Name: Elizabeth

Posts by ecoleman:

    Interview with Poet Catherine Wagner

    September 26th, 2012

    When Poet Catherine Wagner writes, she tries not to write with a predetermined intention, instead letting the poem take a course of its own.

    “There has to be something I’m moving through, though,” Wagner said. “I have to start somewhere. But the purpose of poetry is to explore and discover.”

    Often, her poems seem to take you on this journey of discovery, ending at a place you could not have foreseen. Using rich imagery that is sensual, dark and edgy, she writes about sexuality, politics and the body in a way that is often startling and provocative. Take this excerpt from “This is a Fucking Poem”:

    “don’t expect too much.
    Well I expect you to go into the
    fucking human tunnel
    I’m going.
    pink grimy glossed
    entabulature, welted
    and tattooed. Enfolded in
    ropy ceiling-hangings
    but it isn’t a room,
    and bumblingly sliding
    out, little legs of
    a little girl, bum on the wall/opening
    pink legs sticking out like a
    hermit crab’s, she’s coming!”

    Drawing from her own experiences – examining sex and sexuality after her divorce, describing her experiences with pregnancy and motherhood, and giving small snapshots into her domestic life — Wagner’s work is highly personal, weaving together a quiet intensity with lyrical wordplay.  One of my favorite passages from the poem “Pleasure Trip” mentions her ex-husband, poet Martin Corless-Smith:

    “Martin told me when I gave him [the chapbook to] Hole in the Ground he read it in the airport hotel bar. The bartender asked what he was reading. He said ‘Poems by my ex-wife about how great her sex life is now.’ They’re not about that. The bartender bought him a drink.”

    Despite this candor in her writing, Wagner admitted that she still feels uncomfortable laying everything out in the open in front of people. We spoke on the phone briefly at first (I always feel you can tell a lot about a person from their voice), and then launched into the interview via Google Chat. She noted that it is much harder to talk about personal things when one’s voice or body is live. Although she described herself as often feeling “mortally shy,” I found Ms. Wagner extremely charming and disarmingly honest. Like any true artist, she recognizes the need to explore what makes her uncomfortable. Her latest work, a full-length collection entitled Nervous Device, does just that, exploring the poet’s role as performer and the boundaries between poet and audience.

    Art Animal: Did you always want to be a poet?
    Catherine Wagner: I think I have a myth about its being the only thing I ever wanted to do. This is perhaps Alice Notley envy — she always declares that she never wanted to be anything but a poet.  But in fact I remember in fifth grade wanting to be a millionaire, and reading a number of books about getting rich, perhaps in revolt against my parents who were nonprofit types all the way. I also wanted to be a shrink, and a geologist (I still would like to be a geologist). But I did want to be a writer always, from when I first learned to read and felt what writing could do to me.

    AA: Each of your collections have distinct themes. Can you talk a bit about this?
    CW: My books are rooted in experience as a lens, and playing with language is a way to exteriorize that lens, to feel its constructedness and artifice and look at it and mess with it. The first book, Miss America, is a young woman’s book, and is rowdy and punchy. It has a lot to do with feeling one’s body observed, with a sense of party-crashing when one enters any scene or situation (including literary tradition, which is a frat party, at least if you enter it where I did) and feeling the push and pull of belonging and not belonging.  In my second book, Macular Hole, I wrote about my experiences being pregnant and having a baby, and the economies surrounding that — how they connected with the market. I was thinking about money and exchange, and thinking about the strange invasion and transformation inside my body and then this exteriorization, a baby (a person), entering the market. I tried to think about how these exchanges intersected. With My New Job, I had gotten divorced and I was thinking about sex and work, and reading Blake — lots of abjection there — and taking my students to a homeless shelter where I interviewed some amazing women who had sold sex for drugs and had been on the street since they were girls. So I was thinking about fuckedness more generally.

