Gerard Wozek and Mary Russell
Gerard Wozek and Mary Russell are a poetry video partnership who rose to recognition from the millennial years with a series of remarkably fresh and experimental works. Wozek brought his poetry. Russell brought her video artistry. Both are deeply invested in the crafts of their work, but also highly conscious of the art that keeps the work engaging. Both have an awareness of the other's craft, but no desire to asimilate it into their own. The product of these two personalities was an effective production team capable of tailoring image and text.
Mary Russell graduated from the MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). SAIC has been noted an auspicious school for video art. SAIC's academic development in the late 20th Century put video art into a somewhat holistic study track with computer technology, software, performance, and audio art. Russell's creative and pedagogical practices are a result of this. The experimental qualities of her video fit right in with the character of her contemporaries. She counts Peter Greenaway as a mentor. His films, such as Prospero's Books with its highly blended digital compositions, reveal a lineage to her own style of dense montage. A Moving Portrait of Peter Greenaway is in post production (as of this writing). This film follows Greenaway to the BFI in London, to the Swansea Metropolitan in Wales, and to the School of Visual Arts in Poitiers, France for a week long homage to Peter Greenaway. Peter Greenaway at Swansea was screened as part of the opening introduction to the week's events. Russell teaches video and digital imaging at Robert Morris University, which brings her into regular contact with fellow noted artists on faculty, such as Rob Kosin and Andrea Polli.
Gerard Wozek is also on faculty at Robert Morris, where he teaches writing. He is an MA graduate of writing and rhetoric at DePaul University. His first book of poetry, Dervish, won the Gival Press Poetry Award (2000). His book of short travel-oriented stories, Postcards from Heartthrob Town (Haworth Press, 2007), was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. Gival published Wozek again in its anthology Poetic Voices without Borders 2 in 2009, edited by Robert Giron, with fellow contributors Gregg Shapiro and Nina Corwin; Wozek was also in volume 1 (2005). He has contributed to numerous other publications, anthologies such as Bend Don't Shatter: Poets on the Beginning of Desire (Soft Skull Press, 2004), and periodicals such as Bay Windows and River Oak Review. Parallel to his print output and teaching, Wozek has facilitated workshops, such as at Gallery 37, and has written for theater. His verse play, The Changeling's Exile, was performed by Lionheart Theatre (1992, Chicago). It was then issued as a limited-edition chapbook (Deep Wood Press, 1996; re-released 2010).
Together, Russell and Wozek have the effect of multiplying their creative efforts. They initiated and curated Illume: An Alchemy of Text and Image, held at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the Art Institute of Chicago on 2005-Sep-17. It featured poetry videos by Heather Haley, Kurt Heintz, Paul Hettel and Mark Saba. Their combined output lists numerous titles and even more numerous awards. This is not a complete list of their Russell and Wozek's video works:
Apocrypha was selected for the University Film and Video Association 2011 Conference at Emerson College in Boston for an August 3, 2011 screening. Jeremy Newman presented a response paper at the UFVA conference for Apocrypha. Not Death But Love, an homage to Elizabeth Barrett Browning's life in Florence Italy was in production as this web page was being assembled.
Gerard Wozek's website is gerardwozek.com; it has a deep record of his literature and media collaborations, and includes selected video works he's made with Russell. Mary Russell is present in a collection of her videos on Vimeo.
- Kurt Heintz, 2012