Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Post F**K Cancer

El Sueno - Ria Vanden Eynde
 My friend and fellow Seeking Kali collaborator, Ria Vanden Eynde of Belgium was in the States recently showcasing her work at Jennifer Kosarek's Eve N Odd Gallery.   The exhibit, F**K the Big C,  features work of cancer survivors Betty Esperanza, Branka Djordjević and Ria Vanden Eynde.  All three artists exhibited new works that reveal their elevated intensity, passion for creation and a glimpse of how their cancer and treatments transformed their art practices.  Over the summer I worked with Ria to make small print editions from several of her oils for this show.  Earlier this month I traveled to Florida to deliver the prints for the signing and the exhibit.   I've worked closely with Ria on art collaborations for over two years but it was always across the ocean and by skype, emails and Facebook. It was a great experience meeting, documenting the exhibit and being a part of bringing the works of these remarkable women to Florida.

I’ve struggled more than usual to blog about this exhibit.  Probably because I collaborate with Ria on many other projects outside of her cancer work I fear writing something that typecasts her as a “cancer artist”; that her work is simply about that aspect of her life. Her biography reveals that she has a PhD in Mathematics, a certificate in Gestalt Therapy and perhaps most revealing is Buddhist studies.  The later, I find essential to her work, for it touches on her attention to the details of an examined life and how our human sufferings unite us.  Ria could certainly be teaching advanced mathematics or working as a therapist, yet through her work as an artist she is able to concentrate our attentions on the transformative aspects of the trials we endure throughout life.  Her art has content, it is not art about art but rather art about life.  I sometimes refer to her work as activist art.  Not a blatant in your face superficial take on our common sufferings, but a realization that these trials progress throughout our lives, one after the other and how we cope with change is what defines our lives.

Aggressed Body - Ria Vanden Eynde

Ria told me about the exhibit last winter and we discussed how to work out the problems printing small limited editions.  Ria handled the scanning or the photography of her original pieces while here in the US I would receive the files and make trial proofs which were sent to Belgium for suggestions and final go ahead.

I have to admit that although Ria had approved the final versions of everything that was printed, since I never saw the oils I was somewhat apprehensive that after all the work and travel they weren't going to be faithful to the originals.   As it turned out, we both loved the final printing and had a great time hanging examples from the newly signed editions.

Works from this limited print series are still available online through our Seeking Kali website.  The sale of these small editions of nine prints each directly benefit a charity called My HopeChest, which is the only national breast reconstruction organization working to help “uninsured” women heal completely. 

 Ria Vanden Eynde signing print editions at the Eve N Odd Gallery, St. Petersburg, FL

 Jennifer Kosharek of Eve N Odd Gallery (in red) and Ria Vanden Eynde (center) on the set of NBC Daytime prior to the opening

During the opening Ria read her series of Acrostic Poems from her "Dear Thyroid" series.  The following video shows a small  excerpt (the full performance is on Vimeo)

Ria Vanden Eynde and F**K the Big C

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