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Beauty in Breathing: An Exhibit

The following was written by Rich Dana, Sackner Archive Project Coordinator

Marvin and Ruth Sackner were the world’s foremost collectors of “visual poetry,” artwork that combines visual elements and text. Dr. Sackner was also an internationally respected pulmonologist and inventor of many medical devices. In 1992, the Sackners created a unique exhibition of work by an international selection of artists entitled The Beauty in Breathing,  as a special event at the annual meeting of The American Lung Association & American Thoracic Society.

Visual poetry is, among many things, the depiction of the sounds made by the air moving from our lungs and across our vocal cords. It’s not surprising then, that breath is one of the common themes found in the Sackner’s vast collection of artists’ books, images, and 3D objects.

“It was a scientific meeting,” recalled Dr. Sackner in a previous interview. “And in the middle of it, here is this exhibition. A lot of people got exposed to ‘art and poetry’ for the first time. It was really great fun to observe them. A lot of doctors aren’t necessarily art-inclined, but here, over a thousand people got to see this exhibit over a three-day period.”

Presented in the UIHC exhibit is a small selection of the 167 works included in The Beauty in Breathing show,  but the other works, along with copies of the exhibit catalog, original photographs from the event, and the Sackners’ curatorial records are all part of Dr. Sackner’s donation to the University of Iowa Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives.

“Concrete Poetry conveys a visual image to the reader through the arrangement of words or typefaces on the page; there may or may not be additional meanings to the poem in the abstract sense which relate to its content as in a conventional poem. Visual poetry is a form of concrete poetry that integrates visual imagery with the text.” —Dr. Marvin Sackner

The Beauty in Breathing: Selections from The Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry will be on display through this fall through January 24th at the UIHC John Colloton Pavillion, located on the 6th floor, as part of their Project Art initiative. The exhibit is curated by Rich Dana, Sackner Archive Project Coordinator.