Erica Jong – Navigating ‘Fear’ to Always say ‘Yes’ to the World

By Tommaso Cartia

Erica Jong
Erica Jong – Photo Credit Christian Als

The American novelist, satirist, poetess, and quintessential feminist icon Erica Jong opens the doors of her New York apartment to the Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On, Daniela Pavan and Tommaso Cartia, for an intimate conversation. The author reflects on her life’s journey, on being a woman in the #metoo times of today, on her creative process and the remarkable impact that her revolutionary masterpiece ‘Fear of Flying’ had and still has on women all over the world. Plus she opens up about her loving relationship with Italy and her latest poetry book: ‘The World Began with Yes.”

Stepping into somebody’s else home can be a surreal experience. Like discovering a virgin territory, entering a new dimension. A home is somehow a sanctuary of our own life, of our own inner being, filled with memorabilia tracking down our personal history, the blueprint of our existential journey. Can we recall what were the very first impressions of a place the very first time we stepped foot into it? I can certainly recall what I felt when I entered Mrs. Jong’s apartment in New York. Overwhelming is the geometry of this sensation; vivid vivaciousness is the colorful pattern of this sensation.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE HERE

As we stepped into the living room, you could immediately sense the density of a life intensely lived, of a writer who is a life’s traveler. A space exuberant with art and exquisite interior design taste – Jong’s mother, Eda Mirsky Mann, was a painter and a designer – artifacts from all over the world, and of course books, a bibliothèque of books, and a writing station that you would guess must be the altar where the ritual of storytelling is performed. 

Erica Jong
Erica Jong

The colors all over the room are bright, luminous and welcoming, and they match the richness of the red floral pattern that blooms on the blouse Mrs. Jong wears, and they match the warm embrace with which she invites us into her world. A poetical world of creativity, intellect, inquisitiveness, empowerment, wittiness, good humor and open-hearted humanity. The world of a dreamer who keeps on writing poetry because: “it keeps me in touch with the unconscious”. Let’s step into Erica Jong’s world together. Ready, set, imagine…

TOMMASO – Today we are going to explore with you what role Love & Erotism play in your narratives, poetical aesthetic, and emotional and intellectual journey as a writer who so fearlessly broke so many taboos that were imprisoning the expression of women, from the 70’s to our ‘times up’ times. Starting from the groundbreaking masterpiece “Fear of Flying”. How did the idea of the book come about?

ERICA JONG — People ask me that question all the time and I don’t really know. I know that I was keeping notebooks throughout my twenties, but I had no idea they would turn into a novel. Then, I went to this conference of psychoanalysts (because at that time I was married to one), and it was so funny and crazy that I thought: “this is the frame for the book; but the book has to go back and forward in time, it can’t just be in one time.” It’s a book about my whole life up to the age of 28 and looking at it, I never thought I would have found a way to tell the story. 

T — So the book is a reflection of yourself as a woman at that moment in time. But was it also inspired by different traits of an ideal woman? 

E — Both I would say. I was noticing that books were missing the interior life of a woman. That was the period where all the novels where about mad housewives. In the 60s/70s, women were just satisfied with their lives, but not knowing where to go. I came to hate these mad housewives’ novels because the end of every novel seemed all so similar to me. I wanted to talk about the interior life of a woman in a different way. 

DANIELA PAVAN — Have you always considered yourself a feminist or was that a label that has been attached to you? And how different it is to be a feminist in the #metoo era? 

E — I have been a feminist my whole life. My mother was a feminist, my grandmother was a feminist… I don’t think there was ever a time in my life when I thought that women were completely free to be themselves. It was always a motivation for me to write books about women in which they were both sexual and intellectual. Because in most books about women, either the woman is completely consumed with sexuality or she has no sexuality and she’s just an intellectual and I thought, “it isn’t true. We are both.” 

T — Did you have a perception of the impact that the book would have on women at the time you published it? 

E — I think that you can never imagine that the lightning will strike. Sometimes a book intersects with the time and it suddenly becomes a phenomenon. You can’t control that, and you’d be a terrible egotist to imagine it would happen to your book because it happens very rarely. I remember my American publisher saying: “we’ll publish 5000 copies and we’ll probably have to eat them.” Then, my paperback publisher which at that time had a woman in charge said: “I will not buy the book unless you agree to print 35000 copies, because this book is the story of my life and the story of every woman’s life.” She really enforced it. If the book had not come out in a time when there were women in charge of publishing houses, the whole thing would’ve been different.

Erica Jong – Photo Credit Gianni Franchellucci

The Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy wrote a very influential book where she says, “the Middle East needs a sexual revolution.” Who knows how soon it will come, but allowing women to have sexual desire has been a problem throughout history. I think that it has been because it’s much stronger than masculine sexuality, and people want to control and contain it. There have always been periods where women’s sexuality is alive and then inevitably goes backward.

D — In your opinion, how much is a woman really free to express her sexuality? And how much is she allowed to express her romantic side? Also, do you think that a woman can be driven by a strong male energy and vice versa? 

E — I certainly think a woman can be attracted to that kind of energy, but I wouldn’t call it male. I would call it energy. It takes different forms. There’s no doubt in my mind that sexual energy is related to creativity. As long as women were held down sexually, they’re also not allowed to express their creativity. The two are connected. 

T — Allowing your body and feelings to be naked, exposed and unleashed, can be paralyzing. In March, with Creative Pois-On we are also covering the storytelling of the stage, and we are thinking about this concept that ‘stage fright’ is actually something that we experience on and off a stage when we have to be under the spotlight of our own both professional and personal life. How did you explore the themes of fear and change in your writing?

E — When I’m writing I always tell myself that no one is going to read it and that it’s just for me. When I have to send the book out to my agent and to my publisher, I feel terrified. Always. There’s a moment where I just don’t want to do it. I experience that with every book. I force myself and I’m always sure that nobody will like it. 

D — In the book, Fear of Dying your character experiences the death of her parents and she’s losing her husband too. What advice would you give to women who, in situations of change and dramatic events, think that they are not strong enough to face it? 

E — Life is change. As all the Buddhists say we try to keep life still, but we can’t. Nothing is permanent. We have to accept that and it’s really hard. I’ve just been reading this book by Pema Chödrön “The Buddhist’s Nun”, where she reflects on how to deal with the uncomfortable of life. She says that we fight against change, but change is the nature of life. We are never going to be able to stop change. If we think we can, we’re deluding ourselves. Even when you think things are settled, they’re never settled. I would hope that my books give women (and men) courage. That’s my deepest wish. 

T — Talking about women’s portrayal in contemporary fiction, movies , and TV. Where do you think that the imagery of the woman is going, and what is your take on a phenomenon like The Handmaid’s Tale, the TV show based on Margaret Atwood’s novel? 

Erica Jong

E — Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale 40 years ago. I remember going to the first movie that was made of it because she was somebody I knew, we were poets together and we wrote first novels around the same time. The book starts with the fear that human beings will not be able to reproduce because the planet is dying, which we’re very aware of now. That was really the starting point for the book. We’re still dealing with that — people are afraid of having children in a world where the planet, the animals and the plants are dying. She saw very early what was going on. But it was only the tv-series that made the book so known worldwide. 

D — To stay in the lines of pop culture and current social phenomenon, I’m curious to ask you, what do you think about dating nowadays and the use of the dating apps?

E — I can’t imagine going to Tinder and swiping through faces and profiles. People lie about their age, their pictures. It doesn’t seem like a great idea to me, but I know about a lot of people that have met that way. Every time I’ve been single, dating had changed. 

T — As you may know, we are both Italians, so we can’t miss the chance to ask you about your relationship with Italy and Italian literature. What did it mean to you to win the Fernanda Pivano award and how was it meeting the great Umberto Eco

E — Nanda was lovely to me she took care of me like a mommy almost. One time, when I was going to the Maurizio Costanzo Show, (a popular Italian talk show Ed.) at that time she thought that Maurizio was a bit of a sexist and so she said: “I’m not letting Erica go without me on the show ”. She came to defend me. She was very tender and sweet and every time I was in Italy, I would visit her. I met Umberto Eco here at the Italian Cultural Institute. I was asked to introduce him when his The Name of the Rose came out. We were supposed to have a dialogue, but Umberto, practically, would not let me talk. He just talked over me. I’ve met him a few times, including Stefano his son ( I find him so nice). Umberto was an old-fashioned Italian, with a patriarchal mentality. 

Erica Jong and Fernanda Pivano at the ‘Fernanda Pivano Award’

Why do I love Italy? Italy is the one country in the world where you have permission to be human. You have permission to make mistakes, to laugh at yourself, to fail and recover. What I like about the Italian character is that you’re allowed to be a human being. Americans are so obsessed with success — we’re so afraid of failure and in Italy there’s some kind of humor about people. Not that Italian people aren’t neurotic, but the idea that you’re going to make mistakes, you’re not going to perfect all the time, that’s very deep and in the Italian character. I love that! 

In my Italian language course, we had to read Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio. It’s really a book about failure and success, it is so profound. And really, what is Pinocchio’s problem? I want to be a human being. I don’t want to be a puppet. And be able to laugh at yourself. That’s deep in the Italian character. How can you go through life if you can’t laugh at yourself? 

D — What relationship do you have with your imagination? 

E — I’m a big dreamer. I continue to write poetry because it keeps me in touch with the unconscious. I’m very proud that my latest book The World Began with Yes, is published in Italian as well with the title “Il Mondo è Cominciato Con Un Si”, by the Publisher Bompiani, translated by Giovanna Granato with a foreword by Bianca Pitzorno

Italian Book Cover by Bompiani

In this book a wrote a poem that reads (she recites):

The World Began With Yes
One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born – Clarice Lispector

It was always yes, sì, da, yah
The sibilant sound of assent,
The slippery tongue in the mouth
Of the lover, the da dawning.
The yah yelling,
The sì, sì, sì, sugary & sweet…

It is so nice that I got them to do a two languages edition. If you read poems aloud to yourself, it’s so much easier to understand. I’ve always felt that the voice gives life to the poetry. 

T — Talking about reading poems aloud, you do a lot of public speaking, so how do you use your voice and how does your communication change when you are on stage? 

E — I’ve become very comfortable speaking in public. Sometimes I get up on stage with no notes at all and just talk, but it took a long time to get there. Occasionally, I would do that in Italy, but I feel that my Italian is not literary enough. I love the Italian language. First of all, it’s a language for poetry and opera because there are so many rhymes. My very favorite is Don Giovanni. Some of my books I put Don Giovanni and listen to it while writing. 

D — I’d like to know what you think about podcasting? 

E — People go around with their headsets and experience you through your voice. I think it’s a very interesting medium. 

