Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Editing the Human Genome? Welcome to PARADISE GARDENS, http://maglomaniac.com/editing-the-human-genome-welcome-to-paradise-gardens/

Humans now have the possibility of editing our genome (NY Times
 (3/20). Ethicists are discussing the implications of being able to 
not just produce physically beautiful and intellectually superior people, 
but to pass down those traits forever. Of course scientists have
already edited the genomes of mice and other lesser mammals, 
though how that might change the planet doesn’t seem to be 
a concern. Superior mice simply exist to show the procedure will 
work on humans, the leap from mice to men is a small step.

This procedure, considered relatively easy, is sure to catch on.
Manipulating gender by aborting females is already a norm in
 some countries, so look out for a world of smart pretty people. 
Will this boon, the most coveted of human fantasies, be widely
available? Or will the process quickly disappear from public view, 
controlled by a group of mega corporations?

In the 1980’s, when I began my novel PARADISE GARDENS, I was
 reading an economics history about the passage of society from 
medievalism to capitalism. I was wondering under what conditions it 
might reverse and, for this fiction, it was fait a accompli in the
 2050’s on the Earth’s surface. In 3011 those futuristic medieval 
estates would flee to an underground feudal world.

The basis of those corporate business estates was the production
 of employees, whose individual genomes were a matter of 
inheritance based on family performance. They were determined 
by destiny lines planned by the “Psychologicians”, the keepers of 
the database that governed the UBS, United Business Estates. 
Beauty is a given, at higher levels for “average” employees than 
“superiors” with more intellectual decision-making capacity.

Admittedly, this is what used to be called “paranoid,” speculative 
fiction, rather than science fiction. But now the possibility is 
science fact. I believe it was Freud, who once said “paranoia is a
 sign of health in an insane world.” Perhaps, rather than ethicists 
wringing their hands, while licensing is already in the hands of 
big Pharma or other nongovernmental hands, scientists might 
consider a unified revolt–bite the hands that feed their research.
I ponder whether allegedly non-conformist, original thinkers could 
actually become worldly enough to seize control of a product that
 may be the zeitgeist of our time. Consider Wikipedia’s definition:

The German word Zeitgeist is often attributed to the philosopher
Georg Hegel but he never actually used the word. In his work 
Lectures on the philosophy of History he uses the phrase der Geist 
seiner Zeit (the spirit of his time)—for example, “no man can surpass
his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit.”

Are we doomed to a world, where beauty is not just commonplace
 but mandated by business? Where plastic surgery to banish aging
 is a requirement for continued employment? Where intelligence is 
only valued, when used to create wealth for the UBS? Where 
employees happily accept the advantages they receive for
 productivity, as they reach levels of their career?

Welcome to PARADISE GARDENS. Cautionary tales are just that.
 And even in the UBE, rebellion could not be bred out of a 
genome, just muted by other characteristics. Where the wild human
 soul is concerned, even psychologicians could not predict al
 outcomes. But, Cassandra that I am, I can see this one coming. 
Step aside, I think. Are we mice or men?


Friday, March 20, 2015

In the Reluctant MidWife by Patricia Harmon,The Great Depression Meets a Plucky RN

In THE RELUCTANT MIDWIFE (William Morrow, March), Becky Myers takes on The Great Depression and is almost bested but she makes it through with more than a little help from her friends. As the story opens she and Dr.Isaac Blum, a once brilliant surgeon now catatonic, owe months of rent and must sneak out in the night and trust they have enough gas to make it to Hope River in rural Virginia.

Patricia Harman's heroine is actually short on hope, fighting the edge of despair. Becky's almost glad survival is occupying her mind. Though she's been a respected nurse in a woman's clinic and Dr.Blum's practice, hard times have made inroads into her cheerful middle class respectability. When she learns Blum's house in Hope River has been sold, along with his belongings and tools from his practice, she knows they are not just broke but homeless.

