Laurie Toby Edison


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Featured Artist: Women’s Caucus of the Arts

Laurie says:

It was a surprise to be chosen as one of the twelve Women’s Caucus of the Arts members to be featured for a month on the front page of the WCA website. The “Featured Artist” section of the website includes 3 rotating images. It was hard to choose 3 images to represent my work. The size of the images on the site is small so I had the added consideration of photos that look will beautiful in that size. I chose one from each of my suites of photographs.

I feel like “Miss February”.

Hwangbo Kangja

Hwangbo Kangja is an activist for human rights, especially minority rights in Japan. Her work is focused in the Kansai. She is a feminist who works for women’s rights in many ways, including being active member of the Zainichi Korean group that works to support the “comfort women“. (Comfort women were women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II. The name “comfort women” is a translation of the Japanese euphemism.) I met her through my Women of Japan project. As part of her collaboration on the project, she went with me to Hokkaido and introduced me to the Ainu women that I photographed. Her help was both valuable and indispensable. The photo is from my Women of Japan project.


Jonathan Segel is a composer, performer and multi-instrumentalist. He performs improvisational acoustic and digital solos (or with others as Chaos Butterfly), in the revived Camper Van Beethoven, as the bandleader in his eponymous band, and is an occasional contributor to music from the Big City Orchestra. Segel currently resides in Stockholm, Sweden where he has most recently collaborated with the experimental improvised band The Muffin Ensemble. I met him through my daughter Cid. He has composed superb music for her dances. The photograph is a framing from my book Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes


Debbie Notkin is my writing partner, including editing the text for Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes and editing the text and co-authoring the keynote essay for Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes. We have worked together since 1984 on issues of body image and visibility, writing and co-authoring numerous essays and papers. Among the books she’s edited, she compiled (with Karen Joy Fowler) 80! Memories and Reflections of Ursula Le Guin as an 80th birthday present for the renowned author. She also works as an organizer of Strike Debt Bay Area. The photograph is from my book Women En Large:Images of Fat Nudes

You Don’t Have to Settle: Fat Sex on Your Own Terms

Debbie says:

I don’t actually think Sarah Hollowell at The Butter (“This Is an Essay About a Fat Woman Being Loved and Getting Laid”) and Philippe Leonard Fradet at The Body Is Not an Apology (“Sex at Every Size!” were conspiring to get me to write about this topic. They probably don’t even know each other.

But both essays are excellent, and both make a particularly important point about not “settling” for less than you want.

Here’s Hollowell’s self-description:

I am not a little chubby. I am not a few pounds over some arbitrary acceptable weight. I am very, very fat. I have a huge stomach and arm fat that flaps for days. I do not have the large breasts and tiny waist that would make me into an hourglass. My thighs are so far from having a gap that any day now they could meld together and transform me into a glorious mermaid.

My curves are not in all the right places but they still bring men to their knees.

Hollowell is exactly the kind of person who doesn’t need Fradet, but so many of us do need him. A fat man himself, he has set out to modify the Health at Every Size model to be specifically about sex. He has come up with eight points, and you should read them all, so I’ll tantalize you with two:

You have every right to express your desires. If you have decided to have sex, you have the right to discuss all of your desires with your partner. One of the keys to any relationship, whether it’s a fling, a long-term deal, or a purely sexual encounter, is communicating what you like and don’t like and what makes your comfortable and uncomfortable.

Here’s the point where he converges with Hollowell:

There is no need to “settle.” The concept of “settling” can indeed be unsettling, but you shouldn’t feel that you need to forgo your own desires just to have sex. If you feel that you’re not going to be happy, or that you’re not going to enjoy your sexual encounter, don’t force yourself to move forward. Never enter a relationship that is mentally, emotionally, or physically abusive.

Hollowell’s version of “not settling”:

I am not, never have been, and never will be a pity fuck.

… I have been the chosen one among a group of women more traditionally pretty than me and I have been on the other side, doing the selecting. I have gone man to man to man and kissed them hard to feel if our lips lined up and if they knew the right way to pull my hair and bite the point where my neck meets my shoulder. I am picky and I will dismiss a man who is not to my liking, and there will be someone else in line waiting to be tested.

Men look on my naked fat body in the full light – because I don’t have sex in the dark – and grow hard at the sight of me. I have had my stomach cradled in gentle hands and been told in reverent whispers that I look like an ancient fertility goddess. I have had those hands turn rough and squeeze my stomach fat as passionately as one might squeeze a thigh or a breast.

