The final installment of Alexandra Arts Pankhurst in the Park was a salon-style gathering for artists and art appreciators held at the Last Frontier in Greenpoint. A space stewarded by the Norwegian artist Sol Kjok, Last Frontier is a rustic open space with high ceilings, fixtures for hanging massive works of art (such as Sol’s recent series “Spiraling Smoke” on view) and a large teepee where Kjok hosts regular medicine circles and shamanic drum journeys.
During the month of September, UK-based artist, curator, and founder of Alexandra Arts artist Lotte Karlsen was Artist-in-Residence at Kjok’s nearby other space The Mothership. Karlsen kicked off the Tuesday night salon with an informal lecture and slide show presentation of her near decade-long socially-engaged artwork in Alexandra Park, Manchester, where the majority of the Pankhurst in the Park (PitP) festival took place 2014-18. The September 2018 salon celebrated four years in which the Pankhurst in the Park project has spearheaded an initiative committed to providing a platform for women in the Arts, including a dedicated commitment to cultural exchange with U.S.-based artists in NYC.
Karlsen’s project was, generally speaking, an effort to build community, shift the focus to art as environment (Lotte’s MFA concentration) and celebrate the rich historical legacy of Alexandra Park, Manchester — the historical stomping grounds of the Suffragette movement, near the estate of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, for whom the project is named. Having built upon the NYC-Manchester partnership since the first international artist-in-residence Go! Push Pops set-foot in Manchester 2014, including her own solo exhibition at Studio 511 in 2016 “Shimmering Sound of Silence,” Karlsen concludes the Pankhurst in the Park festivities this year with a “PitP-infused art salon,” featuring a curated selection of artists representing Manchester and NYC and one follow-up event September 21.
During Karlsen’s slide show, she walked us through several years of Pankhurst in the Park, including shots of her own interventions in Alexandra Park’s beloved forrest glen working in her signature medium of glass. She also revealed breathtaking digital renderings of her vision for a monumental-scale sculpture symbolic of nature’s design — it’s chaotic swirls of form soaring high up in the sky and tendril-like filigrees digging metaphorically deep to commingle with the lands’s rapturous foliage and old-growth trees — what would be a center piece of Alexandra Park and a culminating permanent mark of her long term of socially-engaged practice therein.
Lotte was joined by Art 511 Mag publisher Scotto Mycklebust, and together the two shared a brief conversation around the success of the recent collaborative venture EMINENT DOMAIN, a 3-day flash feminist art exhibition in Chelsea. EMINENT DOMAIN’s intersectional feminist perspective is very much a growing movement, and the electric energy mobilized by over 90 international artists in the show surely spilled over into the salon, which doubled as a second coming together of several of the key EMINENT DOMAIN participants.
Wigan (UK) based multimedia artist Anna FC Smith’s suffragette-inspired trio of sculptures traveled from Chelsea’s EMINENT DOMAIN to nestle sweetly inside the Last Frontier’s sky-scraping teepee, standing tall like totems for the revolution straddling time and space.
Smith’s longstanding obsession with the folk culture and communal sacred/rituals overlooked by history, allows this cultural nomad to penetrate multiple fields, taking on at times the hat of both historian and anthropologist. A pink-haired vixen of all things carnivalesque and bawdy, Smith’s penchant for “low culture” refines her unique ability to contemporize history within and around the bizarre rituals of modern popular culture. Poking fun at our outmoded cults of idealized domesticity and nature, not to mention our haunting and transient sense of the sacred, her writing and art simply glitters with brilliance. In addition to her set of sculptures currently on tour here in NYC, Anna was commissioned by Alexandra Arts to write two pieces recently published in Art 511 Mag “The ritualistic Healing of the Suffragettes” and “The Merry Wagtail Jades, The Breeches They Do Carry: Impudent women and cuckold’s horns.“
Kelly Shaw Willman, self-proclaimed Alien-bruja, shamaness, mental-health advocate and Goddess in the flesh, oiled the stages for her equally pearlescent-fluorescent art comrades ULTRACULTURAL OTHERS with a piece from her ongoing series ongoing new/mind/ritualize. Shaw birthed “111 therapies: phase 2, Movement 11” somewhat quietly four months ago while living in Nicaragua before showcasing the durational piece at our Tuesday night salon (and a short version during EMINENT DOMAIN in July). Part of the development of her own personal feminism, her piece is a response to the artist’s recent spell living in Costa Rica, a vocal witness to the effect of “machismo’s rampant dysfunction” and sex tourism. Her piece is inspired partially by Maureen Murdock’s book, The Heroine’s Journey, and mines her own shadow side in a symbolic “descent” into the dark wilderness of her ancestral pain and trauma.
