Annie Hex bert leveille home page Jen May
"synapse" – a visual art & poetry collaboration
As it Happens with Atrocious Poets

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4th Fridays at Starline in Harvard IL resume June 25

This exhibit "synapse" can be seen through the window at bert leveille's studio 204F on the second floor

"synapse" virtual exhibit:

POEMS & STATEMENTS – written/audio
POEMS: "telegram from the Inside" 1, 2 & 3– Annie Hex
POEMS: "dawn mist has no color", "until full daybreak"
"unveils all hues"– Jen May

POEM: " Synapse, As It Happens" – bert leveille
STATEMENTS: about the "synapse" project
BIOS: Annie Hex Jen Maybert leveille
BLOG: Visual Artist/Poet Collaboration
VIDEOS on VIMEO: Virtual Exhibition
"synapse - as it happens", art details, process & collaborative talks
PRESS: Yvonne Boose, WNIJ radio in DeKalbVasari21 Newcity art 60wrd/min
COMMENTS: Responses


(you can also listen to the
album on bandcamp)


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installation photography by Victoria Senn, album cover design by bert leveille

ABOUT the “SYNAPSE” Installation project:

This small vault afforded me the intimacy and challenge of a space that could reach
beyond its physical limitations. I see these simulated tiny electrical charges – synapses –
transmitting, connecting, expanding and far reaching beyond the vault and yet protected by
the vault.

Plexiglas separates and protects the fragility of these perceived threads of energy. I
encourage a more psychic connection to the art. My hope is that one’s mind will go through
the glass; enter this space and connect to a larger space of consciousness.

This journey is further facilitated by the interpretive poetry of Annie Hex and Jen May. For
more info on the collaboration with Atrocious Poets “As It Happens” please check out the
blog posts:

Hex & May observed the art process for this installation via ZOOM, emails and Blog. They then created the poems for this collaboration with Atrocious Poets for the final Art Exhibition at The Old CourtHouse Arts Center in Woodstock, IL; November and December 2020.

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Poems by Annie Hex


we've been trying to reach you. stop.
you've left us on read. sent us to voicemail. stop.
have you been afraid to look at yourself? have you been sealed shut? stop.
stop. look. stop. look. stop. look.
inside is not so dark when you shine a light. stop.
when you free yourself. come out of your closet. of your vault. stop.
let yourself be raw and seething- stop.
not just skinny and pretty and so clean- stop.
let yourself be fractured and messy- unkempt. unswept. stop.
you aren't this fragile thing mama raised you to be anymore. stop.
unlock your closet door + open the window. stop.
crumble on the floor. cry in public. but whatever you do-
please, come out and be seen. stop.

This time 4 years ago, I took everything out of my closet + lined the floor with pillows
and blankets. I needed somewhere to hide- where I wouldn't be judged. Where no one
could touch me. Or need me. I wanted to go unseen. But I AM SO BIG. I rarely go
unnoticed. Unbothered.

I lived in a place called LOUDER HOUSE + for once, I just wanted to be quiet. Being this
LOUD in this queer survivor body is a responsibility. I can't escape my flamboyance.
This vulnerability. My own aching presence.

4 years later, we come back to the closet. The vault. But this time, the door is open. And
you get to see inside what wanted to hide. She turned on every light. Came out in
brilliant colors. Came out an honest mess. A melted ballerina in a jewelry box still

After it happened, you couldn't look anyone in the eye. Stop.
You were afraid they'd see the violence he forced into your body. Stop.
See his violence when they looked at you. Stop.
That they'd somehow mistake it for you. Stop.
You sure as hell did. Stop.
Made yourself into this monster that you're not. Stop.
But last night, she looked you in the eyes. Stop.
Said your eyes looked like foaming glasses of cream soda. Stop.
And she looked you in the eyes and she didn't see the violence. Stop.
Maybe the ache. But not his violence. Not anymore. Stop.
Not what left you feeling tainted and sour. Bitter and small. A shell. Stop.

They say it takes 7 years to get any trace of him off your body. Stop.
Last week, marked 7 years since it happened. Stop.

And she sees cream soda in your eyes. Stop.
And you're no longer crawling inside that dark closet. Stop.
No longer a shell of yourself. NO LONGER HIDING. Stop.
You burst forth in every neon color. Every neon mistake. Stop.
In the brave choice to be that which could have stayed broken but didn’t. Stop.

You put your fractured self back together. Stop.
You're not the same, but you’re pieced back together. Stop.
You open the door to be seen. Stop.
You open the door to melt out of your cage. Stop.
Melt out of that closet you used to lock yourself in. Stop.
You are cream soda at your favorite diner in the city in fall. Stop.
And you say, you say- hold me like lilacs hold their shape and bruises fade away. Stop.
And you say, you say- hold me like lilacs hold their shape and bruises fade away. Stop.