Neither Fradet nor Hollowell invented fat sex, and they’re not the first people to talk about it openly, or to recommend against “settling.” What they are is clear, contemporary, committed, and convincing. I’ll just steal Fradet’s closing:

The best way to promote fat sexuality is to talk about it with other fat folks, especially fat folks of color, queer fat folks, trans* fat folks, and fat folks with disabilities.

Cid Pearlman: “Economies of Effort” Show Premiere

Laurie says:

I wrote about my daughter Cid’s new work on Body Impolitic a couple of weeks ago.  Here’s part of what I said:

“My daughter Cid Pearlman has a major work opening in San Francisco in February. I’ve been watching her work for over 25 years and the combination of beautiful complex dance and thought in her work continues to knock me out.


“Economies of Effort: 1″ is an evening-length dance exploring the virtues of self-reliance and the creative impulse.
This interdisciplinary collaboration is the first installment in a planned triptych of performances by Pearlman on the theme of “economy.” Performed in the round, and featuring a set designed by visual artist Robbie Schoen that the dancers build each night as part of the choreography, “Economies of Effort: 1″ aims to generate questions about the differences between creating something with bodies (theoretically intangible) and building something that has a solid shape (with the illusion of permanence).”


As I said I’ll be at the San Francisco performance Thursday and Saturday night.  Her work is so layered, I  like to see it twice.


Economies of Effort: 1 will premiere at; Joe Goode Performance Annex February 5-7 buy tickets, Motion Pacific February 20-22 buy tickets, Pieter Performance Space March 9,  donations

Zanele Muholi : LGBT Faces from South Africa

Laurie says:

Muholi’s powerful portraits of LGBT people in her community is stunning art and makes the invisible visible to us.  Her work gives us a sense of the reality of who the people in her portraits are, as they look at us. She is referred to as a visual activist and that certainly expresses itself in her work. We are looking at vivid powerful images of people she cares deeply about. I know that part of my deep response to her work is that I am also, in my way, a portrait artist and a visual activist.


Collen Mfazwe – August House, Johannesburg

In Faces and Phases, Zanele Muholi embarks on a journey of “visual activism” to ensure black queer and transgender visibility. Despite South Africa’s progressive Constitution and 20 years of democracy, black lesbians and transgender men remain the targets of brutal hate crimes and so-called corrective rapes. Taken over the past eight years, the more than 250 portraits in this book, accompanied by moving testimonies, present a compelling statement about the lives and struggles of these individuals. They also comprise an unprecedented and invaluable archive: marking, mapping and preserving an often invisible community for posterity



Charmain Carrol – Parktown, Johannesburg

Quotes below are from Erica Schwiegershausen’s article in NY Magazine:

For the past eight years, South African photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi has taken portraits of queer and transgender individuals in her community. Her project began in 2006, when she first photographed her friend and colleague Busisiwe Sigasa, a poet and activist who was suffering from AIDS she’d contracted from a “corrective rape” — which remains a brutal and prevalent hate crime in South Africa. Eight months later, Sigasa died. She was 25.

“I’ve lost friends, and I wanted to remember my friends as beautiful as they were when I interacted with them,” Muholi told the Cut. After Sigasa’s death, she continued photographing LGBTI friends, colleagues, and acquaintances living in and around Johannesburg and Cape Town.  The resulting collection — which was first exhibited at the Yancey Richardson Gallery in 2013 — now includes more than 250 portraits, which comprise her latest book, Faces and Phases: 2006–2014.


Lebo Ntladi – NewTown, Johannesburg

In a country where LGBTI individuals remain frequent targets of hate crimes and violence, Muholi’s work aims to increase visibility of gay and transgender experiences there. “I wanted to fill a gap in South Africa’s visual history that, even ten years after the fall of Apartheid, wholly excluded our very existence,” she writes in the book’s introduction. A collection of portraits, poems, and personal essays, Faces and Phases provides a sobering testament to the suffering and strength of its subjects. “I think it’s the first book of its kind in Africa that features black lesbians in a positive way,” Muholi told the Cut.

“My photography is therapy to me,” Muholi writes. “I want to project publicly, without shame, that we are bold, black, beautiful/handsome, proud individuals. It heals me to know that I am paving the way for others who, in wanting to come out, are able to look at the photographs, read the biographies, and understand that they are not alone.”

