Introspective Collective, A Joseph Cornell Co-op

We did it.

What started as another unpractical dream: a group of artists materializing a gallery space and creating work to be shown in the space based on the experience of creating the space. I called it Groupcracia. The more practical of you can easily spot the flaws.  And galleries, I was told, wouldn’t take the risk of committing real estate to unknown quantities. Not to mention this irksome work-in-progress nature – how to fit it in the curatorialsphere ? Mainly, I think, this was not meant to be as such notions of interchangeable roles between administrative and artistic… too much, just too much. We are supposed to push the envelope – but not like this, they said.

María-Juracán, by Aravind Enrique Adhyathaya

Enters Joseph Cornell, from whom until then I knew so little. A stack of books borrowed from NYPL later, Groupcracia became Introspective Collective. This iteration branched at the hip like conjoined twins: part existing work that had an affinity with Cornellian visions, part new work created in response to the experience of interactions in preparation for the show itself. Still a little convoluted, but at least not as much of an unknown quantity.

I lost track of how many applications I sent out over the past 3 years, but that is immaterial: the only place were we could fit called me, and we needed none other: The Clemente, in the Lower East Side, with its majestic building and its ambitious mission, somewhat at odds with itself, as any other thing that is full of life. It happened all of the sudden, too, some other group dropped the time slot and we were given a handful of weeks to get our act together.

Our act together we did get, with KS Lack joining as co-organizer (we resisted labeling ourselves curators, and anyway we loved how the bilingual wall text set us right as Las Organizadoras!) With her on board the project grew more complex and more ambitious. As for the space, shabby-chic and DYI was among the definitions I heard.  KS said “we will wear it well”. I can’t tell you how happy I felt when she walked in and proclaimed this.

Clockwise from top left: watching lobster boats dream by KS Lack, Experimental Research on the Nonexistence of Borders by Colin McMullan, curatorial wall text, Untitled (Barro y Concreto) by Aurora De Armendi and James Kelly.

Six weeks to create for six another weeks to run, twenty artists, one host institution and another one as partner, plus two grants. It was dizzying. Did I tell you how much fun we had when we laid our hands on a vinyl cutter? As we were groaning under the weight of those wall texts a friend said “you know, you are not MoMA”. Yeah right. Guess what, we might not be MoMA but we behaved as if we were.

Las Organizadoras once again wish to thank The Clemente Exhibitions Committee Board Member Linda Griggs and The Center for Book Arts Executive Director Corina Reynolds, for having believed in us. Special thanks also to Peter Schell and Colin McMullan, for having saved us on the opening day, and to Argenis Apolinario for his superb documentation skills.

Introspective Collective – A Joseph Cornell Co-op, was as multi-media exhibition installed at the LES Gallery in The Clemente from December 7th 2018 – January 20th 2019.

Photograph: Argenis Apolinario

This project was possible thanks to a grant from the Robert and Joseph Cornell Memorial Foundation and an Emergency Grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

“Aviary”, the 1949 installation by Joseph Cornell at the Egan Gallery: image courtesy Aaron Siskind Foundation.

For more information please visit

Participant Artists:

Damali Abrams  , Golnar Adili, Aravind Enrique Adyanthaya, Jose Ambriz, Tomie Arai, Aurora De Armendi, Milcah Bassel, Elizabeth Castaldo, Ana Paula Cordeiro, Roni Gross, James Kelly, Barbara Henry, Wennie Huang, KS Lack, Norah Maki, Colin McMullan Emcee C. M., Master of None, Luis Pons, Peter Schell, paul singleton iii, Daphne Stergides

Poetry Broadsides loaned from The Center for Book Arts Broadside Reading Series


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.


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.



Essay on Tinker Street

Last years’ election night saw to it that my friend Maureen Cummins would right away launch Tinker Street – A Journal of Visual Art, Writing and Resistance, “a fireball collection of work by writers and artists from the upstate New York region and beyond.”

Maureen and I first bonded back in 2003, during my semester as an intern at the Women’s Studio Workshop. She has seen pretty much everything I have ever made by way of artists’ books, from the limited editions publicly shown to the very folios of my private journals, which I got into the habit of gathering and binding into volumes.

Why, she thought, maybe one of these could make good Tinker Street material? Why sure, thought I, and then she saw to it be professionally photographed.

Then one day she asked if I would consider writing an essay about my bike accident to go along, “from an immigrant perspective.”