T — Coming towards the end of our conversation, I really want to thank you for the kind generosity with which you shared your story. So now what’s next for you after the publishing of ‘The World Began with Yes? 

E — I’ve just written an autobiography called “Selfie”. It’s like a self-portrait. 

About ‘The World Began with Yes’ – Il mondo è cominciato con un sì

Erica Jong has never stopped writing poetry. It was her first love and it has provided inspiration for all her other books. In a dark time, she celebrates life. Her title comes from the Brazilian genius Clarice Lispector who was deeply in love with life despite many tragedies. Life challenges us to celebrate even when our very existence is threatened. Never have we needed poetry more. Jong believes that the poet sees the world in a grain of sand and eternity in a wildflower—as Blake wrote. Her work has always stressed the importance of the lives of women, women’s creativity, and self-confidence. She sees her role as a writer as inspiring future poets to come. 

For more info on Erica Jong please click here: www.ericajong.com

Photographer Reka Nyari – #MyBodyBelongsToMe

Geisha Ink
Ginzilla in ‘Geisha Ink’ by Reka Nyari

Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On Tommaso Cartia and Daniela Pavan interview the Master of visual storytelling at the Black Book Gallery, New York, on the occasion of the artist’s ‘INK Stories’ exhibition. In the month dedicated to the storytelling of Love & Erotism, Creative Pois-On embarks in a voluptuous journey with this sensorial conversation where the photographer shares her aesthetic and narratives surrounding gender and sexuality in refreshingly unapologetic ways.

When asked about her creative process, and the subjects that she captures on camera, Reka Nyari has stated, “I want to find out the darkness and the edge behind that person.” The central theme of Nyari’s storytelling finds its completion in the ‘INK’ series: an intimate study of self-identity and female empowerment through nude portraiture.

Reka Nyari
Reka Nyari

Her vision and her visuals turned her into a worldwide known phenomenon. She is the recipient and the winner of many prestigious awards, including first place at the International Photography Awards (IPA) 2010, Beauty Pro Category. Her 225-page Monograph titled “Femme Fatale: Female Erotic Photography” has been published in 6 languages. And her commercial client list includes names like Kiki de Montparnasse, Fleur du Male, RADO Switzerland, AOL, Liz Claiborne, Makeup Forever, DC Comics, Sally Hansen and Ultra Records. She appeared in various magazines like Esquire, Vanity Fair, Tatler, Korean Cosmopolitan, and Vogue. Outspoken and elegant, poignant, eversive but also embracing, inclusive and motherly, Reka’s spirit embodies the most ancestral powers of the archetypical female figures but she is also very current, a woman of her times. Proof of that is the #MyBodyBelongsToMe campaign that outraged the social media and the predominantly patriarchal society with its raw message: “I shot over 60 women from all backgrounds, ages, and sizes to protest control over the female bodies. It made the news all over the world as a commentary to Facebook censorship.”

Find out more in this interview where the artist opens her heart and unleashes her passions withing to our Artistic Directors.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE HERE

Daniela Pavan — I would like to start by asking you. What does love mean, to you? Do you have an image, a photograph of it?

Reka Nyari — The first thing I think about is my family, my amazing husband of fifteen years, who is super sweet and supportive and then our four-year-old daughter. I love them very much and it fills my heart with happiness when I think of them. 

Tommaso Cartia — Your nudes are some stunningly beautiful works of art. What do you think the storytelling of nudity is? What is nudity for you?

R — I think that when we are naked, whether being photographed or otherwise, we’re in a more vulnerable position, a truthful one. How we carry ourselves and how we even look around ourselves, our gestures, our gaze, even the way we walk speaks so much about us and our experiences. Both sometimes in negative and positive contexts. Once you remove the fashion, the outfits, the make-up, the photos become more lasting and timeless, they become us. 

Levitate, Reka Nyari.
Blooming Ink by Reka Nyari.

T — I’m very fascinated by your series of nudes entitled “INK”. “Geisha Ink”, “Valkyrie Ink”, “Mother Ink”, “Reaper Ink” and “Blooming Ink”. They tell stories of different types of women, stories of abuse and survival, of death and resurgence. Why did you choose ink as a pictorial element on their bodies, is that like a brush that writes and marks on their skins both the struggles and the romance of their existence? 

R — When I first started shooting women, I was fascinated and amazed by the resilience and the narrative that they had and I wanted to tell their stories to the world. For example, the first woman that I shot, Ginzilla, when I got to know her I’ve found out that she had grown up in a very traditional Japanese family of an uncompromisingly strict conservative-values, where her mother was very controlling and she wasn’t allowed to do any of the things a teenage girl normally does. So… She rebelled and started dating a tattoo artist. And after her first tattoo, she covered her entire body with tattoos designed by her but done by her lovers. It’s her love story, written on her body and at the time of the shoot her family still had no idea that she had any tattoos. It was this quiet rebellion, marked on her skin.

Reka Nyari
Reaper Ink by Reka Nyari.

D — You once said: “Female sexuality is the most powerful thing in the world.” Why do you think that so many people are ashamed or scared of it? And what difference do you see, if you see a difference, between the concepts of beauty, sexuality and vulnerability?

R — I think it’s all about control. I think we can see it from all different societies and religions that are focused on controlling female sexuality and sexuality in general. You can be beautiful, sexual and vulnerable and all of those things separately. I think it’s also important for women to claim back their own sexuality and nudity. The more we normalize it, the more power it has. We should not shame our bodies and we should not let anybody shame them. 

