Worthy bodies: Highlighting disabled writers in District Lit

District Lit, the journal I’m the Poetry Editor for, recently published our Disability Issue. These writers and artists share their raw truths about living with disabilities, chronic pain, invisible illness, and medical treatments. They share intimate medical histories, fears, hopes, pain, and scars.

These are important voices, and I’m so excited and honored to share them. I’ve been wanting to highlight the voices of people with disabilities and chronic illness for a while, and District Lit offered a great home for these important stories and experiences.

These writers and artists share their raw truths. These are vital voices at a time when the Affordable Care Act, healthcare, Medicaid/Medicare, and disability rights are threatened.

These contributors show the disabled and chronically ill body unflinchingly. They show their bodies are valid bodies.

You can also read my and Guest Editor Jen Stein Hauptmann’s Editors’ Note for more background on the issue.

The issue includes artwork by Christine Stoddard and Paul Flippen; nonfiction by: Emma Bolden, Shari Eberts, Kaleb Estes, Jenn A. Garvin, Heather Taylor Johnson, and Amy Wang Manning; and poetry by: D. Allen, Judith Arcana, Roxanna Bennett, J V Birch, Kristene Brown, Aubrie Cox Warner, Katherine Edgren, Robbie Gamble, Jane Ellen Glasser, Joey Gould, Carrie Purcell Kahler, Jen Karetnick, Christoph Keller, Adrian Kresnak, Travis Chi Wing Lau, Sarah Lilius, Jennifer Met, Daniel Edward Moore, David Olsen, Jeff Pearson, Maria Ramos-Chertok, Andrea Rogers, Ruby Stephens, Denise Thompson-Slaughter, and Jessica Tower.

Poet Kaveh Akbar even tweeted that everyone should take time with this important issue. Thanks for your support, Kaveh!

Please take some time with our Disability Issue.

First ever DC Art Book Fair 📚 🎨

Hannah and I tabled at the first ever DC Art Book Fair in November.
Hannah and I tabled at the first ever D.C. Art Book Fair in November.

Last weekend, my sister Hannah and I tabled at the first ever D.C. Art Book Fair at Lab 1270 in Washington, D.C. We were so grateful and excited to be a part of the first fair!

The other tablers were diverse and talented. They sold handmade art, books, comics, feminist zines, poetry, posters of reimagined cartoon characters from the Rugrats and Hey Arnold, pins, patches, and more. Each table was unique and one tabler (Lenora Yerkes) even set up a lounge space to read, chat, or browse her art.

Hannah sold quite a few journals and a large-format handcut brain (pictured above with a red background). I also sold a few copies of “On that one-way trip to Mars.”

If you couldn’t make it out to the fair, you can view and purchase Hannah’s work on Etsy. She also commissions pieces for any style, color, and size you want. You can always purchase my book here.

Hannah Renae photo Etsy shop
Hannah sells handcut journals and books on her Etsy shop.

About 1,000 people showed up for the fair, which was way larger than any crowd I was imagining! It was amazing to see people in D.C. gathering for such an eclectic mix of books and art — it definitely seemed more like something you would find in New York, Philly, or Baltimore. But this happened in D.C. — and everyone attending seemed to wander, linger, and enjoy.

I can’t wait for the next D.C. Art Book Fair!

District Lit: Space Issue

District Lit, the literary magazine where I’m the Poetry Editor, is having a Space Issue! We’ve been impressed with some of the scientific and space-themed works we’ve gotten, so we wanted to dedicate a mini-issue to space.

Send us your work that searches the stars, sends us into warp, touches strange worlds, or knows how to use a phaser, blaster, or lightsaber. The theme for this issue is that last great unknown: space. We’re looking for work about science, exploration, sci-fi, alien life, or anything else out of this world.

You’ve got two weeks to submit to the Space Issue! Send us into orbit with your writing 🚀🌌👽.

You can submit here.

Giving voice to survivors

As the rain poured in Washington, D.C. Wednesday night, a group of a couple dozen people gathered in Chinatown to share poems, songs and artwork dedicated to surviving.

The second Art as a Voice event, hosted by the Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP) at the Chinatown Community Cultural Center, raised awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Asian/Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.

DVRP Interim Executive Director Tuyet Duong shared a painting based on the year her father spent in a Communist concentration camp and his love of gardening — a bonsai tree sprouting from the top ventricles of a heart. He experienced a lot of suffering, she said, but he loved gardening. Bonsai trees grow in unexpected ways, and Duong tried to capture this in her painting.

