The Story

Love Letter To the World was born from our desire to create a global community by intertwining poetry, tattoos, design, photography, spoken word, storytelling, and music. To begin with, we asked Frank X Walker, an NAACP Image Award winner, to write a poem as a love letter to the world. When we first read Walker’s poem, both an apology and a renewed commitment to our troubled world, we knew that nothing about this artwork would be quite what we had expected.

Like any community-focused artwork, Love Letter To the World has already grown tremendously because of participants’ feedback and suggestions. In fact, this artwork thrives and will continue to expand because of the great many people who have joined in along the way. Thank you!

Kurt and Kremena

The Artists

Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova capture photographs at the periphery of American culture, where drag queens, discarded couches, and abandoned motel signs exist. They have traveled to Los Angeles, Indianapolis, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Portland to photograph the people who live near the couches and easy chairs found on these cities’ curbs. The resulting collection of images is part of an ongoing artwork, DISCARDED: USA. With the Lexington Tattoo Project—a public artwork that placed the words of a poem, as permanent tattoos, on the bodies of 253 Lexingtonians—Kurt and Kremena have started a movement and are working with several other cities to launch locally based pride-of-place Tattoo Projects. Kurt and Kremena have exhibited their collaborative work in Boulder, Indianapolis, Lexington, Louisville, Oneonta, New York, San Antonio, and Venice Beach. Love Letter To the World is Kurt and Kremena’s latest artistic collaboration.

Click Here for a recently published interview with Kurt and Kremena discussing several of their collaborative artworks.

Visit the artists’ website

The Poet

Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker teaches in the department of English at the University of Kentucky and is the founding editor of Pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. A Cave Canem Fellow and co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets, he is the author of six collections of poetry, including Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, winner of the 2014 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Poetry; Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award, and When Winter Come: The Ascension of York, a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle Award Winner. Voted one of the most creative professors in the South, he is the originator of the word “Affrilachia” and is dedicated to deconstructing and forcing a new definition of what it means to be Appalachian. A Lannan Poetry Fellowship Award recipient, he has degrees from the University of Kentucky and Spalding University, as well as honorary doctorates from the University of Kentucky and Transylvania University.

Frank X Walker about his poem

When the Lexington Tattoo Project was over and I saw Bianca's love poem to Lexington and Kremena and Kurt's art on the bodies of many people, I immediately regretted not being a part of it. Ironically, it was Bianca who talked me into participating in the larger project without fully understanding the complete vision. She had had an amazing experience and no regrets and that was good enough for me.

It was easy to say yes to Kurt and Kremena because I was familiar with their work and the deadline was so far away. Little did I know that they would move up the original due date and force me to allow the idea to move off of my back burner and right up front to do battle with the novel I had been working on all year.

While at a retreat to work on the novel, I couldn't stop thinking about a love letter to the world and how I might define this world and find a way in. I would contemplate different images of people and the problems and challenges that come with people across the globe and consider all the things I knew and the unquantifiable number of things I didn't, and then quickly shut down because the idea itself seemed much too big a canvas to paint in a single poem.

While standing in a grove of trees at a Kentucky state park, listening to a variety of birds sing, and starring out at a lake, I was struck by the sheer beauty of it all and recognized that the genuine affection I was feeling for the natural world didn't apply to the people in it. Then I asked myself if there was any single person who had endured as much violation and disrespect as the world and I recognized that the answer was "only the black woman." Once I arrived at that epiphany, I was in familiar territory and had an audience I could wrap my head around.

Sponsors

Kurt and Kremena would like to thank the sponsors of Love Letter To the World: without their generous support, we wouldn't have been able to do it!

This artwork has received major support from:

  • Blue Grass Community Foundation
  • Bullhorn Creative
  • Gayle Cerlan
  • Jim Gray
  • Georgia Henkel
  • Christine Huskisson
  • Kentucky Arts Council
  • Kentucky for Kentucky
  • John Long
  • Morris Book Shop
  • Price Nicol
  • QX.net
  • Ginger and John Smithwick
  • Transylvania University
  • Griffin and Sarah Wylie VanMeter

and generous support from:

  • Allison Adair
  • Robin Atwell
  • Angela Baldrige
  • Loretta M. Barnett
  • Susan Bell
  • Tara Borkowski
  • Becky Fox
  • Samantha Harp
  • Bryan Gillson and Anne Hide
  • Susan Grabowski
  • Marnie Holoubek
  • Lori Houlihan
  • Winnie Jo
  • Stephanie Poole
  • Ernie and Jeri Ray
  • Maury Sparrow

Many thanks to LexArts for providing administrative support.