Don't be upset--I'm only crying in English
For its final exhibition, Sight School is pleased to present a new installation by San Francisco-based artists Kevin Killian and Ajit Chauhan. Long time admirers of each other’s work, the artists have collaborated on an elaborate call and response project in connection with the work of the late US poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911—1979). In her lifetime, Bishop was the awardee of every honor, including the 1957 Pulitzer Prize, but since her death a general consensus has placed her at the very top of Olympus, perhaps the preeminent postwar American poet. A writer of mystery as well as of ordinary things, a poet of landscape who traveled widely and deeply, she could also let divine poetic accidents into her highly stylized workshop; during her lifetime she published only a handful of books, 101 poems in total. Often thought of as a Boston poet, or a Key West poet, or as an American poet in exile in Brazil, where she spent most of her 40s and 50s, but she lived in San Francisco for two tumultuous years, during the “youthquake” of 1968-1970, in a quiet apartment on Pacific near Polk.
The exhibition takes its name from an anecdote that typified her grace, humor, and practical mind. James Merrill visited her at Casa Mariana, in Brazil & she was glad to be able to speak English with someone as it had been weeks. It brought out a recent sorrow & she was in tears. A young Brazilian painter & guest stumbled upon them & stopped dead in his tracks. Elizabeth immediately wanted to console him & said switching to Portuguese "Don't be upset, I'm only crying in English." Through collage, photography, sculptural deskilling, through music, poetry, electronica and voice, Killian and Chauhan bring to life a forgotten chapter in Bay Area history, the time when Elizabeth Bishop lived among us on the other side of the Bay.
Ajit Chauhan (b. 1981) is a Kansas-born, San Francisco-based artist. Kevin Killian (b.1952) is a poet, novelist, playwright, critic, and editor whose next book, Tagged, will be a collection of his own photographs.