Unleashed last week and ready to captivate your attention, Rosemary Mayer’s Beowulf drawings vanquish the Art Wall of the Bowery Poetry Club (BPC). The venue is a perfect fit for the epic-poem-inspired drawings since mead-halls—not unlike the BPC, where drinks like “The Pukowski” and “The Allen ‘Gin’-sberg” spur readings along—are a central motif to Beowulf.
“I began my Beowulf to investigate the process of illustration with a favorite text,” says Mayer. The result is twenty-two small watercolor paintings that help tell the Saxon poem, in which Beowulf battles the monster Grendel. Originally an oral poem—as most poetry was—in the sixth-century AD, Beowulf has been expressed in various media. Its been made into a novel, an opera, a hypertext project, and in November 2007 it will be made into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, and Crispin Glover. Mayer says she wanted her rendition of Beowulf to be “a thoroughly modern incarnation.”
This isn’t the first time Mayer’s art has been inspired by literature. She provided the cover and interior illustrations to her sister Bernadette Mayer’s book Moving (1971). The drawings in Moving, “reaffirm the childlike attitude Mayer sometimes adopts, in order perhaps to perceive the world outside of the logico-rational parameters of ‘adult’ discourse,” according to Nada Gordon. Similarly, the story-book-likeBeowulf drawings lend a hand in making the poem accessible to today’s readers.
Viewing the Art Wall is free to the public, and you can purchase the illustrations for $20. If you come by the BPC next Wednesday, December 20, at 10 PM, you can catch a special presentation featuring both sisters’ work for $7 when Bernadette reads her “Midwinter Day” poem, with an introduction by Bob Holman, in the same room in which Rosemary’s illustrations hang. “Mayers’ poem, read on the day it was written on and for, is the perfect accompaniment to her sister’s drawings of and for Beowulf,” according to the BPC.