Artist Jessica Duby on the Power of Ecofeminim(s)

Interview by Madeline Walker of Show and Telephone & Audra Lambert, Editor in Chief – ANTE

Artist Jess (Jessica) Duby is one of our honored winners of the open call ‘Earthly Delights,’ and her responses on how her work exalts and honors the natural world capture the Zeitgeist encapsulated in the open call’s theme. Below, Duby on how plants and nature hold the power to heal, but inside and outside the urban environment.

“The Green Bathers, Quarantine” by Jessica Duby (2020)

ANTE. Thanks Jess for chatting with us! For starters we wanted to know – can you share with us – what about the theme of the open call caught your attention in relation to your practice as an artist?

Jess Duby. It spoke to me on several levels! I use my art practice as a way of exploring and deepening my connection to the earth and the larger systems I’m entangled with. The day I saw the “Earthly Delights” call, the theme of emergence was so present in my practice and psyche that I had just spent an hour talking about it on the phone with a friend.

Broadly, I’m always wondering how I can harmonize my own cycles with the natural cycles and movements around me, which is why I’m so interested in ritual, and particularly, ritual’s intersection with bathing culture.

My series “The Bathers” started as a kind of introspective experimentation and unfolded to an intentional, more social engaged and collaborative practice. I think this shift itself tracks what has been happening inside and outside of me vis-a-vis the pandemic. The series began in quarantine with just myself and my roommate Heloise’s plants as the subjects. At the time, I had been reflecting on how important cleansing rituals were for my mental health, and how objectifying, exclusionary, and Eurocentric the theme of bathing has been throughout western art history. Through making this image I attempted to find communion, both spiritually and aesthetically, with the fresh green outside my windows, and to reclaim the genre “The Bathers” as a woman, using my own body in the style of many femme artists I admire. I think this image also mirrors how surreal and weird things got in quarantine. I remember turning the shower on these plants and myself in the tub, which made my body paint go everywhere. My roommate and I really needed that laugh.

The question I’m asking in the work now is how can we consciously appreciate and take advantage of the return of this freedom to be out in nature, the moving around and the gathering, while also maintain the deep community care, the mutuality, and moments for the nourishing stillness that we cultivated over the last year?

ANTE. And how has Ecofeminism(s) played a role in your works, such as The Forest Bathers (Shinrin-Yoku) specifically?

JD. The ecofeminist work of Vandana Shiva and Ana Mendieta always inspires my actions. It definitely influenced the composition and smaller details of “The Forest Bathers (Shinrin-Yoku).” Ecofeminism draws a social and political connection between women and the earth, including the types of suppression both have historically endured. I’d love to note that I tend to dislike the word feminism because of its violent history of being exclusive regarding race and gender, and I think that ecofeminist theory applies as much to all that is considered “feminine” as it does women. So while I still use the word Ecofeminism because it efficiently describes what I mean to say in other ways, I always like take the opportunity to name the problem I have with it.

“The Forest Bathers (Shinrin-Yoku) May 2021” Photo Credit: Maya Jackson.

At the same time “The Bathers” revives the old bathing in genre in art history, it also critiques the genre in a way that aligns with ecofeminist values. The “Forest Bathers (Shinrin-Yoku)” features two of my fully vaccinated friends finally out in the world indulging in the Japanese practice of forest bathing. Unlike the images of bathers painted by the likes of Renoir, Cezanne, and so many others, these are fully covered un-edited Korean and Asian-American women—not frolicking, nude, unblemished white women caressing each other in a pond. They are bathing conceptually, fully covered by bath towels and in a state of meditation with the earth. Each is holding a conch shell, a symbol of rebirth and regeneration. What we wanted to present was an embodiment of the themes of purification and renewal that the genre has always claimed to offer, but without the voyeurism and fetishization you see in nine out of ten images of bathing throughout what has been institutionalized in the west as Art History.

ANTE. Do you have a connection to the particular landscape where this image was taken?

JD. Yes! This was actually in the more heavily wooded area of Prospect Park, which carries great meaning for me. This was the first place I took myself when the heavy quarantine was lifted last summer. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced such a state of bliss as I felt that day outside. It’s one of my favorite places in New York. The shoot was especially magical because it was the first time the two friends in the picture had ever been to Prospect Park. We actually all had an incredibly stressful day for different reasons, but when we arrived, we dropped into a meditative flow state. The ethereal, soft tone that took over the whole scene while the sun was setting as compared to the pressed states we arrived in stunned us.  

ANTE. How does your relationship to place become part of your artistic process?

JD. The place I’m creating work in very naturally becomes a part of the process and aesthetics. I wound up in Florida right after my graduation in May 2020 due to a housing issue, so that became the landscape for another image. Roberto, who shot “The Ocean Bather” on his drone, had at some point introduced me to Virginia Key, which is, even in normal times outside of Covid-19, almost always empty. The ability to visit this quiet part of the sea was an unimaginable blessing. I always feel invited to let my guard down there in the same way I feel invited to drop into a state of peace and pleasure in Prospect Park. The short time I spent in both these places filled me up with community and strength to sustain the long stretches of solitude and the waves of grief and worry that we all were going through. I kind of let the land, air, and water take care of me when I didn’t quite know how to take care of myself, and so my art practice was a way of honoring and documenting these restorative gifts from mother earth. In the process I have become increasingly more conscious of the impact of my habits and consumption. How am I reciprocating these gifts?

“The Ocean Bather (August 2020)” Jessica Duby. Photo Credit: Roberto Castellanos

ANTE. Can you tell us more about what you’ve been working on recently? Anything you have coming up that you can share?

I’m excited to continue “The Bathers” project and see how it progresses now that it’s flowing in a collaborative direction.

July (2021) brought “the Sun (Flower) Bathers,” which captured two of my friends who are healers, activists, and artists, sunbathing—sun worshipping, really–in a field of sunflowers. I absolutely loved seeing them exalted in the company of these flowers, radiating. Like the sun card in the Tarot, joy, self-love, and vitality are the emphasis of this image.

In the immediate future, I’m working with two performance artist friends on “the Sponge Bathers,” in which they’ll ceremonially bathe themselves and each other with natural sea sponges on Riis beach. The sponges nod to nonduality/nonbinary gender. And I’m waiting for the right time for “the Pink Bathers” which will take place in a flamingo sanctuary a few hours from my Florida hometown, hopefully at sunset. Pink on pink.

Flores de Femicidio: The Persistence of Memory in Natali Bravo-Barbee’s Show at York College Art Gallery

On view at York College Fine Arts Gallery through November 19, 2021

Content warning: This interview discusses femicide, violence against womxn/gender-based violence and rape.

The powerful exhibition “Flores de Femicidio: Femicide Florals” – a solo show and installation by artist Natali Bravo-Barbee curated by Dr. Margaret Rose Vendryes – will remain on view at York College Art Gallery through Nov 19. The exhibit honors the devastating toll that femicides have taken on Argentinian society, the loss of womxn murdered and the devastating impact that this violence has had. Bravo-Barbee’s powerful installation provides an avenue of contemplation to consider global movements against gender-based violence and the #niunamas movement.

According to statistics from the Observation Committee on Equality and Gender from the United Nations, in 2018 Argentina had the third-highest femicide rate reported in the Americas region. Bravo-Barbee took time to speak with ANTE editor-in-chief Audra Lambert on this exhibit, outlining how this project developed and the conversations that have emerged as a result of this meaningful installation.

