Category Archives: Highlights

Keep Your Heart Strong: An interview with Kati Teague about healing from the Prison Industrial Complex through art and organizing

kati3While teaching at UC Santa Cruz, I worked with three young artists whose work addresses policing, state violence, and creative forms of resistance to the Prison Industrial Complex.

In a three-part miniseries, I’ve interviewed each of these recent graduates about their work, how they became politicized, what they believe is the power of political artwork, and the various issues they address.

In the second part of this mini-series, I interview Kati Teague about her experience of her mother’s incarceration and the ways she has learned how to heal through making art and organizing against the Prison Industrial Complex. Kati’s body of work, “Have You Seen My Mother,” reckons with her mother’s abrupt and forced removal from her adolescence as she spent two years in prison at the Central California Women’s Facility. After attending a statewide protest at the site of this prison, 11 years later, Kati began to understand her individual experience in a much greater context of communities and families disrupted by incarceration and fighting for their loved ones inside and against this invisible punishing machine.

You can read the interview in full here.


Where the Silence Is: An interview with Noah Miska about the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike

noah_longshot2While teaching at UC Santa Cruz, I worked with three young artists whose work addresses policing, state violence, and creative forms of resistance to the Prison Industrial Complex.

In a three-part miniseries, I’ve interviewed each of these recent graduates about their work, how they became politicized, what they believe is the power of political artwork, and the various issues they address. The first of these interviews is with Noah Miska, whose untitled multimedia installation educates viewers about the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike and invites them to get involved in supporting people in prison. It was created for the 2013 Irwin Scholars Award Show, a group show recognizing twelve emerging artists and graduating seniors at UC Santa Cruz’s Sesnon Gallery. This article is cross-posted on Organizing Upgrade and Open Space.

I owe everything to being queer: An interview with Tirza True Latimer

ImageTirza True Latimer is the chair of the Visual and Critical Studies Department at the California College of the Arts (CCA). She is a feminist art historian, a lesbian, a general mover and shaker and a huge mentor of mine. I was Tirza’s student during my time at CCA in 2007 – 2009 and am indebted to her generosity, tender heartedness and fierce intellect. She modeled for me and all her students what it means to not only teach about feminism but to create a learning environment that is embedded within feminist politics and spirit.

After a few years of my own undergraduate teaching experiences, I was eager to talk with Tirza about feminist teaching. We met at a cafe in Berkeley with this subject in mind and after discussing her coming of age during anti-war movement of the 1960s, her refusal of mainstream, heterosexual culture, her participation the queer, collective culture of the 1970s and transition from working construction to teaching art history, our conversation eventually found its way to the feminist classroom.

Somehow I manage to corral this conversation into a readable interview! And I am so pleased that it was recently published on the literary site, The Rumpus. You can read the full interview here to see what I mean about this incredible woman and teacher.

An Infinity of Traces: An interview with Evan Bissell on Organizing Upgrade

7_Bissell_1954 Deleware and Brown v Board 72ppi-1This interview has been a long time in the making. Partly because I find Evan Bissell‘s work so damn powerful that it felt difficult for me to do it justice. I knew I wanted to interview Evan after seeing the opening of his project, “The Knotted Line” last spring. It was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had viewing art.


“The Knotted Line” as an interactive, multi-disciplinary project that explores the historical relationship between freedom and confinement in the United States. It is comprised of over 50 miniature paintings, an interactive online timeline, and a curriculum guide for bringing this expansive history to classrooms of various ages. But what makes Evan’s work so powerful is not necessarily the end result but his approach to art-making wherein he appears more as a grassroots organizer than artist. Through political education, research, self-reflection, relationship building and community empowerment, Evan creates art that strikes at the core of my unrelenting questions and demands of cultural work: how can art function not as a passive form but an active agent for liberatory political practice? What is possible when we reject the distinction between artist, organizer, and community member?

Read the full interview with Evan Bissell on Organizing Upgrade.

We thought the world we built would be forever: An interview with Lenn Keller

Maybe it has something to do with turning 29, but it seems that all I want to do lately is talk with older generations of queer artists and political organizers about their lives and work. Last week I met with Lenn Keller, a Bay Area film-maker and photographer whose practice straddles the worlds of art making, political activism, and queerness.

I first saw Lenn’s work in 2010 when her exhibition “Fierce Sistahs: Art, Activism and Community of Lesbians of Color in the Bay Area, 1975 – 2000” was on display at the San Francisco Public Library. Fierce Sistahs was a collection of photographs and ephemera documenting the political and social lives of lesbians of color from pride parades to workshops to community gatherings. Shortly after I included Lenn’s series of portraits of gender non-comforming youth of color into the exhibition, “Suggestions of A Life Being Lived” at  SFCamerawork which I co-curated with Danny Orendorff.

Lenn is a living vestige to the Bay Area’s history of lesbian culture and political movements centered on the experiences of women of color. We talked about this history, and how the politics of the Bay Area attempts to erode lesbian culture, as well as her film, A Persistent Desire which traces the evolution of butch-femme identities and dynamics. While posting this interview in June is perhaps a nod to San Francisco’s Pride festivities, Lenn’s work and experience reveal a complex legacy that extends well beyond the month and provides a historical context to our current manifestations of queer protest, survival and joy.

Read the interview on SFMOMA’s Open Space.

Toma Las Calles! Take It to the Streets! An interview with Melanie Cervantes of Dignidad Rebelde

ImageWhoa, lucky me! I recently interviewed printmaker and activist, Melanie Cervantes of Dignidad Rebelde. I see Melanie’s prints everywhere: at each protest or demonstration I attend, in the office of the grassroots organizations I volunteer with, in the collective households I visit. Melanie’s work is prolific and grounded in a belief that art belongs to the people and is a powerful tool for organizing the masses into action. She is wise and humble and reminds me why I do what I do. You can read the interview at SFMOMA’s blog, Open Space.

Artist Bloc No. 1, Is Art Labor?

The Artist Bloc No. 1 zine is in circulation! This publication takes up the question of whether or not art is labor and considers the contribution of artists to the current Occupy Movement and social justice movements, in general. It features contributions from Christian L. Frock, Joseph del Pesco, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Mary Christmas, Elizabeth Sims, Adrienne Skye Roberts, The Beehive Collective, Welly Fletcher, Morgan R. Levy, Hannah Gustavvson, Paulina M. Nowicka, Zeph Fishlyn, Leslie Dryer and the Art Worker’s Coalition. Design and layout by Paulina M. Nowicka.

You can check it out online here. Read, print, copy, and re-distribute!