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Les Femmes Folles

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Beatriz Albuquerque, artist

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Beatriz Albuquerque, Performance Color, 2008 PerforArtNet 2008, Galeria Santa Fe, Casa tres Patios, Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Bogota / Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Caracas, Fundacion Nelson Garrido, Bogota – Columbia / Caracas – Venezuela.

Beatriz Albuquerque is an interdisciplinary Portuguese artist living in New York. She is known for her interdisciplinary practices between performance and cross media. She has developed an autonomous work in which performance art is her central focal point. She was recently awarded the Revelation Award (Prémio Revelação), 17ª Biennial de Cerveira, Portugal (2013). She was also awarded the Myers Art Prize: cross media, Columbia University, New York (2009) and the Ambient Series Performance Award, PAC / edge Performance Festival, Chicago (2005). She generously shares with LFF about the impact of seeing an art performance as a small child, her inspirations and process, her current project dealing with capitalism and society and much more…


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

BA: I am an interdisciplinary and cross media performance artist from Porto, Portugal.

I remember being a small kid and seeing a performance from a Portuguese artist that now I know his name - Albuquerque Mendes. I remember thinking until that moment that art was an object such as painting and sculpture and nothing else. But this 1st encounter I remember entering the space and seeing a crowd watching a person doing movement with dust and fire and then turning to my mother, fascinated and asked, “What is this”, she replied “It is art. It is a performance.”
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Beatriz Albuquerque, Performance Crise no Amor, 2010 Triangle Arts Trust International Residence, Home and Abroad, Sintra - Portugal.


Tell me about your inspirations, process.

BA: My inspiration comes from everyday life and the office that is my head so I´m always creating and developing projects wherever I am physically. My process continues then after inspiration and by creating 2-D forms such as writing, drawings, sketches and photos of the project. Then I transform it into 3D forms such as mockups or even 3D printed sculptures which then became an installation in which I perform in it. I believe that the body is what gives identity and through the body performance appears. Performance is an extension of the body. The extension of the performance is 3D sculpture, photo or video and an extension of this is installation.

Tell me about your current project and why its important to you.

BA: I believe that art should reach out to all persons. Thinking about this and the Capitalistic society and commercial world that we live in, I created my on-going performance project “Work For Free,” in which I offer myself to work for free creating any artwork that the public desires. This performance action is a social gift in which a work of art is fashioned especially for the person that interacts with the performance. This free artwork can be chosen from different pool of mediums such as: e-mail art, digital photo, web art, digital drawing, decollage, among others. Until now, this Project has been done in different countries and venues such as New York, Macy Gallery or Grecce, Biennial of Thessaloniki, and I created until now a total of 183 free works of art customized for the active audience.

I believe that art can bring change to the persons that are touched by it and then these persons change the world. Activism is a practice that is always active in my artwork and Projects. An example of this is my recent performance/installation on-going project called Crisis of Luck, as a response to the crisis in Portugal and Europe, where I presented myself as an oracle priestess who foretells and responds to questions asked pertaining to the crisis that we live in, and provide the solution to the problems. From this premise, an installation was created in the space using 3D sculpture, photo, video and food in which the public was invited to enter and interact with the performer, who responded to their problems and misfortunes. In this idea, I became an oracle that answered all questions for the audience in three forms: verbally, written and through a customized cake.
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Beatriz Albuquerque, Performance Crise na Fortuna / Crisis of Luck, 2013 17ª Bienal de Cerveira: Arte: Crise e Transformação, Vila Nova de Cerveira - Portugal.

Does feminism play a role in your work?
I believe that all men and women are equal  and deserve the same opportunities and rights. In this way feminism always plays a role in my performances.

However, before 2005 I created performance pieces that addressed the gap or lack of equal rights between men and women, the condition and descrimination of women in relation with men. At this time I was living in Portugal and I could see the lack of oportunites and descrimination that women were suffering from, for example in the job/work force. Once I saw an ad asking for a white man (computer trouble shooting) for one job and a woman for another (secretary). So I was developing themes in my artwork and performances related to the environment and daily life that I was experiencing. By 2005 I went to undertake an MFA at SAIC, this was my first contact with the USA. This lead me to explore different themes in my performances as it was such a shock coming from a socialist society to be confronted with a capitalist society.

Advice for aspiring artists?
You have the power to choose your life the way you want it and the power to achieve it.

www.beatrizalbuquerque.web.pt

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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.

Christie Neptune, artist

image SHE PERTTY. PIGMENT PRINT ON ALUMINUM. 2010.
 
Poet Sherese Francis (LFF May 8, 2014) referred me to the inspiring and poignant work of Christie Neptune and I’m so glad she did! She generously shares with LFF about falling in love with art via a 35mm camera in high school; her latest series exploring how our social constructs cultivate one’s understanding of self; the question she constantly asks herself while creating work; her inspirations and process; feminism and advice for aspiring artists and much more…

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

I was born in Brooklyn NY. I spent my younger years in the concrete jungles of New York City and later moved upstate during my freshman year of High School. The move was a major culture shock for me. I was a skinny black girl with dreads, clarks and an accent in a predominantly white school that knew nothing of me; or my culture. Everyone wanted to touch my hair. Everyone wondered why I talked the way I did. Everyone wanted to know where I was from. Everyone knew of me and in the same instance knew nothing about me. I was an outcast. So, I did what any pubescent frustrated teen would. I made art.  

One day, my mom’s friend, while cleaning out her garage,  gave me her old 35mm camera. That was the beginning of history for me. I immediately signed up for photography class and fell in love. Instead of going to lunch, I would go to the darkroom to develop my photos; or the library to write treatments for things I wanted to capture. I spent weekends and summers making picture books and living vicariously through the people, things and scenes I captured. Art provided me an escape.

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RANDOM SIGHTING 109. PIGMENT PRINT ON ALUMINUM. 2010

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

I get inspired by what I see.  The process usually starts with a long walk.  While walking, I take mental notes of  everything and allow for a conscious stream of thoughts to just flow. I am often surprised by where it takes me.

Once, while walking, I noticed a young girl getting her hair permed for the first time through an open window. It led me to think about the first time I got a perm. I thought about the significance of that moment and what it symbolized for me as a black woman.  I thought about the controversial nature of black hair and wanted to create a social commentary on it. In 2012, I recreated that instance in “A Black Girl’s Rites of Passage.”

After walking, I went home and wrote about the first time I received a perm. I remember sitting anxiously on the floor waiting for my perm to set while my mother braided my younger sister’s hair. It was big deal for me as it symbolized “getting older.” It was a process that all the women in my family went through and I was finally apart of that legacy.  I never really understood the social relevance of that moment until I became an adult.

As an adult, I found that it was part of a conditioning that conditioned the way you see yourself. As an African American, you are never really perceived through your own lens and perm reinforces that notion. It’s a prerequisite for acceptance and sadly deconstructs the black identity.

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A BLACK GIRL’S RITES OF PASSAGE. DIGITAL C-PRINT. 2012

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

Currently, I am working on a 3-part experimental series, Eye of the Storm. At the age of 25, I experienced a depressive episode after a failed attempt at suicide. As a way of moving forward from that instance, I developed a series of works that captured the quintessence of that pain and my struggle to define self.

Depression or any form of mental illness for that matter is frowned upon within the black community. It’s considered taboo; “white folks stuff;” and something you just don’t talk about. But, why is that?

63 percent of African Americans believe that depression is a personal weakness. That number is more than half. That number is alarming! When going through something of that nature in an environment that perpetuates that stigma, recovery is often times futile. Lucky for me, I had art and I used art as therapy. But what of the hundreds of African Americans out there that are reluctant to seek counseling because of the prejudice centered around mental health? There needs to be a broader discussion on that and that is why Eye of The Storm is so essential.

Each work tells a small instance of what happened and collectively they narrate the entire story. Through Photography, Film and Mixed Media, I explore how our social constructs cultivate one’s understanding of self. Is it possible create new form devoid of social relevance? What would those images look like? Ultimately, I want this project  to open a dialogue of discussion on the limits of self and mental illness within the black community. It’s my way of closing that chapter of my life.

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?

New York is an amazing city to create art as a woman. The diversity found here is electric. There are so many stories to be told and so many experiences to absorb. Each story is never the same and thats what I love most about it. The streets are crowded, struggle lurks at every corner, opportunity is limitless,  the city’s heart beats with so much vivacity and in spite of it all, everything is eerie. This is an exciting time to be a black female making art in New York City.

Carrie Mae Weems made history the other day as the first exhibiting black female artist at the Guggenheim and just recently Kara Walker did a major installation at the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg. After much years of toil and exclusion, doors are finally being opened and there is nothing better than that. For an emerging artist, such as myself, this is everything.

So far, I’ve exhibited at few upcoming galleries around the city. However, I would like to continue to grow as an artist and exhibit my work elsewhere.  I am constantly in search of opportunities to cultivate my skills and experience as a Visual Artist. I will forever be a humbled student. Life  to me is about learning and I just want to take in as much as I can.   

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 definitely tenacious in my works and life.  It is very important that my works speak to me, and my experience as a Female, African American and Artist.They must speak of my truth and, most importantly, be sincere.

While developing new works, I constantly ask myself “is this me?” I find that question essential to the process. People want to relate. People want to feel the sincerity in your images and connect through your story. They can spot a fake and I never want to come off as that. That is why I make it my responsibility to hone my voice and be as authentic as I possibly can. At the end of the day, I want my audience to look at my works and say “that is Christie and I can relate.”

Eye of the storm, for this reason, is a very challenging project. It forces me to look at myself and accept the person that I see. Accepting truth is never easy. Accepting what is frowned upon and considered taboo by your community is even harder. You come to a point where you stand alone and thats scary.

For years I battled with depression and the shame associated with it. Initially, I was reluctant to talk about it out of fear. I worried that people would think that I was crazy or judge me. However, it was only after I decided to be honest with myself that things became better. I took it to the lens and came up with the concept for this project. I’ll admit, it’s certainly not easy developing this. But, it does get better the more I work on it and allow myself to heal.

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 create works of art that speaks to my experience as woman. My goal as a female artist is to create provocative images that challenge the limits of self within the collective world. They are my response to the many social issues that affect me and the women in my community. Although I am not well briefed in the feminist theory,  I will always advocate for gender equality on all social platforms. I will forever hone my voice and try to be as authentic as I can in that approach. Now, if that makes me a feminist then, I guess I am.

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Screenshot from EOTS: Eye of the Storm, Untitled #70, 5min runtime. Christie Neptune, 2014.

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?

The best advice that I can give to any aspiring artist is to practice and, most importantly, be honest. I was very fortunate to have some great mentors behind me. I use their advice and experience to further develop my skills as a Visual Artist and grow.  The best thing they ever did for me, was show me the importance of having a voice and mastering your craft.

Christie Neptune | Visual Artist | www.christieneptune.com 

Please join me in support of my forthcoming project about the limitations of self within the Collective world, Eye of the Storm (EOTS). 

 
 
Indigogo | igg.me/at/eots
 
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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.

Kelli Stevens Kane, poet, playwright, oral historian, performer

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Kelli Stevens Kane in BIG GEORGE. Photo by Casey Anne Photography

I came across Kelli Stevens Kane's work online and was instantly intrigued and inspired. She generously shares with LFF about how teaching nursery school inspired her to get into poetry; how her process is like yoga; her one-woman show BIG GEORGE; her tenacity; feminism and more.