Reka Nyari.
Reka Nyari.

D — You recently published on your Instagram account a series of pictures you took for the #MyBodyBelongsToMe campaign that is still super relevant today! You shot over 60 women from all backgrounds, ages, and sizes to protest against the control over the female bodies. Also, you made headlines all over the world because this campaign was censored on Facebook. What can you tell us about it?

R — I was inspired by a young Tunisian woman called Amina Tyler. She did some self-portraits that she put on social media with her nipples out. Then, she received death threats and had to escape her family. Women from all over the world started posting pictures of themselves to support her. stating things like: “if you’re going to kill her, you might as well kill all of us.” I figured we could have done something about it in New York and a lot of women came forward. For me, nudity is not a big issue, but so many women in New York were posing for the first time naked or topless and it was this empowering moment of saying “I’m not ashamed of my breasts, even if my kid’s teacher sees this.”

#mybodybelongstome
#MyBodyBelongsToMe Campaign

D — Let’s tell a little bit of your story. You were born in Helsinki and you grew up between Finland and Hungary, then you moved to New York in your late teenage years to study at the SVA – School of Visual Art. If you can think of two photographs, what’s the portrait of your hometown and your roots that you carry within yourself and what’s your snapshot in time of New York City?

R — When I was growing up I was actually really shy and withdrawn. I was always an artist, but I felt like I was a little bit lost, I was a tomboy. I don’t know what photographs would really describe me… Maybe something that has a feeling of isolation like in the Nude York series of mine. Being alone in the city and finding yourself and your way.

Reka Nyari
Valkyrie Ink by Reka Nyari

D — How did these two different environments inspire the artist that you are today? And what’s the inspiration behind your Nude York series?

R — I think that everybody has different sides of their personality. I have a side that is very introverted and quiet and I like to work on all these concepts by myself and I also have a dark quality that I think that it comes from growing up in Finland, which can be a country with a very melancholic atmosphere. I’m really attracted to darkness, but then I’m also super social. That’s also what I like about photography, I get to meet and work with amazing people and build something together, it’s not just me in my room by myself creating. I think photography is something that binds these two aspects: introverted and social. 

T — Your artistic expression is also inspired by the cinematography and the eccentric narratives of directors like Roman Polanski, David Lynch, as well as by the art of Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Miles Aldridge, and, Cindy Sherman, to name a few. How did these artists influence your own narrative?

R — One thing they all have in common is that they’re storytellers. I always felt that I was a storyteller even when I went to art school and I was studying painting, I felt like I was more of an illustrator. I didn’t want to do just the finished piece, I wanted to tell the story behind it and tell the process and the essence of the person. Also, I love that darkness, that weirdness, and the edginess that all of the artists and the directors you’ve mentioned have.

Reka Nyari
Mother Ink by Reka Nyari

D — Among your many accomplishments, it is remarkable the work that you have been doing with the Human Rights Foundation for years, shooting portraits of some of the most courageous activists in the World. What can you tell us about this significant project?

R — I’ve been working with the Human Rights Foundation for years and just loved meeting women’s’ activists that are fighting throughout the world for child rights, females empowerment and all kind of different issues. It has been an amazing process to give back to this community with my photography, shooting people who maybe never had a photograph taken before but it was a great way for them to have their voices heard. 

D — You are also a mom. How did motherhood affect your work and perspective in life?

R — I was so worried when I got pregnant because I have always worked for myself and I’m an artist. I think a lot of women are worried that a child could still their identity. But it has actually made me a better person. I feel more grounded, having my daughter made me focus on my work even more. I started looking at my reel and I was like, “who do I want to be as a role model for my daughter? What kind of things do I want to do, do I want to embody and portray?”

T — What are your upcoming projects?

R — The show at the Blackbook Gallery is going to be up until March 15th, they extended it. Then, I have a big solo exhibition at the Framing Gallery in Chelsea in September and October and then a book coming out of the whole series. 

T — If you can leave us with an image of the woman of the future, a photograph, what that would be? 

R — The image that I really would love to see is of more women in power, united with men of course. More images of equality and acceptance.

Interview with Refik Anadol – A.I. and Machine Hallucination: The Fourth Version Of Imagination

Refik Anadol
Processed with VSCO with 1 preset

Few people in the world can say that they’ve seen it all. Refik Anadol has done much more than that: he has created more. His body of work locates creativity at the intersection of humans and the machines. Media Artist, Director, and Pioneer in the aesthetic of artificial intelligence, Anadol paints with a thinking brush, offering the radical visualizations of our digitized memories, along with expanding new possibilities of architecture, narrative and the body in motion. In this interview, Anadol not only pleases us in describing the creativity and passion behind his work but also enriches the conversation by making spiritual connections to what it means to be a human being.

As Anadol correctly states “when thinking about time-space and past-future, I believe that our physical sensors have incredible potential.” This is exactly what Anadol’s body of work challenges every day: the possibilities and the ubiquitous computing imposed on humankind and what it means to be a human in the age of Artificial Intelligence. One of Anadol’s most groundbreaking creation is for sure Machine Hallucination, where the artist has used 300 million publicly available images of New York City. For the WDCH Dreams exhibition instead, he accessed 100 years of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s digital archives. In Oakland’s Sense of Place, he worked with real-time environmental data; and for the Charlotte Airport’s Interconnected project, he utilized real-time airport statistics. Refik is the recipient of a great variety of awards including the Lorenzo Il Magnifico Lifetime Achievement Award for New Media Art, the Microsoft Research’s Best Vision Award, German Design Award, UCLA Art + Architecture Moss Award, University of California Institute for Research in the Arts Award, SEGD Global Design Awards, and Google’s Artists and Machine Intelligence Artist Residency Award.

