February 2016 / Messages from Israel by Shira Richter/ Part II

ART, RESEARCH, THEORY: In November 2016 the column space was passed on to Shira Richter, a mother, artist, activist, film maker and educator from Israel, to curate three editions of the m/other voices monthly columns on the topic of the 'maternal' and the 'politics of everyday life' from her particular, situated, feminist maternal perspective of mothering twin sons in Israel. In the first edition of 'Messages from Israel', Richter brought us her interview with Dr. Andrea O'Reilly, entitled 'Motherhood; a Liability or Crime?' In this second edition, brought to you on Valentines Day 2017, Richter continues her ongoing investigation into patriarchal structures and mother work, this time turning her maternal gaze onto male violence and the "cultural gendered restrictions forced upon the men I love".  

m/other voices thank's Shira Richter for her tireless work of re-imagining the world from a feminist maternal perspective and Dr. James F. Gilligan for his graceful and generous contribution to the ongoing conversation unfolding on the virtual pages of the m/other voices foundation.  

 

Dr. James F. Gilligan and Shira Richter

Dr. James F. Gilligan and Shira Richter

 

MARY - THE MOTHER OF A SON WHO PREACHED FEMININE VALUES IN THE MIDDLE EAST


I live in what is labeled "The holy land". So holy, its ancient stone walls are full of bullet holes made by warriors of three major religions: Judaism, the religion I was born into, Christianity and Islam. War is a reality I have unconsciously taken for granted for several years, until, like sleeping beauty, the kiss of a man I love (and was afraid to lose) jolted me awake to the fact that men – mostly young men, are the ones who die in wars, while powerful older men are the ones creating the wars, while women are the ones investing most of their time energy and effort into producing and sustaining –these men people. If women are the ones doing most of the educating during the most influential years of a person, then why don't we don't have more influence? We don't because patriarchy is not a body. Patriarchy is a thought system which inhabits both women and men. The same way women "lean into" the masculine valued world,  men may "lean into" the feminine valued world.
 
Several powerful male leaders who were brave enough to "lean into" feminine values of peace and non violence- were assassinated or executed, usually from within their own society. I'm thinking of three particular ones from this area: Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who shook the Palestinian Leader Arafat's  hand, Anwar Sadat- president of Egypt, for making peace with Israel, and – Jesus. 

Now, Jesus and his peace-love feminine attitude have been on my mind recently. Jesus and his mother- Mary. This is new because although I am secular and although Israel/Palestine is covered with Christian archeology and land marks, and although as an art Student in the 80's I studied art his-story consisting of numerous paintings of Jesus and Mary, I was brought up and educated in the Israeli formal educational system which represents Christianity as violent crusaders. Not much connection between me and violent crusaders…however, When I became a mother, Mother Mary  popped back into my mind, because I was thirsty for artistic mother images to identify with and she is, after all, the most popular human mother in western art history, albiet a bit alienating because of her conception methods. Then Artist Beth Grossman pointed out the fact that Mary was actually- a Jewish mother.

To the readers who are not Jewish the term "Jewish Mother" is an extremely loaded stereotype which is juicy material for any Matricentric scholar. In a way it could be explained as the Jewish version of a "Helicopter mom". In short, the term "Jewish Mother" brings to mind a teenagers nightmare of a loud, manipulative, bossy, guilt tripping mother. Obviously I'm more interested in how mother work is ridiculed demoted and devalued in culture, so I'd say Jewish Mothers, like many mothers, work hard for the survival of their children and people. So I too, like Mary, am a Jewish Mother. Together with the fact that Mary was actually called Miriam (which is my middle name), was probably dark skinned with curly hair, she is also a mother to a boy who was quite feminine in a very violent war ridden and macho time; "Love, compassion, free will, and non violence combined with a disregard for laws, money and power expressed a feminine agenda such as no western religious leader had ever before espoused " writes Leonard Shain regarding Jesus in The Alphabet Versus the Goddess.

How dangerous for a young boy/man growing up in an extremely violent era to refuse his role in the male tradition. Miriam must have had her hands full trying to figure out how to make him fit in. Thousands of years after the crucifixion, "Feminine" behavior can still be lethal for a male in the middle east. Just look at what is done to homosexual men in countries the like of Iran. (Note- I am not saying Jesus was gay. I am just pointing to the different attributes we connect to specific qualities and behaviors).

In the Mary paintings (both commissioned and painted by men) White skinned blond and straight haired Miriam is quite passive. Like most mothers represented in popular media -she is depicted either as 'halo- high' on birth adrenaline, or holding her dead son (the pieta). However, knowing how women are usually short changed in male representations, my 'mother eyes' found a different Miriam.  The Cana Wedding story Miriam is far from passive. In fact she was quite the typecast of a positive "Jewish Mother", with eyes of a hawk for the political survival of her son and his talents. Mary manipulates orchestrates and orders the water- to- wine miracle; 

"There is no wine" she says to her son, obviously a code for "Now is the time". "What does that have to do with me?", says Jesus, and continues; "The time is not right" probably in reaction to her piercing look, proving his first refusal didn't convince her. Judging by what she does next- ignore his second refusal, she probably thinks her son is too young to know what's good for him. She gives the servants an order to do whatever Jesus tells them to do, in effect, setting the stage for the miracle, or magic act, whatever you want to call it. Now to me that's no passive mother, on the contrary! This is a shrewd mother who knows her son, knows her people, and the politics of social climbing.  She is more like the active Olympian sports mothers in the Proctor and Gamble tear jerking "Thank you mom" campaign. "It takes someone strong to make someone strong" went their slogan, and yes, to me Miriam was strong and probably took to being her son's manager because there was a good chance he won't be bullied as much if he became a powerful leader. And while I'm at it, between you and me, a woman who convinces all the patriarchs around her she was impregnated by an angle must have been one hell of strong lady! 

I live near Tel Aviv, the city with "the most sexy gay men in the world", to quote one gay man from Rio de Janeiro. But this is misleading. The Middle East is a region governed by male honor and masculine values with a deep fear of the (weak) feminine. I have witnessed times in which my sons were belittled by male authority figures: doctors, older boys…and even their own sports coach. According to these men, who by the way, meant well; Boys don't cry, are very competitive, and "mother" is forbidden to set foot on the court, even after a life threatening head fall.  The majority of lethal violence we hear about in the news both in Israel/Palestine and other countries is executed by a person –or soul -living in a man's body, holding a man –made weapon. As a feminist who was occupied with the challenge of how to untangle my woman's body and voice from cultural gendered restrictions forced upon me, I now turn to investigate the cultural gendered restrictions forced upon the men I love, who want to "lean out" of the patriarchy. As a mother, I know that acting out is an encoded message. What is the encoded message men's souls are sending out via all this violence they are committing? Dr. James Gilligan gives us some valuable answers.

