“500/500”, Embroidered collage by Shaun Kardinal

Shaun Kardinal


Embroidered collage
8 x 11 inches

I was invited to visually respond to a favorite poem.

Not being a poetry connoisseur, I decided to respond to lyrics from a favorite song. Being a life-long lover of music, it wasn’t easy choosing from so many amazing lyricists, but I felt immediately drawn to work by Spencer Krug, whose songwriting and musical abilities have enchanted me since I first heard Sunset Rubdown’s early EPs. (His band repertoire also includes Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, Frog Eyes, Fifths of Seven and more.)

One of my favorite bits of his lyrical output can be heard in the song All Fires, an acoustic campfire tragedy which relates the story of a flooded town, a burning love, and the desperation of survival (full lyrics with art detail below). The stirring imagery of ‘a world of water’ and burning fires led me to attempt a visual narrative with the piece–the 50/50 light/dark of it fitting with an ongoing fascination of mine. I was lucky enough to find a perfectly composed steeple image in a book of photographs published in the 80s, which I cut up before flooding and setting afire with thread…

You have a father
There is another
You have a sister
There are no brothers.

You have good friends
You have a lover
When friendships end
You will still love her.

But it’s Theresa that you love the best.

There was a flood
A world of water
The mason’s wife
Swam for her daughter.

One thousand people
Did what they could
They found the steeple
And tore out the wood.

Five hundred pieces means
Five hundred float.
One thousand people means
Five hundred don’t.

And it’s Theresa that they love the best.

I’ve said it before,
And I’ll say it again:
All fires have to burn alive.

From near his heart,
He took a rib:
All fires have to burn alive to live.

So it’s Teresa that I love the best.

—Spencer Krug

(original text from shaunkardinal.com)