Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Giving Story to the Light 

Introduction to Feminine Rising, Voices of Power & Invisibility, an anthology of women’s writing (forthcoming, Cynren Press April 2019) (Pre-Order now!)

Giving Story to the Light

By Andrea Fekete co-editor

 I was born in a socioeconomically disadvantaged region: the West Virginia coalfields. Growing up, I witnessed devastating injustices related to women and the poor. I didn’t have language to describe my feelings and ideas surrounding my life as a girl from a hollow where if you didn’t have a car, you couldn’t get a job, because no public transit existed, and nothing much was in proximity but necessities.

Although I was one of the lucky kids born to parents who went to college, the first generation in their families to do so, I still lived in an atmosphere of oppression, underprivilege, and suffering, especially among women.

Instinctively, I understood then-wordless concepts: sexism, empowerment, disenfranchisement, misogyny, feminism, justice, income inequality, and multigenerational poverty.

I didn’t have these words as tools to describe my experience. I was a poet from the age of 7 because I needed words I did not have. That year, I developed difficulty controlling my emotions and expressing myself after a bout of childhood bacterial meningitis.

I set out to speak to the world about these intense mood swings and feelings of overwhelm. But because of my background, growing up, I never thought anyone was listening or would want to.

Women and girls who feel voiceless or invisible because of disability, underprivilege, abusive environments, or some other cause, need story. To me, story is the telling of whatever ways of knowing a woman has at her disposal.

As a child of the coalfields, my ways of knowing were instinctual, also set by example by the incredibly strong women in my family and the women in my neighbor’s families who lived in the coal camp where I was raised.

As a teenage writer growing up in coalfields of rural Appalachia, I felt alone in my dreams to be an author. I didn’t know any writers who looked or sounded like me. But then, I’d only stepped foot in one bookstore before I went away to university.

As a curious teen, I didn’t have luxuries like fully-stocked bookstores, playhouses, theaters, live music venues (for under 21), and no public transit to take me to those wells of knowledge and experience, either.

In high school, I was taught white ladies like Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. My skin, while white as well, wasn’t "the right kind" of white. I was white trash, and I knew from watching television that we weren’t exactly the kids on shows like Melrose Place or 90210. I hated those shows, just pictures of a world where I knew I didn’t belong. Who acted out my stories?

There were no granddaughters to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants like me--black-headed, Catholic holler girls from the West Virginia coalfields, not on TV or my high-school literature books. I hung out in the library with Fannie Waller, a black woman with a master’s degree who taught college English on the side. I was thirsty for story, my own and others’.

Unfortunately, the books in our library were old as were the handful of computers. It was 1995 when I read, How to Talk to Practically Anyone About Practically Anything, a book written in 1971 by Barbara Walters.

I read books from the 1980s by Gloria Steinem, that I recall not understanding well. I wanted to know what smart women thought and how they saw the world.

I didn’t have access to much like kids on Melrose Place or the characters in Friends. Writing sustained me. Talking to Ms. Waller endlessly about life sustained me. Hearing her stories and telling her my own sustained me.

As a teenager, on late summer nights on porch swings and around tables on my parents’ deck, I read my horror stories and poems to my friend Jimmy, to my best friends next door, too. My friends’ moms borrowed my novel-in-progress in high school.

I never felt so seen as when she said, "Tell Andrea to hurry up and write more. I want to know what’s going to happen next!"

Growing up in Buffalo Creek, West Virginia, us kids weren’t hardcore consumers like your typical American teenager because of lack of access, so we made things rather than consumed them. Nothing much happened up the hollow (I say "holler") except art.

All of us made things: jokes, music, song, poetry, and dance routines at slumber parties. Maybe nothing much happened up the holler but things happened in those stories and songs. Story happened. We were our most alive then.

We sang in our garages with our buddies. My uncles and cousins played on somebody’s porch. All of us who partook in creation, the creators and the audience, came to life through the power of story. When my friends listened, I felt seen. I mattered. These are early lessons on story. Story would save my life many times in adulthood.

At 18, I left rural Appalachia for a small urban area to attend Marshall University. There, I studied English and writing.

By 2014, I would have a BA, MA, and MFA. But first, at the tender age of 19, I was an intern in the women studies department.

Dr. Amy Hudock was one of my first mentors. Dr. Hudock juggled multiple projects preserving diaries, literature, and poetry of women.

                                        Pictured: My friend and mentor, Dr. Amy Hudock

She instilled their importance in the minds of young students, protected special collections libraries like that of long-dead southern women, walls and walls of their diaries which would’ve mattered to not one soul back when they were written.

Her literature courses and those like hers, were where I first learned words I lacked for the experiences I grew up unable to name.

I was exposed to women writers of every color, sexual orientation, religion, and from every corner of the globe. The most amazing surprise of all? Working-class women from Appalachia wrote books! Imagine my surprise and joy!

Readers actually listened to what they had to say. And these were strangers reading their books, not only their friends on porch swings who, let’s face it, probably listened out of some measure of kindness as well as curiosity.

I finally saw myself in the women I read. I saw my story in their novels and poetry. Suddenly, my stories mattered outside of my region. That same year, in 1998, I took Appalachian Literature, marveling at the existence of this kind of literature of which I’d never heard before.

I learned the poetry of Dr. Irene McKinney, former Poet Laureate of West Virginia. I was I in awe. She talked about coal mining. Death. Love. She talked about my West Virginia. I saw my story. I was transformed.

Fate would intervene and, in 2011, I would be accepted to a new MFA program at WV Wesleyan College, founded by none other than Dr. McKinney, who would become my mentor and friend.

In the 2003 book, Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia, a book I used as course material as an adjunct professor in 2008, Dr. McKinney is quoted as saying "I’m a hillbilly, a woman, and a poet, and I understood early on that nobody was going to listen to anything I had to say anyway, so I might as well just say what I want to."

Pictured: My friend and teacher, the late Dr. Irene McKinney, Founder of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at West Virginia Welseyan College and former Poet Laureate of West Virginia 

These words could’ve been my own when I was a teenager. They were my mantra as an adult; I’ll say what I want to. She passed away after my only knowing her one year. But her influence, both in 1998 and 2011, changed me and my relationship with story, my relationship with myself.

​A specific event led to the inspiration for this book. I experienced a traumatic event in 2014, another one, related to my gender. I felt silenced. Angry. I worked with a WV Delegate attempting to pass a bill to protect women in domestic violence situations.

As an undergrad, I’d co-founded the Women’s Studies Student Association under Dr. Hudock’s advisory. I had a modest list of achievements related to serving or bringing justice to women and girls. Each achievement helped heal.