The below clips are from a longer interview I held with Dr. James Gilligan, M.D. Clinical professor of Psychiatry, at the School of Medicine, New York University and also life partner of Feminist Psychologist and author Carol Gilligan. If you like them and would like to see more, please help me grow by subscribing to my utube channel, "liking" and sharing them and commenting below them. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank James Gilligan once again for his kind and gentle cooperation. I also want to thank Prof. Tova Hartman for the beautiful Location of the interview, and Deirdre M. Donoghue, creator of the international m/other voices foundation for inviting me to curate this series in my own style and timing.

 Shira Richter talks with male violence expert Dr. James Gilligan:

Part 1.

Part 3.

Part 5.

Part 2.

Part 4.

Part 6.

If you like the above clips and would like to see more, please help me grow by subscribing to my utube channel, "liking" and sharing them and commenting below them. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank James Gilligan once again for his kind and gentle cooperation. I also want to thank Prof. Tova Hartman for the beautiful Location of the interview, and Deirdre M. Donoghue, creator of the international m/other voices foundation for inviting me to curate this series in my own style and timing.

Production, Videography, Editing, Uploading: Shira Richter 

November 2016 /Messages from Israel by Shira Richter

ART, RESEARCH, THEORY: For the next three months we give the floor to Shira Richter, a mother, artist, activist, film maker, and educator from Israel. In the three editions (November 2016, December 2016 and January 2017) that Richter brings to us from her country and her feminist maternal perspective, we will be presented with her thoughts on motherhood, 'the maternal' and the politics of everyday life. In this first edition of 'Messages from Israel', Richter presents her interview with Andrea O'Reilly, entitled 'Motherhood a Liability or Crime?' parts 1-6. The interviews have been filmed by Shira Richter. Additionally we will be treating you to the keynote lecture of Dr. Andrea O'Reilly: 'The Baby Out With Bathwater: The Disavowal and Disappearance of Motherhood in 20th and 21st century Academic Feminism', presented at MIRCI's 20th Anniversary Gala Conference held in Toronto, October 2016.

 

Shira Richter

Shira Richter

Who am I? On a postcard my mother sent me from her orchestra tour when I was 8 she wrote: "how is the second mother of the family?" I am Shira Richter who has been doing mother work personally, professionally, artistically, academically and ethically for – lets' see, about 40 years. My mothering work started long before I became a flesh and lots- of -blood mother. Today I have combined my ARTiculating Motherhood/mothering into a Visual Lecture with lots of pictures. My focus is the value and worth of Mother work. Obviously, it's because I want my mother-work to be valued. But not only

 

THE BEST PLACE IS THE PLACE WHERE WE ARE NOW

 

An Opening Thought

When you forget what is most valuable to you, just think of a fire. Fires remind us what is valuable to usThe fires that have devoured whole houses and forests in Israel while I am writing this remind me, once again, that what is most important and valuable to us is what we take when a fire knocks on our door; People, pets and-photos. Interesting. Three "P"s; People Pets and Photos. It reminds me of this text I wrote for Invisible Invaluables: my art project about the worth of mothering work :
 

"A person requested to note the most important things in his/her life, mentions his/her family, life, and those who are close to him/her, before mentioning computer software, for instance. Raising a human being is the most important and difficult work there is. There is no machine that can do it. Babies who do not receive love and care- die. Our society has invented symbols to show its appreciation: money is a symbol, documents, diplomas, merit awards of all sorts, a car and a mobile phone, prizes and grants…if life is so valuable, why aren’t those working in sustaining and creating it awarded such symbols of value?"

 

Celebrating our "Jerusalem"- The Jerusalem of Mother Scholars

This column post is a prelude to links that I have attached here to my interviews with Dr. Andrea O'Reilly, who to my mind has created an academic "Jerusalem" for people like me and us who study the Maternal, the Matricentric, the Matrixial, Mother work, Mother activism, Mother ethics, Care work.. Whatever you want to call it.  I say "Jerusalem" because – well, I grew up in Jerusalem. I say "Jerusalem" because although I am not religious, I was born into a Jewish Family and was brainwashed to think about Jerusalem as a central national identity. I say "Jerusalem" because Jerusalem is the place pilgrims belonging to three religions come to fill their weary spirit.
The 20-year old MIRCI and Demeter Press are places us mother scholars and artists can go to, both physically or intellectually, in order to fill our weary spirits. Mirci and Demeter Press are our "big sisters" who we can call upon when the neighborhood bullies want to beat us up or discredit us. Because although many of us have sprouted our own projects in our own countries, there are still big chunks of dry desert and yes, hostility.
This is no small issue, because hostility and isolation can silence us. Isolation is a form of punishment in prisons. Isolation kills. Isolation is serious stuff. I was heart broken when I found out that the first conference in Israel, that I really felt I belonged to organised by a gender and art studies foundation refused my motherhood-artist's offer and belittled my work. My feelings changed when I heard the reasoning, because it was the same reasoning Andrea O'Reilly was given when MIRCI's funding was cut (listen to the links below).
"Hey gal, you're in good company", I told myself. The pain of exclusion is less painful when others have similar experiences. However, we want more than good company. Think about the lengths many mothers go to in order to help their child to 'belong'. We too need playdates and social status. "There are no two ways around it", wrote  Clarrisa Pinkola Estes in her book Women who Run With the Wolves, "a mother must be mothered". Yes, and Mother scholars need to be mothered and supported as well. Especially when the values and ethics of care, and hospitality we are trying to promote and practice seem to be threatened every single day.
I have been part of several feminist projects in my life. It is not easy. It is not easy because the flags of solidarity might fly high, but at the end of the day the flags come down and the decisions are made by those who hold the money or resources. Money decides and money divides. Money creates castes. Suddenly all the lofty words that were said become as empty and hollow as a burnt tree trunk. The ethics that govern money are not the ethics we are working for, but they get the last world. They won the election in the United States. They taught us that those who hold money can say whatever they want, because "it's a game". You can hurt anybody because "it's just a game".
The game 'Monopoly' was created by a woman. Yes, a woman who wanted to teach children and others about the downsides of capitalism. But capitalism stole her game and today,  we are happy when a Monopoly round takes away all our children's savings. That is why a sociologist whose name I forgot stopped playing monopoly. He realized that like porno, once you play the game, you become the game.  


