Heft

Read the Review of my most recent exhibited work, “Throw Some Men Around” by Art Correspondent Susan Apel of the Woven Tale Press.

This past spring, when I once again found myself walking into Paper Doll Vintage in Sayville, LI—because who can resist—I was glad the store owner, Dominique, was working that day—love to chat with her and be in her space of enthusiasm.

Dominique is charming, brilliant at fashion and hosting art, music, and costume events at Paper Doll and now, I see, savy at coping with aggression in a bold but artful and safe way.

Everything is Still, SVAC: She Just Wanted to Throw Some Men Around

As featured in Saturday’s Opening, June 29. Image shot with CineStill 800 Tungsten Color, Motion Picture Film.

The red and white, polka-dot dress on the mannequin draws you in. Enter Paper Doll Vintage Boutique on Main Street in Sayville, Long Island and you are caught in the mystery and find yourself trying on the red and white dress or oversized, bright yellow sunglasses, or lilac clip-on earrings—none of which you would have imagined your “style” until you play with the persona. Why not?

A plaid, mohair suit brings you back to the 60s. You remember yourself at another time or as the storeowner Dominique Maciejka says, you imagine someone else—someone you haven’t been or the someone who wore the suit once before. What’s an identity?

It’s all delight and possibility in Paper Doll until it isn’t—until Dominique— after taking a Merchant Cash Advance to open and stock another store—found herself in litigation for fraud and now dressed in fear.

They’re legal and sometimes a necessary means of borrowing money—not all are predatory, Dominique says. She’d borrowed from MCAs before. OK, a higher rate of interest than a standard bank loan, but in need of funds to quickly build business without leveraging your stock and trade, you take the deal which allows for repayment proportionate to monthly sales and receipts. Dominique viewed this option as manageable and a way forward. But some of these MCAs are unscrupulous, threatening, and flat-out cons. In defense, you dress in armor. (Bloomberg Series: Confessions of Judgement)

Dominique and her partner Joe Laspina own two clothing stores, the Sayville spot and another in Patchogue, also on Long Island. In July 2018, she took out a Merchant Cash Advance from Quicksilver Capital to open a third LI shop in Huntington. But Quicksilver immediately began withdrawing a daily, fixed rate from the business bank account—not proportionate to sales and over the legal interest rate in New York State (Newsday Business Article)

Dominique immediately began to make phone calls to Quicksilver to reconcile the payments but was put off. The people on the other end of the phone started to disguise their voices—which Dominique could still recognize from previous calls. “But when they put me on the phone with Frank Rizzo—a character from the Jerky Boys—as their legal attorney,” Dominique says, “I knew they were messing with us and were being shady.”

It took six months of paying the daily fixed rate, lost revenue, and the now necessary closure of the Huntington store to settle—all for an original loan of $45,000. “I might have taken them to court further,” Dominique said, “but I wanted to stop the bleeding and was frightened by potential further consequences and damage to the business overall.

To push back against the stress and fear, Dominique revived her high school moniker, Dominique the Freak and took up pro-wrestling, in order, she says, “to throw some men around. You know me, Carol, body and costume and theatre.” She turned to her own inventory—a black leather bustier, short skirt, knee-high boots and laced gauntlets—a new stage to act out other stories and roles with plots to step in and out of—let go of the past and enter a new ring.

Everything is Still: Show Opening June 29/2019 Photographers Working in Motion Picture Film

Ben Parks, From the Small Hours

Very excited–on my way north to Southern Vermont Art Center for opening reception featuring my 30 x 30 portrait of Dominique of Paper Doll Vintage Boutique–otherwise known as Dominique the Freak who is oh-so friendly, kind, generous and overall imaginative but also no easy mark for con artists. Can’t wait to see what the other photographers created. 

In the area, come by for the opening reception, June 29th, from 4-6 PM, for an amazing array of photographic projects by a diverse group of image-makers who work in motion picture film. And, there’s a panel discussion on the 30th at 1 PM. Join us for an inside take on the aesthetic why and how of the artists’ film choice.  Need directions or further details: email or message me or take the link below:

Everything is Still: Photographers Working in Motion Picture Film

“A Strange and Emotional Installation”

If you know me, you know I love Vermont, and when I first drove around Rutland this past summer–with fellow photographers Stephen Schaub and Susan Weiss, I had no idea what might interest me. But, then I began to notice the many statues of the Madonna—looking as she had always been depicted over the years from my parochial school experiences in Bayside, Queens.

