Honor Marks: A Palette of Poetry & Prose

Stephanie Hunt

Who doesn’t get overwhelmed during Spoleto’s 17 days of arts gluttony? It’s either a decadent indulgence or an ADD nightmare, or both— so much to see, too much to do, not enough time or money to take full advantage. So here’s a little secret: treat yourself to 20 or 30 minutes at Marion Square, meander the tents (no ticket required!) until you find Honor Marks. (Hint: booth 19, towards the Piccolo stage.)


Honor’s paintings always still me, make me pause, look more closely. To me her images of bloom and biology are poems in pigment and brush stroke. She turns a cactus blossom into a pulsing explosion of color, a crusty old crab into a musing on grace with claws. Her gift to us is to pay attention, to translate the miracle of creation into a visual poem of artful detail and revelation in texture, color and form. Nature speaks to her, and she speaks back using the language of color, shape, shadow. Honor is to painting what Annie Dillard and Aldo Leopold are to prose, what Mary Oliver is to poetry. So it’s no surprise to me that she’s an English major with a paintbrush, and that much of her inspiration comes from a palette of favorite writers… but hear it for yourself:


Whatcha reading under your Marion Square tent?

This week? The weather report. Two tropical storms the opening week of Spoleto is pretty nerve-wracking.


What writers or poets inspire your work?

Annie Dillard, Edward Abbey, Madeleine L’Engle, Barbara Kingsolver, Bill McKibben.


I was a double major at Sewanee in English and Fine Art. I read Annie Dillard for the first time for a religious mysticism class when I was a senior. We read Holy the Firm and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I was already a painter, but after reading Dillard I knew that I wanted to do with my art what she had done with words in those books. Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire was also a big influence.


You often include text or quotes to accompany your paintings. Tell us about that—what it adds to the art, how words relate to images? 

My work is so inspired by writers that I feel compelled to share passages that have moved me (with permission) or short passages that I have written. I’ve seen people stand in front of one of my paintings, read a quotation, and cry. Experiencing art in any form is intensely personal, so I can’t speak to how or why people are affected, but if I can bring multiple layers of expression to the table and enrich someone’s experience, I will.


I’ve used your paintings as jumping off points for my writing (www.alifestill.com). Any relationships with other writers or poets who respond to your paintings?

Not that I’ve been made aware of although I’d love to think that they’re out there. I’ve collaborated with naturalist and NatureScene host Rudy Mancke. In addition to being a scientist he’s certainly a wordsmith and talented storyteller. He’s done several ‘indoor nature walks’ of my paintings where he spins tales about the species in each painting, combining scientific knowledge with personal anecdotes and a sense of absolute wonder that we share. We will do another project together during my exhibit at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Ga in the fall of 2013.


Favorite recent read?

Eudora Welty’s collected short stories is on my bedside table.


Your go-to dog-eared page?

This month it’s p. 25 of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire. A passage there inspired my most recent (and favorite) painting. “… from this nest of thorns, this snare of hooks and fiery spines, is born once each year a splendid flower. It is unpluckable and except to an insect almost unapproachable, yet soft, lovely, sweet, desirable, exemplifying better than the rose among thorns the unity of opposites.”


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Be sure to catch Honor, and other fine artists, at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival Outdoor Juried Art Exhibition in Marion Square Park. Now through June 9 from 10am- 6pm daily. http://www.HonorMarks.com.