    AA: How is your new book Nervous Device different than your previous work?
    CW: Nervous Device is like my other books in that there’s a concern with boundary and porousness in all the books. I think a hyperawareness of “skin,” of boundary and penetrations of boundary, is a gendered awareness, at least in part. I am white so I lack the kind of hyperawareness I’d feel not being white in southwest Ohio — my newest project is sort of about this. What might be new in ND is that I’ve become obsessed with performance (shout to my colleague, Cris Cheek, performer extraordinaire), which has made me think a lot about audience. I think many of the poems come straight out of thinking about performance, imagining performing the poems and projecting the bodies of the audience in my mind. The poem hovers between us and neither of us are there. But our presences charge the poem. I want the poem to notate that.

    AA: What do you mean by “Nervous Device?” Do you mean nervous as in uncomfortable? Or do you mean nervous like nervous system?
    CW: Thank you for bringing that out. Yes, nervous in terms of self-consciousness, nervousness, but also nervous in terms of responsiveness and reactiveness. A nervous device could be a device with which we use to communicate: a phone, a computer or language. I wrote to my editor that “the nervous device is body, handheld connection, poem. It wants you to hold it, it wants to be noticed, it wants you to see how it works to bind and separate.”

    AA: Many of your poems discuss your body. How has your relationship to your body changed over the years?
    CW: My relationship with it is definitely better than it used to be. In my teens and twenties I slouched to hide my boobs. I hated the attention of men. It felt utterly invasive. I didn’t like sex and suspected that the idea of good sex had been invented as a way of oppressing women. I got over that one. It’s a way of oppressing men. That’s a joke, by the way!

    AA: Do you feel that you take on different personas when you write, or is the “I” in the poem always the same?
    CW: Poetry is a game where you can do whatever you want (well, the boundaries are flexible), but one thing you can do is take stances and see what happens. The “I” in my poems is often “me” in that I am saying something that I did or that I feel or that I want, but it is also utter artifice. The “I” is an element of the poem that is manipulable. Also I think that the poem is not unlike “real life Cathy” in that avatars are all that is there anyway. Nothing but avatars. I mean where is you? You are in everything you perceive, and you take on an identity in relation to that. I want to add, though, that I don’t think any of this relationality stuff means that I don’t have responsibility for what I do and write and say.

    AA: Do you ever feel over-exposed in your writing since you are writing about such personal things? Or does the language create a barrier?
    CW: Oh well, yes, I suppose it is much more difficult to say embarrassing things, or anything at all, when one’s body and voice are live, than on the page or screen. I still have trouble having my body in front of people and feel mortally shy a lot. But that is part of why performance felt so important to investigate. The other part of this is that as many artists say it is useful to head straight for the most embarrassing or uncomfortable thing. There is a lot of energy and information there. It is never just that you’re embarrassed. Something in the culture is flooding you, and that can be examined.

    AA: How do you start writing a poem? Do you have a method?
    CW: I have different methods and sometimes don’t realize I’m writing a poem. But most often I play around with sounds and phrases and just follow attractions and, eventually, if I pay enough attention to the sonic field, there will be connections that happen there that I then respond to and go somewhere that does maybe say something, while staying in that sonic matrix. I think that’s very traditional for poets — at least some poets.

    AA: Some of your poems have this almost childlike quality where they seem playful and singsong, while others seem deliberately abrupt and jolting.
    CW: It is an eternal worry of mine that people will just find the work idiotic because of that playful mode. I have to risk being stupid though because there is nothing to be gained by pretending to be smart. I worry that in this book [Nervous Device] I’ve tried to be smart in some places because publishing with City Lights felt like a big deal and I knew — kind of feared — that the book might get more attention than my other books. That’s a deadly thing — the wish to appear smart — and I hope I didn’t succumb to it too often.

