Vignette IV

For the past year, Kentucky poet, Kelsey McMurtrey, and Hawaii-based artist, Lauren Elyse, have collaborated, creating a collection of paintings and inspired poems titled Vignette. In the fourth installment of their project, the two reversed their method. Instead of writing original poems that embrace Lauren’s painting, Kelsey sent poetry to Hawaii for Lauren to paint. The resulting three works and their accompanying poems deepen the scope and intimacy of the Vignette project as Kelsey finds the freedom to break from storytelling and reveal personal feelings and life experiences. Likewise, Lauren experimented with new mediums and techniques.  “Your Night” is a digital creation. “Stretch & Pull” tackles a giant 18″x24″ piece of paper, vibrating with emotions. Finally “When We Began,” prompted the artist to investigate the experience of breastfeeding an infant. “There was a lot of google searching for breastfeeding to try and compose a good angle for the scene that was tender and almost felt like you were in that quiet moment looking over the woman’s shoulder,” the artist recalls.  “I actually had to model my face for the shot since I had no other model available, and I wanted to keep the colors subtle, dreamy and surreal like I imagine the moments after having a child probably are…”

Collaborating via skype and email, Lauren and Kelsey’s work reveals the spiritual depths that can be explored when mediums are merged. The below installment breaks with the established trajectory of their collection, creating a central reference point for the project and demonstrating the remarkable willingness and openness of the pair to trade and embrace intimate perceptions.


pic 1

“Stretch & Pull,” Lauren Elyse

Stretch & Pull

Twisting Earth—
seasick verse
on a rusted axel—
frothy sunset,

Sand under my feet: grains, comrades—
lift me down a black dotted line.
Stretch me.
Wooden machinery, yogalates,
take limbs—
pull me.

Widened eyes,
Tight drumming hearts,
hands weaving tapestries,

Mind opening,
wooden church doors
releasing dusty birds—
unfolding stiff bodies,
filling voided hearts,
letting humans hum.

Stretch me,
pull me.
I need your push.



pic 2

“When We Began,” Lauren Elyse

When We Began

he says:
Lift arms, lower pulse,
breathe slowly.
Concentrated calm.

“For the baby,” he says.

made distant
by burdened breaths—
stop the moaning voice!
Is it my own?

Sweat drips down wrinkled brows—
my furrowed mind falters.
Blue veins burst; adrenaline,
longing for relief—
for new life.

My body creaks,
an open crater.
Makes place for a tiny wet child,
wanting milk.
My thumping heart pauses—
I hear life:

A powdery whimper,
like a new lamb.

Here you are.
Cradled in my quivering arms,
warm on my beating chest.
Rosy lips searching,
wobbling wet fists,
eyelids tightly shut.

Mine close, too.
Both of us,


pic 3

“Your Night,” Lauren Elyse

Your Night

Dance with tired eyes
amid white-knuckled attempts at romantic banter—
lost love connections,
eager seekers.
Swing foreign partners,
canned sausage fingers, hands intertwined,
beady teeth pearls hinting hidden agendas.

Double-step on slick wooden floors—
No looking back into crowds of shellfish bodies
incubating under violet studio lights.
Across the dance floor!

Your night of never-known’s,
cling to glimmering moon drippings,
savory trombone trills.

My dear,
get ready.
It’s nearly ten o’ clock.


To read previous Vignette installments, visit Vignette I, Vignette II, and Vignette III.