Listen to the Creative Interview Episode Here.

Refik Anadol joins Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On, Tommaso Cartia and Daniela Pavan, for an intimate conversation where human nature is explored, along with its infinite possibilities and potentialities. Ready, set and imagine with this soulful artist gifted with an extraordinary ability to channel the world surrounding us into dreamy stories sparked with the power of our own imagination.

Tommaso – How did your unique art research start and when did art become such a fundamental part of your life?

Refik Anadol – I think I started my journey very at eight years old when I watched the movie Bladerunner — that movie changed my life. The same year I’ve got my first computer and that was also a very changing experience. I was always dreaming about the near future. I transformed my imagination into a form of art.

Refik Anadol
Refik Anadol in his studio

Daniela – How do you create these very intricated installations?

R – I’m obsessed with data, light, algorithms and recent A.I. intelligence. Eight years ago, I discovered the VVVV software. Without writing a code, you can connect notes and create a meaningful software algorithmic logic to pretty much anything: the sound, the text, the visual, the data eventually.

T — Is it something that is now in development? 

R — It’s been more than fifteen years actually. They mostly use it in Germany, but it’s now all over the world. I’ve been using it for ten years now.

T — You put all of this into Machine Hallucination that it’s now on display at the ARTECHOUSE in NYC. Can you tell us more about it? 

R — I’m very inspired by how we as humans can perceive things and create a memory and dream with that. With A.I., we can now experience this feeling like a narrative, as a new form of cinema. I use mounting memories, adopting the A.I. to visualize our memories, particularly the actual moment of remembering.  I’m trying to combine A.I., neuroscience, and architecture to produce the hallucination of buildings and environments transforming in space and time. I want to display the memory of a building. I think it’s an incredible story and narrative that can inspire and create new ways of imagination. Machine hallucination is the fourth version of this imagination. 

ARTECHOUSE NYC | Machine Hallucination • Artist Insight: Refik Anadol

D Art is a way to tell stories, data and numbers are a way to justify decisions – creativity meets logic… it’s like when the impossible becomes possible. How do you build this bridge?

I’m thinking about these experiences as a cinema, instead of just sculptures or paintings. Memory in the 21st century is also data – our likes, shares and comments, the technology we’re using every day, is a form of memory. This is one of the reasons why this project is letting audiences being inside the story by immersing themselves in it. You’re stepping inside of the machine. It’s not fake and the feeling of stepping inside is honest, is real.

T – It seems to me that your work, speaks, profoundly, about the individuality of the human being and of the universe we live in. When you talk about dreams and hallucinations, are you thinking in a scientific way or a spiritual one? And, how do you personally approach the mystery of the unknown?

R – If you think about memories and dreams, there’s the human soul. And emotions are much more complicated cognitive capacities of the human perception. Spirituality comes from the perception of time. The artwork should be communicated through different emotional impacts. We are surrounded by these machines and constantly moving by algorithms. The big question is, what does it truly mean to be a human in the 21st century? I think that the answer lies in the spiritual connection between humanity and technology.

WDCH Dreams
WDCH Dreams by Refik Anadol

T — What kind of response you got from the audience that really inspires you to progress with your research?

R — In the last three years, I think I’ve touched people in different ways. I’ve emotionally reached people that later sent me some very personal messages. I remember that one time somebody spent 5 hours in the Machine Hallucination exhibit, technically is a half an hour experience. In another installation of mine, Melting Memories, people experience such transformative feelings that they can stay in for three hours, and they don’t want to leave.

For more info on Refik Anadol please visit: www.refikanadol.com

Actress Wendy Makkena and the Perks of Being a Full-Rounded Interpreter

Wendy Makkena
Wendy Makkena and Chris Cooper in ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’

The actress, musician, dancer and entrepreneur who stars in the Oscar-buzzed seasonal sensation A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, directed by Marielle Heller and starring Tom Hanks, Matthew RhysChris Cooper and Susan Kelechi Watson – recounts her long and articulated career started with her stellar debut in the iconic Sister Act 1&2 alongside Whoopi Goldberg.

by Tommaso Cartia

Like stepping into a light and kind field of energy, that was the instant sensation I felt when I met Wendy Makkena at the Sony Square Headquarters in N.Y.C. for a conversation that revealed surprising epiphanies: “Quantum Physics has proved that even the smallest particle has their fielded energy and they react to the field of energy of the person observing them,” the actress told me when asked about the impact of feel-good movies like Sister Act or A Beautiful Day where she has been cast. “If you take that and you apply it to what are we attracted to, is going to come back to us. The universe mirrors.” And you immediately realize that there is definitely much more in her to explore than the lovely screen presence with which Makkena graced us since her debut with the shy, good-hearted Sister Mary Robert in the Sister Act’s extravaganza.