But this time, I was fed up. I obsessed for a month, wondering where I could put this specific anger. How could I use it to serve women and girls? Service heals.

I remembered how growing up, the only time I felt heard, the only time I felt like I mattered, was when I was sharing story. But I felt my voice was too small, by itself, to liberate me this time.

What if, I asked myself, I helped women all over the nation, maybe even world, share their own stories? If I give them a platform, will the giver and receiver of story be empowered? Yes. What a lofty goal.

I went to the internet, like many women frustrated with sexism, misogyny or injustice--a quality of 4th-wave feminism, I learned. Women take to the internet to vent their frustrations surrounding life as women--often girls new to feminism and concepts of injustice, women who don’t yet have words for these concepts, just as I once didn’t.

This book started out as just a late-night pipe dream as I sat alone in my kitchen in the town of Barboursville, West Virginia.

Not exactly glamorous and it wasn’t so realistic either. I started posting on social media, asking women to send me their work. At first, no one did. I even earned some hostile reactions from men.

I kept at it. Women who I knew personally told me no. I was discouraged but I had faith I wasn’t alone in my need to speak. I kept at it. The submissions finally began rolling in. Word of mouth or beginner’s luck? I still don’t know.

Soon, I was buried in work and needed help. I reached out to Lara Lillibridge, a writer and former classmate I barely knew who I recalled as edgy and unique.

In 2014, she didn't yet have her impressive list of publications or her first book Girlish, a memoir, which was released this year.
I chose Lara because of her talent, her voice, and bravery in her work.

I couldn't even promise her anything, not even that it would be published. I had nothing but an idea and some email submissions in my inbox.

Lara shared my excitement and worked hard with no reward in sight, fueled by nothing but passion for our vision. During our work these past four years, we became best friends. This collected work is a genuine labor of love.

I have always approached my work as a feminist, a term I have married, divorced, and reclaimed, more than once, on the individual level, which is more 3rd-wave feminism, although I am only 40.

I believe in working toward justice for women and girls, but I believe in a "boots on the ground" approach. Sharing story isn’t only introducing legislation or leading a march, but it is transforming of the culture, one individual reader at a time.

Have readers ever been represented in print? Is a little teenage holler girl who fears she has no chances in life reading this book and if she is, what interior landscape transforms in this one girl? And what will she do with her life, if so?

We didn’t set out with structure in mind or themes for the collection, these developed organically and over time, which sets this collection apart from many.

We produced this book backwards. Most anthologies start with a concept from the publisher, often a somewhat narrow one, who then hires editors who set out to make his vision come true.

We asked women to tell us what this book would be, and they did. Our questions were broad. We wanted contributors to decide which topics were relevant to their lives, not assign relevance.

Our website asked contributors to answer these questions: Are there moments in your life where your femaleness was a source of power or hardship? When does your voice ring its clearest? When have you been silenced?

We asked for work from women of all ages, races, nationalities, and religions.
The manuscript includes 74 poems and 23 essays.

Topics include women’s "rites of passage", sexuality, birth stories, woman as a hero/protector, survival of oppression and violence, writing on the female body, gender roles, women in the workplace, ethnicity, and ancestry.

Pieces are broken into sections by theme. Many pieces are by women whose second language is English. We have a few who write in "broken" English, which reminded me of how my own Mexican grandfather spoke. We embraced this beauty and diversity.

The collection suits both a variety of mainstream adult readers’ interests and professors’ purposes. The essays and poems range from humorous to serious, frightening to inspiring, sensual to intellectual, and experimental to traditional.

Professors could easily use this collection for classes in creative writing, poetry, creative nonfiction, and women’s studies. Best of all, people who just love true stories will love this book. Included here are new and award-winning English-speaking women writers from around the world, no easy feat for two youngish writers with no budget, relying on the internet and a prayer.

We didn’t have an idea for structure or categorization when we set out. But decided we wanted to hold the reader’s interest more than anything. The manuscript alternates between poems and essays, shorter forms to longer form.

The shorter forms, both poetry and flash-essays, deliver the more immediate "punchline" the reader craves in just a page or less. The longer forms allow for more meditative immersion into a chosen topic.

The categorization allows the reader to quickly flip to topics of most interest to them. We have sections on family, late life and death, pregnancy and birth, sex and writing on the body, and more. This is what women sent us.

We marveled as themes rose organically from the pages. It was easy to see what women felt needed said the most. Our longest section is "Resistance and Roles."

We started the table of contents with the category "resistance and roles" because to us, putting a woman’s story in the world is itself an act of resistance.

Once complete, I left this work with a profound feeling of healing from silencing in my own life. Receiving and putting forth these stories provided a measure of retrograde relief from my bitterness, anger, and despair over each of my own silencing due to both my gender and my regional identity as Appalachian with severely limited access and privilege as a child residing in a holler, miles from even modern texts.

My purpose compiling this text were many, but one was to receive stories and give them forward to men, women, and girls who need them. I especially thought of women and girls often forgotten in the "middle-class white" feminism, the girls left out of the cast of the TV shows, the girls who can’t take a day off work for A Day Without Women marches.

The girls in the holler, the projects, and the lands where women aren’t supposed to read or where they can barely write.

We unearthed exciting new women writers. Our award-winning authors from the U.S. include Ellen Bass, Pauletta Hansel, Ann Pancake, and many more.

Our international authors include award winners such as Shloka Shankar, Maggie Thach, and Müesser Yenjay. Our contributors hail from Turkey, Tunisia, South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, India, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, England, Canada, Vietnam, Israel, and all corners of the United States.

This book exists. Now what? Possibilities. 

Individuals transforming, both the writers and readers. Boots-on-the ground feminism promising tangible change, although small at first, incremental and limitless. It is my fervent prayer girls and women learn from these poems and essays that voicing anger, joy, fear, love, and power isn’t only acceptable, but necessary, even expected.

As a 7-year-old girl struggling with mood swings and communication of my feelings after surviving a lethal brain infection, I wrote poetry and was saved by story. Then, my story was painfully suppressed by a world where I thought a voice like mine had no place.

I’m so glad women like the ones who raised me encouraged me to seek out that place. Now, I’m passing on stories of others, and through them, find healing, solace, and renewed strength to continue my work to leave the world just a little bit more just than I found it, as my mentors taught me to do--those mentors of my childhood and those of adulthood: the powerful women of the coal camps where I was raised and the inspiring women of my adulthood and academe.

