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"It is a humbling experience to be selected as part of such a rich tradition," says Bridgford. Only 10 artists (including musicians, visual artists and writers) are at Ucross at any one time.
For nearly two weeks in August, Bridgford was a resident at the Ucross Foundation, an artists' colony in Wyoming’s High Plains, completing her collaborative travel project with visual artist Jo Yarrington, also a Ucross Fellow for Fall 2012. The pair are nearing the conclusion of a 10-year interdisciplinary collaboration they call "The Falling Edge: Iceland, Venezuela and Bhutan (2004-2012)," a project that chronicles in their respective media their responses to a shared journey rather than to each other's work.
Their travel included 10-day trips to Iceland (2004), Venezuela (2007) and Bhutan (March 2012), places Bridgford describes as "countries 'at the edge' in terms of geography as well as change, whether economic, political or technological." The result is a series of three books of poems and photography through which "we explore odd balances, a way to somehow hover between the two disciplines," adds Yarrington.
Bridgford says the books are being "conceptualized as both discrete objects and as components of a larger installation in an exhibition space. The project has been based around units of ten, such as the ten syllables of the iambic line of the sonnet. The first two books are made up entirely of sonnets. This last book contains sonnets, villanelles and free verse. ... The photographs do not illustrate the poetry, but emphasize the common journey."
Many of the poems in the project have appeared in The Iowa Review, Connecticut Review, The Lyric, and The Robert Frost Review. The project has been exhibited at the Stevenson Academy of Fine Arts, and presented at conferences including the West Chester Poetry Conference.
The project was conceived while both were on the faculty at Fairfield University in Connecticut, where they taught an honors course together on artistic collaboration and shared in the creation of other projects. Yarrington is in her 22nd year teaching there while Bridgford left after 21 years to become WCU’s Poetry Center director in 2010.
Bridgford has twice asked Yarrington to be the featured artist for Mezzo Cammin, the online journal of formalist poetry by women that she edits. She also created the splash page image for The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project (www.mezzocammin.com).
"Not only has this collaborative project taught me a great deal about the world – I've traveled, researched, and written about countries that were new to me as a traveler and writer – but it has also taught me about the nature of friendship," Bridgford says.
Fewer than 100 artists are supported annually by Ucross Foundation Fellowships. The highly competitive awards offer artists, writers and composers from around the United States and the world, in all stages of their professional careers, the opportunity to participate in one of two residency sessions annually. Residencies vary in length from two to six weeks.