FACE IT, a gallery lit show

FACE IT: Spoken Word Fun Inspired by Art Etched with a Pen of Light. Collaborations between Russil Tamsen and Anita Wexler. Available as illustrated e-book. Word Count: 10,549. Includes 57 poems, 57 psychedelic drawings, plus 8 bonus color plates; 135 pages; pdf file format for iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, laptops and desktops.

Blurb: This multimedia project is a unique, fascinating collaboration which evolved out of a virtual coffee table book. The two creative teammates have turned a neo-primitive art collection into a modern illustrated poetry show.

In her swirling, 60’s psychedelic “scratch art” style, Anita drew a myriad of trippy, densely detailed portraits. These female faces hail from aboriginal and mythical cultures. Mostly androgynous, they flaunt plump yet unsmiling lips. Their serious stare is challenging, and yet challenged. Whose faces are we looking at in this mirror? What will we find lurking behind those unsmiling eyes if we dare to interact? Painful mysteries, tender vulnerabilities, kinky mating calls? Silent, hard-won lessons in love gone wrong? Anita wonders about life for the modern woman: how to navigate the rushing waters of sadness, or find trustworthy sexual partners, or calm the fearful craziness that lurks inside. She suggests digging deep down into one’s soul ancestry and Nature for healing answers, and to find beauty in the details en route. These simple, healthy obsessions are on display in her work.

Each of Anita Wexler’s faces became the inspiration for a spoken word piece by Russil Tamsen. During the FACE IT show, Russil toys with themes of male-female relationships and their endings. The pieces are ground zero for the evening’s polycultural detonation. Throughout the four-part evening, Russil tosses out a variety of tight character monologues, dark poems, humorous limericks – even rap. (He’s like John Leguizamo, Eddie Izzard and Chief Joseph rolled up into one animated shapeshifter.) His poetic flow even branches out into philosophy and meditational haiku. Plenty of humor shines through the ever-morphing literary juggernaut.

For the FACE IT gallery lit show, Russil’s lady partner-in-crime will be a certain local performance artist/speaker.

His vision for the evening: the audience will enter through a lobby where a large face mask hangs. Three gallery projection screens will create an equilateral triangle around the main room. To the right will be the projected slideshow of drawings from FACE IT. To the left will be a quick-paced, trippy slideshow from a Tumblr blog called Quirkyvision that represents the distractions of the digital age. Behind the audience will be a large e-reader/teleprompter. The guests will follow the thread that alternates between the two narrators standing on either side of Anita’s projections. The evening will be punctuated with music interludes, perhaps dubstep or the psybient of Shpongle, plus a few audience-participation improv games.

sneak peek (pdf format)

Audio clip (takes a moment to load):

Did you enjoy the excerpt sample?  If you did, please go ahead and support the arts by purchasing the complete e-book:

Art e-book pdf  (13mb) “FACE IT”: $2.99



  1. Wow! Wonderful, wild poetry! Kept me on my toes…I was always wondering when the next intriguing words would find me off balance. The writing and art compliment each other and lift them both to a new dimension. This one’s a winner!

  2. REVIEW Sarasota Herald-Tribune / Friday, December 30, 2011

    Painter casting shadows on the water
    as the sun plays on the infantry returning from the sea.
    The do-er and the thinker: no allowance for the other
    as the failing light illuminates the mercenary’s creed.

    –Ian Anderson, “Thick as a Brick”

    Poets and painters don’t often see eye-to-eye, as Ian Anderson points out. But sometimes they do. And sometimes they collaborate. Poet Russil Tamsen and painter Anita Wexler recently did. The result is Face It, an offbeat e-book. It’s beautiful, in a mind-bending, 1960s San Francisco rock poster kind of way. It’s full of color—and colors outside the lines of critical category. Are these poems illustrating artwork—or paintings riffing on poems? To paraphrase the poet, it’s hard to say which is the chicken and which the egg—let alone which came first. But it’s good stuff from two talented creators.

    Wexler made a name for herself for her energetic (and at times erotic) paintings of female subjects. To set the record straight, for this ebook, she put down her paintbrush and picked up a nib pen and a bottle of ink. Pen-and-ink is the medium of her illustrations here. But Wexler’s message is familiar. Her women (or androgynous figures) seem wounded. They confront the viewer with a direct, almost accusing gaze. But they don’t reveal themselves. Their bodies and faces are like texts in a foreign language, demanding response and defying interpretation. Or the faces of playing cards that haven’t been turned.

    Tamsen’s verse tries to turn the cards. He fights to find the right form–ranging from iambic pentameter to haiku to limerick. His words hold humor—and traps for the reader.

    “Face It” is well worth facing.

  3. Congratulations! I LOVE the potential for heightened creativity and awesome results thru collaboration. I always remember an interview with David Bowie about the few collaborative songs he did (with Freddie Mercury, John Lennon, Mick Jagger) and how the resulting creative piece was always something more and different than either of their styles… Thank you for the inspiration! How did this bring you to a new place as an artist?


    • Authors always work on their own, right? Well, apart from a few collaborative ghost writers. So it’s a stretch to join forces with another artist in a whole different medium. But I’ve been working with dreams for 20 years, and writing ‘about’ a picture is not that different from analyzing a dream. It was a fun challenge to find a point of view that weaves a story (in rhyme) around each image. To find the voice of the face, or a voice talking about the face… The process got both sides of my brain whirring, and it’ll get both sides of the reader’s brain whirring too! – Russil

  4. The intro alone is reason enough to buy this book; after all, a good laugh is priceless. As I dive further into the book, I see how Russil’s words play on Anita’s drawings and paintings. The synergy works, and it gives me an experience much larger than the individual works could convey on their own, larger than the sum of its ingredients. I enjoy the vivid energy that comes across in words and visuals alike.

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