World’s military budget tops all others as Women Call for Peace
Over $1 trillion annually, worldwide military spending far exceeds anything else in our austerity era, including that of the UN peacekeeping budget (a fraction of the former at a mere $7.9 million). This depressing statistic can be found almost midway through the press release announcing the 53-piece exhibit, Women Call for Peace: Global Vistas, on view until Dec. 10, 2013, at the Anya and Andrew Shiva Gallery, John Jay College, CUNY*, 59th St. & 11th Ave., in Manhattan.
What does the U.S. — which monopolizes almost half of the world’s military market — get for that exorbitant price?
For U.S. military women, the rate of rape triples to 70 rapes per day — 3 rapes every hour. (The Pentagon also admits that women’s suicide rate in the U.S. military triples as well.)
As bad as this scenario is, elsewhere in the world for women can be even worse. One of the most striking works of art in the exhibit — “Little Red,” by Marcia Annenberg — highlights this reality, though one would have had to attend the artists’ discussion to obtain the essential backstory inspired by the BBC website, and fully understand and feel the piece. It conveys the horrific story of 13-year-old Somalian Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, who was raped on the way to visit her grandmother, and after it was reported to the police, arrested and stoned to death in a stadium for the crime of having pre-marital sex, because the fundamentalist Islamic group Al-Shabab controlled her town.
One of the two artists with the most political chops here, and not coincidentally the conceiver of this exhibit, is Faith Ringgold, founding member of both Where We At (the female contingent of the Black Arts Movement, which itself was the artistic branch of the Black Power movement), as well as the National Black Feminist Organization. She is a pioneer in the now-familiar art of flag-alteration, here, e.g., with “The Flag Is Bleeding, #2.” Other quilters, including the only East Asian among the 16 artists and a rare late-bloomer who started her career at age 40, Flo Oy Wong, acknowledge Ringgold’s importance (and actual helpfulness) as mother of the painted story quilt.
A counterpoint to Ringgold, who embraced the feminine domain of the quilt, is the coiner of “feminist art” and the conceiver of the first feminist art program in the country — the formidable Judy Chicago, who deliberately trained herself in the more masculine domains of car and boat work, and pyrotechnics. Though none of that is on display here, some wonderfully organic drawings from her Birth Project series are. A more explicitly political work is a composite, juxtaposing the iconic photo of fleeing Vietnamese victims with a drawing of the American pilot attacking them with Napalm, aptly titled, “Grab the Joy Stick/Fire & Forget.”
Another study, “Driving the World to Destruction,” again pictures a male gloating while operating a steering wheel which frames the planet earth consumed in flames. If any art could ever be used in the argument against violent video games, found in over 2/3 of American households, these could. Follow the money trail, starting from pre-school where, “The average 4-8-year-old will see 250 war cartoons and 1000 ads for war toys per year”; nationally broadcast war cartoons increased almost 30-fold while war toy sales increased over 70% (from 1982 to 1985, when five of the top six toys sold in the U.S. were war toys, according to the National Coalition on Television Violence). Or follow the bullet trail in our shooting epidemic (not to mention our mass shootings epidemic, perpetrated by violent video game players) where over one American every hour is killed by a gun.
Aminah Robinson’s “Bedouin Woman” portrait from her People of the Book series, which graces the promotional card for the exhibit, is represented concealed with the usual veil, but with a twist — the veil is made from western male ties. These are the unwanted ties that bind women to a male-dominated, war-mongering world.
Indeed, the U.S. Dept. of Defense is the number-one polluter in the world, due to its “uninhibited use of fossil fuels, massive creation of greenhouse gases, and extensive release or radioactive and chemical contaminants into the air, water, and soil,” according to Project Censored. The most explicitly ecological artist in this exhibit, Irene Hardwicke Olivieri makes the connection between peace and the environment in her celebratory portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. (“May We Keep Your Garden Alive”) featuring, typical of her whimsical work, overlays of plants, animals, people, and text. Inspired by her exploration of the eco-friendly Parsi sky burials in India, even Bush and Cheney gratifyingly figure in “Nature’s Cleanup Crew” as food for vultures.
Speaking of birds, some chickens are coming home to roost: even conservative NBC News noted that soldier suicides surpassed combat deaths in 2012 — up to the rate of about one per hour, as Stop Soldier Suicide points out.
But to change any of these global, war-related problems we need more women and non-women, artists and non-artists, to call and do more than call — for peace.
*Notes on recent militarism manifest at CUNY itself: Scores of CUNY professors have demanded the resignation of recently hired former CIA chief David Petraeus, as well as the dropping of charges against six students, punched and arrested by police during a peaceful protest against Petraeus in September. The students were charged with obstruction of governmental administration, riot, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. The Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY, objects to Petraeus, “whose documented actions as Iraq/Afghanistan war commander and CIA chief include drone attacks upon civilians, and the creation of torture centers and death squads.”