Installation view, “Flores de Femicidio (Femicide Florals)” at York College Fine Art Gallery. Image courtesy the artist/gallery.

(Interview edited for length and content; all images courtesy the artist and York College Fine Arts Gallery)

Audra Lambert, ANTE mag+platform: Thanks Natali for taking time to speak with us on your powerful project, Flores de Femicidio at York College Art Gallery. Can you tell us more on the genesis of this project?

Natali Bravo-Barbee: I have a friend who is a psychologist from Argentina, and I always read her posts as I appreciate her perspectives. She posted an article in early 2019 about the murder of a woman in Argentina, and the accompanying research showed how this one case fit into overall statistics (of women’s murders in Argentina.) I began to dig into this learning more about the scope of femicides in Argentina, and came to realize through my own research that Argentina doesn’t even have the highest rate (of femicides) in Latin America, so this is how I began my approach when I started this project in January of 2019.

ANTE: And how did this project emerge in partnership with York College Art Gallery?

NB-B: The show with York came about because I had been working on this ongoing project for so long. I continued working on it throughout the pandemic and it became closer to being done. I’d shown one month of flowers (January) in four locations, but no one had ever seen entire collection. Dr Vendryes reached out to me after I’d been posting about them and she mentioned that York has a summer residency program, working in the space and culminating in a show, but that due to Covid this residency was on hold and this show timeslot was open. She asked if I would be interested in showing the flowers there.

When I talked about the flowers before I finished them, I always said I want them to show together in Queens first – to bring all the pieces together in Queens, and from there I’m happy to show them anywhere, so this worked out great for Flores de Femicidio.

ANTE: And does the diversity of Queens’ residents contribute to this sentiment as well?

NB-B: Yes, and the number of Argentinian residents we have in Queens in particular, and the ability to open this conversation with students, some of whom deal with these topics at home such as domestic violence. Often universities and educational institutions don’t discuss these topics in depth. So showing at this university made this exhibition that much more special.

Installation view, “Flores de Femicidio (Femicide Florals)” at York College Fine Art Gallery. Image courtesy the artist/gallery.

ANTE: So you mentioned to me previously that every flower takes up to 10 hours to complete – can you tell us more about this process?

NB-B: Every flower is different – there is no cookie cutter size. Every flower had to be cut out and hand drawn on the petals, and each had to have a number system since no two are identical. Each was numbered since they had to have individually labeled petals. I then had to sort these out, coat them and expose them, develop them, shape them, assemble them, create a tag for each woman who the flower is for – some of these flowers are embellished with crystals and glitter as well, requiring extra work.

Each flower has anywhere from 6-30 petals and there are varying designs of flowers, so in order to keep track of them, I had to come up with a numbering system to be able to sort them and build them. The building process for each individual flower required more cutting, shaping and gluing of the petals. Once the petals were done, the flower could be assembled. Each flower has a backing where the petals were glued onto, and they also have a wire hanger in the back so each flower could be hung. I built all the flowers first, and then assigned a name to each flower at the end. Each flower has a cyanotype name tag on it to represent each femicide victim.

There’s also a calendar aspect to this exhibition. The show also acts as a giant calendar, and there are cyanotype plaques in Spanish and English along the wall toward the floor outlining the months. These signs are not immediately visible, so as you walk around and begin encountering the flowers you start to realize gradual details: each individual month relates to these flowers, the women they are named for, and the use of Spanish reminds visitors that this is in relationship with Argentina, in dialogue with the scope of this project.

ANTE: I feel that sometimes specificity – in this case, showing the amount of femicides in Argentina over the course of a specific year (2019) – is able to reach a wider group of people because of the level of detail. It’s specific as opposed to being vague, demonstrating focus and intention.

NB-B: While documenting the show at York, I met a woman who worked with the Haitian embassy here in New York. She started a conversation with me about violence against women in Haiti. This is such an important topic, she noted, and she said she wanted to reflect on Haiti, the residents there and how women there experience violence often overlooked by the government.

ANTE: How did you research this project given the many barriers around finding out information on femicides in the Americas (lack of government diligence on this topic, etc.)?

NB-B: In the beginning of 2019 the number of femicides had started increasing so there was widespread coverage then, but throughout the year this coverage started to dwindle. There was less and less information over time. I saved everything I would read; I had a folder and would save everything and go back to the info I had found. There’s also feminist publication, Clarín, in Argentina that in the middle of 2020 published an enormous obituary of all femicide cases from 2019 to mid-2020 with victims’ names, ages and a brief sentence of how they were killed. The publication was digital and every rectangle published in this report represented a femicide victim. They stepped in to document when mass media had stopped widely reporting. In many cases, I was able to get to know each woman through their online presence, through their name and the online research I did to get to know them. Early on in my research, in newspapers, you would get first and last name, but over time it became first name and last initial, or even no name: just a documentation of the violence. there eventually would be no resources: no further info on who did this, etc. throughout this project over time there were many flowers that unfortunately have no names.

Accompanying binder and show cards for “Flores de Femicidio (Femicide Florals)” at York College Fine Art Gallery

ANTE: Can you talk more about the process of cyantopying and the iconography of the flower as the focus of this project?

NB-B: Sure. One of the most popular things associated with cyanotyping is botanicals: flowers are popular, but I didn’t make them early on because it just didn’t call out to me as a subject matter unless it was in dialogue with something else. When I started with the concept of the project, I knew it had to do it with flowers because flowers for me have always symbolized death. From a young age, since my grandfather passed, I would always bring flowers to his grave with my family. It’s also a sign of honor: honoring someone’s life after their passing. I started off making regular flowers without cyanotype, in dialogue with a long tradition fo women making paper flowers. I wanted to play with the fine line between craft and Fine Art and explore how to bring craft into Fine Art, and throughout this process I realized no one has ever made a cyanotype flower sculpture. So then I thought: I’ll be the first one to make it.

I immediately went and made a prototype, not included in this show – it’s my artist proof. No name is attached to it. I realized: this is possible, I can make this. But I knew from the very beginning it was going to be labor intensive. So many other factors were things I didn’t know were coming in my life: new pregnancy, the pandemic. This project was hard but it is manageable, I thought and I’d spend my nights planning out petals, cutting them out. This process was so labor intensive, but I began to create a method around making these sculptures, and over time began to follow a rhythm and figure out how each flower would live as its own unique sculpture. Weekends, nights: all my free time was absorbed by this project, month after month.

So the process started with drawing out the petals from templates, and in these I numbered each petal with a code so I could keep track of the number of flowers I had drawn out. I had assistants help me cut out the petals. So I would drop off a batch that had been drawn out for cutting, and while those were getting cut out I would continue drawing out more until all were drawn and cut. Then I had to sort them out and put them in bags so I could separate them and prepare them for coating. My attic was set up as a darkroom where no sunlight came in and was safe for the petals to be coated in the cyanotype chemicals. Cyanotypes are exposed using UV light, so it was crucial that not outside light would enter the room. With a tarp on the floor, about 30 cyanotypes flowers could be coated at a time. Then once the emulsion was dry, I would bag them all up all again and bring them downstairs to prepare for exposures. 

