Archive for the 'Life' Category

Ellendea Proffer Teasley in Cleveland!

Hey, did you know my mom is a bestseller in Russia? Well, the English translation of her latest book has just come out and she will be doing talks both at Cleveland Public Library (Monday, October 2nd at 6pm) and at my favorite bookstore in the world, Loganberry Books (Tuesday, Oct 3rd at 7pm)

You can order the book here, and while you are at it, the newly expanded edition of my dad’s memoirs is here.

Given the current climate and divide between the US and Russia, these talks are very now if you are interested in poetry, literature, and how to cope when a government censors and attacks its artists. Read more below! There’s also a video and podcast link….

Monday, October 2nd from 6pm to 8pm at Cleveland Public Library525 Superior, Main Library in the Louis Stokes Wing 2nd Floor. Cleveland, Ohio. Q&A and refreshments to follow. 

Censorship, anti-intellectualism, and totalitarian despair. How are creatives to resist, and survive?

Author and publisher Ellendea Proffer Teasley is in Cleveland to talk about her memoir Brodsky Among Us, recently released in English, but already a runaway bestseller in Russia, where it was translated as soon as it was finished, an indicator of Joseph Brodsky’s status in his native country. Proffer Teasley’s portrait of this brilliant poet is something very different from the hagiographic portraits that had come before, and was immediately acclaimed as the most believable description of this complex genius.

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Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, exiled from the Soviet Union in 1972, was a notorious poet and protégé of Anna Akhmatova. KGB arrests, a courtroom trial, and sentence of hard labor exile near the Arctic Circle only added to this notoriety. However, when he landed in the United States — thanks to a young Midwestern couple from Ann Arbor, Michigan — he truly began his path to international fame, eventually winning the Nobel Prize for poetry.

It was the late 1960s in the Soviet Union that Ellendea Proffer Teasley met Brodsky after she and her husband Carl Proffer found themselves admitted into the small and exclusive circle of legendary writers, poets, and artists that included Nadezhda Mandelstam, Elena S. Bulgakova, Lily Brik, and Vladimir Nabokov.

Witnessing the censorship of creatives, in what Proffer Teasley later coined an, “eleven time zone prison” the Proffers began the legendary publishing house Ardis Publishers in 1971, the only one in the world devoted exclusively to Russian literature in both English and Russian, a remarkable feat given that they themselves were not Russian. Ardis published the first English translations of books by major Russian writers such as Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelstam, Mikhail Bulgakov, Anna Akhmatova, and many others, including young Soviet writers. Ardis became known to Russian readers for its determination to publish the “lost library” of the Russian twentieth century, books that were erased from history by the Soviets and physically destroyed. Most important of the forbidden authors was Vladimir Nabokov, whose novel Lolita was banned in the Soviet Union. The Ardis editions somehow got smuggled into the Soviet Union to the readers who were desperate for them.

The Proffers brought Brodsky to America after his exile, and miraculously secured him as a poet-in-residence at the University of Michigan. From there his rise to fame in the United States was meteoric; receiving a MacArthur Fellowship, appointed the United States Poet Laureate in 1991, teaching at the best American universities, and becoming the toast of New York.

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Since his death 1996, Brodsky has been greatly deified in the form of museums, statues, film biopics, and even referenced on HBO shows like “The Young Pope”. Brodsky Among Us attempts to shed light on a man, not the legend: it is a frank picture of a willful and creative mind.

Brodsky Among Us is a deeply felt memoir of a life lived between two cultures and friendships with Vladimir Nabokov, Vasily Aksyonov, Vladimir Voinovich and many other writers, and it has resonated with all those who are interested in not only poetry, but also the Cold War itself and the myriad ways these cultures found to connect despite official prohibition of contacts.

