Nº. 1 of  64

Les Femmes Folles

Women in art Find your art on Redbubble

Sally Cooper, author

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Sally Cooper is the author of the novels Tell Everything and Love Object. She writes short fiction, too, and has a new story in the current issue of Great Lakes Review. She generously shares with LFF about working hard to become a writer; her evolving writing process; what she’s working on now; the thriving literary community in Ontario; feminism and more…

Where are you from?

A town of 400 people in the Caledon Hills of Ontario, Canada, an hour north of Toronto. These days, I make my home in the city of Hamilton, Ontario, known for its waterfalls and steel factories.

How did you get into art?

I’ve written poetry since grade school and always wanted to write/be a writer. I’ve learned that if I don’t structure my life around time to write that my wellbeing suffered. I took Creative Writing courses, went to readings, chatted up the writer-in-residence at the local library, joined a writing group, read at open mic nights and wrote and wrote and wrote. So, writing was always there, I always did it, but I also dreamed it and wanted it and worked hard at it.

Tell me about your inspirations/process.

My process has evolved over the years. Ideas come to me in different forms: a character; a place; a question; a voice. I used to immerse myself in the writing as soon as the idea came, if not before. With my current project, a novel, I wrote a plan. I also gave myself challenges or restrictions that push me outside what I’m good at, push me into unknown territory. For instance, in my recent work I’m using multiple voices where in the past I’ve told stories from one point of view. Walking the tension between what’s out of my reach and what’s known invigorates the work.

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

I’m working on two. One is a novel I’ve been writing for years. The other is a novel-in-stories called Ripple. The stories in Ripple span thirty years in the characters’ lives and it feels like I’ve been writing them just as long. Not really (though “Canicular Days” was one of the first I ever published.) Another story, “The Renewal of Foggia,” appears in the current issue of The Great Lakes Review. What I loved about writing this story was the challenge and tension of using a wisecracking voice to tell a story full of longing and sadness and power. It’s a story about pranks and jokes and fooling ourselves. It’s the kind of story I like to read, so I’m happy it’s found a home.

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

I can only speak peripherally about other art forms, but my city does have a thriving literary community, equally embracing and supportive and men and women. We have a reading series; a literary festival; independent bookstores and arts awards.

Are you tenacious in your work or life? How so?

Absolutely. I’m raising two daughters while working as a professor and writing novels. I am ferocious about my writing time – even if it’s four hours a week, as it has been – I’m there at the table getting the words down. I’m equally ferocious about my children and my time with them and the rhythm and regularity of that. I am slow and steady, a drop at a time, but writing happens and I do finish things.

Does feminism play a role in your work?

I had to think about this question. Themes don’t reveal themselves to me until I’m well into a project if not finished it. My second novel, Tell Everything, explores the treatment female predators receive in the media, in the courtroom and even in our private assessments of them. Consent, privacy, victimhood, truth-telling: these themes all come into play. In Tell Everything, as well as my stories, my characters have varying levels of awareness of how being female affects their choices and lots in life. Throughout my work is an abiding sense of the integrity and necessity of having a voice and using it.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Do whatever you have to do to make it work for you. There is no one path to making art. Make the time and the space in your life then make the art. There is no secret beyond that. And the more you do it, the longer you do it for, the better, the deeper, the more connected the work will get. And if sometimes you don’t do it, that’s okay, too. The return will be sweeter for the absence.

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Sally Cooper is a bold, powerful writer who lays bare the human heart. The author of acclaimed novels Love Object and Tell Everything, Sally Cooper has published short stories in several magazines such as GrainEvent and Great Lakes Review. A long-time professor at Humber College, Sally Cooper happily devotes her time to writing and raising her two children.

Twitter: @cooper_sally
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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, 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.

Luna Luna interviews Orenda Fink

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The following article is a re-post from Luna Luna Magazine of an interview by  with musical artist Orenda Fink (LFF May 26, 2011) with permission from the editors…

Saddle Creek artist Orenda Fink is back and about to drop her next solo album Blue Dream (available August 19th). It rises in the wake of a period of mourning, fueled by introspective meditation on life and death, and dreams. We had the chance to talk with this enchanting songstress about her musical journey and the surreal undercurrents of her forthcoming album.

Photo by  Bill Sitzmann

Photo by Bill Sitzman


Hello! Congratulations on your upcoming album, Blue Dream. We’re very much looking forward to its release. Can you give us some background on it? What can we expect to hear?

I wrote Blue Dream after an extended period of mourning for my dog, Wilson, who died two summers ago.  His death affected me in ways I never would have anticipated and left me searching for a framework to understand life, death and the afterlife.  For about six months I was flailing and fell into a deep depression.  It was then that I started seeing a psychotherapist who specializes in Jungian dream analysis.  I started having dreams of epic proportions after just one session and spent the next year living between dreaming and waking life—recording, studying and analyzing every dream I had.  Slowly, they began to tell a story—about death, the afterlife, love, dreams and how they are all connected.  It was coming out of this time period that I began to write what became Blue Dream.

What are some inspirations behind the songs?

