Thank you for your interest. This performance series is now concluded. If you're interested in helping plan Beyond Barbie and Ken, planned to open in May 2013, please contact me at SusanSingerArt@msn.com.
Below is information about the series as it was.
Piecing Together Today's Woman
Building on the momentum from her show, Not Barbie, Susan Singer organized a series of performances and talks about issues important to women today. Many of the presenters were Singer's models because,serendipitously, most of her models are performers or otherwise leaders in their fields.
Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
Strength in Motion: Dancing our Sacred Bodies is an inspired evening of dance and discussion. Joining us will be leaders in different styles of dance including Frances Wessells of Virginia Commonwealth University, Peggy O'Neill, Dawn Flores, and Khalima of Illumination Dance Studio. From bellydance to hoop dance to improvisation, we will explore the ways women have moved across the ages to present times, and how dance can serve not only as a performance art, but as a healing, spiritual, and strengthening modality.
Thursday, September 29th, 2011
Body of work: Piercing and Painting our Personal Masterpiece is an event designed to take a serious look at the world of women and body modification, and the many ways that women intentionally modify the bodies that they are in, through body art, adornment, and other methods. We will be discussing personal growth and expression versus self-harm. We will be joined by Rachel Easter of Onetribe, professional body piercer Kim Sikorsky, and others who will share their experiences with body modification.
Thursday, October 6th, 2011
The Blues: Liberation, Empowerment, and Joy! is an evening celebrating the life-changing power of music. Opening the evening with song will be Ana Rivera-Poland followed by a headlining performance from Gaye Adegbalola, singer, composer, storyteller and activist. By maintaining the blues legacy, Gaye sees herself as a contemporary griot - keeping the history alive, delivering messages of empowerment, ministering to the heartbroken, and finding joy in the mundane.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Through the Fire: Reclaiming Lost Power After Trauma & Abuse
When one woman on the planet is beaten, raped or otherwise abused, we all suffer. Our compassion for each other breaks all barriers of class and ethnic separation. That is why these stories are difficult to hear; but for healing to occur, they need to be spoken. In a safe and sacred space, award-winning storytellers Linda Goodman and Megan Hicks lead a cast of artists in opening a window into a world where few of us would go willingly. Through the transformative power of art, these women show us how to process, rise above and glean wisdom from life's most unwanted and painful lessons. The evening's performance will be followed by a question and answer period with the artists, who will be joined by experts from the community in offering resources, information and advice.
Thursday, October 20th, 2011
Caught in a Funhouse Mirror: Distorted Reflections and Eating Disorders
Kathleen MacDonald, a nationally known speaker and Capitol Hill lobbyist on behalf of people with eating disorders will be the expert speaking this night. She will give an informative, gripping, and thoroughly personal account of her own struggle with eating disorders. She will also provide listeners with hope, local and national resources, and practical advice. In addition to Ms. MacDonald's talk, there will also be a panel of local experts and survivors who will address questions audience members may have. Whether you, a friend, or family member has been personally affected or you simply want to hear women talk about their lives in a way that is true and real, this will be a moving performance to attend.
Thursday, October 27th, 2011
Listening and Observing: The Power of Birth in Story
Childbirth may be one of the most powerful events that women experience in life. The sharing of women's personal experiences of giving birth provides an opportunity for greater understanding about how birth shapes and is shaped by our self-perceptions, our culture, and the trajectory of our lives. This evening will provide a safe space to experience the art of listening as we share our personal stories of birth in a way that honors the unique experience of each storyteller.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Life in the First Person: Women's Stories Uncovered will serve as the grand finale in the event series, Beyond Barbie. Seven renowned Richmond writers will join forces to create a night of mixed-genre storytelling, reading, and performance art via poetry and prose. Come out to hear Life in the First Person with Gigi Amateau, novelist; Denise Bennett, storyteller; Tarfia Faizullah, poet; Julie Geen, freelance writer; Shelia Gray, performance artist; Valley Haggard, creative nonfiction writer and Alex Iwashyna, blogger.