Ellendea Proffer Teasley a writer, translator, and co-founded Ardis Publishers in 1971. She is known for Mikhail Bulgakov: Life & Work (1984); translations of Bulgakov’s plays and prose; numerous articles and introductions, most prominently the Notes and Afterword to the Burgin-O’Connor translation of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. She edited a series of well-received photo-biographies, including those devoted to Nabokov, Tsvetaeva and Bulgakov. She was on the first judges’ panel for the Booker Russian Novel Prize, and in 1989 received a MacArthur Fellowship. She lives and works in Dana Point, California.

LSA Magazine feature

Reconsidering Russia podcast

Commentary Magazine

The Nation

Russia Beyond the Headlines

London Review of Books

The Kenyon Review

“Her Brodsky is brilliant, reckless, and deeply human… an engaging, compulsively readable text that is bodacious, graceful, seamless.” — The Book Haven, Stanford University

“If this book did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it. But the problem is that very few people would be able to invent it—that is, to write it this way: without teary-eyed delight or spiteful score-settling, without petty fights with either the dead or the living, and at the same time with a full understanding of the caliber and distinctiveness of its “hero.”

— Anna Narinskaia, Kommersant Daily

“Proffer Teasley’s Brodsky is both darker and brighter than the one we thought we knew, and he is the stronger for it, as a poet and a person…Brodsky Among Us appears to have been written in a single exhalation of memory; it is frank, personal, loving, and addictive: a minor masterpiece of memoir, and an important world-historical record.”

— Cynthia Haven, The Nation

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Get Out of the House!

The is probably the worst autumn I can think of.

My husband had a horrible accident that resulted in him needing to be revived with CPR thanks to a retired nurse. She said she really had to work on him and he was basically gone. We had few trips to the ER after. All heart surgery-related. And here I was going about my business about to get into the shower, totally unaware of what was happening. He’s doing better now but it’s been a struggle, much more than we had anticipated.

The day before my husband’s birthday we came to find our dear friend, George Nemeth, passed away suddenly. We last saw him when he came to our aid in the hospital before catching a flight back to his home. We had plans with his wife, who is one of my closest friends, for New Year’s Day at my parents house in California and were all looking forward to it. Now, here I am planning a memorial service on the day I find out Trump is my next president.

After everything I have been through and my friends, too, one thing I can’t stand is people who actively avoid participating in life. Technology has made this more prevalent. Humans weren’t meant sit in their own little cubby holes like a bag of rice. If you have ever been gravely ill and forced to do this because you have no choice, you know what I’m talking about. Sitting in bed with a laptop or whatever sounds great, until you are forced to do that and nothing else, day in and day out. I don’t ever remember a time where so many people talked about being introverts (let alone articles about them) or other neurosis where being around other people or doing any activity was so much… work. I’m not saying you need to go out every night and set fire to the city, but damn if this isn’t the age of canceled plans.

I wrote something on Facebook, something that got shared quite a bit so it must have hit a nerve. My grief stage is currently set to anger, and I think seeing the Stooges documentary Gimme Danger may have clicked, too.

“I’m going to say it again, because I have been forced to “take it easy” against my will enough that I’ve had a lifetime’s worth of Netflix and sitting at home doing nothing. Your time is not guaranteed; go to that gig, lecture, exhibition, dinner, party, and go on that date. Don’t be a dick and stay home watching TV because you are lazy and tired from a job you don’t like much anyway. I don’t care if you are a precious introvert. Are you going to say “oh boy I’m glad I stayed home scrolling thru my phone” when you could have actually experienced something? Leave the damn house! Take the fucking ride, man.”

My first regret when diagnosed with cancer was not following Motorhead and The Damned on their European tour when my husband joked about doing it. I kept thinking about it over and over, why the fuck didn’t I do it? Now Lemmy is dead. I’ve had five surgeries since then, and my husband died for a few minutes. I got invited to speak at a cardiology conference in China next month about my new paintings, and now I wish I had agreed to it.

Sure, there are many things like travel that you can’t do because of obligations or money issues. But there are plenty of other things that can happen if you just go out in your own city or to a friend’s house. I met James Brown three times in my life by chance because I left the damn house! I even did car bombs with Tipper Gore at a wine bar all because of a going-away party for someone I hardly knew, that I almost bailed on. Interesting things can happen when you go outside, people!

