By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
On Art with Lynn Lilly: Picture perfect words
W Carol Porter Reception 003
Carol Porter (center, in black blouse) talks with attendees during the opening night reception for an exhibit of her work, titled "Painted Poetry," at the Averitt Center for the Arts. - photo by JASON WERMERS/file

The songwriter says, “Every picture tells a story.”

Never has the expression been truer than in the work of Carol Porter, whose exhibit “Painted Poetry” is on display at the Averitt Center through Sept. 7.

Every inch of each piece is a wordscape, overflowing with a familiar song lyric, a verse of Scripture or a literary quote. The thoughts are painted in layer upon layer of brightly colored oils. Or they’re simply etched into a thick, rich expanse of white acrylic, like an ancient holy tablet. The thoughts even extend to the unframed edges of each canvas, literally wrapping it in ideas.

Some of Porter’s art speaks in whispers, like “A First Stanza Meeting,” taken from the Robert Browning’s poem, “A Meeting at Night.” On a rippled white surface, like the foam of a breaking wave, the words are embedded: “And the startled little waves that leap in fiery ringlets from their sleep.”

Porter’s “Socrates Says” is a piece that shouts its message. “Know Thyself,” it commands in an insistent black-and-white scrawl.

A painter for more than two decades, Porter may find her inspiration in words because she was educated as a writer and spent a career in journalism. She says she first began “painting” ideas when she put quotes on mirrors to teach them to her young children. “I want to empower people with art,” she says. It’s also the reason she inscribes a blessing as the finishing touch of all her work. “I want to leave a legacy,” she affirms. “Something that lasts forever.”

Perhaps the most striking work in the exhibit brings the artist’s own words to life. One that Porter calls a “mental portrait,” “5 GR8T Books,” is a literary graffiti rainbow of the themes from her own favorite reads. Sprinkled around elements of her face, symbolic windows and pathways, and childlike suns are the essential ideas of classics from Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (“Write your own script or die.”) to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (“Be the man.”).

Come walk through “Painted Poetry.” Let the colors and textures speak to you. Read Porter’s ideas and beliefs.

And the final word will be yours: “Wonderful.”

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter