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Les Femmes Folles

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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.

Susan Bee, artist

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Susan Bee, Grid/Lock (2014, 24” x 30”, oil and enamel on linen)

I saw Susan Bee's work via A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn (she is also represented by Accola Griefen Gallery in NYC); and instantly loved her expressive use of color and narratives with the figure and environment. She generously shares with LFF about living in the “sink or swim” arts environment of NY, her recent series based on film stills of film noirs or comedies from the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s; her collaborative work with poets, feminism in her work and much more…

Sally Deskins: Where are you from? How did you get into art?

Susan Bee: I’m from New York City. In fact, I was born on the island of Manhattan. My parents, Miriam and Sigmund Laufer, were artists, so you could say that I was born into the profession of art. From a young age, I went to museums, gallery openings and hung around artists. Art has always been the important essence of my life.

SD: Tell me about your inspirations, process.

SB: In the past few years, I have created a number of oil paintings that are based on film stills of film noirs or comedies from the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, or other source material, including romantic paintings by Caspar David Friedrich. I am interested in transforming these sources and making them my own. These paintings are colorful and often humorous or dramatic. I concentrate on the relationships between the characters in the paintings. The canvases become a stage for the performers to come alive.

In addition, I have made 14 artist’s books. Many of these projects involve collaborations with poets. In these works, I concentrate on creating an accompaniment to the words of the poets. I am interested in fantasy, color, and the imagination. Many of the collages that I make for these books and as drawings draw on children’s stickers and old postcards.

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Susan Bee, In the Pink (2013, 12” x 9”, oil and collage on canvas)

SD: Why collaborate with poets? How does this impact your work?

SB: I’m married to a poet, Charles Bernstein, and we have been working together for many years. In addition, I go to poetry readings and read a lot of poetry. Many of my collectors are writers, other artists, and poets. I have also collaborated with Johanna Drucker, Jerome McGann, Susan Howe, Jerome Rothenberg, Rachel Levitsky, and Regis Bonvicino.

I’m often inspired by poetry. I have always used dream imagery and unconscious sources in some of my paintings, drawings, and artists’ books. I have incorporated images of angels, saints, demons, and fairies. I used imagery drawn from both religion and fantasy as a way to reflect motifs in the poems. My work has been deeply inspired by the freedom and fluidity with which the poets that I know and love use the symbolic and the imaginary in their work.

Painting is very different from making a book. My paintings are one of a kind. With the books, the form has been more open, I have designed the individual spreads than assembled the overall narrative structure. Each book project has been different from the next. What I like about the book form is that one doesn’t view it all at once like a painting – there instead is a gradual unfolding from one page to the next as the pages are turned. I also like the accessibility of the book form. Doing the books has expanded my vocabulary of images and approaches. I have used various forms such as: photography, drawing, watercolor, collage, and gouache.

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Susan Bee, Opening Night (2013, 20” x 24”, oil and enamel on linen)

SD: Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project and why it is important to you.

SB: I have had two solos shows in NY in the past two years. In May-June 2013, I had a show titled: “Criss-Cross: New Paintings.” This was a show of 30 new paintings. The exhibition consisted of figurative works based on film stills and landscapes. This show at Accola Griefen Gallery in Chelsea was an important summing up of many years of painting. It was accompanied by a catalog with an essay by critic Raphael Rubinstein.

Then in April 2014, I had a show at A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn that was curated by Kat Griefen. It was titled: “Doomed to Win: Paintings from the Early 1980s.” I showed my early feminist paintings in that show. Those paintings from 1982 and 1983 were never seen before in a gallery. It was a great opportunity to look at my early work in the context of my latest paintings and for the viewers to draw connections among these bodies of work.

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A Girl’s Life, Susan Bee, pictures, writing by Johanna Drucker, collaborative design (Granary Books, 2002)

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

SB: I think Brooklyn is a great place for women in the arts. I live there and work there. My gallery, A.I.R., the first gallery for women artists, is still going strong in Dumbo after 40 years. I rarely show elsewhere, so I can’t really say how my work is received in other locations. But I have given talks and presentations about my work all over this country and abroad and those talks have been well received.

SD: 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?

SB: I am extremely tenacious as well. You have to be determined to be a woman artist in the hypercompetitive art world in NY. It is a sink or swim environment. If you are lucky you may have the support of other artists and friends and family. Otherwise, it is very difficult path to follow. I have been at it my whole life and it has not been easy. This year I won a Guggenheim Fellowship after applying for many years.

SD: 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?

SB: Feminism definitely plays a role in my work. It is in my attitude to my subject matter and to my career as a woman artist in the male-dominated art world. I have the example of the many women artists who have come before me. I am inspired by their courageous struggles and their successes.

SD: 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?

SB: Aspiring artists should go look at as much art as possible. Travel and allow your inspiration and imagination guide you. Be prepared for hard work and a long haul. It is not an easy road to follow, but hopefully you will enjoy creating your artwork and will find an audience.

 http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/bee/

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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.

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.

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