For further information about the content of the show or performance series, please contact Susan Singer at email@example.com
For further information about the venue, please contact Jenni Kirby, Crossroads Art Center 804-278-8950 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Seven Nights
By: CELIA WREN | Special correspondent
Published: September 11, 2011
» 3 Comments | Post a Comment
Richmond artist Susan Singer revels in painting the truth — and she doesn't care what Madison Avenue thinks.
"The form that we see on models and in the media is, for most people, not achievable: Most of us cannot be 6 feet tall and 110 pounds," the 51-year-old says as she sits in her Richmond studio, surrounded by canvases of scarred, tattooed and comfortably curvaceous female nudes. These images — which will be on view in the upcoming exhibit "Not Barbie: A Celebration of Real Women," at Crossroads Art Center Sept. 16 through Nov. 7 — are Singer's retort to modern culture's veneration of stick-thin, porcelain-complexioned waifs. In her view, it's a joyous retort.
"I'm trying, in my work, to give women and men a picture of what real women look like so that they can see the beauty of these women" and the women's "glorious personalities," Singer says.
To reinforce her point, she indicates a painting in which a lithe black woman serenely and confidently straddles a chair, and another, in which a Rubenesque blonde vamps exuberantly in a broad-brimmed purple hat.
Daring honesty about the human form is a signature tactic for Singer, a central Virginia native who studied German as an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary, and later enrolled in the Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University.
A longtime professional high school tutor, she first felt artistic yearnings when she was introduced to polymer clay at a friend's house in the late 1990s: Singer soon was turning the sculptable material into jewelry, candleholders and other objets d'art.
But the clay molding began to hurt her hands, and in 1999, she experimented with drawings based on photographs that had been taken of her while she was pregnant. She is married to Chris Payton, a writer, and has three children, ages 19, 22 and 24, from a previous marriage.
"Once I drew them, I was so excited," she says. "It felt so good to draw my pregnant form and think again about my children and giving birth."
She was so inspired that she started to make drawings based on photos of pregnant friends. When a sketch nabbed a prize at the Shockoe Bottom Arts Center, her life seemed to gain a new direction.
"I thought, 'Oh, this is a sign! This means I'm supposed to do art!' "
* * * * *
Her next major endeavors included a scar series, inspired by the sight of the stitched-up back of her younger son, who was recuperating from an operation, and "Twelve Naked Men," neck-to-thigh depictions of men.
Singer remembers the strong reactions to "Twelve Naked Men," which appeared at Richmond's Visual Art Studio: Viewers were disturbed, fascinated and moved.
"That series made me realize that there's so much pain and story and longing and desire and hurt and craving in our bodies," she says.
After hiring an architect to build a studio in her backyard, Singer felt able to tackle a series of female nudes.
Initially, she intended to portray the bodies but not the faces of her subjects, as she had with the models for "Twelve Naked Men." But she found that the women tended to adopt poses and expressions so temperament-rich that they cried out for fuller renderings.
Before embarking on each canvas, Singer asks her female models "what they want to get out of the session: how they want to feel, what part of themselves they want to evoke." To help the women feel less awkward, she sometimes has music playing in the studio. When a model is comfortable, Singer takes photos, which are the basis for the paintings.
Karen Morris, a massage therapist who modeled for one of the works in "Not Barbie," says the experience was "mind-blowing."
"It was scary — putting myself out there, making myself vulnerable," Morris says, but "I can't even explain how liberating the experience was."
As a one-time victim of an eating disorder who knows how destructive unrealistic body ideals can be, Morris feels that "Not Barbie" has considerable social significance.
"If you were to talk to 10 people, nine of them are going to think they're not pretty enough to pose" for a picture. "Whereas, actually, 10 out of 10 are pretty enough."
Morris' perspective is reflected in the programs that Singer has organized to broaden and deepen the impact of the exhibit. On Thursdays from Sept. 22 through Nov. 3, Crossroads will host performances and lectures that resonate with Singer's paintings and with the life stories of her models.
Among other offerings, Kathleen MacDonald, an expert on eating disorders, will speak; and singer Gaye Adegbalola, the model for one "Not Barbie" painting, will headline an evening of blues music.
* * * * *
Crossroads owner Jenni Kirby says this is the first time the center has hosted such extensive programming surrounding an exhibit. But she's a longtime fan of Singer's work.