The exposure time depended on what I was using for a negative to make the photogram print. Dried flowers required a 15-30 minute exposure (depending on the flower) and lace required 30-40 minutes depending on the thickness of the flower or lace. The larger the flower size, the more exposures it took to expose all the petals for one flower. I should mention that I could expose between 10-15 petals on average, more if the flower was smaller, but some flowers were so large that it took 5 sessions to expose all the petals in just one flower. After exposing the petals had to be developed in a tray with water and then placed on blotter paper to dry, then sorted back into bags so they can be built. It truly was labor intensive, what you see when you enter Flores de Femicidio, and I’m happy to discuss the conceptual and formal aspects of this work with visitors.

ANTE: Throughout the course of this project, did you see anything in this process as transfomative given the research and time involved, and the stories of these women you were then transforming into beautiful objects?

NB-B: I would often just need to take time away after researching, I would have to take a break after reading about a murder of a child and that child’s mother – I would read this and just take a moment to go into the other room. I would think of my son asleep in the next room and just reflect on how unimaginable was this violence, this story. And then the story of the mother, of this woman and her life – I wanted to make these flowers to bring something beautiful to her name. I was resolved the last thing associated to this woman wouldn’t just be this violence, this tragedy. Here is going to be this beautiful object that I’ve made in this person’s honor. I think in terms of transformation also from 2D to 3D, thinking about this story that’s just a story that then becomes an object – something I just read that turns into something tangible: something that exists in real life – even beyond life.

I’ve heard people say, “Oh I thought this project was so beautiful until I realized what this show is about and now it’s just so sad.” But I think about beauty, and how women are expected to be beautiful. Our lives can be sad too; not everything about our lives is beautiful. There are more dimensions to who we are. There are people who don’t speak on domestic violence because it’s not pretty – they don’t know how people around them will react to this news.

ANTE: Also, horrifically, the only person who feels the effects of this violence are the women: the men aren’t shunned for this violence. Women hold the shame of these violent acts.

NB-B: As part of the show for the York College Art Gallery, I created a binder containing dried flower petals, negatives with name tag information, stories from these women – the murder information – translated from Spanish to English – and even have photos of the women included. With this binder you can go find the individual’s flower on the wall, read these notes and sketches and further engage with this project. I’ve also added a trigger warning to give people the choice to engage with these stories as that’s critical as well. It’s a heavy thing having to translate these stories, seeing these truths live in two languages, making these stories more tangible to a wider audience.

Individual cyanotype flower, “Dayana Moyano” by Natali Bravo-Barbee in “Flores de Femicidio” York College Art Gallery.

ANTE: When you’re talking about beauty I think of the beauty pageant system and of pageants as an institution in Louisiana where I’m from; is this something that is relevant to Argentinian society as well? That beauty is the expected dimension for women to inhabit socially?

NB-B: I definitely see this as being relevant to majority of women living in Argentina, who are meant to look pretty, who should have children but not look like they’ve had them- keep their beauty and make everything look easy. Then there are so many other underlying topics with colorism, socio-economic background, even religious faith. Something interesting to note about this topic is that the government uses the term femicide – the WHO has ‘violence against women’ with related numbers to the Argentinian count of ‘femicidios.’ Over time I noticed the numbers didn’t add up and it’s because in Argentina the governement didn’t count Trans women’s murders. Also if two women, such as a mother and daughter, were murdered in the same act, it was only counted as a single femicide.

ANTE: That certainly needs to change. Thinking about changes in society recently, I’m ruminating about the evolution of the #metoo movement. How do you see this topic being treated now, is there a resurgence of attention now? Was it just in that one moment from your research?

NB-B: That movement definitely impacted it – the hashtag in Spanish is #niunamenos meaning we don’t want one less woman. There was also #niunamas – I think in 2018/19 when you looked at the jump in femicide numbers that occurred, there were numbers that had risen and feminists in Argentina were fighting for femicides to be recognized and for the government to do something about it. The numbers continued to go up but in spite of that there was less media coverage over time. I don’t see that this is a topic that’s been fixed or that we can stop talking about it, it still continues. In conversation with femicides, honor killings come up often. In different parts of the world this phenomenon is called different things – but there’s no honor in killing a woman, this is not the right term. My days are filled of reading stories of femicides from all over the world, not just Argentina.

ANTE: I think of a recent encounter I had the memorial to the #niunamas monument in Mexico City, and cases abroad such as Noor Mukadam in Pakistan and Sarah Everard in the UK. There seems to be a hesitancy built in socially against upending the establishment. Are societies built on violence? I hope not, but we need to be willing to change, pursue and implement laws against femicides.

NB-B: Speaking to this, in Argentina there are laws against femicides but most of the time those who are responsible either aren’t caught or the police don’t pursue leads related to the femicides. If this continues then how are the aggressors being found? They’re not. They aren’t finding them and then nothing can be done. What’s the point to having a law then, if nothing is being done to enforce it? They’ll argue there’s not enough funding for these investigations. It’s ridiculous when you read the justifications for these investigations not happening. Looking to Gabby Petito’s case, it didn’t take too long to find her remains. Imagine if every femicide had that level of attention: everyone sharing leads, video captures, information and coming together to solve the case, imagine if that happened for every femicide. We’d see results. People would be more afraid. The perpetrator would start to think whoa, people are paying attention, I might get caught and maybe just wouldn’t do it.

Installation view showing individually-created hand-made cyanotype flowers, “Flores de Femicidio” solo show, Natali Bravo-Barbee.

ANTE: Yes, it’s very clear that not every case is treated the same. Trans women, Indigenous women – not every case of femicide is treated with the same amount of scrutiny. You can feel that there should be more to prevent violence against all of these women, there’s so much more than can be done. I think of this poem from the Second wave Feminist publication Heresies’ Issue #6: On Women and Violence by Elaine McCarthy that reflects on a woman reporting her rape, and the police essentially make fun of her, telling her that they need all of the details and insinuating that the case won’t be solved.

NB-B: Dr. Diana Russell was active in the 1970s as well – she passed on in 2020, but she popularized the term femicide although it has existed since the 1800s. If we labeled every single femicide that occured with that term then we’d notice it happening all around us all the time. They happen so often, they often go unpunished, and people don’t want to see it. It’s a truth that people don’t want to admit, as a society, we’ve decided no – it’s too ugly.

ANTE

“BEAVER” Reveals a Range of Fierce Feminist Viewpoints

The performativity of gender and sex positive attitudes emerge at the forefront of Naomi Elena Ramirez’ exhibition-as-book project, Beaver.

Artist Naomi Elena Ramirez leads the charge in Feminist art project “BEAVER”: a book that presents a Feminist exhibition from a range of viewpoints. The publication, which is available via the project’s website, charts a range of perspectives from artists including Keren Moscovitch, Carol-Anne McFarlane, Damali Abrams, Leslie Tucker, Katrina Majkut, Julia Kim Smith, mothertongues, Mirabelle Jones and Ramirez herself, among others. This iteration of “BEAVER” centers intersectional Feminist perspectives on pornography, sexuality and self-expression. Ramirez spent significant time on cultivating and presenting a range of artistic projects intersecting with this powerful theme.

“Beaver” art exhibition as book, image courtesy artist Naomi Elena Ramirez.

