All posts tagged: featured

The Flying Trapeze: Cyril Rabbath, Master Juggler

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. For Cyril Rabbath, master juggler, the “sincerity and authenticity” is what pulled him into the circus. He’s been in the top circus shows throughout the world including Cirque du Soleil’s North American tour for Dralion, Friedrichsbau Varieté’s Bitter Sweet in Germany, and Wuqiao Circus’s Festival Winner’s Show in China as well as a street performer. Not to mention, he’s also won many awards over the years for his work. He has taught all over Europe, Canada, and the US. And lucky for Chicago, he’s been bringing …

Inaccessibility as Material: an interview with Alison O’Daniel

Alison O’Daniel is a visual artist and filmmaker whose ongoing project The Tuba Thieves interweaves elements of sound composition, sculptural installation, performance, and film. Beginning in 2011, The Tuba Thieves has been screened and exhibited in numerous iterations, expanding and complicating the notion of a filmic whole. Using a film as a site through which to explore how continuity, equivalency, and legibility intersect O’Daniel’s work complicates the presumption of normativity inherent in traditional cinematic and narrative modes. Building a vocabulary of missing information, misunderstanding, and processual aesthetics, The Tuba Thieves asks us to rethink differing sensory experiences as a generative and imperative storytelling force.  The following is an excerpt from a longer conversation conducted over Google Meet between the artist, Christopher Robert Jones, and Liza Sylvestre. Google Meet was chosen after discussing various video conferencing platforms and their inadequate accessibility features.  Liza Sylvestre: How do you wake up? Alison O’Daniel: My dog wakes me up. She comes in and punches the bed. She is a deaf boxer and she wakes me up every day at …

New Beginnings and Jeni McFarland

I interviewed fiction writer and Michigan-native Jeni McFarland about her debut novel, The House of Deep Water. We spoke about her writing process, the small Midwest farming town that makes up her book, and the novel’s themes of biracial identity, depression, family, new beginnings, and a community with secrets.  The House of Deep Water is available now from G.P. Putnam & Sons. Find McFarland on Twitter @jeni_mcfarland. Emily Stochl: Tell us about the writing process for The House of Deep Water. Jeni McFarland: I started this project when I was in graduate school. I was taking a class taught by Robert Boswell, and he gave us a prompt based on four different books we were reading—one was told in vignettes, one was told all in one day, one was told all in one year, and one was a novel in stories. He wanted us to try out different forms and see what felt good. I started writing about this small town, which looked kind of like the small town I grew up in, and it …

Intimate Justice: Sarah Bastress

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we talked with Rogers Park resident, Sarah Bastress, who hails from West Virginia and paints the queer body. S. Nicole Lane: How did you end up in Chicago? How did being raised in West Virginia impact your work? (I’m from North Carolina! Southern queers unite!) Sarah Bastress: I came to Chicago to do my post-bacc at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and then went on to do my MFA there, too. I ended up really enjoying my neighborhood and staying. I appreciate you asking about West Virginia. It has impacted my work a great deal. I don’t have an answer for you that isn’t incredibly long-winded. Since Trump won, the question is much more complicated. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I miss mountains–the ones that have yet to be blown up to make …

Purple Window Gallery: A Quarantine Initiative Brings Exhibitions to Our Windows

Full disclosure: S. Nicole Lane is a participating artist and board member of Purple Window Gallery. Lauren Iacoponi is an artist, curator, and writer who is the co-founder and director of the gallery.  Due to COVID-19, her plans of opening up the store-front gallery space have been postponed. As a result, she has launched an at-home initiative for artists all over the world to participate in. This interview took place via email in early April.  S. Nicole Lane: Can you tell us a little bit about the opening of Purple Window Gallery and when you decided to open up your own space? Lauren Iacoponi: I’ve spent the past several months initiating a project space called Purple Window (coming soon to Avondale, Chicago). I’m the director and co-founder of this upcoming space.  Purple Window is artist-led and community-supported. As an artist cooperative, Purple Window is jointly owned and democratically controlled by its members, so I don’t personally view Purple Window as “my own space.” But I did initiate the co-op and invite each of its members …

