In this week’s Wednesday 5: poet Elizabeth Alexander  pays tribute to her late husband; photographer Jade Beall finds the beauty in mothers’ bodies—stretch marks, cellulite, and saggy-ness included; nanny turned street photographer Vivian Maier gets her time in the spotlight; and Mirlande Jean-Gilles launches her art career on social media.



Poet Elizabeth Alexander Pays Tribute to Her Artist Husband, Ficre Ghebreyesus

FG_Fish_SmallPoet Elizabeth Alexander’s recent tribute in the Boston Review to her artist husband Ficre Ghebreyesus is at once a love story, a reminder of the beauty of Eritrea, and a much-needed balm for those of us in a season of loss. Alexander, who is one WVFC’s own voices, and presented an original poem at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration in 2008. Her husband, Ficre, whom she lost last year, was an artist, born in war-torn Eritrea and whose canvases were often imbued with the hues and textures of his homeland. Alexander writes of Ficre, “He was a profoundly peaceful and peace-loving person, forged in the crucible of war.” Her tribute takes us through his process as an artist, his determination to remain a purist and stay away from the selling of his work in the art market, his love for his children, for language (he spoke seven living languages well—Tigrigyna, Amharic, Italian, English, Arabic, German, and Spanish), and for his country. One of the more beautiful parts of Alexander’s tribute to her husband reads:

That is what Ficre gave to all of us, his eyes on the world. We stand inside of him and have the privilege of seeing out as he did. The eye is also an icon, a protective evil eye that a caretaker offers for his coming family. As in so many of his paintings, he has created a spirit house.

Read more at “Light of the World,” Boston Review.



A Celebration of the Mother’s Body

Photographer Jade Beall is on a nationwide mission to celebrate the mother’s body, un-Photoshopped and unretouched. The impetus for the book project, A Beautiful Body, started with her own feelings of inferiority of her body after she had her first child. According to Beall:

As I first sat down to think about the beauty of the mother’s body— stretch marks, cellulite, and saggy-ness included—I was immediately struck by how hard we try to hide what we deem as “unattractive.” In this project, women are more then shedding a little clothing; they are tearing away the self-imposed layers, exposing their insecurities and laying vulnerable for all to see. This is what beauty looks like, more than supple skin or tight abs—beauty is the ability to see oneself and the power of creating new life. It is accepting it all, without labeling it good or bad, with hands wide open—no matter how they may shake in the beginning.

Jade Beall’s “A Beautiful Body,” featured on The Today Show.


New Series on Netflix Looks at Women in Federal Prisons

Orange is the New Black, the newest Netflix series, premiering on July 11th, will take a fictional look at life for women in a federal women’s prison. Critics are weighing in on the serious issues the show will raise, although it’s being touted as a dramedy. Alison Willmore of Indiewire writes:

“Rather than frame itself as a straightforward fish-out-of-water story, ‘Orange is the New Black’ runs full force at its heroine’s unconscious privilege, showcasing the ways in which she has internalized a certain allowed indulgence with rules in approach to her life and the ways in which she underestimates or unknowingly condescends to her fellow inmates.” 

And while we continue to lament the lack of roles for women in Hollywood, the opportunities being afforded to women in this new series are of note: “The premise of ‘Orange is the New Black’ allows it to have not just one of the most female-heavy ensembles currently on television but also one of the most ethnically and physically diverse, and it’s genuinely bracing to see such a variety of actresses . . . in a story that isn’t fundamentally centered around the quest to find a romantic partner,” says Willmore.

Read more at “In Women in Prison Dramedy ‘Orange is the New Black,‘ Netflix Has Its Strongest Original Series to Date,” on Indiewire.

Trailer, “Orange is the New Black


Vivian Maier, A Chicago Nanny Who Might Have Been One of the Most Prolific Street Photographers

Finally her story is being told. Although she worked as a nanny, Chicago photographer Vivian Maier was in fact a prolific and talented street photographer who took more than 100,000 images over her lifetime, yet showed nobody her work. Now, with a documentary on her life, her story is being told. She started shooting in New York in 1949 and continued shooting throughout the 1990s around the world and in Chicago, where she later lived. The result: more than 150,000 negatives and many hundreds of rolls of unprocessed film in the collection. Read more about Maier’s story here, watch the trailer for her documentary here, and see below for Part 1 of the documentary, Finding Vivian Maier.

Finding Vivian Maier, Part 1 . . . 5. . Mirlande Jean-Gilles’ Collages to Cope with Tragedy . imageMirlande Jean-Gilles started her art career on a dare. A friend urged her to post, on Facebook and Flickr, her collages of eye-catching images of Haitian tent cities, working women, and families. When she did, the emotional floodgates opened. Jean-Gilles’ parents are from Haiti, and after the 2010 earthquake, she says, she felt compelled to express the devastation she was feeling. When the words didn’t come, the visual inspiration did. She tells the Baltimore City Paper that “Right after Haiti’s earthquake in 2010, I tried to write about it, but I couldn’t. It was so stressing and depressing, I couldn’t find the right words to express it, but then I realized I needed to do it visually so it would catch their attention.” Now her work is gracing the covers of journals such as the recent African Voices, and she’s featured in an upcoming documentary, Imagine a Future, which airs on BET on July 5. The lesson here: stepping out on faith and the power of social media!

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  • Kip Mackey July 10, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Dear Elizabeth, I was saddened at the news of Ficre’s passing.
    I have known him for many years and had even visited him and his Mother at their home in Asmara after Liberation in 92.
    I will always remember his witty and frank remarks when he worked with us in ERC, Eritrean Relief Committee.
    Please let me know if there is any assistance I could help with during this time of reflection.

    Kip Mackey

  • Toni Myers July 3, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I love this series! Vivian Maier-I’d read about the treasures in storage and am amazed with the photos shown here…Helen Leavitt-like but completely unique. Thanks.