Be your own kind of violence. Stop.
You get to scream out your truth. Stop.
Pick a new president and the next one after that. Stop.
Be your own definition of all consuming. Stop.
7 years later- it's no longer about him or what he did. Stop.

Stop. Look. Stop. Look. Stop. Look.

Burst open because love, it’s finally now about YOU.

– Annie Hex

telegram from the inside part 1, 2 & 3 with music by josh gustin

part 1 telegram from the inside

part 2 telegram from the inside

part 3 telegram from the inside

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Poems by Jen May

dawn mist has no color

until full daybreak

unveils all hues

just vapor rising
from the surface
may be tile
maybe the flat
polish of the mirror
river look in
but not reflected
time lingers long
when no one
strokes your hair
and you have
lain with dew drop
eyelids that stung
so raw you have been
stripped down
torn into ribbons
mummified silence
rolled up with the
linens and canvas
leaned into the wall
but not forgotten
waiting for the hand
to catch you up.
to lay you out
formed along the
the straight wood
frame tree was once
not linear veins root to branches
arteries carry fear of night
paths in dark fairytales
when we don’t know
what comes for us from
the cobwebs
we can’t see tears
drip across the sheets
as they wet they
release deeper into
the cloth become
a stain a shade
or a shadow a
shared memory a
faint cry into your pillow
stifled and now
masked so
even our words
are misheard
and we all
look lost with
weary eyes
and half faces
trying to wake
from this dream

– Jen May

Phase 1
dawn mist has no color

dribbles of light

pool in arcs

looks like mutation

looks muted

frames squared up

we are housed

walls loom

feels stale

think of styrofoam

and drywall

think of lungs

think of the faces

you are not seeing today

 the small togetherness

of only who lives in your house

spring swirls outside

storms threaten

animals dare to go

into the streets

but most of us

cling because

tracing our steps



– Jen May



Phase 2
until full daybreak

our human vaults
the light comes
and goes
like rising
and setting
in the interior of mind
like a time capsule
with breath
messages from other spaces
spelled in hieroglyphics
the closing
becomes opening
like a whisper
the glamor
of heaven

–Jen May






Phase 3
unveils all hues

3 poems read vertically – dawn mist has no color • until full daybreak • unveils all hues

3 poems read horizontally – dawn mist has no color • until full daybreak • unveils all hues

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Poem by bert leveille



As It Happens

my art reveals itself to me

As It Happens
The name of this installation in the vault is "synapses" –
electrical charges/connections in the brain.
Changing colors contribute to these perceived
electrical connections.
Are these electrical charges firing or misfiring…
So if you walked into this vault,
would you be walking into a brain?

As It Happens
Paul had been battling cancer for over 5 years and
Last year I was working on a painting while he was
undergoing brain surgery.

As It Happens
At some point that painting became Paul’s brain.
This brings me to this installation “synapse”.
I had no intention to manifest Paul’s brain again,
but he died and his synapses are perhaps now more
connected to …

As it Happens …

As It Happens

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Photo of poet Annie Hex








Annie Hex – The Poet Witch

She is an improvisational spoken word poet and witch. She fuses spoken word with music to give you something sour and honest. A style all her own. 

She opened the Hex Poetry Apothecary in an effort to get what she calls her poetry experiences into the hands of those who need them most. Each experience focuses on crafting the environment in which you experience poetry whether her books come smelling of lavender or if poems come tied to roses or in potion bottles. 

For poetry experiences, every detail matters & setting is everything. The goal of her apothecary is to share her magic and she believes it always makes it to exactly who needs it the most.

Annie believes in surprising people with poetry. Last year, she went on her kickstarter funded Tour of Joy where she gifted over 300 love poems tied to roses to strangers throughout the country. 

She wears her words and politics loudly and encourages you to do the same. She believes poetry shouldn't sugarcoat anything and that truth should be the one thing that brings us together in this mess.

follow her on the internet: @annie.hex <3 be her friend.
find her apothecary on the gram: @hexpoetryapothecary or at

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Jen May – Poet Warrior

site on Facebook

@jenmaypoems on instagram

Jen May is a poet warrior. She's a domestic violence survivor of the gun in the closet. She's a former police officer, who refused to write tickets. She's a champion mom, raising activist children. Jen May is a force and her poetry pulls no punches. Her motto is,"Be scared and do it anyway."

Jen May is a founding member of Open Sky Poets and is always up for shenanigans with the Atrocious Poets of Woodstock, IL. She has been published in the Journal of Modern Poetry 19: Poems of Protest, and in the online literary magazine Persephone's Daughters. Her most recent book, Battle Cry, will make you pause to catch your breath between poems. May collaborates with local poet Annie Hex to curate their zine Lonely Middle Finger. You can also find her co-hosting virtual workshops with fellow poet Eric Bodewell and the Drink & Draft Poetry Roadshow.

