Monday, March 30, 2009

Artist Highlight: Susan Brandt

Meet the Artist: Susan Brandt, in her own words...
"I Am Not Afraid (Title of this work)
Sometimes recovery is one day at a time, like this piece is one letter at a time. Hours spent finding letters, cutting them out, pasting them on would not let me forget Louisa May Alcott’s words 'I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my ship.' "
Susan Brandt graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan, School of Art where she received the Richards Award for fiber art. Now Susan works in a variety of media, acrylic paint, cut paper and fiber (cross stitch, tapestry weaving, knitting). A theme of much of her work is dehumanization - of herself, of groups to which she belongs (woman, mother, Muslim), of other minority or marginalized people. Her work is often an effort to assert her own personhood, to promote understanding of people’s feelings, to explore the societal consequences of denying the humanity of the people around us.

Artist Highlight: Meet Nora Stinley

Meet the Artist: Nora Stinley, in her own words...

"It’s true; women are beautiful. But if you look more closely, you’ll find we are more than that. We are heads of state, masters of art, Nobel Laureates, musical geniuses, activists, scientists, Pulitzer Prize winners. We are also mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends. We are grace and grit, elegance and intelligence. Yes it’s true; women are beautiful. "

Nora Stinley received her training in fine art and art therapy at The George Washington University and continues to live and work in the Washington, DC area. Using a broad scope of media, Nora has exhibited in many venues across the city and strives to convey empowerment and action through her pieces. Nora feels that art is a witness and a testament to the human experience, and truly believes in the power of creation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Artist Highlight: Nil Navaie

Meet the Artist: Nil Navaie, in her own words....

"Growing up in Istanbul where East meets West and in a bilingual/bicultural family helped Nil Sismanyazici-Navaie have an intercultural and interconnected world vision. Her international and multidisciplinary approach reflects on all her work. In her artworks she primarily focuses on human forms as well as the fusion and the balance it creates with nature and objects.

In her latest works she has been applying the collage technique in which she uses mixed media (pencil, oil and acrylic paint combined with handmade materials, raw papers, digital photographs, stones, wood, glass, sea-shells, and more). She believes art, in any form, has the power to create a positive change and thus founded the Arts for Global Development, Inc. ( –an international, educational, volunteer based 501(c)3 initiative that facilitates the creative sector and the stakeholders of development to empower socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and communities worldwide, particularly children, youth, and women."
Nil is a communications strategist, the founding director of Arts for Global Development, Advisor to various arts-infused international development projects, and the creator/editor of internationally known "art’ishake" e-magazine that aims to provide an outlet for interdisciplinary and international exploration of the concepts and practices of creative social innovation. Nil has given numerous presentations, led trainings, published works, curated exhibitions, and organized "edutaining" events primarily on the arts and its involvement in achieving socio-economic development, including the Millennium Development Goals. In addition, she creates mixed-media art and has participated in numerous exhibits on both sides of the Atlantic. After attending Mimar Sinan Fine Arts Academy in Turkey, Nil continued her studies in International Relations at the University of Maryland and received her Master’s degree in Development Management from the London School of Economics in the UK.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Artist Highlight: Meet Gwen Zaberer

Meet the Artist: Gwen her own words,
"My artwork depicts the beauty of the female figure. It is a theme throughout my artwork celebrating its elegance through line, shape, and movement. I paint female icons throughout history focusing on their spirituality and their power. I am drawn to the stories of goddesses, muses and saints and recreate their stories in my artwork. I am a painter, printmaker and papermaker. My paintings are acrylic on canvas with imitation gold, silver or copper leaf. I decorate the surfaces with swirls and patterns to lead the viewer through the story of the painting. I also create collages of handmade paper and prints. I paint female figures within the collages, adding natural and found objects. I make my own paper from Western and Japanese fibers. My art encompasses the beauty of the paper itself. My most recent work comes from when I was young, I remember reading about women in history and being amazed by their strength and power. As l reread those stories, I am finding parallels between religious saints and mythological goddesses, which are portrayed, throughout my artwork."
Gwenn Zaberer was born in Philadelphia, PA and now resides in Arlington, VA. She holds a BFA in Printmaking and Art Education from the Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia, PA and a Master’s in Teaching from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. In January 2009, she received National Board Certification to teach art from elementary to middle childhood. She is an art teacher at Long Branch Elementary in Arlington County in Virginia. She has been teaching art to children from ages 4-18 for 14 years. She believes that art and creativity are essential to a child’s education. As an art teacher, she receives a sense of accomplishment bringing art into children’s lives. Zaberer has shown her artwork in Philadelphia, PA, Northern Virginia and Shepherdstown, WV.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Artist Highlight: Elnora Wilson

