Virginia City poet looks beyond words

For Virginia City-based poet, educator and editor Shaun T. Griffin, the road to artistic freedom is the length of a brushstroke.

An opening reception is 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Northwest Reno Library gallery for Griffin's first solo exhibition: "A Poet Looks to Watercolor: Words and Images."

Griffin, author of the poetry collection "Snowmelt" and editor of the Nevada literary anthology "The River Underground," said paint helps build a new cohesion to his work.

"The paintings are not abstract, but not a direct representation either," he said on the eve of the show's hanging.

"I'm in love with watercolors," said Griffin. He finds the slight loss of control the paint provides as it drips from the brush intoxicating, more so than the willing tact and temperance of acrylics and oils.

"At this point - in the middle of my life - I'm drawn to words and paint because they enrich one another," he said. "They make the lone work of words and paintings fresh."

Griffin, the head of Community Chest Inc., a nonprofit community and youth development agency, says he draws much of his artistic energy from the environment, whether it's Northern Nevada, Spain or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

He spent the first week in June in Alaska watching a caribou migration.

Time also seems to be elemental for Griffin.

"The ice was just breaking" in Alaska, he said.

Perhaps figuratively as well.

"I want to live beyond the confines of my life in art," he said. "To challenge and re-invent the idea of poetry or painting."

"Watercolor is a force you can't control. With words, there's a precision."

Influenced by contemporary poets like Hayden Carruth and Richard Shelton, Griffin said there's a vibrant and healthy poetry scene in Northern Nevada.

"You wouldn't know it from the surface, but there's at least 20 strong poets working in the state now," he says. "And they're not here by default. There are a lot of good books coming out of the area."

The show, a partnership of Somersett, Friends of the Washoe County Library, the Northwest Advisory Committee, the Nevada Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts and Sierra Arts runs from Tuesday through Sept. 9.

The Northwest Reno Library is at 2325 Robb Drive in Reno.

For information, call 787-4100.

n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at or 881-1215.


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