Our ‘Creative Being Interview’with Wendy Makkena
Wendy Makkena
Wendy Makkena

She is an interpreter – as she likes to define herself – and it is so refreshing to hear that in an entertainment world filled today with influencers-wannabe divas. “My first intuition is that I really think that there is a common thread in any creative endeavor. When I play the harp, I interpret someone’s else music, when I’m acting, I’m interpreting someone’s else words. Even as an entrepreneur creating a recipe, I feel like I’m interpreting something, putting my acting skills into practice for marketing purposes.” And that’s probably the secret of her long-lasting career in the ever-changing entertainment industry. Makkena’s versatile talent brought her to perform in successful Tony Award-Winning Broadway shows; she is also a classically trained Juilliard harpist performing at Carnegie Hall; and a dancer who spent six years with Balanchine’s New York City Ballet. After a hiatus, her “long, dark winter,” the performer is back in full shape with the daring role of Dorothy in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, as well as many interesting upcoming projects, and as an entrepreneur – she is the founder and the creator of the successful start-up “Ruby’s Rockets” frozen fruit and veggie pops.

Listen to the podcast above and read the interview below to explore more about Wendy Makkena’s creative endeavors.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Wendy Makkena at ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ premiere

I want to start by asking you: how did you feel to be a part of A Beautiful Day, acting alongside a master like Tom Hanks, an all-round incredibly talented cast, and directed by the exquisitely talented Marielle Heller?

“I’m so glad you said exquisite director Marielle Heller, because I can’t say enough about working with her and about her movies that I watched preparing for this role. She was an actress and a writer before becoming a director, I didn’t know that before, which makes her even better qualified. I think she definitely deserves an Oscar. The greatest accomplishment for me in this movie was basically not fainting when I walked in the room on my first day on set! It was with Marielle Heller, Chris Cooper, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson. Tom Hanks was not there that first day, but still, I was petrified! It was the family scene when the character played by Rhys meets my character, Dorothy, someone who he hates because she is the new woman in his father’s life. I felt nervous, but I also thought, well this must be how the character feels in this scene, so I stepped into the role.”

The movie is based on the beloved TV personality Mr. Rogers, where you familiar with him and his show?

I was familiar with Mr. Rogers growing up, but I didn’t watch it when I was a kid. But when my daughter was little, I wanted her to watch things that were fast cutting, so she watched the Teletubbies and she watched Mr. Rogers. And I started getting sucked in when I was doing house works and I would think ‘oh here is Mr. Rogers, he is kind of a character’. And I realized, as I’m into the mindfulness philosophy, that he was really present for these kids, he was holding a presence, it wasn’t just about entertaining the kids. Little that I know, cut to 20 year later I’m in a film about him.

This movie kind of reminded me of Sister Act, and of those feel-good movies that specifically in the ’90s were proposing these very good role models for a new generation. I believe that there is a tendency with the movie industry today to equate box-office success with very dark, violent, superhero subjects. How do you think that those light-hearted movies, like the Mr. Rogers’s show was for kids, are still important for us to experience and to reach that sort of cathartic release of our own day-to-day struggles?

Well, I think that we have noise pollution, air pollution, but we also have mind pollution. I feel like our souls are wilting a little bit anytime we see another night of CNN, another night of FOX, it’s the 24 hours news cycle. How dark can we get, how sexual? It feels like everybody in entertainment is competing against each other to be as extreme as possible. I feel like I’m polluting my mind. There is such a thing as vibrations and a law of attraction; quantum physics proved it. Through an electro-magnetic microscope, scientists videotaped the tiniest particles to see how they change depending on who is viewing them. They do change, drastically, and they can even completely disappear. They have a fielded energy, they react to the field of energy of the person observing them. If you take that and apply it to what we are attracted to, it is going to come back to us. If we are attracted to negativity, it will come back to us. It is the time for us to sit back as a group, as humans. If you smile and laugh it changes your brain chemistry, let’s just look at science!

Based on this, what are you taking away from the feel-good vibrational experience of working in A Beautiful Day?

Before I did the film, I had what my agent calls a long dark winter. There were some personal things that were troubling in my family, my mom passed away, so I took a step back for a couple of years. When I came back, I was a different age, I was in a different city and I was feeling just, exhausted. But God Bless Avy Kaufman, who is the casting agent of this movie, who loves my work and she brought me in for a part I’m not usually cast for. So, what I feel is gratitude, gratitude. I mean, I’m in a room with Tom Hanks, all I can think is, gratitude.

How does it feel to be a part of the American cinema history with Sister Act, and how was working with Whoopi Goldberg?

It is such an iconic film, internationally, and again this speaks of how good people can feel when they watch a movie like that. Also, it speaks to 5 years old to 90 years old, like Mr. Rogers does. When you start a project you never know how it will go. It is a movie about singing nuns, so we were worried if we were going to be made fun of, or would the material be disrespectful? But no, when we first saw the first screening, we had chills, we were crying, and we knew this was something great. First of all, it was super fun, but it was really Whoopi who made it special, because of course it all comes from the head, and she has a such a generosity of spirit. I knew I would have learnt so much from her. She was protective to all of us, it didn’t matter who you are, everybody was important for her, across the board, and I thought, that’s who I would like to be if I were her, that was my big first role. I was a theater actress at that time, and I was scared of being maybe too big, theatrically, on screen, or I thought, “Am I going to be able to lip-sync?”

