, are hidden or can be counted on the fingers of one hand, overshadowed by heavy years of storms and thunders. The warmth of a soft summer afternoon suddenly chills, becoming as spiky as an ice stalactite. It gets lost in the winter of her life. Dark periods of life, when you feel alone, helpless, hopeless, transfigure into icy peaks, like those of Everest, lonely and treacherous. The bitter cold can overwhelm the traveller, which can get lost.

The work of Kesja as a poet is the daily expression of the situations of life and mind. Pandemic and the state of health emergency greatly influenced her writing style and content, primarily modifying her mentality. The impact is not just on a day-to-day level, but it affects a different way of seeing and relating to the world. In this manner, driven by the urgency of getting to the substance of a matter, her poetic style has been intensely purified. It tends towards simple and essential forms, working on evocativeness. Kesja’s poetry acts as an attempt to reflect and draw a connection between the darker and more ambiguous side of poetry and the more explanatory and narrative one of prose. The lucid, visionary world of Edgar Allan Poe influenced her writing since her teenage years, providing with the same sense of foreboding and anguished apprehension. But also, famous poets such as Sylvia Plath and Rupi Kaur inspire her poetry, especially in the metaphorical and emotional use of natural elements and in the simple and immediate literary style.

Kesja Dabrowska is renowned as an illustrator and art practitioner in Greater Manchester, UK. She won several honours and awards both as an illustrator and a writer. She works as an illustrator of books for children and curates live projects. Her propensity to work with images as an art enthusiast makes her poetry incredibly visual and imaginary—an identifiable style, anything but cold.

Kesja Dabrowska is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent Cold call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Cold issue.

https://kesjacorvussen22.wixsite.com/welcome

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2022 People call for artists

Matthew Usukumah

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2022 People call for artists

Before being a photographer, Matthew Usukumah is a storyteller. Through his actors’ bodies, postures, and clothing, he expresses the freedom and struggles to be who you are.

The mise en scène of Matthew’s photographs is studied, but their aroused emotions are real. The photographer places his actors in contexts as if they were on a theatre stage. Each photo is the scene of a play, the frame of a film, the verse of a song. Using images, Matthew tells the unfolding of a story, which often starts from a creative suggestion or the need to get to the bottom of social and human issues. He creates a series accompanied by texts that explain each scene’s evocative and poetic content.

The selected six photos are taken from different series, but they all revolve around a single theme: identity. They are photographs of people who express themselves or fight to do so. The role of self-reflection and introspection is well exemplified by the recurrent scenario of a bathroom, such as in The Enabler or The Woeful Hedonist. The bathroom becomes the metaphorical setting for an intimate moment of selfanalysis, an inner monologue on one’s vices and fears. The element of water is also symbolic in Matthew’s photos. Water, transparent and pure, calms the mind and reconnects us to our most intimate nature. However, what happens when others do not hear and accept our identity? The photographer also addresses the issue of vulnerability, of not being recognized, as occurs in the case of gender-fluid people. Some photos, such as Furious Mime, also display the anger that pervades people when they suffer violence because of their race.

Matthew is intrigued by the possibility of expressing himself through art forms, like photography. His style is extremely tied to the narrative as if his photos were all acts of longer pièce. From a technical point of view, his fine art photography is also heavily influenced by his career as a fashion photographer. The models are in scenographic poses, sculptural in the center of the composition. The use of light, clothing, hairstyles makes them very aesthetic but still uncoated photographs. The great fashion photographers like Richard Avedon, with his human portraits, Irving Penn, elaborate black and white, or Robert Mapplethorpe, the undisputed king of the rendering of bodies, are certainly relevant references.

Matthew Usukumah is a British-born but New York-based fashion photographer. After working in economics, he collaborated during fashion weeks with magazines such as V Man Magazine, Downtown Magazine, or FUSED. From the turmoil of 2020, he began to embark on the path of art photography, winning the award as Best Rising Artist at the Art Expo in New York already in 2021. His photos reach the intimacy of the spectators, like a confession.  

