Community-Based Art; Literary; Multi-Disciplinary; Performance Art; Visual; poetry, bookmaking
Jeanette Powers is a performance artist, writer and community builder in KCMO and beyond. She currently heads the generative performance venue, Uptown Arts Bar; collaborates on the annual Lit Fest Fountainverse; and is a fellow resident with Osage Arts Community near Belle, MO. She is a non-binary queer, working class artist.
She has published ten books, not counting secret ones: including Earthworms & Stars, The Cosmic Lost and Found, Perfectly Good Muses, and most recently Gasconade by NightBallet Press. Her first novella, Victimless Crime, is forthcoming by Outlandish Press. She has also edited a number of successful anthologies: Finding Zen in Cowtown: Poems about KC; Desolate Country: Poets react to the inauguration; and Prompts: a spontaneous anthology.
She is known for her emotional and vibrant performances, and in her own words:
“I am first endlessly curious, and this translates directly into being an artist. The world (the universe!) exudes wonder and perhaps the purpose of being alive is to experience that and then tell all about it. Poetry is my primary medium because of it’s ability to both tell a story and to create heightened emotional responses. The broad spectrum called “the human experience” is uncontainable, but to even try, you must have a rich and flexible medium which is why poetry has served as my wheelhouse for the last decade. One can create a haiku, a sonnet, or an epic poem, one can be tightly absurd or prosaically narrative. Poetry allows the content and subject to guide the structure of the poem, which creates a deep symbiosis between the writer’s emotion and the work.
Being curious, though, the poem for me does not end on the page. I’m interested in seeing how the poems can live in other spaces. I’ve translated poems into storytelling performances, into high-intensity performance art, into comedy bits, into one-take videos, and into one-of-a-kind hand-made books. Sometimes, the same poem can be versatile enough to fit into more than one of those spaces.
I’m particularly interested in creating multi-sensory environments for poems, and combining projections, music, smells and sometimes physical objects like hand-made pillows into the performance of a poem. To fully immerse a live audience in the spell-binding of a poem is a tremendous challenge, and incredibly rewarding. Poets sometimes have a reputation for dry and monotone delivery, I enjoy running counter to that idea and creating rich and spell-binding poetic happenings.
The hand-made books are a newer part of my practice, but one which has become quite important. Three years ago, I imagined my trusty sketchbook as an art object of its own right. This began an entirely new way of presenting my poetry. Each unique book takes one poem and combines it with drawing, painting, collage, sewing, found objects, and more to create a visual trajectory which “illuminates” the poem. They are not illustrations, they are something of their own ilk.
In all, my art practice is a deep investigation of infinities. How can ideas exist and play? How can we translate emotions and experiences to other people? What is the grand gesture we can make to life as thanks for living? I am delighted to be sure there are as many answers as stars and sand.”