    AA: In A Well is Mine: A Good Belongs to Me and in Nervous Device, you use big concepts like “freedom” and “art” that can mean so many different things to different people. Are you ever afraid that people might misread or misinterpret your poems if you use such big concepts?
    CW: There’s never going to be an exact correspondence between what I am thinking I’m putting in play by putting certain bits of language together and what you think when you read them. I feel desolate though when I think that there’s no correspondence. I do think there’s such a thing as bad writing and misreading. But yes, those equations in A Well is Mine are wildly open, though I invoke libertarian and liberal versions of freedom.

    AA: There is this Zen Buddhist saying that goes “When you rearrange flowers, you are rearranging someone’s mind.” Do you feel like you are rearranging people’s minds with your poetry?
    CW: In a sense, yes. But there is a history of avant-garde lefty thinkers/writers who operate on the assumption that thought is language, and when you change language, you change people and the world, and thus “writing” takes on a massive, perhaps outsized importance in relation to its effects. Though I do agree with Shelley that poets are unacknowledged legislators of the world!

    Wagner received a MFA from the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Her poems appear in the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry and numerous other anthologies and quarterlies. Wagner has authored four full-length poetry collections, Miss America, Macular Hole, My New Job, and Nervous Device, which is set to be released mid-October from City Lights Publishers. 


    Review of Sister Spit: Writing, Rants & Reminiscence from the Road

    September 20th, 2012

    “If my crappy punk band could go on tour, why couldn’t a bunch of poets?” queries award-winning author Michelle Tea in her introduction to Sister Spit: Writings, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road. And so Sister Spit, a traveling group of feminist and queer writers, was born.

    Writings, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road is the first imprint of the new partnership between City Lights Publishers and Sister Spit, and is an anthology collection of poetry, fiction, art and personal narrative from the writers who have been featured in the Sister Spit tour over the last 15 years. Contributors include Ali Leibegott, MariNaomi, Beth Lisick, and Eileen Myles. The anthology is comprised of travelogues from the tours, as well as the pieces they shared with the audience, giving the reader a taste of the true Sister Spit spirit.

    Indeed, the anthology is a roller-coaster of a ride. I couldn’t help but admire how far Sister Spit has come. In the introduction, Michelle Tea chronicles the early days of the tour: writers crammed in a barely-running, often over-heating cargo van with no seats, driving from town to town with no place to stay at the end of the night and relying on audience members to put them up in often undesirable circumstances. (“Another time Sister Spit performers fell asleep on a stranger’s futon only to be woken up at six in the morning by a couple of skinheads who’d come to repossess their sleeping furniture.”)  Nowadays, the writers participating in the tour actually receive a stipend for the month, enough to pay for a rental van and hotel room.

    As a whole, the collection is honest, funny and, at times, unabashedly vulgar and raw. Many of the pieces candidly sprinkle in substance abuse and sexual encounters (“Straddling one or the other, I thought, huh, so when the last of bit of my flesh chars in the crematorium, I will have been a woman who helped a mediocre man live out a classic scenario from Penthouse Forum,” says Beth Lisick in her selection from “Yokohama Threeway”).  While sex, drugs and booze are common threads in many writers’ work, I had the sense that these gals could go head-to-head with likes of Bukowski. Ironically, Michelle Tea mentions that she started Sister Spit because all other open-mics had a wild west saloon vibe and were frequented by “bros,” guys who would “place their beer cans at the altar of Charles Bukowski” and who “ripped off their shirts and hollered their poems in homage to Henry Rollins.” But the assertive, dominant, unapologetic spirit that pervades the anthology makes me think that the women of Sister Spit are closer to these wild “bros” than they think; for even the most vulgar stories seemed sugar coated, as though a darker, more debaucherous side was intentionally left out of the anthology.

    Despite this, however, the anthology certainly does a fabulous job highlighting the humorous nature of the group and their ability to laugh at ridiculous situations. One story in particular that stood out to me in its unabashed humor is Kat Marie Yoas’ “Training for Goddesses,” a personal account of her attempts at learning to be a professional dominatrix in a Pro-Domme class. I literally laughed out loud at her descriptions of trust exercises with her “Jeff,” the name used for willing “slaves,” where each of the mistresses in the class had to tease their respective Jeff’s nipples while maintaining eye contact.