Matthew Usukumah is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent People call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal People issue.

https://www.usukumah.com/

ArtAscent Gold Writer of the 2022 People call for artists

Alex Steiner

Grading Diamonds

“Diamonds wear the poorest people.” That’s what I told myself. Back then. Back when nothing made sense. Back then, that ring was as worthless to me as those that valued it. People carrying their worth on the very hands they used to introduce new liars….

Alex Steiner gives us a piece that, like a diamond that grows day by day in the depths of the earth, is a crescendo. It is a text that evolves, changing shape and concealing hidden facets, like the people who are its protagonists.

Grading Diamonds is a work of literature that cannot leave indifferent. It reveals through physical and mineralogical metaphors, symbolic objects, the temperament and memories of its main characters. It depicts them as so complex, scratchable, human that they seem close to us. As if they belonged to our family. Grading Diamonds is the story of a father and a daughter. However, it is above all the story of a relationship that—as frequently happens in the closest ties between people—changes and reveals itself as time passes. Alex quotes the words of the Lebanese American author Khalil Gibran: “Perhaps time’s definition of coal is the diamond”; it is necessary to observe the transformations over time, to have a diachronic and patient perspective. It invites flexibility, in pricing and labelling people. Accelerations, collisions, slowdowns, and departures are all part of the process of evolution. They are essential to give us the tools to grade and understand what is authentically valuable, worthy, precious. What dirt can create a diamond? How much beauty can be hidden in chaos and calamity?

Alex’s story takes its cue from a significant object: a ring. However, she aims to talk about people, the forces and events that modify their identity, like rocks eroded by the wind. Grading Diamonds wants to inspire hope in readers, showing how time changes and redefines people and personal values.

The creative process of Alex reflects the themes of change and settlement that also characterize her work. The author worked on the text for a long time, editing and reworking it several times. The excerpts of her story follow each other fast, brilliant, direct, allowing us to follow the flow of emotions and situations step by step. The use of the first-person singular gives this to creative non-fiction text an autobiographical tone that is realistic, honest and creative at the same time. Alex’s writing style is rich in references. She is guided by authors who can describe personal experiences with veracity, such as Cupcake Brown in her autobiography, and novels that deal with life changes, such as the award-winning She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. Her way of storytelling is also very reminiscent of the contemporary tool of podcasts, from which she has absorbed the incisive and fast-paced sound.

Alex Steiner is first and foremost inspired by people and their lives. She studied Criminal Law and worked as a teacher at several non-profit NGOs. Currently based in London, she works as a writer, getting closer and closer to people and their stories.

Alex Steiner is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent People call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal People issue.

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2021 Landscapes call for artists.

Dakin Roy

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2021 Landscapes call for artists.

Landscape photography is among the most challenging tests for a photographer: the risk of disappointment that it does not reflect the majestic beauty of nature is always high. However, photographer Dakin Roy is a spontaneous master of the genre.

Dakin’s eye and lens approach the landscape with delicacy and respect. His shots reveal attention to detail and patience. The photographic landscapes that he selected for the magazine are never sensationalistic. They capture the most intimate soul of nature, exuding calm and introspection.

Some of Dakin’s landscapes appear almost abstract, focusing on natural textures and forms. The photographer dwells on the transformations of flora and fauna, carefully choosing the scenarios in which the elements (earth, water, and sky) collide.

Favourite landscapes for his photography include seascapes, particularly the shorelines of Cape Cod. A tongue of land that plunges into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving the space for vegetation, wind, and saltiness. Observing some of his shots taken in that multifaceted marine, you can clearly perceive what inspires the artist. There are evident sounds and more distant ones, like echoes of humans, animals, and nature: the breeze of the bay, the cry of seagulls, the click-clack of crabs on the rocks, and children laughing over the dunes, cites the photographer. Inspired by the sounds and impressions of the landscapes he visits, Dakin creates evocative and synaesthetic images. We can find photographs of desert-like dunes moved by the wind, alien-shaped water hyacinths, or suggestive twilights suspended between water and sky.

Dakin’s technique also fits the elements of the landscape. His photography, realized with a Nikon D600 DSL camera and a Nikon 28-70mm 2.8 lens, is purely observational. It requires time and control, experimenting with different points of view, framing and cropping techniques. He also acts in the studio through careful editing. His works are the sum of what he viewed and what he felt.

