Sound+Vision: Local Artists Take Their Collaboration from Paint to Print

 In Culture, Interviews

At a time when many folks are building physical and metaphorical walls, Caitlin Metz and Victoria Emanuela are tearing them down. Using art, activism and self-reflection as ongoing themes, their work resonates across multiple genres and formats. Their recent collaboration, an interactive mural painted on the side wall of the Rise Coffee House in The Grove, has introduced their work to a broader audience.

Unveiled during this year’s Grove Fest, the Rise mural combines audio and visual elements designed to stimulate creative expression through interaction with viewers.

Metz says the mural came about via a grant they received from The Luminary for projects in St. Louis involving community engagement. “After we got it, we had to seek out a place to have the mural exist. We wanted this piece to be about community and connection and Rise, as well as The Grove, just seemed like the perfect spot.”

“This last summer, Caitlin and I had been doing a lot interactive work with illustration and sound combined, which had given us this really interesting dimension to experiencing something,” Emanuela says, describing how the mural’s interactive elements came to be. “This summer, we collaborated for a workshop, and I made a sound piece where there were a lot of different voices in it. It was about polyvocality—and what was really powerful was that when people listened to it, they heard other people’s voices that I collaged into the sound, talking and speaking to each other, even without knowing one another.”

Emanuela thought thought it would be great to bring that into the community with the mural. “So I set up an interview space at The Luminary and had a lot of people come in answer a few questions. The main two I asked were, ‘How are you trying to find a home in your body or in yourself?’ and ‘How do you know you belong?’ As these people talked about belonging, they really became a collective voice. It was pretty amazing, and we included it in the mural so that now, when you look at the phrases on the wall, you also to get to hear people in the St. Louis community speaking them to you.”

Victoria Emanuela (left) and Caitlin Metz (right).

Partners in life and art, these writers, visual artists and community activists have also developed “On Being in Your Body,” a six-week online course which is being adapted as a book for release in 2020. A decade in the making, “On Being in Your Body” marks the apogee of their efforts to help people explore, understand and experience their embodied forms while also helping stimulate creative processes, challenge problematic mindsets and better connect with themselves.

Metz explained that the project began with her searching for a therapist. Nervous about the process of going, she met Victoria for coffee—and from there an instant spirit of collaboration took hold. “After we met, we never stopped talking about our work and what we were thinking about and processing. At the time, Victoria was working as a therapist and doing all this body work, and her history was in sound poetry and creative writing. And I was doing all this self-portraiture and making paper and books and zines and writing manifestos. All of it came back to this concept of what does it mean to have a body and how are we expanding and growing and healing? A lot of it was rooted in trauma and unlearning systems, breaking cycles and leaving religion.

“We both had very similar themes in our work, so we just started making things together,” Metz continues. “Suddenly it was a zine, or it was a poem. Then we had a pivotal moment when we decided to make a course together. We built this online course—and with it was this companion zine which we called ‘A Guide to Writing Yourself.’ And we broke this down on how to write a personal manifesto for how you want to be and how to set intentions for yourself. We created six different parts and developed all these prompts and conversations that we put in the zine, with the idea that when you work through all of these prompts and get to the end of the zine, you have written all the content for your personal manifesto—and then you can take that and write it in whatever way feels good and beautiful to you.”

Caitlin Metz (left) and Victoria Emanuela (right).

Eventually their course evolved into a series of workshops which then led the creative partners to run a small press together. From there, things began to take off when Random House reached out to them with a book deal. Slated for release next October, “My Body My Homefinds the duo returning to the familiar territory of self-development. “It is about how to tenderly and gently open up this dialogue with ourselves to be at home with what it is to be this being in the world,” Metz explains.

With the first book behind them, these literary trailblazers are now firmly focused on planning and developing additional projects, including their second book, which they will begin writing in the early part of 2020.

Images courtesy of Attilio D’Agostino.

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