Lightning Strikes: 18 poets. 18 artists.
December 12, 2015 — January 30, 2016

Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to present Lightning Strikes, a group exhibition where 18 artists respond to 18 poets.

December 12 – January 30, 2016

Opening Reception is by RESERVATION ONLY: 
Saturday, December 12th, (1-5pm)

Live music and poetry reading begins promptly at 2pm
Click HERE to purchase tickets.

100% of the proceeds from ticket sales to benefit the MFA in Literary Arts scholarship program at St. Mary’s college. Each ticket holder receives a copy of Lightning Strikes.

Exhibition catalog available for order HERE.

More than a dozen poets will be reading their work at the opening: including San Francisco literary luminaries Bill Berkson, Peter Coyote, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Jack Hirschman and Devorah Major – among others.

Sherie' Franssen I What Good is this Love, 2015 I Oil on canvas I 57 x 60 in.
Sherie' Franssen I What Good is this Love, 2015 I Oil on canvas I 57 x 60 in.

Poet and Artist pairings:

Bill Berkson and Katina Huston
Richard Blanco and Vanessa Marsh
Billy Collins and Edwige Fouvry
Peter Coyote and Ann Gale
Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Terry St. John
Matt Gonzalez and Sherie' Franssen
Robert Hass and Alex Kanevsky
Brenda Hillman and Jaq Chartier
Jack Hirschman and Ann Weber
Alice Jones and Jenifer Kent
Devorah Major and Louise LeBourgeois
Charlie Pendergast and Kai Samuels-Davis
Renny Pritikin and Travis Collinson
Ed Smallfield and Danae Mattes
Tamsin Smith and John DiPaolo
Gary Snyder and Mayme Kratz
Truong Tran and Matt Gonzalez
David Whyte and Michael Kenna

All of the participating poets listed above will attend and read with the exception of: Richard Blanco, Billy Collins, Gary Snyder and David Whyte.

This wide-ranging exhibition of image and text will be accompanied by a hardbound, fully illustrated book including all of the poems presented in the exhibition. 100% of proceeds generated from the book sales will be donated to St. Mary's college scholarship program for the MFA in Literary Arts, as well as 10% of any art sales from the exhibition. 

Jaq Chartier I Test w/ Blue and Greens, 2015 I Acrylic, ink, stains, and spray paint on wood panel I 36 x 28 inches
Jaq Chartier I Test w/ Blue and Greens, 2015 I Acrylic, ink, stains, and spray paint on wood panel I 36 x 28 inches

The primary purpose of this exhibit is to nurture the greater intentions of artists and poets and to be reminded what is at the heart of this exquisite city and its creative community - that we collectively and privately are moved and inspired to further support young writers and artists.

Vanessa Marsh I Landscape 22, 2015 I Archival pigment print from photogram I Limited editions available in 20 x 20, 30 x 30, and 40 x 40 inches
Vanessa Marsh I Landscape 22, 2015 I Archival pigment print from photogram I Limited editions available in 20 x 20, 30 x 30, and 40 x 40 inches

In a 2013 film titled Words and Pictures, a poet and a painter who are teachers at a New England prep school spar romantically as they compete for students’ allegiance to their respective mediums. The plot’s resolution-- in a tacit acknowledgement that neither image nor text can be declared the victor-- draws attention to the itchy, interesting and productive relationship between the visual and the verbal. Artists and writers have long explored the ways in which words and images can complement each other, even as such explorations often highlight the differences between literature and art. 

"Poets and artists express a view of the world as a collage of passing fragments. There is no bigger picture or a linear logic here, only transitory images and words, seen as if rushing past the windows of a train."    -Ugo Rondinone


Alex Kanevsky I Samarkand Blue, 2015 I Oil on panel I 18 x 18 inches
Alex Kanevsky I Samarkand Blue, 2015 I Oil on panel I 18 x 18 inches

In the exhibition Lightning Strikes: 18 poets.18 artists., gallery director Lisa Dolby Chadwick brings together a diverse group of poets and artists in pairings that offer viewers an extraordinary opportunity to reflect upon the range of relationships possible between the visual and the verbal: on how, and why, such expressions align or veer away from each other, and on what imagery means to these various makers. 

