Nº. 1 of  63

Les Femmes Folles

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Liz Axelrod, poet

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Liz Axelrod received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the New School in   2013. She has been making the rounds of the NYC Poetry Circuit for close to a decade and has been a featured reader at The Cornelia Street Graduate Reading Series, The Southern Writer’s Series, The Renegade Reading Series, Couplet, The Living Room’s Stories & Songs Residency, The NYC Poetry Festival, and more. Liz is Web Editor for LIT Magazine, a book reviewer for Publisher’s Weekly, and a staff writer for LunaLuna Magazine. Her work has been published in  Lyre Lyre, 12th StreetThe RumpusThe Brooklyn RailElectric Literature, Yes Poetry, Nap Magazine ,the Ginosko Literary Journal, and Have A NYC 3 . She is currently working on her first collection of poems. She is also one of the featured readers at Luna Luna Magazine and hosting her own reading at the New York City Poetry Festival (July 26-27; schedule here/details below). She generously shares with LFF about losing herself in books at an early age, her various inspirations and active writing process, feminism in her work, advice for aspiring writers and much more. She also shares an excerpt from one of her recent pieces, “Daddy Dearest”…

Where are you from? How did you get into writing?

I’m a NYC girl by way of Tucson, AZ. Parents were divorced when I was 8. Dad stayed in NYC, mom moved out west.
I’ve always been a reader. From a very early age I would lose myself in books. I started with horror and suspense novels - devoured Stephen King, Anne Rice, Clive Barker, Anne Bishop and more.

Writing my own (preferred) endings to their stories came first, then writing my own stories, then poetry, then editorial and reviews. I tell my students that learning to write is the best way to get ahead in life. An excellent personal essay moves the college app to the top of the pile, an excellent cover letter moves the resume to the top of the pile. The poems are the icing on the cake, they move the personal, the political and the pragmatic denials into thought and power.
 
Tell me about your inspirations, process.

I’m inspired by so many variables - an online article, a robin following me along the path to my office, the sun angled through an abandoned building, a conversation overheard on the train, politics, dreams. I once wrote a short story that was a complete dream. It’s in a drawer waiting for me to let it see the light of day again. That’s part of my process - write it, put it down, look at it again, eliminate, re-write. I’m continually in “edit mode.” I love to cross out lines, move them around, cut out words and try to reassemble. The poem is a puzzle and I’m always looking for that perfect piece (and the crazy glue to keep it all together).
 
Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project (Luna Luna reading) and why its important to you. - hints on what you may be reading from? what you hope people get from it? 

I love the LUNA’s! Been writing with them for about eight months. I’m so honored to be reading at the NYC Poetry Festival with them on Saturday, July 26. I’m also hosting a reading at the festival on Sunday the 27th. It will be my third year of hosting the JUJO reading series. I also volunteer for the festival every year, working the entrance and supervising the volunteers at the tables.
 
Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, said of her work: “I’ve been making provocative art with a political edge in my Midwestern hometown since 1999. And to do that, you have to be tenacious as hell.” Are you tenacious in  your work or life? How so?

I once had a professor tell me not to be “so political” in my poems. I wanted to throw something at him. I feel there is a need for politics and poetry and the female experience of both is so very important today. I will never step back from a scary topic - that said, I do pay much more attention to the political in my work and try to weave it in with relevance and determination, hoping not to lose the impact in the imagery. I do a much better job of this reading aloud. That’s where I shine.
 
Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?

Absolutely! I’m a woman, a mother and I have a relatively high powered job where I supervise a small staff and my assistant is a young man. I see first hand how my power is devalued even still in this day by my higher ups and my Executive Director has even given me “the hand” when I’ve been making a point in a meeting. It’s horrible! He would never do that to my assistant. The double standard is alive and relevant today and we have to work against it. I just did a post for LunaLunamag.com on Feminism and how I grew up without thinking about it because of the trailblazers who made my world safer by risking theirs. But now with all this horrible misogyny rearing its ugly head, I want to be able to keep that fire lit for my daughter so that she can grow up in a safer, more equitable place for women.
 
Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Perspective is a difficult thing to gain today when young artists are so vulnerable to so many media ploys aimed at demolishing their self respect and strength. The instant contact and the distant contact is really dangerous. Instead of taking time to think over a problem, we jump right into the fire. My advice is to disconnect, read more books, look at pictures, walk through museums, the more you learn the less you doubt yourself. The less you doubt yourself, the stronger your art becomes.
Daddy Dearest
(excerpt)
Liz Axelrod


I try to explain to my father
who is still stuck on age and violence

that there will be no more babies
but I’m quite certain

his Jello molds and candy
wrappers will remain sweetly tart

and satisfying, while rare beef
tempts me during all the separate

phases of the waxing moon.
You don’t call anymore…

No. I’ve found a savior at
My Karma’s Okay Dot Com.

I troll with myself and sort through
this selfishness, and why I have no desire

to pour sticky gel into that
particular fish-shaped copper mold.

The truth is, Daddy’s lost his power
and the magnetic pull only affects

the soles of my feet when I’m
barefoot on the beach, in salt,

or searching online for polished stones
to fill the blue mason jars on my windowsill.

~

Liz Axelrod’s website: www.yourmoonsmine.com

Luna Luna Magazine’s Reading at NYC Poetry Festival:
Saturday, July 26, 1:20pm, Governor’s Island, NY
Facebook invitation here

Joanna Valente, writer

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Yes Poetry Editor, Luna Luna Magazine Columnist, Alt Bride Editor and writer Joanna Valente is one of the featured readers at Luna Luna Magazine and Earshot Readings at the New York City Poetry Festival (July 26-27; schedule here/details below). She generously shares with LFF about how reading poems by Emily Dickinson at age 11 inspired her to become a writer, growing up in New York frequenting museums; her inspirations from the sea to walking; her current projects; feminism, and much more…

Where are you from? How did you get into writing?

 I’m from New York; yes, I’m one of those people. From the time I could remember, I started painting and drawing voraciously. I loved art, I love creating art. It just made sense to me. I was also an avid reader as a child, so it made sense that eventually, I was wanted to try writing myself. 