“BEAVER” began as an exhibition taking place in 2014 at the Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn, and three subsequent exhibitions and this inaugural publication interrogate media representations of the female body and sexuality. Artists are asked to respond to the following questions put forth by Ramirez, “How do phenomena like “slut-shaming” and the threat of sexual violence delineate, thwart, or promote female sexual self-expression? What are the different ways that racial and sexual identities are culturally inscribed on the female body?” Participating artist Leslie Tucker reflects, ” Naomi’s BEAVER Project examines the constant messaging around women as a class, which pervades my work as well; how women are treated in the media in terms of sexuality, violence, or just micro-aggressions daily in society. I think it’s critical to ascertain not only how these messages are circulated and perpetuated in Western society and media, but also how they are received by individuals – of all backgrounds.” These and other similar responses to Ramirez’ questions provide a pivotal lens by which artists visually explore how women reclaim agency and power with regard to their identity, sexuality and representation in the public eye.

“Beaver” art exhibition as book, image courtesy artist Naomi Elena Ramirez.

Something for everyone greets readers of the publication, as representational painting, photography, performance art, sculpture and a range of other artistic practices form the fertile ground through which artists explore themes related to the “BEAVER” prompt. By subverting patriarchal expectations and mining rich expressions of feminist presentations, artists create powerful responses to society’s sexualized expectations for female-identifying artists.

Editor and artist Naomi Elena Ramirez (b. Hermosillo, Mexico) is a mexican-american multidisciplinary conceptual artist and curator whose work encompasses visual art, video art, and contemporary dance, and the process by which the different mediums can inform each other. Naomi has an MFA in Visual Art from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a BA in Dramatic Art/Dance from the University of California at Berkeley.  Her work has been exhibited and presented by A.I.R. Gallery, the Institute of (Im)Possible Subjects, Movement Research at the Judson Church, DoublePlus at Gibney Dance, The Bronx Latin American Art Biennial, and many others in the US and abroad. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Artist Spotlight on Alicia Smith, ANTE Open Call Featured Winner

My work gets called “Didactic” a lot, which I learned in grad school is often the white-elitist way of saying “I don’t want to learn history that is not compulsory Euro-centric history.”

“Hueatoyatzintli” Image courtesy the artist.

Multi-disciplinary Xicana artist and activist Alicia Smith is the featured winner of our open call, and it is with great satisfaction that we are featuring her in a weeklong Instagram takeover she’s spearheading this week (if you haven’t seen her videos you’re missing out!) and in this special interview with the artist. The artist holds her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, and was featured at the art fair UNTITLED in San Francisco in Fall 2019.

Smith’s work spans video, performance, printmaking and sculpture to bring awareness to the existing, inaccurately romanticized tropes that deny indigenous women their individual complexity, simultaneously demonstrating their beauty and strength. We learned more from Smith’s perspective on the implications her practice has on the greater art world, as well as the lessons that she has learned from her ancestors and from the wider diaspora of indigenous nations that have informed her practice as an artist and activist.

(Featured Image: “Erendira”, image courtesy the artist.)

ANTE mag. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Alicia! We recently learned about an artwork that you donated to raise bail funds for Black Lives Matter, can you tell us more about how this came about?

Alicia Smith. Thank you! That piece is “Molotov Hare,” and it was created really with Black and Brown solidarity in mind. A marriage of indigenous archetypes and anarchist imagery.
There are many indigenous traditions that involve the rabbit as a symbol of rights of passage for young warriors. The Aztecs had their Eagle Warriors walk through underground caves and emerge, ready to defend their tribe. There are jade sculptures depicting rabbits protecting men wearing eagle headdresses to illustrate this ceremony. Black Elk once said: “For the rabbit represents humility, because he is quiet and soft and not self asserting – a quality which we must all possess when we go to the center of the world.” The rabbit is also a trickster. The Anishinaabe’s Nanabozho in the North and Cherokee and Black communities in the South. Many stories of Br’er rabbit are in fact adaptions of West African tales of Anansi the spider. The trickster felt important in the piece because of his ceremonial role. He forces us to re-evaluate where we delineate societal rules and agreements. He does this through perpetually undermining them.
The image is about duty to your people, and that to change the rules you first have to break them. It felt extremely urgent: I cut the block in a day and started taking orders and I did use the piece to raise bail funds for Black Lives Matter OKC and Millions for Prisoners New Mexico. I’m really proud of this work and [proud] that people have been using that image when they protest police brutality.

“I Believe You” Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. As a Xicana artist and activist, your work embraces themes such as decolonization, the Americas’ native nations and knowledge of the natural world such as plant life and medicinal practices. Can you tell us more about the origin of this journey for you as an artist to research and integrate the crucial, yet still too often overlooked, history of indigenous peoples in your work?
Alicia Smith. I feel like I didn’t have a choice, haha… when the ancestors come knocking you better stand at attention and that is sort of what began this path for me. I had always been a pretty feral child, bringing wild animals inside of the house, and I always had a real lust for knowledge, especially in the way of ecology. I feel like re-examining those complex relationships through that cultural lens has taught me more than anything else. My work gets called “Didactic” a lot, which I learned in grad school is often the white-elitist way of saying “I don’t want to learn history that is not compulsory Euro-centric history.” I know doing that kind of work might dissuade people from wanting to look at my art but I hope given the political climate at large that those same folks are at least taking a moment of pause as to why they don’t want to learn indigenous history of the land they are on. But above all else, if it isn’t for them –  it’s not for them, and that’s fine too. I love encountering first-generation kids, folks who went through a diaspora, who immediately connect and resonate with the work. At the end of the day if all I did was preserve one inch of sacred knowledge in a piece, then I’ve done my job of being a good ancestor for those who come after me with questions.
ANTE mag. To expand on the above question, can you delve into the range of your practice – spanning video, installation, mixed-media – as relates to the themes such as native culture and traditions and decolonization in your work?
Alicia Smith. By foundation I am a printmaker. So all my work often starts as a relief print before it goes into the world of durational art. I like the idea of being a Tlacuilo: a scribe or codex painter, someone who is recording history, ceremony, etc. So I think my 2-dimensional work acts as a kind of codex and my performances and video are the ceremonies themselves.
I call my work “Secondhand Ceremonies,” inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer, because these are partial reconstructions and partial innovations. When you are descended from people who survived genocide it means necessarily reconstructing the old with new innovations: Adaptations.
ANTE mag. You reflect on the words of Anishinaabe cultural ecologist Melissa K. Nelson in your description of your work, “Teomama.” Nelson remarked, “the Native Woman’s body [in so] many stories acts as a kind of meeting place.” Can you expand on how this reflection impacted the development of your work?
Alicia Smith. It’s cosmogeneology. In science it’s just evolutionary biology. The most seemingly innocuous Ant has been on this earth for 120 million years. And in indigenous ways of knowing we don’t look at the ecosystem from this sort of colonial scientific gaze. These beings are our siblings. Plants, animals, insects, fungi, they’re our older brothers. And to explain that ethic of kinship, rather than talking about primordial soup, we do it through these eco-erotic stories, where women are often at the intersection. In the Popol Vuh a woman becomes pregnant eating fruit from a tree. There are stories of women marrying stars, bears, becoming pregnant by the wind and on and on. It establishes an ethic of kinship. When I do these performances with Hawks, Wolves, Deer, Horses, Rivers, and so on, its so important to me to convey the medicines of these beings and their teachings as well as the metaphors I imbue them with in the work.