My new goal is to get to China to hang out with bands and see the sights of music and art scenes in Bejing and Shanghai. Let’s hope that with Trump as president, that doesn’t become an issue!

Life Imitates Art: Cardiac Edition

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I’m really happy that my painting “Outcast” made the cover of a medical journal, my first!

Ironically a day after I saw this my husband had a horrible accident related to his heart surgery. He blacked out while running on a treadmill and was thrown. His heart stopped for about two minute and there just happened to be a nurse working out who performed CPR. He was covered in blood and that was my first experience riding shotgun in a fire truck ambulance. By the way, no one stops for ambulances in Cleveland — we were making 4-way stops the whole ride.

It’s been a hell of a week, but my husband is fine now and narrowly avoided getting a pacemaker. His heart medications was the culprit. Two stitches on the forehead, nasty tread burns are thankfully the only things he has to show for it. He has three cardiologists, now. They were impressed I had art on the cover of one of the many journals they get!

The neighbor/nurse who revived him got sent a huge bouquet today, but obviously I wish I could have sent her something from Cartier.

Another Bullet Dodged

I’m happy to report my surgery went well and there was no spread of cancer. I did have a whole lot of critters in my abdomen and on certain organs that had to be cut out (over 30!) and the ovary, but aside from my belly button moving to a new spot (again) nothing else major happened. I’m really hoping the things don’t grow back — I can’t get cut open anymore — but I’ll have to be monitored. It seems my body likes to make cysts and other strange masses. I’m more than a little annoyed I was almost sent on my merry way and this wasn’t caught. I knew something was wrong and it still took a nudge to get proper imaging done. So for this round I’m comfortable saying that I caught this, not a doctor for once.

The big issue of why my last surgeon didn’t take care of this in 2014 was because OH NOES MENOPAUSE. Because I’m 38. Well guess what? I’m fine. More than fine. No symptoms at all, and even when I tried that hormone patch I was prescribed, I had to stop it within days because those side effects were worse than any hot flash or mood swing could possibly be. So I’ll be going the supplement and soy route to control things, rather than a drug that makes me feel awful — and causes breast cancer.

The issue of having my leg worked on once more will be dealt with in about 2 years or more. I just can’t get cut open again. It’s bad for so many reasons and I need a break. I’m lucky because I have the choice. A woman in the intake room with me had 12 surgeries in one year, and that is horrible just what it does to your immune system, but she was dying so she has no choice.

Anyway, thanks for all of your messages and emails! On my first day back to work for my one job, I returned 27 phone calls and still had time to somehow put together a last-minute grant application. And then I made some paintings for my show.

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“Regent” 16×16″ oil on panel.

By the way, I’m moving in a new direction, and although I will be doing portrait commissions I won’t be doing figurative work for a while. So go check out some pieces if you feel like you have wanted something for a while. Big and tiny.

Low Down Tired Now

More than a few times in the last six years, it has gotten back to me that acquaintances or any numbers of people groaned about how they were sick of hearing about my medical ailments. How fortunate for them that I at one point went an entire year without any emergency hospital or doctor visits; how fortunate for them that more recently the attention turned to my husband who had a major heart surgery. Sure it turned out he was slowly dying (a secret the surgeon kept until the cardiologist let the cat out of the bag) and he would have been dead rather soon, but thankfully he’s doing great, now.

Trust me when I say I’m sick of hearing about my own ailments. In fact, I’m fucking exhausted. So exhausted that I’ve never had a fully functioning immune system and I never seem to get time to recover from all the things surgery does to a person. Not even six weeks out from my husband having heart surgery, was I informed I have the beginnings of cancer — this time in my ovary. The ovary that shouldn’t have been left behind when I underwent a botched hysterectomy that sent me into kidney failure. I thought I was done. I was supposed to be done. I was supposed to get an additional minor surgery on my cancer and radiation ravaged leg and that would be it, I would be done. Now I don’t know if I’ll have a straightforward operation, or if more organs will be taken. Either way, it’s a very dangerous surgery and I think the prospect has finally broken me.