Perto de Lá < > Close to There: Adriana Araujo and Josh Rios in Conversation

Esta entrevista foi editada para garantir clareza e comprimento, e foi traduzida para nossos leitores no Brasil com as seções em português em itálico, e em inglês em tipo normal. Adriana Araujo: Gostaria de começar nosso encontro pelo meio, esse tempo aqui agora, nos constituindo continuamente.  Estou neste momento ao lado de uma árvore a quem chamo de Generosa, é uma mangueira do quintal da casa que vivo, que dá frutos suculentos e doces, ela abriga pássaros, lagartixas, morcegos, formigas, entre outros seres vivos, alguns invisíveis. Além de abrigar um mundo inteiro em si, Generosa produz sombra e ameniza o calor nos dias ensolarados da cidade que vivo faz pouco menos de cinco anos, Santa Maria da Vitória. Aqui quase todos os dias (às vezes penso que as noites também) são de sol intenso. O céu hoje amanheceu parcialmente nublado, mas quase sempre o céu é bem azul. Quando sinto muita saudade de Salvador, o lugar onde nasci e vivi a maior parte da minha vida, é só olhar para o céu e me inventar mais perto do …

Perto de Lá < > Close to There: João Oliveira and Amina Ross in Conversation

Esta entrevista foi editada para garantir clareza e comprimento, e foi traduzida para nossos leitores no Brasil com as seções em português em itálico, e em inglês em tipo normal. Amina: Oi João, eu estava olhando as gravuras feitas com as peles de animais de plástico abertas e achei que temos um interesse em comum naquilo que existe alem da superficie do dia-a-dia. Como você expressou tão bem, eu vejo seu interesse em uma “força capaz de romper a superfície daquilo que se acostumou.” Existe alguma coisa que você procura encontrar no desdobramento de um corpo? No rompimento da superfície? Há ainda alguma coisa que você não encontrou? O que continua a te mover nessa exploração? This interview has been edited for clarity and length, and translated for our readers in Brazil with the Portuguese sections in italics, and the English sections unitalicized. Amina:  Hi João. I was looking at the prints made of the unfolded plastic animal skins and I think we share an interest in what exists beyond the surface of our everyday. As you put it …

Image: Installation shot of Iceberg Projects exhibition “David Wojnarowicz: Flesh of My Flesh,” June 23 – August 5, 2018. In the middle of the room, a sculpture sits on a white pedestal, encased in glass. A world map with words overlaying the image is hanging on the wall to the left, and a video screen is displaying a video on the partial brick wall directly in front of the viewer. Image courtesy of Iceberg Projects.

Tip of the Iceberg: A Conversation with Iceberg Projects

Iceberg Projects is a non- commercial art gallery in a converted coach house at the northernmost tip of Chicago. Over the past ten years, Iceberg Projects has hosted a number of historically important shows, especially of queer and other underrepresented artists, including group shows like the Art+Positive archive, Feel Me?, and Broken Flag to solo shows of David Wojnarowicz, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Kevin Killian, Barbara DeGenevieve, and Steffani Jemison.  Inseparable from the history of Iceberg is the man behind it, whose backyard anchors Iceberg Projects. Dr. Dan Berger is an HIV specialist who helped develop the drug cocktail widely used for treatment. Recently, he released a video offering expert medical insight into how COVID 19 as it particularly affects HIV and queer communities. But his commitment to queer community extends beyond his medical practice and into his art collection, which focuses on queer and black artists.  I visited Dr. Berger in his Rogers Park home to talk about the history of the space. We also talked at length about institutional risk-taking and archiving queer legacies.  + …

SLAYSIAN: An Abundance of Stories

Jenny Lam curates interactive and compelling exhibitions that spontaneously create community, bringing people together in fun and unexpected ways. Her 2012 exhibition I CAN DO THAT (named “Best Art Exhibit” by audience choice in NewCity’s 20th anniversary Best of Chicago issue) took on that often dismissive and frustrating phrase heard by many an artist at an opening and handed out art supplies for viewers to go ahead and try. Lam’s  2016 show LEXICON replaced the ubiquitous artist’s statement with blank paper for the audience to supply their own reactions. In 2020, she was all set to follow up these acclaimed shows with SLAYSIAN, a show celebrating Asian American artists from Chicago and the Midwest. And then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Even before Illinois’ shelter-in-place orders, Lam made the responsible decision to call off the public opening reception. But that doesn’t mean the end of the show. Since she couldn’t bring audiences to see the show in person, she brought SLAYSIAN directly to audiences, transforming it into an online exhibition we can view from the safety …