Ways The Game is Challenged

I love the way the 2015 m/other voices conference 'The Mothernists' was organized according to "The medium is the message". I know, I know, I'm writing for m/other voices column space, but hey, why not write about what I liked?  It's not as if I organised the conference.
First of all, there were no parallel sessions. This means, there was no hierarchy. We had the same time and no competition for audience. We were all equally valued. We also had time to be together, cook together, and snore together. Time to just be together is soooo important. The organizers of an Israeli Palestinian conference that I attended in 2006 knew this and granted free non-alcohol drinks to everyone in the lobby of the conference hotel throughout the whole conference. What this created was many many mixed groups of people, that instead of leaving the hotel, sat together, talking. Setting stages, creating the mood. Isn't that what many mothers do behind the scenes?  
Can we do this? Can we break the mold of hierarchy? There are ways to start small. For instance – On Facebook, try to refrain from sharing blogs supported and backed up by tons of money about what's her name, that famous artist who doesn’t pay her interns... Instead share m/othervoices pages, share pages by Sara Irvin, share Jane Chelliah. Share your friend's articles and quotes more than famous people's stories. Let's use the opportunities we have to consciously uplift the values that we hold dear. Famous people have enough networks and exposure. People are paid to expose them. Who really needs exposure? In Israel the voices that get the least exposure are those that want peace. The moderates. So I make it a point to share their posts. The violent and extreme ones get plenty of exposure. Media loves them. They make money for media. 
That's it for now. Remember ( and I am reminding myself here as well) the best place is the place we are now. The most important person is the one next to us now. 

Shira Richter in conversation with Dr. Andrea O'Reilly:
"Academic feminism ignores motherhood", "motherhood studies is not the same as family studies", "involved fathers", "women's academic success may be connected to their relationships" and lot's more...

Motherhood, A Liability or a Crime? #1
Motherhood, A Liability or a Crime #2
Motherhood, A Liability or a Crime #3
Motherhood, A Liability or a Crime #4
Motherhood, A Liability or a Crime #5
Motherhood, A Liability or a Crime #6


The above interviews have been filmed by Shira Richter. Kind Thank's for the lovely Terri Hawkes for borrowing equipment.

 

Andrea O'Reilly's keynote address 'The Baby Out With The Bath Water: The Disavowal and Disappearance of Motherhood in 20th and 21st Century Academic Feminism', MIRCI's 20th Anniversary Gala Conference. 

The Baby Out With The Bathwater #1
The Baby Out With The Bathwater #2  

Kind Thank's to Dr. Andrea O'Reilly for the permission to publish her keynote. Filmed by Shira Richter.

 

 

 

 







 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

October 2016 / A Ferocious Intimacy: Poetry by Grieving Mothers

ART, RESEARCH, THEORY:  In the October column we are pleased to publish work by Nancy Gerber on the topic of maternal bereavement and introduce you to the work of poets Chanel Brenner and Alexis Rhone Fancher. (Biographies included at the end of this article.)  
 

 

Nancy Gerber received her doctorate in English from Rutgers University and taught as a visiting lecturer for eight years in the English and Women’s Studies departments of Rutgers-Newark. Her books are Portrait of the Mother-Artist: Class and Creativity in Contemporary American Fiction (Lexington, 2003); Losing a Life: A Daughter’s Memoir of Caregiving (Hamilton, 2005); and Fire and Ice: Poetry and Prose (Arseya, 2014), a finalist for a Gradiva Award in poetry from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. She is currently an advanced candidate in psychoanalytic training at the Academy of Clinical and Applied Psychoanalysis.

A version of this essay appeared on line in Journal of Mother Studies, Issue 1.  Gratitude to the editors, Kandee Kosior and Rosalind Howell, for permission to reprint this work.

 

 

           A FEROCIOUS INTIMACY: POETRY BY GRIEVING MOTHERS

 

