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N THIS ISSU
featured artist erika victor 20
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6 editorsâ€™ notes 10 unhinged art & words by wandeclayt
20 ethereal: featured artist erika victor 34 textured photographs by ashley hennefer
38 doubt & her poems by r. flowers rivera 38 alice photograph by berta meraj 40 the night sky poems by susan botich 42 word graffiti from central mexico poem by dan hedges 44 ellie screenplay by jessica farkas 54 plaintive wail, defiant affirmation and bold assertion essay by sam powell
58 girl on fire interview with kemper suicide by jessica farkas 68 contributors 70 submit
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running the I play a lot of video games, and I prefer the ones where I get to inhabit a character’s body and run around a fictional universe kicking ass. When I sat down to plan out this issue, I had just beaten a game called Mirror’s Edge, which served as the inspiration for this issue of Wildflower. Mirror’s Edge takes place in a fictional, futuristic Eurasian city, and the player takes on the role of Faith, a young woman who serves as a Runner. Runners are messengers who travel parkour-style throughout the city, exchanging information under the radar of a totalitarian government. The game consists of Faith running and jumping from building to building above the city to save her sister, who has been framed for a murder. Naturally, this game is now one of my all-time favorites. I’m a sucker for art with strong, rebellious female protagonists and dystopian stories. Anything about resistance movements usually gets my pulse racing. In the game, pieces of buildings light up as red to guide you in the right direction. This is particularly striking when much of the city is awash in white, or when rooms are bright neon colors of green and blue. But the gameplay goes against our instincts. Red indicates danger. We associate it with stop signs and stop lights. But now, as the player, we’re supposed to run toward it, and trust its path. When I think of what the color red stands for in my own life, I think of blood. I think of it inside of me, pumping to my brain and heart. It’s what keeps me alive. It’s what defines me as a woman. Sometimes I feel alienated from it, overwhelmed by it. But this game had me wanting to embrace it and trust it, and use it as a guide back to my mind, my instincts. 6 | Wildflower Magazine | April 2012
red And what does the title, Mirror’s Edge, mean? Fans on the internet have many interpretations, but the game briefly defines it as “the edge of reality.” If we take it literally, the edge of a mirror is where we catch a glimpse of ourselves. There’s often a discrepancy between how the world sees us, how our mirror portrays us, and who we really are. So what does this all have to do with this issue of Wildflower? You may notice that this issue is comprised of pieces. Our table of contents reflects that. To whom do the eyes, the lips, the ears, belong? Who are we as women, as men, as human? Is our art reflective of our parts or our collective whole? This issue is what happenened when these fragments came together. What’s on the edge of your mirror? Do you run toward, or away from, your own reflection, your own reality? Cheers, Ashley Hennefer Wildflower Editor You have changed, I have changed Just like you, just like you For how long, for how long must I wait? I know there’s something wrong Your concrete heart isn’t beating and I’ve tried to make it come alive No shadows, just red lights Now I’m here to rescue you I’m still alive, I’m still alive I cannot apologize, no - Still Alive, theme song of Mirror’s Edge
wait of the world Never have I felt more proud to be a woman. As the assistant editor of Wildflower, a magazine with the primary purpose of sharing “female-positive” content, I suppose it would be strange not to find pride in my femininity. After all, I am reminded every day about the achievements, triumphs, strength, and courage of women from around the globe. But today, with the release of this issue, I am especially proud. This issue of Wildflower represents women of my generation—a generation of perhaps the strongest, most courageous women this world has ever encountered. Mine is a generation of women who call it as they see it. They stand up for what they believe in, and they fight for what is right. Mine is a generation of women who explore and celebrate their sexuality. They are opinionated, yet open-minded. Empowered, yet empathetic. Most of all, my generation of women doesn’t apologize for being women. We write about it, paint about it, sing about it, create art about it. And then we put in a magazine and show everyone with whom we come into contact. Some of the art, writing, and women highlighted in this issue falls far beyond the line that society might normally find “acceptable.” But behind each piece is a voice that wants— and isn’t afraid—to be heard. And we are listening. We hear you. We are you. For over two years now, Wildflower Magazine has been an abyss for these voices to scream into. Slowly but surely though, we are gathering enough force to move mountains. My hope is that our readers will finish this issue feeling as empowered and proud as I did while editing it. The world is at our fingertips. Everything is within reach. And we are not waiting anymore—we are going for it. Never has there been a better time to be a woman. Jessica Farkas Wildflower Assistant Editor
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unhinged words & photographs by brazilian artist
writing was lightly edited for clarity
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what kind of woman wants to shoot nude? short answer: every woman!
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that includes your girlfriend or wife. your sister. and even your mother. what does it mean? are they all whores who deserve no respect? Even though some viewers may think so, this is not the case. nude photography is about beauty. it's about worshipping femaleship. it's about showing the wide spread of such beauty. it's about showing that beauty comes in every size and color. and it's about empowering women and giving them full control over their bodies.
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but most of all, nude photography is about respect. although most women are still afraid to pose for nude shots, there are quite a few who show the courage to display their bodies and face the consequences and judgment for assuming their bare beauty. it's easier when you're an artist yourself, and live in an enviroment where nakedness is tolerated and even encouraged. but many models are just brave women with normal jobs and lives, willing to break free from sexist chains and find how beautiful they really are.
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Pictured: Old flame. Magazine cover: Jar of Light.