Not surprisingly, I wasn’t an extremely popular child in elementary school, being that I listened to punk and industrial music, loved to paint, and happened to be shy. Which, of course, is a terrible combination for most kids. So, naturally, I gravitated toward spending a lot of time in my room reading, writing, and drawing. After reading poems by Emily Dickinson at the age of 11, I wanted to do what she did (of course, not realizing that no one can! She is beyond us.) That first poem turned into a lifelong passion. Ironically, the longest story I wrote ran at 75 pages when I was only 12. 

Growing up in New York definitely fostered a sense of creativity and individuality in me. You have to shine here, otherwise, you’re just one of millions. I never wanted to be famous, like Paris Hilton, but I wanted to feel as though my life meant something more than just being another cog in the system. I wanted to express my emotions—why not? Since I feel them so intensely, I may as well use it to my advantage. 

Being in New York also afforded me the luxury of going to the MET, the MOMA, the Guggenheim—immersing myself in ways other children from small towns can’t. While neither of my parents are working artists, they hold a high appreciation for it—I remember trips to museums with them from an early age, which certainly influenced how I thought.

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

I love all things relating to the sea—I need to be by some body of water, or otherwise, I feel a bit trapped. I love poetry, I love a good story. Those are my inspirations. In terms of my process, that just involves a lot of prioritizing and a lot of work. I had a college professor, who I love dearly, who often said in class: “Writing is hard work.” He is completely right and I will stand by that until the day I die.

Writing is not easy, especially when you have a ton of other responsibilities, like a job, family, friends, etc. Life does not stop for us, we stop for it. What I try to do is write for at least 15 minutes a day, even if this just means jotting down ideas into a notebook or the notes app on my phone. This has proved to be immensely invaluable. It not only allows me to analyze situations, but teaches me how to be perceptive of other people and their emotions. Which is what writing is all about, right? I’ve always been much more of an observer than a talker, so this doing this on the subway is perfect for me. Or while I’m walking. I love to walk.

I can’t say I write a poem every day, but I write something every day. I’m also a writer for Luna Luna Magazine and Alt Bride, so I really do write something every day; while it isn’t always poetry, all writing counts. By creating this routine, I don’t feel as though I’m ever in a writing funk for too long, and the poems I do write tend to be better.

That being said, I also edit a tremendous amount. People forget that editing is writing too, and often, editing is where the power lies.

Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project (Luna Luna reading) and why its important to you. - hints on what you may be reading from? what you hope people get from it?

I’m reading at the New York Poetry Festival next week for Luna Luna and Earshot (a poetry reading series), which I’m so excited about! I adore Governor’s Island, which is where the festival is hosted every year. I’ll be reading from my forthcoming book of poetry, Sirs & Madams, which is due out from Aldrich Press late this year.

At every reading I give, all I want for people is to enjoy what they hear, or to feel comforted because they relate. Most loneliness stems from feeling alone, which means you feel misunderstood. Simply, I want to make people feel less lonely.

Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, said of her work: “I’ve been making provocative art with a political edge in my Midwestern hometown since 1999. And to do that, you have to be tenacious as hell.” Are you tenacious in your work or life? How so?

I would say so, although one thing I’ve learned by living in New York my entire life is that there is someone always more tenacious than you. And that’s okay. Friends would definitely say I’m highly ambitious and pro-active, which I agree with, but I also know when to stop myself from going absolutely crazy. I need a certain level of comfort, as we all do, really. Having a personal life has always been crucial to me, I never wanted to be married to my job, especially nowadays, when jobs come and go very easily. The job you have straight out of college to retirement doesn’t exist anymore, like it did for my parents.

I constantly submit my work, write, and connect with people who feel have something to say. But, I consider my personal life just as valid—I have a partner that I value immeasurably, whose happiness is just as important as my own. My relationship with my partner, like poetry, is something that needs to be worked on every day. In general, I have always prided myself on being very present in my friends’ and family’s lives, regardless of how busy I am.

That being said, I’m always trying to write better.

Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?

Definitely—all of my work involves women, from what womanhood means to the ways in which women aren’t valued by our society. I tend to focus on sexual violence in my work, because I feel right now, that is a true failing of American culture. We supposedly live in a land of freedom and luxury, yet many women don’t have the luxury of feeling safe when they walk home alone. They don’t have the luxury to file a case against a rapist, because often times, their case is not taken seriously. It’s a huge problem that needs to be addressed by those in power.

Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
My advice is to make art about what you obsess about, what makes you angry. Otherwise, the passion just won’t be there. There’s no point if there’s no passion. 


JOANNA C. VALENTE
Editor, Yes Poetry
Columnist & Editor, Luna Luna Magazine
Author, Joanna Valente 
Luna Luna Magazine’s Reading at NYC Poetry Festival:
Saturday, July 26, 1:20pm, Governor’s Island, NY
Facebook invitation here

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Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins.  LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com,(get 15% your blurb purchase using code BLURB2014 expires 8/27/14) including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.

Erin Leland, artist

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Drawn portrait of Erin Leland by artist Jadranka Kosorcic in 2012; image courtesy of Jadranka Kosorcic.

Erin Leland recently exhibited in SPACE Gallery in Pittsburgh’s Psychic Panic exhibition examining labor, materials and the body. The Brooklyn, NY based artist generously shares with LFF about her inspirations from an outmoded camera to a whole town; how writing about other artists impacts her work; being an artist in Brooklyn; feminism in her work and more. (See the coinciding interview in Pittsburgh Articulate.)

Where are you from? How did you get into art?
-I am from Knoxville, Tennessee. Both of my parents are artists and art teachers, so I grew up in a house full of art. However, my father is a painter and my mother a painter, printmaker and drawer; I gravitated towards photography and writing, mediums with less emphasis on handheld tactility. 
 
Tell me about your inspirations, process.