Also, in October, without any notice, the CUNY Administration raided and closed the Guillermo Morales-Assata Shakur Student & Community Center, which for almost two dozen years had provided social service programs and hosted student activist meetings at City College. Two student protestors who were arrested and suspended have been reinstated, but they continue to face criminal charges of rioting, criminal mischief, and harassment.
By Teri Verite
The 55th Biennale d’Arte di Venezia
June 6 – November 24, 2013
Another Venetian tour in three parts
by Lee Klein
For Sir Anthony Caro the 2013 55th edition of the Venice Biennale was to be his finale, for the Maldives forecasters have predicted impending doom in the form of an over wash (and their spillover here was to be competing exhibitions), do we taste the scent of our demise as Hemingway once did fish?
Welcome to La Serenissima 2013 seventy degrees plus Fahrenheit in November in NYC the once mighty Christine Quinn was going, going, about to be gone (at least from public office) in the Piazza San Marco the Marc Quinn was gone as well.
The first part of main exhibit in the Arsenale, curated by the New York situated Italian curator and associate director of the New Museum of Contemporary art, Massimiliano Gioni offered large sections of many of the included artists work in spaces within a space redone by the architect Annabel Selldorf….But this was the “Encyclopedia of the Mind”, based on the architectural model for an impossible dream never realized by the late Italian born Pennsylvanian American resident, Marino Auriti., The aforementioned practitioner whose original piece was placed here as this exhibition’s centerpiece at its entrance would if alive have seen his attempt at a mad caveat mixed in with contemporary art, instillations, curiosities and artifacts. The exhibition meanwhile meant to be frivolous (which it tended to be more so of in the Italian pavilion) as it continued here in the Arsenale was a bit heavy; especially so when it came to whole huge chambers filled with works like “The Venetians” by Pawel Althamer.
While the life masks attached to the Pole’s blue wiry metal skeletons were very effective, it became a huge monochromatic assembly, wherein one could get lost before beginning to get ahold of this whole thing. Here say marrying John Ahearn to kinetic art it might trounce the memory of more sublime efforts, though through and through it was lyrical in its moments as well (as if were any of the Venetians he had chosen some of the same Venetians you had seen on the streets and the canals of city by the sea as in you have two artistic subjects in common).
Here in the historic boat parking lot whole sections were given over to rising art world phenoms like the Vietnamese born Danish performance art influenced instillation artist, Danh Vo and Phyllidia Barlow’s hanging detritus. Specifically the British art professor who left academe to pursue her own work piece’s blended right in with the scarred walls of the Arsenale. The segue had this oft voyaging re-canter thinking of our very own Shalom Neuman.. He who has very often offered the word “Fusion” for interdisciplinary work which attempts to well seamlessly well fuse (though more aptly converge and the Italian creation Fusionisimo works wonders) but these were at a broader confluence it is very much easier at close range in a Veruschka type of way Rothko , seamless.
See It Loud: Seven Postwar American Painters
@National Academy Museum
Sept. 26 2013 to Jan. 26 2014
“See It Loud,” the aptly named current show of painting at the National Gallery Museum has been assembled by by Senior Curator for the National Academy, Bruce Weber Ph.D, (who is also the well known poet and poetry impressario). The exhibition showcases seven postwar (male) painters, and is roughly divided between figuration and landscape. All these painters have at one time or another been members of the National Academy, and the all works have been gathered from the collection of the Center for Figurative Painting on 35th Street which is devoted to postwar figurative artists. That said, this exhibition is based around the conflict between abstraction and representation, as faced by this generation of artists who came of age in the 40s and 50s (though many works date from later decades), and who faced the legacy of the abstract expressionists while at the same time seeing and seeking a set of broader possibilities. As the museum director, Carmine Branagan, puts it: “This group of painters all working during the post-war years and mostly in New York City emerged in the wake of Abstract Expressionism and forged an original and dynamic synthesis between representational imagery and the principles of abstraction.” The divide between representation and abstraction was, at the time, more crucial in the art world than one might assume. Dr. Weber begins his catalog introduction by stating: “Many of the artists featured in this exhibition began their careers at a time when abstraction and representation were not only polarized in the American art world, but seemed irreconcilable. There was very nearly a moral dimension to the opposition between the two aesthetics,” and painters were expected to choose an allegiance. The painters in this show can be said to have crossed or disregarded that so-important aesthetic line. However, it can also be ambiguous what crossing such a line means in terms of the artist’s and the viewer’s experience. Do the works engender a sense of conflict or of fashionable comfort? Do we detect a rebellious disregard for the current dogmas of the art world, or rather a lack of commitment, an aesthetic of indecision? Are we looking at exploration or a kind of cover-all-bases complicity? Is synthesis or abandonment the primary gestalt here? Knowing the context of the show, my inclination, as an outsider, i.e., a viewer with no art historical background, was to discern, as best I could, where and how that conflict manifest itself. Thus what follows are capsule impressions without authority whatsoever to back them up.