“I am undocumented, a human with a story.”

“In high school, I found out I was undocumented,” said queer spoken word artist Ken Gonzales. “The usual narrative, I couldn’t get my driver’s license.” Gonzales performed a piece called “9 Numbers of Freedom,” signifying the numbers that allow him to move through this country freely. His poem was littered with incredible figurative language, like native tongues being sliced on an English cutting board. “Despite the win with same-sex marriage, there are still undocumented LGBT folks in detention centers undergoing abuse,” Gonzales said.

A trio sang original songs of love, trials, and triumph and covered India Arie’s “Break the Shell.” Elisha Brown performed a song called “Long Distance Love,” dedicated to her love who lives across the country. “We’re in different time zones, so I sleep by my phone,” she crooned softly, seemingly unaware of the power of her voice. “You’re my long distance love.” Singing is new to Brown, she said, as she focuses more on spoken word poetry.

There was also a table featuring A Letter for You project, where people can anonymously write survivors letters to let them know they matter. The project defines survivors as people who have experienced a traumatic event, including violence, abuse, rape, bullying, illness or others. Several audience members wrote notes addressed to survivors before the event began, and were invited to write more after the performances. The letters are archived on the project’s website. You can write and email your own letters to letters@aletterforyou.org or mail them to:

A Letter for You Project
P.O. Box 472
Garrett Park, MD, 20896

Wearing words for a week

A literary journal’s method of spreading stories, poems

Marlena Chertock, Editor-in-Chief of The Writers’ Bloc

Dylan with a poem pinned to his back. Photo courtesy of Dylan Bargteil.

Dylan Bargteil, a Writers’ House alumnus and now a physics student at NYU, once wore someone else’s story on his back for a week. He wore it grocery shopping, he wore it while he napped.

For a week, Bargteil was an operative for the Safety Pin Review.

The literary journal asks for fiction/poetry/words of no more than 30 words and paints accepted submissions on a 9″x11″ patch. Bargteil’s patch was Issue 36, written by Brandi Wells.

We step back and watch our lives and are really quite bored. Let’s not do that again, she says. Yes, I say. It was really, really boring.

“I’ve been interested in alternate methods of art distribution for awhile, so it was right up my alley,” Bargteil said.

“What surprised me most was how unconscious I was about it,” he said. “No one ever said anything to me about how I was wearing a story on my back, even at school. The only thing that was different was occasionally Colleen (his girlfriend) would lean over and tell me, ‘That guy in the hoodie on the bench behind you is reading it,’ while we were on the subway.”

Bargteil is glad people read the story on his back. “I’m glad people apparently took it as a normal thing to do, because I feel like it should be a normal thing to do,” he said. “I think it distorts the public’s relationship with art when you have to pick up a collection of papers bound in thick, hard book board, or when you have to walk through some massive facade of a museum in order to experience art. There’s a whole ritual involved there in which you open yourself up and prepare yourself to have a meaningful or transcendent experience.”

But art is mundane, according to Bargteil. It shouldn’t be out of reach and sanctified.

“Everyone should be able to feel like they can get muddy and create,” he said. “And hopefully everyone should also be ready to open up and feel like they’re finding meaning every day in any kind of place.”

The Safety Pin Review’s method of sharing submissions, poetry, and stories with others really speaks to Bargteil and his belief of finding meaning and art everywhere. “I feel like projects like these do a lot to help develop the public’s relationship with art into something that’s more than academic.”

Bargteil recommends becoming an operative for Safety Pin Review if you get excited about these ideas, art distribution, or wearing someone else’s thoughts and words.

If you want to become an operative or submit your own 30-word poem or story, send it to safetypinreview@gmail.com.

Visible Brush Strokes: Impasto Painting

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By Marlena Chertock

“I feel like I hit a wall,” says junior Hannah Methvin in room 3312 of the Art/Sociology building at the University of Maryland. The 24×36’ canvas she painted in red hues stands before her on an easel. There are lips, the curve of a nose and a brown-red border.

She’s trying to paint a collage she made, the first step in this project on expressive painting — an eye with dark black lashes, flipped on its side, with a woman’s nose, lips, teeth and chin showing through where a pupil would normally be. There are quotation marks around the woman’s lips, like she has said something or is just beginning to speak. The paint is smooth and the reds blend together, forming creases and shadows.

Painting, like many creative endeavors, is more than putting brush to canvas. It’s about risks, taking the artist’s hand out of the creation — the process is very difficult. It’s allowing the painting to become it’s own being, separate from the painter.