Blackness, Images & the Space Between

A conversation with Milwaukee based fine artist Nick Drain and Genesis Gallery owner, artist, and organizer Randy Brown. Nick recently held his first solo exhibition “In Plain Sight” at Genesis and our collective discussion quickly found its way circling around and through larger topics like race, identity, viewership and the politics of the Milwaukee art scene. Over the course of the last few months, I let our conversation sink in and settle where it needed to in order for me to get down to the guts of what the discussion meant for all of us. I have a distinct memory of the moment I stood in front of Picasso’s “Guernica” at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain. It was the summer before college, I was only 18 years old and I didn’t think of myself as an artist then. I think back to that trip reflecting on the enormity and impact of viewing that painting in the flesh, and I realized it was a moment that hit me too early in …

On Hoarding Love Notes, and Other Gifts of Community and Anxiety

Last month I learned that I hoard love notes. Shortly after the shelter-in-place mandate I had a particularly tough day, which concluded with a bout of uncharacteristically convulsive crying and me deciding I could do nothing else that evening but clean. As I organized papers on my desk, I unearthed a handwritten letter my friend Udita gave me at her wedding earlier this year. Its contents were precise but not precious, making me feel known not only for my “positive” qualities but also my flawed and idiosyncratic humanness. Though technically a thank-you card, I don’t know what else to call it but a love note. How lucky for it to turn up right then! I texted Udita to say her note was just what I needed that night. She responded that my message was just what she needed, too. These days “love notes” have been appearing to me in diverse forms, by various paths. Another week, I texted my friend Myrna to check in, writing the words sending an e-hug. When she sent back an …

Image: Illustration of a person with colors of green, purple, and magenta surrounding them. There are various patterns in the background.

3 Unemergency Poems

Not that we’re not in an emergency, but rather, the need to break out of the fast cycle of news that feels designed to agitate and then numb me into a state of helplessness. “Crisis time” invokes a logic of panic in the here and now. How will the headlines help me take care of my roommate who is, at the time of writing, using a borrowed inhaler, recovering from what the doctor diagnosed over the phone as COVID-19 and/or pneumonia? You can’t make soup with statistics and bylines.  What about the care work, dream work, and reflective thinking that sustains, moves, and propels our bodies inch by inch into the future? I find myself turning to endurance art, affect theory, performance studies, poetry, and maintenance work for a primer in how to slow down in order to keep on keeping on. These are “untimely,” perhaps, but what better time than the disrupted reality of quarantine to seep in the sustaining power of the “untimely”? In a moment of uncertainty, the durability of theory compels …

A Projection Into ‘Paths Between Two Steps’ by Soo Shin

The lymph nodes in my neck are swollen. Poisonous balloons expanding in my throat. I am guilty of my breath, my touch, how they could infect others. I bike to see my partner at Rosehill Cemetery, where we had planned to meet, and I tell him about the wretched mass I sense inside me, surrounding me. So we decide to stay safe, six feet apart, where we will stay for at least a week. We visit his grandparents’ graves, stones placed upon them. He is saying something to me as I draw in and out, in and out wet salty breaths, six feet away. I have never missed a touch so close to me so deeply—I can’t stand it. I go, six feet, then 20, then miles, until I am separated from the one I love. And I am thinking now, as many of us are, what it means to love and to live from a distance.  I am wondering the same thing as I again click through the virtual version of “Paths Between Two …

Image: Installation view of Gordon Hall’s Chicago exhibit USELESSNESS, courtesy Document Gallery.

Slanting Towards Uselessness

“All art is quite useless.”—Oscar Wilde You can’t really step on a slanted step. The Slant Step’s so-called “step” inclines at a 45 degree angle, too steep for a foothold. It is an object that teases utility, like Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined tea-cup, or Marcel Duchamp’s inverted urinal. What is it for? Nobody could figure that out, and that’s the point. It is an inside joke: a found object whose elusive purpose made for a compelling and enduring art mystery. It is an invitation, a riddle, a call for response.  As legend goes, William T. Wiley found the Slant Step in a San Francisco thrift shop for fifty cents in the Sixties and bought it as a gift for his student—the artist Bruce Nauman, who went on to cast molds in homage. With time it became an object of fixation for a funk art movement of Bay Area artists and poets, culminating in a group show, The Slant Step Show, at Berkeley Gallery in 1966. When Richard Serra stole the Slant Step from that show and …

Image: A color illustration of a woman with VR glasses looking at a colorful screen. Illustration by Teshika Silva.

