I am a strong believer in place, and how a region, community and a home will shape who you are. The place I know, where I was raised, is the Black Belt region of the American South. It is how I was raised, as a Southerner and as a Jew in a small southern town, instilled with belief in family and tradition that motivates me to document the place I call home.
You have left for tomorrow
like the rhythm of rust
gasping, fleeing the day
we pressed our hearts
against the glitter
of wisdom, our being
choked on a voiceless
be pliant, be the words
translucent as dust.
The Waiting Room
It must be rain inside the walls. The rain of a child’s cries, a red swing against the grey sweetness of sky. A hollow to stifle, rocking in the cold front. Of ciphers discarded on the doorsteps, lips bleeding into porcelain shards to let live. Come back, come back, to the call of faceless drinkers pleading for histories, in a room of dust singed by erasure. For I will wait, I will wait to touch their voices, punctured by rain.
from Pages from the Frozen Sea
The “pages” in Pages from the Frozen Sea are photographs of ordinary objects or materials suspended in ice, or artworks made by working with ice. This collaborative project is a celebration of the beauty and constantly changing nature of ice, and embraces an experimental, process-oriented approach to art-making. The project was inspired by a quote from Franz Kafka: “A book must be an axe for the frozen sea within us.” The images selected were done during the winter of 2017. The project will continue during the winter of 2018: it requires cold weather. This year Sarah Stengle and Eva Mantel hope to extend the scope of the project by inviting other artists to also contribute pages. The project can be followed on Facebook and Instagram.
This photography series is focused on capturing the last vestiges of the vibrant street culture, the traditions and lifestyles that are quickly being eradicated due to the aggressive gentrification that’s invading almost every corner of NYC. For the past twelve summers, Ruben Natal-San Miguel has traveled around New York City by bicycle searching for what it’s like to live in these parts of the city. The artist has been able to find not only a vibrant and colorful vision, but also a happy and very meaningful life lesson.
Cartography is both art and science as well as a powerful tool to control civilisations. Maps and atlases are fascinating because of significant information they can offer within a specific period of time. They are not faithful representations of reality, but they sometimes convey strong ideas which are the keys to understanding historical narratives — a determining element in my selections.
Influenced by my formal architectural training, I use the photographic medium to explore the crossing universes and boundaries of nature and culture. Social changes and spatial structures in a globalized world are at the heart of my artistic reflections; by examining in-between spaces, I propose an open frame where borders do not exist.
Because the Night: from After Dark, Prospect Park and Allegories of a Posthumous Landscape
I began taking pictures at night in Prospect Park in the spring of 2001. I had just purchased my first serious camera and was looking forward to making something technically impressive, as my work up to that point was handicapped by often slipshod technique and always roughshod equipment. We had just come through a great political tumult, with an impeachment followed by an election which saw an intellectually incurious man assume the office of the President after losing the popular vote (and save for the Supreme Court, the electoral college as well). The dot-com bubble had burst and the crisis was beginning to spread to the wider economy. Enron, voted “the most innovative company in America” and one of the sitting president’s biggest financial backers, was revealed to have committed financial fraud on a massive scale. All summer long, I watched with fascination as its share price slid towards zero, waiting for the penny to drop. And then of course it was September.
Like everybody else I was experiencing elevated levels of anxiety, but my true panic was realizing that our leadership, emboldened with the highest approval ratings on record, was about to commit an even greater tragedy: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. So what does all of this have to do with night photography? I’m not sure except that I was compelled to look for a place where the truth could not be refuted, and I sought that in nature, where, for the time being anyway, truth was eternal.
In the park I re-discovered history. I made note of the gas lamps lining the pathways and knew that one day the jaundiced light emitted by the sodium vapor lamp would also disappear, and it gave me a strange comfort. I observed statues commemorating past conflicts, listened as men on horseback whispered to me about human folly and found I was a little less bitter. The park revealed to me the present as it has always been, a crossroads of the past and the future. In my work I always strive to sit at that intersection. This new camera of mine, a rangefinder, required me to use the center portion of the lens to find focus, but I recognize now something else was motivating me to hew to the visual center in my frame. As a practical reality, the political center was dead. I think part of me hoped to anchor this expression in the guise of composition, where the rule of thirds reigned supreme.