You would think she could have seen this coming. Maybe she did. Anyway, the essay I came up with goes about the bike accident by way of September 11th, divorce, the English language, Charles Dickens, the French Revolution, patriotism and, of course, the rise of Donald Trump. It was enormous and convoluted but, after much of us putting our heads together, it turned out only a bit too long and no longer messy – to her credit. She is a tenacious editor, and a fierce friend.

The down side is, now with this 2-headed, 4-handed essay monster we have created, that old bound journal she had gone through the trouble of getting pro images of no longer fit on Tinker Street. Viola voilá, WordPress comes to rescue!

I think it is funny, though…  at the end of the day, pics of the handmade journal taken for another handmade journal get published online. All things digital and all things analogue to love. So the journal is here, but for the above mentioned monster immigrant essay you have to get Tinker Street on your hands.

“Tinker Street is hand bound, hand-printed (in part) and produced in an eminently collectible limited edition of 500 copies. Since contributing artists have the option to buy copies at cost for re-sale at readings and openings, by supporting Tinker Street you are supporting living artists and grassroots publishing.”

If you would like to purchase a copy, please send a check for $24 to
Maureen Cummins c/o:
Tinker Street, PO Box 252, Woodstock, NY 12409.
(you may also consider giving a subscription [$48] to a friend who loves art, literature and handmade books.)



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.


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


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.


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.



I propose to make some 20 white cubes, probably 20x20x5″,

inside of which 20 artists will display their work.

There won’t be many rules to start with, but I will set forth some guidelines drawn from 13 years of experience as a member of a communal studio which functions within a gallery.

The first guideline is: each white cube will have an opening custom-made to allow a viewing experience apart from all others.

As result, although the 20(sh) cubes will be exhibited in the same space, the viewer will be able to absorb the contents of only one at a time.

20(sh) “solo” shows will thus be displayed simultaneously, plus one “group” show

(the contents of the “group” show will be decided by the Group.)

The Group will be formed by artists who will have agreed to provide artwork to be shown in one such private white cube, which means they will have consequently had signed up to work for the Group the same amount of time I will have had invested in making the cube she/he will use.

The cubes will all be white in the exterior, but the interior may also be customized.

The range of options of what shall be meant as “work for the Group” will be decided by the Group. I will suggest that to be circumscribed within the boundaries of a) this project promotion (documenting, fundraising, etc); b) production/publication of art criticism; c) volunteering for the communal studio/institution where the cubes will be made; and/or d) volunteering for an organization such as Fountain House.

As for the art to be displayed, the artists will choose whether to

a) work within his/her field of inquiry


b) use as motive the experience of working for/with the Group.

The curatorial cut I will employ is an equation of what I perceive as a) an individual’s commitment to an artistic practice; b) an individual’s awareness of the influences her/his choices of inquiry have brought upon themselves and c) an experience I would have previously had of working with these artists in a fashion such as to have had the workload harmoniously shared – in other words, people who I look forward to work with again for knowing that within a given set of constraints the work dynamics are biased toward fairness. Consequently the Group demographic will be: ethnically diverse; 30’s-60’s years-old; female in majority.

In essence, I propose the job of the curator to be the job of a facilitator in an experiment of art market cast barter, establishing as currency the time we artists will have spent together and separately creating a reality for our work to be experienced.

Hours spent at meetings (or absences) will be currency; tardiness resulting in pressure over the production chain will be charged at equal rate with intellectual chores. For example, as an artist I will add to the sum of hours owed to the Group, hours traded for my labor as a craftswoman, hours which will be paid through my administrative role.



random reports 1, 2 and 3

RR1 RegretsRandom Reports is a series of poems by Barbara Henry derived from vocabulary lists chosen by chance and choice from the first section of The New York Times. They reflect the spirit of the day and are specifically dated, and the subject of the poem is strictly a result of the wordlist.