Dakin’s photography is also similar to the Impressionist technique: a high degree of landscape observation and study of atmospheric agents. Different images can be obtained, depending on the day conditions, even the hour. In addition, the skillful sense of the object, as if they were still lifes and not landscape photography, brings him close to the shots of the great Edward Weston.

Like Weston, Dakin Roy does not only take landscape photos but has also experimented with other subjects in his career. Educated in photography at Pratt Institute of New York and the Academy of Art in San Francisco, he has exhibited in solo and group shows around the U.S, mainly in New York. Dakin is also known as a teacher, having taught courses in New York related to digital photography and B/W techniques. A choice that may seem unusual when looking at his colourful photographs, but that makes us understand his primary photographic interest in vision in all its forms.

Dakin Roy is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent Landscapes call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Landscapes issue.

https://www.dakinroy.com/

ArtAscent Gold Writer of the 2021 Landscapes call for writers.

Poppi Hmelnitsky

Oceanic Orchestra, Opus 2

The orchestra has arrived.
Risen in salt sand and sea.
Ominous. Tectonic.
Troughs, Crests, all, is gargantuan levitating to the sky…

A landscape, for a poet, is primarily a state of mind. It can act as a powerful recall, bringing to mind words, emotions, and metaphors. And that’s what Poppi Hmelnitsky realizes in her poetry through the voices of the ocean.

Poppi’s experience and vision of the ocean allow her to create a poetic composition that is highly evocative and, at the same time, musical. Oceanic Orchestra, Opus 2. is a piece made up of images, sounds, and actions that follow one another in a continuous game of shifts and correspondences, as if played by an orchestra. And it is precisely the theme of correspondence that is delineated in her verses: the parallelism between human beings and the sea, between the landscape of the beach and the mind of her main character, Henry. The physical movements of Henry, a child swaying his yellow plastic bucket on the beach, are the same motions of the waves. The undulating and ephemeral characteristics of the seascape also impact our constantly floating self. Like the sea, Henry is ephemeral. Like the coastline, the little protagonist is also whipped by the wind, Brushing air, brushing Boy. Poppi’s poetry is cinematic and emotional; inspired by the natural elements of the ocean and Lacan’s research, it can be read on an aesthetic but also psychological level. What happens in the landscape outside is what happens in our psyche inside. Like that of the water, our identity is fragmented, constantly evolving, the result of overlapping waves and experiences.

Stylistically and lexically, Poppi’s poetry is highly musical, like a concert. The echoes of splashes, sea breeze and waves are evoked in the choice of words, mimicking the sounds of the groaning ocean. Like music makers in salted air, perpetuating rhythmical ideas. The wise study of rhythm is also reflected in the organization of sentences, now isolated, now connected by line arrangements and punctuation. Poppi in Oceanic Orchestra, Opus 2. plays with the harmony of the parts. As in symphonic composition, the poet reflects on the role of individual voices and what they create together in a choral framework. After all, even human beings —their mind, emotional experience, identity—are the result of metamorphic cooperation.

Oceanic Orchestra, “risen in salt sand and sea,” and Poppi’s poetics are inspired by the great masters of the literary tradition. From Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s imaginative and visionary use of words that masterfully described nature and the ocean, up to the symbolic power of John Keats and the metaphorical density of Pablo Neruda poems. Poppi is inspired by poets capable of creating the enchantment, of breaking the boundaries between images, sounds, senses.

A promising poet with vivid imagery, Poppi Hmelnitsky has already been published in The Literature Magazine at Macquarie University (Sydney), 18th issue of 2021. Her fresh and communicative pen is recognizable as a live sound in a sea of voices.

Poppi Hmelnitsky is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent Landscapes call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Landscapes issue.

https://instagram.com/poppihmelnitsky/

Gold Artist of the Connection 2021 exhibition

Luan Quach

Gold Artist of the Connection 2021 exhibition

How can one reconcile the rationality of realism and the emotionality of impressions? This is what Luan Quach achieves in his paintings. His art embodies high accuracy and the freedom of imagination at the same time.