Surgeries never scared me; even after the one that nearly killed me I went in like a mildly inconveinenced housewife who had to get her manicure all over again because she chipped the finish of her nails. The surgical teams and nursing staff always think I’m a tech or a nurse. I can put my own IV in if I wanted to. Many nurses remember me from previous visits because I’m usually in goth-chic attire and they ask about my cats Ike & Tina. Each time I’m rolled into the operating room, I fuck with the anesthesiologists telling them I ate a Scottish breakfast a few hours prior, and then ask them to tell me funny stories about the idiot patients who eat before surgery or have family members try to hide food in their blankets (you wouldn’t believe what people do). I know the layout of every intake room, waiting room, and hospital floor. I know what pain med cocktail works and what doesn’t. I know which gowns are itchy and suck (the DvF designed ones) and to always bring my lip balm and dry shampoo.

I can honestly say I’m finally tired. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t bring out the sunny disposition or humor and I have never felt the stress the way I do now. My hair is falling out and the thought of food is disgusting. I’m glad when I’ve gone out and socialized — I need it to feel normal — but there have been many times I just don’t want to talk or be around people. I don’t want people helping; they just get in my way. I don’t want to hear anyone moan about how stressed or tired they are from their jobs, as though it were a badge of honor. Lately I just sit in silence; I can’t even stand my beloved trash TV or Judge Judy.

My husband is forcing himself to get better faster on my account, even thought he’s still not 100% himself, but we’ve had a lot of practice. This is the second time I’m working on a solo show with a nearing deadline, while sick. Hoping I come out of this surgery alright, unlike the one in 2014. Expecting the worst is all I can do so that maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I have a lot of plans and really don’t want to change or alter them.

My apologies to those who tire of hearing about how my 30s has been a non-stop narrative about what’s wrong this time — I have bad luck, I guess.

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An Empty Calendar Is Death, After All

Since the beginning of this past fall, I’ve had a great pleasure of becoming a teaching artist at The Cleveland Museum of Art, and more specifically, am a part of their Art & Insight program which partners with organizations to bring in medical professionals and medical students to take part in exercises using the art collection. European portraiture is my thing of course, but it’s been a great way to do a crash art history lesson on all the pieces in the museum. And trust me — that’s a lot! It will be years before I am fluent in all of them, but I’ll get there when I get there.

I’ve been busy starting my new body of work that was made possible by The Ohio Arts Council. The show will have an opening reception in November at 78th Street Studios as part of the Hedge Gallery new satellite space, which is also next to one of my favorite record shops, Bent Crayon!

This will be very different work for me and it’s the first time I’ll be having a dedicated show of the new direction I’ve been going in. I read a horoscope a few months back saying that for me, as a Gemini, unveiling a new creative direction in public in June was the worst time to do so and it would not be well received. I normally don’t put much stock into horoscopes — let alone the Astro Twins — but the description was a little too on the mark and specific with my situation as I was negotiating a gallery space. I’m glad the show got moved to the late fall!

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There are a few other exhibitions I am having in May and in June, but I suggest you visit my website and join my email list to get all the details.

This month I also found out that my husband will be having heart surgery in early June at Cleveland Clinic. Man, no matter what I can’t seem to get away from that place, can I? It was a shock to both of us, and the doctors, that he even needed something so invasive given how healthy he is and is in zero pain. It’s my turn to play nursemaid now, and you better believe I’ll be on the scene with those nurses! He has seen me go through this now — what, 6 times? But he isn’t like me. Frankly, he isn’t taking it well. I’m currently making a list of all the food I’ll be ordering for him at main campus because there’s now way he’s going to eat the crap they serve as hospital food. He has to take a month off work and won’t be able to drive, so I guess I need to come up with a lot of activities and road trip ideas so he doesn’t go crazy. If you didn’t know already, he is a runner, so this will be extra hard.