It raised questions for me as to the depiction of womanhood, maternity, and autonomy—questions I wouldn’t have asked, necessarily, in those early school years—and served as a catalyst for this project.

It was a journey for me—to explore where I was then and what I wonder or ask about now. I photographed select images in Rutland, but then when I returned home to Long Island, NY, I began to think about the history and religious ideals that I had taken in so many years ago and began to recall and reminisce about the meanings associated.

Once I photographed and printed the select images, I moved to my writing space—working from memory and seeing the trajectory of my feelings and ideas around the iconography. I first wrote some brief prose poems, recalling early experiences in Catholic grade school—the ones that cocooned me—and then moved into more difficult questions about the embodiment of womanhood—my mother’s story of her motherloss and the loss of a baby brother living just a few hours after birth. This was all in contrast to the more ideal story of Christ’s birth and Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Virgin Birth.

Tossing through shoeboxes of previous writings, I came across a high school class writing titled: “Religion,” dated May, 1966. I was curious and surprised to read my own words then—words that reinforced a supplicant role for a woman in a marriage to a man. I was surprised. While I was taken by the challenge, at the time in high school to translate portions of the Ecumenical Council report from Latin to English, I apparently didn’t think deeply about the ideas I was professing.

That’s when it became clear to me that the work in The Alley Gallery should be displayed as a collage—the only way to execute the complex ideas and feelings without telling a viewer what to deduce or conclude.

I am left with more questions than answers. But, as I neared the completion for exhibition, I was deeply saddened by the death of poet Mary Oliver in January. I turned to her works and reread, and was struck by the first lines in her poem, Wild Geese, a counterpoint to the mid-60s admonition to fall into an auxiliary role:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles in the desert repenting
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Read the review: Rutland Herald described my work as “a strange and emotional installation.” It was right on!

I Choose Film

bookwork

So excited to be featuring my accordion-pleated artist’s book at the Southern Vermont Arts Center’s group show, I Choose Film. I am looking forward to seeing the art book on display after the years of photographing and interviewing in Rwanda and the many hours of post-production. It’s printed on a luminous, white Japanese Washi, at Indian Hill Image Works, and will be displayed on 12-feet of floating glass so that the light enhances the texture.

The show opening, less than two weeks away, is July 8th from 4 to 6 PM, and is going to be a delight! There will be the opportunity to meet with the many other featured artists and the possibility of having a wet-plate tintype portrait created by the Penumbra Foundation, NYC, (on both Saturday and Sunday). For the young: a “Take Your Best Shot” instant photography contest.

Hope you can make the opening!

Admission is free.

The show is hosted through August 27.

http://www.svac.org/cat-blog-upcoming-exhibitions/405-i-choose-film

http://www.benningtonbanner.com/stories/i-choose-film-opens-at-svac,510430

Site-Responsive Collaborations in Rwanda

It’s time to go back to Rwanda. This time, it’s all about International Creative Collaboration…fiber, creative writing, photography, painting.  Again I am going with Master Weaver Melissa Johnson so, of course, we will be working with CHAHBA: INEZA PUTNEY Weaving Cooperative Project. And, with Claudine Uwamahoro, our friend from Kigali who visited us in the US over the winter, we will be working to develop a community project around writing and visual art.

New this journey, after researching artists in Rwanda and coming across this recent NY Times article, I contacted Uburanga Art Studio. We are excited to collaborate with them in various media. One such way is through a new self-funded project, The Dreamers, by New York City-based portrait and documentary photographer, Abby Kraftowitz. “Here’s how it works,” she says. “I provide a printed photograph of a portrait or a scene.  The print becomes a canvas for the artist to create in his or her voice, directly on the photograph with any medium reacting to this image of a perfect stranger.” These photographs are coming with us on the plane tomorrow!

Creative Writing will be a new collaboration this year as well. I discussed with the Uburanga Art Studio my intentions, and instead of formulating a plan before I leave, I will be doing a site-responsive creative writing session with the artists at the studio. My plan is to join with the artists as we individually respond in our own writing to either a Kinyarwanda word or local imagery that I’ve photographed all within a cooperative working space. Kigali is no stranger to cooperative working sessions. According to the NY Times article mentioned earlier: “The lively art scene has turned this once-quiet and traumatized city into a place where not just art openings but also literary readings, dance performances and concerts take place regularly in the courtyards of galleries, and artists give lunchtime lectures at cooperative working spaces.”

Looking forward to keeping you all posted on the collaborations while in the field.