It’s been over a decade since I’ve made those pictures and I again find myself drawn to night and to nature, tilling the same ground: failure of leadership, arrogance and hubris, a desire to invent our own version of the truth. Barack Obama, an erudite, measured centrist was elected President. Inheriting an economy on the brink (and a constitution under assault) it was his misfortune to have to save the established order; our misfortune was that he succeeded a little too well. His greatest success was his greatest failure, for it gave rise to the Tea Party, which in turn brought us Donald Trump. That Donald Trump could be ushered into office under the auspices of the working class is almost enough to shatter the very meaning of irony, which is now blooming like so much algae, consuming all the oxygen in the pond. The fourth estate, having abrogated their role in the run-up to the Iraq Invasion is now desperate to reclaim the mantle of responsible journalism. Hopefully this newfound vigor on the part of the press corps can help restore the balance of power. In Allegories of A Posthumous Landscape, I revisit the figures that spoke to me in my Prospect Park series, only this time transforming real people into statuettes, in hopes that they might whisper to the future that “yes, we were here once too.”
The photos in this gallery come from two series. Central Structure explores structures of unknown use in relation to their surroundings. Photographed in a static way, the viewer is allowed to create their own dialogue as to what purpose the structure has amidst the surrounding landscape.
School’s Out Forever (Detroit, 2013) was created as schools were being closed in Chicago in early 2013, and the comparison to Detroit arose in the media. What was to become of the physical structures of the schools after they close? If cities began to shutter educational institutions, where would children learn and grow, and how could a community walk away from the citizens of the future? For a child, a school is their second home, where they feel most comfortable. Losing that sense of community and belonging must be a traumatic event for displaced students.
Karson was shortlisted for the 2015 Lucie Foundation’s A Photo Made Scholarship, named one of the photographers for Best of ASMP 2015, and is currently working with High Concept Labs (Chicago) as a 2016 Sponsored Artist. She has been a member of ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) since 2013, currently serving on the Board of Directors and as acting Treasurer and Fine Arts Chair for the Chicago/ Midwest Chapter. mariahkarson.com
The Exploration of Dead Ends
A few years ago I would have said that my work was about structure, or more specifically about how one
constructed one’s world. Over time this has changed to a more simple and basic premise for my work. I
want to explore these little daily moments that we all experience, these glances or gestures, in which
there is a connection made with another. In these moments a small door opens up into a large new world
that, if only for a second, makes us glimpse as what it means to be human.
These photos are from my book Purgatory & Paradise: SASSY ’70s Suburbia & The City. Here is an excerpt from my introduction:
My grandparents came from Eastern Europe to escape pogroms and persecution. It was the Great Depression and both families were poor. My dad, Jack Meisler, married Sylvia Schulman on furlough from the Coast Guard during WWII. Thanks to the GI Bill, they bought a home on the site of a former Chinese vegetable farm in Massapequa, Long Island. They helped found Congregation Beth El, were Presidents of The Knights of Pythias, Pythian Sisters and Temple Sisterhood. Best of all, they co-founded The Mystery Club: eleven couples that went on adventurous outings to places like a haunted house, séance, nudist colony, and gay bathhouse. Brother Mitch arrived during 1st grade, and soon after, I got my first camera, The Adventurer.
In 1969 I went to Buffalo State and studied Art Ed. In In grad school at the University of Wisconsin I studied illustration and photography. After graduation, I moved to New York and studied with Lisette Model. The city was in fiscal and social turmoil, and I was in transition and chaos myself. My parents were divorcing, and I’d recently ‘come out.’ My cousins introduced me to artists, writers, musicians, feminists, activists and intellectuals in East Harlem and the Lower East Side.
In 1977 I went to The COYOTE Hookers Masquerade Ball, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, CBGB, discos, Fire Island, and the Hamptons. The gay and feminist movements were in full swing. I photographed the streets by day and the clubs at night. I received a Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) Artists Grant, and began working for the American Jewish Congress, photographing Jewish NY and my own family roots. I got a hostess job at Playmate, then Winks and The Magic Carpet.
CETA ended in 1979. I did freelance illustration and taught art in public schools. I also began a relationship with a Massapequa girl — the designer of My ‘70s: Sweet and Sassy.. The book encapsulates my coming of age: The Bronx, suburbia, The Mystery Club, dance lessons, Girl Scouts, the Rockettes, the circus, school, mitzvahs, proms, feminism, Disco, Go-Go, Jewish and LGBT Pride, the New York streets, friendship, family and love.