Though Becky tries to find any kind of employment, she's told there are "able-bodied men out of work," and offered a humiliating hand-out. Yet plucky Becky fights desperation, until Blum wanders off lured by the smell of a soup kitchen. She' runs, desperate to retrieve him. Though harmless, Blum's complete silence and vacant eyes scare people. Becky is loyal but Blum's a 24 hour job, so incapacitated he can't go to the bathroom alone or brush his teeth. When his wife drove into a river, she took his mind with her. Then Blum's own brother turned him out, Becky, without family, has made him her charge, though she thinks, ironically, how he's dependent as any child.

They need help but who? Unexpectedly, Blum says "patience," and she knows he means find Patience, her old friend, the midwife of Hope River. She has about enough gas to reach the cottage with the blue door, which turns out to be empty. Patience must have left the area, Becky thinks but soon learns she  only moved a short distance with her Veterinarian husband and son. The family
welcomes Becky and Blum, gives them the cottage and food. There's a sense of family after her alienation and fear. Yet, Becky must earn their living. When Patience reveals she's pregnant and shows Becky a list of local women in need of her services, Becky quakes. She owes a lot to Patience, but is reluctant to become her assistant.

While enormously competent and hardworking, Becky aided Blum in deliveries but midwifery was different. Blood and mess aren't fun,but it's the unpredictability, as well as her own ineptitude that fills her with dread. Still, she prods herself to help Patience. Worse are cases, when she finds herself alone with women in jeopardy, as they all seem to be. There are supposedly easy deliveries, where everything goes wrong, complex situations, such as a blind mother-to-be, where it goes easy. Becky finds the work frightening. But over time she accepts that in midwifery, like life, all you can do is prepare. Yet she's thrilled to trade it for a nursing job at the camp of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

There's great characters there, among the injured and maimed. The dashing captain, who recruits Becky, and takes her to a dinner, where she even meets Eleanor Roosevelt. Becky proves heroic during a horrendous forest fire and when it comes to Patience's delivery, But it's the day in, day out caring for the lost Blum that shows a quiet courage--to carry on while grieving the man he used to be,faith. Then, almost under her nose, Blum returns,

THE RELUCTANT MIDWIFE is both heart warming and authentic.. The feeling you get for these people is earned. The story is realistic, nothing feels contrived. The Depression meant the end of possibility for many people. Living close to the land, nature is both beautiful and malevolent. How these people managed to just continue and thrive is about the human capacity to change and adapt. Becky is resourceful. She holds onto the idea of happiness. In this very gray winter, I felt cheered by her pluck.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sam Shaw's Lens was True. 100 Photos of Sam Shaw for Press Freedom by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders is a non-profit organization headquartered in France and they do 3 or 4 of these photographer portfolios every year to raise money for the organization. 

Sam Shaw Book

Sam Shaw (with Marilyn above) was a photographer of films known for his iconic Hollywood shots. Remember the one where the heating grate sends Marilyn's dress upward? He also shot documentary films and John Cassavetes' cinema verite. But what I found stunning in this book were not the star turns but character portraits behind star poses. You actually get a sense of who they were. There's Liz the beauty looking goofy, Marlon in an altered state. Real people. He shot meaning beyond pretty people in pretty photos. His lens was true.

And he went after meanings in other forms. Here from an online bio:
In the 1960s, Shaw branched out into producing. He made the film Paris Blues (1961) starring Paul Newman and Sydney Poitier as American jazz musicians in the French city. The score for the film was composed by Shaw's friend Duke Ellington. Shaw later teamed up with filmmaker and actor John Cassavetes to produce such films as Husbands (1970), A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Opening Night (1977) and Gloria (1980). Cassavetes called Shaw a "renaissance man"; his multi-talented friend Shaw was the production designer for A Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) and also photographed Cassavetes' films and designed their advertising campaigns.

Actress Gena Rowland

There is also a grey hardcover book with 200 images from the 1940's through the 1980's. It is the catalog to a retrospective exhibition tour launching this year in September. The book is here:

The Exhibition is opening on September 11th, 2015 at the Cultural Center of Caiscais, in Caiscais Portugal. The exhibition then continues to travel to various European countries through 2018. 