What she said – look at the slide show. See them all.

The Art and Science of Sushi

Laurie and Debbie say:

We’ve all had the experience of looking at a beautiful display of sushi, in a window or in a photograph or on a tray at our table, and feeling like we’re in the presence of art. And, in a sense, we often are: Japanese sushi chefs pride themselves on the beauty of their sushi, and the best of them make extraordinarily beautiful displays.

Sushi art goes one step further. Johnny at Spoon and Tamago explains:

Based in Tokyo, Takayo Kiyota is a self-proclaimed illustrator and makizushi artist who goes by the name Tama-chan. What exactly is a makizushi artist, you might wonder? Well have a look below. Tama-chan lays her ingredients just so, visualizing in her head how the cross-section – her creation – will look once cut.

“I never know what the inside looks like so I’m never sure if it will come out the way I imagined. And I can’t make edits once it’s done,” writes Tama-chan. “Facial expressions are especially difficult because small ingredients or overly exerted force when wrapping can completely throw things off. It’s always a special moment when I make the first incision to reveal the image.”

While much of Tama-chan’s sushi is either fanciful (mermaids, demons) or working with the familiar (famous paintings, everyday logos), we were charmed by her light-hearted take on naked men. Keep reading to see her amazing scientific sushi.


Without taking away from the sheer whimsy of these men, we can’t help but notice that: they are visually diverse, they are not sexualized, and they are rare examples of male nudity used to convey charm and silliness. Our experience in Japan in the late 1990s through middle 2000s was that there was a lot of unwillingness to show penises: things may have changed, or sushi art may be different than paintings or photographs, but there’s probably still some element of transgression in Tama-chan’s choice of subject here.

Her tour de force (of what we’ve seen) is this roll which, depending on where you cut it, takes you through the developmental cycle of an embryo.



It’s art. It’s science. It’s sushi. It’s delightful.

Thanks to Robbie Gonzalez at io9 for discovering these.

Links Begin a New Year

Fix YouTube video,  use closing references, add tags

Debbie says:

I started seriously harvesting links right around the turn of the year, and now I have a bumper crop! (And look, it’s not even a mixed metaphor.)

Kristina Bravo at TakePart calls our attention to “This Girl Can,” a United Kingdom public service announcement that’s taking the Internet by storm.

“Before we began this campaign, we looked very carefully at what women were saying about why they felt sport and exercise was not for them,” said Sports England CEO Jennie Price in a statement. “Some of the issues, like time and cost, were familiar, but one of the strongest themes was a fear of judgment. Worries about being judged for being the wrong size, not fit enough, and not skilled enough came up time and again.”

Hence this video, set to Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On.” It features shots of women of all ages running, cycling, Zumba dancing, punching bags, and kicking balls—and it’s been viewed more than two million times since its launch.

Continuing on the theme of overcoming the fear of being judged, Melissa McEwen–the guiding spirit of Shakesville–shares her experience participating in Viva La Feminista’s #365FeministSelfie project:

Part of my agreement with myself, when embarking on this project, was that I would not assess my own pictures with negative judgments I would never in a million years wield against another person.

With that resolve, I saw pictures of myself in a new way. I saw them through ever gentler eyes as the year went on. Without the filter of judgment my culture exhorts me to use, using the standards of love and acceptance I would extend to any other person, photos of myself actually looked different to me. Literally different. I saw myself in a way I had never seen myself before. It was a genuine revelation.

I am radically changed.

We are taught to be afraid of seeing ourselves as we really are, but it is only really looking at ourselves that we see our true selves, and not a self onto which we project narratives of hatred and shame as we quickly look away from a photo, from the mirror.

Laurie and I are always both amused and delighted when someone new reinvents the idea of nonjudgmental nudity. This time, it’s Caitlin Stasey, a British actress, with a lovely site . Clem Bastow at Daily Life describes Stasey’s work as:

a feminist web project where nude photo essays are accompanied by extensive interviews with the woman in question, recontextualising the ‘full frontal’ portrait into something altogether more honest (yes, there are additional levels of honesty that can be added to the naked body).


This is Caitlin, and her quick comment is “Women Are Fucking Beautiful and Powerful.”