RR1 House Fire

They are often titled from the headlines. Many many years ago I asked Barbara to allow me a binding gathering the volumes 1, 2 and 3. Time being a theme on all I try my hand at, this sat unfinished for about 7 years. After an involved first attempt with low-relief carvings of scaffolding layers on wood covers that were deep enough for the gauging but too thick for the binding, its potential baffled the binder: thanks to Barbara’s kaleidoscopic talent with words, the number of design venues to explore was vast. Not to mention the weight of my own deflation. Little did I realize how ambitious that first attempt had been. It might photograph well, but oh it functions poorly. Under deadline-pressure I even went ahead and submitted it out to be handled. Oh the shame.

first attempt

Trusting the process kernel originally glimpsed, however, I embraced as propelling force a writing technique known as “hasta pronto adelante“: forward forging ahead from wherever the work is at – a mindset that shares an essence with the poetic constraints of the work. Binding-wise I was in for a trial-and-error loop, but at least this time I kind of knew it. Such kindness to myself totally shared a vibe with Barbara’s forbearance: she never once asked me what was going on.

rr front cover
re-re-re-revised version, with slipcase

Forever forward moving, the initial scaffolding dimensional backdrop made its way to the foreground with the recourse of graffiti rubbings: reminiscences of the tactile response one gets from handling inky newspapers, the original substratum for the poems.

rr back cover
back cover, w slipcase

The back covers offer a contrast with this rough reality through the sensuality of leatherwork – alum goat hand-dyed to match Barbara’s color motif – bringing the harsh graffiti input to an immediate association with skins: layered experience, in tandem with the poems essence.

3 books were bound in this fashion, one of which is available for sale. The price (slipcase included) is $850. Inquiries, please feel free to email me at

This final version luscious photographs are by Roni Mocan.



A couple of years ago our dear Asuka Ohsawa gathered around her magnetic self a group of 6 artists to collaborate on a limited edition book inspired by inheritance – be it within families, cultures or generations.

lineage cover w boxI learned a lot just by observing Asuka’s talent for sharpening our focal point while allowing for such a rich periphery. “Lineage” is lovely to look at, with its 6 entirely different perspectives yet cohesive and meaningful as a whole. It’s has a varied zoom kind of quality, with some of us staying really near home while others took a bird-eye shot, or presented an abstraction, or even offered a kaleidoscopic view of the matter. This next image shows the spread Asuka created:

asukas page

As the following images show, immigration at its contradictory-most level provided me with both the field perspective and the field itself.

lineage 1st page


lineage 2nd page


lineage 3rd page


lineage 4th page


lineage spread

The book is bound as a drum-leaf with silk & paper hard-cover (hotstamped), approximately 6×6″. Produced in an edition of 10, a couple of which are for sale. The price is $350.


Authors: Asuka Osawa, Stephanie Beck, Jessica Lagunas, Ana Paula Cordeiro, Roni Gross, Sarah Nicholls.

Text and images were printed from handset type, photopolymer plates, woodcuts and linoleum blocks on a Vandercook Proofing Press at The Center for Book Arts, NYC, winter 2013/2014. The photos above where taken by Roni Mocan with the exception of Asuka’s page, which was taken by Roni Gross.


lightweight the limp-vellum


lw text 1my long time obsession with limp vellum bindings, finally fully indulged.

lw closed

lw frontflyleafand there is even an explanation for it:

text 2

lw text 3as for the content, after many weeks working long hours to finish it up in time for the spring Book Fair, all I can say is I hope you will enjoy as much as I do (meaning, even though I’m completely exhausted it still tickles me, as a puppy or a kitten that keeps one awake the whole night would)

lw first spread



lw stairs

lw stairs closeup

lw tulips

lw felines


lw colophon

oh yes, it surely had to have its own funny box:

lw w box 1

you probably wouldn’t be seeing these images without the priceless technical expertise, creativity and heartfelt generosity of Celine Lombardi and Roni Mocan, not to mention the constantly invigorating enthusiasm of Maureen Cummins, Linda Broadfoot, Kara Lack, Sarah Nicholls and Jessica Lagunas. And of course, none of this would have ever happened if it wasn’t for my Mom.

happily ever after

lw w box 2


For the artist statement, tech specs and more images, please click here.

Lightweight Photos: Roni Mocan



book heads

I do find book anatomy a very sexy subject, and I quite am sure I am not alone at that. In case you don’t know: the top of the book is called “Head”, and the bottom is called “Tail”. The spine is known as “Spine”, and the page opening side is called the “Fore Edge”. Why, I realized after the fact that all the images that slide away on this blog header are, well, “Heads”. Oh, nerds! Don’t we love them?

lw head crop

This particularly attractive Head is from Lightweight, the new project featured here. The top portion of the pages turned out so pretty, I had to show it off. I had to.

(yes of course I paid a price, yes of course a staggered Head is not a particularly predictable element. Yes, yes, it drove me crazy. I know! But it makes me happy, what else can I say…)