Monday, February 23, 2015

The Author's Corner on Public Special, WOMEN WRITE ABOUT WAR, Memorial Day 5/25-week

MEMORIAL DAY Special, week 5/25
Women Write About War

Dava Guerin (Bush Foundation board member): Unbreakable Bonds: The Mighty Moms and Wounded Warriors of Walter Reed
Kathleen M. Rodgers: Johnnie Come Lately
Roxana Robinson: Sparta
Alyson Richman: The Garden of Letters
Elizabeth Gaffney: When The World Was Young

Dava is nonfiction; rest are fiction --

Our "Memorial Day" week-long (M-F) Special, starting with the true story (Guerin) of a wounded female vet, then four novels explore, respectively, the traumas of physical (Rodgers)  and psychological (Robinson)  wounds, a woman rescued from the Nazis  (Richman) , and finally, a child's view of her mother during wartime (Gaffney) .

Greetings! One "classical music" novel, plus four titles loosely 

in the memoir category yet very eclectic in approach.

Monday -- Sean Prentiss: Finding Abbey
Tuesday -- Elena Delbanco: The Silver Swan
Wednesday -- Stephen Fife: The 13th Boy
Thursday -- Janis Heaphy Durham: The Hand on the Mirror
Friday -- Susan Ball: Voices in the Band

For this week, we offer fine readings by:
Patricia Morrisroe: 9-1/2 Narrow
George Bodenheimer: Every Town Is A Sports Town
Rita Gardner (2): The Coconut Latitudes
Bill Gifford: Spring Chicken

Hear them now (after the page loads; our new web site is coming soon) --

Today kicks off a whole week of lauded fiction, starting with

a popular master storyteller, Neil Gaiman.... 

Monday:  Neil Gaiman / Trigger Warning
Tuesday:  Mira Jacob / The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
Wednesday:  Stephen Policoff / Come Away
Thursday:  Una LaMarche / Like No Other
Friday:  Shari Goldhagen  / In Some Other World, Maybe


Greetings. This week, the challenges of motherhood (Monday and Friday), 

and of Free Speech issues in fiction and non- (Tuesday thru Thursday). 

Monday: Elisa Albert / After Birth: A Novel
Tuesday: Charles Slack / Liberty's First Crisis...
Wednesday: Burt Neuborne / Madison's Music...
Thursday: Jonah Kruvant / The Last Book Ever Written: A Novel
Friday: Rita Plush / Alterations: Stories


Two memoirs, two novels, & raising a "wild child" --4/6

KIM GORDON -- autobiography of a female rock band pioneer 
KARA RICHARDSON WHITELY -- climbing Kilimanjaro at 300 pounds
DEEPAK CHOPRA -- his mystery about Christ's unknown disciple
EMILY GRAY TEDROWE -- a novel of the Iraq war touching families
SCOTT SAMPSON -- guiding your child to fall in love with nature

Listen now (after page loads) -- https://www.authorscorner.org/

Greetings!  Two novels and three memoirs this week --3/30

MARTIN SHORT -- from his autobiography: highs, lows, philosophy
ALICE EVE COHEN -- from a stormy year when her mother "returns"
JESSICA TREADWAY -- from her novel of murder and family doubts
BRUCE PIASECKI -- from his memoir of "past, present & future"
NORAH VINCENT -- from her novel based on Virginia Woolf

Listen now (after page loads) -- https://www.authorscorner.org/

Greetings!  Two memoirs, two novels, and a "science fraud" --

AMY POEHLER -- from her popular, amusing memoir
ALBERT PODELL -- from his odyssey visiting all the world's countries
ANDREA CHAPIN -- from her witty novel on Shakespeare's muse
STEVEN DRUKER -- from his account of "science fraud" in GMO foods
JEAN HANNF KORELITZ -- from her "modern Der Rosenkavalier"

Listen now -- https://www.authorscorner.org/

Two novels, a memoir, and two global themes --3/19

Stacey D'Erasmo -- a female rock star making a midlife comeback
Vincent Crapanzano -- a reflective memoir by an anthropologist
Betsy Teutsch -- 100 inspiring ways to lift impoverished women
Amanda Filipacchi -- encore reading from her modern surreal fairy tale
Kabir Sehgal -- probing the relationship between man and money


Greetings! This week's topics: drugs, disability, fiction, memoirs, China. 3/9/15

Mon--Johann Hari: Chasing The Scream
Tue--Eileen Cronin: Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience
Wed--Tom Phelan: Lies The Mushroom Pickers Told
Thurs--Eileen Flanagan: Renewable: One Woman's Search...
Fri--Michael Meyer: In Manchuria: A Village...