My feelings of silencing and powerlessness seem erased for now, as I give this book, as I give story--more than I ever could’ve contributed with only my voice--to the light.


Andrea Fekete is a coal miner’s daughter and granddaughter to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants, a native of the southern West Virginia coalfields. She is author of the novel of the WV coal mine wars, Waters Run Wild (Sweetgum Press, 2010) which is being re-released November 2018 and poetry chapbook I Held a Morning (Finishing Line Press, 2012).

Her fiction and poetry often appear in journals such as Chiron Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Kentucky Review, Montucky Review, Adirondack Review, ABZ, and in such anthologies as Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. (WVU Press, 2017)

She earned her MA from Marshall University and MFA in Creative Writing from WV Wesleyan College. She and Lara Lillibridge co-edited "Feminine Rising: Voices of Power & Invisibility" forthcoming from Cynren Press April 2019. She has been an adjunct professor of English at multiple colleges since 2005.

You can find her on Facebook at

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Interview with author and poet (and ex-con) Ace Boggess

Ace Boggess is a poet and novelist. He's a journalism and law school graduate who once fell into a life of addiction. As a result, he spent five years in the penitentiary. But like Shawshank Redemption’s Andy Dufrane, who crawled from a sewerpipe to spend his freedom on beaches of white sand, Ace crawled out of that dark place a rockstar (well, of poets) and like Andy Dufrane, clean.

During his time in the penitentiary he wrote The Prisoners (Brick Road, 2014), one of the finest poetry collections I’ve read by a contemporary American poet. The day of his release, he got the news it would be published.

The view of prison-life seen safely from behind your reading glasses is at once terrifying and strangely magical, the speaker's observations philosophical, sometimes funny, and sometimes as stark and unforgiving as fluorescent lights in a morgue.

Boggess has hundreds of poems published in hundreds of magazines from high quality, top-tier print magazines and online journals to underground zines. His work has appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review. Mid-American Review, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly to name a few and in anthologies like Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Poetry and Fiction from West Virginia. (WVU Press 2017). He is also author of Song Without a Melody, a novel. (Hyperborea 2016)

He has just released his latest poetry collection,  a collection of "question poems." It's fantastic and in an entirely different tone and flavor than his previous works. When I read the poems based on questions I myself asked, I wept. I will include an example at the end of the interview.

AUTHOR of I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So

 Andrea Fekete: For those unfamiliar, what are “question poems”?

Ace Boggess: I began writing question poems in 2002, with the idea that I could use questions as a jumping-off point for poems. I keep a list of interesting questions, select one for the title of a poem, and launch myself into an answer. I mine the questions from conversations, billboards, questionnaires, internet memes, other poems, novels, leaflets, and just about anywhere one might pop up. When it’s time to write, I choose one and follow the answer wherever it leads. Sometimes the answers are direct, and other times they play around with ideas, humor, metaphor. Often a question will intersect with my day or my past experiences, and I’ll write about that. Sometimes one will send me down blind alleys, and I’ll try to write my way back out.

Andrea Fekete: And why question poems? What sets this form apart from your usual?

Ace: I was a journalist in my younger life and found that questions can be powerful ways of exploring thoughts, motives, histories. I love to ask them and to answer them, not just in poetry but always. They pull things out of the subconscious in ways that small talk or gossip just can’t.

Andrea: How did you begin building this collection? Was it intentional?

Ace: Since I started writing the question poems in 2002, I’ve always had at least one manuscript of them. None of the older manuscripts held together well enough for me, though. So, a few years ago, I scrapped the older manuscripts and started a new one with just more-recent question poems. Everything in this book is from the last few years (except for one holdover “Are You Setting Things on Fire?” that I wrote during the initial flurry in 2002 and revised quite a bit a couple years ago). I’ve built the book from the ground up, letting journal editors decide what went in there by what they chose to publish. I selected probably one in four of the recently published poems to be in this manuscript.

Andrea: What about the arrangement of the poems? Can you explain the significance of the sections? How do you choose a question about which to write?

Ace: Another literary trick. The section titles are the titles of books by Aristotle: Poetics, Ethics, and Metaphysics. Once I had those in place, I grouped the poems in each section to at least somewhat fit the theme. It’s a trick I’ve used before. In my book, The Prisoners, I used the titles of books by Dostoevsky as section breaks, and in one of my novels the sections were named after books by Nietzsche. It’s a way to have fun with the manuscript while still providing some sort of cohesiveness.

Andrea: What is your favorite one from this collection? Why?

Ace: I love “How Do I Know When I’ve Suffered Enough?” It’s one of those I answered more indirectly and in a way that was both playful and serious at the same time, taking real human struggles and viewing them through the lens of the struggles of our brutalized feet. It’s also a great example of how my twisted brain works.

Andrea: Are you ever satisfied with a poem of yours? Why or why not?

Ace: I’m only satisfied with a poem when it finally makes it into a book and that book makes into print.  I edit (I prefer to say edit rather than revise) a piece every time it’s rejected, and sometimes after it has been published in a journal. I almost never send exactly the same piece out a second time. But once it’s in a published book, I wouldn't change a word (even though that word might make me cringe).

Andrea: How did your writing evolve during your time in prison and how is it evolving now?

Ace: My way of seeing things before prison was limited and sometimes naïve. Prison was a new education, a University of the Iron Bar. I was there for five years, so I think that’s enough to earn a Master’s in Hard Time. Plus, there were many new experiences, many things and relationships lost, too much time for deeper reflection. It taught me to look at the world in new ways. I hope I’ve kept that up since I’ve been out, although I often find myself reflecting on prison, comparing now to then, and sometimes even feeling nostalgia for it … which, again, is how my twisted brain works.

Andrea: Do you answer the questions truthfully in the poems? Or in what way works best for the poem? Can you speak to these differences? Are they separate things at all?

Ace: It varies from poem to poem. As I said, the questions are a way into the poems. Once I actually start writing, my subconscious takes over and does much of the heavy lifting. So, I try to be as honest as possible, but I also leave room for the answers to veer off in other directions, finding their own truths. Plus, many of the answers are indirect. They’ll dodge about, letting the hard truth miss me with their punches.

Andrea: It annoys me when people say they want to “write about universal truths.” Not just because of the “s” on the end of truth but also because it’s egotistical to presume we have the answers to universal concerns of man. Your poems, while they answer burning questions to which we can all relate, I don’t detect egoism or pretension. This is more a comment than a question. But can you speak to this idea of leaving egoism out of truth (am I even making sense)?