We also have some news coming in this summer on the Elephant Stone Records front, lots of visitors, a trip to NYC for my husband’s book event there with Jack Rabid, and that’s not including a few secret projects, my other freelance jobs, and so forth. I’ve had to put a pause on portrait commissions until 2017. Did I also mention I might have another surgery on my leg this year?

I’m normally pretty together, so if you have been experiencing severe delays in email replies and phone calls, this is why. But it’s okay. For me, to look at my calendar and see it be empty is like death. I can’t stand an empty calendar!

 

I Don’t Know What I’m Doing: IMMA GURL ARTIST HALP

I was talking to Paula, the bassist of one of my favorite current bands, September Girls. A drunken guest had just been thrown out of my husband’s book party for various reasons; mainly that at one point after expressing to guests he was a fan of September Girls, he walked up to two of them and said flatly, “you looked like shit on stage last time I saw you”.

Something as harsh as this wasn’t what they were used to, however, Paula said all too often they did indeed get male fans who would almost always say, “Hey your band is great! But, you know what you should do…” because OBVIOUSLY when you are an all-female group you must need help and unsolicited advise from a man. Never mind they are more successful and have a farther reach than many all-male bands in Ireland right now — they’re women in a band, hence they must not know what they are doing. Never mind women get marginalized and treated like fuck dolls, imbeciles, or little girls in the music industry no matter what — they need a man to manage them. They need a man to help them navigate because IMMA GURL HALP PLEEZ and they must be winging it up until now. They could do so much better if only they had some help. Right?

It must have been something I blocked out, or something I just got used to. Maybe I was trying to be polite or assumed they were dumb so I just kept my mouth shut instead of getting nasty about it? “Your work is great! But you know what you should do…” is something I have heard from a ridiculous number of men with regard to my art-making practices and anything to do with my career. I guess I really did just get used to it. In fact, this was how they made conversation. But, now that I’ve registered more women saying it happens to them, I know it was a way of talking down to me. A way to show that they knew more about something than I did. I’m not saying every man has done this — of course not — but the percentage that have is pretty damn high.

Backhanded compliments, micro-aggressions, mansplaining, whatever you want to call it.

They take place in my studio when it has been open to the public; at my solo shows where work is selling; at group shows with other artists; at public art-making events or charities; online in group discussions; in an email that was unsolicited; in front of my husband, best friend, gallery owner, collector, or my parents. It happens at parties when I first meet someone and I tell him I’m an artist (oh those can be precious). It happens when someone I don’t know well sees that other acquaintances buy my work, and then they go on about how they want to commission a work of mine while simultaneously telling me what I need to do to be a famous/rich artist despite the fact they have NO experience or history in working in the realm of art.

And by the way, I can read people real damn quick when it comes to saying they want to commission a work. I’ve been doing it long enough I can tell who is serious and who is full of it — usually because they are showing off.

Hey I’m all for advice, when it really is that. I have male artists friends who tell me about cool products and stuff I should check out, or galleries and all that. Those are the men who aren’t out to try and prove they know more than me, insult me, or actually do work in my field and know me well enough that the advice or statements they make are helpful. They also don’t assume I’m a dummy.

I’ve heard many things. So many I can’t recall them all. Dumb things. Yet, the assumption is always I don’t know what I’m doing:

“Your prices are too high.”

“You should make your prices higher if you want to succeed.” (say that a little louder with the gallery director standing right there)

“You should do some social media.”

“You should get a publicist, I know a guy, he works with a lot of art types.”

“Your work doesn’t look as muddy in person.”

“You’re the one who does those Disney big-eye paintings. Yeah, I know who you are.” (What the living fuck?)

“You really should mold your contrasts more.” (I don’t think he knew what that meant)

“You should look up Hi Fructose Magazine.” “Yes, I’ve taken ads out with them and they feature my work on their website periodically.” “Oh.”

“You should read Juxtapoz Magazine.” “Yes I’ve been featured on their site many times and my friends are in it often, but since Complex Media bought them out I don’t look at it as often.” “Oh.”