My interest in poetry by grieving mothers was born from the desire to learn about maternal bereavement.  Two women I knew lost children in sudden, horrific accidents.  How does a mother live with such profound loss?  How is this loss experienced on the page?  As a literary scholar and mother whose life has been shaped by motherhood and the written word, I found myself thinking about the death of a child and the relationship between mothers, grief, and the writing of poetry.
I learned about Chanel Brenner’s Vanilla Milk and Alexis Rhone Fancher’s State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies through the Internet.  Vanilla Milk was listed for review on Mom Egg Review.  I reviewed it and discovered Alexis Rhone Fancher’s State of Grace through Les Femmes Folles.  It was a surprise to find, given the randomness of the Internet, that Brenner and Rhone Fancher are friends and writing partners who read and support each other’s work; Brenner wrote the foreword to Rhone Fancher’s book; Rhone Fancher dedicated her book to her son and to Brenner’s. Their partnership and friendship seemed to me to embody feminist collaboration and community at its best.  
My interest in the topic involves a series of questions. What do bereaved mothers experience after the death of a child?  What images and metaphors resonate in poems by grieving mothers?  What do feminist scholars say about maternal bereavement? What is the relationship between writing poetry and mothers’ grief?  My work is intended as one approach to the subject of poetry written by grieving mothers.  In any case, read these poets.  Their work will take your breath away.  The poems say so much about life, loss, love, hope, despair, survival, and pain.  Their words are the text, my remarks simply commentary. 
Chanel Brenner and Alexis Rhone Fancher are mother-poets who write about a child’s death.  The courageous act of Brenner’s son Riley died at the age of six from an AVM (arteriovenous malformation), whose existence was not known until it suddenly burst in his brain.  Alexis Rhone Fancher’s son Joshua died at the age of twenty-six from cancer.  In the preface to Vanilla Milk, Brenner writes that after Riley’s death, poems poured out of her.  Instead of crying, she wrote poems.  Rhone Fancher, who had written and published many poems before her son’s death, told me that after she wrote 'Over It', “it was like a spigot was opened and poems just kept coming out, over a few years.” 
It’s interesting that both poets speak of water, an image associated with birth and the laboring mother’s body -- the poem as the mother’s tears, the writing as the birth of the mother’s grief, the bleeding of words on the page a reminder that mothers are deeply intimate with beginnings and endings.  As Alicia Ostriker noted, “  . . . motherhood puts [the woman artist] in immediate and inescapable contact with life, death, beauty, growth, corruption” (130).  
The death of the mother’s child brings the mother-poet face to face with the finiteness and fragility of existence in a culture where such issues are silenced and taboo. Moreover, when children die before their parents, parents undergo a painful reversal of expectations, a feeling of disorder and a perception that the course of life has been reversed: parents do not expect to bury their children.  This theme is addressed in Brenner’s poem, 'Out of Order.'  Riley’s younger brother Desmond sits in the car with his mother and father.  He points to a cemetery and yells, “I want to go there!”  His father replies, “You will someday” (57).  Shocking and undeniable, the father’s reply reminds us: everyone dies, your brother died, one day you will die.  No candy-coated platitudes can bury this truth.
In poems by grieving mothers, readers bear witness to the terrible knowledge that death, like life, does not mete out portions according to standards of justice or comprehensibility.  In “The Give Away,” Brenner writes, “Nothing belongs to us, not our hair, not our thoughts, / not our sons” (38).  Our bodies, which seem real and solid, material and weighty, are so much more fragile than we care to know or admit.  Accidents or illness can destroy us, wreck our lives in the course of minutes or over prolonged years of suffering.  Our bodies are not built to last; “a washing machine outlives a little boy,” Brenner reminds us (38).   In Rhone Fancher’s poem, “Snow Globe,” the frozenness of time is explored.  The speaker says:  “Despair arrived, disguised as / nine pounds of ashes in a / velvet bag. . . . Better he’d arrived / as a snow globe, / a small figure, / standing alone at the bottom of his / cut short beauty. . . .”  (29).   The image of the snow globe is a metaphor for the frozenness of time: the child trapped inside a time bubble, his future truncated, his life cut short before he can live it.  In “Mahogany Funeral Urn,” the speaker yearns for a movie she can fast forward or rewind in order to alter the sequence of time so she can “make him stick around” (31). She casts herself as a film director who yearns to script a different ending to the story even as she understands the impossibility of her wish. 
Grief is described alternatively as fullness and emptiness in images that speak to the fullness of pregnancy and the emptying out of the mother’s body during labor.  A mother’s grief is an embodied grief, a grief that lives in the body.  In Brenner’s poem “Out of Body,” the speaker stares at the gutted fish on her luncheon plate.  She understands she is that gutted fish – emptied, flayed – her guts, her womb ripped open. (40).  Rhone Fancher describes the sense of being emptied by death in “when her son is dead seven years.”  The speaker says:  “a woman is dancing on the moon, /  . . .  / her feet are cooking. / her arms are empty . . .  she thinks there is someone to feed  . . .  a woman is dancing on a cake plate / in her kitchen. / . . . skates to the bone-white middle” (43).  The mother’s arms are empty, there is no one to feed, the plate is barren.  But there is also fullness, in the waxing and waning of the moon, the ancient symbol of women’s fertility.  The speaker regards the pregnant moon with “her big belly, / . . . lighting the way” (44).  Is the speaker learning to balance the darkness of grief and the light of survival?  The theme of grief as the insatiable hunger of emptiness appears in Brenner’s litany, “I Want” – “I want, I want, I want, I want –“ (39).  The mother’s role is to feed her child, first with milk, then with love.  What happens to the mother’s desire to love when that child is gone?
In mapping the terrain of maternal bereavement, feminist scholars note that the parental bond does not end with the child’s death (Bennett, 47).   Bennett says, “The death of a child results in a journey for a mother, both with their child through an enduring relationship and without their child physically present to hold” (47).  Space and time acquire different meanings for the bereaved mother, who, through imagination, ritual, prayer, dreams, or poetry maintains a connection to the dead child (Bennett 47, Hendrick, 38).  Still, grief remains.
The poems by Alexis Rhone Fancher and Chanel Brenner are offerings of ferocious intimacy – ferocious in their pain and anger, in their exploration of love and longing.  Intimacy is established by the poets’ openness to voicing and sharing their experiences and feelings in language at once carefully crafted and emotionally accessible.  We might wish to turn away to protect ourselves from the ache and the longing, but we do so at our peril, for to do so is to isolate ourselves from what is human and fragile in all of us. 

 


SPEAKING WITH CHANEL BRENNER AND ALEXIS RHONE FANCHER


Author’s note:  The two poets were interviewed on separate occasions for this essay and did not hear each other’s responses.  I have put their words in dialogue with each other because such a format reflects their collaborative relationship as friends and writing partners.  Both have received awards:  Vanilla Milk, the Eric Hoffer Award; Alexis Rhone Fancher has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and four Best of the Net awards. The interview with Chanel Brenner was conducted via cellphone on February 27, 2016; the interview with Alexis Rhone Fancher was conducted via cellphone on February 29, 2016.  

NG:  How did your book come into being?

CB:  I started taking writing classes when Riley was two.  I had always wanted to write, and I started taking classes with Jack Grapes.  At that point I was mostly writing prose.  The night Riley died I started writing poems.  I had written a few poems prior to that, but that’s when I started to write a lot of poems.  They just started coming out of me, one after another.  About a year after he died, I started looking at all the poems and the story they told.
I was reading other poets at the time who had gone through loss, and I was inspired by the art they created.  There was one book by Shelly Wagner called The Andrew Poems, about her son who drowned.  It was one of the first books I read after Riley died.  It was painful but I felt very connected to her, and I realized how much less alone I felt by connecting with other people who had been through something similar to me.  I ended up carrying my journal everywhere after Riley died.  I would take Desmond to his toddler class.  It was at the same school Riley attended.  There were a lot of moms who knew about what happened to him, and kids would come up to me and ask me about his whereabouts.  I had all these moments that would happen, and I would just sit during the toddler class and write and go to my car and write.  It was a way to document what was happening.  I didn’t want to cry, I wanted to witness it, to make some kind of sense of it.

 AF:  My son died in September of 2007, and I didn’t really write much about it or him until the beginning of 2008, when I started studying with Jack Grapes, a famous writing teacher here in Los Angeles.  The very first piece I wrote is now the beginning story in the book, “The Supermarket and a State of Grace.” 
I came in and read that piece to the class.  It felt scary and good to state my feelings, to see where I was, and then I didn’t write any poems about my son for maybe five years.  Then I wrote “Over It,” which was published in Rattle.  The next two poems were “Mahogany Funeral Urn” and “Snow Globe,” which were published in The MacGuffin.  I was just starting to submit my work and the reception was encouraging.  It showed me there was indeed an audience for these poems.  The woman who finally ended up publishing the book, Clare MacQueen, said, “Look, if you ever want to publish these poems, I’m a publisher, send them to me.”  I did.  There were 12 poems when I gave her the manuscript, and I wrote a few more that ended up in the book and then I was done.   It just kind of happened.  It was never intended. 