Hear these eclectic, authentic readings at:  www.authorscorner.org

Three novels are among another week of interesting readings.

Monday -- AMANDA FILIPACCHI: The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty
Tuesday -- HILARY KLEIN: Companeras: Zapatista Women's Stories
Wednesday -- MICHAEL KARDOS: Before He Finds Her
Thursday -- STEPHANIE FEUER: Drawing Amanda
Friday -- ROWLAND BRUCKEN: A Most Uncertain Crusade... [encore]


The Author's Corner on Public Radio

Monday, January 19, 2015

A BOWL FULL OF NAILS Mixes fact & Fiction to tell the story of a fiery idealist, who flees 1960's Berkeley for a mountain refuge, where the political becomes the personal

BERKELEY, May 15, 1969--Riot police carrying shotguns killed one bystander and wounded several protesters. When interviewed at the hospital, one protester observed, "getting shot in the ass has certain strategic connotations. One, it suggests that you had pissed somebody off. Two, that you are running away from that somebody. And three, that somebody has got the guns and you don't." All of those things were true at People's Park on Bloody Thursday.

This is the factual event that begins the fictional odyssey of Gus Bessemer, antiwar activist in Charles Degelman's new novel BOWL FULL OF NAILS (Feb, Harvard Square Editions). Gus, who goes to People's Park to protest w/guerrilla theater, is stopped in his tracks by the "Blue Meanies," riot police with shotguns and live ammunition. The next morning, while his girlfriend, Kate, is tweezing birdshot pellets out of his butt, Gus realizes it may be time to leave town. The "Man" is sure to come after him. Then Kate confirms he's on the list of protesters to be incarcerated in a new jail. He's strangely proud to have made that list.

In this fiction no stranger than the facts, Gus, a kind of '60's everyman, has vowed to end the Vietnam war. He is furious about General Westmoreland's call for the " slaughter of teenagers,"and the authorities' constant references to "fighting the war at home." Gus is indignant that antiwar group are treated as a threat to national security. "They mean us, the mobilization, the Panthers, the mess of hell-no, free city outlaws," he begins, but is cut off, when Kate observes that he's full of useless rage, since the powers that be have battleships and guns. She adds that he only wants to get back at them. "They're not your father," she points out, and later, she serves him a bowl full of nails--her view of where the rancor leads.

Gus leaves Berkeley for a carpentry job in a small Colorado town that comes with a cabin. He figures on R&R in nature, working with his hands. With Kate's two dogs, his guitar and some tools, he hits the road, not a minute too soon. The FBI and local police came looking for Gus, ransacking Kate's house. When she tells him not to return, her kids were freaked out, he feels unmoored in a strange town. But he enters the local bar, seeking help for his suffering dogs--filled with the quills of defensive porcupines. Surprisingly, he finds help.  Before that, setting up the cabin, a friendly neighbor with a chain saw, cut up the wood he "liberated."

Hard-edged survivors of the winters, crazy and kind, welcome Gus with his eccentricities. When Hazel, the old lady who's his boss, entrusts him with her "commercial property," a broken down storefront, he hires a couple helpers to salvage wood for a new structure. Gus decides to just do the work and  keep to himself. There are cops in the next  town asking too many questions. There's lovely Jewel, who gives him more than drink and sympathy but his heart's with Kate, So the company of the dogs seems the ticket. And he develops a strange relationship with an irascible old miner, who may or may not be a ghost.  He does have some mysterious connection with Gus' deceased dad.