-I enjoy being receptive to the mechanisms of another will; in the past, these wills have included rumored stories, an art collection, a more established collaborator, and the imposed datedness of a borrowed, outmoded camera. Even a town can exert itself as a will. As an example, I held a residency in a small town outside of Munich in 2013 at the Villa Waldberta, initially approaching the studio environment as a fictional construct from which to make work: a short story proposal detailing the lives of missing persons in Bavaria. Soon after arriving, I learned about the local myth of King Ludwig II found dead in 1886, his stomach visible above the shallow water on the shore of Lake Starnberg, the same lake upon which the residency was based. I re-staged the discovery of the King’s body as a series of photographs shot with a medium format camera, and enlisted a diver to take video footage of sunken artifacts from the lake. Multiple images document the discovery of a body from more than one perspective simultaneously, recasting the narrative into the inventive lag between conflicting versions, weaving in an irrational fear—of drowning, of going missing—out of a commonly told story. A forced theatricality always draws me.

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"Two and a half meters from stomach," 2013, exhibited in Psychic Panic at SPACE


Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project and why its important to you.
-I am currently a contributing writer to the Chicago arts blog called Bad at Sports. Once a month, I interview another artist or write about a piece of art or a newly published artist’s book. I always look forward to an opportunity to write, and in this vein, I can speak to artists I have always wanted to speak with in a directed conversation, not unlike a studio visit. 
 
Do you think your city is a good place for women in art? Do you show your work elsewhere/is there a difference in how your work is received?
-I live in Brooklyn, New York. Anything is available for the taking in New York. However, the city as a whole is corporate in its attitude, meaning, representation at a gallery often comes easier with an artist’s ability to market themselves, publicize themselves, and sell their “product”, also - themselves. Young artists are viewed as young entrepreneurs with a cultivated public presence, however discreet the desired public presence might be. This is a demand that the city makes on everyone. The demand does not gender discriminate. However, of course, females often have less visibility in galleries, or, it can often take a woman longer to enjoy the career success that a male contemporary might have earlier. That is not New York specific. That is everywhere. I show my work any place, with any opportunity that I might have. As far as reception, I have found people generally receptive to work in any art community, whether it be in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Munich - people with shared sensibilities usually come together. 
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"Rocks from Hyperfocal distance," 2013, exhibited in Psychic Panic at SPACE

Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?

-  I identify with the line of thinking that a feminist woman can do and be any version of herself at any moment that she wants. As far as my own work, I have pictured myself in my work continually since the beginning - as a woman documenting the pulling of facial hair and picked wounds during the ritual preparation of making up to be seen in public, as a mannequin in a window display photographing passerby as each realized she was alive, as a woman involved in staging a sex shoot and reclaiming those later discarded images now afloat in an internet server, as a woman avoiding her image in reflective surfaces, and as a woman identifying her own body in the memory of a missing, adrift body of a King. I have always been engaged with the ways it feels to be a woman in the world. Of course, I believe an artist can also make feminist work without ever picturing themselves or engaging in mirror image.

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"Stomach from hyperfocal distance," 2013, exhibited in Psychic Panic at SPACE

erinleland.com

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Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins.  LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com,(get 15% your blurb purchase using code BLURB2014 expires 8/27/14) including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.

Olivia Ciummo, artist

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Still from Ships can’t Sail on Fractured Water, video, 4:50 minutes, 2014

Currently Brooklyn-based artist Olivia Ciummo shares with LFF about how she came to art via flmmaking, specifically with Pittsburgh Filmmakers; her recent exhibition at SPACE Gallery in Pittsburgh; her current project about people walking on highways; her tenacity and thoughts on feminism and more…(See the coinciding interview in Pittsburgh Articulate.)
Where are you from? How did you get into art?

I am from Pittsburgh—My art/filmmaking practice really started when I went to college/ Pittsburgh Filmmakers.  I’d say it was at Pittsburgh Filmmakers that I really found out how excited I was about moving images. During my time at PFM I found an experimental film community and attended Jefferson Presents (a now disbanded film screening).​ It was at Jefferson Presents that I met an artistic community and ​with that community ​discovered​ ​what it meant to be an artist.

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

What inspires me—I’d say many things—I’m interested in how the moving image functions, the history of moving images, and ​people’s ​experiences. ​As for my ​process​—​ I shoot footage in the summer, think in the fall and edit in the winter and spring.

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Still from ON THE EVENING, film and video, 6:45 minutes, 2014

Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project and why its important to you.

The big project for the spring was Psychic Panic at SPACE; it was a lot of work getting all the artists works together including making my own new work. The show was such a pleasure to work on and I can’t speak more highly of the artists! Not to mention that there were seven women in a nine person show! (It’s almost unheard of).  While that show at SPACE went up I co-currently had a new work being installed at Heliopolis in Brooklyn. The two new works that I had in that show included one that I collaborated on with writer and poet Ian Dreiblatt, collaborations are always exciting endeavors for me. I’m going to spend the rest of the summer working on the pre-production for a longer film work called “Walker Alone”(working title)​—a creative treatment about people walking on highways. In the fall I will start my second year teaching at the College of New Jersey and in the winter I will be an Outbound Resident with APEX ART in NYC. The Outbound Residency is a very unique opportunity where I will be sent to Ethiopia for one month.

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installation shot, Psychic Panic SPACE Pittsburgh 2014, photo by Rebecca Lessner

Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, said of her work: “I’ve been making provocative art with a political edge in my Midwestern hometown since 1999. And to do that, you have to be tenacious as hell.” Are you tenacious in  your work or life? How so?

Well yes—I’m not known to keep things bottled up and I’m not one to apologize for my work or ideas. If you look at the subjects I investigate in my work—it is clear what I want to talk about difficult things. And yes, I am tenacious; I have been at the art-making thing for 15 years.

Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?

I do not address feminism in my work directly, but I’m sure ​it’s there in​ some way. Mainly ​I​ address feminism when I hear people complaining about it or when someone claims that it is not relevant. I mean really you can’t be a serious person if you are not totally destroyed mentally by the horridly unfounded attacks on women’s rights, like the one that the Supreme Court ruled on this week! —imagine you’re the person complaining about feminism in this kind of world—ha-ha, you’d have to be a total self-loathing fool to complain about it— or just a fool that does not know what it means.

http://www.oliviaciummo.com/

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Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins.  LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com,(get 15% your blurb purchase using code BLURB2014 expires 8/27/14) including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.

Jane Odartey, writer/artist

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Writer and artist Jane Odartey was referred to me by poet Sherese Francis (LFF May 8) and I’m so happy! She generously shares with LFF about growing up in Ghana drawing on her Nana’s table; her inspirations from her mentor to Man Ray and simply life; her current project and many different passions, feminism and much more…

Where are you from? How did you get into art?