    “I reached my very deliberate hands towards his chest,” writes Yoas. “I raised an eyebrow. I went in for the kill. I missed. I missed Jeff’s nipples. I missed them by a lot. But, as a Priestess, a Pro, I didn’t look away. I maintained eye contact. I studied his look of surprise and unexpected pain as I rifled around his chest blindly. Like a raccoon in a trash can.”

    I can only imagine the laughs this story would garner at one of the live Sister Spit performances.

    Woven into the humor are genuinely beautiful excerpts of writing and honest, soul-bearing narratives.  One of the more touching pieces is Christy C. Road’s “Where is My Soul?” in which she struggles with queer identity issues.

    “I think this was the first time that being in the closet to my family didn’t feel isolating and cowardly, but cultural and human,” Road writes.

    The anthology’s sincere moments deftly intertwined with raunchy humor took me on an emotional ride and left me with the feeling that they had just shared something highly personal and important. Ultimately, Sister Spit: Writings, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road is a genuine, honest and funny collection of stories. It captures the provocative, brazen and high-energy nature of Sister Spit, though it reads like a personal journal. Like its authors, each piece has the ability to stand on its own, but read in the context of the other stories, paints a humorous and beautiful picture of the revolutionary group that Sister Spit has created.

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    A Look into Jen Lewin’s Interactive Arc Harps

    August 22nd, 2012

    With so much art being a purely visual experience, artist Jen Lewin wanted to find a way to mix together light, sound, anddance to create a more unique type of art. And she did just that with her Arc Harps, one of her sets of large, interactive instruments played by movement through laser-light beams. They are designed for public play and just recently were shown for several months outdoors at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens.

    “There is something really beautiful about the way the light plays on the skin when you dance through them,” Lewin said. “People feel like they are a kid again. It’s very fun.”

    Lewin studied architecture in college, wishing to integrate her two passions: science and art. She immediately started working with moveable structures and robotics. This jettisoned her into working more with computers and designing software. She built her first light harp after trying to salvage a wooden harp with poor resonating qualities.

    “I had this beautiful harp but it didn’t sound good,” Lewin explained. “I wanted to save it so I put lasers on it instead of normal strings. I showed it in New York and it was a huge hit.”

    When the laser strings are broken by movement, it plays musical notes and other sounds.

    “They are not simple on/off devices,” Lewin explained. “When a user breaks a beam, the harps are able to tell how fast the person is moving and the height of their hand. This information allows my software to create complex and soft sounds that swell and grow over time.”


    Despite the heavy technological programming involved in her art, much of Lewin’s work has a very feminine, soft quality to it.

    “I was born on a Navajo Indian reservation,” Lewin explained. “My grandmother used to put me in frilly dresses, but I was such a tomboy and would play in the dirt anyway. That duality is still with me today. I work in my studio in dresses, and I’m welding and working with heavy machinery. I can still be a woman and build lasers.”

    Other examples of Lewin’s work examine the intersection between light, sound, movement and community participation. One of her installations, The Pool, is composed of 106 interactive circular platforms placed in giant concentric circles. As participants leap-pad from circle to circle, the pads communicate wirelessly and “listen” to each other to form an organic feedback network to change the LED light color in different patterns. The Moths are another example of the interactive nature of Lewin’s work; The Moths are robotic forms that only come to life after participants stop and interact with them.

    Lewin’s work uses this participation to foster a sense of community.

    “It is so interesting to see people interact with my art,” Lewin said. “This wonderful dialogue occurs. First you have one person interact with the harp, then two people, then ten people. And then those ten people start talking to each other, laughing and playing, and this sense of community forms from the shared experience. I just love it.”

    The interactive nature of the Arc Harps highlights the many layers of an aesthetic experience. One of her biggest accomplishments is being able to make art that resonates with the participant on an individual level, creating a beautiful, meditative experience, but also is meaningful in a group setting.

