Professor Sheds A Slant Of Light

A stigma of human nature that pours itself into the importance of finding good literature is the perpetual habit of judging a book by its cover.

However, there is a correlation between exterior and interior for the highly praised book, “Slant of Light,” by Editors Professor Larry Carr and Professor Jan Zlotnik Schmidt of the English Department at SUNY New Paltz.

This collection of work written by women of the Hudson Valley is enfolded by a piece of artwork by Professor Amy Cheng, an artist and professor of the art department at SUNY New Paltz.

Cheng’s receiving of the da Vinci Eye Award, an award which is bestowed upon titles with exceptional artwork and the first anniversary of “Slant of Light” was the reason for celebration on Thursday, Sept.18.

The event began at 5 p.m. in the Honors Center at College Hall, with a mingling of old friends and colleagues, sipping tea and eating pastries. Writers from the collection itself, interested students and distinguished guests such as David Appelbaum, the publisher of Codhill Press which Slant of Light is published under, were present at this event.

In addition to recieving the da Vinci Eye award, Cheng has also contributed to an array of public art commissions including a painted ceramic mural at the Howard St. El Station in Chicago, laminated glass windscreens at the 25th Avenue Subway Station in Brooklyn and a mosaic column at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Cheng is also credited to receiving a P.S. 122 Painting Center Fellowship in New York City for a 10 month residency, along with two New York Foundation for the Arts Painting Fellowships and an Arts International travel grant to China.

Cheng’s work is widely praised by many different organizations and her collegues.

Schmidt and Carr expressed how much they admired Cheng’s work at the event, revieling the story behind their choice of Cheng for the cover of their book.

As they attempted to figure out what they would like to have as the cover of their book, they both unanimously agreed that Cheng was the artist whose work fit best. The editors were both doubtful that she would consent to contributing. But thankfully she was elated to get on board with their book and have them use her artwork.

“I love literature, it is my first love,” Cheng said. “Therefore I was more than happy to contribute to this book.”

Interestingly enough, Cheng shared that she had originally gone to college for journalism, but soon realized her passion was art.

She earned her BFA from the University of Texas at Austin and an MFA from Hunter College, City University of New York. Professor Cheng has a wide variety of works that she allowed Professor Schmidt and Professor Carr to choose from for the book.

“There is a vibrancy of color in the river scene, it’s perfect as it captures the magical, mythical quality of the pieces of writing,” Schmidt said. “It embodies the spirit of the book.”

Carr added that it was important that, in the painting, the two people in the boat on the river remained genderless.

The woman’s anthology, containing over 500 pieces over writing written by 150 female contributors, contains five sections, all which function to categorize the vast amount of themes that contribute to the identity of the book itself.

According to Carr, this identity is to be found out by the reader themselves; therefore the genderless people on the cover of the book allow  the identity to embody anything or anyone subjective to the reader, although the book is written only by women.

“The most difficult part about choosing a piece of artwork for the book was figuring out which piece we loved more than we loved the others,” Carr said.

The colloquial, intimate feel of the afternoon was conducive to understanding the nature of the book. To add to this, a series of readings of excerpts from the book took place, read by the authors themselves.

“There is a richness, variety and expansiveness in female writing of the Hudson Valley,” Professor Schmidt said. “There is such a need for a place and space for woman’s voices to give a slant of light.”

Writers such as Heather Hewett, Katie Heins, Claire Hero, Colleen Geraghty and Sarah Wyman then read their prose, after each of which received a wave of satisfactory sighs from the audience.

Each piece written was given life through the voices of their creators, which offered an organic tone of voice in which the prose was meant to be read in.

“The cliche ‘without whom this could not have been done’ applies here genuinely,” Professor Carr said. “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

As the night concluded, Professor Carr wrapped up with words of praise to his co-editor Professor Schmidt, the talented writers of the book, David Appelbaum and Professor Cheng for all being apart of the two year project that was the creation of “Slant Of Light.”