Leland Bell (1922-1991)
Bell’s large canvases depict, at least in this exhibition, domestic scenes. The figures are boldly outlined and the colors, strong and aggressive. His “representational” pretense can be seen as a scrim of sorts over a more abstract reality that seems to pressure the surface the scene from underneath or behind, as if chaos sought to press through and assert its fragmentational influence over the structural order of domesticity. The bold outlines thus serve, or defend, order against that underlying chaos. In fact, one can see Bell’s reoresetational forms re-purposed as a kind of armor plate in an anxious reality. And the figures in Bell’s painting do seem to be acting out, on a quotidian level, some meta-physical strife as virtually every scene seems to revolve around some sort of drama, perhaps ritualistic, which the viewer can only surmise, or as one critic put it: “daily existence at the level of myth.” This tension of violence under domesticity is nothing new but is rendered by Bell with gestures that remind me Blake’s tortured and yearning figures. One curious note: often the scene is punctuated by the presence of an animal—a dog, cat or bird—that seems to act as the catalyst for a drama that likely has nothing to do with it; the animal becomes a contrasting irritant to the emotional human world precipitating the scene.
Leland Bell Morning II, 1978-1981. Acrylic on Canvas. 89 1/4 X 68 ½
Paul Georges (1923-2002)
Georges, like Bell, is a figurative painter, but his subject matter is primarily the artist himself, the man “as painter” facing the representational question: how does one render this world in a meaningful way and why bother. For Georges it seems that the question is the meaning. A number of the paintings here are self-portraits: we see Georges standing in his studio before his easel or his model, in an act of self-inquisition or doubt. Even when the focus is not himself, Georges’s question is present: in “Scene at the Cedar Tavern” artists being artists is the subject. But of course in the corner we see Georges staring out at the viewer drawing attebntion to his personal dilemma. (A group of the artists in this exhibition hung around at the Cedar Tavern which is at least part of the reason why abstraction weighed heavily on their aesthetic.) One might say that abstraction enters these paintings here like a miasma, an aura of the past that colors the present, a darkness borrowed from Dutch grotesques or moldering cubist works that must be reaconed with. Even when Georges is focussed only on his model, his nude subjects staring back, with a certain look as if to ask “So Paul what are you going to do with this?” a question that can be read both as a taunt and as a demand for identity on the artist’s part. Georges is also drawn to allegorical subjects and the title of the painting, “The Mugging of the Muse,” with a simple change of definition, could cover his entire oeuvre as represented here, i.e the artist mugging for his own eye, the artist as his own muse.
Paul Georges Artist in Studio. 1963. Oil on Linen. 80 1/4 x 70 ¼
Peter Heineman (1931-2010)
The obsession with self-representation brings us to the work of Peter Heineman, who at least in this show is obsessed with his own head. In fact, most of the paintings are titled “Head.” The viewer walks into a room full of portraits of the artist’s blue-eyed head done with wide thick brush work, lines verging on abstractions, and most noticeably, bold colors verging on florescent. Many of the portraits have a distinct otherworldly glow, especially Heineman’s eyes, which seem back-lit light a computer screen. This is meant, I suppose, to indicate the fire of identity, but it can also be read as the utterly indifferent mechanics of the computational mind churning out the character each of us believe we are. In fact, Heineman does see these portraits as a dialogue with himself over time, a chronology or map of characters he has played in his life: “a parade of the human condition gleaned from facets I found in myself: murderer, pimp, panderer, liar, charlatan, dufus, deviate, failure, prideful pompous ass, slothful braggart, false prophet, whimp ….” The self for Heineman seems to be an ever-changing entity, caught up in a feedback loop with itself and rolling backwards and forwards in time.
Neil Welliver (1929-2005)
With Welliver we are solidly in the realm of the landscape: mountain vistas, barren fields, rocky hillsides, woodland streams viewed through tangles of foliage. There is an elevating, uncongested quality to these works; they are full of skylight, natural color, and fresh cold clean air. Such imagery would seem the antithesis of the molecular and subatomic warrens of abstraction. But it is in “the landscape” that we might look for commentary on the relationship between representation and abstraction. After all, it has been claimed that abstraction is, in fact, an extension of landscape painting. Cross your eyes as you look at the world and you can make it happen, or use your perspective as a framing device and simply move in so close, or out so far, that your personal and cultural definitions become irrelevant. Every line, every form, will eventuallyt dissolve under the pressure of scrutiny. However, it is also possible to claim that such paintings as these question the very idea of abstraction, i.e does abstraction exist as a genuinely separate truth. Can forms and relationships be created that cannot also be found in nature? In the infinite complexity of our physical world that prospect is doubtful. Nature already provides all abstraction, especially if you strip away the human context. Abstraction is merely the imaginations grasping at the yet unseen, or in the case of Welliver, the making of the seen into the unseen, which is the artist’s job.
