My Heroine Claude Cahun– posted in Boulder, CO. December 16, 2018

* 1 72 1914 cahunClaude Cahun, c. 1914.

I have spent the last three days in bed with my collection of books and catalogues about French artist Claude Cahun (1894-1954). I have had a bad head cold, so I have taken this opportunity to study and contemplate her works and my relationship to them. I am mostly interested in the vast array of “self-portraits” she made over the course of her life, but I am also interested in her texts and writings. My art practice over the last several years in drawing, installation, performance, research, photography and writing has been an elaborate and exploratory embodiment – with several remarkable international women artists of the 20th century as my guides. Cahun has been on my radar for some time – she was an extraordinary artist – working during the 1920s and 30s as an outsider (as a woman and as a lesbian) in the Surrealist circles of Paris. She was a brilliant woman – an intellectual, a journalist and as writer she created and published complex texts. She also performed in avant – garde theatre productions in Paris throughout the 20s. She is known by visual artists for the mesmerizing photographs and “self”-portraits she created over a period of some 40 years. There is some discussion about how collaborative this practice was with her life-long partner Marcel Moore. This photographic practice was a “private” practice of sorts- the stunning photographic portraits were never shown in her lifetime as singular objects, but they were used in many photo-collages in various publications of her written work.


* 2 72 1920 Claude Cahun 20140718-lens-cahun-slide-YLOP-superJumboClaude Cahun, c. 1920.

Claude Cahun had a devoted and creative relationship with her lifelong partner -fellow artist Marcel Moore (1892-1972). Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore adopted their gender-neutral nom de plumes (their given names were Lucy Renee Mathilde Schwob and Suzanne Alberte Malherbe respectively) as young women in Paris. Marcel Moore was a talented graphic artist and designer and they collaborated on publications and on theatrical projects and most likely on many of the “self-portraits”. Since the 1990s, there has been a resurgence of interest in Cahun’s work (and her work in collaboration with Moore) – both the visual and textual. They have a cult following amongst art-historians and critics and artists working from post-modernist, feminist and queer theoretical perspectives. Cahun’s photographic portraits are sometimes discussed as the pre-cursers to the works of Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman and Nan Golden – which is a little strange since Cahun’s work was virtually unknown when these artists began working. Cahun’s photographic work and textual work (as well as Moore’s graphic works) and their collaborative works have been archived at the Jersey Heritage Trust on the island of Jersey since the mid 90’s. Cahun and Moore lived on the island from1938 until the end of their lives. Both CC and MM were of Jewish heritage and worked as anti-Nazi/ anti-fascist activists during the occupation of Jersey. Both were arrested and sentenced to death for their resistance work. Luckily the war ended before their death sentences were enacted. Cahun was always of frail health and her imprisonment exacerbated this. Cahun died on the island of Jersey in 1954 at the age of 60. Moore took her own life in 1972 at the age of 80; she was still living on Jersey.

Cahun is probably one of the more radical of the artists I have chosen to work with so far. I have been a little unsure and perhaps even afraid of what I might discover about myself as an artist and woman by embodying Claude and taking her on as one of “my” artists. Perhaps what is most daunting to me in relationship to Claude Cahun – is my own “performance” of feminine heterosexuality. Over the last several years I have been facing my own aging feminine identity in relationship to my partner of 38 years who “came out” as a transgender man to woman after 30 years of heterosexual marriage. This has oddly led to my own reidentification with the feminine in my work. What does this all mean? who the f— knows? But I think the reason C.C. both excites and daunts me is that she was seemingly fearless in facing questions of agency, of femininity, of gender, of identity, of power, of sexuality, of politics, of love and of art.

Following are some of Cahun’s remarkable “self-portraits” that I have culled through. I find these works to be very powerful – there is both beauty and truthiness in these images. Some are thoughtfully composed, some are very theatrical, some styled with costumes and props and some were actually part of theatrical productions Cahun was involved with in Paris. However from Cahun’s early years she projects a gaze that shows remarkable self-knowledge as well as self-exploration and an ambiguous tale of what feminine / lesbian / cross-dressing / androgynous subjectivity entails and exposes. I have arranged them chronologically.

* 3 72 1920 claude-cahun-self-portrait-1920Claude Cahun, c. 1920.


* 5 72 1925 004-claude-cahun-theredlistClaude Cahun, c. 1925.


* 6 72 1927 12741f897b4d5855755e4fa062d55f0dClaude Cahun, c. 1927.


