The Art of Poetry Film with Cheryl Gross: “Double Life”

Double Life
poem: Cindy St. Onge
concept & editing: Marie Craven (read the process notes)
music: Purple Planet
images: Prelinger Archives

“The sleeping woman is not the dreamer, because the dreamer smokes…”
—Cindy St. Onge

Sitting in front of the TV watching old movies was a huge part of my childhood. I loved the imagery. It didn’t matter what the storyline was; to me the visuals were the most important thing. That being the case, it’s no wonder why I am so enamored with Double Life by Marie Craven.

There is no voiceover, just words and repeated and mirrored images, hence the title. Craven’s clever use of old footage succeeds in establishing a sense of nostalgia. This is total film noir. Her color palette emulates that of artist Barbara Kruger. Kruger’s work also lends itself to a specific moment in time. Her colors are limited to black, white, grey and red, which Kruger made popular (modern 20th century).

This being a video poem, words do play an important role. Craven uses red subtitles, which further complement her choice of colors. The only criticism I have is the typeface. My guess is she used Helvetica but I may be wrong. I would have liked to see something that better fits the mood. Other than that, Double Life is simple and well done. The music by Purple Planet guides us through this journey of smoke and mirrors. I suggest watching Double Life at least two or three times — first to enjoy the visuals, second to read the poem, and third to experience the two elements together.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Cheryl Gross (website, blog) is an illustrator, painter, writer, and motion graphic artist living and working in the New York/Jersey City area. She is a professor at Pratt Institute (where she received her MFA) and Bloomfield College.

Her work has appeared in numerous festivals and publications as well as gracing the walls of many galleries, corporate and museum collections.

“I equate my work with creating and building an environment, transforming my inner thoughts into reality. Beginning with the physical process, I work in layers. I am involved in solving visual and verbal complexities such as design and narrative. My urban influence has indeed added an ‘edge’ to my work.”

Cheryl has often been compared to “Dr. Seuss on crack.”


  1. Excellent review of Marie Craven’s atmospheric video poem! The quoted text at the beginning of the review isn’t correct however. It should be: “The sleeping woman is not the dreamer, because the dreamer smokes…”
    Thank you for taking the time to offer the thoughtful review of this film!

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