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

I was born in a beautiful place—Pittsburgh, PA. I started writing in the early 90’s when I lived in San Francisco. I’d been working as a photographer’s assistant and got mono because I hadn’t learned to quit stuff I’d grown out of, and I made myself sick. I’ve always been pretty minimal, and I knew I wanted to do something with the least amount of equipment possible.  I thought about acting, but realized you generally need other people to do that so I started writing. I really became a writer during the time I taught at Laurel Hill Nursery School. The way kids talk (or won’t) triggered the poet in me. Trying to keep their attention while reading aloud sparked the performer.

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

I don’t think in terms of inspiration. My creative process is a lot like a yoga practice. I’m asking myself questions like: Where am I uncomfortable? How can I move through the discomfort? How does it change as I move through?  For example poetry slams kinda freaked me out and I didn’t have any “slam” poems, but I slammed anyway to see what would happen. I would have never been able to make a one-woman show without that kind of performance practice. Actually—I just started a blog about my process. Maybe I’ll write about slam next! You can check out my blog here: http://kskpoet.wordpress.com/

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

BIG GEORGE is the one-woman show I mentioned. I wrote it and perform it myself. It’s about my tiny grandmother (Big George) who used to go to funeral homes in Pittsburgh’s Historic Hill District whether or not she knew the deceased. BIG GEORGE is the most complex thing I’ve ever made. It makes me have to eat right, stay  in great shape, be mentally and spiritually awake, and be really tuned into the audience, so I love it for that. It combines poetry, oral history, sound collage from oral histories I collected, and improv movement. I love having made something that allows me to give all I’ve got.

 

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?

One year in summer camp, a girl challenged me to a bottle cap finding contest. Whoever had more by a certain date won. I found a lot of bottle caps, but imagined that she may have found more, so I found a lot more bottle caps, and the cycle of finding and imagining continued until I had so many bottle caps on the deadline, I had to bring them to her in multiple arm-loads. She didn’t say much. I think we were both stunned at how serious I’d taken the challenge. I remember realizing on that day that my level of focus was not normal. I used to mistakenly apply that level of focus to most things I did. I’ve gotten wiser over the years now reserve that level of focus for my own creative work.   

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 doesn’t play a role in my work, it makes my work possible.  

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?

Practice trusting your instinct and taking action. Never ignore what you’re telling you. If you usually turn left, but your gut says turn right, do it. No one has to understand. You might not even understand until later. Beware of second guessing yourself because it’s hard to stop doing it when you’re ready to create. Let yourself know what you know. You know?

 http://kellistevenskane.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.

Saira Viola, poet

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I was stoked to come across the words of poet Saira Viola on Underground Books blog. Her work also recently appeared in Sid’s Open Lid. She generously shares with LFF about her authentic cosmopolitan background; the impact of living in an area lacking diversity; fighting for equality and justice at the ages of 7 and 8; feminism’s relevance today; her various inspirations and process and much more…

Where are you from?

My roots are middle Eastern but I was educated and schooled in England. Based for a time in Africa and then the US, so you could say I have a truly cosmopolitan background. Africa really gets into your blood, there is a warmth and humanity there that is very different from the West. My parents owned businesses there . It has always always been my intention to return one day. Growing up in Africa with the spectacular space, wildlife and tribal integrity of the people was notably different when compared   to the fake politeness of British society. Thereafter, we relocated to the US which was much more liberating than the mannered artifice of English life. Now I divide my time between England, the States, and  parts of continental Europe.

How did you get into art?

I have always sought refuge in art and was drawn to the magical aspects of art and fiction from a young age. In art as in fiction there are no boundaries and anything is possible.

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

In England I lived in a Surrey suburb where the preoccupation of the day was village fêtes and Sunday salvation but behind the manicured lawns and coiffed hedges was a sea of dissatisfaction. There wasn’t a culturally diverse community there, and I think the town lacked the richness and colour of a more integrated society. I was one of the only “ethnic” people in the area and you do miss out on lots of different experiences. Of course London central is gloriously multi-racial and that’s reflected in the neighbourhoods and the vibe of the city.

London is getting better at providing opportunities for artists, and there are grassroots initiatives to showcase writing, art, and the fusion of both mediums. Collaborative platforms for creative people in London still suffers however from a class/race polarity that stems from generations of Colonial Rule. New York in comparison is a haven for artistes. I always feel like I belong and that everyone there is very accepting of artists in general. In England unfortunately there is always that expectation to pursue  a more conventional occupation and the writing I do is very much perceived as the Cinderella of the arts world, where funding is scarce. I think my novels and poems have been well received in NYC and other parts of the world where I am fortunate to have a growing readership.

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

Being a woman working in the mainly male dominated genre of crime fiction and being an ethnic woman has made me more tenacious. Certainly in England where I was sometimes a victim of race hate, I remember fighting for equality and justice when I was just a child of around 7 of 8 years old. I was told that: “Princesses don’t have brown hair,”  when I opted to play the role in the school play I was bullied by a waspy blonde kid to play the evil witch because of my mahogany coloured tresses! Ironic now of course. Although there were more vicious instances of race hate this slur stuck with me. I fought  back  and have been fighting ever since . Personally , I’ve always thought the best blondes are born  brunettes. My mother then made it quite clear to me that England wasn’t all about garden roses and high tea and I would have to struggle to be accepted and be respected, so as an outsider in many ways because of my “exotic” background I have always been strong willed about certain topics. I find it hard to rationalize any kind of discrimination, whether it be on racial, religious, sexual , financial or cultural grounds.  I also abhor oppression and cannot stomach child cruelty of any kind. From a work perspective I was offered a very lucrative contract subject to radical changes to a key character. Initially I leapt at the chance, as  I’m not unduly precious about making changes or collaborating ,but if the change is so material it rips the soul out of your work I’m not sure it’s worth it in the end. If it means you‘re freed from a life of pain and penury then maybe that’s a risk you need to take. So yeah, you could say I’m tenacious in my personal life and my work.

