Islamic mosaics, Marrakech 

The supreme pleasure of the hammam experience deserves a post of its own. Here’s how it works:

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Moroccan food: joys and pains

A Moroccan feast with lamb tagine, vegetable dips and fresh bread

On our first night in Marrakech we had one of those meals I’ll always remember as excellent.

A traditional Moroccan dinner is a lengthy affair that will send you to bed with a stomach close to bursting. A typical dinner starts with something small to nibble on, some olives or peanuts in tiny plates. Then come “mixed Moroccan salads,” which have nothing to do with salads as we know them, but consist of close to magical spreads of equally magical bright colors: tomato, carrot, olive, eggplant, cucumber, beetroot. There is a zucchini dip that tastes like jam, an olive and green onion one that reminded me of a dish my grandmother makes on Christmas Eve and a lentil dish that no one noticed because it was the least colorful. You dip piece after piece of soft white bread in these heavenly dips and are already satiated but your meal hasn’t even begun!

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Marrakech: “the hidden sights”

Moroccan carpet designs

Marrakech is a crazy place. This sounds like a big cliché, I am aware, but it’s true – I had no idea what I was in for. First off, Marrakech has two very distinct faces. There is the new town, the area called Gueliz around the 16th of November square that commemorates the return of the royal family from exile in 1955. The new town is not too exciting but you can find some good restaurants, bars and general shopping, including, surprisingly to me, the likes of Zara. In fact, if you stand between two shopping blocks and happen to only see women dressed in clothes you are used to, of whom there are many, you may think you are in one of many other cities in the world. People go by, cars go by, the sun shines with scorching heat over you, the bareheaded tourist. The only thing that might strike you as different here, if you haven’t gotten used to it by now, is the rosy red color of the buildings. Marrakech, the Red City.

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Book of Ruth: “Making the Hand Obey Another’s Psychology” – Interview with Robert Seydel

Saul & me & hare

Published on the Siglio Press blog on 02.26.2013 

This interview Savina Velkova conducted with Robert Seydel in 2010 is the only interview with Seydel before his sudden and unexpected death in January 2011. It reveals much about an artist whose own life and those of the personas he constructed were knitted in inextricable ways.

Seydel is the author of Book of Ruth (Siglio, 2011), an alchemical assemblage that composes the life of his alter ego Ruth Greisman—spinster, Sunday painter, and friend to Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. The collages, drawings, and journal entries from Ruth’s imagined life are conceived as a gathering of materials from the Smithsonian and a suburban family garage. They not only construct a mosaic portrait of a reclusive, unknown artist but reveal much about the tenuous creation of self. Continue reading

The Fortuneteller of Claremont

Kindred Spirits
Kindred Spirits (photo: Claremont Courier)

Persis Newman lays a sugar-glazed donut on a paper plate, licks her thumb and index finger, and sits down to close the circle. She looks at the faces of the women around her and immediately feels the presence of what she calls the spirits. This gathering of women might be an AA meeting or a ladies’ poker club, or even a Sunday morning Bible study class, for these women come week after week, bearing their confessions to a strange sort of priestess.

They drive to the corner of Foothill and Mountain Avenue and ring the bell that signals that a new visitor has entered Kindred Spirits. Jillian[1], a former alcoholic with a loud voice and an aggressive sense of humor is among the first to arrive. She is the veteran of the group and it is her task to keep some of the more fickle members on track by driving to their homes and, sometimes forcefully, bringing them to the meetings. Jane, another one of the “usuals,” arrives a shortly after. She has been coming to these meetings for so long that it has become part of her routine, but she says it is helpful, even when she does not need it. Continue reading

Frida Kahlo: Art, Pain and the Body

Raices (Roots), 1943

Appeared in an archived Pomona College online publication on 2.08.2011

The body weaves in and out of conversations more than many topics that Pomona students consider “important.” Intentionally or not, we constantly objectify ourselves and others in our attempts to experience, understand and explain the world. Yet, in many ways, the body remains taboo. Something that should be euphemized, transcended, or displayed at the right times, in the right ways.

Lately, I find myself looking for inspiration precisely in the body and in art that is concerned, more than anything else, with the body, its pain and suffering, its dimensions, limitations, connections and possibilities. Such an exploration is inevitably permeated with Frida Kahlo’s powerful, inspiring and equally jarring self-portraits and I couldn’t help but mention them here. Continue reading

Mmmm Fantastiche!

Photo: Fantastiche! facebook

Appeared in an archived Pomona College online publication on 5.01.2011

When Becky Karpovsky (SC ’11) realized she had seen a lot of burlesque and was completely enamored with the performative aesthetic, she thought, why not? She was drawn to the concept of burlesque as an opportunity to perform the body and identity in just the way the actor wants them to be seen and perceived.

The realization occurred right about the time when Julia Pashall (PI ’12) came back from a semester in Amsterdam, where she saw a lot of avant-garde performance and thought that the 5C cultural space had room for more experimentation and excitement. Continue reading

Figure Drawing

Published in The Student Life on 3.07.2008 

Figure Drawing
Sketch by Katherine Roy

My theater teacher once said that being naked on stage is the greatest challenge for the actor. From a logical standpoint, I found it strange that a person ready to reveal emotions and share intimate truths with the audience would be intimidated by nudity for the sake of inspiration and art. However, when the bold part of me asked the timid one, “Would you do it?”, I was not so sure.

I heard about the Figure Drawing club at the very beginning of first semester and was immediately lured to show up as a model. Excited to test my courage and confidence and to become part of one of the most beautiful forms of art, I talked to the president of the club and went to the meeting. Before the first pose of the other model was finished, I was already back in my dorm. Continue reading