“Teomama” Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. How has the uncertainty of 2020 impacted your practice, and what current body of work are you focused on?
Alicia Smith. I am very fortunate because I have a government job where we were put on admin leave. I’m also very fortunate that I have been given some room to do what I love to do and share stories from my home, for the museum that I work for. This time at home has been really beneficial for my practice. Unfortunately people who are privileged who dont have to work a 9 to 5 job are usually the ones who can devote more time to their practices and end up rising in their art careers. But this time has allowed me to be so much more productive and to do what I really want to do which is engage with my community and in social justice causes.

Embracing Interiority in Magdalena Dukiewicz’ “Elements of Perturbation” at The Border Project Space

Encountering “Elements of Perturbation” at The Border Project Space, a solo exhibition by Magdalena Dukiewicz  curated by Jamie Martinez, the materials forming this installation present a dizzying dance on the senses. From the earthy inhalation of sod greeting visitors to the visceral transluncency of the installation, the tent-like structure anchoring the space presents a show that serves as a veritable movable feast for the senses
Artist Magdalena Dukiewicz has presented that rare feat of marrying circumstance and concept: an installation based on the impossibility of permanence placed firmly in dialogue with a time of upheaval. This show arrives in the most ephemeral and mercurial time period in recent memory, when a viral pandemic has uprooted the lives of citizens of the world. Thus, an exhibition reflecting in part on the transient nature of immigration is placed in contrast to a time period holding citizens the world over in a shared uncertainty, yet clearly placing certain immigrants into situations of increased vulnerability (for examples, see increased vulnerability of immigrants held at detention centers in the US, and the recent announcement by the current US President that ICE will deport students who do not attend in-person classes at universities this Fall.) The artist has managed to presciently respond to one of the most dire moments for immigrant rights in recent memory.

Work by Magdela Dukiewiecz for “Elements of Perturbation” at The Border Project Space (artwork details on show website)

The artist herself reflects on the domestic and social roles prescribed to her as a child growing up in Poland. She recalls spending time in a temporary play structure she built with her sister when she was young. Dukiewicz notes, “The concept of a house is based on a portable playhouse made of textiles that I had as a child and explores how “playing house” and practicing social roles at an early age has been adapted in my adult life. ” She also reflects on how materiality is embedded, for her, within the conceptual realm they engage in dialogue with. Thus in order to create a conversation around uncertainty, materials like sod were incorporating – even surprising the artist, when seedlings of grass began to appear in the temporary installation structure.”The use of impermanent materials and incorporating and dissolving my DNA with and within them add to the idea of temporality and imperfection,” she reflects. “[Specifically] the house, like the other pieces, will transform, eventually collapse, then disintegrate and disappear, but the process and its traces are my way of leaving an imprint in the world. “

Installation view, “Elements of Perturbation” at The Border Project Space (artwork details on show website)

The Ph.D.-candidate artist, who holds an MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts (Warsaw, PL) and an MFA, Complutense University (Madrid, ES,) produces her works in a site-specific manner, considering how specific spaces and spatio-temporal considerations can demand necessary alterations and adaptations. Within this conceptual framework, the artist was also forced to reconsider the pandemic interrupting access to this solo exhibition. Confronting the pending feeling of hopelessness encountered by us collectively as a society, she provides a space that instigates a moment of rumination—an individual and collective reflection—for the human species to “regroup, rethink and adjust to a new reality.”

Closing on Saturday, July 11 at The Border Project Space in 56 Bogart, Brooklyn in socially-distanced visitation from 5-8 pm, “Elements of Perturbation” mounts a multi-sensorial dialogue around the places we are allowed to enter, inhabit, and exist, and how identity and location continually inhabit a relatioship of tension with one another.

Installation views, “Elements of Perturbation” at The Border Project Space (artwork details on show website)


 

Spiritual Awakenings: Langdon Graves’ “Month’s Mind” at Victori+Mo

In Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” the story’s protagonist, Mrs. Alving, is a woman driven nearly mad by the profligities of a husband since deceased. Her suspicions, agonies and fears manifest into lingering presences that she summarily labels as ‘ghosts’. “I am inclined to believe that we are all ghosts,” she mutters to a family confidant. While for Ibsen these ‘ghosts’ allude to one man’s sins, ghosts have remained a frequent reference point in literature throughout the centuries, as ghosts and hauntings have persistently crept into society’s consciousness. Every culture has held onto their own form of ghost stories. Yet, can ghosts remain congruent to our present reality in which data and security camera leave little room for subjectivity and conjecture?

“Month’s Mind” solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view at Victori+Mo (toward the rear of space)

One artist who is convinced they can is artist Langdon Graves, whose formidable solo show “Month’s Mind” remains on view at Victori+Mo through January 18, 2020. The subtlety of this curious exhibit lingers in the mind long after a visitor encounters Graves’ work. The exhibit features seemingly everyday objects often with a peculiar twist: pencils bend around tables, while maggots crawl through lifelike apples and flowers. These works appear in suprising configurations and cavalcades, locked in a frozen procession – a funereal march across a pastel-tinged space. Rooted in a carefully meted blend of autobiography and research-based practice, “Month’s Mind” marks an exhibit that hints at the delicate relationship between macabre and memorial, grief and the occult. The title itself refers to an old English practice of marking the memory of someone one month since deceased, and the contrast between soothing and morbid – a ‘finger’ hangs suspended from six feet below a spray of daisies on one wall of the exhibit – shifts its weight carefully throughout the expanse of space.

Another carefully balanced juxtaposition held firmly in place by Graves’ sure hand is the dissonance separating empricism and the supernatural. While data can indicate correlations, it cannot always explain: Graves knows as much from life experience. Raised with a strong memory of her grandmother, who recalled the artist’s great-grandfather’s mortician vocation and the religious experience of boarding school life at Georgetown Visitation Monastery, the artist recalls her grandmother’s tales of gruesome hauntings. Her earliest memory of her grandmother sharing a haunting occurred at a young age: as she recalls, her grandmother remembers that after a close relative passed on, she fell asleep only to awaken to gloves emerging from a nearby wardrobe. This mysterious tale became lodged firmly within the artist’s consciousness, spurring her onto a greater understanding of death: the attitudes toward it and how grief and trauma are processed.

If one seeks the very core of Graves’ practice, it rests rooted in the ideals we hold about the world around us. “All of my work starts out about belief, ” notes Graves, “I’ll study one subject and it leads into the next thing.” Here, the procession of research that Graves uncovered marches in step much like the ethereal arrangements spanning “Month’s Mind.” Spiritualism and women’s rights hold court alongside floriography, figures of speech and medical protocol. Most notable about the exhibit as a whole is not what is necessarily displayed physically, but how each work holds a palpable psychological presence that presages what is absent. Substance emerges from these objects, yes, but also from the shadows of meaning they cast.

 

“Month’s Mind”: a solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view at Victori+Mo (rear of space)

Another masterstroke of Graves’ exhibition is the seamless connections between seemingly disparate aspects of the works on view: a custom-made, sculpted “pencil” bent around a table’s edge references the Spiritualist movement of the late 1800s and the mediums of Lily Dale, New York. A bar of soap reaching out from the wall toward the viewer in the next room portrays women’s rights icon Susan B. Anthony. These two seemingly disparate objects contain a shared reference point in Lily Dale, New York. The town just one hour south of Buffalo, NY, was a canonic site for Spiritualists of the late 19th century, and a generative, supportive site for the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  Susan B. Anthony herself had close friends and supporters based in Lily Dale: she spoke at the memorial service of a dear friend and fellow activist who passed away in the town in 1890. Graves forms tightly held associations that link together her artworks as surely as we are linked to those who maintain their presence in our lives, yet just as tenuously as we hold onto those connections that fade with time after the passing of the ones we love.