    “It’s one of the biggest challenges in interactive art,” Lewin said. “Many artists shy away from it, but it’s always been something I have been interested in.”

    “There is a certain point in collaborative and interactive art where you have to give up a bit of control,” Lewin added. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, how people will react. It’s scary. A lot of artists have issues with it.”

    With an honorarium grant from Burning Man, the Arc Harps will be making their third appearance at the week-long event in the Nevada desert next week. This year, Lewin is collaborating with artist and musician Johnny Dwork to create an even more dynamic sound and light installation. Dwork is bringing new sounds to the three Arc Harps, adding more dimensional layers of sound.

    “Each of the three different-sized arc-shaped harps features a distinct custom soundscape,” noted L’Ha (short for the Laser Harp Alembic), the name of the collaboration between Lewin and Dwork. “The smallest harp hosts ‘Spoken Word’ – a quasi-random ‘odd’ poetry generator. The mid-size harp offers a digital drum circle, unlike any other… at Burning Man. The largest harp presents a mélange of thumpin’ dance grooves… Mostly whomp, dubstep, and breakbeats.”

    For more information about Jen Lewin and the Arc Harps, visit

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    Review of The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

    August 16th, 2012

    The Age of Miracles is Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel, a young adult novel decidedly dressed up and marketed for adults. The premise of the book has potential: the Earth’s rotation mysteriously starts slowing, spelling disastrous consequences for humanity. With “the slowing,” as the characters call it, the days and nights grow longer and longer. By the end of the book, there are six-week periods of daylight and then darkness. The much-awaited novel sparked a bidding war among U.S. publishers, as it seems especially topical in light of natural disasters and the impending 2012 phenomenon soon upon us.

    It is clear that Walker has creatively thought about the potential implications of the slowing, thought she doesn’t give any scientific explanation to why it occurred, and inconsistencies emerge (no wheat, but an extensive supply of frozen pizza?) We see Earth’s gravitational pull strengthen, leading people to experience “gravity sickness,” and tears in the magnetic field leading to increases in radiation. Crops fail, temperatures rise and then plummet with the increased length of days and certain species of animals begin to die en masse. Birds fall out of the sky and whales wash up on the beach. Planes are grounded indefinitely as physicists struggle to determine a solution and how to calculate the effects of the changes. Governments decide to stick to the 24-hour clock, creating rifts between those who stick to the
    clock and “real timers,” those neo-hippies who abide by the Earth’s movements, creating cult-like communes to escape the discrimination they face. Natural resources and energy are rationed and people start stockpiling food and supplies for the inevitable time when they will run out.

    All these disastrous changes in the world are seen through the lens of 20-something year old Julia, reminiscing on her life as an 11-year old during the year when the slowing started. And this is where I found fault in the novel.

    The descriptions of the changes Julia sees come across flat and heavy-handed, ominously foreshadowing future consequences. (“It was the last time I ever tasted a grape.”) It is entirely devoid of the emotional response one would imagine from something as monumental as the
    apocalyptic end of the world. But as Julia mentions, “We kids were not as afraid as we should have been. We were too young to be scared, too immersed in our own small worlds, too convinced of our own permanence.” Julia’s own small world, the relationships she held and the
    struggles she faced in the awkward pre-teen years of middle school are truly the focus of the story. But then where are Julia’s emotional responses to these typical pre-teen tropes? With abandonment from a best friend, snubbing from a blossoming crush, school bullying, and suspicions of Dad having an affair, one would think that at some point we would get an emotional outburst or two. Instead, Julia seems to float through these events as an outsider, never fully engaging in them with any sort of emotional reaction. She merely describes them in the same flat manner as she describes the changes in the world. (“Meanwhile, the oceans were shifting, the Gulf Stream was slowing and Gabby shaved her head.”)