Meet the Artist: Elnora Wilson, in her own words:

"In earlier years, I created very realistic, picture perfect floral designs using color pencil, pen and ink and acrylic paint. I used strong, pure colors, collected African Masks and was attracted to the flavor and cultural richness of Louisiana and that of Mardi Gras.

Though I enjoy creating in textiles using a variety of fabrics of varying textures that lead the eye throughout the composition, the use of pen and ink creates a strong black and white composition. Whether creating in textiles or in paint, my colors are bright and play off of each other to form an exciting dimensional quality and individual mood."

Elnora, the youngest of seven children, has been a Prince George’s County resident since the age of 10 having relocated from South Carolina with her family. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Science degree in art education from Bowie State University and completed additional post graduate course work at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC.

Elnora’s abstract constructivism style of rich textural compositions carries over into her mixed media framed art where she incorporates bold colorful fabrics, leather, oil pastels, water color, and occasionally pen and ink. The use of a variety of fabrics of varying textures, lead the eye through the composition and at the same time, give each piece a relief quality and a three dimensional effect. Her work has been exhibited in various office buildings, and solo and group exhibitions throughout the Washington metropolitan area. Her work is also in the private collection of Bowie State University.

Elnora's professional memberships and volunteer services include: Maryland Federation of Artists, Hyattsville Artist Association, Prince George’s Artist Association, Montpelier Arts Center, Black Artists of D.C, Strathmore Music and Arts Center, and Women’s Caucus for Art.

Artist Highlight: Sherill Anne Gross

Meet the Artist: Sherill Anne Gross, in her own words...

"My artwork is made only with paper, glue, and patience.
Every part of my art is made only using cut paper; even the signature. The non-straight lines and imperfect circles that are created are layered upon each other to reveal a final realistic image. All of the work is done by hand - no stencils are used.

Each work provides a new puzzle that needs to be solved. Although my repertoire of techniques has grown considerably over the years, I still try to approach each work with a new method of working the paper to see how this will add to the finished art. In 2007 I committed myself to completing a new work every weekday. The resulting one-a-(week) day project saw the creation of 209 new works. Working on such a fixed schedule forced me to develop new ways of approaching subject, technique, and the paper itself. I completed that year having learnt a lot about my work and myself. My artwork is what happens when you run with scissors.

I graduated with a BFA in Studio Art from Florida State University. After graduation I immediately moved to the Washington DC metro area. I spent several years exploring different methods of digital art combined with collage and monoprints. After experimenting with cut paper I found this was my medium.

In the past several years I have had several solo exhibitions both in and outside of the region as well as participating in many group shows. I belong to several local and national arts organizations, including serving as Vice President of the Laurel Art Guild."

Artist Highlight: Susan Feller

Meet the artist Susan Feller....

Susan Feller graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Studio Art. A former fiber artist, Feller turned to paper and paints. While immersing herself in the intricacies of papermaking, print, silk screening, and letterpress, she also discovered the peripheral pleasures of digital arts, and has done much work with the computer, finding ways to combine digital imagery with other art mediums, such as encaustics, or painting with wax.

Feller's work has been displayed at the Ratner Museum in Maryland, in national juried shows, and at the Torpedo Factory in Virginia. 2009 marks her first appearance in Making Herstory.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Artist Highlight: Meet Prudence Bonds

Meet Prudence Bonds...In her own words:

"I depict people living throughout the African Diaspora, and beyond, by using color, texture, and introspection. Since acceptable images of human concepts such as love and beauty are perpetuated through art, literature, music, and the media, my pieces echo the attempt made by people of color to redefine and re-present those concepts in their terms."