Love, life, the afterlife, death, dreams, opening your heart and surrendering to the mystery.

You’ve hand-made special dream journals limited to the first 100 to pre-order your album. We’re intrigued! What inspired you to craft these journals for your fans? We’d love to hear more about them.

My dream journals were so integral to my journey that I wanted to encourage others to record and meditate on their dreams also.  I believe there is a great source of wisdom there, greater than we could ever know and it resides inside each and every one of us.

You seem to be a master multitasker, with projects going like Azure Ray, O+S, and solo projects to name a few.  How do you keep up that (let’s be real, impressive) momentum?

Ha! Thank you.  I think I can be a very focused and determined person at times—especially when I feel passionate about what I’m doing.  I’m incredibly lucky to have such amazing collaborators to share visions with- whether it’s a band, label, co-writer, musician, film maker, visual artist  or recording engineer or producer.  They help make most of my ideas possible so I owe a lot to them.  I also allow myself to check out whenever I need to.  If I work for a month or two straight, I’ll take three days off and netflix binge or take a trip.  I try to listen to my mind and body and let it tell me what it needs.

Did you know from the start that the songs that comprise Blue Dream were meant for a solo endeavor?

Yes and no.  I didn’t start out to write a new solo record necessarily, but I did know that these songs were so personal and connected to one another that they made sense to be solo songs.  It wasn’t until I had written them all that I took a step back and realized that I had written a record.

We read the hilarious, insightful list you compiled for Ranker, “11 Things You Should Know About Your Musician Friends,” and loved it. It sounds like a cyclical process with potential to be wonderful but also high stress. That said, we have to ask: what’s your favorite part of the process?

Ha!  That list was definitely meant to be tongue-in-cheek.  I did not expect over a million people to read it!  That said, it certainly describes most parts of my life and it must have resonated with people somehow.  In a way, I think it’s good to get people thinking and talking about alternative lifestyles- maybe challenging their notions about what is the “correct” way to live in our society.  Because, god knows, as Americans we have been sold a bill of goods in regards to the merits of conformity.  And honestly I don’t think of it as a process when I’m living it.  It’s just—life.  And just like life there are ups and downs to every part of the process.

And how do you handle the more hectic parts?

When my Virgo nature takes over I can be a pretty high-strung individual, so I try and find ways to center myself.  I have little mantras and reminders about what is most important in life- finding joy in what you are doing, maintaining loving relationships, taking responsibility for yourself, keeping a pure heart.  It’s a constant battle against my flawed human nature, but I find a little awareness goes a long way.  Oh, and there’s also wine.

When did you first know that music was your calling?

In high school, after I met Maria Taylor.  We started a band together and never looked back.

Your band Azure Ray formed in Birmingham Alabama, but made the decision pretty early on to relocate to Omaha, Nebraska. What inspired the move? We hear all the time about bands moving to New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville—but seldom the midwest.

Actually, Maria and I had been playing music together in Birmingham since high school, but we formed Azure Ray in Athens, Georgia, where we lived for six years.  We moved to Omaha from Athens mainly because I was dating Todd (from The Faint) and Maria, at the time, was dating Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes).  So both of our boyfriends lived in Omaha, and once we started putting out records with Saddle Creek, it just made sense to make the move.

Who are some of the people that inspire you most?

I’ve been very inspired by Alejandro Jodorowsky lately.  But mostly I’m inspired by my friends and family.  They are amazing people to be surrounded by.

What are some things you’d say to aspiring independent artists out there? Any words of wisdom you’d like to impart?

The most important thing, in my mind, for an independent artist, is to put everything into your art.  Develop a vision and then work to create it.  The business is so saturated with content now because of the internet that anything less than is likely to get lost in the ether.  But most importantly, if you have expressed your vision exactly how you want to, ultimately it does’t matter how “successful” it is.  It just matters that you created the gift of art and gave it to the world.

And lastly: What’s next on the horizon?

I’ll be heading out for a full US solo tour in September.  I’m very excited for that!

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Blue Dream will be available in stores August 19! Pre-order your copy here!

www.orendafink.com

Photos by Bill Sitzmann courtesy of Big Hassle

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Luna Luna, or Haus of Luna Luna, is a diary of ideas and a place for dialogue. We’re focused on progressive, intelligent writing on the topics of society & culture with an emphasis on creativity, service and confession. We also provide forum for literary news, poetry and prose.

http://lunalunamag.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, 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.

Marlana Adele Vassar, artist

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“Untitled” drawing by Marlana Adele Vassar

Pittsburgh-based artist Marlana Adele Vassar is currently showing in Pennsylvania’s Touchstone Center for Crafts exhibit, “Natural Selection.” She generously shares about her inspirations between fantasy and reality; her next project of a graphic novel; the underlying feminist message in her work; some of her latest work and much more…*Stay tuned for an accompanying interview on Pittsburgh Articulate…

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"Exit Strategy"

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

I’m from Uniontown Pennsylvania, lived in a few other cities but kind of boomeranged back here for a commission and stayed for a graphic design position. But my heart is in the city, so now I live/work in Uniontown and Pittsburgh.

