"Hunger is the Best Cook," by Myra Albert Wiggins, is the photograph that pulled me heart first into ekphrasis. Wiggins was part of the Pioneer Women Photographers shown at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle several years ago. At the time, I believed I was looking at a painting and didn't understand that Wiggins had created this scene by dressing her daughter in an old Dutch costume. Even the panes on the window are merely props - a little bit of black construction paper. The table? Built by Ms. Wiggins for the shoot.
I can't explain what drew me to this image. Why did I return to the museum three years after the show had left? How did I manage to track down the exhibition catalogue (with the guidance of the gift shop cashier) so I could learn everything I could about this photographer? Who knew she would turn out to be a photographer, painter, poet, and world traveler?
Today I was writing to another poet who is skeptical of ekphrais - as I was before finding this image. Since then I have written a series of poems on the photographs, paintings, and life of this artist, Myra Albert Wiggins. Honestly, I think what has kept me interested in the project is how many different ideas become braided together in the poems. I can draw on the image itself, the photographer's perspective, and my own entirely imagined ideas about the subject, the story. One of the reasons I write, and I know I am not alone on this, is to extend my world view.