Self Portrait c. 1928Claude Cahun, c. 1928.


self portrait (reflected in mirror, chequered jacket) 1928Claude Cahun, c. 1928.


* 15 72 1929 as Le Diable claude-cahun-the-claude-cahun-self-portrait-1929-trivium-art-historyClaude Cahun, c. 1929.


Self Portrait c.1930

Claude Cahun, c. 1930.


* 17 72 1939 autoportrait-1939-webClaude Cahun, c. 1939.


* 19 72 1947 Claude-Cahun-Self-portrait-on-sea-wall-1995.31mClaude Cahun, c. 1947.

The working title for the project I am planning with Claude Cahun as my guide and inspiration is Heroines – this title comes from one of Cahun’s texts of the same name. Cahun wrote this text in the early 1920’s. She selected 15 female figures  from biblical history, from classical mythology, from fairy tails as well as a few “modern women” typologies. Cahun was classically educated and read ancient Greek, she knew her heroines “straight” traditional stories. She rewrote these heroines’ stories according to her own ironic, modern and presciently feminist point of view. In this surrealist and anti/patriarchal text Cahun writes about – “Eve The Too Credulous,” “Delilah, Woman Among Women,” “The Sadistic Judith,” “Penelope the Irresolute,” “Helen the Rebel” and ten other female figures.

I intend to create my own codex of heroines in research and writing and to then initiate performances and incarnations of my heroines in photographic portraits. I hope to work in collaboration with photographer Luís Branco again on this new project. In these works I will strive to engage with the fluidity of feminine subjectivity, feminine identity, power, sexuality and gender through the restructuring and reviewing and representations of these heroines (I include Claude Cahun here as well) and uncover new, as well as historic, aspects of the terms of feminine and personal selfhood.

I plan on beginning the Heroines project this spring while I am an artist in residence at Obras Holland in May – lucky me!


* 21 72 1927 ob_2a85a6_188-1230-0x0Claude Cahun, c. 1927.


tudo bom / muita água – posted in Boulder, Colorado November 19, 2018

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The image above is one of the first images I took with my new Sony RX100 point and shoot upon arriving at the Kaaysá Art Residency in Brazil.

I have been home 2 1/2 weeks now and I am now ready to write more about my artmaking process in Brazil and my experiences at the Kaaysá Art Residency. I am just beginning to look at and produce the performative photographic works and drawings in my studio here. I have not done any final editing of the images and the drawings are also still in process…

Kaaysá Art Residency was an exceptional experience for me as an artist and as a human being. As you know I have been doing international artist residencies the last 4 years, mostly at the Obras Artist Residency in Portugal, but I have also been to the Sanskriti Art Residency in Delhi. I went to Brazil partially because of my connection to Brazilian artist Mira Schendel, and partially to get over my intense connection to Portugal (this did not work), and because Kaaysá and it’s location in the rain forest and near the ocean looked like a potentially awesome environment to work in – and I had never traveled to Brazil…

It was also a very lucky circumstance that I found myself at Kaaysá with an amazing group of artists in a very open and beautiful situation. Kaaysá is a very young artist residency. Lourdina Rabieh and Lucila Mantovani have created a unique and wonderful concept. They are my beloved sisters now. Lourdina, moved from Lebanon to Brazil in the 70’s with her family, she is an incredibly talented energetic woman, running multiple creative projects as well as a gallery in São Paulo. Lucila, a Paulistana, is an equally multi-talented woman – a poet, writer, curator, eco-feminist, activist, yoga teacher and amazing facilitator of multi-dimensional projects.

The residency is housed in a lovely pousada that Lourdina and her brother Tony and family built in the beach town of Boiçucanga, about three hours from São Paulo. It is a couple of kilometers to the praia/beach and literally in the Mata Atlântica/ Atlantic rain forest. The rain forest is a unique environment, luscious and verdant and housing huge biodiversity and it is a rapidly shrinking territory. I found it to be inspiring and overwhelming and beautiful and very wet!