Detail image from “Month’s Mind” : a solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view

“Month’s Mind” is on view at Victori+Mo through January 18, 2020; the gallery is open on Saturdays 10-6 pm and by appointment. This marks Langdon Graves’ second solo exhibition at the gallery. Graves is a visiting professor at Pratt and teaches at Parsons School of Design, and her studio is in Brooklyn, NY. For more information, please visit the gallery’s website.

Avant-Kitchen: Art for a New Dinner Party in the Spaghetti-O Incident

Produced by The Hive, an interdisciplinary art community based in Brooklyn, NY, “The Spaghetti-O Incident” dissects cultural references from Guns n’Roses to Martha Rosler in an examination of gendered expectations and hetero-normativity. Curated by Yasmeen Abdallah, Kathie Halfin and Ameta Wegryzn, the exhibit – occurring at 1218 Prospect Ave in Oct 2019 – features a range of interdisciplinary artists including Julia Blume, Victoria Calabro, Kat Cope, Pei-Ling Ho, Sarah Dineen, Vyczie Dorado, Ariel Kleinberg, Alison Owen, Muhajir Subuur Lesure, Jean Carla Rodea, Jordan Segal and Yasmeen Abdallah. Works on view range from performance to photography, installation to sculpture. Examining the expectations placed upon women – as artists, homemakers, cooks, and human beings – “The Spagetti-O Incident” doesn’t shy away from provocative and subversive works questioning and thwarting ideas of identity and performativity.

Sculpture by Jordan M Segal for “The Spaghetti-O Incident”

Gender is digested through performance that takes place in a residence: the living space provides a non-neutral scenario for the exhibit loaded with valuable context. The white cube is denied the privilege of sterilizing these powerful works on view by Kat Cope, Pei-Ling Ho, Sarah Dineen, Yasmeen Abdallah, Jordan Segal & more. The weight of the body and gender in domestic spaces, such as the kitchen, is keenly felt in this artist-curated show. Many artists reflect on ideas of food, meals, and the domestic sphere, with dishware by Jordan Segal seemingly dissolving into itself, reminiscent of cake frosting or, more morbidly, melted skin. Kat Cope’s work similarly addresses the topic of skin: specifically, clothing as a type of armor that adheres to and protects the skin. Cope notes of her fiber-based installations that “like layers of skin, layers of fiber are resistant to tearing and puncture.” Blending together elements of fashion, protection, and performance, Kat Cope’s work lies at the boundary of  representation and installation.

Intrinsically linked with these ideas of gender and inequity are the experiences of the body as a home one inhabits. Performances by Vyczie Dorado, among others, display the full force of yearning and attachment that artists have to the corporeal. Connection, longing and expectation cradle the exhibition, with “The Spaghetti-O Incident” proving a necessary, essential exhibition for our contemporary moment. Intersectional feminism and bold experimentation combine to make this exhibit one formidable presentation in this Fall New York Art season.

Sculpture by Kat Cope left of performance by Vyczie Dorado for The Spaghetti-O Incident

 

“Noise” by Pei Ling Ho for The Spaghetti-O Incident

 

 

Feminist Perspectives: Impressions from Pulse Art Fair During Miami Art Week 2018

by Katie Hector

 

Slightly north of the beating heart of Miami Art Week, Pulse Art Fair – anchored at Indian Beach Park, as always – continues to keep art week feeling fresh! ANTE. toured Pulse to pick out the top presentations not-to-be-missed at the 2018 iteration of the fair, open through Dec 9.

NY FEM FACTORY image courtesy Jessica Yatrofsky

NY FEM FACTORY A Tree Grows at Pulse

What happens when a booth is really a tree? NY Fem Factory observed this alternative to a white cube space as an invitation for giving visitors a moment of rest and reflection along with a healthy dose of feminism with their project Pink Privacy. Neon signs created by artist Dana Caputo depict the venus symbol and hang like strange fruit from a sea grape tree. sprouting whimsically from the fair floor. The signs are visually striking and attract attention from across the South Tent, imploring viewers to come a little closer with enticingly soft pink light. Landline phones positioned on glass coffee tables at the base of the tree play pre-recorded voices reciting each individual’s experiences as women. When asked which came first, the tree or the installation, NY FEM FACTORY elaborated on the project. “Originally, we planned on receiving a space with walls where we could create an immersive installation,” observed NY FEM FACTORY artist Jessica Yatrofsky. Pink Privacy represents a cohesive collaboration featuring female-identifying artists who have created a safe space to connect, relate stories, and express creative impulses together as a community.

installation view of Mindy Solomon gallery courtesy the gallery

MINDY SOLOMON GALLERY Florida Vibes

Step into Gallerist Mindy Solomon’s bubbly and colorful world presentation (Booth N-102), which boasts a healthy collection of ceramics and paintings highlighting an innovative array of perspectives. Established in 2009, Mindy Solomon Gallery is palpably integrated into the fabric of the Florida art scene. Where some showings by NY-based galleries cram booths with gaudy saturated palettes, pop imagery, and shiny finishes, Solomon seems right at home on her own turf. As a practicing artist, educator, advocate and collector, Solomon views her gallery as an incubator for dynamic artists who are in the process of establishing their voices. Solomon’s genuine, trained eye seamlessly integrates male and female, national and international, emerging and even established artists all within one cohesive environment. Solomon deftly utilizes color as a unitifing factor as the great equalizer, incorporating a variety of perspectives and striking a balance between artwork, race, and gender. In a gallery world held increasingly more accountable for inclusion, striking a balance between artwork, race, and gender can be a contrived quota – not so at Solomon, who offers what I can only describe as pop sincerity and vibrant, celebratory diversity exuded through a balance of color and form.

Pulse PLAY installation view, courtesy Project for Empty Space

Pulse Play Project For Empty Space The Beauty of Violence

The Project for Empty Space (PES) activates their booth with Pulse Play, screening of video-based work showcasing the perspective five artists from various parts of the world who address the theme, “A Violence”. By relying upon an open call system, Project for Empty Space founders Jasmine Wahi and Rebecca Jampol democratize an artist’s chance at showing work during one of the highest profile art events of the year: Pulse Art Fair. By boldly representing video-based work within an art fair dominated by objects, PES upholds their mission to produce instances of social engagement, education, and dialogue through art in order to encourage systemic change and cultural tolerance.

This collection of videos include striking surreal images along with audio cues that reveal how universal the impact of violence is. “So much beauty is born from so much devastating pain. What was particularly important for us in this project was to exemplify a span of subjects that ranged from the personal to the public; it was significant to choose voices that engage in nuanced and complicated understandings of systemic violence and the fallout that comes with it,” noted PES co-directors Wahi and Jampol. Pulse Play offers viewers a moment of philosophical reflection through the storytelling of video and serves as an unexpected humanitarian respite from the fair frenzy.