Then a hippie bus with a peace/love group arrives with Georgia, who's origins are as elusive as Gus' own. Later, gathering wood, he discovers a corpse, who Georgia identifies as from the Weather Underground. When police try to pin the murder on peaceful activists, who they say are burning power lines, he and Georgia, along with their town's one lawman, look for the facts. One disastrous night they find the town's "snitch" but the orders come from on high.

Discrediting the antiwar movement was a national priority. Here's info from Wikipedia about a program, which too few people know existed:
COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram) was a series of covert, and at times illegal,[1][2] projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.[3] National Security Agency operation Project MINARET targeted the personal communications of leading civil rights leaders, Americans who criticized the Vietnam War, including Senators (e.g., Frank Church and Howard Baker), journalists, and athletes.[4][5]
The official COINTELPRO label took place between 1956 and 1971.[6][7] The FBI's stated motivation was "protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order."[8]

A BOWL FULL OF NAILS is a very funny re-creation of a deadly serious time. While many people think the era is the way it’s been depicted by Hollywood; a lot of self-indulgent hippies doing too many drugs and having promiscuous sex. It was more than that. The antiwar movement grew out of the civil rights and economic justice movements of the mid-sixties. 

Largely campus-based around the burgeoning Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the antiwar movement can trace its roots as far back as the Ban the Bomb movement of the 1950s. SDS, at the core, made a decision in 1965 to shift focus from economic justice programs like JOIN (Jobs or Income Now) to the Vietnam War when the Johnson Administration began bombing the north and building up troop strength in-country. Over the next few years, the anti-war expanded to include labor unions, the black and Chicano liberation movements, religious groups, and the powerfully committed returning Vietnam vets.

The Vietnam Veterans Against the War, were influential in the grass roots antiwar movement. Rather than the myth of the spat upon veteran returning to no respect--and in fact there is not one case of that ever occurring--the truth is that veterans of many wars were active in the antiwar movement. For factual reading there's Jerry Lembcke's THE SPITTING IMAGE published by NYU Press. Lembcke, a vet, who became a professor, spent years tracking that myth.

The marches to end the war happened all over the country. Young people joined with older people, families and veterans. The generation of the 1960's at great personal cost, was the only one to join across class and race to end a war. This is Charles Degelman's second fiction about this too often discredited time. Gates of Eden, his other novel, looks at the fate of individuals, caught up in the upheavals of social and political change.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Group F.64 by Mary Street Alinder shows why the group that revolutionized American Photography was more than the sum of its famous parts.

GROUP F.64: Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and the Community of Artists Who Revolutionized American Photography

I was given the book Group F.64 (Bloomsbury 2014) as a holiday present and found it richly satisfying. Mary Street Alinder's thoughtful, well researched history of a pivotal group of West Coast photographers is respectful and slyly humorous. Here is the ever-charming Edward Weston, stilted but stalwart Ansel Adams, the acid-tongued and generous Imogen Cunningham, among the founding members of the iconic group that defined  modern photography. Strength of character and  artistic purpose evolved along with their iconic imagery.

Edward Weston, elder in years and, at first, skill, lived a frugal ethic of "straight" photography, allowing nature to reveal itself. Even his vegetables were animated and provocative with no artifice. Ansel Adams, who started as a  serious musician and amateur photographer, reversed that emphasis. He learned from Weston but applied "straight shooting" to capture the grandeur of nature.  Adams wrote influential articles, defining the new photography and challenged "pictorialists,"the dominant group of  photographers.
From a well-to-do family, Adams opened the first gallery in San Francisco to show the new photography.

But the lesser known Willard Van Dyke, who worked in a gas station, is credited with the name Group F 64, the initial manifestos, and getting the group shown in exhibitions at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco and a gallery, in Oakland, he founded with photographer Mary Jeanette. Connie Kanaga, Brett Weston, Alma Levinson, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, were also part of the original group.  Interestingly, women were shown on an equal basis. Though some were in romantic relationships, like Sonya with Edward and Mary Jeanette with Willard, their work was judged on its merits. In fact, Dorothea Lange, who was earning her living as a commercial photographer, was not considered evolved enough, with an original purpose, though she was included in later exhibitions.

