The Love Letter Response

‘How does this art work fit into the story of you?’

Open minds.  Comfortable clothes. All that’s needed to be part of the Love Letter Response Workshop at Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA).  Our bodies bend and stretch in response to chosen artworks, we make sound effects and then we draw, gradually generating an intimate vocabulary about particular art works during this two hour workshop. These physical, sensory exercises culminate in writing a letter of love (or scorn) to an artwork of our choosing. This multi-sensory process allows you to go deeper into your personal response to a work of art as an end in itself, or perhaps to then write a critical review of an artwork.


Local artist Justine Heywood who facilitated the workshop reflects, ‘I was moved by the participants’ honesty and willingness to take part in the planned exercises. I felt a general calmness with all participants and felt privileged to guide them through Matt’s workshop. I enjoyed watching and hearing the individual responses’. Justine wrote her love letter to sculptor Guy Boyd’s ‘Olympic Swimmer’ 1980-81, a larger than life-size female figure decaled in gold leaf from the MAMA Collection. She shares her letter here:


Your presence makes me feel instantly calm.

You exude gentleness, kindness and peace.

When I look at you my heart softens and I want this feeling to remain deep inside me.

Your soul.

Your stance.

Thank you…. Thank you for accepting me.

Please don’t change.

Please don’t leave.




Kirsten Burns and Mary Beattie from Canberra each reflect on their experience of participating in the workshop.  In the photo above Kirsten shares her drawing in response to Anne Zahalka’s photomontage, ‘Outlawed’ 2017.


Kirsten observed it was ‘incredibly liberating to let go of the text about art, and respond in new ways, based entirely on what’s going on in my own head.’  She reflects that, ‘sharing as a group enriched this experience, with a diversity of personal reactions to the art works at MAMA. I can’t wait to expose myself to more art, both familiar and unfamiliar and respond again on a personal basis, physically, with sound, art and words.’


And, in the photo below, Mary shares her drawing in response to Anne Zahalka’s photomontage, ‘A Summer Morning Tiff’ 2017.




Mary found it ‘refreshing to kick off Write Around the Murray with the ‘love letter’ workshop.’ She says, ‘through the sequences so tenderly supported by Justine, our own writing became a natural outgrowth of experiences with art and each other. Those two features – engaging with ideas beyond our own as well as engaging with a community have touched the rest of this Writers’ Festival, committing me to future attendance and participation over coming years.’


The Love Letter Response Workshop was developed by Suzanne Seesman and Matt Kalasky, co-directors of the online arts journal, The St Claire, Philadelphia. The workshop was presented by MAMA in association with The St Claire during the 2017 Write Around the Murray (WAM) festival.


All of us enjoyed being part of this intriguing workshop as you can tell! I look forward to another Love Letter Response Workshop at MAMA soon.



Thank you Bree Pickering, Director of MAMA for suggesting the workshop

Justine for facilitating under Matt’s instruction

Mary and Kirsten for sharing their reflections




Key words

Love Letter Response workshop, art criticism, personal response, Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA), Write Around the Murray festival (WAM), collaboration, writing about art.





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