NG:  Is there something important to you about sharing your experience?

CB:  When Riley died, I felt lost in my grief and often alone.  I felt that when I shared the poems, I was helping people like me.  That is really what compelled me to get them published.  It felt like it was something I had to do.  I’ve had other moms contact me who have lost children and who read my book.  I’ve become friends with many of them.  That kind of connection, if it can provide any kind of comfort at all, that’s what it’s all about for me.

AF:  So many people have reached out to me.  It’s like a club of people who have lost children, from a stillborn child to someone in their 80’s who lost his 50-year-old son.  I have received such gorgeous letters from people and phone calls from people who share that grief of losing a child.  I think that was a hidden good part of writing the book, being able to reach out and make someone’s suffering a little more bearable.

NG:  Do you think writing is healing?

CB:  You know, I do think writing is healing.  It doesn’t always feel like healing.  Sometimes it feels painful.  I recently wrote a poem about the night Riley died.  I couldn’t have written it two years ago.  It was so traumatic, but there’s something about looking at it from a distance and creating a poem or a piece of art.  Creating something beautiful, that has meaning.  It reframes the experience.  There is also something about the editing process that seems to shift things, to be able to sit there and say, “Okay, what can I change about this?  Let’s make it about the writing, not so much about how I feel, but let me find different words.”  Keeping the emotional truth, but changing the words.  Maybe it’s about control.

AF:  People say,I’m so glad you’re writing.  It’s such a healing experience for you.’  Forgive me, but that’s bullshit.  It’s tearing me apart.  I just checked my calendar; I have 10 readings coming up, and reading these poems is just like opening myself up again and again and again.  I think it’s a bleeding.  Maybe there’s a bit of relief in bleeding all over the page, but no, I don’t think it’s healing at all.  To give you a sense of perspective, I wrote and published over 100 poems during the same time period that I wrote the 14 poems that make up State of Grace.  That’s to give you an idea what those 14 poems cost me in emotion and devastation.  I’m a confessional poet and I write from my own life.  For me to write, I’ve got to put myself there.  If I don’t, I’m really not writing worth a damn. 

NG:  Can you talk a bit more about what it’s like to read your work?

CB:  I remember reading some of these poems in class and just shaking and feeling really deranged.  But what’s interesting is that once I’ve read that way, I can usually read them again. I am very connected to the poems, but it’s not as traumatic as reading them the first time. 

AF:  I am a trained actor; I worked professionally as an actor for many years, so I approach my readings as a professional actor would.  I work on my poems; I work on my delivery.  I’m able to separate the reader from me.

NG:  I’m wondering if you have any favorite poems in your book?

CB:  I definitely do.  I’d say my top favorite is, “What Would Wislawa Szymborska Do?”  I have moments with certain poems where I feel as though I didn’t write them.  That was one of the poems that’s pretty much like the rough draft.  It came to me one day when I was on a walk.  I read it in class the next day, and that was the same day Szymborska died.  It was so unreal.  Another is “July 28th, 2012,” which won a contest that was judged by Ellen Bass.  That was another poem where very little was changed from the original draft I wrote in my journal.  Also “I Have 2x the Love for 1 Child,” about Desmond [Riley’s brother].

AF:  Yes, there are some.  I love the last poem in the book, “when her son is dead seven years.”  That was one of the last poems written.  I really like, “Dying Young.”  It was written for my best friend Kate, who died in January of 2014 and was very close to my son, so I wrote that poem for both of them.  Everyone seems to like “Death Warrant,” maybe because it’s so brutal.

NG:  I understand the two of you do readings together.

CB:  Yes, Alexis has been very inspiring to me.  We look at each other’s work all the time.  Whenever she writes a first draft of a poem she sends it to me; when I write a first draft of a poem I send it to her.  She and I support each other. We did a reading called “Turning Grief into Art” at Beyond Baroque [a literary arts center in Venice, California] with Madeline Sharples, a writer who also lost a son. 

AF:  We met in Jack Grapes’s class.  Chanel came in and announced her son died and wrote about it.  My son had died a few years earlier.  The last week of class I wrote a journal entry for class about what losing a son was going to be like for her and after I read it we decided to go out for lunch.  Four hours later we were still sitting there, still talking.  She wrote the foreword to my book, which I dedicated to my son and to her son.

 

 

 

POEMS FROM 'VANILLA MILK' AND 'STATE OF GRACE'

 

 

“I Have 2x the Love for 1 Child”
By Chanel Brenner

 
Since the death
of my older son,

I worry that the weight
of my love is too heavy.

I see my son hunched over,
carrying my grief

 like a load of stones.
I worry he’ll learn

to bask in that love
till he sunburns,

come to crave
the sting and heat of it.

I worry that he is forming
like a rock in a river bed,

 my grief-ridden love
rushing over him

like whitewater.
I worry that one day,

a woman will ask him
why her love is not enough,

and he won’t know
the answer.

 

Copyright2014, Chanel Brenner.  Reprinted by permission of the author.

Chanel Brenner is the author of Vanilla Milk: A Memoir Told in Poems (Silver Birch Press, 2014), a finalist for the 2016 Independent Book Awards and honorable mention in the 2014 Eric Hoffer Awards. Her poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Rattle, Cultural Weekly, Muzzle Magazine, Diverse Voices Quarterly, and others. She is a contributor to All We Can Hold: poems on motherhood (Sage Hill Press, 2016). Her poem, “July 28th, 2012” won first prize in The Write Place At the Write Time’s contest, judged by Ellen Bass. In 2014, she was nominated for a Best of the Net award and a Pushcart Prize.

 

 

“Over It”
By Alexis Rhone Fancher


Now the splinter-sized dagger that jabs at my heart has
lodged itself in my aorta, I can’t worry it
anymore. I liked the pain, the
dig of remembering, the way, if I
moved the dagger just so, I could  
see his face, jiggle the hilt and hear his voice  
clearly, a kind of music played on my bones
and memory, complete with the hip-hop beat  
of his defunct heart. Now what am I                 
supposed to do? I am dis-   
inclined toward rehab. Prefer the steady   
jab jab jab that reminds me I’m still
living. Two weeks after he died, 
a friend asked if I was “over it.” 
As if my son’s death was something to get  
through, like the flu. Now it’s past
the five year slot. Maybe I’m okay that he isn’t anymore,
maybe not. These days,
I am an open wound. Cry easily.
Need an arm to lean on. You know what I want?
I want to ask my friend how her only daughter
is doing. And for one moment, I want her to tell me she’s
dead so I can ask my friend if she’s over it yet.
I really want to know.

