LIFE RAFT’s new zine on the theme of “Nature” premiered at the Santa Fe Zine Fest on April 14th, 2018. Thanks to the work of Organizer Bucket Siler, and host, The Center for Contemporary Arts, the Zine Fest was incredible again this year!!
“Nature” features works by the following Artists: Courtney Currier, Emily Smith, Taylor Yokom, Heather Ossandon, Charlotte Thurman, Ariel Kessler, Juan Camilo Saez, Melissa McKay, Jessie Greenwell, and Sarah Freeman.
If you didn’t get a chance to pick up a copy at the festival, you can check out a digitial version here: https://issuu.com/charlottethurman/docs/nature_issue
Send us your art, writing, doodles, anecdotes, comics, recipes, centerfold ideas, and thoughts about “Nature.” Draw a tree from your window, write about your camping experience, dress up like a giraffe and photograph it. . .
Email your submissions to email@example.com by September 1st to be in our next issue, premiering at the Albuquerque Zine Fest on October 7th.
LIFE RAFT explores various themes within the context of art and feminism, and strives to challenge the gender binary.
Open call for submissions to our next zine!
Announcing our second issue, “Menses.” This issue is entirely written by men.
A feminist zine written by men? WHAT? Turns out, men need feminism, too! This issue will launch in October, just in time for the ABQ Zine Fest.
Guess what? We are still taking submissions.
If you are a man/identify as male, send us your writing/essays/poems/works of art/comics about why men (and women) need feminism.
To submit by September 15th: firstname.lastname@example.org
Part of my time is spent working as contract employee for an online university. Though I am not certain what my official title is, I believe that I could be considered a “copywriter.” One of my assignments was to search iStock, the subscription based stock image site, for appropriate visual aids to supplement the online classrooms. Many of the classes were generic business or tech courses, so it was simple to find something that would work. I often scrolled through the images in search of “the least offensive” one, which was not terribly difficult.
There were images of businessmen and businesswomen standing in front of futuristic reflective surfaces, surrounded by a dynamic group of employees hanging on to their last word. And stockbrokers grinning and shaking hands, as a big graph indicated profits; an arrow on the wall steadily hurdling upward towards the heavens.
I waded through photos of sad teenagers in black hoodies being consoled by overtly sympathetic counselors, their peers supportively sitting on the edges of couches. Soft warm glows abound—halos of hope for their future achievements.
There were the images of students from diverse ages and backgrounds throwing their graduation caps in the air. The sun, always shining. The rooms, clean and white. Everyone is happy—or people are sad. The models are, in fact, so exaggerated in their sadness, we no longer feel it ourselves when looking at the photo.
I discovered that some topics were not so translatable.
One of the classes dealt with Criminal Justice. The course discussed some very difficult subjects, like domestic violence and cases of rape. That is how I eventually found myself scrolling through iStock images of rape.
iStock is a grand experiment in the genericness of images. With iStock, everyone is on the same page. We are purview to just what one might expect of a status quo. iStock represents the most tepid and socially acceptable version of a subject by way of an image. These, primarily photographs, have a reputation for being cheesy, exaggerated, staged, and fake.
Do these qualities somehow create a distancing that levels the field for all onlookers? Once something becomes a signifier, does it actually lose a bit of its value—or does the significance become more sustained over time?
In the iStock world, when something is difficult to represent through images, they like to show it as a definition. They are particularly fond of close-ups with a shallow depth-of field, so as to say: “You guys get the picture. It’s a dictionary page. The word exists. What else do you need?” By using the supreme rationality of a dictionary page as source material, we as viewers, are subject to a distancing effect between the word and it’s implementation. The image holds us at arms length, so that there is almost no relationship to the word, except the validation that it exists.
Once something is defined, it becomes an object. It becomes an isolate and a tool, one result of which, is having a the trait of usefulness. The object can potentially be employed by a user for their own gain or purposes. In the case of images of rape, which deal with an individuals suffering and experience, there is a major disconnect in translation.
I was surprised by the nonchalance of the image creators when dealing with subject matter this horrific. The violation of rape is such an insular and personal matter, that in order to imagine a type of universalist or generic approach to the subject is incredibly insensitive.
In one of the images, we see a close up of a woman’s face, subtle bruising left from abuse. Over her lips are a series of computer generated stitches, closing her mouth shut. The decision to photoshop string over her mouth, instead of having it simply remain shut on it’s own, adds a disturbing layer of violence to an already violent subject. And the fact that this act was imagined and executed in the realm of the unreal (of course they wouldn’t use real string to tie her mouth shut) begs the question: who are these images for?