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photography by erika victor interview by ashley hennefer
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Above, Sunlight Right, Fell between the cracks.
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Above, Reflections. On previous page, Gorgon.
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Website: http://www.facebook.com/victorphotos http://www.flickr.com/photos/erikavictor/ Age: 20 Educational background: Junior photography student at Fort Hays State University When did you become interested in photography? I’ve always been very into arts, even since I was a very young child. It started off with painting and drawing, and I just eventually began to explore every way for me to express myself through art, including photography. I bought my Canon Rebel almost two years ago and that’s how I found out how strong my passion was for photography.
Where else do you find inspiration? Websites like Flickr are huge for my inspiration. I have a few favorite photographers on there that I follow very closely, but I like to just browse around and expose myself to new photographers as well. Looking at other people’s great photographs is probably one of my biggest motivators to get out and go shooting. Many of your images are self-portraits. What are some of the pros and cons of using yourself as a model? There are lots of pros, but lots of cons. It’s very different from photographing someone else. The biggest cons are that it’s much harder to get creative with the composition and find the light, since it’s very trial and error because you aren’t looking through the camera when you take the shot. There are lots of great things about it though, too. I don’t always have the most pleasant locations. I end up with lots of cuts, cold fingers, and dirty shoes. There aren’t many people that like to put up with that. I also always know what expression and pose I’m going to get.
Looking at other people’s great photographs is probably one of my biggest motivators to get out and go shooting.
Who do you consider to be your creative influences? I think I’m inspired and influenced by everything I surround myself with, whether it’s music, movies, other people’s works, or art I’ve done before. It’s easy for my photography to be influenced just by walking through a certain area that could be my next setting.
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Light plays a large role in many of your photographs. Do you try to shoot during certain times of the day or does some of the magic happen post production? I try to take all of my photos around sunset, and most of them are. I think the light is always the most beautiful and present during that time. Sometimes the light is a little exaggerated in post production, but it’s usually very natural.
or photograph someone, or vice versa? I’ve always lived in west Kansas, which is very sparsely populated. When I first started taking photos I just photographed what was around me—wheat fields, cactus, yucca plants, those sorts of things. So a progression from nature to nature plus a person was a natural one. I think the setting usually has more of an influence in my photographs since it’s harder to change, although sometimes, if I have a very specific idea, I’ll search for a certain area more closely. Usually, though, I let myself or the model adapt to the setting, instead of the setting adapting to the model.
I’ve always been an enthusiastic history fan, so old buildings have always just captured my imagination.
How do you determine when you want an image to be in black and white or in color? I always edit a photo two ways, one with color and one in black and white, to see which looks best. I usually end up picking black and white for the photos that are harsher and with good contrast. If the content of a photo is more intimidating or spooky I usually go with black and white to give it even more of an edge.
Many of your photographs are set outside, which seems to evoke a sense of surrealism in your photography. How does nature influence your work? Does the setting determine the way you choose to model
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Buildings and architecture also show up often. How do you choose which features of it to capture? Anything old or abandoned is right up my alley! I’ve always been an enthusiastic history fan, so old buildings have always just captured my imagination. I think the mystery of who lived or worked there and what they did is so fascinating. I think there’s something intimate about photographing what used to be someone’s home or workplace and I just try to show that in what I take. I just love the mystery aspect. •
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Above, Dreamt of Blue. Left from top, Ravanna; A Dancerâ€™s Feet.
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Above, Faceless. Left, Industry.
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TEXTURED PHOTOGRAPHS BY ASHLEY HENNEFER
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poetry by R. Flowers Rivera
“Blessed are those who don’t see, and yet believe.” John 20:29 I. This is no walk of faith. Any surety of step gives him pause. He is now a silver man with silver hair, sporting a gently-used navy blue suit, swinging a cane. An even blue rhythm. A metronome, a downbeat, a cowbell. On the one, he eases a heel forward, each step a rebellion. Slide guitar, a bare ankle above a spectator prefigures an intersection. Cars, lights, rain. We all have our own wounds to wade. Wind the string. Find the chord. Pluck the tune. There is a steadiness about him. Carmine and ochre thoughts toppling the last meters of afternoon light. II. He blinks his outrage at remembering what is no longer there. The bluish-white beadboards of the rented room, nicked and bruised, Each slat a spear. Isolation, solace, doubt. Godhead of memory. He tastes darkness breaking winter.
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III. The past. Apochrypha. A Virginian field all aglow. The orange haze of harvest. A moon-basked heifer, a country girl of no consequence. But it was the smell of mown grass, not the woman. The moon burned his skin as he traced her dark areolas, the sky reminding him of the itch the puritan seed in him said never to scratch, and yet he followed her, so she would not have to go alone. And walking that faraway mountain road, like a conversation that thins out into silence, he searched amongst the colored gravestones. So many ways of being he could not fathom. He could not imagine believing in what he could not touch. Her body above his. And for that one moment the world actually made sense. The angry houselights blinded all reason. Such desperate faith obscured by felled trees. Lying there, they flickered their resentment at not being stars. A missionary, a native. Each possessing their own kind of faith.