Whoopi Goldberg
Wendy Makkena and Whoopi Goldberg on the set of Sister Act

There were parts that I would sing on my own and actually I auditioned for the part with my own voice. And this is the first time that I’m sharing this. When I got the job, they wished I could sing but I couldn’t, but they still wanted me, and they were busy trying to find someone who could sing my voice. I was feeling so comfortable in the room doing rehearsal, that Marc Shaiman’s (the musical director Ed.), assistant said, “Wait a minute, everybody stop! Wendy why didn’t you sing like that when you auditioned! We could have gotten you ready to sing for the role in three months.” So a matter a fact, they got me into a limo, into Hollywood, and into a sound studio and asked me, “What do you need to sing the way you just sang in that room?” I said, “Give me a bottle of red wine and I don’t want anybody to see me while I’m singing!’ So that’s how they decided to mix me with the singer–they still needed a singer because my high notes were still a little tight, but they got me to sing live during the takes. So, the amazing Andrea Robinson sings the parts of Sister Mary Robert, but she is overlapped with my own voice.”

Being that you are an actress, and also a musician, dancer and entrepreneur, how it is for you to navigate through these different mediums and art expressions?

My first intuition is that I really think that there is a common thread in any creative endeavor. I’m an interpreter, when I play the harp, I interpret someone’s else music, when I’m acting, I’m interpreting someone’s else words. Even as an entrepreneur creating a recipe. I thought to take a very cool smoothie and turn it into a vegetables and fruits’ popsicle mood so that kids can have a popsicle breakfast, they don’t know what’s inside, there is no sugar in it, just fruits and vegetables and it is probiotic. To me, there is a creative engine somewhere, and I used my acting skills in a huge way to put these popsicles on to the shelves. You have to be convincing, like when I’m on the phone, I know how to pitch my voice up to sound a little younger which makes people more willing to help you more, it’s a marketing strategy. Everything is interrelated. 

What are some of your next new projects that you can share with us?

I just wrapped a wonderful movie called Spiked, a true story about a group of Mexican miners in Arizona who are being racially profiled. It was a big news story in 2005. Juan Martinez Vera, the director, got a hold of the story. The movie stars Aidan Quinn, who plays a journalist, a newspaper owner, and I play his challenging wife, a very different role from the ones we just talked about. She is bipolar, hypersexual and an alcoholic. 

Read our review of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
HERE

Creative Being with Tommaso – DANCEmber 2019

December 2019

What is a movie, if not a continuum of frames, images in movement? Our Artistic Director Tommaso Cartia discusses the Dance & Movement theme in our DANCEmber series, bringing it to the world of movies, with Actress, Writer, Producer and Activist Pooya Mohseni – our host of the month.

Among the topics, a case-study of the images of sound and the sounds of images in the film medium, with an analysis of Lars Von Trier’s atypical musical, Dancer in the Dark, starring Björk; and a review of one of the movies of this Holidays season – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood directed by Marielle Heller and starring Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper and Wendy Makkena. Stay creatively tune for our exclusive interview with Makkena coming up next this Friday. Ready, set, imagine!

Creative Bridge with Daniela – DANCEmber 2019

Elyssa Dole
Dancer and Manager Elyssa Dole

Apparently, dancing and business are two very unrelated topics. But, as you know, our goal here at Creative Pois-On is to dismiss the misconception that creativity belongs exclusively to those who work in artistic fields. Listen to this episode to explore more about this topic with our Artistic Director Daniela Pavan and our Special Host of the month of DANCEmber, Actress Pooya Mohseni.

Daniela Pavan

Let’s take for example the book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, by Ballet Choreographer Twyla Tharp. In that book she describes creativity as “the product of preparation and effort,” and she continues by saying that “it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it.” It seems that people in creative fields work in a sort of continuous cycle of inquiry and action that identifies a goal, to then design and create new ways to reach that goal.

pooya mohseni

A theater director does this for actors, a choreographer with dancers, but if we transfer this mindset in an office this is also what project managers do for example while leading their team to build and market new products. Also, i is very interesting the point of view of dancer and manager Elyssa Dole who, in an article published a few weeks ago, wrote that: “the creative process also includes logistics of execution and a way to value and assess what’s in front of you. Maybe that’s why ballet choreographer George Balanchine compared his work to that of a carpenter.”

Creative Briefing – Our DANCEmber 2019

December 2019

We welcome the Creative Pois-ON DANCE-mber dedicated to the themes of Dance and Movement as keys to re-awake creativity. We also welcome our brand-new host for the month, the uber-talented Actor, Writer, Filmmaker, and Activist  Pooya Mohseni; and we are also debuting a brand new track for our episodes’ intro and outro by Internationally renowned Sing-Songwriter and Fashion Designer Alessandra Salerno

December in New York means sumptuous Christmas trees, lights everywhere, holiday markets. It also means ice skating at Rockefeller Center or in Central Park, staring at the glamorous and luxurious windows along Fifth Avenue, keeping a cup filled with hot chocolate to warm you!
And of course, see The Nutcracker, which is a classic holiday experience for New Yorkers, and also for those who moved here or are just visiting. An enchanting show combining dreaming dancing, sparkling costumes, and outstanding visual effects – all wrapped in Tchaikovsky’s sensational music, a production performed annually by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center that is must-see.

Inspired by the magic of The Nutcracker and by the whimsical dance of lights with which the Holiday season gently swings us into the New Year – Artistic Director Daniela Pavan and Tommaso Cartia discuss the powers of dance and movement, and how they can positively transform and strengthen our bodies, minds, and souls. We also talk about the images in movement, the movies, touching base with some of the all-time Holidays classics and exploring a new feel-good movie cheer – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks. Read our review HERE. This series includes a special Creative Being Interview with a member of the cast of A Beautiful Day, and a surprising Creative Interview with one of the most gifted dancers of our generation. The perfect Holiday Gift! Ready, set, imagine!