Neil Welliver Midday Barren, 1983. Oil on canvas. 96 x 96
Paul Resika (b. 1928)
In the paintings of Paul Resika we see landscape that is in fact constantly crossing over into the “abstract.” Resika, in this show, is a painter of boats, beaches, piers, water side scenes. Sails and moons are some of his main subjects rendered with a Klee-like playfulness coupled with a Gauganesque exoticism. The viewer immediately understands that these shapes, and the vistas they inhabit, are only excuses for the painterly play. Thus with Eresika, the painter , a man who wished to “escape the tyrrany of things,” we get only a hint of the “represented,” object, left to float or dangle against a background of bright color that alternates per canvas between hot reds and oranges or cool blues and greens. As Weber writes: “Boat and building-like forms morph into hot and radiantly colored geometric shapes, including rectangles, triangles, squares and circles which are flushed against a background field of bold monochromatic color.” Resika’s world is ungrounded, water born or air born, and the “things” in it are suspended in a frozen moment of perpetual motion. Where the curvature of organic forms such as branching tree limbs of a woman’s body appear, they are absorbed into the angular world, what one critic called: “the vastness of the plane of the sky against the elusive assertion of the sea,”
Stanley Lewis (b. 1941)
Some of my favorite paintings in the show are the landscapes of Stanley Lewis. From a distance they seem to be typical representations of small town streets: houses, telephone lines, foliage. But even at a distance one detects a troubling, almost oppressive density and, something else—a disturbed surface that roils the scene. Getting close to the painting the viewer realizes that the painted surface is in fact a landscape unto itself, separate from what it “represents.” The thickly layered paint has hills and valleys that command the eye while contradicting what appears on the surface. Lewis is known for cutting away whole sections of the paintings in order to redo a square inch here or there. Eber describes it this way: “During the course of creating his painting he builds up the surface, cuts it pieces it together, scrapes away some details and even entire regions. Areas of thick impasto lie adjacent to sections splattered with light delicate strokes. Some of the surface is five or more layers thick and so densely covered with paint that portions buckle or swell, so that the surfaces of his canvases are full of concavities and convexities.” One critic speaks of a sense of “Cubist dislocation.” And it is true that normal perspective goes haywire and the scene that seemed so quotidian and comforting starts to suggest but a scrim, a trompe l’oeil on the surface of a turbulent reality. What we think we see or know becomes an illusion but not necessarily a frightening one. Indeed, there is a sensuous quality to the thick curving surface of paint that invites inspection as does the endless depth of the forest floor, a moss covered and time eaten stone, the roiling green of the deep sea, or the body of a lover.
Albert Kresch (b. 1922)
Another landscape painter, Albert Kresch, is my my second favorite in the show. Kresh paints landscapes that are low and flat and seem like geological slices or layered mood sandwiches made of accretions of light and time. Weber tells us that the paintings are “organized around the interplay of subtle plastic rythms and resonant bands of color,” Though the paintings are small they seem to stretch horizontally in all directions, suggesting space and time. Kresch paints the land in the light of transition – twilight, and he is a wizard with the unique color justapositons of these transitional times. Black forms highlighted by sunlit patches of grass or water. The skies often mirror the land and are subtly done with an eye to augmenting the transitional mood. Buildings such as they are exist as soft boxes, and human figures are seen as ghostly blurs. Some critics have called Kresch’s work “jazzily geometric,” or “off balance,” or “off kilter.” I don’t see such descriptions applying to his landscapes, however, rather there is a rolling eroticism to ghis landscapes – an erotics of the tempted eye, that is more romantic, impressionistic than aggressive or disorienting.
One of the interesting qualitiess of the show, as Bruce Weber has arranged it, is that though each artist seems to be represented by a particular period and style of their work, there are inclusions of from earlier or later periods to provide contrast. The show catalog has even more of this development.
All these artists pay their homage whether willingly or not to the earlier generation of modernists: impressionists, expressionists, cubists, futurists, abstract expressionists. Some of the flavors and moods I detected were those of Matisse, Cezzane, Gaugin, Klee, Picasso, Albers, Mondrian, Bonard, Arp, Munch, Roualt. But each of the painters have developed a distinct style of their own. Bruce Weber has done a great job with this show and the National Academy Museum is a great place to see it, an old-school museum with an atmosphere of integrity and quiet that contrasts positively to the circus chaos of its neighbors on museum row. “See It Loud” runs until Jan 26th. You’ll find something there to inspire.