Welcome, readers and viewers! We’re delighted to ring out the end of 2015 with the extraordinary poetry and prose we’ve gathered for this issue of Posit. It’s an honor to publish such a rich mixture of innovative verse, short fiction, and poetic prose by literary masters at all stages of their careers, to wit:
Doug Bolling’s Scalapino-esque “…words carried from a valley a stream a mountain / just to be there cherished, fondled” by gorgeous metaphors creating “a poem of unknowns / a Magritte refusing all margins;”
Susan Charkes’ wry compendia on Practicing Panic (“adopt aroma of freshly cut cucumber” and “elude infinity”) and Unreachable Planets such as the PLANET OF CONSTANT DOWNDRAFTS (“Gravity: not an issue”);
Norma Cole’s ferociously beautiful narrative fragments of a fraught nation kept together and apart by the ‘Surface Tension’ of an iconography of sentiment and violence, in which golden angels and grandchildren eating butterscotch sundaes give way to women sleeping on sidewalks, Halloween “or some / other
masks beheading,” and “the mortars again;”
Christine Hamm’s magnetically surreal texts, in which “You said the antlers in the bucket were part of you, asked me if you should burn your necklace, the one with someone else’s name;”
Zeke Jarvis’s masterful short story about art, artifice, and free enterprise, Las Vegas style;
Halvard Johnson’s disturbing ode to The Art of Deference with its haunting last line, complemented by the resonant compression of 14 Interventions, in which “poem grenades,” like “old leaves,” “turn to / reservoirs of life;”
Carlos Lara’s virtuosic excerpt from Several Night, a “monologue of another destroyer” “ready for whatever’s next play” and populated by “numinous projectile clouds” as well as “music looping the dream archer of dreams;”
Anna Leahy’s “exacting forms” “pregnant / with possibility of motion” mirroring the beauty and menace of nature as well as “the spark of brazen imagination;”
Christina Mengert’s mind-meld with Spinoza, yielding remarkable hybrid philosophical/poetic ‘Definitions’ “by virtue of mental trampoline, / bouncing into idea as a consequence / of grace” via a collaborative “intelligence / conceived through something / more itself / than itself;”
Carol Shillibeer’s magnificent “loyalties to worlds, words and their pleasures…” posing the question, “What work has there ever been but perception?”
Danielle Susi’s brilliant juxtapositions, in which “Volume sleeps on my tongue today / because teeth can sometimes look / like pillows,” provoking us to wonder “When two sides of an abrasion stitch / back together, what do they say?”
and Derek Updegraff’s haunting and suggestive story Café, “about him and her. That’s all” although it somehow manages, in 350 words, to open itself to the far reaches of the universe.
As always, thank you for reading.
—Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann
It is my pleasure to introduce another wonderful selection of painting, photography, sculpture, and video in this issue of Posit.
Meryl Meisler has been taking photos since she was a teenager, chronicling her youth in Long Island and young adulthood in NYC in the 70’s and 80’s. Her keen eye has captured moments that are funny, moving, and offer wonderful portraits of an era.
Helena Starcevic’s carved and fabricated sculptures reflect a distinctly modernist sensibility. Cool and stripped down to their essence, these are elegant objects. Working with a restrained palette, she conveys the beauty of the form, using the contrast between matte and shiny surfaces to allow light to caress the contours of her sculptures.
The haunting videos of Pierre St. Jacques delve deep into the psychological realm of human relationships. The Exploration of Dead Ends, from which we present an excerpt, as well as still photographs and video installations, is a beautiful portrait of a man caught in the endless cycles of his life. The result is visually stunning and deeply moving.
The sweeping gesture of Heather Wilcoxon’s hand can be seen in all of her energetic and evocative paintings. Strong and committed markings typify these works. Human and animal forms live harmoniously amidst swirls of color and form in compositions dreamily reminiscent of a life lived near the sea.
The sumi ink drawings of Katarina Wong are bold, thrilling and often a bit frightening. She brings us face to face with an Inferno of emotions that swirl and whirl across the page. Recognizable human and animal features emerge and then sink into the energetic darkness.
I hope you enjoy!