 

© Alexis Rhone Fancher.  First published in Rattle.  Reprinted by permission of the author.

Alexis Rhone Fancher’s poems can be found in Best American Poetry, 2016, Rattle, The MacGuffin, Slipstream, Rust + Moth, Hobart, Mead, Cleaver, and elsewhere. She’s the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen & other heart stab poems, and State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies. Since 2013 Alexis has been nominated for seven Pushcart Prizes and four Best of the Net Awards. She is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly.

 

 

References:

Bennett, Deb.  “’I am Still a Mother’:  A Hermeneutic Inquiry into Bereaved Motherhood.”  Journal of the Motherhood Initiative 1.2 (2010) : 46-56. Print and on line.

Brenner, Chanel.  Vanilla Milk:  A Memoir Told in Poems.  Los Angeles, CA: Silver Birch Press, 2014.  Print.

Cixous, Helene.  “The Laugh of the Medusa” (1976).  JSTOR.  Web.  20 July 2017.

Davidson, Deborah and Helena Stahls.  “Maternal Grief:  Creating an Environment For Dialogue.”  Journal of the Motherhood Initiative 1.2 (2010) : 16-25. Print and on line.

Fancher, Alexis Rhone.  State of Grace:  The Joshua Elegies.  Seattle, WA:  KYSO Flash Press, 2015.  Print.

Hendrick, Susan.  “Carving Tomorrow from a Tombstone:  Maternal Grief Followingthe Death of Daughter.”  Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering 1.1 (1999) : 33-43.  Print and on line.

Orr, Gregory.  Poetry as Survival.  Athens, GA:  U of Georgia P, 2002.  Print.

Ostriker, Alicia.  Writing Like a Woman.  Ann Arbor:  U of Michigan P, 1983.  Print.

Sharples, Madeline.  Leaving the Hall Light On:  A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide.  Downers Grove, IL:  Dream of Things, 2012.  Print.

Steele, Cassie Premo.  We Heal from Memory: Sexton, Lorde, Anzaldua and the Poetry of Witness.  New York:  Palgrave, 2000.  Print.

Wagner, Shelley.  The Andrew Poems. Lubbock, TX:  Texas Tech UP, 2009.   Print.

        

 

    

 

 

September 2016 / Conversation Four Ways

ART, RESEARCH, THEORY:  In the September column we are please to feature Sheilah Wilson an artist born and raised in Caribou River, Nova Scotia. Her recent work investigates the possibility of history and identity as fictionalized states of becoming. Wilson received her MFA from Goldsmiths College and a BFA from NSCAD University. She is Associate Professor Photography at Denison University, Granville, Ohio, a mother and an artist in residence at Headlands Center for the Arts. 

 

Repeat Pressure Until, Ortega y Gasset Projects, 2016. Installation image. From left to right: Carolyn Salas, Dani Leventhal, Moyra Davey, Stacy Fisher, Kim Waldron. 

Repeat Pressure Until, Ortega y Gasset Projects, 2016. Installation image. From left to right: Carolyn Salas, Dani Leventhal, Moyra Davey, Stacy Fisher, Kim Waldron. 

 

CONVERSATION FOUR WAYS
 

A conversation was sparked between four artists around ideas brought forward in the recent show Repeat Pressure Until curated by myself at the Ortega y Gasset Projects and the concurrent release of the zine, Mother Mother. The show utilized ideas of insistence as both strengthening through emphasis, and falling apart through over-repetition. The gendered female body is presented as benignly understandable and simultaneously profane. Understood reference points become radical because they imply that all knowns have the potential to be made strange. A space opened up by testing the limits of ideas and materials. The publication, Mother Mother, available through Printed Matter New York, was a venue for artist and writer mothers to translate the act of being a mother via image and text. There were no formal parameters about what the work needed to address. Mother Mother was simply the container in which to see what might emerge. Conversation Four Ways was borne out of a desire to continue the conversation with artists from the show and the zine publication. The idea was to create yet another kind of container that could hold thoughts and ideas in response to questions that I had after working on both the show and publication. Artists participating in the conversation are Dana Hoey (DH), Leeza Meksin (LM) and Carmen Winant (CW) and myself (SW).

 

SW: I am curious about your relationship to feminism? Can you talk to me about it? 

Dana Hoey:  I had a critical take on feminism when I was young, although I considered myself a feminist.  I was repelled by the focus on victimhood, because I believed men were never, ever going to change and give up patriarchal power, so why bother even complaining about them?  My feminist proposition early on (and still now in some ways) is to be rigorously, internally critical and productive, and also to be in a way completely separatist (which is a little silly for a straight person but that’s the way it played out).  I now have a better understanding of the need to describe oppression and yes, victimhood, and I am also more aggressive about presenting myself as a feminist - I talk about it all the time, label myself as such when I teach or lecture etc.   I do have a problem though, when feminism gets exclusionary regarding trans bodies.  I hope we can incorporate the gender futurism of young, wonderful people.  


SW: What changed, why did it become something you started to embrace, openly declare yourself as?  

DH: I never denied myself as a feminist (always shocked when people do). I just wanted to update what I saw as a self-destructive part of the ideology, and I believe criticism is the key to advancement.   I am an “agonist” (I believe in conflict as progress).  Definitely as I have aged I’ve gotten more grumpily, classically feminist, because I lost the blinders brought on by straight male favoritism.  Ick.  Not that fun to report, but true.

CW: My mother has deep roots in feminism, particularly regarding abortion/reproductive rights (an area that became her profession); feminist ideology was threaded into how I grew up. My parents talked about it over dinner, took us to marches on Washington, so forth. I remember holding a sign I made at one such march, around 6 years old, of a wire hanger with a big red strikeout symbol through it. Only later did I realize that this kind of upbringing was somewhat...unusual. Ultimately, it’s informed most everything I do -- relationships, the way I make art and teach, etc. -- and consider myself lucky for the consciousness. But I do have moments (and maybe this says more about my relationship with my mother than anything else) where I find it tricky to untangle my own ideas/thoughts/ political credos from those I grew up learning, those that belong to my mother. My feminism is, unsurprisingly, really identified with the 2nd waver’s, which also puts me out of step with the current moment. In my art and my life, I spend a lot of time and energy trying to reconcile those inner and outer politics.

 

SW: What do you mean by inner and outer politics?

CW: Right -- I guess “inner” and “outer” politics is not quite so clear. I mean to say that it can be difficult to 1) find my own politics inside of my mother’s influence/reach, and 2) that my feminist politics/brand of feminism feels distinct from those belonging to the current moment. Reconcile these feelings can be a challenge.