Dear Steve Cannon / Tribes,
This is the highest resolution version of the photo of Saturn that appeared recently in The Times that I could
find online. It is from NASA’s website. http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/pia17172
NASA explains that it is a composite mosaic assembled from 141 wide-angle images and taken over a 4 hour
period on July 19, 2013 from the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft. The spacecraft was launched from Earth in 1997
to study the Saturn system specifically.
The second picture is a detail which shows our planet Earth as a speck, but clearly visible towards the lower
right of the main subject. Wow. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/multimedia/pia17171.html – .Uo6rjt3PYpc
Also here, at your request, is the complete list of the music that is traveling aboard the Voyager 1 and 2
spacecraft (launched from Earth in 1977). The Voyager 1 spacecraft is believed to have recently passed the
outer reaches of our Solar System (17 billion miles from The Sun).
Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement, Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, conductor.
Java, court gamelan, “Kinds of Flowers,” recorded by Robert Brown. 4:43
Senegal, percussion, recorded by Charles Duvelle. 2:08
Zaire, Pygmy girls’ initiation song, recorded by Colin Turnbull. 0:56
Australia, Aborigine songs, “Morning Star” and “Devil Bird,” recorded by Sandra LeBrun Holmes. 1:26
Mexico, “El Cascabel,” performed by Lorenzo Barcelata and the Mariachi México. 3:14
“Johnny B. Goode,” written and performed by Chuck Berry. 2:38
New Guinea, men’s house song, recorded by Robert MacLennan. 1:20
Japan, shakuhachi, “Tsuru No Sugomori” (“Crane’s Nest,”) performed by Goro Yamaguchi. 4:51
Bach, “Gavotte en rondeaux” from the Partita No. 3 in E major for Violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux.
Mozart, The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, no. 14. Edda Moser, soprano. Bavarian State Opera,
Munich, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor. 2:55
Georgian S.S.R., chorus, “Tchakrulo,” collected by Radio Moscow. 2:18
Peru, panpipes and drum, collected by Casa de la Cultura, Lima. 0:52
“Melancholy Blues,” performed by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven. 3:05
Azerbaijan S.S.R., bagpipes, recorded by Radio Moscow. 2:30
Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky, conductor.
Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, No.1. Glenn Gould, piano. 4:48
Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, First Movement, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, conductor.
Bulgaria, “Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin,” sung by Valya Balkanska. 4:59
Navajo Indians, Night Chant, recorded by Willard Rhodes. 0:57
Holborne, Paueans, Galliards, Almains and Other Short Aeirs, “The Fairie Round,” performed by David
Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London. 1:17
Solomon Islands, panpipes, collected by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service. 1:12
Peru, wedding song, recorded by John Cohen. 0:38
China, ch’in, “Flowing Streams,” performed by Kuan P’ing-hu. 7:37
India, raga, “Jaat Kahan Ho,” sung by Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar. 3:30
“Dark Was the Night,” written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson. 3:15
Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Opus 130, Cavatina, performed by Budapest String Quartet.
Here Comes The Sun, written by George Harrison and recorded on The Beatles’ Abbey Road was to
be included on The Voyager Golden Record but rights of usage were withheld by then license holders of
the recording, EMI. Otherwise all 4 then living members of the group had consented to the song’s usage on
The music, sounds and images on the Voyager spacecraft were compiled by a team led by astronomer Carl
Sagan of Cornell University on a disc known as The Voyager Golden Record.
For more on Voyager, Cassini-Huygens and our fascinating exploration of the vast universe, link to NASA’s
Somewhat Portable Dolmen
This nomadic work by alLuPiNiT editors Rafael Sánchez & Kathleen White appeared last weekend at A Gathering of the Tribes.
weather treated reenforced foam boards
wood, hinges, clamps spray paint / sand bags
11′ x 11′
ongoing project by R. Sánchez, K. White initiated 2006, NYC
Harlem Dolmen: The (S) Files 2011
Dolmen @ Socrates Sculpture Park
Award 2011 / Bette Midler
Award 2012 / Steve Cannon
Good News! After a year and a half, a group of volunteers, and a handful of contributors…Tribes #14 is ready to hit the streets!
It’s packed with lots and lots of great art, poetry, fiction & essays. We are trying to raise funds in order to finish printing and get these magazines out to you.
All we need is enough pre-orders to get the magazines back from the printers. You get updates from us and an invitation to the magazine launch just for ordering the magazine and supporting us. If you want to help more, then you get one of our Fly By Night Titles, a small sample of which are here. Even more help, and you get one of the lovely pieces of artwork donated over the years to Tribes. Best of all, and really, most necessary, you can donate a whole lot and spend some quality time with a contributor – really, though, it’s being a patron of the arts that’s important. We need to keep this magazine going, and we really need the whole goal to do it, so tell your friends!
Everything you contribute is tax-deductible, since A Gathering of the Tribes is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
If you want to order extra copies of the magazine, just add another $20 to your donation and indicate you want it, in our poll.