    Perhaps by offsetting ordinary, fragmented moments of everyday life against something as monumental as the apocalypse, Walker is trying to show us that we derive meaning in our lives in different ways. It is the first kisses, the relationships we build and the seemingly innocuous daily activities that color our lives in more important ways than global catastrophes lurking in the background. Unfortunately, because of its lack of emotional resonance with the characters, The Age of Miracles fell short in showing this meaning.

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    Interview with “The Barbs” Artist Deborah Colotti

    August 7th, 2012

    Seeing a wall of 200 naked, altered Barbies might be a little off-putting for some. But not for assemblage artist Deborah Colotti, creator of the series “The Barbs,” which features assembled Barbie parts with a twist on social commentary. Her work is often humorous, attempting to highlight and dismantle what Colotti calls “the pervasive, yet strangely hidden, culture straightjacket in which Barbie has attempted to imprison contemporary female identity.”

    Colotti’s other work includes assemblages and work with textiles. Calling upon her formal training in wood construction, wood carving, welding, ceramics, tailoring, and glass cutting, she often works with reassembled discarded materials, rendering cultural waste into artistic insight.

    Her work has been showcased in galleries and museums around the world. HERE THERE HERE, an exhibit of sculpture and art installation, is currently on display through September 2, 2012 in Fort Bragg, California at Lost Coast Culture Machine (LCCM). The installation consists of animal bones, doll parts and textiles hanging from clothes lines. LCCM explains that the exhibit showcases “the paradox of deteriorating objects that once held life, and lifeless objects claiming to live.” Colotti’s animal bone installations were originally art installations for Burning Man in 2009 and 2010.

    This year for Burning Man Colotti is working on two installations to bring to the desert. One piece, titled “Womb With a View,” is a collaborative piece with Janelle Black, Paolo Pedrinazzi and Aileen Cormack. The Burning Man organization describes the piece as “a climbable structure with sheltered space below and a covered platform above with space for a quiet respite” to symbolize the womb, “a symbol of evolution, source of creative power, and the subconscious mind.” People will be able to climb in and out of the womb structure, a place for “creating, re-making, reforming, refreshing.”

    Colotti’s other piece for Burning Man this year is titled “Breast Stop,” a solo project consisting of two trampolines covered by domes to  represent the breasts. “Breast Stop” will also be a sheltered space, where people can climb in and out of the breasts, stopping to rest and relax in the heat of the desert.

    Colotti took time from her busy schedule for an interview with Art Animal to talk about her past work and upcoming projects.

    Art Animal: A lot of your work has a domestic theme. What is the inspiration for that?
    Deborah Colotti: I have always been interested in domestic environments and how people put their homes together. When I was a kid I sold Girl Scout cookies door-to-door. I would stand in the entrance way or in the living room of people’s houses and get to see a glimpse of different worlds inside. You can take the same box and repeat it 50 times, and 50 people will do different things with it. I was fascinated to see how people arranged their homes differently.

    AA: Where do you get the material for your assemblages?
    DC: We hear a lot about recycling and reusing, but we don’t hear a lot about repair. So as a result, I pick up a lot of things that are almost perfect but they need repair. They could be missing a button, or the arm on a chair could need a screw. And so when they are repairable, I repair them and either give them away, or give them to a thrift store. But when they aren’t repairable, then they go into my art studio. People donate things to me all the time, too, hoping that I make art with it.

    AA: You are rather well known for your Barbie art, “The Barbs.” Are you still working on those?
    DC: I am definitely still working with the Barbies. It’s such a rich vein. A lot of art people look at art and say, “I don’t get it.” The thing that is nice about the Barbies is that they are familiar. People “get it.” We all know something about them. And I am a huge believer in using humor as a way to disarm people. It’s a way to open the conversation about political or social issues. People look at the Barbies and like them, and then can take a look at my other assemblages or textiles. They carry the same themes.

    AA: Do people ever have strange reactions to the dolls?
    DC: It’s always very interesting to approach a topic in a way that doesn’t scare people off. Some people approach a wall of 200 naked Barbies with caution. Sometimes I have men who approach the wall like, “ew dolls,” but then they will see one that they can relate to. Men seem to like the one with the Hulk Hogan head on a Barbie body. It’s meaningful to them. Once they “get it,” they can begin to look at the other ones.