I was born in Accra, Ghana. My first years were spent in my Nana’s little village. I remember that I used to draw all over the table that my Nana sold provisions on. It was a naughty thing to do because my mother always had to clean away the chalk afterwards, but I did it all the same, every chance I got and run when I saw someone coming. In junior high I used to sketch in my notebooks while the teachers prattled on, then in high school I took to decorating plain papers for letter-writing. I was so good at it that I was often sort out by my peers to decorate their slam books. I transferred to New York during my junior year in high school to live with my dear mother, and during my senior year I bought a camera to capture the last days of high school. It was a cheap camera and never really worked properly but I was so excited I went about shooting everything. I realized almost instantly that I was interested in the mundane, and the unaware self, well unaware of the camera. However, it wasn’t until I enrolled in my first photography class in college that I realized I really loved photography. I was majoring in Business Management and I was miserable so I took photography to mix things up, but soon I switched majors to English and minored in photography. I still have the first print I ever made in the dark room. It was a print of my hand. To me photography is magical.

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Tell me about your inspirations, process.

At first I thought I was interested in street photography.  Garry Winograd’s work at first encouraged this interest then later discouraged it. I was left uncertain of what to focus on until I discovered Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy in a history of photography class. The oeuvre of those two started giving me ideas. I became more confident in the decision to  create my own images after I had a talk with my first photography professor, Joel Lederer—who remains something of a mentor. I realized that I wasn’t only interested in what is ready to be framed but also how I can influence  what I have cropped from reality.

My inspiration can be narrowed down to one word. Life. But it is that life is, and is not, that fascinate and inspires me. The unknown before, that doesn’t seem to frighten as much as the unknown after. Then there is the here, and its unknown, which is generally taken for granted. I take photographs of the mundane, things that are because of our interference or because nature wishes it. I layer them in photoshop, merge them into a single image, then alter that image until it becomes something that I cannot pretend to understand but which still fascinates. These days I am also including my own created images—often something simple and geometrical done in photoshop—which I insert it into the mixtures. In the end I usually come up with something that seems familiar, but which really is not.

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Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project and why its important to you.

At present I am working on a series that aims to present an instant emotional excursion. I am creating  images that I hope will lure the viewer’s mind into an intense experience, either freshly created or enforced by memory; immediately as the eye interact with the image. The photographs at first seem pleasant looking, but they are an influx of melancholic symbols simmering under an aesthetic of soft prettiness, or even pettiness.  I am hoping to instill in my project the sense of the beautiful, through an experience of the sublime.  The aim is to promote a sense of feeling rather than a sense of thinking by making the symbol annihilate itself through an overdose.

It seems that we occupy an age where it is becoming unacceptable to just have a sensual experience without over analyzing. To be sentimental is a metaphor for weakness, and yet I think it is the exact opposite. Our sentiments fuels our humanity. Yes, too much of everything is a cliché. But I believe we must exercise our ability to sense without always feeling the need to reduce the sensual into language and logical equations.

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Do you think your city is a good place for women in art? Do you show your work elsewhere/is there a difference in how your work is received?

I live in Queens, New York. I’m yet to exhibit anything there.  Actually, I have only had a single work exhibited when I was in college and I have not tried to get my work exhibited since. I am not sure how my work would be received. I think the worse thing will be if it should be ignored. For now my focus is  on understanding how to transfer, as best as I can, my work from ideas and emotions directly into photographic images. And yet I believe that  NYC is a great place for women artists to exhibit their works. Despite the skyrocketing competition.

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Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, said of her work: “I’ve been making provocative art with a political edge in my Midwestern hometown since 1999. And to do that, you have to be tenacious as hell.” Are you tenacious in  your work or life? How so?

Wanda Ewing’s work is wonderful, especially in its ability to arrest ones interest, and yes, to provoke. Generally flexible defines me best, and  sometimes  amused. I have several passions. I write poetry, I love crocheting, and I just found out that I love knitting too. In fact I have  a little online shop called Mawusi where I sell my handmade work. I think the best thing to do in the morning, before that cup of tea, is to dance with the morning, as though it’s ones lover. I do not aim to surprise anyone but I always find that I surprise myself. The aspects of my life which I can categorize as being tenacious are my obsession to know myself, my desire to compete with no other than myself, and my determination to practice happiness as a concurrent lifestyle that coincides with an incomprehensible but seemingly necessary dose of unhappiness.

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Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?

Ah but yes! I do, after all, think myself  a feminist. Though I do not label my work, except under the genre of abstract photography, I believe that the  feminist role in my work is mostly in my creating process. I believe the work of the woman artist, no matter its subject, like that of the male artist should be appraised with an equal level of interest and seriousness. And yet I believe that the woman is different from the man, equal but different, and this difference is apparent in our work. It is a unique signature which is exciting and fascinating.

Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Ewing makes a great point. I have learned that it is best to not be a control freak and to let the work have a say, too. And also that  it pays to not take rejections  too personal. If you believe in what you’ve created, you must stand by it and keep working to get it to its rightful place. Great works are often ahead of their time, hence the majority may not see its worth. Give up not, mate.

janeodartey.com

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Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins.  LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com,(get 15% your blurb purchase using code BLURB2014 expires 8/27/14) including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.

Sandra Gail Lambert, author

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Author Sandra Gail Lambert generously shares with LFF about reading constantly growing up; how she came to feminism; her everyday tenacity; her recent book; advice for aspiring writers and more…

Where are you from? How did you get into writing?

I grew up a military brat, but wherever we moved (Virginia, Norway, Georgia) reading was a constant.  From the first grade on I had novels open inside my textbooks, but the few times I wrote anything myself, I had such a sense of shame.  It just felt too bad, so I stopped.  But I kept reading and grew up to be one of the owners of a feminist bookstore in Atlanta.  That’s what I did for most of the eighties.  The lesbian-feminist community of that time encouraged and supported writers of all ilks, and I saw my job as providing the space—physically and emotionally—for these writers to flourish.  But I never thought of myself as creative even though I was writing up flyers for events and blurbs for catalogs. (In retrospect, having to describe a book in less than thirty words in a way that’s accurate and makes someone want to buy it is great training.) I have been disabled all my life, but in my late thirties there were changes that led to me being unable to hold a job anymore.  I moved to Florida and learned a new way of living and within that process I wrote.  That was in the nineties. And now, after years of getting help from all sorts of places and working hard to make my writing do what I wanted it to and surviving oh-so-many rejections, I’m getting fiction and memoir accepted places like New Letters, Brevity, The Weekly Rumpus, and the North American Review.  And I have a novel, The River’s Memory, being released July 28th from Twisted Road.  Which means that I am a sixty-two year old debut novelist.  