When Group F.64 was formed. the dominant  "Pictorialists" were not exploring the capabilities of the new medium. Instead, they sought to create effects equivalent to painting with fuzzy filters and collage. Printed on buff or gray textured paper, these photographers aimed for works of "art." They were contemptuous of the new photography, which wanted to use the medium to express real life on its own terms. Group F.64 used filters to enhance dense textures, rich tonal values, and sharp edged imagery, They celebrated the truth a photographer could express with a camera. Glossy white paper was the surface for their prints.

Mutual artistic objectives, shared techniques and the practical need to exhibit and sell their work, inspired Group F.64. Acceptance and respect was crucial, since they were mostly excluded by pictorialist aesthetic from exhibitions and galleries. Though as the Group gained in status and their ideology matured, subject matter and intentions increasingly diverged. Members, like Willard and Connie Kanaga, went East. Williard traded photography for film making. Ansel also made a pilgrimage east to New York, where he sought out the demi-god of modern photography, Edward Steichen. This was a major turning point.

Where Edward Weston refused to bow to Steichen's dominance and Imogen was completely ignored, Ansel became a protege. Eventually, Steichen and Adams achieved nothing less than the acceptance of photography as an art form, sealed in the creation of MOMA's photography department--the first in a major museum. Adams' work was also promoted by Steichen in exhibitions at his gallery, An American Place. It was the epitome of modern photography, unchallenged before Group F 64.

One of the delights of this book is the feeling you are dropping in on a group of friends. Here they are brainstorming philosophy, strategizing future shows and ways to earn money. You see them falling in or out of love.  You are at a party, where Weston, a womanizer, was said to dance the tango in drag.  There's Dorthea Lange, who shot ads for women's beauty products, stopping her car on a rainy, muddy road to shoot a woman who caught her eye--a migrant with her kids, hungry and tired. Here's Connie Kanaga, seconds away from injury or death, shooting a violent worker's strike. There is Ansel developing his Yosemite photos in his darkroom in his parents' house.

While knowledge of this group may be old news to art students, who knew about them as people?  Flaws--romantic fickleness, posturing, dogma--and strengths--pursuit of ecstatic visions and social justice--are just part of this inspiring story.  Instead of deifying individual "greatness," Group F.64 shows why the whole became more than the sum of its famous parts.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

THE LIGHT IN CUBAN EYES, New Yorker Review of Mann show, bk honored at Cuban Biennial 5/23


From Huffington Post a great link!

New Yorker Review of Mann Exhibition of THE LIGHT IN CUBAN EYES



PBS ArtBeat interview




Gorgeous Provocative Photography Exhibition at Robert Mann Gallery 6/26 and in new book


This is a story, begun in 2000, with an intrepid collector, Madeleine Plonsker. In Cuba on a cultural exchange trip, she discovered amazing photography. She returned in 2007 and continued to come. Her collection grew and no longer was she collecting 20th century European works. Plonsker was captivated by Cuban photography and the courageous artists, who often worked in secrecy. 

Photographic sculpture that from a distance appears as an antiquated T.V. screen; Havana’s Revolutionary Plaza photo shopped so as to appear underwater; a Russian nesting doll book that depicts the “good” Cuban citizen dressed in various Soviet guises; a satellite dish camouflaged in a huge black trash bag; a decaying classical building in old Havana, strangers pressed together on a traveling bus; a schoolboy weighted down with much more than his school bag.

These are images from Cuba’s “Special Period,” 1992-2012, when the former Soviet Union withdrew its economic support and Cuba was plunged into an extended period of deprivation. Embargoed away from the world with few cameras and expired film, the photographers of Cuba emerged from the shadows to show what was happening to their country.
The new book, THE LIGHT IN CUBAN EYES: Lake Forest College’s Madeleine P. Plonsker Collection of Contemporary Cuban Photography (March, 2015, Lake Forest Press), brings this work for the first time to U.S. and Cuban audiences. This is the first book entirely devoted to contemporary Cuban photography highlighting both emerging and established artists. The bilingual publication—the first book granted full support with permission to be distributed within Cuba by the Cuban Ministry of Culture—will be released in Cuba during the opening of the XII Bienal de la Habana in late May 2015. The Robert Mann Gallery in New York City will host a March launch in the U.S.