    AA: How do you get your ideas for the composition of the Barbs?
    I have about half a dozen dolls on my table right now. Every time I’m in my workshop, I glance at them, study them. I check my feelings on the composition. Like if it was funny in the moment, but a week later it’s lost its charm, then I toss that idea. But if they’ve been sitting around in different positions and it still works, then it’s worth the time. The composition is the easy and fun part. The assemblage is the hard part.

    AA: Do you assemble the Barbs with adhesive?
    DC: I don’t use adhesive if I can avoid it. I use wire, screw, anything but glue. Glue comes off those slippery rubber Barbie bodies. I send a lot of my work around the country and adhesive doesn’t hold up in shipping with temperature changes. Over the years I’ve learned.

    AA: In prior years, you’ve made art for Burning Man, including the bone and clothesline installation. How did people react to those pieces?
    DC: Some people feel very squeamish around bones, but most people find the installations calming. I studied tea ceremonies in Japan when I lived there, and to me the pieces have a very “tea house” feel. I actually had this wonderful email from someone after Burning Man in 2009, the first year I took the installation out to the desert. This woman had gone out a couple times everyday and sat in my artwork, although she had this phobia of swaying objects. She found herself out there everyday, writing in her journal and resting, even though she was surrounded by swaying bones on clotheslines. So she wrote to me when she got home because she had shown her friends these pictures and they said, “Wait, you have this phobia! How could you be sitting under all these waving objects?” But she said she felt super comfortable and not threatened.

    AA: I’m excited to see your pieces out at Burning Man this year. Can you tell me more about your solo piece, “Breast Stop”?
    DC: This year for Burning Man I wanted to make art, but I didn’t want to bring the clotheslines back. In 2011 I heard about an artist who had used a trampoline on wheels to create a snail-shaped shade structure. From this image I had the idea to work with the feminine form by making two giant breast shade structures. Within days of this idea I saw the listing on the internet for free trampolines and I knew it was meant to be. About 20 people can get inside these breasts and rest and relax. They are going to be about seven feet tall, sort of a low dome. I’m not encouraging jumping. It’s more of a rest stop.

    AA: What are you using to make the breasts?
    DC: I’m using parachutes over bent pvc pipes as the structure over the trampolines. My friend found these industrial lamp shades that look a bit like flying saucers, but they are perfect nipples. Another friend is going to make the armature to support the nipples, and I am bending all the pvc pipe for the frame and doing all the interior cushions. There will be pillows along the inside to cover the springs. The nipple lampshade is the same on the inside, so you will be able to see the inside of the nipple.

    AA: You mentioned that you are using parachutes to cover the domes. Where did you get the parachutes?
    DC: I went to this military surplus place to look for parachutes, but they were a horrible olive, drab, military green color. The owner was a total jerk, too, and wouldn’t let me open them in the store or return them if I opened them at my studio and saw that they might not fit my needs. He had this whole attitude with me because I’m a woman. We went round and round and he eventually kicked me out of his store! I’ve had run-ins with him before, but that time was the worst. Anyways, I went online to look for parachutes and it turns out for some wacky reason the British military made a bunch of pink parachutes. I ordered two of those. They are perfect for “Breast Stop.”

    AA: You mentioned you lived in Japan. How has living overseas influenced your work?
    DC: Living overseas was a huge influence. I traveled in my 20s for three years all around India, Thailand, Europe, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, to name a few places, and lived in Japan for two years. I learned about the art and the culture, and assimilated what resonated with me into my art. For example, in Japan, the number four is a bad number. The Japanese word for “four” is shi, which also means “death.” But the number five is a living number. They believe there are five elements. I love that, and now I usually work in fives. It feels natural to me.

    For more information about Deborah Colotti and her work, visit

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