16 July 2014

Sweet, Sweet Feminism

I feel like the Internet has been one of the best places for open discourse on feminism, it's various waves, and where we stand today. Between the circulation of feminist art pieces, women speaking up and openly about their bodies, discussions of beauty and photoshopping, the endless podcasts and vlogs I keep running across, it's hard not to come to this place (The Internet) and find a community in the masses. I don't keep a pinterest, but I might be "pinning" some things that have been inspiring me as of late. Hopefully this will turn into a series, but for now, let's do this.

Deborah de Robertis and Courbet's "Origin of the World" Performance

Animated .gif via Hyperallergic
The French performance artist, Deborah de Robertis, recently staged a performance in which, adorning a shimmering golden dress (not unlike the guilded frames in the gallery), she posed in front of Gustave Courbet's "Origin of the World". This isn't the first work of feminist art related to Courbet's anatomically incorrect, and at the time controversial painting of the vagina (he forgot the outer labia and the clitoris, naturally...), but it is one of the most talked about.

I think what de Robertis did here was draw attention to the objectification of the female body, which has been happening for centuries in visual art by drawing a direct comparison to herself as a living breathing person, not just a vagina on a wall. Also, the female genitalia is demystified through her performance, juxtaposing the two dimensional painting with the three dimensional person, proving that there are more parts, literally and physically to being a woman. She's entering a space, the museum as well as the canon of accepted and condoned artists - a mainly male institution upheld and funded by a male cohort. And for her to walk in, make herself present, and point out the true origin of the world, her vagina, I say brava!

Vagina selfie for 3D printers lands Japanese artist in trouble

Image via the Guardian
The Japanese artist, Megumi Igarashi, aka Rokudenashiko, was arrested in Japan for emailing the data from her work that involved using a 3D printer to photograph and make an image of her vagina. While she used the imagery from the project to make a kayak in the shape of her vagina, she was actually arrested for breaking some of Japan's obescenity laws - which strikes me as odd for a country that has an entire sector focused around the pleasure industry.

In a statement following the raiding of her studio and confiscation of 20 of her works, Rokudenashiko said "Japan is still a society where those who try to express women's sexuality are suppressed, while men's sexuality is overly tolerated." Her work has been stated to demystify the female genitalia, which should not be so shocking since she's working and living in a country that has a festival dedicated entirely to glorifying the penis. Well done lady, you're fighting the good fight.

Nathan Rabin Apoligizes for Coining the Term "Manic Pixie Dream Girl"

Image via Salon.com
And in completely unrelated news, the culture writer Nathan Rabin has officially apologized for coining the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and is calling for an end of its usage. The entire article is well written, but here are some of my favorite quotes:

“The trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a fundamentally sexist one, since it makes women seem less like autonomous, independent entities than appealing props to help mopey, sad white men self-actualize.” 

"As is often the case in conversations about gender, or race, or class, or sexuality, things get cloudy and murky really quickly. I coined the phrase to call out cultural sexism and to make it harder for male writers to posit reductive, condescending male fantasies of ideal women as realistic characters." 

“Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness. But in the meantime, Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest.”

As someone who might fall into this weirdly vague and truly sexist trope (I'm slightly waifish, somewhat spontaneous, and a bit cutesy/quirky), I'm glad he recognized that this term has snowballed into something misogynistic and so off the mark. It's ballsy to coin a term, but even ballsier to put an end to it entirely. Way to go Nathan, apology accepted.

15 July 2014

Sandy Goes to Grad School

Seeing myself in a Jose Lerma painting at Kavi Gupta 

I have been wanting to write this post for five months, to the day. Starting in late August, I will be a full-time student in the Museum and Exhibition Studies (MUSE) program at UIC, and I could not be more ecstatic about this decision. When I began to think about graduate school back in 2009, it seemed impossible, unattainable, and to be honest, something I wasn't even sure I wanted or needed. I "lucked out" landing my dream internship at the Art Institute, then lucked out again landing in the company of my wonderful colleagues in the fundraising office, finding a nurturing community and a space to grow. But also, I was a bit hampered. So cozy was I, that the thoughts of grad school fizzled out. I could have stayed at the Art Institute indefinitely, working in development with my backstage pass to the museum... but a little whisper in the back of my mind kept asking me

"Are you happy?"
"Is this what you want to do?"
"Are you working in a meaningful way?"
"Are you being pushed creatively and intellectually?"
"Are you accomplishing what you want to accomplish in the museum?"

Regram from @jen_oatess : me hanging out in Packing with a very famous painting.

The long and short of it is, I was happy, but I wasn't engaged. I was close to the art, to the collection, to the exhibitions, but not close enough. I wasn't conducting research or working with exhibition practice at all. I wasn't giving tours or dealing with the collection in a direct way. I was learning what I needed to learn, and ironically enough, one of the things I learned about was the creation of the very program I wound up applying to.