Born in Florida and raised in Washington, DC since infancy, Prudence inherited the “creative gene”. Throughout childhood and adolescence, Prudence expressed several methods of creativity including sewing dolls’ clothes and writing poems and short stories to relate to her drawings. As a teenager, she attended the Corcoran School of Art for figure drawing and photography & film development. She began painting consistently in 2001 and in April 2003 participated in the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center’s 10th Annual Scholarship Fund benefit auction. Prudence donated “Girl Tantalus”, an original work of acrylic on canvas portraying the fabled origins of the word tantalize.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Artist Highlight: Nihal Kececi

Meet the Artist: Nihal Kececi in her own words....

"I am adept at mixing left-and right-brain pursuits, splitting my time between computer screen and canvas. Experimenting with conscious and unconscious painting process raised questions in my mind about self reflective nature of reality. As an engineer, I try to find a model for any complex system for controlling system variables in a logical way. During the intuitive painting process, I learned that modeling and controlling have not been successful for my style of painting, as my best paintings are created when I allowed my hands and my mind to flow freely. I have been wondering if programmed thinking and focus on control prevents one from reaching their soul. I hope that my work touches your mind, heart and soul."

When Nihal Kececi was 13, her first art exhibition made her a local celebrity in her small town in Turkey. Though she attended one year of visual art school, she also felt a pull toward the sciences, and against her parents’ wishes, decided to pursue a degree in physics. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering, Nihal began her professional life as a design engineer in Turkey.

An opportunity to work as a research associate at the University of Maryland brought Nihal and her ten-year-old daughter to the United States in 1997. They then moved to Canada when Nihal was offered a position at the University of Montreal—Quebec. From 1997-2004 she worked as a software analyst in USA and Canada. Though she frequently visited art galleries, Nihal did not begin drawing again until 2001, after a 27-year hiatus. From 2001-2004, she spent her time equally between technical projects and painting. A turning point for the artist came in 2003 when a professor who purchased four of her paintings told her, “Nihal, there are many engineers, but not artists. Your contribution to society as an artist will be greater than as an engineer.” Since 2004, Nihal has been painting full time, working in pastel, oil and acrylic.

Artist Highlight: M. Gasby Brown

Meet the Artist: M. Gasby Brown in her own words...

"I started to paint. My season of artistic creativity took hold of me by surprise, so I started to paint. Without anyone's permission, I started to paint.

M. Gasby Brown has been the New York Correspondent for BET, Financial Reporter for Fox Television’s WNYW in New York, host of WNYC-TV’s “Black Viewpoint” and host of “Starz Talk!," a syndicated radio show distributed to 250 stations across the country. Later she had a successful career as an executive in New York and Washington D.C. In July of 2002 she began to paint. 'For several months, I had a recurring dream about painting trees and other objects. Even when I was awake, the images of painting were vivid and continued to haunt me' Gasby recalls. She made the courageous decision to align the vision with reality and started her painting journey. Her first painting was, indeed, a tree.
Self–taught and inspired by visions, dreams, reality and ideas, Gasby has become a prolific, in-demand artist, capturing a variety of genres including abstract, realism and expressionism extracted from her life experiences and world view. Gasby draws particular inspiration from art greats William Tolliver, Annie Lee, Jacob Lawrence and other greats but has established her own signature painting style with the mixed media works of her 'Praise' and 'Celebration' series. "

Artist Highlight: Mariska Breland

Who is Mariska Breland?

"I have always been drawn to art, and as a child, it took up nearly all of my time. But, with a creative profession to occupy my right brain, the paints were put high on the shelf where they stayed for over 15 years. A visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, a little free time, and a chance meeting with a wonderful artist got me interested in making art again.

I say now I paint because it’s my meditation, and in the end, there is something to show other than a calm mind (which is a wonderful by-product of the process). I am drawn to images of solitude and reflection, and sometimes loneliness and loss. My art is contemplative, and there is always a fair amount of my soul in it – my mood works its way in with the paints. The works are my mirror – showing the world the place I was spiritually and emotionally at the time when I painted them. I am currently exploring abstract portraiture, which draws from my background in graphite realistic portraits and leans towards my hoped-for future in perfecting the abstract human form."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Making HerStory Meets Pia Taavila

In her own words, she'll tell you, "poetry is an obsession. It is sweet agony. It leaves me restless, and does not let me sleep until I get up and wrangle with it and nail it to the page. It is a strange bird in the night that sings to me." That's Pia Taavila: scholar, writer, musician, mother.
Raised in Michigan by deaf parents, the single mom of six, holds a PhD in English, Philosophy, and Sociology from Michigan State University. Her first book, Moon on the Meadow, is a thirty-year collection of 126 poems, most of which have appeared in literary journals and magazines. "I love to write," simply stated. In addition to these many talents, Taavila also plays the mountain and hammered dulcimers, the celtic harp, and she sings in the St. Paul’s Masterworks Choir.
HerStory took the time to interview Pia and this is what she had to say:
What inspired you to become a writer?