Photograph: Alice by Berta Meraj
doubt My pen is a fickle lover. She tells me such stylized lies. “This is not goodbye, Just a temporary parting.” “When will you return?” I ask. She draws Some unintelligible mark upon the page. “That ain’t really none of your business,” she says. Then says, “Wait for me.” So each day I scrub and preen myself to a shiny newness for a woman who may or may not come. She relishes playing the coquette. I go about arranging the minutiae upon my desk. Posing myself how I think she might like me best. Nude, clothed, or some soporific state of dishabille. Then I must wait and wait some more or pretend. Sharpen pencils, gather My assiduous notes. But I never let my mind wander to whatever other crotch she might be holding. I stare at the screen believing she will come. Because the day I have any doubts I’ll have to let her go.
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the night sky poetry by Susan Botich
A Storm, A Madness In the darkness outside these walls, wind hunts. Rain thrums against the roof, windows, old wood deck, a rapping of hard knuckles, tone and timbre sharp, clear, chaos. Pine boughs hunker down inside the curl of night. Our neighbor’s porch light is on. But that doesn’t keep wind from hunting out there. Cradled inside warm down, I lie and listen to the howls then rise to peer out from the great western windows. Shadows outside hint of broken limbs, torn from wearied bodies; the oldest of the pines, too tired to withstand the hurls. Tomorrow, while we walk, we’ll witness the carnage. We’ll breathe, nod, breathe. I wrap myself in wool and sheepskin and watch the storm. Like a madman, wind dances circles round the pines, confusing them so that they flay and wail and moan. Then just as the trees finally relax— in an instant—gusts shift direction, split the aching wooden arms at their joints. In the morning, we’ll stand witness; wind doesn’t eat its prey. Instead, leaves it for its lover, earth, to devour. 40 | Wildflower Magazine | April 2012
I’ll Take Moon Into My Mouth Lamina of palest yellow-white succulent light. Last nourishment, holy wafer of night. Nested on my wanting tongue, moon brings up my origin. I’ll give myself up, let moon take me in the open field of all my body. I’ll yield, naked. Moon and I, entangled, bare as winter trees. I’ll take moon into my mouth and savor every edge. Wholeness to sliver, all the flavor. Until my mouth is full of every aspect. This is my communion, my only ritual.
Last night, moon (mouth wide open) overtook the land; grass, pines, manzanita— voracious appetite. Swallowed everything. I stood, wide-eyed, watching the event. So much fierceness. The wild. I wondered if I would be devoured along with the landscape. But moon passed me by. Breath, soft, like steam in winter. I couldn't move from my place on the naked floor. Didn't want to breathe, moon's breath so perfect. I, like a shadow. When I think of it, the sound of thunder fills the hills below the mountains where my little house sits obedient to a fault. But I know the sky then held nothing so raucous. Only a silk hum; slow movement of stars, and moon, hunting.
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Between alpha-thoughts, Warhol sucks limes, where Pontiac and derivatives of art-freedom, levitate, sacrosanct. Baroque patterns of chaos and free will, march (loyally) to the array of micro-trumpets; so as to live with words once again. Bio-chemical mindscapes, known as songs to the self, obtain merit badges (Allende was a Scout too). ‘Allouette’ the hopeful derivatives, of gallery momentum, or reverse migrate where required, to a new ritual of orange. Carriage of Aztecan brass shapes, un-art that ‘old thing,’ and caffeine ‘some something,’ in the meantime. The manuscript aims to debunk, grammarian sticklers and bonehead Lords of the ‘art-world’, word-worlds away. Quantum cliche hipsters take un-ironic geometry sets, to angle-find America, where crows and Eden un-spawn the metaphysical, to infinity. Triangulate the set-list, for bushy tailed humanimals, and orphans of field-guide aesthetics; Tree-diagrams set forth the monster conundrum, where hummingbirds quelling, quill squirching non-sense.
by Dan Hedges
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A screenplay by Jessica Farkas
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Fade in. INT. BEDROOM - DAY Luke and Sara, two twenty-somethings, are laying in bed after having just completed "the act." Both face the ceiling with their hands crossed on their stomachs. He seems unimpressed. She seems worried.
SARA I just thought you said you wanted to start switching things up a little, you know? Did I take it too far? LUKE No, no. It was great. It was fine. It’s just...
Sara turns onto her side to face Luke and props her chin up on her palm. She is a classic beauty with long brown hair and full, pink lips. SARA It’s just what? Her inquiry is sincere, not defensive. She genuinely wants to please Luke.
LUKE It’s just, when I said I wanted to switch things up a little I guess I was thinking more along the lines of bringing another person into the mix. Like another girl or something.
Sara’s heart drops. She turns onto her back again, bringing the covers to her mouth with both hands. After sensing the inner turmoil he just caused Sara, Luke feels bad. But only just mildly.
LUKE It’s just a fantasy thing, babe. Why don’t you tell me some of yours. What do you want?
SARA I just want you to be happy. I want us to be happy.
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INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY Luke is on his way out the door for work. Sara lounges on the couch reading a Tom Robbins novel and drinking coffee.
LUKE You still cool to pick me up from work tonight, babe?
SARA Yeah, of course. I’ll be there at six. Dinner at Mundo after, right?
LUKE I was actually thinking Firefly instead. Something more low key.
SARA Oh. Okay, sure. I’ll change our reservation then.
The door slams behind Luke. Sara walks to the window and peers through the blinds. Luke’s ride is a cute, blonde hipster girl who makes Luke do a little dance before finally unlocking the door and letting him in. They both giggle. Sara sinks back into the couch. EXT. ELECTRONICS STORE - NIGHT Sara drives up to the electronics store where Luke works. He is outside, leaning up against the wall while talking to the blonde who gave him a ride to work. The blonde notices Sara, smiles genuinely, and waves. Sara offers a half-smile and a quarter-wave in return. Luke nods goodbye to the blonde, then hops into the front seat of Sara’s car. INT. SARA’S CAR - NIGHT
SARA How was work?