Ace: I once wrote a poem about Wallace Stevens that ended up being almost entirely about me. I even pointed that out in the poem. Ego is everywhere in my work. I think it’s the nature of narrative and confessional poetry. After all, really, I’m trying to answer every question for myself. I WANT to know the answers, not just give them. I think the difference is that I admit it. I’m guilty—sometimes a blowhard, sometimes a clown, sometimes overly didactic, sometimes momentary. Admitting it sets me free to have fun with it, though. And that’s what I want the most: literary fun (do those words go together? ancient-alien theorists say yes). I’m trying to write a little joy into my life, and if I give you some as well, then everything’s groovy.

Andrea: What’s next for your career? What are you working on now?

Ace: In addition to writing poetry and short stories, I’m trying to find publishers for three other poetry manuscripts (one more traditional, one about old movies, and a new questions book that isn’t quite complete yet), a short story collection, several novels, and novella. I refuse to let the world be done with me yet.

Andrea: Where can we find your work?

Ace: Good lord. I suggest Google. Far too many journals to mention. My books are all on Amazon, not to mention Goodreads (reviews appreciated). Follow me on Facebook or Twitter. I post all my publications (ad nauseum, some might say). My work’s not hard to find. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

GOP West Virginia Congressional Hopeful with Domestic Violence History Threatens Woman: Trump, Bullying and Media Lies—the New Violence in Politics

UPDATE: Within hours of publishing this, many of the multiple anti-Ojeda facebook pages have been removed! 

The Grand Old Party, the party of President Lincoln and of Senator John McCain, once a noble group who fought for civil liberties and pressed against overbearing government is being hijacked by millionaires, bullies, and sociopaths who manipulate the people for their own selfish gain, particularly in my state of resource-rich West Virginia.

This week, Trump insulted a Democratic congressional hopeful widely regarded as the people's candidate, beloved to miners and teachers alike, Democratic Senator Major Richard Ojeda. Trump called the HEAVILY decorated veteran who champions medical marijuana for vets with PTSD a "total wacko." 

Days ago in Wheeling, WV during another strangely irrelevant, garbled rant about those he detests (all Democrats) Trump insults Elizabeth Warren (again) and also Ojeda, to whom he only refers to as the person running for Congress against Carol Miller (R-3rd District), whom "everybody loves." Trump's bizarre rallies may seem random but this rally was not.

He came to defend the Republican stronghold on the state where our millionaire representatives are LETTING COAL MINERS DOWN. I come from a family with HUNDREDS of years of coal mining on BOTH sides of my family. Believe me, they are letting us down.

Not so. Delegate Rupie Phillips, a man with a domestic violence arrest history, lost the primary to Carol Miller, has been harassing Ojeda for months and very publicly. 

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center the definition of cyberbullying is a pattern of harassing behaviors directed at an individual that occur via digital communications such as text, email, social media, etc. The behavior must be willful, harmful, and most importantly, the abuse can't be only one isolated incident but a patterned and repeated behavior overtime. 

Pictured below is Rupie Phillips holding a sign with a female Trump supporter. 

NOTE: All Congressional hopeful Rupie Phillips' Facebook posts and their comments were made by he and his friends on his PUBLIC Facebook profile and therefore are not protected by any privacy laws. Any request to remove screenshots on this blog or names from said comments will not be granted.

Ojeda ignored months and months of harassment and threats online such as the screenshots here from Delegate Phillip's public Facebook page. 

The harassment takes place in person and online. During a parade, Philips "paraded" then parked his truck marked with "NOjeda" signs in front of a business owned by Ojeda's relatives. 

A misleading Fox headline condemns Ojeda: "WV 'Trump Democrat' Congressional Hopeful 'Threatened' Delegate on Facebook Messenger."

Ojeda clearly is not a "Trump Democrat" and he did he NOT threaten the Delegate with anything other than political defeat. 

But Phillips, in no uncertain terms, definitely threatened violence against Ojeda and also threatened. . . wait for it. . . a woman who posted in favor of Ojeda on her own facebook page.

ME, actually! Andrea Fekete. I responded to all of his violent language with sarcasm and humor.

Pictured below: Screenshots of Rupie Phillips calling me a "big liberal loser" and telling me to "Come get some!!!!" 

Also pictured below: Phillips' threat to Ojeda reads: “Krista L. Jewell [tagged] I agree. I’ll give him a free shot with my eyes closed!!! Anytime!!!!! Face to face!!! He doesn’t have the guts!!!”

These were written 9 weeks ago. Fox aired their story this week.


Hear the story in his and his wife Kelly's own words below. This is a video from Ojeda's campaign website.

Mr. Trump, who Ojeda initially supported because of his promises to coal miners, stands WIDELY accused of being a bully, a narcissist, and even a sociopath by some

Is it any wonder, then, congressional candidate hopefuls like Delegate Rupie Phillips, an openly RABID foaming-at-the-mouth Trump supporter, uses social media to post photoshopped meme after meme and slam after slam in an attempt to torment Senator Ojeda?

Why doesn't FOX report the whole truth? 

Phillips has posted TWELVE posts directed at Ojeda in the last month. Twelve. In one month. see multiple below

There are multiple Facebook pages with which Delegate Phillips has been involved dedicated to bashing the Retired Major. When one is shut down by Facebook for clearly violating their “community standards” regarding harassment, more simply pop up as "v. 2" and "v. 4."

Someone posted DOZENS of fake Facebook profiles in Ojeda's name, a tactic known to be used to throw the public off from finding a representative's real page so they have trouble finding his campaign materials. 

Phillips is NOT running against Ojeda. Carol Miller is! Pro-Miller posts are plastered across ALL the "NOjeda" and "Veterans Against Ojeda" pages. As well as childish memes. 

I took something approaching FIFTY screenshots of various forms of harassment and all manner of vulgarity. 

In September, Scott Poe shared a video made by Phillips on the page below. Philips can be heard in the video laughing saying, "Well, well, what do we have here" as he points his camera toward a giant billboard that reads "NOjeda." 

Pictured Below: more screenshots from Phillip's Facebook.

The internet and the new "news" has made Americans insane or perhaps Americans have made the internet and news insane. Which came first? The deformed "chicken" and cracked "egg" are both born of intellectual inbreeding, starvation of thoughtful discourse, and rampant anti-intellectualism.

Decades of Americans "dumbing down" has finally swept us too far from the Greatest Generation who "saved the world from Hitler." When Mr. Trump himself calls a DECORATED veteran a "total wacko" at a rally, this should be a sign we need to wake up.