Bastow quotes Stasey as saying:

“I want to help demystify the female form, to assist in the erasure of coveting it, and to help celebrate the ever changing face of it. We consider a woman’s sexuality so linked to her physicality that for a woman to appear naked publicly is automatically an act of sex and not for herself. There’s also a very specific construct of woman we are all used to seeing, and while those women are no less women, I was so desperate to see different faces, different bodies.”

And here’s why we need all of these projects, and more like them. Liz Dwyer, also writing at TakePart, examines Urban Outfitters’ use of the “thigh gap.”


After complaints from consumers, the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority asked Urban Outfitter’s British website to remove a photo of a model wearing a pair of polka-dot bikini briefs. The ASA is concerned that the image could do damage to the body image of teen girls and young women. The independent advertising regulator wrote in a statement that it “considered that the model was very thin, and noted, in particular, that there was a significant gap between the model’s thighs, and that her thighs and knees were a similar width.” It also concluded that “using a noticeably underweight model was likely to impress upon that audience that the image was representative of the people who might wear Urban Outfitters’ clothing, and as being something to aspire to.”

“They [Urban Outfitters] did not believe she was underweight and provided a copy of her agency profile, other photographs of the model and a list of clients for whom she had posed. They stated that her waist size was 23.5 inches, and provided documentation from outerwear brands showing they provided clothing for that waist size,” wrote the ASA. “They added that it was common practice to use slim models in the underwear industry, but they did not consider that the model was underweight or unhealthily thin; they considered she had a naturally tall and slim physique.”

As Dwyer goes on to say, 23.5″ waists are really small, though not unheard of. And isn’t it interesting that the corporation responded about her waist size and not her thigh size?

Moving away from the most traditional type of body image, let’s congratulate Madhu Kinnar, the first transgender mayor elected in India.


Science geeks, people interested in women’s health, and people hoping to conceive will all appreciate Jane, You Ignorant Slut, writing about her own journey through infertility to pregnancy with a lot of scientific detail:

Because of science, I knew when I had heavy spotting at nine weeks that I had not lost the pregnancy – an ultrasound confirmed they were still viable. I was able to see two embryos moving and flipping at 10 weeks. At 12 weeks the doctor was able to rule out anemia as a possible cause of dizzy spells. The early diagnosis of twins allowed my maternal-fetal medicine specialist to recommend extra folic acid supplements in order to support proper development. At 15 weeks we knew which one was Baby A and which Baby B – meaning which was likely to be born first. At 17 weeks we were able to discover the sex of each fetus. At 19 weeks we breathed a sigh of relief to know that there were no major markers of disability present in either baby. At 28 weeks I was excited to know that both babies were head down, a sign that I could possibly deliver vaginally. At 31 weeks I became immensely frustrated to learn that one baby had flipped back into the breech position, dramatically raising my chances of needing a C-section, only to find at 32 weeks that he had flipped down back down, and I might be able to deliver vaginally after all.

In a great juxtaposition with my last post featuring Hope Whitmore’s adventures in dating while autistic, here are “10 Crip Date Ideas for the Disabled/Chronically Ill/Mad Person in Your Life,” compiled by Dean Jackson, Jen Venegas, Kay Ulanday Barrett,
Kira Marrero, Kirin Jakubowski,  and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. I’ll just tempt you with one:

6) Indoor Camping Trip - Looking for a way to camp-in instead of camp out? Trade your camping tent in for a blanket fort and rough it indoors. You’ll get all the fun of sharing a sleeping bag and none of the bug bites!
(Pro-tip: As it gets dark, use your gas stove top to make gluten-free s’mores & tell each other your best scary stories by flashlight.)

And to return to the idea of photos without judgment, if porn is in any way your thing (or would be if it were good enough), don’t miss Maddy Macnab’s article in Guts: Canadian Feminist Magazine about feminist porn and how the people at Spit Magazine are doing it right. The article is irresistibly entitled “Happy People Fucking.”

Like the genre itself (which has really only gained serious momentum since the 2000s), Spit Magazine is young and still figuring out its identity. The founders are still negotiating Spit’s approach to representing queer, non-normative sexualities, and sex-positive encounters. “We have a very connected community,” [Caitlin K.] Roberts shares. “We were witnessing a lot of happy, positive sexual interactions around us, realizing that there wasn’t a platform for it, for other people to see.” They began photographing, and later filming, the bodies, sexualities, kinks, that they weren’t seeing represented in mainstream porn. Photo sets featuring BDSM begin with a shot of the performers, looking pumped, holding signs along the lines of: “I 100% consent enthusiastically and with vigour to do sexy things with this guy.” Labia of all shapes and colours, cunts of all degrees of hairiness, men and women cis and trans, chest binding, strap-ons, and lots of real orgasms grace the pages of this members-only site.