The story of THE LIGHT IN CUBAN EYES begins in 2002, when Madeleine P. Plonsker embarked on a cultural exchange trip to Cuba. Plonsker, a Chicago-based collector of twentieth-century masterworks on paper, thought she might collect a few souvenirs. She did not know the compelling works she uncovered would expand to the whole passage of a society in transition. THE LIGHT IN CUBAN EYES encapsulates this inspired vision.

Plonsker explains, "Cuban Photography has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past twenty years. Cuba's contemporary photographers are poised to reach a broader international audience, and the intent of my book is to bring you their story."

Here's the release for the opening at the Robert Mann Gallery, 3/26. First time work from Cuba's "Special Period," will be shown together in the U.S.


On the heels of the Obama administrationʼs momentous policy changes regarding US-Cuba relations, Robert Mann Gallery is pleased to announce The Light in Cuban Eyes, a group exhibition of contemporary Cuban photography. This will be the first New York exhibition focused on work made during and after Cubaʼs “Special Period,” the time of extreme hardship and poverty which followed the withdrawal of Soviet resources in the early 1990s. The exhibition will feature works by artists including Pedro Abascal, Pavel Acosta, Juan Carlos Alom, Jorge Luis Álvarez Pupo, Ramsés H. Batista, Raúl Cañibano, Arien Chang Castán, Reinaldo Echemendía Cid, Adrián Fernández Milanés, Eduardo Javier García García, Alejandro González, Glenda León, Donis Dayán Llago, Kadir López Nieves, José Julián Martí, Néstor Martí, Liudmila + Nelson, René Peña, Alejandro Pérez Alvarez, Michel Pou Díaz, Leysis Quesada Vera, Alfredo Ramos, and Lissette Solórzano.

In Cuba, cultural richness clashes with economic destitution, pride chafes against frustration, and beauty mingles with decay. From classic street scenes to metaphorical abstractions, traditional silver prints to the newest inkjet technologies, each artist grapples in his own way with the countryʼs coinciding and contradicting inherencies. Some, like Álvarez Pupo and José Julián Martí, capture unfamiliar moments of daily life in moody black-and-white: a farmer provokes a rooster for a cockfight, and suited men conceal binoculars like guns behind their backs. Quesada Vera and García García invoke more poetry in presenting Cubaʼs scenery, with monumental waves crashing against a stony shore and white linens fluttering like peace flags above the city.

Others find indirect methods of artistic commentary. Acostaʼs bright, colorful portraits of old automobiles subtly and wryly reference the Cuban governmentʼs prohibition of new cars and the peopleʼs ingenuity in personalizing their ancient vehicles. With Manet-like black backdrops and sharp front-lighting, Fernández Milanés comments on Cuban stereotypes by presenting exotic dancers as plasticine figurines. And some, like Liudmila & Nelson and Batista, direct their statements towards Cubaʼs most enduring symbol—the body, joining and struggling against the narrow sea. From this small island nation, these artists present divergent bodies of work that pay tribute to the rich cultural history of their homeland while looking toward the future.

The exhibition is inspired by long-time patron of Cuban photography Madeleine P. Plonsker, who has been traveling to Havana since 2002 to discover and support the work of emerging Cuban photographers.
Coinciding with the exhibition will be the release of the book The Light in Cuban Eyes, published by Lake Forest College Press and organized by Plonsker. The Light in Cuban Eyes is the first North American publication with support from the Cuban Ministry of Culture and Fototeca de Cuba, Cubaʼs repository of photography comparable in function to the Smithsonian Photography Department in Washington, D.C.

View The Light in Cuban Eyes at www.robertmann.com beginning March 26, 2015.

Robert Mann Gallery is located at 525 West 26th Street, 2nd Floor. Hours are Tuesday - Friday,
10am - 6pm, and Saturday, 11am - 6pm. For additional information and press materials, contact the gallery by telephone (212.989.7600) or by email (mail@robertmann.com).