LUKE Just another day, babe. I’m starving, though. You cool if we just grab some fast food or something tonight?
Sara sneaks another look at the blonde, who is now smoking a cigarette and listening to her iPod.
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SARA What about Firefly? I made us a reservation. LUKE I know, I just had a really long day at work and I’m exhausted. Can we just go next week or something instead?
Sara gazes out the driver’s side window so as to hide her disappointment from Luke.
SARA Yeah, I understand. We can just grab something quick.
INT. DINING ROOM - NIGHT Luke and Sara sit lifelessly at the dining room table, eating burgers and fries.
SARA So, about what you said this morning.
LUKE What did I say this morning?
SARA You know. About the...three-way thing.
Luke, about to take a bite, sets his burger on the table.
SARA I mean, do you have someone in mind? Or were you thinking like, just anyone? LUKE Are you actually considering this? SARA I don’t know. Maybe. If it’s something you really want.
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LUKE Well, what do you think of Ellie?
SARA Ellie? Who’s Ellie?
LUKE Ellie. She’s the girl I carpool with in the mornings. The blonde chick.
LUKE It doesn’t have to be her. I’m just throwing out ideas here.
SARA No, it’s okay. I asked. Ellie seems cool, I guess. She’s really pretty.
LUKE Yeah, she is. I mean...she’s okay, you know? Just a possibility.
The two continue eating in silence. INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY Sara is dressed more than usual of coffee while pulls up to the runs outside to here.
and ready for work early. She is made up and her hair is perfect. As she sips her cup looking out the living room window, Ellie driveway. Sara sets down her coffee cup and catch Ellie before Luke realizes his ride is
EXT. DRIVEWAY - DAY Ellie is singing along to her hipster music and doesn’t notice Sara, who is now standing right beside the car. Sara taps on the driver’s side window, briefly startling Ellie. Ellie rolls down the window and smiles kindly at Sara.
ELLIE Hey! You must be Luke’s girlfriend! I’m Ellie. He didn’t tell me your name.
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Ellie holds her hand out the window in anticipation of shaking Sara’s. SARA Yeah, I’m Sara. It’s, it’s nice to meet you. Hey, listen, this is going to sound really strange but do you want to like, grab a drink or something with me sometime? I just moved here a few months ago to be with Luke, and I haven’t really made all that many girlfriends. I know it’s weird, so if not that’s totally fine. I just...thought I’d ask. Ellie smiles. She’s got an amazing smile.
ELLIE I would love to. I’m actually free tonight if you are. I know a great place for happy hour. What’s your number?
The girls exchange numbers and Sara runs back inside. As she closes the front door behind her, she leans up against the it, closes her eyes and lets out a sigh of relief. Luke appears from the bedroom. LUKE What’s wrong?
SARA Nothing. Have a good day at work!
Sara kisses Luke on the forehead. He walks out the door and she prances happily to grab her purse and leave for work herself. EXT. LOUNGE - NIGHT Sara sits in her car, fidgeting, while waiting for Ellie to arrive. She fixes her lipstick in the rearview mirror three times, during the last of which she catches glimpse of Ellie’s car in the mirror. She accidentally drops her lipstick and panics. She scrambles to readjust the mirror and attempt to find her lipstick. Ellie walks up to Sara’s car and taps on the window. Sara, halfway sprawled on the passenger seat in search of her missing makeup, darts up, her hair now a mess. Ellie smiles. April 2012 | Wildflower Magazine | 49
ELLIE (THROUGH THE WINDOW) Everything okay in there?
SARA Yeah. Hey! Sorry.
Sara opens the door too quickly, almost knocking Ellie to the ground.
SARA Jesus! Oh my God, I’m so sorry!
Sara runs out of the car and grabs Ellie’s arm as she apologizes.
SARA I’m a total wreck today. Are you okay?
ELLIE (LAUGHING) You’re fine! I’m fine. Let’s get you a drink, though.
SARA Yes, please.
The girls laugh it off as they walk into the Lounge. INT. LOUNGE - NIGHT Ellie and Sara are obviously a few drinks in. Sara appears much more at ease, if not a little loaded.
ELLIE So wait a minute, he seriously suggested I’d be the girl for the job?
Both girls start laughing hysterically. The server brings a round of tequila shots, which are immediately cheersed and consumed.
ELLIE So what are you going to do about this?! SARA Well, why do you think I asked you out for drinks?
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her warmly. Undeneath the table, Ellie brushes her leg up against Sara’s. Sara chokes on her drink a little, then sets down her empty glass.
SARA Should we order another round?
ELLIE Nah. Let’s get out of here.
SARA And go where? Wait, you want to do this tonight? Woah. Ellie, I don’t know if I’m ready yet. Plus, Luke would probably be pissed if I didn’t at least give him some kind of heads-up.
Sara starts laughing again.
SARA God, he can be such an asshole sometimes. Most of the time really. In general, he’s just kind of an asshole!
ELLIE I meant let’s get out of here and go somewhere else. Not with him, just us. SARA Oh. Okay. Where were you thinking?
