Barry McNamara  |   Published August 28, 2019

‘Shale Play’

Art and poetry collaborate to explore impact of fracking in ‘Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields.’

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College’s first art exhibition of the academic year brings together photos and poetry to give focus to a current environmental issue.

“Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields” features photographs by Steven Rubin and poems by Julia Spicher Kasdorf. It will be on display through Sept. 15 in the Len G. Everett Gallery in Hewes Library.

Based on their book of the same title, “Shale Play” features 22 of Rubin’s photographs and 12 of Kasdorf’s poems that sketch the complex circumstances and the people affected by the fracking of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.

The exhibit is the first of two “Visions & Verse” events that celebrate collaborations between artists and poets. The second exhibit will be on display in the Everett Gallery during the spring semester.

Kasdorf will be on campus for a gallery reception and poetry reading from 6-7:30 p.m. on Sept. 9. The reading will begin at 6:30 p.m. The exhibit, reception and poetry reading are all free and open to the public.

“‘Shale Play’ brings together two powerful art forms in a documentary collaboration – something like the work of Dorothea Lange meeting the writing of James Agee – and the results are both chilling and moving,” said Monmouth Associate Professor of English David Wright. “I’m so glad that we could bring this work to campus and share it with our students and our campus community.”

Writer Barbara Hurd described the collaborative work as “storytelling that links complexities of relationships. … Kasdorf and Rubin remind us that we all live, consciously or not, within the larger contexts of other people with other stories.”

While on campus, Kasdorf will also meet with student writers and artists and will talk with students and faculty interested in learning about fracking and its environmental and human effects in Pennsylvania and beyond.

A professor at Penn State University, Kasdorf is the author of several poetry collections, including Shale Play, Poetry in America, Eve’s Striptease and Sleeping Preacher. Her poems have appeared in some of the nation’s leading poetry publications, including The New Yorker, Poetry and Ploughshares. She is also the author of two prose works, including The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life.

Also a professor at Penn State, Rubin has an impressive career as a documentary photographer. His work has been featured over the years in The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, The Village Voice and Time, among many others, and his exhibits have appeared in galleries across the U.S. and internationally, including the Refugee Studies Center at Oxford.

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