Looking at one of Luan’s artworks you can lose yourself in the minutia of detail. His portraits are almost photographic; the faces hollowed out by wrinkles, the tactile skin, the rendering of fabrics…everything seems like a faithful representation of reality. But his hyperrealism goes beyond that. Something remains unresolved, evocative, that comes to us directly from the territory of imagination. Luan creates a palpable connection between reason and feeling.

This artist manages to approach the theme of connection with delicacy. He unveils it to the viewer by showing unexpected angles. The connection becomes, for example, the bond of respect between humans and animals in Untold Past, but it can also be even more spiritual, a direct connection with universal love. This kind of relationship is detectable in I Look to You, where the protagonist is physically projected with his gaze upward, establishing eye contact with his God. I Look to You seems to be a sort of contemporary conversion, where the beam of divine light is embodied in a bright blue brushstroke. However, the connection is also what an artist may feel towards his work of art, as seen in Feeling Felt. Here again, the intimate bond with the artwork takes shape through an intense gaze. Self-satisfaction and joy: Luan’s painting tells us what it means to be an artist from an emotional point of view.

The art of this painter deserves to be observed with eyes and heart. Eyes wide open in the first place to grasp the skill and technique that distinguish his paintings. Luan creates hyper-realistic and meticulous artworks, but he evokes feelings through the use of colour. He manages to do all this with the evocative medium par excellence: watercolour. Liquid, with delicate hues and an impalpable mark, watercolour allows Luan’s imagination to run free. Stylistically, his art authentically reconciles realism and impressionism, pushing boundaries.

It is no coincidence that John Singer Sargent is one of the artist’s most beloved painters. A painter at first glance traditional but who used watercolour with grace and innovation. His works and portraits, such as those of Luan, are loaded with symbolic lights. They create connections between the figures represented.

Luan Quach is a painter to be discovered. Growing up in Southeast Asia, he approached art at an early age. His training as an engineer, however, never clashed with his passion. From engineering, he obtained the ability to analyze, which also emerges in his paintings. The art of Luan Quach is capable of authentically connect, with a spontaneous thread, left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Luan Quach is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent Connections call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Connections issue.

www.luanquach.com

Gold Writer of the Connection 2021 exhibition

Karla Linn Merrifield

Dyptych: Ultimate Connectivity

I swear by my intel® Centrino® Inside™, she’s got the hots for me. I can feel it in her nimble fingers as they tap dance across my shiny quiet keyboard.

And I, a sleek new Dell Inspiron® 1520, feel likewise. She turns me on and murmurs Bertie, my Bertie, let’s do it

Imagine humanity disappearing from the earth. Our computers, smartphones, and audio-visual relics would last to echo our past. Poet Karla Linn Merrifield tells us about the intimate connection to our technological gizmos. All with a sagacious and unforgettable irony.

Numerous writers have investigated our almost addictive link with the technology of our hyperconnected world. In particular, the digital world has been a huge source of inspiration in this historic moment of emergency. Well, forget what you have read so far. How Karla talks about technology and our relationship with it is another story.

Technological devices in her poems come to life in a rhythmic and hilarious dialogue. Cyberspace becomes a terrain to be explored, to understand how we inhabit it. Karla shows what impact physical connections made of wired cables and virtual ones made of e-mail exchanges and socials have on our daily lives. And so, it happens in Diptych: Ultimate Connectivity – Wired that we can experience a real love affair with our personal computer.

A surreal and funny liaison passes through the ticking of fingers on the keyboard, in the nights spent writing before the screen. Karla wittily gives her computer the power to deliver an amorous monologue. The lovesick protagonist is in the geek dreamland now. And the computer is aware of its charm, of the compulsive addiction it creates in its user. It is not a mere connection but cyberlove. The result is a grotesque vow of love: I swear to be your sole user, your one and only named.

Karla’s writing style is striking because of its freedom of expression. Like her computer, which has a life of its own, the words she types seem to be independent. Her poems take unexpected directions, arising at the exact moment of her creative writing. The poet uses every poetic form in her writings, and her vocabulary is also extremely free. Karla uses registered trademarks, brands name, URLs and technological neologisms, such as Wired and The Shit We Go Through for Our Gizmos. It is a new and hybrid language. Hybrid as our bodies, where gizmos are like prostheses. A language as complex as our lives that are navigating in what Karla calls a techno crapola.