The sense that if I didn’t write it down, I would dissipate in particles of radiance. In the second grade, I wrote a poem that made my classmates cry. In a good way. Then, in the eighth grade, my English teacher had us read the great poets: Keats, Shelly, Tennyson, and various other dead white guys. I found myself holding my breath a lot. Or weeping. In a good way. Then, I wrote a poem that found a home in the school newspaper, then more in my high school literary magazine, then more in my college and graduate school publications then more in serious literary journals and I thought, hey, I can do this. Maybe it’s just ego: seeing my name in print is a very good thing.

What subjects inspire you the most?
The everyday, the mundane, the humane, the tragic, the ridiculous. The impossibly soft skin at the back of a baby’s neck, witnessing an act of compassion, that cornflower blue along the roadway. Struggling with a decision while weeding. The fragrance of chopped onions under your fingernails. My family… The erotic. The notion that we still open our hearts and love, even though we have confronted the facts and should know better. The smell just before rain.

What impact do you want your writing to have on the world?
When I give a reading and I can hear people sniffling or laughing at the right places, or a fellow jumps up from the back row and shouts, “I love you, Pia!”… when I know I have connected with other humans in this decidedly risky business of living, that is when I have had the impact I wish for… to share our experiences on this earth, to alleviate each other’s sense of alienation and isolation.

Do you remember the first poem you wrote? What was it about? How old were you?
The second grade poem, no. The eighth grade poem that made it into the school newspaper, yes. It was a haiku about the war in Vietnam and it caused my English teacher to decide I was depressed and needed therapy:


Planes zoom overhead
and all in DaNang lie dead.
The silent bomb falls."

This was followed by a rather emotional recitation of a favorite Keats poem, the first two lines of which are, “When I have fears that I might cease to be/ before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain…”

They weren’t accustomed to seeing a poet in the eighth grade back then. It was as if I were a science experiment about to erupt. It was either keep writing or let them give me a straitjacket.

If you could sum up the theme "feminine reflection" in ten words, what would you say?

Ten words? Not possible for a poet. If you’ll indulge me…

"What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a woman in this world of war, of famine, of poverty, of testosterone-poisoned views of femininity? What does it mean to create our spiritual selves given the hostilities we face? How do we define and enjoy our sexual selves? How do we make our art and our safe havens in and from which we love and wage life? How do we accommodate the needs of those we love without losing ourselves? These are the questions that interest me now."

Pia will perform at the opening event on March 5 at the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum. Pia currently resides in Fredericksburg, VA where she a member of Beth Sholom Temple. Pia's last words, "I have fallen in and out of love. Guilty."

Making HerStory Meets Dehejia Maat

It's been many years since HerStory creator, Michelle d. Parrish and poetress, Dehejia Maat first crossed paths spinning verses on the Open Mic scene along the gentrifying U Street corridor in Washington, DC. Parrish recalls the love bestowed upon her by Maat one nite at the Cave--a part of historic Bohemian Caverns in DC--when Parrish was to perform but had a sore throat. From her bag of all things awesome, Maat gave Parrish a fresh bag of vanilla tea to soothe her throat. From then on, Parrish knew what Maat was about: peace, love, and all things creative. So when the 2009 program for Making HerStory was being developed, it seemed fitting to invite Maat to perform as 2009 marks the first time the series has exhibited in DC.

HerStory interviewed Maat about her work and here is what she had to say:

Do you recall the first poem you ever wrote? How old were you? What was it about?

The first poem I ever wrote was for the Dogwood Tree outside my window where I grew up on 2nd Place in NW. I can still conjure the aroma of its flowers. I was in elementary school about 7 years old. I remember writing about the scent feeling like home, spring time bbq's in the back yard, and colorful birds on my windowsill eating the berries. I was a nature lover even back then, but aren't most children.

What impact do you want your creativity to have on the world?

