Reviving the Victim

A recent essay on Gender Assignment on Tumblr:

http://genderassignment.tumblr.com/

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Getting the Word Out: Jaggery Journal

Happily though social media I connect with people of like minds all over the world. This resulted in getting to know Satya Gummuluri on Facebook who edits a marvelous “DesiLit Arts and Literature Journal.” She graciously exposed a community of viewers to my work and me to the work of others.
http://jaggerylit.com/celeste/
While coverage is fantastic, the journal is an important forum for writers and artists. Rather than explain what it’s all about please read: http://jaggerylit.com/about/.
Thanks to all the staff and contributors of Jaggery!

If we know not who the other is, we shrink ourselves to a small world of sameness.

Not Alone

A recent entry into The Price of Freedom book art at Howe Gallery.

A recent entry into The Price of Freedom book art at Howe Gallery.


The responses left in The Price of Freedom book, which encapsulate the body of work as a whole excites and encourages me to continue. This latest entry is especially heartfelt since it reflects the truth about violence against women. You feel completely alone. If my work reaches one person so they know that there are others out there whose life changes immeasurably because of rape or any other abuse, success walks with me.
Write anonymously about rape and sexual assault on http://brokennarratives.tumblr.com/.

Such Nastiness Made Lovely

Retted Chinese hemp rinsed many times.

Retted Chinese hemp pulp requires much dousing.

Only a paper maker could bear the smell and swoon over such muck as pictured above. The process begun here is known as retting in handmade paper parlance. If you’re the inquisitive or scholarly type I’d suggest reading one of the papermakers extraordinaire’s post about it here: http://paper.lib.uiowa.edu/european.php#retting. Tim Barrett 

Barrett is talking about rag paper from 1300-1800 CE but the site is voluminously informative with great attention to detail.
After I have rinsed the hemp pulp until I cannot smell the rancid odor & the fibers smoothly swirl against each other waiting to fuse and become nature’s miracle that is paper, I will put them into a Valley Hollander for one last beat. I’ve already beat the hemp fiber (initially processed in Idaho) at Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY in a traditionally made stainless steel Hollander (referring to the prototype from Holland circa 1600) developed by David Reina. See: http://www.davidreinadesigns.com/photo-gallery/. Kean University has the weightier Valley. Unfortunately the moveable bed rusted in place & there is no gauge to increase or decrease the rotary beater distance from the bed. Since the pulp has been beat properly the rinsing and additional near bed plate beat makes it stronger & more resilient.
You can download this e-book to get deeper into the reasons for such precision in making paper, especially archival. http://bit.ly/1jdAXQk.

Gothic books made by Jim Croft. Technically we were following his lead but he had a 30-year head start.

Gothic books made by Jim Croft. Technically we were following his lead but he had a 30-year head start.


Before getting back to the task, I wanted to drop an image from my two-week stay at Jim Croft’s Old Ways workshop where he had cooked the hemp fiber in an outdoor cauldron with wood ash & we both retted and rinsed, rinsed and retted. I attended last July and it was a marvelous introduction to paper and Gothic book techniques. He has two bookbinding workshops each year: http://www.traditionalhand.com/oldway/.
Participant Joe Morris pressing couched paper in the wet area of Jim Croft's workshops of wonder.

Participant Joe Morris pressing couched paper in the wet area of Jim Croft’s workshops of wonder.

Once Upon a Time at The Center for Book Arts

Ellen Harvey: Looking Glass Ipad, Kindle and Nook, 2014

Ellen Harvey: Looking Glass Ipad, Kindle and Nook, 2014

On Friday, that’s tomorrow, April 18 from 6 to 8 pm, the incomparable Center for Book Arts, 28 27th St. off of 6th Avenue in Manhattan, has a spring exhibition that is guaranteed to pique the interest for a variety of audiences (when don’t they, you may say). Independent Curator, Rachel Gugelburger organized the main gallery in permutations of book artistry called Once Upon a Time, There Was the End. Two themes are explored by 11 artists. “Stories elicited by modalities of the book in the face of technological transformation, and anxiety about the end of the book as echoed in apocalyptic, dystopian and speculative visions.” Heady stuff but mindbogglingly interesting and thought provoking. One of the best things about being here is seeing exhibitions develop and unfold. It is an intimate but forceful space where the work speaks to the viewer without seeping into one and other. You must come to see for yourself what I am talking about. It is the entrance with the red standpipe. Go to the elevator to the third floor to the sequestered world of the senses and the mind.
Diane Stemper; Sample Close at Hand, 2014

Diane Stemper; Sample Close at Hand, 2014

Also on view in the front foyer is remarkable work of Diane Stemper called Sample Close at Hand. Stemper investigates the “metaphor for the cultural context of science” integrating the relationship of nature and scientific discoveries. Her confident hand at prints, book art and book built into Petri dishes. Other featured artists include 2013 Workspace Artists-in Residence. This is where those new to book arts are encouraged to rework their oeuvre to include another dimension of discourse.
These exhibitions present the viewer with an engaging panoply of bookish stimuli and stretches the boundaries of what generates the possibilities of book making.

