Draw Out the Child

(Bo Bartlett, “Draw Out the Child,” 2019)

He has found our child,

the boy—in flannel, TIED SHOES, and jeans, was not in the water for a swim. We know the boy is misplaced, we know the boy was head under, wet hair, too long.


     1.) The bright light shining the rails a better yellow.
     2.)  The push of blue upon the high horizon.

Draw Out the Child is massive, so that if you stand close enough, it feels that you are in the painting too. Many of Bo’s paintings are larger than life canvasses like this. Small worlds. Globes, stories to step into. In this piece, when you stand in front of it, the man stands high above you.

but notice

there is more sky than sea here, there is more air than water and air is what the boy needs. 
Averageman has brought the boy to this air. That is,

          —if averageman is to let him go.
          —if averageman will step down from the ladder to the sea.

Bo Bartlett created Draw Out the Child, an oil on linen painting in the massive size of 80 x 100 last year. This painting is on display at the Bo Bartlett Center at Columbus State University, Georgia. He calls himself an American realist “with a modernist vision.” 

and silence

he waits for me. And us. He’s got it under control right now. Are we to step up to him then? Take the boy? He climbed up those stairs from the sea and planted his legs firm, he unwavers.

          —This is no seal, he says.
          —This is not the sea I hold.
          —This body requires more.

Cole W. Williams

What is the significance of this work to you?

Last January I visited the Bo Bartlett Center in Columbus, Georgia. Upon entering, I was introduced to the "mind" of Bo Bartlett—an exhibit room full of Bo's trinkets from his life; each glass case a representation of his muses, life history and experiences. This is a wonderful introduction to an artist's collection as you see the iterations of work and time it takes to create the featured exhibit. Walking to the open halls of Bo's paintings, I was confronted with massive narratives of Americana in his paintings. One has to contemplate for a while to read the pieces as they are all vividly making active statements. Draw Out the Child is the result of sitting with a piece and uncovering layers; what it means to me and perhaps what the artist is sharing also. I felt wrapped in the painting; completely taken.

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

There is freedom in the lyric essay to dream and write without consequence. I spend the beginning stages of writing in this state. Later, I braid in another narrative that will balance the piece and offer a layered experience. With ekphrasis, this provides context and grounding. We often experience the world this way.

What was your process for creating this work?

I was captivated by the visit to the Center and while there I tried to stay with the art; rather than take photos. Later I regretted now not having pictures to reference, but I did have the coffee table book. I returned to the pieces I saw in person and began to write freely on the images. After, I would look up the associated biographical information on the painting and begin to explore craft techniques to bring it all together. It ended up being two separate essays that I pulled from to create one.

Cole W. Williams engages in the literary art forms of poetry, short story and creative nonfiction. She has a background in scientific training that lends a perspective to the pieces she writes; often finding an intersection between humanity, nature, society and science. Williams is currently enrolled in the Creative Writing MFA program at Augsburg University. She teaches at The Loft Literary Center and judges the MIPA Awards. “When the Stars Sleep, Of Day” is published in Martin Lake Journal, Volume 3, June 2020. A poem “Country Dilemma” is featured in the 2019 Moccasin Anthology and a poem “Disturbing Reflections from a (Developed) World” won second place in the Bring Back the Prairie Award sponsored by the League of MN Poets. Williams has been featured on Authors on the Air, CBS Women’s Watch and GSMC for her children’s science book, Dr. Brainchild & Radar.

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