If you’d like more information about who we are and what we do here, and to order previous issues of the magazine, please go to www.tribes.org
“The Blind Guy” – Steve Cannon
Looking for Avonte by Kati Duncan
In the course of a week, people started looking. And they started looking differently. They looked for Avonte Oquendo, who is mute and can only look back, and we long for him to come back from wherever he is hiding, or lost, or wandering, or — we don’t want to think of the possibilities that are impossible to avoid. Continue reading
Flasher: A Memoir
by Tsaurah Litzky
review by Mark McCawley
Flasher: A Memoir
by Tsaurah Litzky
Long Shot Productions (September 14, 2013)
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
£3.98 UK, $ 6.31 CAN, $6.12 US
Flasher: A Memoir [Unabridged] [Audible Audio Edition]
by Tsaurah Litzky
Narrated by Dina Pearlman
Audible, Inc. (September 15, 2013)
£13.64 UK, $17.96 CAN, $17.46 US
Tsaurah Litzky’s erotic memoir, Flasher, is a transgressive tour de force — a journey of personal transformation, self-examination and sensual self-discovery. The story of a one-time hippie love pirate, slum goddess, Ruby Tuesday of the 1960s who mutates into a blossoming writer on the Lower East Side art scenes in the 1990′s. When Litzky meets a sculptor who designs fetish-wear at a New Years Day party, her life changes, becomes an intrinsic consideration of the values and costs of love, friendship, and sexual freedom, as well as the underlying importance of family — both real and inherited.
Besides Litzky’s unapologetic, in-your-face, depictions of sensuality and sexuality in Flasher — I know my collection of tacky, erotic lingerie, my many fantasies of spanking, bondage and humiliation connect me to what is considered most abhorrent, and thereby to me the most radical and fascinating, in American culture(p.5, Chapter 2: Fallout Follies) — it is Litzky’s juxtaposing and transformation of clearly classical patriarchal myths of women into her own personal narrative devices which sets Flasher uniquely apart from other contemporary memoirs:
Persephone was frolicking with a group of maidens in a meadow when she wandered off, entranced by the fragrance of a flowering narcissus on the wind. She ran across the meadow to gather a bouquet. Her face and arms buried in blossoms, she did not notice Hades, the god of the Underworld, ride up behind her in his chariot drawn by coal-black horses. He seized her by the wrist and carried her off to his underground kingdom, where he raped her and took her for his bride. If Persephone had not been so entranced by the beauty of the Narcissus, she might have heard Hades behind her and changed herself into a tree or a rock. The Austrian poet, Georg Trakl, says that those who love true beauty are forever given into Death’s hand. No wonder the Goddess of Spring, Persephone, is also called Core, the goddess of death.
I have always been a sucker for grace, beauty, and a pretty face. The man who quotes Shakespeare in bed finally calls me up and invites me to dinner in a Thai restaurant. I do not refuse, although I haven’t heard from him in a month. He looks like a cross between Tom Cruise and young Lawrence Olivier.
(p.36, Chapter 12: Persephone)
Litzky continues her juxtaposing and transformation of clearly classical patriarchal myths of women, as well as classical myths generally, into her own personal narrative devices in the chapter, “Thesus”:
Tsaurah Litzky — excerpt from the memoir, Flasher, Chapter 17: Thesus (Recorded by Mitch Corber, 14 June 2013)
Or her transformation of the Circe myth from Homer’s Odyssey in the chapter, “Circe in the New Year”:
My father calls on the last day of the year to wish me a Happy New Year. He does not say maybe this year you’ll get lucky and meet a rich guy, a nice guy or even a guy who can put up with you because my parents no longer ask about my love life. My brother has told me they are putting aside twenty dollars a week so I will not starve in my desolate old age. They have resigned themselves to my solitary condition, although I have not. They do not know how hot the hungry fires that rage between my legs are, nor would they understand why it is desire, not money or ambition, that rules me. (55)
Circe is the witch of uncontrollable desire, desire gone haywire. She is a vortex, a vacuum compactor, a Venus flytrap of a witch and none except the brain-dead or the living dead can resist the promises of her treacherous lips. In all of Greek mythology, only Odysseus was able to resist her and that was because Hermes gave him a magic potion to drink. Circe lives in the hands of men who batter women and in the women who cannot leave men who hurt them and the men who cannot leave women who hurt them.
I was in Circe’s power when I spent the rent money on a silver bracelet for Skinny Fatts and when I called Bruno fourteen times in one morning until he disconnected his answering machine. Whenever I have tried to emulate Circe and work an enchantment to bind someone to me, it has backfired and then I was the one who became a pig or a dog. Now that I am a serious writer, there is so much I need to learn and so much I hope to say. I have no time to waste chasing my self-respect.