Ewing, who examined the 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 think feminism in the sense of championing the rights of women is even more relevant and significant today than ever before. Women are constantly dehumanized and objectified through media and society, not just by the powers that be, but other women too who are extremely critical of each other. I often use satire and comedy to reflect the way women perceive each other and themselves and to express the inequality of women in how they are represented through art. I also draw upon stronger women who embrace their sexuality and sometimes use it as a weapon  of empowerment , or as a stepping stone to improving their quality of life. And then there are women, brave women who sacrifice their needs and their ambitions to safeguard and protect the lives of others . This kind of “feminism”  is rarely considered at all. I think if you have ever had to fight for acceptance and prove yourself then it’s natural to include “feminist” ideas. But it’s not all about Birkenstocks and dungarees , it’s about equal pay, equal respect and a commitment to Justice . As far as writing is concerned the matriarchal figures that pepper my fiction and some of my poetry are often strong, powerful, intelligent women who retain this strength in spite of tragedy or adversity, women who still have an undisputed beauty and grace the kind that comes from inside.

What are your inspirations, process?

As a writer my main source of inspiration rests on the meaty issues of social unrest, politics, injustice and the possibility for genuine love or lack of. In light of a market driven society, where human values are supplanted by inhuman values and materialism, I am always collecting material wherever I am for future projects. The genre I work in for my novel writing, crime fiction, is as explained  typically dominated by males,   and I think it’s refreshing to have a female perspective. A female voice  can often  shake things up a bit and step on a few big toes. For my poetry I draw upon topical themes and confront controversy on a range of issues from childhood poverty to the growth in tabloid values. I like readers to have an opinion and I hope that my poetry is an amalgamation of the savagery and serenity of the human existence. On a more abstract level I’m also moved by the beauty in humanity, music, and nature. Something as simple as a stranger’s kindness, the first blossom of Spring or the bruising whisper  of Elliot Smith is enough for me to score   the paper with ink.

When inspiration strikes my process is as simple as putting pen to paper, it’s that basic. If I’m working on a novel I will do as much research as I can, living and breathing through the characters, as they form a conduit between myself and the reader. When I write poetry it’s much more organic, I play with syntax, grammar, and break as many rules as possible. It’s the kind of rebellion that purists despise and I respect their opinion, but I like to be free and unencumbered to express myself as honestly as I can, dislodge the shackles of language. Poetry is a medium that encourages that kind of linguistic freedom. I have experimented with rhythm and weaving rhyme into the narrative of my novels I call this technique sonic scatterscript.

What are your current upcoming projects that you are excited about, and why are they important to you?

The upcoming show I was most excited about was the Poetry Festival in NYC but life threw me a curveball and so I was unable to make it this year, but my mini rebel anthology of poems published by UB books is out now and I’m thrilled with the way it’s turned out . It actually feels like a slice of rebellion. I’m very  grateful to James Browning Kepple, the creative force behind UB books and really excited to be part of the UB publishing  revolution .When you have a creative dialogue between a writer and a publisher it really brings out the passion behind the prose.

I am also really psyched  and relieved to have completed my latest novel  Jukebox  a crime novel about a Jewish mobster, a rookie lawyer, an over ambitious journalist and a pre-op trans diva who all become entangled in a web of corruption, that to my mind characterizes modern London with its reverence for tabloid values and the criminal pursuit of wealth.

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?

This is hard, as I am still learning but I would say follow your gut instincts and if they lead you to Neverland or Timbuktu enjoy the ride ! Whenever someone sticks an obstacle in your way do your best to overcome it ,and don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re not good enough to take a shot . We all make mistakes and often the bigger the fall the better the comeback . I think the suffering artist has almost become an accepted cliché that some writers have romanticized, but in essence there’s nothing easy  about having to beg for food in a subway, slumming sleep on a friend’s floor, or dying in obscurity without a good review to your name. It is this type of despair, this kind of misery, that gives art and especially writing its chthonian allure. I think if you can keep at it, keep focused and use failure and defeat as a way  to improve, you’re on your way. So push hard and just as the walls are about to cave, a piece of your blue sky might just shine through.

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Catch up with Saira:

https://twitter.com/sairaviola 

http://www.sairaviola.com/contact.html
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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.

Joyce Polance, artist

the artist in her studio

Artist Joyce Polance generously shares with LFF about how her work has evolved from landscapes to the nude; why and how she paints nude figures; showing her work in Chicago; how feminism plays a big role in her work, and much more…

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

I’m originally from New York, although I’ve lived in Chicago for 20 years. I studied illustration and worked at commercial jobs I hated until one day I got up the nerve to quit. A month later, in 1998, I was filled with the desire to paint, and I’ve never looked back. My work has evolved - from oil landscapes, to the figure in encaustic, to the nudes, which I’ve been doing since 2006. I love exploring flesh - it’s the most beautiful and challenging thing for me to paint.

"Awake," oil on canvas, 24x36", 2014

Tell me about your inspirations, process.
 
I started doing nudes because I realized they were what I was most afraid of painting, of being that exposed and vulnerable - especially when using myself as a model, which I often did at the beginning. But my work is largely about the strength inherent in vulnerability, so it seemed like the next right direction. Besides, if I realize I’m afraid of doing something in my work, then I know I must do it. For me, painting, although it also brings me great joy, is about facing those fears on a daily basis, putting the most intimate parts of myself out there. 
I work from photos I take myself, usually of friends. My paintings explore women engaging in intimate relationships with peers who may represent mothers, sisters, close friends, or even men. Through a range of emotions, such as tenderness, sexual tension, jealousy, sadness, and anger, I explore the triangles and complexities that ensue as the women interact. In my most recent work, some of the figures are ghostly or done in line, barely there. My aim is to show that figures who aren’t there in person (be they dead, past relationships, or simply not present physically or emotionally) can have as great an impact on us as people with whom we are actually in contact.
Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project and why its important to you.