INT. ELLIE’S BEDROOM - NIGHT Ellie and Sara are laying in bed after having just completed “the act.” Ellie holds Sara closely and softly traces her fingers over Sara’s arm. Sara looks content. INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT Luke sits on the couch watching TV and eating a burger and fries. He looks at his watch, then toward the door. He sighs and takes a swig of soda. Fade out.
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Plaintive wail, defiant affirmation and bold assertion: the progress of racial and gender liberation as expressed in the music of African American women by Sam Powell
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In the age old discussion of whether art imitates
life or life imitates art, there may be no final “yes” or “no” answer. But a suggested answer can be found in the evolution of the music of African American women since the dawn of the Civil Rights era, from 1939 to the present. As the progress of the civil rights movement was reflected in music made by black women, the lyrical expression of the movement first reflected the issues and conditions addressed in that movement. This artistic expression was followed by public reaction to that movement and social change. As society changed in reaction to these cultural and artistic expressions, art in turn reflected those changes and expressed the movement’s reaction to more recent conditions. So we see a cycle of art reflecting life, then bringing changes as society sees itself reflected in art, and art again reflecting life in that changed society, followed by further change. Life inspires art, art changes life, life is again reflected in art, art further changes life, and so on. From 1939 to the present, this process can be observed as the music of African American women evolved through three primary types of lyrical statement: plaintive wail, defiant affirmation, and bold assertion.
When a people have been disempowered and denied a voice in public dialogue by a society, music is one of the few forms of media left for them to express their plight. Before solutions could be proposed to the inequality, racial hatred and violence directed at African Americans, it was necessary to express the full pain and horror of the suffering that was inflicted on them for 400 years. Consequently, the earliest musical expression of their condition was expressed as a “plaintive wail,” a cry of pain, in songs that were simple, direct statements of the injustice endured by black folk. As of 1939, African Americans were rarely, if ever, portrayed in any media as anything but the most demeaning stereotypes. This subjugation was so overwhelming that in 1939, Contralto Marian Anderson was barred from performing in Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Hall by its owners, the Daughters of the American Revolution.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was so angered by the D.A.R.’s display of bigotry that she resigned from the organization and petitioned the Roosevelt administration to stage a performance by Anderson on the mall at the Lincoln Memorial. Anderson’s performance was a watershed cultural event. A 10-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. was there to hear her performance, which was instrumental in inspiring his earliest beliefs in racial equality. In a youth public speaking contest five years later at the age of 15, King wrote: “When the words of ‘America’ and ‘Nobody Knows de Trouble I Seen’ rang out over that great gathering, there was a hush on the sea of uplifted faces, black and white, and a new baptism of liberty, equality, and fraternity. That was a touching tribute, but Miss Anderson may not as yet spend the night in any good hotel in America." Anderson’s performance opened with “America” and included operatic selections and Negro spirituals; the nation was not yet ready to officially address problems of race in public. Given that women in America were also relegated to second class social status at the time, it was doubly shocking to the nation when, in 1939, Billie Holiday gave voice to the most gruesome, disturbing lyrical metaphor for the life of black people in the south. The song “Strange Fruit” painted a graphic picture of the violence directed at southern blacks, and was a cry of pain so loud that a whole nation could hear it. It was a “plaintive wail,” comparing the hanging corpses of lynched southern blacks to a twisted and grotesque crop. Such images as:” Southern trees bear strange fruit/Blood on the leaves/Blood at the root/Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze/Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees,” were graphic beyond any cultural norms of the time. “Strange Fruit” served as a shocking condemnation of racism without directly pointing a finger at any person or group. The song cried to the nation “Look, this is what is happening to us, and it is horrible beyond comprehension.”
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life like Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” As discontent with segregation and Jim Crow laws spurred the rise of the civil rights movement, led by organizations like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), these plaintive wails gave way to more defiant affirmations of entitlement to equality. In the context of the movement, earlier spirituals began to evolve new meanings as affirmations of rights, perhaps most famously in the 1901 hymn “We Shall Overcome.” Originally a statement about persistence in doing good without yielding, the song came to be used as a protest song by the labor movement in the 1940s. During the civil rights movement, several adaptations of the song were created by African American women, and it came to be recognized as the anthem of the movement. The first of these adaptations was made by Zilphia Horton, who introduced the song to the Highlander Folk School and inspired Pete Seeger to add such lines as “black and white together,” and thus the song became a plea for equal rights in the late 1950s. In 1962 and 1963, “We Shall Overcome” at last became the powerful demand for equality that it is to this day when Bernice Johnson Reagon of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee slowed the tempo of the song dramatically and syncopated its rhythms so that vocal interjections could be spontaneously added by singers and protestors. It was in this form that the song became the definitive musical statement of the civil rights movement when a crowd of 200,000 spontaneously sang the song following Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech at the national mall. Mahalia Jackson also sang the hymn “How I Got Over” at the march, evoking memories of Marian Anderson’s performance at the same spot in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 which was so monumental in King’s childhood inspiration. The songs of defiant affirmation sung by black women artists during the civil rights era were not always as conservative and reverential as “We Shall Overcome,” often expressing outright fury in response to injustice. Nina Simone shook the staid and stuffy era awake in 1963 when she wrote and recorded the then-unimaginably-profane “Mississippi Goddam” with its rebellious opening statement, “The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam, and I mean every word of 56 | Wildflower Magazine | April 2012
it,” and its accusatory tone, “Hound dogs on my trail/ School children sitting in jail/Black cat cross my path/I think every day's gonna be my last.” Simone took that important next step from merely expressing her pain over a situation by naming southern culture as the perpetrator, and calling for its damnation. Black female vocalists more traditionally associated with gospel music also became forceful in their indictments of southern culture and the persistence of the myth of a racial hierarchy, particularly Mavis Staples, whose rendition of the biblically rooted “Eyes On The Prize” became an anthem of the movement. Staples was also more forceful in other songs, such as “Down In Mississippi,” in which she directly accused southern culture of hunting black folk like animals: “They had a hunting season on the rabbit, If you shoot ‘em you went to jail; Season was always open on me; Nobody needed no band [hunting license].” Although African American female vocalists played a leading role in galvanizing the civil rights movement and spreading its message nationwide, they were still subject within their own movement to the same discrimination against women that the women’s liberation’s movement was addressing at the same time. Aretha Franklin successfully began to assert the rights of black women as women when she gave entirely new meaning to Otis Redding’s song “Respect,” making the song so much her own that Redding often jokingly (yet respectfully!) introduced her as “the woman who stole my song.” In Franklin’s voice, the song became a demand for respect first as a woman, and second as a black woman.
Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” was a foreshadowing of the claim to individual empowerment that would follow in songs that boldly asserted a black woman’s rights as both a woman and an African American, and her right to determine her own unique image and sexuality. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the continued progression toward recognition of racial equality that followed it, it was time for black women to boldly assert their own identity. Self-determination in relationships became a central theme in the music of black women from
the 1970s on. Gloria Gaynor brought a powerful message to a disco genre usually devoid of meaning when she asserted the strength of a woman’s identity independent of “her man” in “I Will Survive.” Shunning the traditional notion of so many love songs that “I am nothing without you,” the song asserted that not only would she survive the end of a romance, but that she would grow stronger and thrive after. Betty Davis took empowerment in sexual relationships to an unprecedented level of lyrical aggressiveness beginning in 1973 with her steamy funk. She directly asserted a woman’s right to be the sexual aggressor and to be horny in songs like “If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up,” with such lyrical assertions as “I said if I'm in luck I might just get picked up, I said I'm fishin' trick and you can call it what you want,” and “So all you lady haters don't be cruel to me/Don't you crush my velvet don't you ruffle my feathers neither/I said I'm crazy I said I'm wild I said I'm nasty.” She was a far cry from the gospel music of the black women of the early civil rights movement, but her attitude and assertiveness represented just as important a step forward in individual empowerment. While the music of the African American “divas” of the 80s and 90s mostly focused on traditional lyrical themes and vocal acrobatics, Whitney Houston nonetheless succeeded in making several statements about the importance of self-esteem in spite of the AM Radio-safe themes of the genre. Her rendition of “The Greatest Love Of All” took a song originally written as the theme for the Muhammad Ali biopic “The Greatest” and made it her own personal statement of the need to love oneself. She also challenged women to stand up for their dignity in relationships with “I’m Not Susan,” in which she sang “Don't wanna hear about Susan/She's got nothin' on me/So show some respect for the love you receive/My name is not Susan.” As hip-hop music grew to be dominated by “mac daddy” attitudes that subjugated women, a form of hip-hop feminism began to develop among female artists in the early 1990s, and continues to remain at the forefront of black female liberation and assertiveness today. In 1993, Salt-n-Pepa made it clear that they would have nothing to do with the pimp attitudes that disrespected and belittled women, and defined their own concept of what a real man should
be in “What A Man.” The duo succeeded in turning the tables on sexist poseurs by making clear what a strong woman says a man should be: “Spends quality time with his kids when he can/Secure in his manhood cuz he's a real man/A lover and a fighter and he'll knock a sucker out/Don't take him for a sucker cuz that's not what he's about/Every time I need him, he always got my back/Never disrespectful cuz his mama taught him that.” While there will always be progress to be made in the ongoing struggle for liberation and selfidentity of any people, the current state of the music of black women is in amazing contrast to the disempowerment and dependency of the past. Whether it is Nicki Minaj professing In Kanye West’s “Monster”: “You could be the king, but watch the queen conquer,” or India.Arie rejecting the fashions and images forced on women in “I Am Not My Hair,” the bold assertiveness of African American women in their music represents a realization of a great many of the goals of the civil rights and women’s liberation movements, and has even progressed into areas of personal liberation that exceed anything that early activists could have envisioned. •
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Suicide Girl Kemper Suicide talks about beauty, career plans and what itâ€™s like to be naked on the web. by Jessica Farkas
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Photographs contributed by Kemper Suicide.
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You may recognize her as Kemper of the alternative pinup community website, Suicide Girls. A quick Google search of her will reveal photos that make grown men (and women, for that matter) drool like infants. But underneath the tattoos, smoking hot bod, and fiery red mane is your everyday Star Wars loving college student with a knack for technology and a couple of rescue dogs for best friends. Name: Kemper Age: 24 Location: Southern California Website: https://www.facebook.com/KemperMod Jessica: What does it even mean to be a “Suicide Girl”? Kemper: To me, being a Suicide Girl means being proud of myself, my body, and who I am. It’s about being a part of a community that focuses on the differences of women that make them beautiful. The site showcases women of all different ages, races, body types, and styles from all over the world.