Continue reading Visible Brush Strokes: Impasto Painting

The Courage to Create

One artist’s “Leap Into the Void”

by Marlena Chertock

“The dominant invades the entire picture, as it were,” the famous painter said. “In this way I seek to individualize the color, because I have come to believe that there is a living world of each color and I express these worlds.”

Express different worlds French artist Yves Klein did from 1954 to 1962. His short-lived career was due to a heart attack he suffered at the age of 34. But the brief length of time he had to create did not keep Klein from producing a multitude of inspirational and unique artworks.

I went to see the Yves Klein exhibit in the Hishhorn Museum in DC on Jan. 27. The exhibit, “With the Void, Full Powers,” goes on through Sept. 12, 2010.

I love looking at art, though I won’t lie—I’m not always able to understand the work, or what it makes me feel, or why it is considered art, or how to interpret it. But I do love going to art museums, walking around with a diverse group of people and attempting to understand what I am seeing. I was intrigued with Klein’s work and ever since the exhibit I wanted to learn more about the artist. I did some research that I would love to share with you.

See Klein’s archives here and videos describing how he made his works here.

Klein changed the art world. He moved art into its modern stage. He created his own shade of blue, which he called International Klein Blue (IKB). He used diverse techniques to create his works.

For some of his works he used “human paintbrushes,” nude female models who smeared themselves with IKB and then either pressed their paint-soaked bodies onto canvases or slid around on the canvases on the floor. The effects were “stamps” of the human body; Klein succeeded in capturing the presence of a body. He was obsessed with capturing the presence of objects that took up space, such as the human body, rain, fire, wind and air.

He also used fire in his paintings. With a flamethrower, he would trace around nude model’s bodies, leaving their presence behind on the dampened canvas. The result of these fire paintings is quite incredible.

Klein wanted to master the elements, in a way, or at least use them in an efficient way. He sketched intricate architectures “of the future,” he said. These futuristic homes would be constructed with light, air, gas, fire and water, Klein believed.

He was also obsessed with creating the feeling and understanding of an idea through the imprint of an object, what is left behind. In one of his famous exhibits, The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility, The Void, Klein kept the exhibition space completely empty, free of anything that would be considered an artwork. In this way, he made the public and viewers feel the same from the absence of his art.

Here are a few works of Klein’s that had an affect on me.

When I looked at this painting I instantly knew what I felt—light, airy, like I was flying. The women shown are flying in their own way. There is a beauty in their flight, in the movement and position of their bodies that is undeniable. This was one time when I could look at a piece of art and know what the artist was trying to get across.

I’ll leave you with my favorite work of Klein’s. Klein is pictured leaping off a second-story window, in suspension. It seems that he is levitating, for a moment. This picture, aptly named “Leap Into the Void,” was made through montage. Several shots were taken to produce the picture—one where helper’s were gathered under him to catch him when he fell and one without the men. Both pictures were placed on top of each other to create the final effect of Klein jumping into the sky.

To me, this picture represents a great deal. It represents what Klein sought—transcendence, immortality, achieving and beating the void, the inevitable emptiness that is sure to come, the uncertain future. It represents going after what one yearns for, going after one’s goals, trying and perhaps failing, but trying all the same. And it represents the courage to do what one loves, to have faith in oneself.

Klein’s work gives me courage to pursue writing as a career. When creating any form of art, literature, or the like there is no assurance that the public will like what you have created. They may be disgusted with your work, not understand it, fear it, loathe it, ignore it, or the worst, not be aware that it was ever created. But Klein’s work shows me that he was not afraid to fail—he would only try again. Klein seemed to learn from this uncertainty.

“I am the painter of space,” he said. “I am not an abstract painter but, on the contrary, a figurative artist, and a realist. Let us be honest, to paint space, I must be in position. I must be in space.” In this “Leap Into the Void” Klein seems to truly be in space, he seems to have achieved all he dreamt of. But knowing that the picture is a fake perhaps tells us more of Klein’s person and his dreams—even though he knew it was impossible to levitate, to not fall, to beat the void, he made an attempt, an attempt that was quite believable on first viewing. His attempt to leap into the void and hang suspended and all his other attempts (and successes) in his career truly make this artist a dreamer and actualizer at the same time.

I hope you are able to visit the exhibit at the Hirshhorn. If you are not, I hope I have aided in your understanding and awareness of Klein and his work.