The broadcast completely failed to cover the portion of the story that wouldn't serve their agenda. Delegate Rupie Phillips has not yet been arrested or accused of cyberstalking or harassment, but I believe he could easily be served with a restraining order if his victim, Senator Richard Ojeda- or any women he has threatened- decide to pursue legal relief from the ongoing online harassment waged against them.

Pictured below: A grill with a "NOjeda" sign belonging to Phillips, which he posted.

I know Senator Ojeda's story, his history, and like all of us who grew up in the same small town in Logan County West Virginia, I've watched his dramatic slow but sure rise to Senator after he returned home after 24 years in active duty abroad.

His story is much like David and Goliath. He's the little guy and he's battling millionaires and crooks.

He's a coal miner's grandson, nephew, and brother-in-law. He led the teacher's strike in WV. He is outspoken and scares the hell out of BOTH sides of the fence because he cannot and will not be bought, as he has stated many times.

West Virginia, your miners are out of work, your women are sick, you have the least quality facilities for drug rehabs and poorest treatment for your mentally ill, and your people are the most addicted in the nation because of Big Pharma "and friends."

Who do you want in office? A man like Rupie Phillips with a domestic violence record who openly threatens women and his opponents with violence? 

Do you want Rupie’s friend Carol Miller in office? A millionaire who refuses to debate Ojeda? Who is PROUD to appear alongside a bully like Rupie?

WAKE UP, WEST VIRGINIA, for your own sake.

To learn more about the grassroots campaign of Senator Richard Ojeda or donate to his campaign, you can visit his page here

He needs your support because like you, HIS FRIENDS AREN’T MILLIONAIRES.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Interview with the Artist: Sassa Wilkes

Above Sassa Wilkes appears with two of her paintings
Photo Credit: Toril Lavendar

Sassa Wilkes is a 37-year-old artist, mother, and teacher living and working in her home state of West Virginia. She consistently shows her personal work in galleries, as well as working as a commissioned sculptor and painter in her home studio. 

Sassa is also active in her community as Vice President of the non-profit Barboursville Arts & Wellness Council and Program Director and teacher of its Gallery and Community Studio, /Māk/ Art. 

She is currently publishing a serial art novel called Qualia in weekly chapters leading up to an April 6, 2019 exhibition at Steptoe & Johnson in downtown Huntington. Her writing and other works can be found at

August 20, 2018
Interview by Andrea Fekete

ANDREA: I remember the first time I saw your name online, I wouldn’t know how to pronounce it until we finally met at your studio where you teach and create, in Barboursville, West Virginia. Your name is so striking and unique. For our readers who’ve not yet met you, can you tell us how to pronounce this beautiful name?

SASSA: Just exactly the way it’s pronounced in “Sassafrass.” Also, my mom thinks it’s funny to call me a "Sass-hole." That might be easier to remember.

ANDREA: What did your family and place of origin look like, if you don’t mind sharing. Many artists credit their upbringing and family (or lack of) as a big influence on their work. Is this true for you? In what way?

SASSA: Definitely true for me. I grew up in a pretty quiet little neighborhood called Williamsburg Colony, which is just a few minutes outside Barboursville. 

It used to be farmland, and when my sisters and I lived there we called it “the end of the world” because there’s only one way out unless you want to take the river. Almost every house on the street I lived on had kids around my age, and we grew up playing in the woods and making things

I lived with my dad, mom, and two sisters, and was gifted with another sister shortly before being old enough to move out. My parents and sisters are all very intelligent, creative people in their own ways, but I was mostly influenced artistically by my mother and grandmother. 

Neither were career artists, but both are insanely creative and applied it to everything- drawing, gardening, cooking, quilting. They both made everything around them more beautiful.

ANDREA: Tell us about Sassa. Where have you been and where are you now in your career as an artist?

SASSA: I feel like I’ve lived a lot of lives already as an artist. I have an educational background as a sculptor and art educator. I worked in a steel shop constructing a sculpture for the riverfront for a couple years. Taught fine art at Cabell Midland High School and “retired” a bit early after three years, as well as teaching studio art and art education here and there at Marshall University.

I’m also Program Director of /Māk/ Art Gallery & Community Studio, and I teach a few classes there and run the local Art Walk. My work in the gallery is very part time, and much of it is volunteer work that I’m fortunate and happy to be able to do. 

The majority of my time is spent painting, sculpting, and lately learning to sing and writing a serial novel. I’ve finally learned to embrace the fact that I will never be able to settle on one medium. I try to consistently show my work, and sales and commissions have been good enough to keep me doing it.

ANDREA: What is the role of MAK in the community? What projects and activities are currently happening or offered there?

SASSA: /Māk/ was started through the Barboursville Arts & Wellness Council, which I’m now Vice President of. We are a small, young non-profit with very little funding as of now, but we all have our hearts in it. The Council is responsible for the Community Gardens in Barboursville, as well as wellness programs in schools, and we have a really impressive Youth Council that has been receiving recognition for their work too.

I teach drawing and painting classes here and there and started an Art Walk in town last year that is going well. It’s the last Thursday of each month, except the super cold ones, and pairs local artists with businesses who host a show for them for the evening. 

We usually host a poetry reading or other literary event in the gallery afterward, and have been partnering with Alchemy Theatre Troupe and local musicians to host mini performances in different locations during the walk.

I’ve also been working with teachers of other forms of art to set up classes in the space. I’d really like for it to become a true community studio that can help incubate and share creative ideas of all types. We are just wrapping up a fiction writing course by local author Sheila Redling, which I am thrilled to be a student in. 

In October, Alchemy will be using the space for their production of Love, Loss, and What I Wore. I’m really excited to see what else we can do with it.

ANDREA: How did you begin your career as a visual artist? What was the first thing you remember creating in your life? Do you remember when you decided art was the direction for you?

SASSA: I’m sure the first thing I created was some hot mess of cardboard and duct tape. I was always making some strange structure when I was young, and though I didn’t see it as art then, I do now. I think art was always the direction for me, and I don’t really think it was a choice, though I do remember one period where I had to choose a path educationally and chose art. 

I was returning to college as a 28-year-old mother of a young child, and felt a lot of pressure to get it right and be able to provide for my son. I was torn between art and nursing and it was such a dilemma for me. Do what I love, or do what would guarantee me a job with decent pay.

Not only did I choose the scarier, less-guaranteed art path, but I majored in sculpture, an area that only had ten majors at the time. Right after graduating, that voice of fear and rationality re-emerged, and I immediately enrolled in a Masters program in art education so that I could pursue steady employment.  