Grimanesa Amorós – Lighting Up her Lovingly Romance with the Unknown

Grimanesa Amoros

The Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On, Daniela Pavan and Tommaso Cartia, gently turned through the pages of the artist’s extraordinarily eventful life to paint a vivid chiaroscuro portrait of the woman behind the art, and the art behind the woman, circling the earth with her light in the attempt to make sense of her lovingly romance with the unknown.

November 2019, is the Enlightenment month for the Creative Pois-On Podcast. “Let there be light. And there was light.” This infamous quote from the Genesis, expresses in a poetic and very visual way, an essential creative process – to bring something to the light, out of the darkness. This is true of all creations: when you birth an idea, when you bring to the light a child, when you light up the stage of a theater and you give light to your creation for everybody to see it, when you stand up under the spotlight to pitch your business idea that you’ve been working so hard on. This is what Creative Pois-On wanted to explore in the four episodes of the November podcast; trying to understand how vital Light is in any creative process, but at the same time how fundamental darkness is, meaning everything that happens in the dark before an idea, a project is out in the light.

Tommaso and Daniela were kind of wresting in the Dark, looking for the perfect interview subject for the November series; until they got hit by the Light in Grimanesa Amorós’s work – an artist who exemplary embodies and exudes the theme of light.

Please listen to our two-parts podcast interview with the artist here below:

About Grimanesa Amorós:
Grimanesa Amorós was born in Lima, Perú, and lives and works in New York City. She is an interdisciplinary artist with diverse interests in the fields of social history, scientific research and critical theory, which have greatly influenced her work. Her works incorporate elements from sculpture, video, lighting, and technology to create site-specific light installations to engage architecture and create community.Grimanesa Amorós has often drawn upon important Peruvian cultural legacies for inspiration for her large-scale light-based installations, which she has presented around the globe from Mexico, Tel Aviv, and Beijing to New York’s Times Square. She often gives talks at museums, foundations, and universities where her lectures not only attract future artists, but students and faculty engaged with science and technology. Amorós has exhibited in the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. For more information about Grimanesa Amorós, visit http://www.grimanesaamoros.com @grimanesaamoros #grimanesaamoros

Creative Being Interview – November 2019

The month of November dedicated to the theme of Light and Enlightenment ends with a sparkling surprise! Introduced by our host of the month, Author David James Parr; our Artistic Director Tommaso Cartia interviews Multimedia Neapolitan Artist Annalaura di Luggo and explores her collaboration with Hollywood Director, Writer and Producer Stanley Isaacs – husband of Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President, President of The Oscars Board of Governors (AMPAS).

Cheryl Boone Isaacs
Cheryl Boone and Stanley Isaacs at The Oscars

Di Luggo is an experimental artist fusing different art mediums, materials and suggestions to stimulate the conversation about urgent social issues. She is a pioneer and the inventor of a macro-photographic camera capable of shooting the human iris; Annalaura brought the theme of Light at the center of her aesthetic research by catching our profound identity mirrored in the spark of our eyes.

Annalaura Di Luggo – Blind Vision

Photographing different types of people and personalities, from celebrities to the people of her own hometown, the artist gives back the light and the vision also to the blind people with her series “Blind Vision,” and she is bringing her magical camera into the world of the people with the Down syndrome. She is also producing movies, documenting her work, and with the mystical connection she established with Mr. Stanley Isaacs; she is now bringing her visions to the United States. So enjoy our special Creative Being episode and happy Thanksgiving from the Creative Poison Podcast team! Ready, set, imagine!

The Creative Bridge with Daniela – November 2019, The Enlightenment Month

Our Artistic Director Daniela Pavan discusses the topic of Light and Enlightenment from a business and a creative ideas development point of view with our host of the month, Award-Winning Author, Playwright, and novelist David James Parr.

“I honestly believe that creativity cannot be switched on and off, like a light switch. It’s a process that requires us to become comfortable with making mistakes because it includes failed attempts, it requires us to take courage and try, it’s a test and learn approach. And this creative anxiety is borne out of a society that expects perfection, that expects creatives to generate ideas quickly. This same society though teaches us that there are only right or wrong answers and leaves very little space to experiment and test ideas. Think about Thomas Edison. Its invention of the light bulb in 1879 came out as the result of tons of experiments. According to The Time, he tested more than 6,000 possible materials before finding the one that worked, the carbonized bamboo. Also, he made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. And when a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Edison kept persevering without giving up and gave birth to a disruptive invention for those times, which still is part of our current standards of living. What do you think David?”

David James Parr

“I totally agree with you Daniela. The creative process takes time: You have to accept that sometimes you’re not going to have the time, or the energy, to deliver on an idea. I’ve had what I thought were light bulb moments on the subway on my commute to work in the morning, but by the time I’ve been crammed inside a subway car, and had the train delayed between stops, and the air conditioning to go out, and then to spill out into a station and climb up the stairs, and so on—the idea gets lost. So it’s important to just relax and breathe and know that another idea will come, or maybe that same idea will come back. The writer Jamaica Kincaid once said—and I don’t remember the exact quote—but it was that sometimes writers need to just walk around and feel sad or emotional or go to dark places in their brain in order to illuminate some real truths…”

For the full conversation, listen to the Creative Bridge Episode