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Jessica: How and when did you become involved with Suicide Girls? Kemper: I was initially interested in Playboy. When I was in high school, I contacted someone through the Playboy website and asked how they felt about tattoos (even though at the time I only had a few). They explained that tattoos weren’t really their niche, and the only options they had for tattooed women were themed editions. During my senior year, I became good friends with one of the piercers at the tattoo shop I frequented, and he introduced me to Suicide Girls. SG seemed much more my style so I applied in August of 2006. (I was 18.) They set me up with a staff photographer in October of the same year, and on November 4th, my first set was published on the site. Jessica: How is Suicide Girls different than other sites of its kind? You know, like…the porn sites and stuff. Kemper: SG won’t even allude to anything pornographic. We try to keep our image and our nudity very classy. Suicide Girls is considered to be more artistic than explicit, and our standards of quality are very high. Many competing sites will publish “DIY” sets that are of poor photographic quality, whereas SG has professional photographers that collaborate with the site to produce quality photo sets of the models. Another great thing about SG is that it is a great community that allows for its members to interact and have contact with the models. I’ve made a lot of good friends through the site, and I’ve met a lot of fantastic people who I would have never met without being a part of Suicide Girls. Jessica: So how does this all work? Explain the process—from hiring a photographer to the moment a finished set “goes live” on suicidegirls.com—to all us noobs. Kemper: SG has specific photographers they employ in different parts of the world who
can be contacted by the models to shoot a set. Models can also use their own photographers if they so choose. After submitting a set to Suicide Girls, it goes into “Member Review,” where members can then vote on it. Based on how many votes the set receives, the site decides whether or not to purchase it from the model. If the set is purchased, it is featured on the front page for 24 hours. Jessica: Well you’re obviously getting enough member votes! You’ve had how many sets published? And of those, what are your favorites? Kemper: I have 18 purchased sets on the site, including a few themed pieces. I shot a Jessica Rabbit themed set and a Star Wars themed set with another model, which are high on my list of my personal favorites. But overall I think my most favorite sets are the ones in which I am portraying myself, as opposed to being a character. It’s fun to play dress up, but at the end of the day I like being me. And the SG community typically seems to respond to that more. Jessica: When you first put a new set of photos up online, is the feeling more nerve-racking or more empowering? Kemper: When my first photo set went up I think I was a little nervous. At the same time, it all happened so fast that I didn’t really have time to be nervous. I think the biggest concern at that point, once I committed to doing it, was how the community would respond to me. My first set did overwhelmingly well so I didn’t really have any time to doubt myself. Now I’ve been on the site for over five years and I’m pretty comfortable when my sets go up. So it’s definitely more empowering. There will always be that small worry of, “What if they don’t like it?” But the key is that as long as you’re comfortable and happy with the photoset you’ve put forth, there will always be someone who likes it. And that should be enough to make it worth it. April 2012 | Wildflower Magazine | 63
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Jessica: What is the best part about being a Suicide Girl? Kemper: There are so many great people on the Suicide Girls site, and there is so much opportunity to form lasting friendships. I’ve made really good friends, both locally and long distance, and both fellow Suicide Girls and members. Another great thing about being a Suicide Girl is that the site really allows you the freedom to portray yourself in any way you choose. There are no limitations as to “too alternative” or “not alternative enough.” Being a Suicide Girl has also given me the opportunity to attend a bunch of awesome conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con. Jessica: Has the fact that you can be found naked on the internet ever created a problem in any of your relationships? Kemper: It’s never directly affected any romantic relationships I’ve had. The guy I was dating at the time I applied told me a few years later that he was uncomfortable with it, but that was a long time ago. Nowadays I don’t think I could date someone who couldn’t handle it. It’s just a matter of trust and security–they have to trust that I’m going to be faithful to them, and be secure in the fact that other people have seen me naked. It’s simply a form of self-expression; it doesn’t automatically qualify me as a mega-slut, or even a mini-slut. I’m actually very selective as to whom I choose to date. Jessica: That being said, is this something you can see yourself building a career out of? Kemper: Modeling isn’t something I want to pursue professionally. Actually, Suicide Girls is what introduced me to photography, which ended up becoming a huge passion of mine. I really enjoyed learning the photo editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop. I’m currently working to get my degree in graphic design, which is truly what I want to pursue a career in. I love being on a computer, creating things and manipulating images 66 | Wildflower Magazine | April 2012
in graphics programs. Modeling can be fun, and photographing can be even more fun. But what I really love is sitting in front of a 27 inch screen, acquiring carpal tunnel, back problems, and eye problems! I’ve worked with a lot of different art mediums: paints, charcoal, ink, etching, graphite, film, etc., and although they’re all fun, that’s not really my style. I’m not the hands-on, crafty, getting messy type to really enjoy those kinds of mediums. However, I also don’t want to get stuck somewhere photoshopping pores off of some high fashion model. I want to be able to create manipulations of images and really stretch people’s imaginations. I can’t really name a specific “dream job,” but the first thing that comes to mind is advertising for a film and television studio, being able to collaborate with other creative people on interesting advertising for shows and movies. Jessica: Where do you see yourself in ten years? Kemper: That’s a hard question to answer. I’m just trying to survive school right now! I don’t have any solid plans, but I do know what direction I want my life to take. I want to have a good job that I love, and I want to be independent. If someone falls into place with all that romantically, then that’s great. But if not, I always have friends and family. And I definitely need to have an adopted pup or two by my side, hopefully the two I have now will still be around in 10 years. Jessica: Speaking of pups, yours seems to be the subject of quite a few of your blog posts on the Suicide Girls site. If I’m not mistaken, she’s even made a couple cameos in your photo sets… Kemper: Actually, I technically have three dogs. The oldest is Tink, our 15-year-old Jack Russell who is more of a family dog. I also have two dogs that I adopted from the pound: Misfit, a 5-year-old Chihuahua mix, and Delphi, a 3-year-old chubby Chiweenie. We’ve always had dogs in my family and they’ve always been a big part of what
Modeling can be fun, and photographing can be even more fun. But what I really love is sitting in front of a 27-inch screen, acquiring carpal tunnel, back problems, and eye problems.