I filled in after that for the Art Education professor at Marshall for a year, then taught at the high school for three years. I learned so much during that time that I don’t regret a minute of it, even though it wasn’t ultimately for me as a career path.

ANDREA: According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, women are paid less than male artists, three of the top museums in the world have never had female directors. Work by women artists makes up only 3–5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe, and 34% in Australian state museums. Of 590 major exhibitions by nearly 70 institutions in the U.S. from 2007–2013, only 27% were devoted to women artists. 

So, women are woefully underrepresented in the visual arts, just like in literature, film, and music. Do you have thoughts about these disparities? Their origin? Their future? And most importantly, the role, if any, they play in the career of emerging women artists?

SASSA: I first looked into statistics like these while teaching in public school - I did a lot of social justice projects with students. Together we learned a lot about the work of the Guerilla Girls, an anonymous group of female artists who are really good at bringing discrimination like this into the public eye. I had this image on my classroom door:

I remember feeling shocked by the numbers. I obviously knew sexism was alive and well in the world, but I think I was just naïve in thinking that art was a unique, open-minded field that wouldn’t suffer from the same issues. When I really got into figure drawing and painting, and began looking at contemporary artists in this category, I did notice that the huge majority of them were male. 

And I often felt torn as I admired their work. I’d love their palette choice and style, for example, but find the presentation of their female subject matter to be, I don’t know, icky. Like it didn’t feel to me to be honoring the subject as a complex human being, but had more of a “male gaze” thing to it. 

I think beauty can be appreciated and depicted in a ton of ways, but when a narrow depiction that feels a little like objectification is the norm, that’s upsetting to me.

I think the origin is like anything else, the same reasons sexism exists in any part of our world. I am hopeful for change, because I know that groups like the Guerilla Girls have done a lot to improve those statistics in recent years. 

There’s a part of me that feels angry that it has to come to women in gorilla masks taking time out of their studios to point out to the world that they’re here and hold museums accountable for underrepresenting female artists, but I mostly feel positive about it for the future and am truly thankful for what they’re doing.

Personally, I feel fortunate to not really have many instances of feeling discriminated against as an artist in that way. I am and have always been very aware of sexism, and have experienced it myself in a lot of ways. 

Below: Painting by Sassa Wilkes

"I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some arbitrary thing like gender decide for me what I can and can’t do with my life." 

I’m naturally drawn to a lot of things that are more often socially sanctioned “for men." I chose a male-dominated field in art school and was the only female welding in a steel shop full of men. I ride a motorcycle. I love construction, woodworking, and fixing things. 

It’s not that I’ve never felt uncomfortable or aware of the reality of those stereotypes, but my response to my own discomfort seems to be to run towards it and bring it all out into the light no matter how much it might make me squirm at first. And I think in some ways that if women go in full force and make no apologies for being there, people can adapt.

That’s not to say that I think women who do feel held back as artists due to gender just need to adjust their attitude or something. There’s not one easy fix for something rooted that deeply, but it is a place to start and is one thing that we do have control over now. 

I just feel lucky that the right  circumstances fell into place for me to feel comfortable challenging those ideals so that I can do what I want to do, and I’d definitely encourage other women artists to challenge them as well. 

Make no apologies and show up wherever you want to be. Place yourself there and know that you have a right to be there and assume that others will respect you for the good work you do, whether that is welding or embroidery or museum curation. If that all fails, then reassess and assemble some troops. 

But try that first, always, because it is true. It is really important to hold people and institutions accountable for gender discrimination, but I think its also important to make sure you’re not letting your expectations of being discriminated against keep you from going for what you really want.

ANDREA: Do you ever respond or react to these gender disparities in your work or in your teaching?

SASSA: I have made a point as a teacher, especially with young students, to talk about it and emphasize it in our work. I’ve always encouraged students to respond to their personal experiences in their own work, and I really enjoy using art as a vehicle for discussions like this with young men and women. I don’t see it as completely one-sided. 

It’s different for men, obviously, but issues like this affect everyone negatively. I’ve always tried to present it in a neutral way and then sit back and listen, or wait to see the responses in student artwork. Honestly, the attitudes of high-school-aged kids on subjects like these made me very hopeful for our future.

As of very recently, I am West Virginia’s Regional Coordinator for the Feminist Art Project. I’m excited to find ways to incorporate issues like this into the work I’m doing at /Māk/.

ANDREA: Do you believe these inequalities in the art world are felt by women artists in small towns or small cities like Huntington, WV?

SASSA: I think any inequality felt in the art world is felt by every artist, regardless of location or gender. The world is so much smaller than it used to be. I am inspired daily by artists I’ve never met all over the world.  When artists are underrepresented due to their gender, everyone is missing out on their influence.

ANDREA: What’s most surprising or beneficial as a working artist in a small college town and/or what about it is most difficult or challenging?

SASSA: I mostly see benefit to being a working artist in a place where that is less common. I really enjoy the opportunity to introduce people to art in ways they may not have ever experienced it, and I have a lot of opportunities here to do that.  

Most of the time I’d much rather have a conversation about art with a non-artist, or someone who would consider themselves “unqualified." I usually end up hearing a much different, more interesting perspective.

A lack of spaces dedicated to showing work could be seen as a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. The businesses I’ve worked with for Art Walk have been wonderfully accommodating and eager, and my next solo show is in a law firm full of some of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Neat people with blank walls are everywhere, you just have to look for them.

ANDREA: Do you believe your chances of success as an artist, both financially and critically, are impacted at all by your gender? The Appalachian region? Can you speak to this?

SASSA: Personally, no. My definition of success may differ from others, but I think I am the only person who can limit my chances at it. If I decide someday that my success is defined by whether or not I’m selling out a show in New York, I might feel differently, but I doubt it. For now I’d be thrilled selling a show out here in a non-traditional location full of interesting people, then going back home to an affordable place in the mountains. 

I’m sure some artists would disagree with my standards of success, and they are welcome to do that. I’ll be painting and writing and landscaping and hanging out with my family and my dog while they do. It’s all relative.

ANDREA: What artist or works to you recall falling in love with early in life? Who are biggest influences artistically now?

SASSA: I don’t recall falling in love with any artists early in life. I have always loved making things and drawing, and when I was younger I think I identified as an “artist” because it was the direction I felt pulled in. I had so much creative inspiration from my mom, but didn’t know of any working artists and didn’t grow up with the internet to introduce me to contemporary artists. So I guess I was just playing the part, trying to find my identity. 

