Dade County And The Arts - The Artist Who Works With Instability

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - by Barbara Rosenthal

My work is a manifestation of my soul and psyche. Soul connects me to the universe, psyche to inner self: to DNA plus experience. The work connects me to you.

When ideas flash open, I write them into journals, and some force me to produce them. If they don’t like how I’m making them, they pilot me to change them (and, often, to spend a lot of money). Eventually, they let me know they are done with me, and finished, although with the caveat that they may return at any time for complete overhaul.

Then the next stage is that they nag to be described. And taunt me to show them around. And to guess what they mean.

Every step, daily life throws obstacles and horrors in my path. But, while tip-toeing through each grueling misadventure, sometimes a picture is captured, a phrase immaterializes, or another idea lights the way.

I don’t illustrate ideas, sociological discourse or political points. I let life assault me, and mix with memory of life and art and literature already in my brain in their own proportions. I release my mind to float and sink and swim through it at will. Sometimes it comes across a submarine that shoots an idea-torpedo from deep portions of brain to outer portions of mind and into my fingers, not letting me let go until I work it into something, even though I may not finish right away, and let it keep working itself out over time.

My art or writing dialogs with me, and tells me what to do. I don’t direct my work from the outside, I don’t force it to become something pre-envisioned. I don’t know where the torpedo will burst. I just look at the artwork or read my writing as it develops. When the picture wants to change, I change it. When the words change as I re-read, I retype. This can go on for a long time. I’m not in a hurry to finish. And I never produce works to anyone else’s call or expectation. I insist on keeping other agendas out of my head.

However, viewers and critics are important to me, eventually. Because my work comes from my subconscious, and is existential and identity-based (not the ethnic or social or time-related identity, but core-identity, human-identity), I believe it resonates with other humans willing to forego what they already think they know, and absorb just what I show them. Many people who see my work, often people unused to seeing lots of art, have stories from their own lives and ideas and dreams that my work releases for them. Many times they show me my own work in ways I never thought of! Critics often do this for me, too. I have been producing viable art for over 50 years, and critics have given me many insights into my meanings and my methods. One such early, defining comment was by Ellen Handy’s in Photography Quarterly, 1992, "An authority born of constant introspection characterizes her photographic meditations...and...[she] embraces chaos and uncertainty with a persistent grip upon the messy ephemerality of experience...." Another was by curator Martha Wilson, in 1983, when she noted that I use a “page as an alternative space,” by which she means an experimental, architectural performance space.

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Barbara Rosenthal is a NY artist and writer who works in performance, video, photography, prints, objects and  books. Her works explore identity. VSW Press published four of her image text-books. Her new novel, WISH FOR AMNESIA is just out from Deadly Chaps Press. She began by keeping Journals when she was eleven. She has been reviewed by the Village Voice, NY Times, and Flash Art International; taught Photography at Parsons/The New School, Video at Manhattanville College, Drawing at the State Univesity of NY, Writing at the City University of NY; and she writes art reviews for Ragazine.


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