Most of my links are found through Feministing, Feministe, io9, Shakesville, and Sociological Images. If you find links you think would be good for this series, please put them in the comments.

Autism: Two First-Person Articles

Debbie says:

Autistic Abby, a queer autistic 14-year-old, brings us detailed and informative post on access to speech, in which she describes ten different forms of having partial access to speech. Here’s a taste:

I have access to prompted speech, but not unprompted speech.

For example, if you ask me what book I am reading, I might be able to tell you it’s Bridge to Terabithia, and it’s good, but if I see you sitting across the room and want to tell you what I’m reading about I will not be able to initiate the conversation.

I have access to speech, but not the words I want to say.

“Make no because the thing is curtaining” I say, unable to do grammar entirely, hoping someone will turn off the light. When I looked for pictures of light in my brain, I found a picture of light filtering through curtains, and “make no” means “make not exist”. Communicative, but damn hard to understand.

A side note: it is cruel to make someone in this state use proper grammar or polite phrasing before you acknowledge what they have said.

I wish that last sentence was something that no one ever needed to say or write …

As far as I am aware, I don’t know anyone with limited speech capacity due to autism or spectrum-related conditions. Nonetheless, this article makes me think of a good friend who is a stroke survivor, an acquaintance with selective mutism, and a friend who was diagnosed in November with a brain tumor, all of whom struggle with different kinds of access to speech. As a very articulate person to whom words come easily, I found that Abby’s article helped me to understand a little of what limited access to speech is like from the inside.

Perhaps everyone who has read Abby’s piece has also seen Hope Whitmore’s “Are You Angry at Me? Dating as an Autistic Woman,” recently published at The Toast.

Through my early twenties I found that many guys would hone in on my “cute eccentricity,” my “beautiful weirdness,” and, yes, my “adorable awkwardness.” Autism didn’t come into it for them — I was not what people imagined when they heard the word. I didn’t rock in anxiety, I didn’t speak in a monotone, I laughed and danced and engaged with people, showing interest in their work and passions. Here the common misconceptions about autism were both my ally and my enemy: they allowed me to hide, and to embrace a status as “off-key yet normal,” but they also damaged me by giving fuel to the lie that I was just a bit odd, making it all the more difficult when it blew up in my face with someone yelling: “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Whitmore goes on to discuss the impact of sexism on recognition of autism: “Young men are believed when they say they are autistic; young women are not, and are instead encouraged to embrace the role of a lovely eccentric, decorative and quirky rather than ‘disordered.'”

This is a crucial point; geekiness and various sorts of social awkwardness are more acceptable (and more recognizable) in men than in women, and thus autism spectrum patterns in women can become not only easily dismissed but invisible. And if you are dating someone who does not believe your own description of your situation, nothing good can come of it.

Especially since autism is a condition that can impair communication, Abby and Whitmore are doing the rest of us–“neurotypical,” “on the spectrum,” or autistic, a great service.

Gordon Parks: Back From Fort Scott

Laurie says:

Gordon Parks: Back from Fort Scott is a remarkable exhibition of brilliant photographs that document the realities of life under racism and segregation in the 1950’s. Working in a very difficult place and time, Gordon Park‘s portraits are both aesthetically beautiful and give us a real sense of the people in the images. This is journalism and it is the work of a fine artist.

Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning CROP

It includes portraits of African-Americans and their families in their everyday lives; images that were invisible at the time and are still too rarely seen. Parks took the photo essay for Life Magazine and it was never published.

These quotes are from Randy Kennedy’s article ‘A Long Hungry Look’: Forgotten Gordon Parks Photos Document Segregation in the New York Times:

In 1950, Gordon Parks was the only African-American photographer working for Life magazine, a rising star who was gaining the power to call his own shots, and he proposed a cover story both highly political and deeply personal: to return to Fort Scott, Kan., the prairie town where he had grown up, to find his 11 classmates in a segregated middle school.