Another image shows an attractive woman tied up with rope. We do not passively experience this image. It is framed to deliberately engage with us—to give us a participatory role. The model appears to be pleading with us. We are put in the position of voyeur and controller. The image is presented as a possible kidnapping or rape scene, but also resembles an pseudo sadomasochistic sex scene from pornography. The lines are beginning to blur between the two representations, and you can guess which gender is poised to lose power. I’m not saying that this type of sexual activity is inherently detrimental to women. Rather, I’m concerned with its representation. I’m concerned by the normalization of rape scenes by our image-obsessed culture. The fact that these images are presented as icons of rape, only serves to desensitize the masses of their seriousness.
To further complicate things. When you look at the search labels attached to this image, you’ll find the following words: Women, Only Women, Tied Up, One Woman Only, Hostage, Grief, Kidnapping, Long Hair, Blond Hair, Fear, Prisoner, Females, People, Anxiety, Depression – Sadness, Sadness, Emotional Stress, Desire
Whose desire are we talking about?
Maybe this woman is just a bad actress, but I could swear this image makes it look like she is enjoying herself. Or is even skeptical of this man’s strength. I do not believe that she is in any real danger. And maybe that is the point. Maybe the point is to avoid showing us something too real. That is why there are a lot of images of dolls covered in mud and thrown into the gutter.
It is the aesthetic treatment within the media of iStock, itself, which presents rape as an almost mundane occurrence. Given a different context, these images might hold more water. I am including the images in this article, not to perpetuate their message, but as a reference to be looked at seriously, and analyzed critically. We cannot stop these sorts of images from existing, but we can make an effort to understand their role, and their affect on us as consumers.
*All captions for photos are taken directly from iStock
**raping was misspelled
Written by Charlotte Thurman, August 2016
We hand designed and screen printed t-shirts in effort to spread more awareness about female artists and support the next issue of Life Raft. The shirts are white, v-necks with designs available in three colors: red (a nice salmon red), bright purple, and black.
The red and purple are available in Small and Medium.
The black is available in Small, Medium, and Large.
Each shirt is $10 plus shipping.
Juan Camilo Sáez is fashion obsessed and living in Brooklyn, New York. Over the years he acquired a fairly extensive knowledge of film history. His favorites are classic Hollywood films with strong, complex, glamorous, female leads. He is devoted to Beyoncé.
The Beaches of Agnès (2008, dir: Agnès Varda)
Easily the most aesthetically interesting and significant film on this list. The first lady of French New Wave cinema, Agnès Varda reminisces on her life, both personal and artistic, with whimsical and endlessly creative cinematic flourishes. Photos, re-creations, clips, and animation are interwoven like a quilt. We see her working out shots, and through the reimaging of her life, Varda reminds us how our experiences shape the way we choose to create. You will leave this film inspired.
Beyoncé: Year of 4 (2011, dir: Ed Burke)
Believe the hype. Beyoncé is the ultimate pop/soul diva of our time. It isn’t just that she is so beautiful and so gifted, but also so tireless. The hardest working woman in show business and the most creatively daring in pop music. This doc (which clocks in at under half an hour and can be streamed on YouTube) shows the making of her grand, vocally soaring album 4, as well as the creation of the uber-empowering, high fashion, post-apocalyptic epic that is her “Run the World (Girls)” video. Favorite moment: When she admits to feeling nervous over her projects, that “What am I doing here?” feeling everyone will inevitably have in their creative process. But how cute is it to hear the most famous woman in the world admit to it?
Iris (2014, dir: Albert Maysles)
Iris Apfel is a New York style icon known for her signature over-sized, round frames and maximalist approach to fashion. She mixes prints, textures, colors, new, old, cheap and luxury with aplomb. Her life has been a dedication to the pursuit of material beauty in all its infinite variety. Legendary documentarian Maysles (of Grey Gardens fame) catches the elderly, but ever energetic and witty Apfel in all her madcap glamour and enthusiasm. Hours are spent styling outfits and sorting through oh so many glorious pieces and accessories. The film reminds us that feeling inspired by art and beauty, even if it’s just a t-shirt, feeds the soul. Best line: “It’s more important to be happy than well-dressed.”
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (2012, dir: Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre)
The grand dame of performance art mounts a retrospective at MoMA and stages her most ambitious, famous and debated piece to date. For hours on end she sits, perfectly still, while museum patrons take turns sitting across from her. Some of their reactions will truly surprise you. If nothing else it is an amazing exercise in concentration and control on Abramovic’s part. It reminds us that even when we plan our ideas out, our projects may take on a life of their own and take us to unexpected places.
Public Speaking (2010, dir: Martin Scorsese)
Noted writer and famed raconteur Fran Lebowitz might very well be the greatest wit since Dorothy Parker. In this doc you can hear her pointed observations on everything from pop culture, reading time, and New York, a city she has truly known and seen change. Writer’s block has tormented her for much of her career, but has given her many interesting insights into the writing process, though her views on the arts in general are equally engaging. This may be a Martin Scorsese production, but he was smart enough to keep it simple, let Fran be the star, and speak as only she can. Too many great lines to pick a favorite.