“That’s not oil, that’s acrylic — I can TELL.” (the painting was in oil and I was sitting right there and he didn’t bother to talk to me in my own studio)

“Well, that’s certainly…interesting.” (blows nose into snotty tissue and drops it on my studio floor as he walks out)

“Have you ever thought of doing commissions?” “Yes I’ve been doing them since I was 16” “Oh, but like real ones? Like mayors and judges?” (I think my facial expression told him everything)

“You should do velvet paintings.” “Those are awful, why would I do that?” “Because people really like buying those.”

“You should show in galleries.” “Thanks, I do, all over the US, and Israel, and Australia.” “Oh well I guess you have it all figured out, huh?”

“Have you ever thought of submitting to galleries?” “Yes I’ve actually been showing in them for a long time.” “No I know, but like, real ones.”

“Yeah, I could tell you use different oil paint brands in one painting. Weird. Huh.” (what the living fuck?)

“You should take out advertising in Art in America or something.” “Well, that’s not my audience and some of those ads are $5-10K” “Oh.”

“Nice work. But, you should come to my art show tonight, it’s just right down the street and a couple blocks over.” (I was right in the middle of my own solo show opening reception)

“These are nice but I don’t know if I’d frame them like that.” (It was the opening reception and I sold two of them)

“You should try painting on linen/canvas/panel. I bet it would look really nice.” (I work on all of these)

“You should show your work in Los Angeles. You’d sell a lot there.” “I do show there. I’m from Los Angeles.”

“Your work is too slick. You shouldn’t make it so slick.”

“I could tell a woman painted these. It’s so obvious.”

“I saw the article about you. That was a really weird combination of your work they chose.”

“The guy you have taking your artwork photos is really good.” “I take all my own photos, thanks.” “Oh really? Isn’t that something.”

“Have you ever thought of doing this professionally?”

“You should sell your paintings on Etsy. My wife sells her handmade soaps on there.”

“You should make prints of that.” “I have them, here’s where to purchase them.” (Spoiler Alert: doesn’t buy print!)

“Do you know an artist by the name of… [pick a name of any male artist ever in the history of time and insert].” “Why yes, I have a book on him.” “Oh, well, yes I thought I’d tell you about him, but I guess you already know of him.”

“Do you know [insert current female artist]? Her work is okay, but she’s hot!”

“I bet you like Frida Kahlo a lot.” “Actually, I don’t. I never got into her.” “Oh, I thought all women liked her. That’s strange!”

These things would never get said to a man in the tone they get said to me. And I don’t go up to writers at book signings and get all, “Hey! You ever heard of this guy Hemingway? You’d like him because dudes like him!” or “You know what you should do? Have you ever thought of getting a publisher?” when I’m at a book store where the guy is signing books.

Anyway, you get the idea. I’m sure there are more egregious examples my friends can attest to that I’ve blocked out of my memory. I’m sure many to do with my appearance as well. I’m lucky that the art scene I am lumped into has a large number of female artists who are supported in the media, by their male counterparts, curators and so on. I could be wrong, but within that scene alone, I feel like the amount of solo shows is almost evenly divided between men and women. Sadly the percentage of female solo shows at major art institutions, major galleries and fairs in hovering around 33% though it drops sometimes to 20%. The exception being the Venice Biennale at 50% in 2010. Ten years ago women made up more than 60% of the art school students in the USA, so aside from going into arts administration (which now is mainly women) I don’t know what to think.

And again, apologies to those men who are genuine fans of the band, artist, writer, and are smart and confident enough to not make these little digs. You guys are rad! I know sometimes it doesn’t seem like much, but this stuff gets built up over time and I’m done making excuses for dopes or rationalizing their behavior.

As with anything, think before you speak. If no one asked you for a suggestion or critique, don’t give it. Like a normal human. And, don’t assume that the first thought that pops in your head of how you would do something or do it different, hasn’t already been considered.

Tell me your thought or stories in the comments. I think I’m finally “grown ass lady” enough to start calling this stuff out when it happens again.