The magazine agreed, and in the spring Parks drove back into his hometown for the first time in 23 years, taking, as he wrote later, “a long hungry look” at the red brick school where he had been educated, a school still segregated in 1950. “None of us understood why the first years of our education were separated from those of the white; nor did we bother to ask,” Parks wrote. “The situation existed when we were born. We waded in normal at the tender age of 6 and swam out maladjusted and complexed nine years later.”

For reasons that remain unclear, Life never published those words or the powerful pictures Parks took of nine of his classmates, and their stories have remained in the time capsule of his archives for more than half a century. But an exhibition opening Jan. 17 at the Museum of Fine Arts here will at long last bring the work to light, at a time when racial unrest and de facto segregation in many American cities give it a new kind of relevance.

gordon parks old woman

“The story would have been the only Life cover in those years — other than one about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier — to show African-Americans, and I think it would have had a big impact,” said Karen E. Haas, the show’s curator. “I just really wanted to figure out what had happened to it and see what was there.”

Parks, raised in a poor tenant-farming family, became one of the most celebrated photographers of his generation, not only because of his images, which often held a harsh mirror up to American racism, but also because of his writing — his memoirs and the semi-autobiographical novel “The Learning Tree” — and his 1971 action movie, “Shaft,” which helped open new avenues for black actors and directors.

Ms. Haas has pieced together the unpublished Fort Scott article’s history through original prints held at the Gordon Parks Foundation, in Pleasantville, N.Y., and documents in the archive of Parks’s papers at Wichita State University in Kansas. And she ended up going much further than most curators might in search of her subject. In the fall, she and her husband, Greg Heins, a photographer and director of the museum’s photo studio, took to the road through the Midwest — in a kind of reverse Great Migration, from Chicago to Fort Scott — to find children and grandchildren of Parks’s classmates, using decades-old addresses from Parks’s notes. “It was an odd sort of vacation for the two of us, you might say,” Mr. Heins said.

In the end, at each address they visited, not a single home of the classmates Parks photographed was still standing, a sad testament, at least in part, to the fate of African-American neighborhoods in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Columbus, Ohio, where the graduates had moved to find work and better lives. “I remember thinking, ‘Well, at least I know the house for the address I have in Fort Scott itself will still be there,’ ” Ms. Haas recalled in a recent interview at the museum. “And when I saw that it was gone, too, I literally cried.”

The lives of the classmates — six girls and five boys who graduated from the segregated Plaza School in 1927, in what was then a town of 10,000 people — present a miniature snapshot of African-American aspiration and struggle in the years before Brown v. Board of Education or the civil rights movement.

Parks found Emma Jane Wells in Kansas City, Mo., where she sold clothes door-to-door to supplement her husband’s salary at a paper-bag factory. Peter Thomason lived a few blocks away, working for the post office, one of the best jobs available to black men at the time. But others from the class led much more precarious lives. Parks tracked down Mazel Morgan on the South Side of Chicago, in a transient hotel with her husband, who Parks said robbed him at gunpoint after a photo session. Morgan’s middle-school yearbook description had been ebullient (“Tee hee, tee ho, tee hi, ha hum/Jolly, good-natured, full of fun”), but in 1950 she told Parks, “I’ve felt dead so long that I don’t figure suicide is worthwhile anymore.”
The most promising of the classmates, Donald Beatty, lived in an integrated neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, where he had a highly desirable job as a supervisor at a state agency and where Parks’s pictures show him — very much in the vernacular of Life magazine’s Eisenhower-era domestic scenes — happy and secure with his wife and toddler son and a brand-new Buick. But notes made by a Life fact-checker just a year later, when the magazine planned once again to run Parks’s article, recorded a tragedy, blithely and with no explanation: “Aside from the death of their son, nothing much has happened to them.

gordon parks porch

The Times article says it is ‘unclear’ and the museum’s essay says that it is a ‘mystery’ why they were never published. Since it’s no accident that images of the people in these photographs are rarely seen and never seen at that time – it seems to me that there is no mystery at all.

The museum essay says:  “Once completed, Parks’ Fort Scott photo essay never appeared in Life. The reason for that remains a mystery, although the US entry into the Korean War that summer had a major impact on the content of its pages for some time. The magazine’s editors did try to resuscitate the story early in April of 1951 only to have it passed over by the news of President Truman’s firing of General Douglas MacArthur.

Since Life’s only cover with an African American during this entire period was of Jackie Robinson, it would have been a miracle for Life to have published it in those segregated pre-civil rights times. And in the present time of #Black Lives Matter it is still more true than not.