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

My father was a drill sergeant.  This is not a metaphor.  He was a real drill sergeant.  Which means I know how to make a bed the “right” way, and for better and for worse, I know about discipline.  So I have the show up, keep at it, revise mercilessly, persevere way of caring for my work figured out.  But there’s another way you need to care for your writing that is gentler and less focused and I still have to work at that.  I’m inspired by the writers I read, of course, but I’m also inspired my community of writer friends who’ve I’ve gathered to me over the years.  Some are published, some not, but they all work hard.  And they expect me to do the same.   

Tell me about your most recent book/project and why it’s important to you and for others to read.

The River’s Memory is my debut novel (www.sandragaillambert.com) and it’ll be out the end of July.  And it’s the debut novel of a debut press.  Think about it—this could have been a disaster.  Instead it’s been a thrill.  Twisted Road is a brand new literary press, and Joan Leggitt, the boss of it all, is a joy to work with. “Who would have thought,” is what I say to myself over and over.  I can’t tell people what to read, but I’m not above begging.  Read my novel, please.  Here’s the back cover description.

"A woman born without legs spends her days swimming with manatees. Two artists, separated by centuries, guide each other’s hands. And a child of the Florida frontier sits on the graves of her siblings to think about race relations and the habits of caterpillars. These are some of the women who live along the banks of a river where water billows from caverns of silent lakes. None of them are famous. None have children. Instead, their stories exist in a mosaic of time and shadowed history, and the things of the river–clay and water, trees and bone–carry their memories forward."

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Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, said of her work: “I’ve been making provocative art with a political edge in my Midwestern hometown since 1999. And to do that, you have to be tenacious as hell.” Are you tenacious in your work or life? How so?

I am a person who uses a wheelchair.  “Tenacious as hell” is an every single day thing.  And it’s meant that I survive rejections that don’t just reject me, but also the legitimacy of my point of view.  Screw them.  Each day, I try to make my writing better.  I figure that’s what counts.     

Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?

I am a feminist.  Like being a lesbian and disabled and white, it’s been part of me all my life, but it was the science fiction of the seventies that first made me claim the word—Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, anything by Elizabeth A. Lynn, Vonda McIntyre’s Dreamsnake, Butler’s Kindred, and, of course, The Female Man by Joanna Russ.  And that whole “Women of Wonder” series edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson. There were so many, too many to list.  A goal I have in my life (and I’m working on it now) is to write a kick-ass science fiction novel.  And yes, I think it is always important to have forums for women artists to support each other.    

Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

It’s that balance, isn’t it? I have to step aside from both the “I rock” and the “I suck” egos.   The writer Ellen Oh has a piece where she says “shut up and listen carefully” which is about taking racist responses to her work and finding the value or a usefulness in them.  Once a guy said my essay was good, but he needed me to describe how it felt to swim with my “useless” legs dangling behind me.  He even said that he understood that I would probably not think of things in this way, but still, he needed for that to be there.  Usually it’s not said in such a bald way, but this wasn’t the first time I’d gotten that feedback.  I ranted and spit anger over the computer screen, but when I calmed enough to reread the critique, sure enough, there were many useful craft suggestions included that ended up making the essay better even without any despicable mention of my “useless” legs.   

www.sandragaillambert.com

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Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins.  LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com,(get 15% your blurb purchase using code SUMMERSAVINGS expires 8/30/14) including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.

Natalia Garcia Clark, artist

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"Sheepsters"

Natalia Garcia Clark is exhibiting in “Home Makers?” a one-day only exhibition July 12 at Cypress Village Tunnel in Los Angeles. She generously shares with LFF about her inspirations from books to Facebook; exhibiting her work in her homeplace of Mexico; feminism in her work and more…

Where are you from? How did you get into art?

I was born in Mexico City and lived there my whole life up until last year when I began college and moved to LA. Art has always been part of me. I don’t exactly remember when it was that I got into it. I can say that the most intense involvement I had with art began in high school when I began reading about art philosophy and then enrolled myself in the IB visual arts program. That led me to pursue art after high school.

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

I try to read as much as I can, all topics and genres. Whenever I see something I like or agree with-whether it be an art piece or a sentence inside a book- I make sure I remember it. Apart from that, most of my ideas come as a reaction to the world around me. The way people are behaving, a post on Facebook, whatever is showing in the news, an article I read, something that happened to me at the supermarket last week. Anything.

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"Sheepster"

Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project and why it’s important to you.

I will be showing two of my art pieces at the “Home Makers?” exhibition this Saturday, July 12th. Although I won’t be able to personally attend the event, I’ve really enjoyed working with these other, very talented 24 artists. Sarah Barnard, who will be show curator, has done an excellent job at exposing every member of the exhibition and their work, which I am thankful for. This is the first experience I have with an art community outside of my country, so it’s an eye opener.

Do you think your city is a good place for women in art? Do you show your work elsewhere/is there a difference in how your work is received?

I can’t exactly say what my country overall is like since I have my own, limited perception of it. I’ve personally had a positive experience exhibiting my work in Mexico, but I know this isn’t the case around the whole country; and more importantly, within every social class.

Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, said of her work: “I’ve been making provocative art with a political edge in my Midwestern hometown since 1999. And to do that, you have to be tenacious as hell.” Are you tenacious in your work or life? How so?

I regard being “tenacious as hell” or not irrelevant to my art practice. I try to make sure my work is substantial by investigating and reading a lot. This expands my view of the world and allows my points of view to be well informed rather than vague. Sometimes it will take me months to come up with a concept, as I have to make sure I have dug deep enough into the subject to make sure there are no gaps in my conceptual argument.

Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?

I don’t exactly know how to tackle feminism as a unity in my work. Some of my pieces can have links to feminism: I have talked about the objectification of both men and women previously in my art. But in my eyes, feminism is a very wide subject with a lot of elements to it. None of my work is straight up about feminism. I personally find it more empowering this way. Women should be able to make art about anything, not just limit themselves to the topic of feminism.

Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

What about some advice for me? I’m only an aspiring artist and don’t think I have any to give right now. All I ever do take advice from the people around me. I guess that’s my advice! Be open to advice.

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"Sheepster"

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Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins.  LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com,(get 15% your blurb purchase using code BLURB2014 expires 8/27/14) including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.

Cathleen Parra, artist

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"Kissing," from the Childhood Series by Cathleen Parra

Cathleen Parra is one of twenty five women exhibiting in “Home Makers?” at Cypress Village Tunnel opening July 12 in Los Angeles. She generously shares with LFF about the impact of her grandmother’s creative work, the inspiration behind her series in “Home Makers?”; feminism in her work; advice for aspiring artists and much more…
Where are you from? How did you get into art?
I was born in Paterson, NJ. However I grew up in a small southern confederate town in Florida in which I was the only Latina (or person of color in general) in my elementary school.  Needless to say… growing up there was much about me that was unconventional in regards to the standards of the town I grew up in. So I sought things not of the norm, art was one of these things. My grandmother was a native american craftswoman who made her own jewelry, painted, weaved baskets and made our regalia for native american pow we attended.
She was my goddess and her creativity was one of my inspirations to become an artist. Another reason was that at a very young age I was fascinated with the idea of having a career, mostly because no one in my immediate family had one nor had the desire to. All the careers I pretended to have as a child were artistic everything from writing “Tattoo Parlor” on the wall in crayon to cutting out pictures of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen  onto paper and pretending I was a magazine editor. I had taken art, music and acting classes throughout my youth. Once I reached high school I auditioned for a magnet school specializing in art. Each student picked a major ranging from visual art, theater, tech, creative writing, music and dance. I studied art there; specifically photography and that was it.
I knew that’s what I wanted to do for life. At 18 I was included in my first exhibit in Texas at Three Muse Gallery. At 19 I began my own LGBT pin up/podcast site. And so on.             
 
Tell me about your inspirations, process.
 
I am inspired by surrealism and cinema, and the humor in the subtleties of everyday life/ human interactions. I am a huge fan of Michel Gondry. He has such a young poetic playfulness to the way he sees mundane aspects of life. I try to approach my work that way as well. Childhood plays a huge role in my subject matter and the humor I use in the images I make. I am fascinated with sharing my thoughts and experiences from that time in one way or another as a means of having a conversation with my viewers.
I also enjoy making my own props for certain projects or appropriating childhood toys by adorning my models with them. The Childhood Project I’m showing for ‘Home Makers?’ is a more straight forward approach to exploring childhood. However another project I’m working on is about sexual exhibitionism and incorporates the use of Legos to mimic the pixelation of body parts that we see happen on television. 
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"Hole in the Wall," from the Childhood Series

Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project and why its important to you.
My upcoming exhibit is called ‘Home Makers’. It is an all female exhibit of 25 artists and over 75 works. I am presenting a project I have been working on for two years, entitled ‘The Childhood Project’. 
The project consists of  staged recreations of my childhood memories. The series deals with issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and the lifelong imprint left on a child from their family’s dynamic. I felt is was very important to use people I was very close to as models so that I could create a safe space to relive these memories. This also strengthened the bond between my models and I. 
 
It was a bond my childhood had led me to believe I wasn’t capable of. I photographed with the intention of the characters lacking an identity. My reason for this is that I wanted not only to photograph in a way that mimics a visual memory, but I also wanted the photos to be accessible by the viewer. Working on this project has enabled me to cope with my past while further strengthening my bond with the people in my present. It is my hope that this project will present itself as an honest story both making the viewer uncomfortable with its blunt straightforward approach, and inviting them its universality on the topic of adolescence.
The project is important to me for so many reasons. It began because I thought each image was an important story I needed to tell in order to reach some sort of catharsis and learn to bond with people. As time went on and the images were shown people shared their own person stories with me, and began to tell me how much they related to the project. The connection shared between the viewers and I through the image became another crucial reason to keep sharing my stories.  
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"Bra," from The Exquisite Truth Series

Do you think your city is a good place for women in art? Do you show your work elsewhere/is there a difference in how your work is received?
Living in north New Jersey places me between two worlds: New York and New Jersey. New York is so rich in art history at least for a certain time period. I find that as I’ve lived here longer I’ve gravitated to the art scene in my town, Jersey City. There is a wonderful grassroots scene which is very refreshing after spending a sufficient amount of time in New York. I think Jersey City is a welcoming place for women in art. I’ve shown my work throughout the country and internationally (New York City, Philadelphia, PA, Chicago, IL, Houston,TX,  Orlando, FL, Los Angeles, CA, London, UK). I think the work has been received about the same way, because it is raw/provocative it intrigues and causes discomfort simultaneously. For the most part the work has been received well. Viewers are intrigued. They want to know more and that’s all I really hope for.     
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"Shorts," from The Exquisite Truth Series

Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, said of her work: “I’ve been making provocative art with a political edge in my Midwestern hometown since 1999. And to do that, you have to be tenacious as hell.” Are you tenacious in  your work or life? How so?
I wold like to think my work and I are tenacious. I am very persistent, usually juggling 3-4 projects at anyone time. I try my best to show my work as such as possible, even if it means traveling between states with work  for 5 exhibits in a month (which I have done before). When I discover an opportunity whether it’s an exhibition, job, etc I’m like a dog with a bone. I’m one of those people who isn’t happy unless she’s juggling a million things at once, and since they all relate to my field it really doesn’t feel like work. 
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"Park Bench, McCarren Park Brooklyn, NY" From The Lego Project

Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?
Absolutely. I can only speak to my own experiences, and my experience is as a woman. A lot of my work deals with female sexuality as presented and owned by the female herself, unfortunately to some this is still a shocking idea. 
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​”University Faculty Bathroom, Wayne, NJ” From The Lego Project

Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Do exactly what you’re afraid of. Are you afraid to tell that story? Too self conscious to photograph yourself? etc. Do it. This is the path to self discovery and growth and solace in art. Which in my opinion is one of arts greatest purposes, to provide solace to those who create and those who view and understand so completely what the artist felt when they made it. It’s such a beautiful emotional experience you are sharing with someone who may be a complete stranger to you. 
http://www.cathleenparra.com/

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Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins.  LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com,(get 15% your blurb purchase using code BLURB2014 expires 8/27/14) including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.