Where “honey-laced confidence-meets-vulnerability,” her piece involved ample amounts of gold glitter and honey in the raw, poured liberally on her naked body in a quiet ritual that felt necessarily somber, angelic and otherworldly. An invocation to “childhood/inner-child juju,” says Kelly, and the artist waxes poetic about the plasticine castle aesthetics of 80s and 90s consumer culture. As a feeling, an aesthetic, or milieu — into adulthood, for Shaw it doubles as an aura of protection. “I have a personalized spiritual practice (of protection) in which I fiercely visualize myself surrounded by cocoon-shaped energy that is always pastel-hued; it is immensely soothing to me.” Kelly’s performance floor, surrounded by a floor-installation comprised of a collection of handmade beaded pieces, art-items-as-talismans, unframed photographs of prior performance work and creamy, dreamy childhood baubles.
Movement 11, which extended in length as it shifted from the energetic raucous of EMINENT DOMAIN’s huge crowds to the intimacy of the Pankhurst Salon, was a live ritual performed with a cutting board, knife, oranges, garlic bulbs, glitter, small tinctures of colored water, honey, feathers, corn kernels, bubbles, and ribbon for a cord-cutting spell. Kelly rebirthed herself as a glittering gold, naked, bootylicious Goddess with statuesque presence, her round lady lumps glistening with honey and gold to surely conjure about two of Shaw’s primary Saints — Yemaya and Ochun, Yoruban Goddesses of the Sacred Waters, the pleasures of the flesh, sweet honey and the Source. Ocean and Rivers are the dominion of Yemaya and Ochun as well as the beds of lovers and the eternal dance of soulmates and twin flames. You can follow Kelly Shaw Willman on Instagram, twitter and support her self-designed art grant at gofundme.
Bibi Flores also expanded on the body of work she presented at EMINENT DOMAIN, mounting several jewel-toned mixed media fabric pieces, the largest of which hung majestically from the ceiling, cascading like sticky taffy or an ebullient summer waterfall in the central space of Last Frontier. Along the wall could be viewed her mixed media paintings No Assholes Allowed In Here, The Missing “H” for Healing from Those, H And I, For The Sake Of Healing, Speak and Express Your Truth, and Women Real Inner Power (2018). Mexican artist Bibi works in painting, photography and installation combined with various mixed media. Her works encapsulate in physical space “states of mind, heart, and soul that exist on a plane of multi-dimensional energy.”
Encoded with sacred geometry and other shapes, symbols, lines and colors via Bibi’s harmonic brush strokes, her works reflect her personal, emotional backstory living within a Patriarchal society. Her most recent work, Goodbye to assholes, I deserve much better, traces back as early as 2010 when the artist started to focus her work from a feminist point of view. “It critiques a shallow and judgmental society where women in particular still exist within a submissive structure and are the subject of violence, suppressed feelings, and oppression,” explains Flores. Her art has meanwhile come to be the record of her innermost personal and interpersonal processes — developing healthy boundaries, and removing egocentric “assholes” (Spanish = cabrones) from her life. Flores likes the lewd, unladylike connotations of “asshole” and stands by her confrontational and provocative stance against male predators. Individually the pieces serve as mantras, amulets and protective shields (from assholes). Bibi explains they are like an “intense mind filter” which can alert, mark, define and celebrate her personal space as safe, habitable and powerful. She also sends out a global healing to her sisters around the world, especially survivors of sexual abuse. Follow Bibi on Facebook & Instagram @bibi.flores.art
The final, headlining act was UNDAKOVA & High Prieztezz Or Nah of ULTRACULTURAL OTHERS Urban Mystery Skool, who presented a participatory Hip Hop Yoga cipher inspired by their coming EP VITAMIX. Inviting the audience to circle up and join them in a rousing soundscape, UNDAKOVA irrupted with funky vocal percussion as Or Nah passed the mic and solicited authentic, spur-of-the-moment sound vibrations blossoming into spoken word from those in attendance at the salon. This led into three short numbers from their Hip Hop Yoga ep, a project the family birthed while living part time in the barefoot jungle paradise of Koh Phangan, Thailand this past year. The trio, which included none other than a dancing baby, son of KOVA and Or Nah, affectionately named Kali after the bloodthirsty Hindu Warrior Goddess symbolic of Time, Change and “Death of the Ego,” broke a sweat grooving around a lovingly sewn floor piece and preciously miniature bejeweled statuette of Lord Ganesha, Elephant God and Remover of Obstacles.
ULTRACULTURAL OTHERS alternated their set, which included the very upbeat jam “Money Ain’t Everything,” a slower joint set to a Japanese trap beat and a mantra to Ganesh with plenty of levelizing personal anecdotes, notes from their Thailand adventures and opportunities for audience members to jump into their “call and response” circle. Or Nah offered sexy, feminist remixes of mythology about the Gods and Goddesses they sing about on VITAMIX and by the end, both had the audience joining them in the sacred Mantra to The Elephant God Ganesha, who peeped out from his perch at the center of their magic carpet. You can get a free download off their ep by subscribing below, and follow them on instagram @ultraculturalothers.