After leaving the Art Institute to pursue my new job, the whisper continued to make itself heard. Only this time, it wasn't a whisper. It was speaking to me directly, imploring me to make a decision, make this leap, go. I took the GRE in December, and applied to my program late in January. I found out in February, and was elated. What's exciting to me about this program is the focus on social justice and equality in museum and exhibition practice. I won't just be studying collections, writing for exhibitions, display practice, how to hang a show, and power tools 101.

I'll be armed with the tools to ask the kind of questions I've already been mulling over internally for years. Questions about race and gender, questions about the cost of museum admission, and the need for accessibility in museum spaces. Questions I was once afraid to ask aloud, like how come there are so few female museum directors, or how come so many museum directors make so much money when compared to the rest of the staff? Why are admission prices increasing and free days being slashed left and right? Who are these museum spaces for, and are there communities that are being completely overlooked?

It is these questions that burn within me, and keep me going. It is these questions that I will continue to ask, and hopefully begin to problem solve not only in my program, but in my career.

Yesterday I put in my two weeks notice, next Friday is my last day. Come August, I'm the student I've dreamt of becoming, on the path to realizing myself as the museum professional I knew was always within me. So cheers to me, and seriously, if you have a whisper that is growing louder, don't turn the volume down, turn it up and let it roar.

10 July 2014

New York, New York

Can we just talk about how perfect the weather is going to be this weekend in NYC? My agenda is as follows:
Tonight: Arrive in NYC, drop off our bags at our Air BnB, grab pizza and beers at Alligator Lounge
Friday: Coffee from Gimme Coffee!, train into Manhattan, bagels and schmear at Murray’s, head to Battery Park for the Ellis Island Ferry, top of Lady Liberty, ferry back to Manhattan, potential snack (hello street meat), 9/11 Memorial Museum, Joe’s Shanghai Dumplings in Chinatown, Seaport Music Fest, OWLS at Bowery Ballroom, dranks somewhere with friends
Saturday: Brunch with Esther and Brett, solo date to the American Museum of Natural History, more bagels and smoked fish at Zabar’s, solo picnic in Central Park, free concert at Union Pool, 4Knots Music festival, drinks, dinner, oysters, friends, maybe go to UCB? I have no freaking idea
Sunday: Brunch, wandering around, lazing about, flight back to Chicago
Monday: Freedom.

03 July 2014

Buon Viaggio, Ben

Ben, one of my very best friends since the first day of college, is moving to Virginia today. And while my heart is exploding with excitement for him, it's also tinged with the tiniest bit of sadness at his departure. He was literally the first friend I made on my first day at Knox. I remember sobbing like a homesick maniac, begging my parents not to leave, then wandering around the dorm and meeting him. I liked him immediately. 

Through the weirdness and homesickness, he found a way to make me laugh, like really laugh and forget how much I missed my bed, my parents, and my Chicago. I remember we made plans to get our ID photos taken at the same time, and had a long discussion about the importance of the photo / what we would be wearing. He wore a skull necklace that I will never forget, and I wore every color in the rainbow. One time, we did our laundry together, and he laid our clothes on the floor, started laughing, and said it looked as though we'd melted. We listened to I'd Melt with You, and danced around our clothes on the floor laughing and laughing till our stomachs hurt.

And that's truly the theme of our friendship. While we studied the same thing and had all sorts of common interests and friends, I felt like I could tell him anything and somehow we would wind up laughing and laughing. Our brains always found a way of landing on the same point, finding humor in the weirdest things, laughing as we did without abandon.

Today he is embarking on his next big adventure, one that leaves us far away from one another for the first time since we met nearly eight years ago. I am beyond inspired by his decision to go to grad school at a program that is perfect for him. I honestly don't know where I'd be without him these last few years, these crazy years of transition, yearning, longing, learning, and growth. To send him properly on his way, I've got some gems from our budding friendship to share with you!

Ben, you rock! You are the Spongebob to my Patrick. Keep on dancing and lighting up the world with your wit, humor, and infectious laugh!

The first day I met Ben
The time we melted
In an Iowa prairie at Bioneers
Us dancing to Hot Chip in an Iowa church kitchen
Pitchfork 2009
Pitchfork 2013
Us at a college party, pink wine, duh.
Us later on at the same party. I'm pretty sure this is the night we handed
out homemade business cards that we made before going out.
Us at our favorite bar in Galesburg, Duffy's. The night before graduation!
When we were the homecoming speakers for the Knox College Art
History department in 2012

27 June 2014

This Weekend

The theme of this weekend is hanging out with women who inspire me and who also happen to be bloggers. Between Lexie, Rose, and Kelsey, I can already feel my cheeks beginning to burn from all the smiling I will be doing in their company! Not to mention the Pride Parade, which is apparently marriage themed, because gay marriage was finally legalized in this fine Midwestern state! The above photo is from the time Adolfo invited me to dance like a maniac on the Holiday Inn float! Back in 2010! SO MUCH JOY!

- Going on an architecture boat tour this afternoon
- Working out
- Making this potato salad
- Reading more of Naked By the Window (which I can't put down!)
- Lexie time!!!!
- Dinner at Au Cheval
- Gay Pride Parade
- Celebratory drinks with Rose at Kelsey's event!