"She's just amazing when it comes to capturing a person's essence," Kirby says, and because Singer supports raising awareness about the thorny issue of body image.
"It's something that needs to be addressed, and this is going to be a good way for the arts to address it," Kirby says.
Singer aspires to give "Not Barbie" a life beyond the Crossroads run, perhaps by touring colleges.
"It's so painful to me to hear women talk about how much they hate their bodies and how they want to look different," she says.
She hopes her paintings will encourage women to see "that their own bodies are beautiful."
Some of the most interesting women in town have disrobed for artist and activist Susan Singer.
Her "Not Barbie," a series of more than 50 drawings and paintings, reveals the bodies of typical women in straightforward poses. "I do this so we have other images to combat our inner voices," Singer says. "People who see my artwork see naked women of all ages and sizes. They're going to see bellies, age spots, moles, scars. Real women. Then they've got a wider range of what's normal."
Her subjects include females from all races and walks of life, including survivors of trauma. One woman commissioned a portrait by Singer after being shot by her husband and left for dead, the scar still livid red across her belly in the painting of her in her husband's white shirt.
Karen Morris, a board certified massage therapist and eating disorder activist, commissioned a Singer portrait celebrating recovery from a 30-year battle with anorexia and bulimia. "I had to really debate with myself over whether this was the right fit for me," Morris has written. "I am, after all, a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and professional who lives in this crazy judgmental society."
She found the process of being photographed and then painted by Singer transformative. "Never again will I judge myself so harshly," she writes.
The most surprising thing to the artist is the resistance she faces when trying to show her work. "There are a lot of places in Richmond that won't show nudes," she says. "I tried to get my catalog printed for a show and a week or 10 days later they got back to me and said we don't print porn."
Jenni Kirby, owner of Crossroads Art Center, says she's lost bookings for receptions and banquets as a result of the "Not Barbie" exhibit. "When we tell them the show in there is all nudes, they ask if we can take them down," Kirby says. "I tell them no, the show has to hang. It's been quite interesting to see that response when I didn't even think anything about it."
When Singer's portrait, "Woman in Hat," showed at Crossroads previously, it got more feedback than any piece of art ever shown in the space. "There were many people who were hotly offended," the artist recounts. Her painting features a frontal view of a curvy woman in nothing but a large hat that dips down over her face.
Kirby, who's also posed for Singer, hasn't backed down. "My running line with people who don't like it is please make sure you don't go to the Louvre because you're going to see a lot of nudes in there."
A former Fulbright scholar and a high-school tutor for 23 years, Singer is concurrently organizing "Beyond Barbie: Piecing Together Today's Woman," a series of talks and performances at Crossroads starting Sept. 22 (This writer will be participating in a Nov. 3 event, "Women's Stories Uncovered.") The inspiration came when Singer realized how many of her models were fellow artists and community leaders. "So many of my models are talented," she says, "and I thought it would be cool to showcase them."
Subjects for the series include surviving abuse, eating disorders and dance, to name a few. A dance night, set for Sept. 22, will include a performance by 91-year-old Frances Wessells, founder of VCU Dance, who sat for the artist at age 89. "The Blues: Liberation, Empowerment, and Joy!" scheduled for Oct. 6, is an evening of music featuring a performance by singer Gaye Adegbalola, founding member of Saffire — the Uppity Blues Women.
Singer, who struggled with her own body image while she entered middle age, ended up painting her own body, feeling it was only right to go through the process so bravely faced by her models. "We all do art to heal ourselves," Singer says. "So of course it's very, very personal. Many of my models have had the experience of shifting how they feel about themselves through modeling for me. That's pretty significant." S
"Not Barbie" opens Sept. 16 at Crossroads Art Center, 2016 Staples Mill Road, with an artist's talk at 5:30 p.m. For information on "Beyond Barbie," the series of lectures and events, call 278-8950 or go to susansinger.com.