There were 12 of us artists at Kaaysá , some of us were there for the full 4 weeks and some for shorter periods. I set up my drawing table in the group atelier/studio next to Tiago Mestre, a Portuguese (Alentejano) architect and artist who has lived in São Paulo for eight years. Of course I felt immediately comfortable with him. My dear Jorge Medeiros, a Paulistano sculptor and amazing performance artist, became my friend from the first day. Deco Adjiman, a poet and sculptor from São Paulo also set up in the studio at the very beginning.  The beautiful Margherita Isola, an Italian (but has spent a lot of time in Brazil), dancer, activist and artist was mostly working outside the studio. My dear Luciana Magno was not working with us in the studio, but we fell in love immediately. Luciana is an amazing performance video artist from Belém. I call her the 10 x Ana Mendieta (and I don’t mean this as a criticism of Ana Mendieta). Luciana is a remarkably talented artist. My dear Gabriel Nehemy, another Paulistano, joined us in the studio a few days later and produced very hot intense large paintings and drawings. Rafa Alves joined us in the studio, another Paulistano and lovely artist and young man. My dear Sally Sølvstjerne arrived from Denmark a few days in. She is an incredibly talented artist, making drawings that are related to graphic novels and also to sacred geometry, an architect and light designer and just an amazing woman – we became very close… Renata Egreja, a very talented Brazilian painter joined us a week or so in. Then Thato Sbk came from South Africa a couple weeks in, a wonderful young artist from South Africa. And the last artist to arrive was Kitty Paranaguá from Rio – a remarkable photographer and woman. So that just sets the scene – you can look them all up on Instagram…

I followed my research and ritual art making process, surrounded by talented and supportive artists at Kaaysá. My main connection to Brazilian artist Mira Schendel on this trip was my re-initiation of my I Ching practice that relates to my drawing practice and also to my performative photographic works. Schendel and I do have a similar aesthetic in many ways in our drawings and paintings as well. She consulted the I Ching regularly too. The I Ching is the ancient book of Chinese wisdom, composed and compiled over thousands of years. The I Ching configures and forecasts around elemental aspects of nature and humanity – heaven, earth, water, fire, the mountain, the wind, thunder, the lake and many more iconic elements in nature and in human life.   I threw the I Ching every few days while at Kaaysá and integrated it more thoroughly into my drawing and performance practice.

I “threw” a lot of water, and I was so deeply in the water in this environment. It was raining a lot… and there are the waterfalls… I threw “Ching /The Well” my first session, and “K’an / The Abysmal Water” the second time. This brought me back to some of my work in Portugal with photographer Luís Branco and with the red cloth. Red and black, colors I have been using quite a bit. I have posted some of these drawings on my previous blog posts.

I was at Kaaysá for two weeks before photographer Fernando Lima came to work with me. So I was “ready” to do the performative work – I had explored the environment and chosen certain sites. Fernando and I had talked on the phone and I had sent him images of my performative work with Luís Branco in Portugal, and also some of my ideas for Kaaysá. When Fernando arrived at Kaaysá, the sun came out for several days. We started shooting at the big waterfall first, Pedra Lisa. We got there early in the morning and there was A LOT of water and beautiful light. We shot a large sequence of images with this translucent red chiffon. Rafa Alves assisted us, thank you Rafa. There are many beautiful images from this shoot. We have not done any final editing of these images yet. Here are just two images from this series.

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We shot a large sequence of images in the lower water fall as well, a smaller waterfall. We used large swaths of translucent white fabric in this series. I like these five images together as a sequence, maybe printed smaller. Again I have not finished any final editing on these images.

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We also shot this series of images “In Lourdina’s Garden.” Lourdina has created beautiful gardens at Kaaysá and I discovered this amazing flower, the Bastão do Imperador or emperor’s staff, in this beautiful grove in Lourdina’s garden. We used both a nude fabric and the red chiffon in this series. I think these images relate to my performative “flowers” that I made with a fabric flower in Portugal.

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And finally we shot at the beach. I had not spent a lot of time at the beach because it was raining so much. But I had taken an image with my I phone that I wanted to reproduce with me in it and the blue chair. Chairs have figured a lot in my work before. But I have never been this naked… There is a series of these, but this is the one I like. I have been unsure of this image, because it is very different from my other work.

My dear Deco Adjiman refers to this image at the beach and also the images at the waterfall in this short prose he wrote about me. It is so sweet, I don’t think anyone has ever “seen” me this way in words … Here is the text in Portuguese and English, and my most “naked” picture, it’s Brazil why not…

“então o livro-livro de jogar da senhora do colorado, da menina americana que dança em varanda em cachoeira, da garota que brinca nua equilibrada com uma cadeira azul na linha de fronteira entre mar azul e céu azul e nos explica o oscilar azul do horizonte, da mulher que lembra e sorri, que planeja e sorri e faz e sorri e então nos mira em carinho e nos mira como só fazem as mães e nos mira em abraço” – deco adjiman

“then the book-book of playing of the lady of colorado, of the American girl dancing on the veranda at the waterfall, of the girl playing bare balanced with a blue chair on the border line between blue sea and blue sky and explains the blue oscillate of the horizon, the woman who remembers and smiles, who plans and smiles and does and smiles and then looks at us affectionately and looks at us like only mothers do and looks at us in a hug” – (forgive the google translate)

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I miss all my dear friends I met in Brazil, we became a family of artists and friends, really beautiful….

