The Art of Coming Undone

The Art of Coming Undone is a manuscript of poems by me, Christie Collins. The manuscript includes a collaboration with the same name between Erna Kuik and myself, pairing Erna’s artwork with my poems.

Here’s our A R T I S T S  S T A T E M E N T for the collaboration:

This collaboration titled The Art of Coming Undone has been a joint effort between Dutch artist Erna Kuik and poet Christie Collins, pairing her artwork with my poems. What makes this collaboration really special is the intimate connection between poem and image. Half of the images have been created based on the poems. The other half of the images informed the writing of new poems. 

This collaboration began when I happened upon Erna’s market booth in Amsterdam, the moment I first witnessed her haunting and captivating images that visualize at their heart the longing and loneliness of female dysphoria. Immediately, I felt I had found a visual artist working with the same themes and the same vision as my own, the visual representation of my poems. Even though at that time we were strangers, I approached Erna about forming a collaboration, and we have been working together since to tell the story of a woman’s journey through desire, marriage, anxiety, unrest, depression, and divorce, and self-reinvention. It has and continues to be a labor of love dedicated to all women who have loved and lost, who have suffered, and who have battled mental illness. Set largely in Louisiana, the narrative unfolds as a kind of re-envisioning of Kate Chopin’s famous novel, The Awakening, an artistic partnership that Welsh artist Penny Hallas called “strong and beautiful work…a vibrant and equal collaboration.”

In her powerful article “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain,” Leslie Jamison said “I want to insist that female pain is still news. It’s always news. We’ve never already heard it. It’s news when a girl loses her virginity or gets an ache in the rag and bone shop of her heart. It’s news when she starts getting her period or when she does something to make herself stop. It’s news if a woman feels terrible about herself in the world—​anywhere, anytime, ever … The wounded woman gets called a stereotype, and sometimes she is. But sometimes she’s just true.” We work from this belief: that all female pain is relevant and true. All female pain is its own kind of art. Its own kind of poem. Its own immense collaboration.


erna and me 2

Erna and Christie at Erna’s home in Steenderen, The Netherlands


ABOUT ERNA: Erna Kuik is a Dutch photographer, visual artist, and writer. After graduating from the Artez Academy in 1992, her artwork was awarded the Gretha and Adri Pieck Prize, an award to encourage young, promising artists. Her work tends toward an expressionistic style, known for its strong lines in linocuts and its poetic content. She wrote and illustrated children’s books about very creative hares published by Atlantie Verlag Switzerland and has published other work that features her photography and illustrations. Her art can be found in many private collections worldwide and is exhibited in museums like the Haags Gemeentemuseum in The Hague and Museum De Fundatie in Zwolle and in galleries most recently during Slow Art In Motion Zutphen, Weg van Kunst in Kampen, and Lingeprint Grafiekmanifestatie in Huissen in the Netherlands. She loves to be in her studio; the spirit of making fluid thoughts into sparkling crystals on paper keeps her going. Her book Zwei lange, lange Ohren received many good reviews and was nominated for the Luchs Award by die Zeit in Germany. 


As we work toward seeing the full manuscript in print, Erna and I have been fortunate to have some of the pairings published in periodicals! We invite you to experience them:

“Dear Blue Pill.” The Cardiff Review.

“Dear Depression.” The Cardiff Review.

“Girl Talk.” The Ekphrastic Review.

“How to Build a Dock” and “Dear Reader, Love Poet.” Forthcoming in Les Femmes Folles.

“Nesting.” The Ekphrastic Review.


Stay tuned 🙂

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