Body of Evidence

This is the typical reaction when I talk to old friends about the new book:

What is the book about, they ask.

Immigration, I say.

SHE IS FINALLY GETTING POLITICAL, they say (rather, they shout.)

Variations of this are happening so often, but so often, that I am led to believe I should have grown out of poetic abstraction sooner. Thanks, Trump! We are growing stronger, more cohesive, more compassionate, more aware, and much more courageous, in a relatively short period of time. Cheers. Here is to Gratitude, for All The Negativity that is coming out of the closet: twice after the election (but not once before), people who act as if life owed them some sort of prestige threatened to use my immigration status as leverage in favor of  their – their honor, I guess? Their starved sense of superiority? I can only guess. Walt Whitman comes to mind:

Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you my brother or my sister?

I am sorry for you… they are not murderous or jealous upon me;

All has been gentle with me… I keep no account with lamentation;

What have I to do with lamentation?

What have I to do with lamentation? True, my stomach turned a few weeks acidic around the inauguration, and after children were used as live ammunition I realized I shouldn’t read into my phone before I go to bed. And I surely feel ever less inclined to get out of town. But, other than that, it is getting to work. If political, then be it. If under the spotlight for being a) woman and b)born in an underdeveloped nation, then be it. In my way of making books by hand, stuff of life makes a fine content.

As such, this new book grows from the core outward, the core being an essay – Citizen, my first-person narrative about the concussion of an undocumented alien, which my editor-friend Maureen Cummins generously shaped into publishing material for her resistance journal Tinker Street last year. Gravitating around it there are photogravures, passages from my journals, letters from Celine Lombardi and Sarah Nicholls, text messages from roommate Jessica Russ and, of course, from my mother, and, if all angels of institutional licensing allow: snippets of Rebecca Solnit precious prose; a line from the diaries of Joseph Cornell; a poem by Emily Dickinson, in which she offered her being for Brazil.


I asked no other thing, No other was denied.

Why, it is after all My Take on Immigration: political-poetic, or maybe poetic-political, depending on How You Read It.


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Uliks Grika’s Sisyphus Stones

(clique aqui para a versão em Português)

Someone created a true sculpture park in Manhattan, by the Hudson River. At first I took some phone pics thinking ‘Instagram’, but before long I came to my senses – phone pics alone don’t do it justice.

I asked the man who seemed to be always on site, are you the sculptor?

“I am the stone lifter”, he said with a smile. He was surprised when I asked for his name so that I could credit the work when posting. “People don’t usually do that.”

His name is Uliks Gryka.  According to a New York Times article, he had the whole thing rebuilt once after vandals toppled them all, and then again after someone from the Parks Department took an opportunity to meddle.

While I was meandering (with my clunky film camera) between balanced stones, I heard something fall on the river with a big splash. It wasn’t me. “Yeah, I knew that one was about to come down”, he said. The sunset that particular evening had been magnificent, with perfect-drama clouds framing the pieces. I felt surrounded by a crowd of magnetic fields; every where I turned there was purpose and beauty and mystery and gravity. I couldn’t get enough of it, and as it turned out I didn’t get any of it at all: that roll of film had been badly loaded, operator deficiency. 

Having to go back was all I wanted, though. Didn’t get the same fantastic clouds, but with hindsight I think in B&W the sculptures fare better this way – less interference. And there where new pieces too. “It’s getting there”, Uliks said. Where is there, I asked. “By the trees”, he said vaguely.

Be it because of the trees or some vandals or the parks department or a mighty storm, something is sure to draw a line and change the place after the place has been changed by the skill of a human hand. Sounds like art?

I can get to see as much art as I want in the city, but I don’t get to see as much truth as I want. This work was so truthfully humbling, I can only feel proud to share.

 


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on the mend and in the works

As result of a bike riding concussion of which I have no memory whatsoever, on a late summer night my body laid unconscious in an under lit street of Northern Manhattan I do not know for how long. As an undocumented alien, at that time I carried with me no identification at all. Another age and place, I wouldn’t be here to tell the story. It having being New York City in the year of our Lord of 2015, I am making a photography artist book.

proposed-project-sketch-corpo-lowres

By itself, the book will not be able to stand on its feet.

hhbridge-first-view-sml

My best means of materializing such vulnerability (and my growing hopefulness for the best angels of human nature) is through B&W photographs of bridges and stairways that are part of my neighborhood.  Why bridges and stairways: because I often abstract from such structures the concept of transposing oneself from one reality to another – a commonplace in an immigrant’s life.

arch-w-wall-sml

Besides photographs, this book will feature Emily Dickinson’s poem “I asked no other thing”, in which the author offers her being for Brazil, along with my Portuguese rendering of it.


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