be the rage and be the light

Vanessa: I’m going to be in Phoenix … could I come visit with you?
Me: Yes! 

Thursday morning I drive to the Tempe Center for the Arts to pick up artist Vanessa German. The plan – bring her to Phoenix for lunch (Barrio Cafe) and then to my studio.

I find her in the atrium, sitting outside the theater. After greeting each other she tells me she’s walked out of a production. She reacts to what she hears and sees. I listen as she pulls words together in an organic and real way.

Her sentences are visual and visceral. She draws me into the body with her language. Because I connect to anatomy and its symbolism, I see and feel her right away. I recognize honesty. I like Vanessa, she won’t hold back.

We talk about truth, about honesty, vulnerability, courage, curiosity, compassion, and the value of questioning. We talk about history and education. I am aware, in the background of our conversation, hovers a new president-elect.

We also talk epigenetics, cells, and DNA, ancestors and magic. The woman knows the sacred.

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White Naptha Soap or, Contemporary Lessons in Shapeshifting Mixed media assemblages

While we eat, we talk about The State of the Art. We agree the opportunity was/is unique and important, fun and fabulous. Above is my photo ↑ of her sculpture (at the opening), which I sat with for a good amount of time. We catch up with how art and life have played out since then. She’s out there.

In my studio I learn Vanessa is also a photographer. She brings out her i-Pad and shares photos and stories about a recent stay at Standing Rock. My husband I listen intently as she tells us about the people, the water and trees. We are both moved. I need to get Vanessa back to Tempe where she is scheduled to teach a workshop.

I get on the highway back home and think about the fullness of our conversation this afternoon.


Vanessa is a multi-disciplinary artist based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is self-taught.  Her narrative will only expand as she continues to show her work, speak and perform.  She learns, she educates.

Below are her 2 photos and her own written words about them.

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artist photo – installation

this was part of my emerging artist of the year exhibition at pca. it was scary sometimes, i didn’t understand that curators helped to shape a show. I’d been use to doing everything myself, hustling, asking friends with ladders to join in a late night install; calling all graffiti artists, paying people outta my own shallow pockets and hugging out an exhausted embrace of gratitude. i truly didn’t get it. one of the most recent installs we did at a museum, and they moved most everything with museum staff; if I touched a sculpture the registrar would take photos of my hands moving over a piece. i am learning a lot about putting exhibitions up at larger and larger scale. I am learning about insurance, shipping, and communicating my ideas to all of the different people at the museum who make exhibitions work. today i am doing a teach-in with the docents at the everson museum of art in syracuse. i will tale you of any interesting bits later.

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Do The Whole Thing and Do It.With Your Whole Entire Soul. stand up inside of it.be the rage and be the light.move with it all as though a mountain wit the spirit of excellence lengthening yo spine. write yo own name on a piece of paper three times. three consecutive lists of yo very own syllables and then to kiss your hands.then to hold yo fingers up in the light of the day– splay them and then let them reach upwards to the sky to recognize the face of yo own soul in that there glory: All of the things that you are before the constructed world cobbled itself together, You Have Always Been and Will Always Be. Your Glory is Brighter Today– you have been sharpened. Hold that clarity on yo tongue and gleam with it. Love With It. You have been Sharpened. Let yourself feel good about this sharpening, what will you go to cut? Who will require you to scissor away at their bonds? There iz no thing that can hold you down. We Are The Mighty Ones.

German is an artist who communicates in broad, eloquent form. The powerful force she holds is grounded in love, vulnerability, courage, history (her ancestor’s, my ancestor’s and yours),  truth and magic. Did I say magic? Plenty of magic…

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Vanessa German in my studio.


State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now shown in 2 smaller exhibitions than the original (for practical reasons) currently travels the country. The work has recently left Savannah, Georgia and will open January of 2017, at Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee, Following that stop the exhibition travels to The Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina in April of 2017.

I hope to visit one, if not both showings.

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Cards from the catalogue showing each of our work.

One thought on “be the rage and be the light

  1. Pingback: Installation Inspiration | katieturnerartblog

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