As Karla’s language is eclectic, she draws inspiration from equally eclectic sources. Contemporary American poets such as William Heyen, with whom she shares a passion for dialogue poems, or authors of prose-poem books such as Jericho Brown or Scot John Gerard Fagan are a reference for her, while she maintains a very strong personal identity.

Karla Linn Merrifield has 14 books to her credit and several contributions. She is currently working on a poetry collection inspired by famous guitarists and their instruments. Her poetry is connected to the world, to human beings, to their objects. It is internal to life.

Karla Linn Merrifield is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent Connections call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Connections issue.

www.karlalinnmerrifield.org/

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2021 Abstract call for artists.

August Barringer

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2021 Abstract call for artists.

There is a blurring concept, constantly evolving and questioned in its abstract nature: gender. Artists such as August Barringer raise questions about gender dichotomy and challenge the binary model of mainstream society. They can do so through the power of abstract art. August’s installation Effulgence is a striking example of this.

August Barringer is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent Abstract call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Abstract issue.

ArtAscent Gold Writer of the 2021 Abstract call for writers.

Alex Steiner

Humble π

If you pay attention long enough, you’ll find circles in everything. From the embryo that patterned you, to the patterns designing natures’ abstract markings. The eyes capturing this world and the planets’ spheres, lighting the distance. And, ever since I started my proof, I can’t seem to escape its circular constants. The equation never changes, only its abstract integers…

How can literature be abstract? Can a text, a piece of writing, a poem, take on an evocative appearance, tell a story without explicitly revealing itself? This is the style that distinguishes Alex Steiner’s creation. Alex writes about experiences, memories, life—and she does it through a style that could be described as creative non-fiction.

Alex Steiner is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent Abstract call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Abstract issue.

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2021 Garden call for artists.

Lev. L Spiro

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2021 Garden call for artists.

Behind what appear to be blurred, obscure images, mysteries, meanings, and inner fears are hidden. Lev L. Spiro exploits the darkness in his photographs to let the light leak out.

In his photographic series Fugitive Light, Lev aims to capture glimpses of ephemeral beauty. It is not literal in its depictions of landscapes or natural elements. Instead, it grasps at the impressions nature evokes. A plant wet with dew, a staircase running through a secret garden, exotic plants shrouded in darkness; Lev’s photos offer quick snapshots of a larger and more complex scenario. The gardens immortalized in his photos seem almost like shelters, places to escape into. According to Lev, the overwhelming darkness that characterizes his images reflects his unconscious fears and desire to shape and sublimate them. Light, as the title suggests, is something fugitive, a fleeting idea, never able to completely illuminate the composition.

Conclave, Portal, and Augury are just some of the photographs from the series contributing to a forest of symbols, of imperceptible correspondences which reveal something unexpected in the dim light. Lev’s gardens are visions that take up the task of the nature of wonder, but also speak, through metaphors. As a photographer, Lev’s technique is one of waiting for the right moment and then seizing it; there is little post-manipulation of the imagery, an inclination he shares with many of the great masters, including Henri Cartier Bresson, whose photography he admires. From a conceptual point of view, Lev’s works are closer to those of photographer Minor White, sharing a mystical atmosphere, an almost abstract vision of the image to be grasped through feeling rather than thought. Lev also names as influences photographers Susan Burnstine and Eddie Soloway, with whom he studied.

An established film and television director, Lev L. Spiro has directed episodes of Orange is the New Black, The O.C, Ugly Betty, and Gilmore Girls. Now devoting all of his creative energy to his photography, he enjoys the artistic exercise of focusing on a single, necessary, inspiring image. His series Fugitive Light was selected for numerous group exhibitions around the U.S. in 2020 and 2021.