I’ll be in a group show, Immortality and Vulnerability,  in 2015, at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. I’ll also be collaborating with a poet for publication in an upcoming issue of PoetsArtists Magazine. Both are opportunities for me to network with more artists in my area, particularly figurative painters. It’s easy to be a bit isolated when I’m concentrating on working in my studio - I don’t always have lots of energy left for openings. For PoetsArtists, I haven’t yet had the experience of creating a painting based upon somebody else’s work, so it’s a new and exciting challenge.
 

"Drag," oil on canvas, 30x30", 2014

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 think most places are more difficult for women than for men. Chicago is a relatively conservative town, so it’s hard  to know how much of whatever blocks I’ve experienced have to do with my being a woman or about the specific nature of my paintings, which can be quite challenging.
 
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?

As I mentioned above, I think there’s tenacity in exploring the subject matter or painting style that we fear the most. I also decided to move somewhat away from realism this year - a scary step as I have a very nice body of work that I’ve received a lot of positive attention for. It’s a leap of faith to try new things, to experiment, to push out of one’s comfort zone, especially in ways that aren’t particularly commercial.   I also write; I’m working on a memoir, and I have to be willing to expose myself in new ways and also be prepared to offend people who may be important to me. I always think it’s courageous to speak one’s truth in any area. I try I try to do that in my personal life as well, to show up honestly in relationships even when uncomfortable feelings come up.
 

"Fall," oil on canvas, 40x30", 2014

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 plays a big part in my work. Not only do I choose to paint women, but many of the poses I paint represent the figures accepting physical and emotional support from other women. I also paint the women naked to depict their willingness to be vulnerable while simultaneously embracing their sexuality and bodies. The women take ownership of both their femininity and their power. My objective is to challenge the viewers to question their own assumptions about strength, beauty and intimacy.

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?

First of all, paint (or whatever medium you choose) from the heart, and paint what challenges you so you can always be growing in your work. Trends come and go, so do what you love. Artwork is entirely subjective, so don’t let rejection stop you. Don’t be afraid to mess up something you’ve done, to paint over it, to face the fears of changing what’s already working to see if you can come up with something even better.

http://www.joycepolance.com/index.html
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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 8/26/14) 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.

Deb Vanasse, author

Author Deb Vanasse generously shares with LFF about how she came to writing fiction, her personal writing inspirations, her recent (and 14th!) book Cold Spell, feminism in her work and much more…

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

I was born and raised in the Midwest—Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa—but I’ve lived in Alaska for all of my adult life, so that’s my home now. Wherever we lived, the living room was always floor to ceiling with books, so from my earliest years I loved reading. I aspired to write the books I liked best—lyrical, compelling novels that grab you from the beginning and keep their hold long after you finish—but I knew nothing about writing creatively, so my earliest work (in high school and college) was journalistic. When I finally tried fiction, it was to fulfill an assignment for a one-week summer workshop—basically, go home and write a story and bring it in the next day. From that story came my first published novel, A Distant Enemy.

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

Inspiration comes in all sorts of forms, but at its core, writing for me is a process of discovery, so my best work comes from anything that makes me want to know more; it might be a single line or a voice or a character or combination of characters. Before I begin a book, I have to get to know these people; I want to feel want they feel and hear how they sound. I rarely know exactly how their stories will end, but before I start, I want to know what’s at stake for them. In general, my thinking tends to aggregate around certain parts of my life experience that I don’t fully understand myself—my mother’s thirteen-year disappearance, my twenty-year immersion in evangelical faith before leaving the church, that sort of thing. As a writer, I’m fairly disciplined; when I’m at work on a book, I generally go at it every day, starting first thing in the morning.

Tell me about Cold Spell and why it’s important to you. Is this your first book? What do you hope people get out of it? 

Cold Spell is actually my fourteenth book, but it’s special to me because it’s the book I always wanted to write, the one that’s closest to the books I seek out when I’m looking for something special to read. My earlier books were young adult novels and other books for young readers, and while I enjoyed writing them and am ever grateful that they were published, it feels wonderful to have published this first literary/book club novel for “grown-ups.” Cold Spell is also a result of what I call my “DIYMFA.” By the time I realized I might want an MFA in Creative Writing, I’d already given up a fulltime tenure track university teaching position, and I really couldn’t afford the expense (both money and time) of a traditional MFA. So I set out to see if I could build my own program of learning and growing as a writer. It feels especially wonderful to see my self-made “thesis project” in print. I hope readers fall in love with the characters and enjoy being transported to a place that’s nearly beyond description. I hope they enjoy a riveting story, and I hope they’re still thinking about it after they turn the last page.

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?

Absolutely. Every successful writer must be tenacious. The creative process is joyous and liberating, but it’s also very hard work. There are a million reasons to give up, and if you’re going to make it, you have to push every one of them aside. And as Ewing suggests, you can’t get overly wound up about how people will react to your work. If you try to please everyone, your book won’t be worth reading. Or as author Cindy Dyson once told me, if someone doesn’t hate what you’ve written, you’re probably not doing your job.

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?

The female experience is hugely relevant, not simply because it’s one-half of the human experience, but especially since when it come to books, the publishing industry is skewed hugely toward writing by men (For more on this, see VIDA, an organization that promotes Women in Literary Arts: www.vidaweb.org). On a personal level, I’m intrigued by the ways women seek power, often subconsciously, especially through their sexuality—you’ll see that in my characters in Cold Spell. At one time, my mother was an ardent feminist, and when she walked away from her family, that was a hard thing for me, but then hard things make good dirt for a writer to turn.

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/writers?

Do what you do out of love. You see as no one else sees, and you know as no one else knows. That’s where the joy comes. Forget the “if onlies”: if only I had more time, if only I had more money, if only I had more encouragement. If you long to create, do it. If your art is recognized, great—that’s a plus. But even if it’s not, you’ve still done what you’ve needed to do. You must bring yourself—wholly and unashamedly—to your work, but if you’re looking for admiration, validation—any of that—you’re in it for the wrong reasons. You need confidence, yes, but ego will only get in the way of your art.