I remember saying Mark Rothko was my favorite painter when I was young. I didn’t know shit about him, I just saw him in an art history book and thought it would be cool to like him. Now I find his work and life quite moving, so maybe I was predicting the future. I think when I was young I was pretending to be who I really am now.

The first artist I think I truly fell in love with was Kiki Smith. I loved her use of tons of different mediums, and the way she spoke about her work. Jenny Saville was a painter who always influenced me as well. Now I am constantly influenced now by contemporary artists. 

I keep a revolving list of my favorites and look at new work every day. I can’t get enough of it and have been known to stalk them via email until they respond. I’m currently obsessed with Daniel Sprick, who may be my favorite painter ever. 

I love the subtly surreal quality of his work, and I really love listening to his thoughts about it. I’ve listened to his documentaries so often while I work that I can quote them. Daniel, if you’re reading this, holla back.

ANDREA: I’m intrigued by your work that uses your own image. You create lots of self-portraits, both in paint and photography. Why self- portrait? What can you accomplish using self-portrait that you cannot in the same way using other models or means?

SASSA: I think art in its simplest terms is always a self-expression, so it feels natural to use my own image. My current work is very closely related to my personal life, and reflects changes that I am purposefully making within myself. Sometimes in those cases it doesn’t feel right to use an image of someone else. 

Most of the time, though, I have depicted myself out of convenience or necessity. I’ve always favored working with portraiture and the figure, and I’m the only one who is always available and willing. There is a very big difference in the way I look at myself in the mirror when I am observing for a drawing vs. when I’m getting ready to go somewhere or looking for any other reason. 

I have spent so long training my eye and mind to ignore everything but the shapes I see when I draw from life that it really doesn’t feel like I’m even looking at myself. I might as well be looking at a vase.

ANDREA: Who or what informs your work the most? Real life? Fantasy? An intersection of both? If yes, how do these interact and manifest?

SASSA: I think both, and they occasionally interact in pretty literal ways. I had one show called Before I Wake that was based on dreams and nightmares I have had, many of which were during episodes of sleep paralysis, which is something that I’ve experienced a handful of times in my life. It has always produced the most vivid, memorable dreams. 

In those cases, I was depicting ideas that I actually hallucinated while technically awake. It is a terrifying but incredibly interesting phenomenon. Otherwise, I have an extremely active imagination and am definitely putting it to good artistic use with my current work. I think it always at least starts growing from a seed of reality, though.

ANDREA: There is a focus on lights and glow in your exhibit Qualia. I LOVE it. It’s unlike anything I’ve personally seen. What’s behind this? You call it experimental sculpture. What makes it experimental, specifically?

SASSA: Thank you In my recent work, the light is definitely symbolic for a lot of things I’m not quite ready to share. I call it experimental because some of what I’m doing is definitely not the result of years of practicing a craft that I’ve perfected down to a step by step process. 

"It is literally me in my basement, allowing myself to act on playful impulses just to see what happens. Like, I wonder what interesting shadows might happen if I wrapped a person in LED tape."

Light and shadow are not innovative muses for a painter, but they are the most interesting physical quality to me in any representational art, especially in figure and portrait work. I think it is just my personality to push things as far as I can, so I’m testing the boundaries maybe. If I could light someone from the inside just to see what it would look like, I would….hmm.

ANDREA: Below is the image you use to advertise your upcoming show in Huntington, WV. Can you tell us about this engaging piece? Why is it used in the ad as opposed to another?

SASSA: The work I’m doing now is about finding the light. That can mean a lot of different things to different people, and it shows up in a lot of ways in my story and artwork. I think that’s all I feel ready to say about that at the moment 

ANDREA: Do you create every single day? Why? What’s its value? Drawbacks?

SASSA: I do, in one way or another. If I’m not painting, drawing, or writing, I am probably building some strange structure in my back yard or practicing some kind of music. I can’t help it. The value of a daily practice of a specific type (like a small daily painting) would be the increase in skill. 

Working often and quickly seems to be the best way to get better at anything for me. The drawback for me might be that I am interested in so many things that sometimes it is hard to prioritize and I can be easily distracted. 

But I’ve learned ways to deal with that, like making sure I create deadlines for myself that I know I won’t miss. The value of creating something every day in general is my life. I can’t imagine living otherwise.

ANDREA: I know you strive to work constantly. Do you find inspiration daily? If so, where or how? Is it “found” or can it be sought?

SASSA: I am inspired by everything and everyone I come in contact with in some way. There’s a definite myth, especially among newer students, that you have to have a good idea before you start. No you don’t, and you won’t get one if you sit around waiting to be struck by it. 

"If I’m feeling uninspired, it is very quickly remedied by doing something creative anyway. You have to show up."

ANDREA: What do you do with a piece that isn’t working? Is there a point in which you abandon the project? Is there even as such thing as “not working”?

SASSA: There are lots of things that don’t work, maybe even the majority of ideas the first time around. As I’ve gained years of practice it happens less and less but it is still pretty common. I’ve become a much more patient artist in the past couple years, and I usually work these problems out in the planning stages. 

I have many, many notebooks full of ideas that have never come to pass because they just weren’t working. It’s pretty cool how some ideas can resurface much later and work perfectly. Sometimes the issue isn’t an aesthetic one…sometimes it’s timing.

ANDREA: Does a “sense of place” inform your work at all? The descriptor “Appalachian” is really hot right now in visual art, literature, music. It’s everywhere. Do you own this label? Why or why not? What are your thoughts about this trend?

SASSA: I have never described myself as an Appalachian artist, though some of the places I spent time in and family 

I grew up with are as “Appalachian” as it gets. It’s not a term I don’t like or would resist, but I’ve never used it. It would maybe feel unnecessary for me to say, in the way that it would never occur to me to call myself a female artist. I think every experience I have ever had informs my work so I don’t know that I would even know to highlight place as something more.

I haven’t thought much about the term, though I have noticed people referencing it lately, and the popularity of depicting it in labels, t-shirts, etc. In general, my impression of that is that it seems to be a positive thing from what I can tell, though I honestly haven’t looked into it enough to really have an opinion. 

It is an interesting topic though. I’d love to hear what others think. I guess I might only feel the need to reference that in a larger context. Maybe I live in a bubble.

ANDREA: What was your last exhibit like in comparison to your upcoming?

SASSA: It was a comparative snooze festival. I am thrilled with how that body of work turned out, but my show in April is going to be bananas. I’m letting myself explore all kinds of new exciting things: projected sculptural animation, touch sensor activated works, immersive video installations, and performance, as well as interesting new approaches at more traditional painting. I’m so excited.