SW: What do you see as the current moment of feminism?

CW: This question of what third wave feminism “is” is a huge one, and I imagine, varies greatly depending on who you ask. This is part of the point, no? And perhaps, the problem. Young feminists now doggedly refuse to be defined; undoubtedly pushing back against the essentializing dogma of the 70s-era movement. Certainly there is an emphasis (at least in this country) on power being asserted through self-authorship; an owning of one’s own image and, in fact, one’s own objectification. But this open-endedness also holds problems, nicely defined by bell hooks over fifteen years ago in Feminism is for Everybody: "Lifestyle feminism is the notion that there could be as many feminists as there are women. Suddenly the politics is slowly being removed from the feminism....This way of thinking has made feminism more acceptable because its underlying assumption is that women can be feminists without fundamentally challenging and changing themselves or the culture." Anyway, it is a thorny issue -- whether or not contemporary feminism should have “rules” or not -- and certainly a single paragraph doesn’t do it justice.

LM: I think that in some ways the different waves of feminism work against the real issue - which is that things are still far from being equal. The qualification of different waves implies discord between various feminists, and diffuses our abilities to fight the patriarchal order. For me feminism has always been a drive for equality, to be considered human, rather than “female.”  I often find that the perspective and taste espoused by male artists gets read as universal, as something that all humans can relate to, no matter their gender or sexual orientation. The same is not true for art made by women - it continues to get defined through the gender of its makers.

 

SW: Yeah, this is something I wonder about. How this potential diffusion or hyper individuality of politicality influences the artmaking?  I often get the sense there is a palpable discomfort in the art world for overt politics -- ostensibly a fear of didacticism, but perhaps a fear of commitment to a larger politics. Have you sensed this? How does this affect the way you make work, or does it. What becomes or remains urgent?

CW: For me, it remains urgent to be critical, rigorous, sensitive to the movement’s aims and values. To understand that feminism is and should be hard, that its practitioners must (be willing to) challenge the dominant patriarchal authority. I believe that we must do away with “lifestyle feminism”, including, but not limited to, marketplace feminism, in which the political ideology becomes reduced to a commercial tool. We must not only visualize -- and hopefully realize --strategies for equality, but also, for what Helen Molesworth describes as a kind of “counter-rebellion” (what after all, does ‘equality’ look like within a bankrupt system?). This requires bravery, and real effort. It requires a willingness to be really un-trendy. It requires an understanding of feminism as vastly intersectional. In other words, having underarm hair is not enough.

LM: I agree that the willingness to be un-trendy is crucial to continuing feminist progress. There are people who’d like to portray it as unimportant, passé, counter-productive or downright wrong. Feminism isn’t only about equal pay and equal opportunities for women. It’s also about fighting the general oppression and intense violence geared towards female-bodied humans. Millions of women are raped, beaten, tortured and killed. Often by members of their own families or their boyfriends. The ultra violence that women, and feminine men, are subject to all over the world is the result of their status as inferior second class citizens unworthy of basic human rights. I feel rage every time I read yet another story of a gang rape in India, a disappearance in Mexico, or the recent murder of a 14 year old pregnant girl in Afghanistan who was burned to death by her in-laws. I don’t think it’s possible for women in industrialized nations to have true equality until women all over the world are given human rights and treated with dignity. This may seem as not specific to feminism in art, but I think it’s such a huge issue that it needs to be at the forefront of feminism no matter what professional realm it’s seeking to improve.

 

SW: You are telling me the urgency still exists, and I agree. It becomes the need and desire to reveal the inequality, racism, social stratification, and institutional biases vis- à-vis  gender without re-ingesting it to become a commodity or safely ironic. What artwork do you see emerging that you are encouraged by?

CW: I think a lot about this. No feminist artist can take on every feminist mandate, but the stakes must often go deeper than they tend to do these days. It can be depressing what qualifies (in my mind) as “feminist.” I offer a few examples of work that goes deeper:

 

Collier Schorr, What! Are You Jealous?, 1996-2013.    

Collier Schorr, What! Are You Jealous?, 1996-2013.

 

 

Valie Export, Touch Cinema, performance, 1968.    

Valie Export, Touch Cinema, performance, 1968.

 

 

Carrie May Weems, Kitchen Table Series, 1990.    

Carrie May Weems, Kitchen Table Series, 1990.

 

 

Carmen Winant, A World Without Men, wall collage (19’ x 22’) detail/ installation shot, Cleveland MOCA, 2015.    

Carmen Winant, A World Without Men, wall collage (19’ x 22’) detail/ installation shot, Cleveland MOCA, 2015.

 

 

Shana Moulton, Mindplace Thoughtstream, 2014, video still.      

Shana Moulton, Mindplace Thoughtstream, 2014, video still.

 

 

 

Alina Szapocznikow at work on one of her marble belly public art sculptures.    

Alina Szapocznikow at work on one of her marble belly public art sculptures.

 

 

Leeza Meksin, Lift My Eyelid, Spandex, tulle, acrylic, oil, faux fur, zip ties and upholstery tacks on canvas, 24” x 30”, 2015.

Leeza Meksin, Lift My Eyelid, Spandex, tulle, acrylic, oil, faux fur, zip ties and upholstery tacks on canvas, 24” x 30”, 2015.

 

The next two photographs are images of the incredible, young performance artist MarcelaTorres, 2016.  You are seeing stills from labor performance in homage to her Brasero family.  In an exhibition context, one pays the going rate of field labor to view these videos (and there are many more layers to her work).  She is brilliant.

 

 

Marcela Torres, still image from a performance.  

Marcela Torres, still image from a performance.

 

Marcela Torres, still image from a performance.

Marcela Torres, still image from a performance.

 

Below is a still from my new video featuring Marcela Torres and Res.  Res can currently be seen gracing the cover of Matte Magazine, and their incredible work is inside.  Watch out for this young genius too.

 

Dana Hoey, a video still picturing artists Marcela Torres and Res,  2016. 

Dana Hoey, a video still picturing artists Marcela Torres and Res,  2016. 

 

SW: Leeza, If you had to shoot an arrow through the heart of what unites the work you have chosen, what would it be? And where does that arrow fall in your own work? 

LM: The concern with the body and the belief that the body possesses a higher intelligence than the mind. 

 

SW: Will the revolution happen through the body? Do you see action of the body as necessary to unsettle and destabilize?  