So, I’m grateful to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Gordon Parks Foundation for finally giving us the opportunity to see these photos, and to let us re-remember (or see for the first time) the realities of those times and people.

And there is a book, and I’m buying it.

Bess Myerson: Famous Woman You May Have Heard Of

Debbie says:

I was struck by the headline of Katie Halper’s essay on Bess Myerson at Feministing: “Bess Myerson: The only Jewish Miss America, pianist, politician you’ve never heard of”

I remember Bess Myerson because I was a compulsive game-show watcher, and she was a regular panelist on I’ve Got a Secret. I knew she had been Miss America, and I knew she later became a highly influential consumer watchdog and advocate, and that she ran for U.S. Senator. When I saw Halper’s article, Myerson’s face and voice came back to me instantly.


Until I started reading about her, I didn’t know she was the only Jewish Miss America, ever, let alone that she refused to take a “more attractive” name when urged to do so by pageant organizers. Or that she got fewer offers to be a sponsor, and some country clubs and hotels barred her during her celebration tour. I didn’t know she was a pianist, and somehow I missed the fact that she was involved in a major money/politics/sex scandal in the 1980s and–even though a jury acquitted her on all counts–dropped out of her public life as a consumer advocate after that.

According to various obituaries and biographies, she didn’t like being described as an early feminist, saying she just did what she had to to survive.

Whether or not she was a feminist, she was a world-changing woman.

Had Halper not heard of her just because people drop out of sight and memory quickly? Because Myerson’s 15 minutes (in her case, more than forty years) of fame are over? Because women’s history is still a backwater, easily ignored or forgotten? Because Myerson was discredited in her later years, and thus lost status as an important woman?

Probably, all of the above. But I can’t escape the lingering sense that a white man with comparable credentials would be better known now than Bess Myerson is … and I can’t escape the near-certainty that none of her male game-show panelist colleagues ever did as much good in the world offscreen as she did.

Cid Pearlman Performance Projects: Economies of Effort

My daughter Cid Pearlman has a major work opening in San Francisco in February. I’ve been watching her work for over 25 years and the combination of beautiful complex dance and thought in her work continues to knock me out.

“Economies of Effort: 1″ is an evening-length dance exploring the virtues of self-reliance and the creative impulse.


This interdisciplinary collaboration is the first installment in a planned triptych of performances by Pearlman on the theme of “economy.” Performed in the round, and featuring a set designed by visual artist Robbie Schoen that the dancers build each night as part of the choreography, “Economies of Effort: 1″ aims to generate questions about the differences between creating something with bodies (theoretically intangible) and building something that has a solid shape (with the illusion of permanence).

Bessie Award-winning composer Albert Mathias will create an original score for “Economies of Effort: 1″. Just as the dancers take an active part in constructing the set each night, so too will they operate the music on two turntables and a laptop. In a radical act of self-sufficiency and self-containment – of economy, if you will – the dancers control all of the technical aspects of the production from the set to the sound and lighting.
 dancer sitting on chair holding a drill

…Choreographed by Cid Pearlman, Economies of Effort: 1 opens Thursday, February 5, 2015 at the Joe Goode Annex in San Francisco, followed by performances at Motion Pacific in Santa Cruz and Pieter Performance Space in Los Angeles. This new work is created with and performed by Julia Daniel, Collette Kollewe, Claire Melbourne, Cynthia Strauss, and Chelsea Zamora.

“Economies of Effort: 2″
Created during a residency at Sõltumatu Tantsu Lava (Independent Dance Theater) in Tallinn, Estonia, the second installment in the triptych will feature four pairs of dancers – one couple, a mother and daughter, and two sets of close friends. Over the course of one month, I will work with each pair to create personal vocabularies tied to the subtle, often private, intricacies of their relationships. Each pair will map out a blueprint of a real or imagined space they share, on the floor of the theater. Then we will intercut the movement generated by the duets, swapping out who does what, overlaying the maps, and creating a more complicated polity that reflects on the complexity of relationships and the social economy of community. “Economy,” in this work, informs the process of making the dance as much as it does the content.

She’s doing a Kickstarter Campaign (Click on the link if you want to help.) for the final funding for the new works.

If you’re in the Bay Area and you’re coming to her show, I’ll be there Friday and Saturday night.

photos by Beau Saunders

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