“Visions of Life”, a short story collection edited by Evanston writer Ivy Sundell, is an engaging collaboration between art and written word. The collection is composed of five stories, each inspired by a work of art. The stories range from one about a cross-dressing draft dodger to one that captures the touching melancholy of an estranged father.
Ann Kammerer’s “Dress Up” is the first story in the collection. It follows Eldon, a man plagued by dreams of cross-dressing and is one of the more powerful pieces in the collection. Ms. Kammerer does a compelling job of earning the reader’s sympathy for Eldon’s dilemma. Though it ends on a dark note, “Dress Up” is worth the read. The story is inspired by Eric Semelroth’s “Cross Dressing Draft Resister Who Chanted Hare Krishna for 7 Years,” a pastel portrait on paper that uses dark blues, shadows, and crimson lipstick to make the cross-dresser’s face pop out.
The next story, “Family Portrait” is inspired by Mary Barnes Gingrich’s “Girl with a Violin.” The oil on canvas painting is a portrait of a young, bespectacled girl holding a violin. The story was written by Joanne Freeman and deals with a shattered family. “Family Portrait” slowly unveils its world through a mother’s complaints and her daughter’s curt answers as they delve into what ruined their family. It feels like a chapter out of a full-length novel and the reader will want to turn the last page to learn more about what haunts the family.
PJ Minton’s “Just Float” is about an estranged father. Through the view of his second wife the reader watches Steve Banks desperately try to reconnect with his daughter. Every attempt he makes to amend for an unknown slight is rebuffed or met with silence. The story is inspired by Irene Maloney’s “Just Float.” The painting is oil on canvas of a man floating in an illuminated pool.
“Sharing Daniel” by Douglas Macdonald touches on infidelity, as Adrienne Paley begins to suspect her boyfriend, Daniel, is having an affair. At the same time she wonders about her future as a poet and how the looming threat of infidelity will affect that future. Mr. Macdonald drew inspiration from the painting “Heiress” by Evanston artist Gay Griffin Riseborough. “Heiress,” part of Ms. Riseborough’s “Dark Times” series, is oil on linen and features a kneeling woman in white and another woman in black anointing the former with a ball of light as a snake slithers across the floor.
Colby Vargas’s “Transform” is the final and possibly weakest of the five short stories. It details the titular transformation of Marcus. While the other stories deal with a major upheaval or turning point in a character’s life, “Transform” instead focuses on the aftermath of an event. It is more candid in its delivery of events than its peers and was inspired by Renee McGinnis’s “Savior Savings,” oil on a 23k gold leaf canvas of a man facing and pressed against a cross, as his shoulders are bathed in light.
The idea behind “Visions” belongs to Ms. Sundell, who wanted to reach out to readers. Ms. Sundell said, “I had three art books, and I’ve always wanted to bring it to a broader audience outside of the art circle. This was to bring it to readers. And we have more readers then art collectors. I think it is a way to bring art to people.” She attended various functions and writers workshops and used online promotion to find authors for Visions. Once she found the authors, they chose which work of art to draw inspiration for their story. A great marriage of art and writing, “Visions of Life” is a good but quick read.