April (Virtual) Art Picks

Due to the unprecedented, precarious state we are all in due to COVID-19, this month’s Art Picks reads a bit differently. As the nation practices social-distancing, we can no longer attend the events normally listed here. Exhibitions, performances, lectures–you name it–are being postponed or cancelled. As a result, artists, musicians, and performers are doing what they always do–they become even more resourceful, miraculously organizing virtual events and alternative ways to engage with their work. As the ways in which we experience the arts have recently changed, so must this list of Art Picks. Below, you will find three categories: arts events that have been postponed or cancelled, virtual streaming events, and online resources from regional arts organizations. Art Picks is a monthly event calendar created in collaboration with The Visualist, Chicago’s leading visual arts calendar, and cross-promoted through Windy City Times, one of the longest locally-published LGBTQ weeklies with a national reach.  Click here to get our Art Picks and latest articles delivered to your inbox monthly. The featured image was created by one of Sixty’s talented illustrators, …

Featured Image: Amy L. Powell, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Krannert Art Museum stands in front of “Hive,” an large inflatable sculpture installed in the museum’s Kinkaid Pavillion. The sculpture is floor to ceiling and bright pink. The main body of the sculpture resembles a bunch of grapes, or a multi-breasted female body, and to the side there is fuschia colored a braid with a braided gold band around the end of the braid. Powell stands in the center of the image, looking into the camera and smiling. She is wearing a black dress, and her hands are in her pockets. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Building Community with Amy L. Powell

Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign houses quite a large and impressive collection of artwork, spanning centuries of human creativity. The museum’s collection is complimented by temporary exhibitions, ranging in themes (Painting and the Animation of History in Northern India), time periods (contemporary work by Allan deSouza), and topics (Swalihi Arts across the Indian Ocean). It’s an understated and underappreciated resource in East Central Illinois. I recently spoke with Amy L. Powell, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Krannert Art Museum (KAM). Powell has been in her position since the fall of 2014, and she’s mounted exhibitions of the work of Zina Saro-Wiwa, Autumn Knight, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, and Kennedy Browne. Powell is interested in photography, video, and knowledge production, but a quick look at her resume also reveals thematic interests in post colonialism, feminism, displacement, and disruption. Much of our conversation circled around the idea of connection. Powell seeks to make connections between artists, makers, and thinkers, and views the studio visit and the exhibition as platforms …

Theater Groups Get Creative with Delivering Content During the Quarantine

While entertainment venues across the world have gone dark due to the coronavirus, theaters and artistic groups have been finding ways to raise the spirits of people. The NY Metropolitan Opera, Melbourne Symphony, and many other major venues are streaming concerts and recordings.  Some groups, notably groups here in Chicago, have taken digital content to another level: artists are creating new content to live stream to viewers. We talked to three theatrical groups that have been filling our screens during this crisis: Aloft Circus Arts,  Nasty Brutish and Short, and Mr. and Mrs. Wednesday-Night. Aloft is a Chicago circus school and performance space in a former church in Logan Square. Students, both professionals and amateurs, have the opportunity to take classes on a variety of apparatuses including trapeze, silks, trampoline wall, juggling, acrobatics and much more. With the recent closure of bars and restaurants, Aloft decided to move to streaming circus classes for its students. At set times during the week, students can take live virtual classes with their teachers on topics such as foolery, …

A Scene of Her Own: The Inimitable Vaginal Davis

Her blond hair perfectly flipped, a smile breaking across her warm and open face, Vaginal Davis takes the mic, satin blue nighty shimmying. Amidst a stage of fierce femmes of all shapes and sizes rocking back and forth in slumber party attire, Davis holds the center of our attention. Performing tonight as Graciela Grejalva—lead singer of Cholita!—she sings, she shouts, sweating, spitting rapid-fire lyrics, a pink swatch of fabric clutched in one hand. Her other hand gesticulates wildly, mirrored by the lingerie-clad woman to her left who cajoles in pantomime, pointing at, sometimes flipping off the audience, implicating and drawing them in. Black and brown women, including Alice Bag of Sad Girl and The Bags, play backup to our Blatino (half Black, half Mexican), intersexed, queer drag superstar, churning out a low-fi frenzied garage punk beat. “CHINGA TU, CHINGA TU, CHINGA TU MADRE!” they collectively sing in urgent, joyful unison. Go fuck yourself. Literally, go fuck your mother. Vaginal Davis, who named herself after Black radical Angela Davis with a queer, humorous twist, is not …

Rachel Youn in their studio. They sit in front of untitled works comprised of massagers, artificial plants, and speaker cabinets. Photo by Krista Valdez.

