Eric Crosley, one of Michigan’s most well traveled poets, has an abstract, collaborative multimedia performance coming to the Robin Theatre Saturday.
“I have friends that are writers, painters and friends that are musicians,” Crosley said. “So I decided to do a show with those three kinds of artists.”
Anchored by Crosley’s expressive dance and poetry, “Tiles of Consciousness/Multiple Choices” boasts an art exhibition by Lansing painter Martin Koenig, readings from Asian history professor Janam Mukherjee and a handful of assorted musical acts.
“Multiple Choices is a shoutout to my old friend Robert Busby, who was tragically murdered over a decade ago,” Crosley said. “He was a pioneer for the Lansing art colony we call Old Town, and a very gracious person.”
The show promises to explore the internal conflicts within the human psyche, something Crosley is all too familiar with.
“We call it ‘Multiple Choices’ as an allusion to growing up, because there’s always multiple choice tests in life, and multiple choices in artwork,” Crosley further explained.
Crosley’s roots take us to mid50’s rural Indiana, where he discovered his transgender identity at the very young age of five. The realization made life problematic for Crosley, who was forced to shroud himself from an outwardly homophobic and oppressive Midwestern social climate.
Crosley worked as a hod carrier – Indiana slang for bricklayer – before obtaining an associate degree in social work from Indiana University Bloomington in 1973.
He survived the struggle, which at times made him suicidal, and still carries the weight of it closely with him. It’s been kept alive as a recurring theme of his poetry, immortalized in the bookending poems of his 1993 creative writing master’s thesis.
“I’ve been dealing with being a transgender person my whole life, and it’s very significant in my writing,” Crosley said. “I consider myself post-transgender, not because I’m unsympathetic, but because I want to live in a society that moves away from these judgmental attitudes.”
Crosley has taught poetry in both colleges and prisons, and even ran to represent Michigan’s 8th Congressional District in 2006.
His range of endeavors are a thick knot of yarn to unravel, and that’s without mentioning his position as director of the Michigan Society for Cow Protection.
The visuals for “Tiles of Consciousness/ Multiple Choices” are being provided by local painter Martin Koenig. The reference to tiles is an allusion to Koenig’s signature “box quilt” style, which consists of several painted squares to form a single cohesive picture, in this case, portraits of enigmatic figures, such as John Waters.
“Calling it ‘Tiles of Consciousness’ was a salute to Marty Koenig’s art,” Crosley said. “I was very impressed by his revelatory artist’s statement.”
In a written artist’s statement, Koenig declared the portraits to be of “anti-heroes,” before he realized that the figures could be viewed as representatives of inner conflict as a whole – tying in nicely with the themes of Crosley’s poetry.
“The portraits here are based on a show I’ve worked on for some time about the anti-hero,” Koenig writes in the statement. “But I soon realized that in many ways, we are all anti-heroes with the ability to rise to great heights despite our weaknesses.”
Crosley’s colleague Mukherjee, whom Crosley calls a dear friend, is going to be an integral part of the show as well. Mukherjee is the author of “Hungry Bengal: War, Famine and the End of Empire,” which explores the struggles faced by the Bengal region of India during World War II.
“He’s a brilliant and compassionate man, his father is Indian and is mother is from Illinois,” Crosley said. “That figures heavily into what we’re doing politically, especially with our president who speaks so disparagingly about immigrants.”
Crosley stresses that “Tiles of Consciousness/Multiple Choices” is not limited to one single topic and elaborated that it will venture through all realms political, social and even agricultural. And though the show is listed with a $10 door fee, Crosley insists that nobody will be turned away.
“Tiles of Consciousness/ Multiple Choices” All Ages
$10 Robin Theatre, 1105 S. Washington Ave.