Lev. L Spiro is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent Gardens call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Gardens issue.

www.levlspiro.com

ArtAscent Gardens exhibition Gold Writer

Gabriel Griffin

The summer that was, the garden that might have been

Where oleanders scrawled over the hill falling
from the ruined wasn’t a castle but could’ve been in spite
or idiot pictures splattered over the upstairs no-stair
walls and the boys didn’t do them, that’s for sure!…

An abandoned garden, the ruins once populated by human presence, and the idea of what could have been and instead was not: this is the bitter feeling that Gabriel Giffin’s poetry leaves with the reader.

It is difficult to remain indifferent to Gabriel’s descriptive and evocative The summer that was, the garden that might have been. In his verses, you can perceive the sultry heat of an Italian summer, the noisy background of cicadas and bees. You can physically imagine a garden that is anything but luxuriant, but which deeply inspired the author. The poet is fascinated by a desolate and decadent garden, its crumpled oleander petals on the ground, and its ruins. He associates this powerful natural imagery with a painful memory, the abrupt end of youth, broken by a sudden accident. The garden then becomes a metaphor for youth that could have been as vital as a garden of delights but has turned into a shady and perishable one. Reading it, you feel the cold envelop you in the torrid and light-hearted summer.

Gabriel’s poetry is a meditation on loss, but above all on the crumbling power of time that passing. The topos of transience that takes away youth, beauty, and life renders his texts into a sort of literary still life. Like a Flemish still life painting of perishing of fruit in a wicker basket, wrapped in shadow and obscurity, the poet tells of life and death through the image of nature, which regains its space and its right to decay. From a stylistic and formal point of view, Gabriel’s poetry reflects the content of his verses. He captures the urgency, the vitality, the exuberance of youth with a fast rhythm, and at the same time offering sudden ruptures, abrupt interruptions, as in the lives of those the poet describes.

The close poetic relationship with nature recalls Emily Dickinson and her backyard garden, in which insects and blooms, flowers and vegetables, were observed obsessively, embodying metaphors of life and memories. Similarly, Gabriel cites John Keats among his literary references; like the Keatsian Greek urn sanctioning the changing and doomed destiny of the human being and youth and the imperishable nature of beauty through art, themes also manifest in Gabriel’s works.

Gabriel Griffin is the only inhabitant of a small island in Lake Orta, Northern Italy, where he writes in peaceful isolation and organizes annual festivals and literature events. An award-winning poet and author, his work has been featured in several anthologies. His poetry speaks of colours stolen from a dream, and of a garden that will never be again.

Gabriel Griffin is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent Gardens call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Gardens issue.

www.gabrielgriffin.org

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2021 Winter call for artists

Suzette Dushi

ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2021 Winter call for artists

The silence of the streets covered with snow, the outdoor games despite the frost, flower buds that are peeking out from tree branches: looking at Suzette Dushi’s digital photographs means exploring the deepest and most emotional components of winter. Winter subtracts everything from nature: light, bright colors, vitality. Despite this, the artist brings out these qualities in her images, capturing the joyful and nostalgic aspects of this time of the year.

Suzette Dushi is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent Winter call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Winter issue.

https://suzettedushiphotography.com

Gold Writer of the 2021 Winter call for writers.

Paula Bonnell

Early Morning

The lake is cold
Fog qualifies the outline of the trees–
pensées of foliage
exuded by the limbs
reveal the watery truth…

Try to imagine a lake in wintertime. A thick fog envelops the landscape, where the water, the ground, or the sky begins no longer recognizable. Paula Bonnell’s poem evokes this image. A sensation, Early Morning embodies all the mystery, the stillness, the silence of the winter season.

Paula Bonnell is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent Winter call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Winter issue.

Artist Statement

Inspiration is a word that resembles inhalation and that is what moves me to write I’ve “breathed in an experience” that makes me want to create an artistic equivalent of what moved me, thereby sharing it with others. As a reader I often appreciate this gift when given to me by writers and they stimulate my desire to emulate good and even great literary work; the same was true in my photographic years.

About My Work

In any poem of mine that I value, there is always something “given” by what feels like an “other” — which is what made humans create the idea of a muse.  My part in the transaction is to take what the muse gives me — typically a first line that comes unbidden into my mind—and see if I can follow it from there and arrive somewhere. When readers respond to something I’ve written, I feel completed and happy.

www.paulabonnell.net