keeps me sane and happy. They have such distinctive personalities and always keep me smiling. Delphi, specifically, is such a comedic character. She is the one who works her way into a lot of my art assignments, and has been the subject of many of my photo manipulations. Jessica: Time for a tangent. How do you define beauty and how has Suicide Girls helped shape that definition? Kemper: Suicide Girls has affected my idea of beauty so much! I think any woman has the capability of being beautiful; it’s just a matter of how she portrays herself. I think it’s incredibly insensitive and rude when people —both men and women do this—critique someone’s body publicly. The girls who participate in SG are putting themselves in the public eye and exposing a degree of vulnerability. For someone to comment that a girl “needs to eat something” or “is fat” is just appalling to me. If someone isn’t your preference, move on to the next option. No one person is perfect to everyone but everyone is beautiful to someone.
Jessica: What advice do you have for women who have always wanted to do something bold and edgy—maybe nude modeling, or maybe something else daring or risqué—but are too afraid to go for it because of the potential societal repercussions? Kemper: Weigh your options. I obviously don’t plan on ever running for political office, but just be smart about your decisions. Something as extreme as nude modeling might not be for everyone. Sometimes dyeing your hair a crazy color or getting a piercing is enough to feel “daring or risqué,” and these things aren’t permanent. Or if you are not completely comfortable with nude modeling, maybe consider something more private, like taking some sexy photos for your significant other. It’s a very thoughtful and personal gift, and can also be very empowering. There are plenty of businesses that specialize in just that, including powderpuffpinups.com, which is run by women who are also involved in SG. •
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Berta Meraj was born in Albania. She lives in Toronto, Canada, and is in the process of completing an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. Her interests include film, photography, painting and Russian literature. She runs a lifedrawing club at U of T.
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Dan Hedges currently teaches English in the Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board of Quebec. He has also taught English at Sedbergh School and the Celtic International School. He has lived in the Yukon, Spain, Mexico, Wisconsin, Algonquin Park and Quebec. Dan runs an artist collective called Humanimalz. His poems have appeared in The Maynard, Ditch Poetry, Jones Av. Quarterly, Fortunates, Haggard and Halloo, Rigormortus, and The Camel Saloon. His work is forthcoming in The Monarch Review, Marco Polo Arts Magazine, and Inertia.
R. Flowers Rivera is a native of Mississippi, and completed a Ph.D. at Binghamton University and an M.A. from Hollins University. She was awarded the 2009 Leo Love Merit Scholarship in Poetry. Her short story, â€œThe Iron Bars,â€? won the Peregrine Prize. She has been a book finalist for the May Swenson Award, the Journal Intro Award, the Naomi Long Madgett Award, the Gary Snyder Memorial Award, and the Paumanok Award, as well as garnering nominations for Pushcarts. Currently, she is a Lecturer of Literature and Composition at the Center for American Education in Singapore. View more of her work by visiting http://www.promethea.com.
Susan M. Botich has published poems in numerous poetry journals and literary magazines throughout the country. She is a freelance journalist, poet, author, and lover of nature, living in Bend, Oregon.
Sam “Muel” Powell is a disability/ civil rights advocate living in beautiful Kaneohe, Hawaii. When he’s not hanging out with his friends with developmental disabilities, he can be found sitting in front of his computer with his guitar writing songs and making loud, squealy noises. He has written for various newspapers and magazines in Honolulu, Hawaii, and served as editor of The Voice Of Business. He has also written event scripts and speeches for a number of hoity-toity bigwigs in Hawaii, and wrote many subversive sketches for the comedy troupe Anonymous Highway and Sanity Maintenance Company. He has served on many bleeding heart do-gooder non-profit boards and government task forces, and is currently getting back in touch with his 1970s post-hippie cultural roots as a part of his ongoing mid-life crisis.
Wandeclayt lives in Santa Maria, Brazil. He works in aviation electronics, and specializes in fetish, pinup and nude photography. He is also in a band called Airenterre and edits a zine called Overclock zine. More of his work can be seen on www.bunkermedia.com.br.
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June 1, 2012 Wildflower Magazine’s Science fiction anthology • photography • visual art • poetry • essays and more submission deadline: may 10, 2012 www.wildflowermagazine.com end of transmission. Visit Wildflower on the web! Twitter: www.twitter.com/wildflowermag. Facebook: www.facebook.com/wildflowermagazine. Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/wildflowermag. Copyright © 2012 by the artists published and Wildflower Magazine. All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission. You may freely share digital copies of this publication, but altering any page, image, or text without the publisher’s permission is prohibited. Your support of the authors’ and artists’ rights is appreciated. Designed, edited and published by Ashley Hennefer and Jessica Farkas. 70 | Wildflower Magazine | April 2012
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