Gene Tanta is the author of Unusual Woods. He grew up in socialist Romania. He dreamt flickeringly of becoming an artist under the rationed TV shows of communist Romania. Born in Timisoara, Tanta relocated to Chicago in 1984. He earned his MFA (Iowa) and PhD (UW-Milwaukee) in poetry, taught 3rd graders and graduate students, edited and translated anthologies, and worked hard to master the art of composting. He returned to Romania in 2012-13 on a Fulbright grant. This experience rekindled his dream of making art. He is making art.
Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol saw art everywhere—in the urinal, in the boardroom. Poetry teaches the poignancy of juxtaposition.
Tanta’s current project is a multimedia series where faces paint over four-letter words. The faces of MLK, Emma Goldman, John Lennon, and the like haunt because they have been pruned from society by assassination. These images, however, are more than martyr portraits documenting thwarted civil rights movements, political ideologies, or aesthetic visions. These images present aesthetic treatment of iconic, as well as unknown, faces of activists. The dead want to speak again so we may reflect on why they died … and what died with them. No monuments to nostalgia, but a mourning with purpose. He uses food dyes because they saturate the paper better than inks and because he used to live near the Indian and Pakistani grocery stores along Devon avenue in Chicago.