MOTHER ART, artist collective

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Mother Art, a collective of women artists, dedicated to creating social-political art, was most active during the 1970′s and 1980′s. By gathering women’s personal stories and crafting them in such a way as to incite collective action and intervention, the collective personalized issues, such as the social invisibility of maternal labor and the impact of the lack of socially supported day care on professional practices of working artist-mothers.

They  went on to create installations and public performances dealing with those women marginalized from society, including immigrant mothers, women who faced abortion when it was illegal, homeless women and more. All the topics they dealt with came from a desire to create a social practice that could reach beyond the confines of traditional art spaces. All the issues they explored are still relevant today.

In 2012 Mother Art created a video of their history. This 40-minute documentary tells of the odyssey of the collective from youth through middle age as they created art installations in galleries and public spaces, were vilified by conservative politicians and perservered to speak truth to power.

In 2000, Mother Art had a retrospective, and since that time, have been included in a number of important exhibitions focused on women and women’s art collectives. Mother Art has published a book and produced a video about their collective art practice. (Text courtesy motherart.org)

Members Deborah Krall, Suzanne Siegel and Laura Silagi generously take time to share with LFF about how they came together to form the collective, their tenacity and feminism, how motherhood has impacted their selves and work, advice for aspiring artists and much more…

Where are you from? How did you get into art?

The three members of the Mother Art Collective are Deborah Krall, Suzanne Siegel and Laura Silagi. We have each had a life long interest in art.

Laura Silagi is from NYC and went to museums as a young child and took afterschool painting classes in elementary school. She went to the high school of Music and Art. She majored in art at Antioch College, studied art at UCSD and the Feminist Studio Workshop.

Originally from Ohio, Suzanne Siegel lived in a number of cities and countries. This exposed her to many different cultures and landscapes. She first studied art with Sister Corita at Immaculate Heart College, graduated from UC Berkeley, went on to the Feminist Studio Workshop and later earned an MFA from UCLA. 

Deborah Krall grew up in Portland. As a child, she took art classes at the local art museum and went on to study art in many schools. She received an MFA from UCLA.

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Performance piece: “Even If Its You”:  In 1981, Mother Art created a series of installations and performances dealing with the topic of women’s reproductive rights. We recorded stories of women telling about their experiences when abortion was illegal, and incorporated these audio recordings into an installation in a janitor’s closet at SPARC Gallery in Venice, California, as well as a performance in Santa Monica, CA. In 1983, we created a performance/installation at the Long Beach Museum of Art in Long Beach, California. (Courtesy motherart.org)

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

Social and political issues, especially those touching our lives as women and mothers, have inspired us as Mother Art. Our process is collaboration, in which each of us contributes ideas. Early on, our collaboration was a matrix with each individual contributing her own artwork within a framework. We evolved into using a collaborative model, where there was shared ownership of ideas, processes, and art production. We learned from each other’s strengths and abilities.

One avenue Mother Art has explored is the concept of locating art, both performance and installations, in public spaces outside the traditional gallery sphere such as in Laundromats, a parking garage, a warehouse in downtown L.A., and a janitor’s closet in an art gallery, the Federal Building in Los Angeles, outside banks, and on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall. We also exhibited in numerous art galleries.

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"Homeless Women" installation: In the 1980′s, with a growing number of homeless women on the streets of Los Angeles, Mother Art
became concerned. We interviewed and photographed women in order to share their stories.  The women we met were all staying in a homeless shelter in Los Angeles.  In 1984, we created an installation that combined photographs, text and floor painting. (Courtesy motherart.org)

Much of our art has been based on personal narratives we have collected. Our pro-choice pieces, performance and installation, “The “Museum of Illegal Abortion” and “Even If It’s You,” used stories of women who underwent abortion before it was legal. For our “Homeless Women” installation, we interviewed and photographed women in a shelter, and for “Flowers for Four Women”, a piece illuminating the struggles of immigrants from Central America, we gathered stories from women who fled their countries due to war and violence.

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"Homeless Women" photograph: We also produced a photographic series with the text of each woman’s story told in her own words. (Courtesy motherart.org)

Tell me about your current project and why it’s important to you.

Mother Art is focusing on distribution of our documentary, “Mother Art Tells Her Story.” Educational institutions, art and women’s studies departments are our target audience for purchase of our documentary. Our film is important since the issues we dealt with in the years we were most active from 1973 to 1987 are all relevant today. We were pioneers in social practice, and in creating feminist art in public spaces.

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Tell me about Mother Art—how did that get started? Why is it important to you?

In 1972, some of us experienced discrimination by “feminists” at the first year of the Feminist Studio Workshop, located in the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles. Many women there felt it was not possible to be an artist if you were a mother. So, those of us with young children came together to fight the stereotypes that viewed mothers as solely interested in children and nothing else. We viewed all women as having the potential to achieve great things.  At the same time, we started to look at the strengths that being mothers added to our understanding of the world. Then, four of us, who were in the Feminist Studio Workshop in 1972, started Mother Art, which at first functioned as a consciousness-raising group.  Our first performative action was to build a playground at the Woman’s Building since there was nothing provided for children. We advertised for other mothers to join us, and soon we had two more members. In total, eight women participated in Mother Art at various times. We met and talked about ourselves as mothers and artists and delved into issues of background and class, curated exhibitions on the topic of motherhood and shared our individual work. Over time, Mother Art evolved into a more politically oriented group, dealing with issues outside of the direct topic of motherhood.