Abby Donovan is an avid world traveler, splitting her time between Newark, Delaware and Eugene, Oregon. She is a Professor at the University of Delaware and works independently and in collaboration with The 181.
LR: You sometimes work in collaboration with your group the 181 Collective. Can you talk about being the only woman in the group and your process within a group dynamic?
A: The 181 operates very much within the realm of what right now I would term an aesthetic of curiosity and trust. When we converge for a composition none of us has much idea what any of the others is going to do, exactly. In search of resonance. I think I read somewhere that arrows have to be separate from the coordinate system in order for them to be what we think of as arrows.
“I am alive and I am trying my hardest to pay attention and not miss anything.”
Stevie Lee Tanner is a current MFA candidate at the University of Delaware. She grew up in Oberlin, Ohio and received her BFA from Myers School of art at the University of Akron, Ohio. Stevie is a lover of wildlife, the outdoors, and baby animals of all kinds. She currently resides in Delaware with her Husband and fellow artist, along with their two cats and four hermit crabs.
Stevie Lee Tanner, 43885 State Route 18 Wellington Ohio, 2016, Collagraph
LR: Will you briefly describe your process? You can pick a specific piece or your overall process.
S: To start, I use mostly traditional processes, like painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, a little bit of sculpture. Within printmaking, I’ve been using collagraphs, a printmaking process that is an intaglio process, but it’s done using cardboard or matte board instead of copper plates.
LR: Where do these images come from and how do you choose what images to include in your prints?
S: I source the images from street view in Google Earth and they’re all images of places I know. When I’m on Google Earth, I’ll pick an area that’s within the county that I’m from, which is Lorain County, then I’ll start navigating around the streets and I’ll select certain areas that are interesting, sometimes I’ll select an area with significance.
LR: So, it sounds like you have a method to making your prints, within that process, are there any surprises you come across?
S: Printmaking is nothing but surprises. I can have a general idea of what the image is going to look like, but I really don’t know until it’s printed and then it can be printed a million different ways. Part of it is knowing the technique well and part of it is being okay with things turning out differently; being okay with experimentation and being a perfectionist and not a perfectionist at the same time.
LR: So, you accept that there’s chance involved or that you’re not going to know what is going to happen?
S: Definitely. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen, you can end up with incredible looking things that you couldn’t have painted. That’s the part that drew me to printmaking. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen, you can invent new processes and turn those happy accidents into a learned technique.
LR: Do you feel like your work is gendered in any way?
S: I’ve been told so. That’s a hard question. I wish my work wasn’t. I was just looking at my landscapes and wondering if a viewer would see my work differently if they didn’t know they were made by a woman. The landscapes that I’m making right now are a little less gendered than my work has been in the past. I’ve used a lot of subject matter that has been associated with femininity, like flowers, wildlife, birds, nests, and domestic imagery. When I was working with that subject matter, it was very common for people to reference femininity. I guess it depends. Maybe for women my work it isn’t gendered, but for men it could be easier to point out what looks more “girly.”
LR: What do you think makes your landscapes less gendered than other series you’ve made?
S: In this specific series, I tried really hard to have them equally detached and equally personal. I tried to make some of them detached as well as very precious. I’m interested in things being aesthetically pleasing, almost to the point of being decorative. Especially with complimentary colors. So, you do see that come in some of the prints, but there are others where there’s not as much color variation and it’s a very straight forward image from Google Earth. If it retains that “generic-ness,” I think that it makes my work less gendered. Not that I agree with this, but it seems that the more personal the imagery, the more female it is.
Stevie Lee Tanner, 43709 Oberlin Elyria Road Oberlin Ohio, 2016, Collagraph
“A lot of the female printmakers I look at may never be taken seriously in certain galleries in New York because of their subject matter. But, at that same gallery, they could have floral paintings done by a male. I feel like – what else are we supposed to do? As women, we’re put in a hard place with that.”
LR: I’m interested in what you said about embracing versus repelling the idea of gender in art. “Femaleness” being something to be celebrated and talked about. But, then in some ways, that puts artists in a niche and can take them out of what is considered “serious art.”
S: I really love Kiki Smith, but in my opinion, I feel like she puts a hard edge or roughness on her work. I wonder if she would fit in with the boys or the “big shots” if she didn’t put that edge on her work. It’s almost like, in order to be canonized in a certain way, you have to have an edge. A lot of the female printmakers I look at may never be taken seriously in certain galleries in New York because of their subject matter. But, at that same gallery, they could have floral paintings done by a male. I feel like – what else are we supposed to do? I don’t want to reduce myself to being all about flowers and nature, because I’m more than that, but I’m not going to deny that I enjoy the aesthetics of that imagery. I’m not going to hide from that because I’m a girl and that’s stereotypical. I feel like, as women, we’re put in a hard place with that.
Stevie Lee Tanner, 1012 Mechanic Street Grafton Ohio, 2016, Collagraph
To view more of Stevie’s work, check out: https://stevieleetanner.carbonmade.com/