(p.56-57, Chapter 18: Circe in the New Year)
Entertaining, hedonistic, provocative, epicurean, sexy — Flasher follows Litzky through her myriad adventures among the decadence of the Lower East Side art scene; its artists, musicians, poets; its galleries and nightclubs; its unbearable iconoclasts and beer mystics; her search for love and the cost of compromise and the price of sexual freedom.UG
Tsaurah Litzky, to quote Jim Feast, is a “trendsetter in the margins.” She is an internationally published writer of poetry, erotica, fiction, creative nonfiction, plays and commentary. Her writing has appeared in over ninety publications including the New York Times, Penthouse, Best American Erotica (eight times), Jews: A Peoples History of the Lower East Side, Tribes, The Unbearables Big Book of Sex, Crimes of the Beats, Patterson Literary Review, Brooklyn Rail, The Mom Egg, Bowery Women, Long Shot, The Black Listed Journalist and Brevitas. Simon & Schuster published her novella, The Motion of the Ocean as part of Three The Hard Way a series of novellas edited by Susie Bright. Tsaurah has published two major poetry collections, Baby on the Water (Long Shot Press) and Cleaning the Duck (Bowery Books). She has also published fifteen poetry chapbooks, most recently Blue Blood of Morning (Snapdragon Press). Her first memoir, Flasher, was published by Audible Books and you can find it in the Audible Bookstore (which can be found on Amazon as an E-book for Kindle). She is currently working on a second memoir of her erotic life, Saints of Love, as well as a third poetry collection. Tsaurah has been a proud member of the Unbearables for over twenty years. She is also a member of Brevitas, an online collective dedicated to the short poem. Tsaurah lives, loves and plays poker in Brooklyn where she was raised.
The Sixties on the Lower East Side by Steve Cannnon
How do I start? I arrived on the Lower East Side in 1962, directly from London. First, I lived on East 10th street for a minute, then 100th street and Broadway for two minutes, then on Clinton and East Houston for about ten minutes before we got evicted
It was on Clinton street that we had the first downtown art party of any notoriety on the Lower East Side, with more than 200 outpatients from Bellevue Clinic’s Mental Hospital in attendance. Everyone was crazy and paranoid all at the same time and kept seeing things that weren’t there and talking about things that didn’t exist; flying saucers, and shit. Word has it that Mort Sahl put in an appearance.
As previously mentioned, we got evicted and I moved to the streets and Washington Square. It was there I met Bruce Brown and my first wife who had just gotten out of a New Orleans jail. It was August and she had a full scholarship to Cornell University, so we hitchhiked up to Ithaca. She got thrown out of Cornell when they found out she’d been in Jail in New Orleans, so we hitchhiked to Boston by way of North Adams. But we got busted in North Adams for vagrancy and hitchhiking, in other words, for being broke. I didn’t know there was a law against being broke in America. My being black and her being white didn’t help, either. Everyone seemed to think that I was her pimp. They gave her ten days in jail, and I got fifteen. They were trying to separate us.
We reunited in Cambridge Massachusetts near Kendall Square and got a small apartment. I got a job working for a shoe distributor and she worked for a temp agency doing secretarial work. The landlady found out we were a mixed race married couple because of other tenants complaining, so she kicked us out. She insisted she didn’t want to do it, but the other tenants couldn’t handle it. Yeah, yeah. Lucky for us we found another apartment on Symphony Road, behind Symphony Hall, in the heart of Boston Bohemia. There, we found people of our own ilk; painters, writers, musicians, etc. who loved nothing more than sleeping around and talking about politics and art.
I spent most of my time working for the shoe distributor and writing at night and catching up with my reading. I was big on Kafka at that time. It was there I first heard Timothy Leary on the radio talking about LSD, and notions of “tune in, turn on, drop out.” A year later he was a big name all over the country. At that time both Carl Yung and Sigmund Freud were names to know, aside from Karl Marx of course, especially in the Lower East Side. In Boston, my wife, Kathy, continued with the secretarial work at the temp agency. We spent the rest of our time reading, discussing philosophy and events or spending quality time at the local bars where oodles of artists hung out. After a year of that mess, and deciding Boston was too uptight everywhere except our neighborhood, we moved back to New York City.
Since we were homeless, we moved in with Bruce Brown on Waverly place. We shared a one bedroom apartment with him and five other guys, sleeping, for the most part in his bed, while the others, who were living off of gobs of hallucinogenic mushrooms, slept on the floor. We finally found our own place in the Lower East side. It was then and there that shit started happening.
People were smoking reefer and dropping acid as if it was legal. Everyone stayed up all night listening to loud jazz and folk music, arguing about the crisis with JFK at the helm, and after his assassination, arguing about LBJ and the war in Vietnam. As the saying went, “LBJ, how many Gooks did you kill today?” Those were our marching tunes. As the civil rights movement crept north, the debate became over who was baddest; Martin Luther King or Malcolm X.