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"Dancing with Mother Time," 2013: In 2012, Mother Art created an installation that celebrated our experiences as mothers.
We paired adjectives in shoes and foot-prints to describe the different moods and feelings we have experienced with our children, from infancy to adulthood. The shoes and footprints were arranged in dance steps, illustrating the fancy footwork required of mothers. (Courtesy motherart.org)

Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, said of her work: “I’ve been making provocative art with a political edge in my Midwestern hometown since 1999. And to do that, you have to be tenacious as hell.” Are you tenacious in your work or life? How so?

Mother Art is involved in exploring the social/political issues of our times through a collective art practice. We have gained from each other in terms of pooling and developing our skills and ideas. This process has been evolving for over 40 years. Recently we completed a 40 minute documentary, “Mother Art Tells Her Story”, and a book, “Mother Art: A Collective of Women Artists”, examining our history. Both are available through our website, motherart.org. With our long history, one could say that we are very tenacious.

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"Mother Art Cleans Up Again" (Courtesy motherart.org)

Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying, “Yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?

Feminism is the basis for our work as Mother Art. We see feminism as a way of viewing the world, and as a goal for all. To us feminism is a vision of equality and cooperation in a non-hierarchical society. We have participated in many exhibits and forums for women artists and we find them to be inspiring and engaging.

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"Mother Art Cleans Up Again" (Courtesy motherart.org)

Also—does motherhood play a role in your work? Career? 

Motherhood has taught us many things. It is important as a way of understanding a connection to the world, to the unending cycle of life. We are united by this experience, and it has created a basis and enhancement toward an empathetic view of humanity. For us this leads to the idea that nature is not to be exploited for momentary gain, and we are part of a natural cycle. All of nature must sustain future generations.

Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

We think it important for artists to trust themselves and to experiment with all sorts of forms as they find their own way. Hopefully, they are involved in the world and use all experience as fuel for their creativity. We found the collaborative process of Mother Art extremely valuable. We were able as a collective to create installations and performances that we probably would not have been able to produce alone.  As a collaborative group, there has to be trust and respect. Giving everyone a chance to be heard and arriving at consensus for decisions are feminist tenets.

On a mundane level, we would have to say that it’s very important to document your work. We have used that documentation, both photographs and videos, as source material for our documentary.

For more information on Mother Art, their book, documentary or any of their work or projects, visit motherart.org.

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Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins.  LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com,(get 15% your blurb purchase using code BLURB2014 expires 6/30/14) including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.

Release: Let It Go, a workshop by Withlove, Felicia

August 16, Felicia Webster, aka Withlove,Felicia presents: The RELEASE: Let It Go, a public symposium using the arts to support the social and emotional well being of women through creative expression.

The RELEASE: Let it Go, is a full Saturday, interactive conference for womb-men, created and facilitated by local mother, educator, performance poet, motivational spoken word artist, host, activist, and visual artist Felicia Webster in partnership with The Center for Holistic Development and The Universal College of Healing Arts. This insightful symposium of workshops will use the arts to enhance and support the social and emotional well being of women (not to exclude individuals who self identify) by tapping into various creative and artistic expressions. Immerse yourself in hands on activities that will allow you to use your imagination and get your creative juices flowing while connecting and bonding with other artists, creatives,healers, educators, mothers, daughters, professionals,passion seekers and beautiful women in the community who, just like you, will let go and RELEASE!

Symposium Details:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Universal College of Healing Arts 

9am-5pm

18 years old and older

Bring some water, a hand towel, your own lunch and a piece of fabric that represents you.

Register on eventbrite.

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Workshop Innovators will use their creative expertise to take you on an artistic releasing experience, while The Santuary will alllow you let go and breathe through massage and or adorn the body with beautiful things. 

 A Continential Breakfast & Snacks will be served. * Breakfast begins at 8:30am. Lunch will be on your own.

Register on eventbrite.

This is the second RELEASE workshop, the first successful workshop Webster organized in April, 2014 to a blossoming crowd of wonderful women.

April attendee Paulissa Kipp provided a bit of further reflection on the I AM statements during the closing ceremony of The RELEASE,Withlove “You can’t take it from me” revealed this:

I AM…fierce I AM…love I AM…a fosterer of humanity revealing the beautiful, the curious and the often overlooked. I AM…a draw-er of light and reflect that light back into the Universe I AM…ENOUGH just as I am and just as I will become I AM…a Phoenix, keeper of the creative fire I AM…an author I AM…a poet I AM…a photographer I AM…an artist I AM…a voice for those whose voices society might rather silence I AM…a survivor I AM…a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend but the greatest of these is I AM… Paulissa

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Attendee Lizabet Arellano expressed of the April event:

Being a participant in this event had such a positive impact on my life and on the way I was allowing life events to affect me. I left a huge burden in that box that day and have been lifted and feeling so good ever since. The complete experience was so powerful i left wanting more and ran into other women over the weekend who i met at the event, who i wouldnt have otherwise known, who shared my lingering smile and the same feeling of wanting more. Now we share a day of affirmation of each other. Thank you!

Felicia Webster is a mother, visual artist, inspirational/spoken word artist and performance poet in the spoken word troop The Wordsmiths. She is a community activist, teaching artist, inspirer, and events organizer with a Masters degree in Education. Known also as Withlove,Felicia, she is blessed to be the co-director and co-creatress alongside Michelle Troxclair of Omaha’s very own Verbal Gumbo, a monthly spoken word open mic at House of Loom. She is also a self-employed teaching artist with several Omaha arts organizations and is working on a self-published affirmation/inspirational book and The Love Down Below with the Oshun Collective, an inter-sensory open mic love experience. She was profiled on Les Femmes Folles December 12, 2011.

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BONUS RELEASE-The Releasing AFTER PARTY will take place at The House of Loom, where we can dance all night to music celebating wombmen along with special guest performances. You will also have an opportunity to purchase items from wombmen artists who will have vending tables with unique items.

House of Loom 

1012 S 10th Street

Doors open at 8pm

Donations only

For more information on the symposium, follow Felicia on FB:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/WithloveFelicia-the-Artist-Inspirational-Poet/359811184033399

https://www.facebook.com/thereleasewithlove

Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-release-let-it-go-tickets-11985381599

Any questions or concerns please contact Felicia Webster, creative director, withlovefmw@gmail.com.

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Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins.  LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com,(get 15% your blurb purchase using code SUMMERSAVINGS expires 8/30/14) including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.

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