I've always found Richmond painfully conservative and slow to evolve, but even I'm surprised the opposition here. Portrayals of nudes in art have been around for as long as, well, nudes and art. Also, the very idea that the artistic process is healing is I'm sure a difficult concept for many people to wrap their heads around. If you are one of those "hotly offended" by the human form, perhaps now is a good time to ask yourself why. But be forewarned: in doing so you may experience symptoms of deep, personal spiritual awakening and healing which many before you have endured. You may also be inspired to discover a path of authenticity and true expression from which you may never return.
Posted by martha on September 18, 2011 at 3:07 PM |
Went to the event at Crossroads on Friday evening, and was literally blown away by the power of the show. I'd seen several of the pieces at a First Fridays Art Walk, but all of these nudes together in a room? WOW. The painting of one of my friends, who survived some pretty epic "stuff", is truly glorious, challenging you to meet her eyes and see the wisdom and ferocity born of a stare-down with death. Just spectacular, these pieces. If you're offended ... don't go. And know you're missing something that could change your life. Your loss.
Posted by MightyCaseyMedia on September 18, 2011 at 6:27 PM |
While Richmond as a city, and Virginia as a state, are indeed slowly culturally dying it is good to know it is dying slowly.
The disease of conservatism took a civil war to wipe off the American map technically, but in reality it continues to rise and reinfect from time to time and the resulting stink drives those with higher intelligence and higher aspirations away until the infection ebbs once again.
This exhibition shows that, thankfully, our community has at least a few good years left.
Posted by BrittPoncet on September 19, 2011 at 10:35 AM |
Naked Truth: Susan Singer's "Not Barbie" lets it all hang out at Crossroads Arts Center.
by Julie Geen
By: Alix Bryan
Published: September 21, 2011
The opening sequence of the popular show "Mad Men" declares that Madison Ave. is “Where the Truth Lies.”
The paintbrush of Richmond artist Susan Singer strokes at a deeper truth; that the concept of a “perfect” woman is not a one-size fits all. Rather, beauty is drawn from a woman’s courage, authenticity, pursuits and personal stories—whether grim or grand.
Perhaps nudity is the best canvas with which to foster vulnerability, pride and courage. Perhaps in the discarding of clothes, of facades—less becomes more.
The female nudes in Singer’s new show “Not Barbie: A Celebration of Real Women," represent stories of birth, aging, pregnancy, middle age, scars, body modifications, and many other topics.
Singer has been depicting nudes since she started painting in 1999. She said that each series of work is a reflection of issues facing her in her own life, vis-à-vis her own body.
“I needed to come to love my body as it was when I was pregnant,” Singer said. “Then I needed to come to terms with scars my two sons had gotten from two life-saving operations that left me reeling from the preciousness and fragility of their lives.”
For instance, the series “Twelve Naked Men” was an emotional reaction to the “objectification of women by the media.”
“’Not Barbie’ is my way of showing how gorgeous women are - all women - no matter their size, shape, age, or race,” Singer said. “The women I have painted are open, honest, and authentic and exceedingly courageous, allowing me to paint them naked for all to see.”
Read Celia Wren’s review of the exhibit in the Richmond-Times Dispatch.
The show extends beyond the canvas with “Beyond Barbie: Piecing Together Today's Woman,” a series of seven performances and talks about issues important to women.
Each Thursday evening event will frame and explore a new topic, facilitated by experts, activists, speakers and writers in a safe space. Many of the presenters have modeled for Singer, and are in the show “Not Barbie.”
The series runs Sept. 22 thru Nov. 3, from 7-9 p.m., at the Crossroads Art Center. Tickets can be purchased the night of, or prior to the event and also online.
The scheduled talks are detailed below.
Thursday, September 22nd
Strength in Motion: Dancing our Sacred Bodies
Explore different styles of dance with a host of teachers, including Frances Wessells of Virginia Commonwealth University, Peggy O'Neill, Dawn Flores, and Khalima of Illumination Dance Studio. Dance styles range from bellydance to hoop dance to improvisation
Examines how dance serves as a performance art, and also has healing, spiritual, and strengthening qualities.
Thursday, September 29th
Body of work: Piercing and Painting our Personal Masterpiece
Women intentionally modify their bodies through body art, adornment, and other methods. There will be a discussion on these practices as personal growth and expression versus self-harm. Experts in body modification, like Kim Sikorsky and Rachel Easter, will share their thoughts and experiences.