Deb Vanasse
@debvanasse
Cold Spell: "Grabs you from the opening line and never lets go" ~ Publishers Weekly
Alaska Sampler 2014, a free eBook featuring fiction, memoir, biography, and nature writing from ten of Alaska’s finest authors

 
No Returns“The first movement in an ambitious song cycle of a tale” ~ Kirkus Reviews
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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.

Elizabeth Ross, artist

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Photo of the artist by Diana Maldonado.

Artist Elizabeth Ross generously shares with LFF about Territorial Transfer, an artistic research about the different territories of women journeys; working to highlight the lives of rural Mexican women in her work; her tenacity and feminism and much more…

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

I was born in México City but since very young I started moving around the country, living in different environments and experiencing my people and landscapes. Then I moved to Europe for some years as I am also a Spanish national. Finally, I came back to this huge amazing city to take it as my base. And for art, I certainly was not immersed in an artistic environment during my early life, but I could say I accepted I was an artist when I was working for my first solo exhibition, an installation in ceramics called Woman: a cosmogony. To be an artist implicated not only the joy of creating but a conception of the world, and hard, hard work. Accepting being one was accepting the whole package.

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Mur de baisers/Wall of kisses, poster of the project in France, 2007-ongoing

Also, I’m engaged in cultural projects management, be these through journalism, creating participatory projects between artists and people, not necessarily art public, holding empowering workshops with women, curating screenings and exhibitions, and so forth.

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Made in México. From Unter Rot Project on violence against women and feminicide. Manipulated photograghy. 2006

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

Women are my main inspiration as I work from what I know and from what I am. I believe Art is a powerful social designer, so my work has the intention of change for minds, hearts and spirits, but also daily life. I believe women need to be visibilized and empowered much more and everywhere. I have been working closely with rural Mexican woman, mainly indigenous, and their (our) ancient cultures must also be highlighted. I therefore believe in community and networking, so there I am, weaving and researching life around me to try and make some art out of it!

image3 steps to avoid losing dreams. Photographic performance. 2005

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

My central current project is Territorial Transfer, an artistic research about the different territories of women journeys, from geographical to chronological, from the exile to nomadism. I am working with video interviews and photographs now but will work on some objects too. I think it’s a way to understand myself in the other’s experiences.  Besides, I am updating an association I created in 2007 (5célula, arte y comunidad), to be able to pursue my social design interest with art and community projects…and earn a living too.

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The Letters, from Nomad, women on the move. Manipulated photography and letters. 2009

I am a multiple task person. I’d like to talk a little about  eyeseverywhere project (http://eyeseverywhere.wordpress.com) as I’ve been working on it since January 2007 from the need to share photographic findings with other artists, to connect women making art in other nations, and to offer an aesthetic approach in a constant flow. It has become a video, screened in Argentina, Spain, China, Norway, México. Artists take turn to propose the monthly theme so all of us focus on a subject to explore and the wonderful results are very satisfying. We have uploaded our photos to the blog every Saturday non-stop.

 imageEyeseverywhere, collage. 2007-2011

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?

Mexico DF is a good city that has a big community of women artists and needs more, constant work as everywhere else. Feminist artists might not be a lot but there is this current under and above the mainstream claiming and reclaiming for our rights as women and as artists. As I said, I’ve been living here just for a few months, so I’ve shown my artwork in a lot of venues before, both national and international; there are no limits for that. But one thing is certain; if you have shown internationally, your work will be received better here.  Also, it’s a very critical city, so the artwork shown must be HQ.

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Guadalupe, from Nomad, women on the move. 2009

The difference between showing in the city and anywhere else relates to context. In Wales or in Macedonia my art and myself both are exotic. Here we have the same cultural background so it’s more demanding.

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The talk piece # 4. From The Talk Piece, a project on women’s communication. Video Still. 2006

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?

Quite tenacious indeed.  If not, I couldn’t subsist in this male world. Since I live so happily by myself I’ve had to gather all my strength to create a space for me. To organize and fund my projects have not been easy at all, but somehow I manage, with clarity and stubbornness.  I wanted to live abroad and burned my ships in Mexico, so I could live in Spain for some years. I left with what I was, not what I had, as I had nothing material. Also it was a time when most people yearn for security, but I’m like an arrow, so I didn’t mind. I was 55.

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And they’ll keep on being born (as dead is a lie). Ritual Axion and video. Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2007

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?

Totally. My work is social oriented therefore feminism is a must. We fight against the thousand heads Hydra, so we cannot stop being aware of it and act in consequence. So in my own art and my collaborative projects women are central.

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Powers. From Notlallo, my body my earth. Ceramics and basket. 1999

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?

Travel all you can, be honest with all you do and love the world as love yourself.

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I come and go. From Territorial Transfer. Videoperformance. 2013

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Territorial Transfer. Manipulated photograph. 2014

e l i z a b e t h  r o s s

transvase territorial
elizabethrossmx.com
the blog project
the photo project: eyeseverywhere
the nomad project

the art and community project in America: 5célula arte y comunidad
the art and community project in Europe: 3multiverse.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 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.

I interrupt regular LFF programming to self-promote LFF founding editor Sally Deskins’ upcoming exhibition/events!…

sallydeskins:

Getting super amped for my “What Will Her Kids Think?” exhibition at Future Tenant Gallery opening Friday, August 8 in Pittsburgh (819 Penn Ave)!

Above are some fun install photos! I got tremendous help from the gallery assistant!

Details:

Future Tenant Presents: What Will Her Kids Think? Who/What: “What Will Her Kids Think?” a solo exhibition by Sally Deskins


When: August 8-August 24; Opening Reception August 8 Where: 819 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 Cost: The event is free and open to the public.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1589754741251144/


Future Tenant is proud to present Sally Deskin’s “What Will Her Kids Think?” This exhibition will include various body prints, figure drawings and work from Intimates & Fools, Deskins’ book exploring the bra and the body in collaboration with poetry by Laura Madeline Wiseman. It will also display work from her latest series, TREED, exploring nature, the body and motherhood for her next collaborative project with Wiseman. This series includes body and tree prints, as well as more nude drawings using children’s media of watercolor, crayon and markers incorporating her children’s craft.