John DiPaolo I Blue Band, 2015 I Oil on canvasI I 72 x 60 inches
John DiPaolo I Blue Band, 2015 I Oil on canvasI I 72 x 60 inches

Since its inception in 1997, Dolby Chadwick Gallery has presented over 180 solo shows as well as frequent literary events, ranging from book launches for Ed Smallfield’s Apogee Press and fundraisers for Litquake to the monthly poetry readings that took place on Sundays for several years. In addition, for 14 years, Chadwick co-hosted the annual scholarship benefit for St. Mary’s College’s Literary Arts MFA Program.

Ann Gale I Gale Self Portrait, 2015 I Oil on copper I 14 x 11 inches
Ann Gale I Gale Self Portrait, 2015 I Oil on copper I 14 x 11 inches

Through this exhibition, Chadwick—who feels strongly that poetry is neither as widely represented or as supported as it should be in contemporary culture—has declared her intention to stimulate the ongoing dialogue about poetry in the art world, giving an art audience greater access to this other art form and engender greater appreciation for it. 

Matt Gonzalez I Retract the word, forthwith, 2015 I Found paper collage I 14 x 11 inches
Matt Gonzalez I Retract the word, forthwith, 2015 I Found paper collage I 14 x 11 inches

Lightning Strikes… began with Chadwick’s idea to put together a group show. Ekphrasis-- poetry that describes or responds to a work of art—has a long tradition, going back to the ancient Greeks. In her exhibition, Chadwick decided to present the inverse, in the form of artistic response to poetry. She began by asking writers to contribute poems, resulting in the ambitious array of texts presented here, encompassing a rich variety of topics and styles. Participants include former US poet laureates Billy Collins and Robert Haas; revered California essayist, activist and Beat generation poet Gary Snyder; Brenda Hillman, Head of the Literary Department at St. Mary’s College; Devorah Major and Jack Hirschman, former poet laureates of San Francisco; and Peter Coyote, actor, director, and former member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, among other distinguished figures.  

Terry St. John I Chair, Model, 2015 I Ink on paper I 20 x 15 inches
Terry St. John I Chair, Model, 2015 I Ink on paper I 20 x 15 inches

In most cases, after reading the poem each writer had chosen, Chadwick chose an artist from the diverse group of makers represented by the gallery. For Bill Berkson’s apocalyptic composition "Prophet", for example, she felt that Katina Huston’s elegant, complex paintings of cast shadows would offer a perfect counterpart to the poem’s vivid images—in particular, Huston’s most recent work with skeletons and elements of foliage, invoking the constant interconnections between life and death.

Louise LeBourgeois I Blue Unplumbed #546, 2015 I Oil on panel I 30 x 30 inches
Louise LeBourgeois I Blue Unplumbed #546, 2015 I Oil on panel I 30 x 30 inches

In another serendipitous pairing, Richard Blanco’s evocative poem "Looking for the Gulf Motel", invoking the places and people he remembers from a childhood vacation with haunting clarity, brought Vanessa Marsh to mind. The silhouettes featured in Marsh’s photogram go beyond illustration of the text, to a further meditation on loss and time. As Blanco concludes: “I want to blame / the condos, their shadows for ruining the beach /and my past, I want to chase the snowbirds away /with their tacky mansions and yachts, I want /to turn the golf courses back into mangroves, /I want to find The Gulf Motel exactly as it was/ and pretend for a moment, nothing lost is lost.”

Kai Samuels Davis I The Wait, 2015 I Oil on canvas I 60 x 48 inches
Kai Samuels Davis I The Wait, 2015 I Oil on canvas I 60 x 48 inches

Troung Tran’s prose poem about keys and doors, bodies and history is paired with one of Matt Gonzalez’s lively, complex collages. Gonzalez, chief attorney in the Public Defender’s office of the city of San Francisco as well as an artist represented by the gallery, also contributed a poem to this exhibition.


In Lightning Strikes, by simultaneously engaging in the process of both reading and seeing, each viewer can consider where the worlds of these artists and poets overlap. Both writers and makers employ processes that are improvisatory, creative and disciplined, working towards an unknown end. What are the places in which they stand and look into each other’s precincts with admiration or enjoyment, but into which they cannot venture? As this fascinating and thought-provoking exhibition reveals, their common ground may be greater than members of either world anticipated.