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Friday, March 4, 2005

Ralph Steeds and Gar Bethel together again

Red Springs artist and UNC Pembroke Professor Ralph Steeds has provided artwork for a new book by an old friend.

Cover Art for A Traveling Circus

Written by poet Gar Bethel, “A Traveling Circus” was published this winter by Point Riders Press of Norman, Okla. It is the second book Steeds and Bethel have collaborated on.

“He was a graduate student in English when I was getting my Master of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma,” Steeds said. “I did another book with him in 1972” (“Boxed-In: Nineteen Poems and Five Etchings”).

The artist also produced a cover for a third collection of Bethel’s poems, entitled “Small Wonder.”

For “A Traveling Circus,” Steeds produced six original, hand-pulled lithographs from his studio in Red Springs. It took him the better part of a year.

“I was pleased with the way it turned out,” Steeds said. “I love his poetry.”

The lithographs are less illustration than parallel expressions, Steeds said.

“The prints don’t illustrate any of the poems,” he said. “But my prints and his poetry demonstrate a similar artistic vision.”

Bethel has written many volumes of poetry. “A Traveling Circus” is a peek under the big top into a lifetime of memories.

Steeds’ lithographs are visual expressions of the poet’s mind. The cover art may be a high-wire act, but the work inside is a three-ring circus of images and abstractions.

The lives and art of Bethel and Steeds have several intersections. Both are prolific artists with a lifetime of teaching behind them - Bethel in public schools and universities across the U.S. and Steeds for 30 years at UNCP.

Steeds’ work is on display in private collections and museums from the orient to his native Oklahoma.

Steeds was recently invited to join 23 printmakers, who produced a portfolio of 23 prints in 23 sets for the show “Beat For Jesus” at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. The exhibition is at the invitation of the Southern Graphics Conference. The print folio will be shown at the Corcoran School Of Art from March 30 through the month of April.

“A Traveling Circus” ($12) may be ordered from Spring Church Book Company; P.O. Box 127; Spring Church, Pa. 15686. The original set of six lithographs, each 11 X 14 inches may be ordered from Ralph Steeds: 223 N. Church Street; Red Springs, N.C. 28377. They are $150 each or $500 for the set of six.

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