Artist Statement: “My body prints abstract the female form to see it fresh, conceptually stunning, maybe sensual or sexual, but not ascribing to the cultural-ideals. I use quotes in my body prints from my own musings and from famous and infamous friend-artists, mother-artists, poets and some who have questioned my way of mothering and artistry. By writing those down and printing over them, it is my way of processing the experience, to figure my way amongst it all. The expressive act hurts no one, and can only do well by sharing, if even one person relates!My collaborative drawings with my children comment on the inseparability of motherhood and artistry; and, too, the dichotomies of body image, sexuality and gender identity as it plays a role in motherhood and youth. At the simplest, they are playful acts of love—for childhood, motherhood and the female body.”


Sally Deskins is an artist, writer, mother, wife and feminist enthusiast. Deskins’ art explores womanhood, motherhood and the body via body-prints, drawing and text from her life and others’. To learn more about Sally Deskins and her work, please visit sallydeskins.tumblr.com.
Future Tenant is a non-profit art space located in downtown Pittsburgh at 819 Penn Avenue dedicated to showcasing the work of emerging artists through exhibitions that offer a cutting edge perspective on the Pittsburgh art scene. http://futuretenant.org/
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Robin Little, artist

model wearing Robin Little’s Ether Jewelry line

Los Angeles-based installation artist and jewelry artist Robin Little shares with LFF about how her drive to school growing influenced her view; her inspirations from magic to nature and more; her next exhibit SACRED examining protective circles often used in witchcraft; her performance piece inspired by Marina Abramovic using a chicken coup; her jewelry work and much more…

Where are you from? How did you get into art?
 
I am from Palmdale California, located just an hour North of Los Angeles. Palmdale is a strange place, it is so close to LA but it feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. There’s a sense of stagnation and solitude in the dry air. On my drive to school I would take one road straight for ten miles but every morning I would see the sun rise over a vast dessert with Joshua trees and just being able to see the horizon without any buildings gave me a feeling that anything was possible.
 
I spent a long time as an admirer of artists. I had originally planned to own an art gallery or a music venue because I knew I wanted to spend my life around art. It took me five years of studying Business Entrepreneurship and too many headaches to realize that I was setting myself up to dance around the artists, when I really wanted to be an artist. It took me some time to gain the confidence to not just be a lover of the arts but to be an active creator of art.
SACRED Installation

Tell me about your inspirations, process.
I spend a lot of time reading about magic, ancient healing techniques, palmistry, astrology and pretty much anything mystical. As an installation artist, I collect materials from close friends and from nature such as crystals, flowers and feathers to create a space within the gallery that feels sacred.
Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project and why its important to you.
 
My next installation is called SACRED it is inspired by sacred geometry and the protective circles often used in witchcraft. I built an encapsulating tepee out of yarn, in the center of the tepee is a round cushion on the floor surrounded by a protective circle of glitter and crystals. The installation is simply an environment that feels great to be in. Most of my current work is about the experience, you have to be there and actually step inside of the piece and stay there for a minute to feel the power of it. I want my work to attract people and encourage them to stay. It’s so easy for viewers to just pass from one piece to the next without much thought but my work is about being present. No photo has ever given my work justice and I am fine with that because I want people to step away from their phones and computers as a means to seeing art and instead go out and experience it.

SACRED Installation
You also make jewelry. Tell me about how and why this got started and why its important to your work as a whole.
 My jewelry line is called Ether Jewelry. It came to me almost instinctually as I was collecting beautiful things and figuring out how to utilize them. My jewelry is representative of almost everything that is important to me. I discovered the name while reading “The Universe in a Nutshell”, and there was a brief segment that talked about one of Albert Einstein’s experiments, in which he shot two particles in different directions and the particles would move at different speeds. But, when he shot two particles in the same direction the particles would link and move at the same speed. Einstein didn’t know what this force was, so he just called it Ether. I love the concept of Ether and you can see it happening everywhere. If you sit in a public place and observe people you will see everyone moving at their own pace and speed but when they join a friend or group they will begin walking at the same speed often with the same footing. Or when two people are snuggling their heart’s begin to beat at the same pace. My jewelry is my method of connecting and aligning with people. It has brought me so many friends and opportunities. 

SACRED Installation

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 tenacious and I do believe that you have to be. If you really want something you have to be unrelenting, but I don’t want these words to be misconstrued as some sort of battle. Being tenacious is actually quite simple. You have to know what you love, know what you want, and continue doing what you love, continue honing in on your craft. I believe that if you really really want something, you absolutely will get it, because you happily do the work it takes and nothing can stop you.

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 am an ardent feminist. My first works were feminist performance art pieces, I was super inspired by the courage of Marina Abramovic. For one performance, I built a chicken coup with an open door and in front of the open door, I wrote “There is no such thing as an inescapable cage”. I covered my entire body with feathers and sat inside the cage plucking the feathers off one by one with my mouth. Performance art by nature, is easily affected by the audience. During the performance, a man crawled into the cage with me and began removing the feathers from my body in a poorly executed way of hitting on me. It was discouraging that at this very intimate moment for me that took a lot of bravery to portray myself so inferior and some guy could just walk into the performance and try to get a date. I think in a more feminine conscious environment that would not have happened. As women we have to support each other, we have to inspire each other and create forums like this for women to be heard.

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?

