My intent as an artist is to venerate common spaces. To map the tension between the now and the has been, and to observe how memory looks against the backdrop of present day. My project in New York has been to write a book about my deceased Uncle Colin’s life in this city. He lived here from 1976 to 1983, before taking his own life at 25. My days are spent finding out as much about him as possible, including the historic backdrop of his time period in the East Village.
I stress that I can only tell his story by mapping my own interest in it. By highlighting the contours of my curiosity, I thus make my life into text and art, and render a composite of him. The particular way I bumble over his artifacts and stare at the façades of buildings where he used to go, shows more than anything how grief, a suicide, an absence is passed through a family. I find so much comfort in knowing that not knowing is a valid position to take as a writer. That there is no need to improve a narrative or impose a storyline, when I can write my own confusion elegantly. Mine is a purposeful mistranslation of history or of his story. I write a book at ease with not having the answers.
I built my proposal for a Fulbright grant with the same intention, that as an ethnographic writer coming into the traditional music community in Finistère, Bretagne, I would have little if nothing to say about ‘what is going on’. Instead, I proposed to write about what I did not know, based on an accumulation of interviews, musical knowledge, and archival materials. And guess what? The governments of America and France have approved my project. I will be moving to France in Fall to simply be with musicians, learn new musical techniques, and write about my own sense of dislodgement during my nine month research period. Time enough for a baby! A baby of non-knowledge. Please, please come and visit me here.
When I left my love in January, I spent the first days alone, crying in an apartment in Catania, Sicily. Resting on the bed, as though fated, was a book chronicling the influence of artist Sophie Calle. The book was written in dense art-critic French, but I could understand enough. Sophie Calle is the queen of the First Person, Moi:Je. In all her work, she is always there (video, text). There is no art without her body and her curiosity. She does no hiding, except if it is from those she stalks publicly. I figured her as my patron saint as I delved deeper into the Italian language, into feeling my foreignness, and into the pain of losing someone I had loved so much. She was with me as I took a photograph of my tear-soaked face in the mirror, mascara blackening my cheeks. That misery can be a state of grace. She was with me as I came back to New York to document my inability to tell, coupled with my devotion to the cause of telling.
The events have occurred rapid-fire since I returned to New York. My book stared to take on a velocity of its own. So many rejection letters came from so many publications at once. An acceptance came from Fulbright. Heartbreak, more of it, all of it. Therapy- yes. A musical performance. I was sexually assaulted. The person who did this to me a couple weeks ago is a part of a group of people who I met last year. When I met this group last year, another member of that group threatened to rape me. I can remember running away from him through the streets of Chelsea, terrified for my life. Today I have a renewed sense of when certain environments are not hospitable to my radiance. I continue to mine for the truth in spaces I feel safe and loved.
These two months have been some of the most intense months of my time on earth. Through my research, I learned something terrifying and illuminating about my deceased uncle (You'll have to read my book!) There has been sobbing, and more sobbing. What didn’t redeem me kept me moving. I have learned to recognize that as I grow stronger, certain people will try to bring me down. I purchased an electric blue power suit. I conducted a disco photo shoot in the front bedroom. I have spent hours banging on the fucking piano.
I have my body. The way people will decide what kind of life I should be living, based on the way my body looks, are deeply mired in their own pain. Thank you to those who have supported me in this intense time, who have celebrated with me, who have been there for me as I cry. Because as a woman (a Western Female?) grows, it will become clear to her the people in her midst who are incapable of letting her be powerful. And I have seen those souls and I touch them.
Tonight! March 20th, 9pm, Jalopy Theater Roots and Ruckus, Red Hook Brooklyn
Western Female Pacific Northwest Tour!
May 24th, Folklife Festival, Seattle, WA American Standard Time Stage
May 25th, The Roost, Bellingham, WA
More dates TBA!
I wrote this book review in The Brooklyn Rail:
And interviewed Francisco Cantú, author of The Line Becomes a River:
Late Night YouTube Hits from Feral Foster’s Kitchen:
Busta Rhymes, Gimme Some More
Whitney Houston Singing the National Anthem at 1991 Superbowl
Really long and emotional Thai commercials ... or this one
Movies where women are filming themselves and their buddies:
Double Blind (No Sex Last Night) by Sophie Calle
She Had Her Gun All Ready by Vivienne Dick (I get to meet her in April!!!!!!)
Paris is Burning by Jennie Livingston (Maybe her subjects are not really her buddies, that is up for debate online, but WATCH THIS MOVIE Jesus. So incredible.)
Best of My Netflix Breakup Binge:
Russian Doll with Natasha Lyonne: My favorite piece of new TV. Particularly with regard to ghosts and the East Village
Dear White People by Justin Simien: A great show depicting a group of black students on a majority white campus, and what that means.
GLOW: Female wrestlers in the early 80s. So much good.
And the Crown Jewel of My Life:
Five Foot Two, The Lady Gaga Documentary. Also this interview with Lady Gaga.
The Extended Diamond Brand Universe:
Sophia Tschida of Wolf Moon Doula is a star birth practitioner in Kitsap County. She is organizing the Peninsula Birth and Baby Expo in Bremerton, Washington on March 30th.
Hannah and Marc Doucette, also of Kitsap, are the dream team behind Wassail Ecological Landcare and can help make your permaculture design and implementation dreams come true.
Jon Glovin sells a very exciting collection of books online at Fenrick Books.
The American Poetess in me loves Beto O'Rourke's musings about America.
Long live hope and pleasure.
Peace be with you for Spring! See you soon!