The impact I want my creativity to have on the world is to inspire more creativity. To give people a view and a path out of the box that they think surrounds them.

When did you branch into visual art? What inspired you to branch out that way?

I started making collage at a young age and water painting with my momma. The same thing I do with my son. I've always been a visual artist but I've never shared that part of myself with anyone outside of my family. My collection has grown over the years from taking design and painting classes here and there. I think I'm ready and confident now to have it displayed. If I can face motherhood, I can face eyes ogling my paintings.

I know the spoken word is meaningful to you. When you approach a mic, what are you thinking?

Spoken word has given me a way to come out of myself and be myself at the same time. I found out that I really love the stage and that anything having to do with performance, I want to be involved in. When I approach the mic I'm always chanting. Never the same chant but always something beautiful like Om Bur Bhuvas Suvaha, The Gayatri Mantra or Aum Gan Ganapataya Namah, Ganesha's Mantra. It keeps me high, balanced, and focused on what I'm about to present.

If you could sum up the theme "feminine reflection" in ten words, what would they be?

Feminine Reflection: 10 words...hmmm + 1 for good karma...
"We will find self in time/Light flooding the cave/arriving"

Dehejia Maat is a poet, actress, yogi, and painter...a deep rooted original Earth woman who greets the dawn chanting while doing Surya Namaskar. She is the theater director for the Dragon Box Theater in Washington, DC and the hostess for the Innneractive Jam Session--a weekly event for artist to transcend the norm at the Artmosphere Cafe' in Mt. Rainier, MD. She has graced many stages from the Kennedy Center to local clubs on Historic U street and has rocked mics from Japan to Toronto. She is the Co-Creator of No Goddess Left Behind Writers Workshop and is a Yoga teacher for Mayor Fenty’s Step Up to Health program. Her current projects are "The Joy of Billie Holiday", an original one woman show and "The Yes that Leads to Infinity," her second book poetry.

Monday, March 2, 2009

"The Girl," HerStory creator, Michelle d. Parrish

She might just really get it from her momma. The multi-talented Washingtonian comes from a long line of artisans including her mom, 2009 HerStory participant, Candice Lee Mason Parrish. Parrish graduated in 1994 from the University of Maryland at College Park with a BA in English Language and Writing. From there, she began her creative life as a poet and expository writer. A published essayist, she still enjoys writing and is currently a writing coach with the Posse Foundation.

After spending many late nights ripping mics on U Street in DC while a grad student, she met and fell in love with painting. In 1999, she thought by selling her work she could raise proceeds to open a publishing company. But, "the art had other plans for me once I really got into it." Equipped with an MS in Contracts and Procurement and a truly creative mind, she easily found a niche in the local art world curating and developing programs for lesser known artists.

She created Making HerStory as part of the Art with Joe series at Peace & a Cup of Joe Cafe in Baltimore, MD where she has been the Artistic Director since opening in 2003. With the help of friends like artist and curator, Sharon J. Burton, she was able to develop the idea into a full scale celebration of women in the arts. Through the HerStory events, she has made many solid friendships such as that with Jennifer Judelsohn, 2009 HerStory co-curator.

Parrish will tell you that she has no passion for making art, but more of passion for making a way for artistic people. "When I was a spoken word artist, I chuckled at the arrogance of open mic promoters--as if they would have an event if no open mic artists showed up. I believe that art happens through love and that there is no way a venue can remain open if all the artists stayed, we've got to support the art and the people that make it. Without those people, we have no galleries, blues clubs, or band stands," says Parrish when asked about her thoughts on art promotion.

As a artist, Parrish's work is vibrant and laden with texture and underlying patterns. Her paintings, while abstract, are deliberate in structure. In addition to being a writer and painter, Parrish is also a magnificent photographer with an eye for the poetry and irony in life. Her composition in her photographs is much like that of her paintings, organic and utterly feminine.

When she's not painting, she's in the kitchen creating a new dish as cooking is her real passion. Parrish always tells people that if she could be anything, she'd be a caterer. She's welcomes any willing foodie to come sit at her counter.

She is currently the CEO of the ThickArt Collaborative, LLC, as DC based artistic company that promotes artistic ventures, consults for home and office collections, and works to collaborate and build with local artists. Her family has lived in Washington, DC for many generations and true to that history, she still resides in the same neighborhood in which she came of age.