Ann Lewis, One in Five image courtesy the artist

 

ANN LEWIS One in Five

From afar, Ann Lewis’s booth looks like a minimalist contemplation of space and light immediately conjuring references to the lineage artists such as Eva Hesse and Ruth Asawa. Get a little closer and the hanging garments reveal themselves to be underwear: twenty pieces of underwear, in total. A sharp pang of revulsion floods the body as one can’t help but notice a considerable number of the undergarments are soiled, stained, and ripped. This visceral reaction, a moment of disgust, is something Lewis employs in her work as a means of addressing the topic of rape culture in America. “I created this work during the Brock Turner hearings back in 2016,” Lewis explains. She goes on to explain that the title One in Five directly references a statistic published by the CDC that one in five women will experience sexual abuse in their lifetime. “I base many of my works on accessible data as to give the viewer unencumbered access to the facts of these issues through visual representations.” As a multi-disciplinary artist and activist, Lewis focuses on creating work in public spaces in order to address American identity, power structures, and social justice. Lewis’s work is visually and emotionally striking, yet pensive and refined standing as a powerful statement within the fast paced commercially driven environment.

Knot Expected: Elevating the Everyday with artist Windy Chien image courtesy Sunbrella

Knot Expected: Elevating the Every Day The Odd Couple

The pairing of artist Windy Chien and Sunbrella, an outdoor textile manufacturer, seems like a relatively unlikely duo to find  at Pulse. However this unexpected collaboration offered something that most highbrow commercial booths overlook: the importance of the human touch. For Chien, this is just the latest in a series of collaborative outlets that allow her to express her creative impulses. After stepping away from an executive position at Apple, Chien submerged herself in the ancient, nautical craft of knot making – learning a different knot each day for one year. Her  intense level of intrigue and dedication to a medium which is often only valued for its functionality caught the PR eye of Sunbrella. Large canvas bags containing small bundles of cords in neutral earth tones were positioned in the middle of the booth amidst an installation of various knot types the artist had created. “Would you like to tie a knot?” a Sunbrella representative asked, coaxing my curiosity with an invitation to touch. Within the setting of the art fair, a place that commercially epitomizes the artistic hand the intimacy of touch and the ability to encounter a material is a rare and meaningful experience. Chien’s desire to elevate the mundane knot and share the joy of textiles allowed for a less conceptual and more intimate moment of interaction and storytelling to take place in the most unlikeliest of settings.

Susie IRL Exhibition @HERE: In Conversation with Susie Mag Founder Olivia Huffman

IT is rare indeed to chance upon that hybrid artist/activist/community organizer: that gem of a person who not only successfully runs their own practice, developing thgeir work as a formidable artist, but also finds time to initiate and organize community meetings and projects on the side, supporting scores of other creative types on the up-and-up in the process. Olivia Huffman is a gem: one of this singular breed of dexterous creative folk.

An artist working across mixed media, performance and new media, Huffman has spearheaded efforts to increase visibility and opportunities for marginalized artists.  In this vein they have led the creation of artist community Art Folx Nation, an intersectional feminist collective engaging with non-binary / women-identifying artists. In addition, they are a co-founder of Susie Mag, presenting cutting-edge interdisciplinary artworks with an eye toward gender equality in the arts.

Susie Mag has partnered with HERE, an arts center in Lower Manhattan, for the exhibition Susie IRL featuring mixed media works created by participating artists from the Susie Mag family. The exhibition, which is free to the public, is on view Jan 25 – Mar 28 with a public opening/artist’s reception on Thursday, February 22nd from 5-7 pm.

We sat down with Huffman to discuss their process as an artist in-depth and to hear more about how their works come to fruition.

AM. Thanks for speaking with us today, Olivia. I’d like to start with themes latent throughout your practice. Your work often incorporates references to the body, though most of your practice isn’t figurative per se. Can you explain why your work incorporates what you refer to as “remains” of the body and mind vis-a-vis “found material” and how this feature is crucial to your practice as a whole?

OH. I collect debris from everyday life. These items share a story about daily rituals, preferences, and aesthetics. To me, referencing the body without figurative elements enables the viewer’s imagination, linking their memories with mine. I use found materials because everyone has a memory tied to a color, texture, or scent. These slight signals trigger subconscious imagery that can connect the viewer to my work on a more personal level. My work focuses on the mystery and varying paths of personal development and growth, not the outward appearance of a person. I have used the figure in the past, but it was always very minimal and abstract.

AM. The artwork you create has a potent sense of materiality tied specifically the lived history embedded within that material. Can you talk about how the lived histories of material are important within the context of individual artworks you create?

OH. In my current series, Domesticity, each piece represents a different facet of household duties.

“Mystic” references gardening and interior decorating. The materials used are embossed wallpaper, a plastic bag handle, and sliced bark adhered to drywall. I collected the wallpaper from my first roommate in New York and I found the bark with one of my dear friends when we went on a road trip to Mystic, Connecticut.

“Consent” references sexual duties of the household. There comes in an entitlement over a woman’s body once they are wed, it wasn’t that long ago that raping your wife was legal. The piece consists of fishnet stockings, silver tacks, and clear buttons on drywall. The buttons fill up the fishnet stockings creating sags and lumps to mimic flesh.

“Dedication” references office work and the surmounting to-do tasks in home/work life. Each post-it note consists of tasks that are coded with shorthand text that without context are nonsensical. This work includes a gratuitous amount of notes, a lock of hair, and faux wood contact paper on drywall.

“Dedication” 2016,  Mixed Media

 

AM. In this series [Domesticity], industrial objects and materials are used to create relatively small works. Can you talk about scale and size in relation to this series, and about how you approach a sense of balance when incorporating disparate elements (tree bark,fabric, fishnets, etc) juxtaposed within these works?

OH. I draw a lot from the minimal abstract movement is the 60’s— inspired greatly by Louise Bourgeois, Sol LeWitt, Eva Hesse, and Agnes Martin. All of these creatives had specific guidelines pertaining to their material uses and size. Agnes Martin worked in multiples of threes, as do I. In Domesticity I decided to work in small formats, on drywall, and only use three materials (outside of adhesive).

AM. You’ve lived and worked in New York, NY and Las Vegas, NV, where you are from originally. How have these different locations impacted your work? Has your work evolved or new concepts been introduced in your migration east?

OH. Las Vegas is one hell of a city. There is so much going on but you can easily slip into your own bubble (similar to NYC). There are so many great and valuable artists in my hometown who inspire me daily while out here in New York. I think when I lived in Las Vegas I was driven more by my emotions, the industry when I was out there was motivated purely by sexualizing women. Many of my jobs treated me very differently than cis men (wear skirts, make-up, act bubbly). In New York people are more raw: we all know what a pain in the ass it is to get from one place to another, do grocery shopping, or wash your clothes.

I think when I moved here I started working in a way that was more coded — smarter, if you will. My commute to work was roughly an hour each way for three years of my life, which is a lot of time. I used this to analyze my materials, my thoughts about constructing a piece, and deciphered ways to communicate angst, love, or habits in a non-literal form.

I still talk about gender constructs, but I’m less angry and transparent. My connection to feminism has evolved, I came out as Non-Binary while making this series which revealed Domesticity is about deconstructing the confinement of womanhood. I use materials from the home, sometimes my cat even helps me shred fabrics. Although the topics of each piece may not be peaceful, while I am making work it’s about building stability, safety, and love within myself. In Las Vegas, my work more stemmed from anger, resentment, and confusion. There was some love, but I was a very self-destructive being in my late teens and early twenties.