19 June 2014

In Memoriam: Charles Barsotti

On Monday, we lost one of our great living illustrators, Charles Barsotti. He'd been working for the New Yorker playing with line and humor for the last fifty years, making readers smile, chuckle, and as Bob Mankoff said best, drew cartoons that hugged us back. As an artist, he brought to the world a sense of whimsy, expertly employing simple beautiful strokes that had the ability to convey so much with a clean, pure, minimal style. In addition to being a talented artist, he was the husband, father, and grandfather to friends who I hold near and dear to my heart, and my thoughts are with them. I distinctly remember scanning every issue of the New Yorker for the familiar name, hoping to see one of his charming drawings feeling proud to be close to his family.

Charles, while I never knew you, I want you to know that you touched so many, and I feel lucky to have been able to see your illustrations week after week. You will continue to make the world smile through your legacy of work.


Via the New Yorker
Via the New Yorker
Via the New Yorker
Via the New Yorker

17 June 2014

On Having a Tattoo

Rose recently wrote a post musing on the exact tattoo she would get, should she ever break the promise to her mother (the one where she swore to never get a tattoo). She knows what it would be, where it would be, and why it would be significant to have engraved on her body forever and always. But a promise is a promise, so rather than ink it up, she blogged about it. And my response to her beautifully written post is to blog about my own foray into my life as a tattooed Jewess.

Here I am in high school, sporting a very classy fake tattoo
I have long been afraid of needles, not to mention I have some strange commitment issues (saddled with a massive fear of change). For most of my life, I was known as a biter and a kicker should you approach me with any sort of skin-breaking device. Elementary school mandated TB tests, nope. Blood work to check my high cholesterol having genetics, as if. Novocain, are you kidding me with this? So why it occurred to me to allow someone to slowly drag a needle across my skin for more than 10 minutes comes as a surprise to many of my friends and family.

Senior prom, I was all about the Virgin Mary fake tattoo
But what comes as an even bigger surprise, outside of me being terrified of anything that is classified as mildly painful, is that culturally speaking, I should not have a tattoo. I was born and raised of the Jewish faith. I attended Sunday school (yes, we have Sunday school too), Hebrew school on Tuesdays (or schul as some folks call it). The year of 2001 was spent being carted from bar and bat mitzvah, to bar and bat mitzvah party, as well as spending a grueling amount of time studying the Torah. While most kids my age had their Walkmen playing Savage Garden, Robyn, and the Backstreet Boys, I toted around a barely-retro cassette player of my Torah portion, sung and recorded for me by my synagogue's cantor. I practiced, I toiled, I even had to call my cantor from overnight camp for my weekly bat mitzvah practice session because that is how important this event was to my family.

Here I am repping the Jewish Club table my freshman year of college. 
And in terms of Jewish doctrine, our traditions are sacred, as are our bodies. The human form is in a way, the likeness of G-d in the form of man, so it is strictly forbidden to deface the body in anyway. Piercings are a sort of gray area, since they can be removed and healed. Tattoos are off limits, and so permanent in fact, that a Jewish person with a tattoo is not allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Me dressed as Bjork in the swan dress, with her tattoo drawn in Sharpee on my arm.
So here I am, a Jewish girl with two millennia of religious doctrine to follow, a familial cultural history closely tied to these ideologies, and a fear of needles. Why on earth do I have a tattoo?

Truth be told, I went back and forth on the tattoo front for years. While I was raised with a religious faith... nothing was ever forced on me. But deep down there was an unspoken truth that we just didn’t have tattoos. Then my parents divorced. My whole sense of family, my idea of wholeness was fractured and suddenly I started to think of myself as an autonomous unit. I could continue to live at home, following unspoken rules, remaining a dutiful daughter. Or I could do what I wanted.

My tattoo in healing mode
A year (to the week) after my parents formally decided to split up, at the age of 23, I tattooed ))<>(( on my left shoulder, at the tattoo parlor in my college town where so many of my friends got their “big mistake” tattoos. I remember it hurting just a little, but that the point of the tattoo was that it was a signifier for me. It meant I’d gotten through a shit year. That rules are meant to be broken. That marriage isn’t forever, neither is the idea of the nuclear family. It meant I was doing something to my body that I could control, and the best part was, it was symmetrical. It looked the same to me in the mirror as it did to my outside viewers.

T-shirt caption via Redbubble
There’s a scene in the movie my tattoo is from, Me and You and Everyone We Know, in which the mom, who is going through a separation, is brushing her teeth in a giant t-shirt with the following words written on them backwards:

I am a precious, wondrous, special, unique, divine, rare, valuable, whole, sacred, total, complete, entitled, worthy, and deserving person

Her soon-to-be-ex-husband walks in and marvels at how he always hated the shirt, because he couldn’t read it, to which she replies, “It’s self-affirming.” And that’s what my tattoo is for me. It’s self affirming. It’s a reminder of the pain I pushed through, emotional and physical - especially during the year of my parents' separation and subsequent divorce. Of how I would “never get a tattoo” but then I did, and it’s still there frontwards and backwards, keeping me company always. Back and forth, forever.