Some people may think working together as a husband and wife would be difficult, but for Wendy and John McVicker, getting to work together every day and create works of art is a dream.
The Athens Public Library, 30 Home St., invites authors of nonfiction, novelists, poets and many other types of writing to come and talk with patrons. Instead of a passive event where authors only come in and sign their work, the library sets up a time for the authors to share about their inspiration to write and read samples of their work.
The McVickers are sharing their dream with the world and speaking in the library Saturday about their process and reading a few selections from their poetry book, Sliced Dark, while showing the artwork from the book on the screen.
Todd Bastin, the adult programming coordinator for the library, had worked with the McVickers before and was thrilled to bring them back.
“They’re a great team,” Bastin said. “A husband and wife duo who are both passionately creative people, joining together to create something brand new. It’s so interesting to watch Wendy write these lovely poems and watch John’s artistic response. It’s definitely going to be a good turnout.”
The McVickers have been married almost 43 years. Sliced Dark wasn’t their first time working together, but it was their biggest artistic feat. John and Wendy have always loved poetry and art, but they never expected to pursue it.
As a child, Wendy loved to read and write stories, and she began writing poetry as a teenager. After a while, she stopped writing and began to travel, dance and have children with John. Her experiences led her to open up to poetry, and the language started flowing back in from when she was a teenager.
“I fell totally in love with my own language,” Wendy said. “I always say that poetry is a way of making love to the English language.”
She didn’t start publishing her poetry at first, but when she and John moved to Athens, a friend read one of her poems and encouraged her to start sharing them with the world. Wendy joined writing groups, sent poems out for publication and started helping out with poetry in her kids’ classrooms.
John waited a little while to go to college, after having spent time as an apprentice to a photographer. He went to art school to concentrate on painting and tried to pursue gallery art. He switched gears to teach the English language at Ohio University for 27 years, and the art slipped away as time went on.
He decided to pick up art again when Wendy wanted visions for the poems she was writing. He started using Photoshop and began illustrating Wendy’s poetry with strong imagery. John fell in love with creating the images for the poems, so he decided to continue.
It wasn’t until their friends requested a book of Wendy’s poems and John’s artwork that they even considered the idea. Wendy had always loved the book form, and after talking with some friends in publishing, the two decided to just have fun with it and put it together.
Wendy’s poems came first, and John would create collages to meditate on the poems. They found it was a fun bonding experience and not difficult at all. Wendy would give a poem to John, he would come up with an image, and they would have discussions about it.
“I’m not in Wendy’s skin,” John said. “I don’t know what feelings she’s feeling when she writes her poetry, but I do my best to make the images resonate with the readers. My real job is to read her poems and then read them again, talk to Wendy about them, and then try to imagine how it would fit together. Wendy is always sure to tell me whether or not I’m on the right track.”
Wendy thinks John’s art has done great things for expanding the depth of her work.
“For me, seeing the art he has done has just completely expanded the dimensions of my work,” Wendy said. “It’s been a great process from start to finish. The book reflects the fun we had creating it. If it weren’t for John’s incredible patience with detail and technology, this would have never happened.”
John and Wendy both say that writing Sliced Dark was an incredible experience for both of them. However, they didn’t just write the book for their own experience, they wrote it for people to read and enjoy. Their hope is that the book will emotionally resonate with the readers.
“An image or a poem will grab someone in a different way on a different day or mood,” Wendy said. “You’re attracted to the thing you need right then, and I just hope people find the thing they need within our book.”