All throughout the Sixties there seemed to be riots, rallies and ongoing heavy political debates everywhere you went, but especially on the downtown scene. Most of the folks were definitely on the left, save for the Ukranians, Puerto Ricans, and blacks who were more indigenous to the neighborhood. The artists were all leftists, and the anarchists hadn’t moved in yet. But most all the artists were died-in- the-wool Marxists when I got down here. As Pedro Pietrie would say, “Free grass for the working class.”
We were poor, but didn’t know it. That’s because the rent was so low, you could get an entire apartment for $40 a month. We thought anything over $85 was super expensive. People only worked about three days a week and after in addition to rent and utilities, we still had enough left over to go out eating and hang out in bars and create whatever we wanted. In those days, in this neighborhood, everything was cheap; movies, bars, food, coffee, etc.
The beautiful thing about the downtown scene is no one cared who was sleeping with whom, what your sexual preference was, what you ethnicity was… it really didn’t matter. We thought of ourselves as one big family of more than five-hundred people; artists, painters, dancers musicians, we were all together, along with the political types. But then again, we are all political types. Every artist was as political as most who called themselves activists, and we all knew each other.
For the most part, in the early Sixties, everyone hung out at Stanley’s on Avenue B. and 12th Street. If you stayed there long enough on any given day or night, you would run into everyone you knew. On weekends, you couldn’t get into the place, it would be so crowded. After Kennedy was assassinated, I moved to 10th and B. LBJ became president. Another bar opened up known as the Annex, which was an extension of the Ninth Circle on the West Side. It was there that most of the college types hung out, along with recent graduates and a few old timers. It was on East 3rd Street between B. and C. where we would go to dance at The Old Reliable. Across the street was Slugs, where we could hear all the Jazz there was to hear; local musicians as well as big names. For poetry there was La Dome Go, or ‘Two Cigarette Butts,’ a name they took from a café in Paris which was named by Baudelaire. The New York version was located on the south side of East 7th Street between A. and B. The other spot was La Metro, on 2nd Avenue between 9th and 10th on the west side. It was later, around ’65 or ’66 that they started having readings at Saint Mark’s Church, in the community room in the back.
For art, there were only a handful of galleries in the area; three or four at the most. The movie house on Avenue B. between 9th and 10th would show art in their lobby on the second floor, as well
That was the whole scene and those are the places we would frequent. Aside from that, we were always running in and out of each other’s apartments, sleeping with each other, eating together, and so on.
Every now and then, people’s apartments would be broken into. But all they would take would be the stereo set or the T.V. and whatever chump change they would happen to find. Every now and then you would hear about someone being mugged on the street, but that didn’t happen often.
Keep in mind, this was a low-income, low-rent neighborhood, like Brownsville and East New York are today, with lots of folks who had nothing, crawling around the neighborhood, along with us artists who had less than nothing. In spite of our fistfights and arguments, we went along to get along. But now all the gentrifyers are here and no one talks to each other. And now that cell phones and smart phones and the internet are here, that profound sense of community seems to be slowly disappearing, ever so gradually. Pinchon called the yuppies “Yups” in his new novel. For the most part, the young folk’s scene is moving to Bushwick and elsewhere in Brooklyn. But that’s in trouble too, and god knows how long that’s going to last. Like the galleries moving from Soho to Chelsea, we don’t know how long that’s going last, either. When we were here, we had more than enough time and leisure to give minimum time to doing grunt work, and maximum time to creativity and politics. That is what made New York City the spot and even what made it the destination it is now. The yuppies moving in today don’t seem to care about anything like that, and they are pushing out the young artists who would rather “Tune in, turn on, and drop out,” because today it seems like everyone in New York City is supposed to buy in. But as an artists who was here at the beginning and who knows what has made this city great, I’m not buying it. I would love to see how the new generation of yuppie youth would fair at that original party full of artists and outpatients from Bellevue Mental Health Clinic that we threw in ’62. Maybe that would make them drop their cell phones and start talking to one another. Or maybe they would just take a video and post it to Facebook for the NSA to file away. Who knows?
-Steve Cannon October 2013
Edited by Chavisa Woods
LEAVES OF GLASS: Steve Dalachinsky’s A Superintendent’s Eyes
by Alan Kaufman
Steve Dalachinsky’s new volume of poems, A Superintendent’s Eyes (Unbearable Books/Autonomedia) with accompanying photographs by Arthur Kaye, in some respects brings to mind Robert Lowell’s groundbreaking volume Life Studies (1959) in being a kind of autoPOEography issued in a liberatingly loosened mode of composition and at a time when bland lifeless uptight verse (MFA work shopped in our day; I.A. Richards’ New Crit-collared iambs in Lowell’s) became–then as now–the national New Yorker standard.
But there all resemblance ends. Continue reading