Massagers Meet Mosh Pits: An Interview with Rachel Youn

At first glance, Rachel Youn’s studio looks more like a garage sale than an atelier. Forty artificial plants cavort around the room, sprouting from machines, which, upon closer inspection, divulge their former lives as foot massagers—the kind you see on TV ads that tell you it’s time to go to bed. In this dancehall greenhouse dream, vintage speakers pose as plinths under the auspices of disco lights.  At one end of Youn’s studio jostles Adulators, a kinetic combine of a creamsicle-colored Shiatsu foot massager and two scuffling artificial olive branches. Youn does not conceal the mechanics of their sculptures: the leaves’ movements are logical, clearly stemming from the vibrating foot massager at their base. Nonetheless, the work entrances, as the two branches hypnotically wrestle on a loop; despite endless encounters, a loser is never pinned. Youn harbors the poetics of these olive branches—symbols of peace—to evoke infinite uncertainty, in which the viewer ultimately finds solace. In other works, like the motion-activated Devotee—a composite chi swing and artificial fan palm that scrubs the floor in subtle, …

In Case of Emergency: Artist Resources For You, For Us

All of us at Sixty can’t help but to think about the strain that is being put on our arts community in Chicago and across the Midwest. Exhibitions, performances, and fundraisers are being canceled or postponed indefinitely, contract opportunities are halting, schools and cultural institutions are being shut down, side-gigs at and income from bars, restaurants, and retail stores are dwindling. We are also seeing incredible examples of community organizing in and beyond the arts that are providing quick support locally, regionally, and nationally. And if you’re like us, you’re looking for ways to support those efforts or even start your own initiatives to help others who are in need. Knowledge is power, so in an effort to share information, we’ve compiled a growing list of suggestions, resources, and things you can do, models you can adapt, and small actions you can take now to do your part. And though we are sharing these resources with the best of intentions, we encourage you to also do your own research into the organizations, initiatives, and efforts …

Featured image: Sahar Mustafah sits outdoors, smiling and looking off-camera. She wears a black winter coat, light grey scarf, and large hoop earrings. A bush with tan leaves fills most of the space behind her, with greenery and parts of a building behind that. Photo by Mark Blanchard.

Beyond the Page: Sahar Mustafah

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed fiction writer and high school English teacher Sahar Mustafah about her debut novel, “The Beauty of Your Face.” We spoke in January about her process of drafting, crafting, and publishing the book; how her writing and teaching inform each other; and key experiences — and women — that have shaped her as an author. “The Beauty of Your Face” (W.W. Norton, 2020) is available for pre-order. Check out the book launch event and reading at the American Writers Museum on April 7. Find Mustafah on Twitter @saharmustafah. This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and to limit plot-related spoilers to the contents of the prologue and the book jacket. Marya Spont-Lemus: I’ve admired your work since we met through StoryStudio’s “Novel in a Year” program in 2015. I loved your short story collection, Code of the West (Willow Books, 2017), and was completely absorbed …

No Nation

La primera vez que visité {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} fue en 2016, apenas un año después de mi llegada a Chicago. Uno de los profesores en el departamento de performance de la facultad iba a presentar un trabajo en {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} e invitó a  la clase a conocer el espacio y el talento de artistas locales emergentes. Recuerdo el primer impacto; una mezcla de fascinación, asombro, calidez y confort, un sentido absoluto de pertenencia e identificación con el arte, la comunidad y la filosofía del espacio. Procesos experimentales y performances sin terminar, performances con materiales orgánicos, insólitos, arriesgados y dispares como fuego o fluidos corporales, performances desinhibidas, transgresoras, interactivas y viscerales. The first time I visited {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} was in 2016, barely a year after my arrival in Chicago. One of my teachers from the performance department was presenting a new work at {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} and invited our class to discover the space and the talent of emerging local artists. I remember the first impact; a mixture of fascination, wonder, warmth and comfort, an absolute sense of …

Landscape of What is the Midwest? exhibition at The Newberry Library

What is the Midwest?

“Place is a home, be it homestead, henhouse, town, nest, den, or cave. Place is renewal. It is history and hope for those who dwell there.” —Jill Metcoff “Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers.” —Andrew Jackson, 1829 State of the Union Address The door is a question mark, one that also punctuated the title of the recent Newberry Library exhibition What is the Midwest? It’s a question I’ve been stuck on for years now, as I’ve grown and felt the tugging that can only happen after you have sprouted roots in a place. This question of place functions as storage organ for the words and images produced by creators in the region. It is a lonely sort of potato. It can power the work – we feel we have to prove our place – or drag us down – we feel we have to prove our place. Writer Dorothy Allison grew up in one such no-place, “the place that is no place for most other people.” The truck stop. …