DH: What a great question.  I don’t know for sure - you know I live totally in the woods so it’s hard for me to make an observation about the revolution.  In my own life I am committed to being guided by my body.  I notice with my young colleagues the same priority, and a far more advanced notion of the meaningless of gender and really, all such categories.  I’m a little sad about that.  I ate lunch in P-Town today and an elegant butch older women helped my 82 year old mom down some steps; she was a perfect gentleman.  Did I mention I loved her?  I’d be sad if that kind of play with archetypes died but I don’t think it will, and I am fascinated with the future.

CW: I teach a feminist art history class to undergraduates and we spend a lot of time talking about this issue. The class focuses on the feminist art movement proper -- late sixties through early 80s -- and is sectioned into themes like ‘“the body in trauma”, “the body performs”, “the body in labor”, etc. My students asked very early on: must feminist art be tethered so overtly to the body? Is work about feminist concerns automatically about the female body? What happens when the body itself does not actually appear? It is such an interesting question and one that I think shifts over time. Certainly this must have to do with how the body is being used in culture, and what is being reacted to and upon. For instance, we actually spent a lot of time talking about Mary Kelly and her refusal to depict the female body at all (for some time) in her work, insisting that it has effectively been “used up” and out. The feminists before her were really insistent upon using their bodies, showing them, as they didn’t appear in culture in diverse or dimensional ways. So, I suppose that feminist art can occur without the body, though can never be totally devoid from it (by not showing the body, Kelly’s work was, in some sense, ever more about it).

SW: It seems appropriate to have it come to a discussion of Kelly’s work. I remember as a student being perplexed by it, then getting older and becoming more aware of its power. It was really when I became a mom that I realized it was some of the only work that addressed the identity of mother specifically. As I was curating and formulating language for the recent show, Repeat Pressure Until,  at Ortega y Gasset Projects,  I experienced an uncertainness about how direct to be about the relationship of mother and artist.  I think for fear of being taken less seriously, or being quickly categorized. Kelly was perhaps my first known example of being able to address this in a way that allowed the angst and essentialized vision of motherhood to be pierced and leak out shit, urine, and anxiety. In some ways this was the question I was thinking of in relation to the work in the show; What comes out when you press on these known containers of identity or body? 

CW: I likewise grew into Mary Kelly’s work, which I did not relate to at all initially; same with Julia Kristeva, whom I read (believe it or not) for the first time as an undergraduate at UCLA in Mary Kelly’s class. Only a few years later did I begin to understand the power and consequence of a writer -- a female writer -- seriously considering the meaning of bodily emissions, the division between self and its other, the inside turning out (put bluntly for the sake of space!). This came to mean a lot to me as I made work about the conditions of my body in my 20s, and even more so when I had a kid in my 30s. Kristeva writes about the abject not only as that which the body rejects (shit, piss, blood, etc.) but as marking the moment in which we become separated from our mothers, in which the boundary between me and mother, or “(m)other”, is made distinct. Certainly both have something to do with my 6 month old son, who both emits constantly and is a kind of emission from my own body. I don’t know if this is answer to the question of what comes out of the body when pressed on exactly, but rather a brief consideration of the models of thinking for me around it. I don’t always agree with Kristeva -- in fact, I tend towards thinking about abjection as a kind of binding agent between the two of us, mother and son -- but I find her a useful and important guide.

SW: Yes, I was thinking that perhaps the unity of subject is dissolved in some way. Evidence that the solitary subject does not have to be our norm, that the embodied form or subject can hold more than one, become another, become an “in relation to”. How can these unsettling moments, when the Self becomes non-continuos, be examined? How can the marks of this movement, this out of sync time, be made visible?  The artists involved in this conversation examine this, as an engagement that is, as Blau DuPlessis states, “Ongoing. Curious. Situated. Rapid. Rabid. Marked with one’s markings. Not uniform. An exposure. Incomplete. Unsafe. Even deplorable.” (Blau DuPlessis 1990: 61) An engagement with no commitment to a single answer. A forever stuttering and hiccuping towards a site of further formation(s) of subject(s).

 

_________________

 

 

Dana Hoey is a feminist artist who has exhibited and taught since 1996.  She works in photography and video and is represented by Petzel Gallery, NY.  She has presented solo museum exhibits at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, The Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland, and The University Art Museum at the University at Albany, NY. Her most recent exhibit was a large video installation “Fighters” as part of “Photography in the Expanded Field” at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA.  In 2017 she will present "Five Rings" a fight training event in homage to Eric Garner at the Depe Space residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit.  She was professor at Columbia School of Art from 2001 to 2007, and currently is visiting artist at The Cooper Union, NYC and Bard College MFA program.  Three books are available on her work, “The Phantom Sex” with essay by Johanna Burton, “Experiments in Primitive Living”, with essay by Maurice Berger, and “Profane Waste” in collaboration with the writer Gretchen Rubin.  The persistent questions in her work regard representation, beauty and the possibility of political art.

Leeza Meksin is an interdisciplinary artist, who makes paintings, installations, public art and multiples. Born in the former Soviet Union, she immigrated to the United States with her family in 1989. Meksin received a MFA from The Yale School of Art, a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a joint BA/MA in Comparative Literature from The University of Chicago. She has exhibited her work at Regina Rex Gallery (2011, 2014), Airplane Gallery (2014), Primetime (2013), Adds Donna (2011) and Thomas Erben Gallery (2009). Meksin has created site-specific installations at The Kitchen (2015), BRIC Media Arts (2015), Brandeis University (2014), the former Donnell branch of the New York Public Library (2011), and in a National Endowment for the Arts funded project in New Haven, CT (2012). Her work has been featured in BOMB magazine, TimeOut Chicago, Chicago Tribune and many other publications.  She is the recipient of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist grant (2015) and the co-founder of Ortega y Gasset Projects, a gallery and artist collective in Brooklyn, NY. Meksin lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University School of Art.

Carmen Winant is an artist and writing working in Columbus, OH. She received her BA from UCLA and Masters degrees in Critical Studies and Fine Arts from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA. In 2010, she was a resident at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Her recent projects include solo shows at Skibum MacArthur (LA) titled "Pictures of Women Working" and at Fortnight Institute (NYC) titled Who Says Pain is Erotic?, an artist book with Horses Think Press titled My Life as a Man. Winant curates, and participates in, a series of experimental lectures titled DISCIPLINE, performed in 2015 at COR&P (Columbus), MoCA Los Angeles, Regina Rex (NYC), Printed Matter (NYC), 356 Mission (Los Angeles), and the University of Cincinnati. She is currently at work on an experimental book about practice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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