I think that’s great advice. One of the things I dreaded in art school was the “Critique Day”. Everyone in class would spend weeks working on a project, we would all set our work out and the whole class would have an open discussion about each piece. And while I strongly support open discussion, there was something about the whole critiquing process that irked me. People were so quick to criticize the work and turn it into their own unique idea. It was like people were saying, “Hey your work just gave me an idea and I would have done it way better”. I think it’s important to be open to criticism and take things into consideration, but the truth is the language of art is endlessly open to interpretation, as an artist your work will be misunderstood, guaranteed, and that’s okay. There is a gift to it in that your work will have a different meaning to many people. As opposed to worrying about what other people think it means, it is far more important to know what it means to you, to have a very clear, distinct reason for your work. So long as your work is clear to you, others will get it.
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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.

Renae Barnard, artist/curator

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Thank You! Thank You! Participants from Santa Monica College Department of Art and Visitors to Christopher Street West Pride Festival in West Hollywood. (2014)

Renae Barnard recently curated Home Makers? an exhibition in Los Angeles highlighting 25 women makers in a setting free from the hierarchies that segregate fine arts and craft, connecting women artists from diverse communities. She generously shares with LFF about her own artwork that struggles to “determine what, if anything is true” and the “undeniable relationship between biology and culture”; the LA art scene and showing her work in spaces from galleries to Uhaul trucks; her project Thank You! Thank You! (photo above) for West Hollywood’s Riot Exhibition in which over 1000 participants personalized coloring book style thank you cards to express messages of gratitude to the advocates of the past, in particular those from the 1969 Stonewall Riots; and much more…

Where are you from? Los Angeles, CA

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

My work is an ongoing struggle to determine what, if anything is true. If everything is constructed and our perceptions are always being manipulated— perhaps instead of knowing, we are only maintaining a comfortable set of delusions. What are the benefits of playing by the rules? The costs associated with giving in? How do we come to understand our identities as genuine? Ultimately using making as a means to process my thoughts, I often make installations that contemplate the connections in and around institutions, relationships and failure.  Much of my work deals with language and the problems that internal biases create. Although we might technically be speaking the same language, we are limited to our own understandings of the world and cannot possibly fit everyone and everything within the available words and phrases. Try as we may, I’m not sure anyone ever really understands one another.

While I often make work about ideas that I am struggling with, fundamentally— I’m a pleasure seeker. Even when the subject matter is troubling, I process the things that weigh on my mind via complicated multi-part installations, and— I make things that allow me a temporary escape, a momentary focus on the pleasure of making and the opportunity to watch materials that I find compelling become more complicated and more beautiful. My recent woven sculptures Cinderella, Secret Eating and Los Feliz are three dimensional objects that are born from collected string, ribbon, cords, elastics and other linear fibers collected for their inherent beauty and combined through a series of connecting knots. The resulting textural multi-colored forms are reminiscent of bird’s nests, broaches and flying kites.

There is an undeniable relationship between biology and culture and I am interested in the potential and limits of these two forces. I am also exploring the ways in which gender performance, desire and objectification are inter‐related through power structures. I am intrigued by the ways in which identity is crafted and regulated by repetitive language and how realities are shaped through social ideologies. The subjects in my work are people, places and heavily coded objects that I know intimately, employed for their ability to act as an investigation of these concerns.

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How Do You Know? Dimensions Variable. Paper +Audio Recording. (2012-2013)

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

I just finished an enormous curatorial project, Home Makers? This special exhibition featured more than 75 works by 25 female artists in and around an underground tunnel in East Los Angeles. This project highlighted women makers in a setting free from the hierarchies that segregate fine arts and craft, connecting women artists from diverse communities directly with visitors for one night only, Saturday July 12 from 6:00pm-10:00pm.

I currently have work in group shows at the Shoshana Wayne Gallery, the Annenberg Community Beach House Gallery and the Berkeley Art Center.

I’m always interested in projects that support women, queers and other under-represented groups.

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Secret Eating. 48” x 21” x 14”. Electric Blankets. (2014)

Do you think your city is a good place for women in art?

Los Angeles is a big place with a lot of opportunities for all kinds of people. No matter where we might go, it’s likely there are more opportunities for cisgendered men than any other group. I try not to dwell on the tragedies of our flawed socio-economic system but rather to focus on marching forward, working to empower myself and those around me.

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Detail. Cleanse 9”W x 13”H x 6”D. Paper, Thread. (2013)

Do you show your work elsewhere/is there a difference in how your work is received?

I’ve shown my work in traditional gallery settings as well as alternative spaces like a tunnel, parking structure and U-haul truck. Typically my sewn and woven sculptures are too delicate to travel outside of a controlled environment and such want for a crisp white space. http://renaebarnard.com/portfolio/sculpture-and-installation/cleanse/1

Alternately, my socially engaged projects generally require setting up shop at a site specific location to allow for and encourage community participation.

An example of ongoing socially engaged project is How Do You Know? This work explores complex issues surrounding language and identity. “What is a woman?” “What is a man?” “How do you know if you are one?” Despite how simple these questions may seem, they are often difficult and complicated to answer.  It is the broad range of responses that emphasizes this. This work invites viewers to consider the social and psychological dynamics that charge the simplest of questions. Visitors have the opportunity to contribute their own responses in person and by email or postal mail. The installation is ultimately fueled, created, and received by the community at large—not just those who attend, but also those who responded to the prompts initially, and those who provide additional responses after viewing the project.  http://renaebarnard.com/portfolio/sculpture-and-installation/how-do-you-know/1

I also recently completed Thank You! Thank You! for West Hollywood’s Riot Exhibition in which over 1000 participants personalized coloring book style thank you cards to express messages of gratitude to the advocates of the past, in particular those from the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The cards create a collective expression of gratitude to past generations, whose determination forged a path of progress in the face of adversity. The collective installation will create an archive of gratitude. Thank You! Thank You! is a celebration of queer activism and 45 years of change. http://renaebarnard.com/portfolio/public-art/thank-you-thank-you/1

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Purge. 23”W x 37”H x 9”D. Paper, Thread. (2013)

 renaebarnard.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 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.

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