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“Dance in the Dark”

What do you think of the Pittsburgh art scene?

I think the Pittsburgh art scene around (at least from what I’ve experienced) is more mainstream than fringe, but it’s changing. I left the Pittsburgh area in 2005, spent a few years in Philadelphia with a slight detour through San Francisco, then came back a few years ago. Now I’m noticing there’s a lot more installation art and edgier work making its way through the city. I believe it’s a positive change as it gives artists of all styles and art enthusiasts in the city a new perspective. Variety and balance is always good for the community.

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“Double Star”

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

I think the art world is generally tough for women, but in Pittsburgh there are lots of opportunities for women. I remember that just a few years ago, I was the only woman at one of my galleries but now the roster is filling up with women, which is great. I’ve had two residencies so far, one with the August Wilson Center and another ongoing one with Gateway to the Arts, and in both of those residencies the majority of the artists were female. One Pittsburgh show that was memorable for me was the “Mean Girls” show at SPACE last year, which dealt with issues of bullying and feminism. The roster included all female artists, and several of them live and work in Pittsburgh. As for Uniontown, the art community is small but most of the shows I’ve heard of at Nemacolin and around the Fayette area have featured women in groups or solos. So I’d say that this area is pretty good for women in art.

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"Heavy Dream"

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

My style and process is inspired by symbolism and surrealism. I’ve always been into fantasy art but am intrigued by realism too, so I’ve my style lies between reality and dreams. I wasn’t satisfied with creating images that were just beautiful though, so I incorporate elements like personal stories, symbolic mediums and text to add some depth to my work.

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“Audra”

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

My show that’s on display right now is at the Touchstone Center for Crafts , it’s called “Natural Selection” and has figures intertwined with natural environments and organic themes. Besides this show, I recently designed a tarot card for 78Tarot , and I’m working on my first graphic novel/written novel project entitled “In Medias Res”. It’s a multi-genre story told through the memories of the characters, and is the first installment of a series. The written portion will be completed by the Fall of 2014, and I plan to self-publish the novel via Kickstarter.

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“He’s Never Coming Back”

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

I’ve shown in spaces outside of the area, but it’s been in group settings so it’s hard to say. My goal is to have a solo show outside of Pennsylvania someday soon, then I might have a better comparison. My art has always been a difficult fit, because it’s a little imaginary, a little realism, there’s an afro-futuristic slant to some of it and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it should hang. So I just go wherever my art is accepted! I’ve noticed that generally, the artwork in places like Florida, New York and the west coast have more acceptance of illustrative work, whereas Southwestern Pennsylvania appreciates more mainstream styles. I think that’s changing a here and there though. Just in the last few years I’ve noticed that pop-surrealism and underground/illustrative works are gaining more exposure around Pittsburgh, which is nice. I feel like there’s room for everyone to be accepted around here.image

“His and Her Circumstances”

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?

Oh yes, there’s no choice. You have to be tenacious. It’s funny because there are so many times throughout the year (and even now as I’m writing this) when I think about giving up and doing something else, but I’m not sure what I’d do instead of art! I apply to lots of galleries, museums and art spaces throughout the year but only a few will say “maybe” or “yes”. People look at something on my resume and tell me I’m lucky, but don’t realize that for every opportunity I’ve had there’s been dozens upon dozens of rejections that preceded those gigs. As a matter fact, right now I have nothing lined up for 2015 gallery shows, because there wasn’t any interest right now in the places I applied to last year. It was disappointing, but I decided to stay busy, keep painting/drawing and pursue the graphic novel project since that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. You just have to keep trying and submit everything you can, and when that fails you give yourself other projects to do. Keep making art, because most of the opportunities come along when you’re not looking.

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"Meaningless Words and Fading Memories"

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?

When I first started showing my work, I don’t think I intentionally tried to make the pieces about feminism. However I do think that there is an underlying feminist tone with my work now, or perhaps there always was and now I’m more aware of it. Early on I was content with making pretty figures but as my ideas evolved, so did the characters and the stories behind each work. People tend to think that my goal is simply beauty, and while I do keep aesthetics in mind the heart of the piece is a character with layers and different facets, just like real people. So I develop backstories for them and include my own account through symbols in the figures, materials and settings. Damsels in distress don’t resonate with me, so I try to develop strong, independent female characters that have beauty, brains and a backbone.

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?

Don’t stop creating!

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“Surma”

http://www.marlana.me/

Facebook - Marlana Adele Vassar

Twitter - Marlana Adele 

Instagram

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Marlana’s work will be on display in the Iron Gate Gallery at the Touchstone Center for Arts in Farmington, PA, from July 14 through September 22, 2014.  Details can be found at http://touchstonecrafts.org/Events&Exhibitions.

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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.

sallydeskins:

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I got to discuss nuances of artistry, being an artist in Pittsburgh, and notably, being a mother-artist with this amazing group of women last night, also the last night of my exhibition at Future Tenant Gallery, “What Will Her Kid Think?”!

Left to right (click links for more information on…

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.

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