Thursday, October 6th, 2011
The Blues: Liberation, Empowerment, and Joy
Ana Rivera-Poland will open, followed by singer, composer, storyteller and activist Gaye Adegbalola. Adegbaloa has been making music for years, to much fanfare and strong reviews.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Through the Fire: Reclaiming Lost Power After Trauma & Abuse
Award-winning storytellers Linda Goodman and Megan Hicks will lead a cast of artists who will explore stories of rape, abuse and violence.
Through the transformative power of art, these women will show how to process, rise above and glean wisdom from life's most unwanted and painful lessons.
There will be a question and answer, and there will be community resources, information and advice on hand.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Caught in a Funhouse Mirror: Distorted Reflections and Eating Disorders
Guest will be nationally known speaker Kathleen MacDonald, who lobbys on behalf of people with eating disorders.
The evening will provide a real glimpse into body image. Whether you, a friend, or family member has been personally affected or you simply want to hear women talk about their lives in a way that is true and real, this night will be powerful.
MacDonald will share a thoroughly personal account of her own struggle with eating disorders, and provide listeners with hope, local and national resources, and practical advice.
A panel of local experts and survivors will also be present to answer questions.
Thursday, October 27th
Listening and Observing: The Power of Birth in Story
Women will share personal experiences birth experiences. The evening will provide an opportunity for to better understand how birth shapes and is shaped by self-perceptions, experiences, and culture.
Thursday, November 3
Life in the First Person: Women's Stories Uncovered
This is the grand finale in the event series, "Beyond Barbie."
An evening of mixed-genre storytelling, reading, and performance art via poetry and prose with seven renowned Richmond writers.
Gigi Amateau, novelist
Denise Bennett, storyteller
Tarfia Faizullah, poet
Julie Geen, freelance writer
Shelia Gray, performance artist
Valley Haggard, creative nonfiction writer
Alex Iwashyna, blogger.
Exhibit Reveals More Than Just Skin
By: Jeremy Slayton | Times-Dispatch
Published: April 13, 2012
» 1 Comments | Post a Comment
A program aimed at empowering women is being held this weekend in Chesterfield County.
"Beyond Barbie: Celebrating Real Women" is an opportunity for women to share and hear about real-life experiences regarding birth, life, death, aging and domestic violence through a variety of mediums.
The event also aims to promote a positive body image for women.
"What I'd like is for the audience to take away that celebrating who you are is crucial because we all are not Barbies," said Patricia Jones-Turner, domestic and sexual violence coordinator for the Chesterfield County Domestic and Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Jones-Turner's department is working with the Chesterfield Domestic Violence Task Force and the Women of Color Caucus of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance to present the Saturday night program.
Among the nine presenters will be Frances Wessells, a 92-year-old dance professor at Virginia Commonwealth University; Lisette Johnson, a domestic violence survivor; Karen Morris, who overcame an eating disorder; and Susan Singer, who will read an essay about women's empowerment.
Jones-Turner said oftentimes in incidents of sexual or domestic violence, a person's persona is also attacked.
"You're dumb, you're stupid, you're too fat — nothing is correct with the individual," she said. "We hope to present another view to celebrate who you are and project that to your children."
That in turn can address bullying issues children may experience as they grow up and help them understand that their outer appearance should not have that much influence on public opinion, said Jones-Turner.
Last fall, Singer held a seven-part performance series, "Beyond Barbie: Piecing Together Today's Woman," in conjunction with her art show at Crossroads Art Center.
She then partnered with Jones-Turner to put on Saturday's program to reach clients who Jones-Turner works with.
However, Saturday's program is not just for victims of sexual or domestic violence and is open to anyone, including men, interested in attending, said Singer, who is producing the two-hour program.
"We're hoping to empower them … to recognize their own power and their own abilities so that they can move out of that victim mode, if they happen to still be in it, and find that true self that they have within that the whole world wants them share," she said.
Chesterfield program Saturday aims to empower women
Not Barbie and Beyond Barbie
Observing and portraying life...
just as it is