Talking Culture and Taking Chances with Urooj Shakeel

Like many people who move to Chicago, Urooj Shakeel made the decision to relocate from a suburb of Detroit after realizing that if she wanted to try her hand at a career in the arts, now was the time. She doubled down and left long careers in healthcare and marketing to study arts administration and policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Prior to her move, she took a moment to reflect on her love of Detroit and the ways in which it seeded her love for art. Urooj wrote on her website, “I could go on forever talking about Detroit and all the artworks I’ve come across, interacted with and studied. How each one of them inspired me in my own art projects and where my ideas originated from. I can never be thankful enough for my colossal beginnings in Detroit. Everything I’ve learned from this city will inspire me in everything I plan to do in Chicago.” Her words foreshadow how she would shape her practice after landing in Chicago …

Intimate Justice: Clitora Leigh

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we met with Clitora Leigh in Andersonville to talk about strip clubs in Chicago, coming out as a sex worker, and being a sexy clown.  S. Nicole: I saw you perform at Reunion and was like—oh my gosh—I have to talk to this person! It was amazing. Are you from Chicago? If you’re not, what brought you here? Did you go to school?  Clitora Leigh: I’m originally from the Cleveland area. I’ve lived in Chicago for six years. I studied theater performance at Ohio University. I got my BFA, and then immediately after I graduated, I was like – okay, I have six hundred dollars in medical bills, how will I ever pay this off?! I couldn’t even fathom having six hundred dollars in my life. I was working in a daycare. Around that time, I started stripping. So, I’ve been stripping for, …

Three Poems by Sharanya Sharma

content warning: descriptions of violence nandi relays a message after an endless swallowing    of years a little girl, limbs molded from mother’s darkest saffron stole   to my soot-stoned side hewn from sweat      and love.  hungrily she cupped a hand        to my frozen ear.      the cold pelt          singed        in her exhale   as  with earth-stained lips she scratched words           into being   the way eyes were once carved            into my face.    she said               lord       give me a mouth           that is too full            of teeth to hold a prayer still              in my blood.  and skittered away      before a guard     could tell her not to touch me             as if the whorls            of her ancestors’ fingers            were not imprinted     in my skin.  unblinking i gaze into a land of concrete      and glass. even here,    in a view of metal ants and water         i cannot cross, i see              your feet  blue thighs poised      melding into              sea and sky                  toes jeweled            in a blanket                of white.  they call it snow. the falling of silk slivers that disappear into hair               and flesh.  lord, tell me.        will they     know the …

Featured image: Sharanya Sharma. Sharma sits with hands folded on a white table, with copies of “Set Fire to This Crooked House” and multi-colored notebooks in the foreground. Sharma wears a marigold cardigan open over a black and white striped shirt and smiles at the camera. Behind Sharma are several pastel throw pillows and a large plant, and natural light comes through the windows. Photo by Kristie Kahns Photography.

Beyond the Page: Sharanya Sharma

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed writer Sharanya Sharma about her MFA thesis project, “Set Fire to This Crooked House,” a poetry collection that she is in the process of developing into a book. We spoke this summer about how her poems re-envision Hindu mythology and critique histories of colonization, especially in relation to museum culture; how acts of retelling can help keep stories alive; and the broader impacts she hopes her work has. Three poems from “Set Fire to This Crooked House” are published on Sixty here. Find Sharma on Twitter @sharanyawrites. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: I loved the poems you shared at the MFA reading and am so excited to learn more about the collection and your plans for it. Is that program what brought you to Chicago originally? SS: It is. I was a teacher full-time for six years and didn’t have much …

Nadia Stiegman: FARM 1350

Nadia Stiegman is an artist living and working in Thawville, Illinois. Her photography explores rural queer identity, but in a light not often seen. Tired of the same narratives of rural queerness, such as packing up and moving to the big city to escape the rural environment, Nadia instead paints a picture of the rural queer identity through a positive lens. Her work is deeply connected to farmlife, an environment where she grew up, yet at the same time it’s futuristic, queer, and so much more. Nadia refers to herself as “a  rural, trans, cyborg who grew up on my family’s grain farm in Central Illinois.” The farm Nadia is referring to is all open spaces surrounded either by corn or bean fields. Her farm sits on a dead end, which is a mile away from her town of Thawville, with a population of only 150 people. She tells Midwesterners who don’t know where that is, “it’s about 45 minutes north of Champaign and 45 south of Kankakee.”   Nadia is a recent graduate from Illinois …