Look for her next work, Midnight Birdsong, coming soon. 

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BERT LEVEILLE’s passion for finding images in clouds as a child, a love of the smell of greasepaint at Elmhurst College, and a fascination with stage environments that create another space, world, time – these are the foundation for her abstract art and immersive art installations.

Her large-scale artwork; collaborations with musicians and performers; dancers playing with her 3-D figures and dancing thru her 15-foot art tunnel; color changing LED lighting; animation and video — all contribute to the illusion of movement; enhancing the installation experiences, and encouraging viewers to immerse themselves in consciousness; become part of the art; enter this other world.

LEVEILLE has exhibited extensively in the Chicago area and nationally. She uses her Starline studio as an incubation, exhibition, installation, experimentation studio that is a “must see” during Starline 4th Fridays Open Studios. LEVEILLE plays an active role in exhibition development for E* (formerly E-artgroup) and Chicago Women’s Caucus for Art. She is the principal designer for both organizations and a board member for CWCA.

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Poets & Visual Artists Take Creativity To The Next Level In Gallery Installation

... Woodstock resident Anita Theodore said it was her second time coming to see the display. There is one piece that she said she can’t get enough of.

“It’s suspended, but still has movement. But then you've got keywords like stop and silent and dark and shadow," she explained. "So, it's a very clever, very thoughtful…and I think I'm just going to come back and look at it over and over again.” 

Theodore was describing a piece by artist Bert Leveille called Synapse. Leveille collaborated with poets Annie Hex and Jennifer May. The piece was inspired by Leveille’s art coach, Paul Klein, who died of cancer this October. In an explanation of her piece, Leveille said she was working on a painting last year while Klein underwent brain surgery. She said at some point, her painting turned into an image of his brain.  

Anne Burns was there with Theodore. Burns is also a fan of this piece. She suggested that the words really complement the work. 

“It frames the inside moving figure. So it's...because life is just not linear, it just moves, you know, and the brain moves and I love how it just…that last stop," said Burns. ...


Yvonne Boose reporter at WNIJ radio in DeKalb . Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at

The entire article can be read and heard at:

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Vasari 21
By Ann Landi

Through the end of the month, Bert Leveille has an installation called “synapse” at the Old Court House Arts Center in Woodstock, IL. “Leveille delivers another meditative experience and journey into consciousness,” says the press for the show. “As you approach the vault, while you may not be able to enter the installation, your mind might take you through the glass and into the vault. Leveille is one of the artists collaborating with Atrocious Poets, ‘As It Happens’ – a unique art exhibition pairing visual art and its process with poetry. Looking through poems by Annie Hex and Jen May displayed on the plexiglass enriches and expands this multidisciplinary experience.” You can check out the virtual exhibition here; an installation shot is below.

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Newcity art 60wrd/min COVID Edition: Bert Leveille
By Lori Waxman

It can be worthwhile to consider what a painting needs. Lights? Multiple dimensions? Dancers, poets? “Synapse,” created by Bert Leveille in a seven-foot-square vault at the Old Courthouse Arts Center in Woodstock, Illinois, requires all this and then some. Installed for the last two months of 2020, also the final months of the venue’s thirty-year existence, “synapse” uses three large silvery canvases, one suspended fabric-and-wire object, and a trio of changing-color LED floor lights to bring the imagery of Leveille’s earlier paintings to life. The result resembles a dancer rendered in Japanese calligraphy, spinning slowly in a moody abstract landscape. Overlaid across this scene are related textual fragments—including the tenderhearted “inside is not so dark / when you shine / a light. stop.”—not unlike how the owners of Japanese scrolls would fill the white space around a waterfall or a gourd with lines of poetry. The words, a collaboration with the Atrocious Poets (Annie Hex and Jen May), appear suspended in the vault’s doorway, through the magical intermediary of a sheet of hung Plexiglas.

—Lori Waxman 2021-01-19 10:55 AM

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As it happens 
A first blink in the synapse
Begins three moments
A trilogy forming ovum.

As it happens
In trimensions
A second binary Blink
Blends the homogeneity of empty space

Such as chaos of expanding;
Contracting existence -
A tertiary Blink 
Meanings of light
Cascades in isotropic wends.

As it happens
The ovule Blinks 
In the synapse
A muse contends 

Her wands as brushes;
Paints as music-
The interlocution
Is isolated by survival.

As it happens:
Blink into plasmatic
Oceans of luteous forms
Changing and evolving spectrums

From flavous to blue; to pink; to swallow
The muse whirls and spins her vaulted universe
To save a way
And breath for one more day.

– Joe Calvillo


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– Only one word to use for it - mesmerizing!

– It's really impressive

– Fantastic

– Your work is fascinating to watch as the colors change and reflect.  It's calming, you know?  Which is in direct contrast to the content of the poetry.



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