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Artists explore language and action in ‘Words to Live By’

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Artist Vivian Martian says Yukupta translates to “the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.”
Vivian Martian

The cliché asserts that a picture is worth a thousand words, but one word can trigger a multitude of thoughts, memories and emotions. In the exhibit Words to Live By at Blackbird Studios, artists Vivian Martian, Gina Alverson and Kris Krainock use words to create works that take off in unexpected directions—even when literally rendered.

In one piece, Martian uses the word yuputka, from Nicaragua’s Ulwa language, to create a black-and-white photograph of a subject with strategically placed cicada shells on his face. The word, she says, translates to “the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.” The transparent cicada shells, emitting a ghostlike presence, play off the idea of phantom (a word within a phrase describing a word). And Martian uses the Inuit word iktsuarpok as her inspiration to create a more personal and narrative piece, also in black and white.

In addition to photography, the exhibit includes paintings, drawings, film, installations and live performance. Or, as Blackbird describes it: “a fierce collaboration of words and actions in an unprecedented multimedia art show that explores the words that most inspire and provoke.”

Words to Live By September 4, 6-9 p.m. & September 5, 6-11 p.m. Blackbird Studios, 702-782-0319.

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