“Mystic” 2017, Mixed Media

 

AM. In addition to your 2- and 3-D works you’ve also created performance works, such as Subconscious: The Weapon of Choice. In what ways do you approach performance and sound works the same as your physical artworks and what conceptual overlap do you find between these practices?

OH. Being diagnosed bipolar at 13, I have always worked with psychological elements. There are so many ideas, motives, or actions that happen within ourselves that we aren’t readily privy too. “Subconscious: The Weapon of Choice” explored the three levels of the human psyche; The Physical Self (audience/voyeurs), The Subconscious (attendees who join the performance), and The Imagined Self (performed by me). The performance ended up being a banishment of the ill will that I held against myself and others. I worked in near silence, with little movement, as a helpless confused person that was led into the light of self-acceptance. Towards the end of the performance, a participant cleaned off my nude body and held me in their arms like a newborn. There were participants that whispered encouraging sentiments and really proved to me that I am worth love in a moment in time that I had felt the most unloved in my entire life. But until that performance and those moments, I had no idea that these things were happening inside of me.

In the sound piece, Bedwomb, that I constructed with my partner’s music project, warmcanopy, we wanted to highlight the ignored sounds of the bedroom. In it you’ll hear a cat purring, change being dropped in a piggy bank, coughing, the sound of putting things away. We set aside a time to record ourselves cleaning our room, another domestic task, and submitted it to Yasmina Chavez‘s project, The Helen Keller Experience.

All of my work is cathartic and relates to personal growth and experiences.

Consent
“Consent” 2015, Mixed Media

AM. As Founder of Susie Magazine you’ve put an emphasis on creating a platform for cis women, trans, and non-binary voices. What aspects of Susie do you find particularly exciting, and what does the zine have to share with the world that other mags or outlets just aren’t providing?

OH. Our zine formed in a secret Facebook group. We wanted to curate a platform to highlight and empower voices that aren’t regularly featured in mainstream outlets and turn the focus to the everyday person. Susie strives to be inclusive in print and at events. We are very conscious of curating with a balance of people from many different socio-economic backgrounds and creeds. Our first Issue themed P O W E R, was when Hillary Clinton was running and we were high off of having a non-cis man as a presidential candidate. There is a piece by Tanika Goudeau Hochhauser titled “Today I Vote”, that we placed as the first editorial piece because it pointedly and poetically outlines our country’s history of systemic oppression.  It was interesting to see how the context of the piece changed, as we finished the layout of before the election was finalized.

Our most recent issue, B U I L D, had a very different vibe. It was post-presidential election. It’s after many of us in marginalized communities cried out, some in disbelief and some affirmed of how racist and misogynistic our country still is. This issue is all about building yourself back up. There are stories of heartache, suicide, loving your mother, learning to love yourself, loss of a grandfather, and silly moments of “What are hands for?”

I personally think it is invaluable to have all of these voices and artworks featured under one binding! You giggle, cry, and get a cute playlist to dance around in front of the mirror to. Visitors can check us out at our online shop and on our Instagram.

AM. You’re also a Founder of Art Folx Nation. Can you speak a bit about the aims of that collective as a whole and your progress so far?

OH. Art Folx Nation began in 2014 and was originally titled Lady Art NYC. The group’s focus is to bring together a bunch of non-cis men creatives in an online space so we could share events, ask art questions, and support each other. The group itself is only for cis women, trans, and non-binary people, but our events are gender-expansive. I wanted to cultivate a space free of objectification that thrived on being supportive and safe. When I moved to New York I went to a lot of events thinking I would meet like-minded people, but every time I went to these events people had a buddy or weren’t necessarily open to making a new friend. I was in the big secret feminist Facebook group and realized that we were getting to know details about each other and building really dependable long-term bonds online without having met IRL. I figured that would work just as well in an art-focused space, and it has!

Currently, we have online chapters titled by region; Art Folx NYC, Art Folx Mid West, Art Folx South West,  Art Folx Pacific North West,  Art Folx LA, and Art Folx South East. The idea is that no matter where you move you can join one of these groups and have a supportive environment, know about events happening in your region, and (hopefully) make some friends!

-1 Below: A Look at Culture in the Outer Boros & NY Metro Area, Jan 29 to Feb 2, 2018

There are countless gallery guides exploring the cultural events happening throughout NYC, but how many can you find within walking distance or bus ride of your nest? How many events happen right down the street that you could swing by after a nice dinner with a friend? Why does every single blog profile seem to profile events happening in the art areas of Chelsea and the Lower East Side?

With these thoughts in mind, here at -1 Below we take a look at cultural events happening around New York City, minus one boro: Manhattan.

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Below we consider upcoming cultural highlights with five not-to-miss events from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx… with some cultural events to entice guests willing to venture farther afield.

Artwork by Katherine Toukhy, PES Grab back artist-in-residence
Artwork by Katherine Toukhy, PES Grab back artist-in-residence (Project for Empty Space, Newark, NJ)

  1. “Night Regulation” Radiator Gallery, 10-61 Jackson Ave, Long Island City feat. artists Loren Britton, Maria Dimanshtein, Nicholas Fraser, JF Lynch and Andrew Prayzner – curated by Patrick Neal. An exhibition touching on the fraught and complex relationship between conceptual and formal elements present in contemporary art. Opening: Feb 2nd from 6-9 pm  
  2. “Incision: Feminist in Residence” Project for Empty Space, 2 Gateway Center, Newark, NJ  (across from Penn station skybridge) feat. artists Chaya Babu, Christen Clifford, Camille Lee and Katherine Toukhy. Profoundly feminist, this exhibition explores the personal and political presence of being a woman artist in a complex, hierarchical art world pantheon.  Opening: Jan 31st from 6-8 pm.
  3. Know Your Mushrooms: Mycology 101” Earth Arts Center, 936 Madison Street, Brooklyn, NY for artists with a taste for the wilder side of nature, this class, led by expert agriculturalist and PDC practitioner Oliver Bolotin, covers key points outlined by Paul Stamets in the tome “Mycelium Running”. This class will cover wild mushrooms as well as growing your own fungi colony at home. Event takes place Sat, Feb 3rd: doors open at 8 pm with discussion beginning at 8:30. 
  4. “Reenactment” gallery talk, BRIC (The Stoop @ BRIC Arts) 647 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY. Coffee + Conversation discussing current BRIC exhibition “Reenactment” with curator Jenny Gerow and exhibiting artists Maria Hupfield and Farideh Sakhaeifer on how certain histories are privileged, stifled, and/or eventually re-examined. The exhibition features artworks by Ken Gonzalez-Day, Crystal Z. Campbell, Alicia Grullon (pictured in cover image), Hupfield, Sakhaeifer, and Marisa Williamson. Feb 3rd from 12-1 pm.  
  5. “Coming to America” Free Screening @Brooklyn Bazaar, 150 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY. A light-hearted look at America (specifically, Jamaica Queens) through the eyes of a visitor from our current administration’s so-monikered “shithole countries”, come laugh off our current xenophobia with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall’s devastatingly witty performance, with turns by the commanding James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair in the classic 1988 film directed by John Landis.  No RSVP required, seating first come first serve. Jan 31st from 8-11 pm. 

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“Know Your Mushrooms: Mycology 101” Earth Arts Center