ANDREA: If your wildest, most sought for dreams came true as an artist, what would that look like?

SASSA: I think it would look a lot like what I’m doing right now. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.

ANDREA: How do you know when a piece is finished? Does a piece ever feel “finished”?

SASSA: I usually know when it was finished by looking back through the progress photos I took along the way. More often than not, it was finished several steps before I called it done. Knowing when to quite is something I’m always working on. I don’t remember who said it, but I heard someone say that it’s done when it’s 75% done. That’s probably pretty good advice.

ANDREA: As a novelist, I believe the story will tell itself to me, as if it has a life of its own. Is there a sense of your visual art speaking to you at all in that way? If so, how do you listen?

SASSA: Absolutely. Ideally, I am working with a very open-minded attitude and can pick up on unexpected shifts while I’m working that can spark new ideas. These can be really drastic, where a project takes on a completely new life, or super subtle. 

Even when painting a commissioned portrait that I know more or less what the basic outcome will be, when I’m paying attention I am surprised by little things like color mixing or mark making. I’ll notice something happen and let myself explore it awhile on purpose, and hopefully keep reigned in enough to finish it strongly either way. It’s really hard to “listen” to that when I’m stressed or over tired, or hungry. It’s good to be in a really healthy, calm state while I work.

ANDREA: Do you sometimes strongly dislike your own work? If so, what have you done or do you usually do with these pieces?

SASSA: Not really. When I’m dissatisfied with a piece it is not really about the work; I’m usually disappointed in myself for not working in the best way I know how. I’m practiced enough now to know that I can make things that are pretty good and will accurately convey an idea I have as long as I am patient and work in the right way. 

It took me a very, very long time to get there. I don’t like to waste time, so as painful a process as it has been for me, I have forced myself to become more disciplined about how I work from the start so I’m not spinning my wheels to only end up with something that isn’t right. 

If it’s not working, I take a break and do whatever I need to do to refocus before I come back, and then I can fix it. I am a very scattered, messy person by nature. When I first started painting it was a horrible struggling mess and I wasn’t sure what the outcome of any given session would be. I would just hope it was a good one. 

I think I’ve matured a lot in my process, though it is a constant work-in- progress. I’m cleaner and more organized, and I take the time to properly plan things. Relative to the amount of time I’ve been making art altogether, these are really new habits that have increased the level of my work enormously. I’m dedicated to improving my work habits even more, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to see what I’m making in a year.

Also, I don’t think I ever really “like” or love my own work, either. I don’t know if it is really possible to be affected that way by your own artwork; It’s more that I’m proud of myself for the successful execution of it. I think once I’m done with it it isn’t really about me anymore, but I do feel very genuinely happy when other people connect with it.

ANDREA: How do your larger exhibits come together? Accidental or planned? Do you create lots of pieces and wind up realizing you have enough for an exhibit or start out with an idea for an exhibit and work from there?

SASSA: I usually start with the exhibit date, because I need a deadline. I work very well once that is in place, and can organize my ideas into cohesive pieces and pace myself. Without a deadline, I’d be likely to get so absorbed in some random thing like building an outdoor movie theater that I’d look up ten months later and realize I haven’t made any money in awhile 

ANDREA: Do you believe art can be an act of resistance or protest? How?

SASSA: It feels to me like art in itself is an inherent act of resistance. It doesn’t make a lot of biological sense to train yourself to look at something hard enough to be able to accurately draw it, or to make up songs, or write a play. 
Sculpture by Sassa Wilkes

"I think creative people are actively resisting our position as animals who temporarily exist on a planet that is constantly recycling life. We want to feel something. We want to make something bigger than us.

In a more literal sense, I think because of its capacity to evoke strong emotion, art is the most effective form of protest.

ANDREA: I saw this image above and I really want to know more.  What’s going on in this photo?

SASSA: That is my son and I at a solo show I had at the Esther Allen Greer Museum. We were being ridiculous and pretending to make a very moody statement and take ourselves too seriously 

ANDREA: You’ve been posting writing lately. You post a chapter every week to an ongoing story. Tell us what you’re working on now and where we can read?

SASSA: I’m publishing a new chapter of a novel called Qualia every Sunday morning at 6 am. It can be found at I’m only three chapters in and it is already changing and taking turns I didn’t expect, so I am really excited to see where it ends up. 

It is a science fiction story, and is extremely symbolic of things in my life. I’m challenging myself with it in so many ways, one of which is that I am writing it as I go, so every new chapter didn’t exist until a week before its release. It is the ultimate deadline for me.

The prologue was written by the main character on April 6, 2038 (I will be 38 on April 6, the day of the show opening, which coincides with the release of the 38th chapter) and is a look back at the past 243 days, at the beginning of which she buries her nine year old son in the woods. 

Obviously, it is mostly metaphorical. I plan to publish it as an e-book, but it will probably never be printed due to having so much interactive content. It has music, images, and soon video embedded. I really want it to feel immersive, and the show opening will add so much for people who have been following along. 

You definitely do not have to have read the story to appreciate the opening as a standalone thing, but there will be really cool surprises there for people who have read it.

ANDREA: Online, you described this piece (above) as sculptural experimentation. It’s beautiful. What are we seeing here and how does this piece play into your upcoming show Qualia?

SASSA: This is a box I built out of mirrors and a series of LED lights. The gesture relates to an upcoming sculpture idea. I use photos as a way of sketching my ideas, so this one is similar to me jotting down a note. It’s me saying, remember what this looks like. I like this.

ANDREA: I love this image (above) so much for the colors, the expression, the possible symbolism. This is a photograph of yourself but what other mediums? Tell us about this.

SASSA: Similar to the box, this is a kind of sketch. I was wondering what it would look like for an image to appear as a kind of kaleidoscope, so I took the picture and used an app to duplicate it. It is just manipulated digital photography, but I really love the shape that happened in the center. I think a composition like this might make a neat painting, though I don’t know that it would be of me.

Photo Credit: Sassa Wilkes 

"I was mostly influenced artistically by my mother and grandmother. Neither were career artists, but both are insanely creative [...] drawing, gardening, cooking, quilting. They both made everything around them more beautiful."

ANDREA:What comes next for Sassa Wilkes the artist? The person? What can we expect next? And how can we best keep up with your work?

SASSA: Lord, who knows. I never would have guessed in a million years that I’d be tinkering with lights and touch sensors, or learning operatic singing. Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m excited to find out. You can always keep up with me by checking my website,

Photo Credit: Sassa Wilkes