Still Drawing – posted at Kaaysa Art Residency, Brazil on October 26th, 2018

I am still drawing – I only have one or two more days to work at Kaaysa. Though I am hoping the sun will come out and I can go to the praia 🙂

All of these “sketches” are 10 inches x 16 inches or 16 x 10 inches, which is 25 x 40 centimeters or 40 x 25 centimeters. All India ink and some acrylic ink.

I want to continue these sketches when I get home and perhaps go to a larger size for some of them.

They are all related to the I Ching and also the water and landscapes I have encountered here.

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more sketches / mais esbocos

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I have been taking more photographs with my new Sony camera in the landscape when the sun comes out. I am developing ideas for performances with different colors of cloth in the forest, in the waterscapes and cachoeira, and in the beautiful gardens here at Kaaysa art residency. I am preparing ideas to work with photographer Fernando Lima. He will be coming, hopefully, this week to work with me – and I am hoping for some good weather. Like I said these are just preperatory sketches in photoshop, I will be using transparent red, white and nude fabrics to cover my body.

Esbocos para performances na photoshop…

Sketches for performances in photoshop…

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In Lourdina’s garden –

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Flor / Flower, archival digital print, 60 cm x 60 cm, 2015, image by Luis Branco.

Drawing Water / The Abysmal – posted at the Kaaysa Art Residency, Brazil on October 11th, 2018

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Red Canyon 1 / Desfiladeiro Vermelho 1 , archival print 32 inches x 48 inches, 2017, photography by Luis Branco.

I threw the I Ching yesterday. I got the double hexagram of water, which seems to be a theme for me here in the Mata Atlantica at the Kaaysa Art Residency in Brazil with waterfalls and so much rain…. And it has also been a theme for me in my previous work in Portugal in the rivers, lakes and canyons of the Alentejo.

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Drawing – Red Canyon 1 / Desfiladeiro Vermelho 1 , India Ink on watercolor paper, 2018, 20 inches x 16 inches.

The I Ching hexagram is 29. K’an / The Abysmal (Water)

“In man’s world K’an represents the heart, the soul locked up within the body, the principle of light enclosed in the dark – that is, reason. The name of the hexagram, because the trigram is doubled, has the additional meaning, “repetition of danger.” Thus the hexagram is intended to designate an objective situation to which one must become accustomed, not a subjective attitude. For danger due to a subjective attitude means either foolhardiness or guile. Hence too a ravine is used to symbolize danger; it is a situation in which a man is in the same pass as the water in a ravine, and, like the water, he can escape if he behaves correctly.” – pg. 115 The I Ching or Book of Changes (The Richard Wilhelm Translation)

I made the performative photographs of me with the red cloth, called Red Canyon 1 and 2 or Desfiladeiro Vermelho 1 and 2, last October in Portugal in collaboration with photographer Luis Branco. I thought of these images, especially the one below as somehow portraying this elemental aspect of the abysmal (water) or in Portuguese o abysmal (agua).

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Red Canyon 2 / Desfiladeiro Vermelho 2 , archival print 48 inches x 32 inches, 2017, photography by Luis Branco.

So this is something of a meeting point of my continuing work with drawing, photography and performance. I have made 4 simple ink drawings this week, simple but they take some time. They are diagrammatic (of course) and based on my experiences and photographs I have taken here in Brazil with water and waterfalls. They could become still photography performances. I hope to work with a photographer here in the coming days. I also hope to continue drawing water (and other things too). The four new drawings are all small,  they are either 16 inches x 10 or 10 inches by 16.

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Below I am taking the image on my table top in the atelier with my (dirty feet) standing on the chair.

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caichoeira / waterfall

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more too come… it is raining…


sketches in the forest and in water – posted at Kaaysa art residency in Brazil, October 8, 2018

esboços na floresta e na água

These are very simple sketches in photoshop in the forest and in the water.

They are the beginnings of  ideas for drawings and also for still camera performances.

I am thinking of using fabrics again – transparent red fabric and nude fabric and a white fabric.



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I am just getting started! There is alot of rain here in the Mata Atlântica !!!!!!