Friday, September 22, 2023

The Human Mosaic


“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” -Audre Lorde

Diversity has as many meanings as there are individuals on the planet. While we often think of diversity and differences in broad categories, there are a multitude of nuances that come together to create the patchwork of humanity. Two students standing shoulder to shoulder may share some things in common but learn in completely different ways. They may each share life experiences but gravitate toward entirely opposite paths. The way we each move through the world is unique. It is the ability to see these differences as our strength as members of a species with the same ultimate goal that will carry us forward.

Dana Hoey has a new studio in Kingston, New York. Normally she shoots her photographs outdoors but is transitioning to indoor shoots. Hoey has created photo sets in the studio. The sets consist of four sculptural metal people intended for people to dance around. While Hoey’s photos have historically been staged, she has been gradually giving her models more license although the work is still staged. For this most recent series she hires movement professionals and documents their movements. The sculptures are also musical instruments played percussively.

So far, Hoey has photographed twin Muay Thai fighters, a greco-roman wrestler, and a Guinness Book of World Record holding boxer, among others interacting with her sculpture figures. Having lots of varied body shapes in her photos invites comparisons. Just as the individuals within each photo compare to the sculptures or anyone else sharing the frame, viewers can also compare the photos to each other and build their own assumptions.

This idea of building assumptions looms large in Hoey’s work. She plays with the relentless misinterpretation that humans are so prone to when encountering visual images of each other.

Light and particularly the ability to stop motion are Hoey’s favorite aspects of photography. She says that the stoppage of motion negates the ability to truly represent her subjects. By photographing individuals who are artists of movement she removes one of the things that defines them, boiling them down to a much simpler version of themselves inviting all sorts of interpretations and misinterpretations.

For exhibition at Petzel Gallery, Hoey will present various sizes of her photographs arranged in such a way that viewers can bump into them. In the back of the gallery Hoey will erect a sanctioned fight ring and will herself become a sanctioned fight promoter in order to have an event live at the exhibition.

To hear more about Dana Hoey’s work and her upcoming exhibition, listen to the complete interview.

Lida Winfield lives and works in Middlebury, Vermont where she is a visiting professor at Middlebury College. Her work is a mix of dance, theater, storytelling, spoken word, and visual art. For the last ten years she’s had a show called In Search of Air about learning to read. Winfield describes herself as “a very learning disabled person” and didn’t learn to read until she was a grown up.

Winfield considers her role as a teacher a pillar stone inside her art making. Along with four collaborators, she is working on a new piece called Imaginary. Winfield herself is shaping the work along with her four collaborators as well as dancing in the piece. The piece premiered in Burlington in February but Winfield says she knew after the premier that the work was not done. The group is now working on the “second draft” which they will take to residency at Vermont Performance Lab and then on to Jacob’s Pillow to perform a half hour version of the show.

In Search of Air has been a seminal work for Winfield. The first draft was created in 2011 and has been a staple for her ever since. The piece is a personal story about Winfield’s journey to reading as an adult as well as an examination of education. She parallels this with her own experience in school when she learned that she was “dumb” a stark juxtaposition to her adulthood when she discovered that she is brilliant in many ways.

The arts as a component of education and as an important piece of Winfield’s personal growth are also explored within In Search of Air. Her visual arts classes were bright spots within lonely school days. After school she took dance and theater classes. Through these experiences and the people she met there, Winfield began to unpack who she was and who she could become. She considers these experiences as her “lifeline to a much bigger world.”

Another theme in Winfield’s work is accessibility. She recognizes that our brains and bodies are different from each other. Acknowledging this and considering it an asset is a wonderful way to approach education. Winfield considers it her problem as an educator to tackle how to play to a room filled with as many different brains and bodies as there are students in each classroom.

To hear more from Lida Winfield, listen to the complete interview.


A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:

Do not look beside you expecting to see someone who is just like you. Rather look beside you hoping to find someone entirely different.

Interviews are available on iTunes as podcasts, and for Android please click here. All weekly essay pieces in a shareable format are here. The full archive of interviews here.

Books to Read

What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Dana Hoey recently finished The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine. Lida Winfield is an active learner who does not consider books her means of education. She is not reading anything at the moment. Her primary means of learning about the world is by talking to other human beings.


Every so often I like to remind readers about the Awesome Foundation. This cool organization awards a series of micro-grants throughout the year for awesome ideas. A network of chapters each provide their own grants to recipients from all over the place. If there isn’t a chapter near you and you want one to be, you can even found one yourself with the help of the parent organization. Visit the foundation website for more details, answers to FAQs, and how to enter. It is always free to submit your application to the Awesome Foundation. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis.


Weekly Edited Grant and Residency Deadlines – review the list here.

Sponsor: Whitney Museum of American Art – David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night. Jul 13–Sep 30, 2018. Beginning in the late 1970s, David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992) created a body of work that spanned photography, painting, music, film, sculpture, writing, and activism.

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