Ice-Age Cave Symbols in Poetry and Art

On Sunday, January 28, Mary Bennett and Keith Wilkinson will do an artists’ talk at 12:30 in the Fireside Room about the 32 geometric signs found in ice-age caves in Europe and how learning about this inspired their visual art (Mary) and poetry (Keith.)


The session will start promptly at 12:30 showing the TED Talk by Genevieve von Petzinger of the University of Victoria.


Each of them will talk about their own creative process, both the long term of how they began to create art and identify as artists as well as more recently how this particular project evolved.

Recently they published their chapbook with two poems (haiku) and one mixed-media painting selected for each of the 32 geometric signs. This is the second booklet they’ve produced, the first being “Incubating Poetry” combining Mary’s paintings inspired by birds’ nests and Keith’s poetry.

Books will be available for sale at $10 each at the talk for those who wish to purchase.

Link to details of event

Mary’s Artist website

From the back page of their chapbook:

Artist Statements


Mary Bennett – Paintings

One Saturday morning while still in bed, I heard Genevieve von Petzinger being interviewed on CBC’s North by Northwest. I was “between series”, although my recent mixed-media pieces I had named “sign posts” because most included some kind of text or numeric symbol. I was playing with the phrase “it may be a sign”. So I sat up in bed and thought: Now that may indeed be a sign!

So I just slightly shifted my artwork focus to these specific 32 geometric signs. I’m not a graphic artist, and more than one person had already made graphic representations of the signs. Nor am I a photographer, and Genevieve’s husband has done some photographs of the signs. So I searched for how I responded. After reading her book, and watching her TED talk more than once, my focus was on trying to capture the feeling of entering a cave and seeing these evocative and stirring marks for the first time.

Keith Wilkinson – Poems

Haiku immediately felt to me like the best verbal response to these ice-age signs. When combined with images, haiku becomes the related form haibun, so this would become a book of haibun, joining images and words to express thought, feeling, and wonder; immediate, past, and ultimate; the natural world and intimations of worlds unknown.

I wrote my haiku first in response to the graphic rendering of the cave signs in von Petzinger’s publications. After that, I looked at the images Mary had produced in response to the same signs and reoriented the haiku toward those. I let these rest for awhile again and in a final series of edits disconnected the haiku from their ancient and modern “sister works” and let them move independently without direct reference to their origins or influences. So if the haiku seem to wander off base, this is why. It was a kind of triple-distillation process: response, adjustment, release—all circling around unexplained mysteries. And that is the spirit I tried to be open to—touching what couldn’t be said.


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