Wax Ear & Brass Nose

Beautiful, chained but now free. That's the Aesha I made art for.

Beautiful, chained but now free. That’s that the Aesha I made art for.

Part of an installation concerning Aesha Mohammadzai

Part of an installation concerning Aesha Mohammadzai


As you can read on the image from yesterday’s post, Afghani woman Aesha Mohammadzai had her nose and ears cut off by her father-in-law after she was released from a Taliban jail. She spent five months there because she wanted to leave her husband. This installation was created for a masters thesis at Kean University. There are five 10 x 13 inch sheets of Chinese hemp paper I made from hemp Jim Croft had cooked with wood ash and water in a large cauldron outside his Idaho home. At that time neither of us knew where the pulp we processed would end up. The hemp fiber was sun dried for a week and my portion came back east where it was beat at Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale New York the following March. I pressed the sheets there and took them home to New Jersey. It wasn’t until after I cast a brass nose in Jen Crupi’s metals studio at Kean University and made a wax cast of my ear (that’s how the nose was made; through lost wax process poured with ancient brass in a centrifuge machine. The mold was made from dental putty.) to accompany it that the project began to evolve. I wanted to cast a nose ever since I saw a post by Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris otherwise known on Twitter as @ChirurgeonsAppr on her website: http://thechirurgeonsapprentice.com/2013/02/14/syphilis-a-love-story/. My interest in medical history merged with trauma and connection.
The final result of hanging hemp paper referenced Most Wanted posters as well as the Shroud of Turin. I wanted a kind of shrine for Aesha since her bravery is astounding. I printed an image of her face sans nose in gray ink through an intaglio method. I rusted iron nails over 9 months and used them in five perforated holes to hang across the wall where the book stood on a pedestal. The text and images in the resulting book were also photo intaglio. These were the processes available to me so that is what I used. Within the book are comments she made in various newspaper articles. After a long and painful process, Aesha recieved a new nose that was created through intensive constructive surgery. Her most powerful message was, “I want to tell all women who are suffering abuse to be strong. Never give up and don’t lose hope.” Parts of the story can read here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2323274/Aesha-Mohammadzai-Fearless-Time-cover-girl-Aesha-just-MONTHS-away-getting-new-nose-mutilated-Taliban-husband.html and here: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/bibi-aisha-afghanistan-woman-nose-and-ears-cut-off-reconstructive-surgery-102835830.html#3csOLXE (Note: This is not for the sqeamish).
The wonder of the Internet is that all of these seemingly diverse connections can converge to make a statement that draws them together in passion, compassion and the creative spirit. Perhaps Aesha received so much attention because she is beautiful. Many of the women on the page I mentioned in an earlier post were not. Sometimes this is how people are drawn into a heinous scenario. I made the artwork luxurious to get people to look at it. Once they were in, the fearful reality of the pieces made itself known. Fold out pages allowed viewers to write their reactions. It is marvelous to see the comments multiply over time. If at least one person gave thought to what I presented, then my act of art was successful.
Viewers responded to the art within the art book itself becoming part of the piece.

Viewers responded to the art within the art book itself becoming part of the piece.

Violence Against Women in Art

A blind embossed page from a book on my own rape

A blind embossed page from a book on my own rape

While researching material for my masters thesis, I came across some of the most disturbing images I have ever seen. Oddly enough when I mis-Googled ‘violence against’ instead of VAW, I was connected with images of women across the world who were disfigured in one ghastly way or another. I was particularly struck by women who had their nose and ears cut off by their in-laws of husbands for trying to leave them. While on a particularly hard to digest page of outrageous pain, there was a split second where the look in one of the women’s eyes shook me to the core. I recognized myself in those eyes. The reflection of the brutally raped women that was me in 1996 a few months after I finished a 5-year undergraduate degree in architecture with honors and had one week before received the job of my choice at a large architectural firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I left the page quickly to remove this from my mind. A few days later, I decided that this was, after all, the nature of said thesis and I would get point blank real in an at once luxurious but biting way. Creating work of beauty that I am inclined to do but leaving a hard narrative of truths most people want to ignore became the goal. I used these other women’s incidents because I myself got through a violent attack that almost killed me by putting it on a global scale. When the darkness of pain and isolation directed me toward the bad end of the only two roads possible to take after such a crisis held my head down I was able to lift it back up. By knowing there was larger traumas out in the world that women were surviving so could I.

Interior of book art from exhibition

Interior of book art from exhibition

The exhibition was a success, and in one of the books I made, I left blank pages that unfurled so that viewers could write reactions. it was the most encouraging thing I could have done since I found out first hand that many were moved by the various narratives: my own and that of women in the world. Since I am at a library computer I cannot upload more photos than I have with me and for my next post I want to talk about someone who became a focal point for my exhibition: Aesha Mohammadzai.