“A sculpture must not illustrate; a poem must not explain.” That is Ron and Miriam Pederson’s single rule in their “conversations” between sculpture and poetry. A “conversation” is a sculpture that has a poem written about it, and the sculpture is finished based on the poem.
In 1989, Ron Pederson made a sculpture. Miriam responded to it with a poem. Ron changed his sculpture based on her poem. This collaboration contributed to the Pedersons realization they had a wide knowledge of each others work and they wrote about similar themes because of their long marriage, shared faith, and the constructive criticisms they gave each others work. This realization resulted in five different series and five unique exhibits all based on collaborations.
Surprisingly, these collaborations are very independent. Ron will start on a sculpture, and when it begins to take a shape, Miriam writes a poem about what she sees. Ron, after reading it, will adjust his creation so it fits the poem more appropriately. But, as their rule states, the sculpture will never be the picture the poem is painting. It’s isn’t anything formal, but it allows the Pedersons to explore areas in their work that they wouldn’t of normally have thought of. A fantastic example of this kind of work is Considering Flight. Ron was working on one his fiberglass sculptures, and when he was trimming it down, he found a piece that reminded him of a bird. He recalled having a large pole in his workshop, so he fixed up the bird and let it perch on the pole. He put the pole with the bird into storage, next to another of his sculptures.
Later, Miriam wandered in and noticed these two together. She wrote a poem about it, and Ron made some serious changes to the sculpture. First, he kept the bird and the other sculpture together. Next, he changed the other sculpture from a round, sphere shape to a more flowing, aerodynamic design.
This and other “conversations” have been going on between their poetry and sculptures for over sixteen years. Ron and Miriam Pederson met at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota. They both were teachers, and they dreamed about working at the same college, but knew that it wouldn’t happen. However, they were ecstatic to find that they could both be employed at Aquinas College.
Miriam is the manager of The Sampler, a student literary magazine, An Associative Professor of English, and works in the Humanities program. Ron Pederson is devoted to specializing in sculptures. They even have a course they have been teaching for ten to twelve years called “Artists and Writers in Collaboration.” Finally, they have some advice for poets: just play around with your poem. Turn it inside-out—don’t ever chain yourself down.