Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Artist Riva Lehrer talks new memoir, career, state of the world
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2020-11-18

This article shared 1763 times since Wed Nov 18, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


In queer artist, writer and curator Riva Lehrer's recently released memoir Golem Girl, she takes readers on a journey through her life via the lens of her being born with spina bifida and the way that has impacted and informed everything she has done.

"This is the entire through-line of my book," said Lehrer. "I have been working on this book for the past six and a half years. It started as a record of my work for my family so that after I died they would have a document that explained my work that they could give to curators or collectors.

"Then for various reasons I started to look into my own childhood and questions came up about some of my images and where they came from. I started doing research into my family and that really changed the whole direction of the book. The book is now a hybrid of those two things."

Lehrer was born in 1958 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and lived there until she moved to Chicago in her early 20s. She studied at the University of Cincinnati and School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). In addition to her artistic endeavors, Lehrer is also a faculty member at SAIC and a Northwestern University Medical Humanities Department's instructor.

As for the title of the book, Lehrer said each word refers to the two parts of her life. She added that this delineation between the two was not one moment in time, that is was a gradual process.

The prologue includes references to Frankenstein and his creature and Rabbi Judah Loew be Bezalel and his Golem which is a folk story in her Jewish culture. Lehrer told Windy City Times she learned about Golem in her early teens when she saw the 1915 silent German Yiddish film called The Golem. She added that the creature and Golem spoke to her in her youth, hence the first word in her book title.

"Part one, Golem, is about perceiving myself and being more or less told when I was a monster while I was growing up," said Lehrer. "I always identified with not being human, being a construct like Golem is and because of this I was going to be, according to other people, not qualified for any of what is perceived as a 'normal' life.

"Part two, Girl, is about trying to figure out how to have a life that I recognized as something I want. Not a life where I would get brownie points for overcoming my disability, a life that held meaning and power to affect the world in some way. It is all a long slow evolution. It has been 60 years of nudging at doors."

One of these evolution moments Lehrer speaks about in her book was when she went to Boston as an older teenager for one of her many surgeries. There were moments in the hospital when her mother was not in her presence where she felt like a young adult with autonomy.

Another way Lehrer asserted her autonomy was when she moved into the dorms at the University of Cincinnati and later into an apartment with some friends. College is where Lehrer met the two people who would change the course of her personal life—her boyfriend William and, later, her girlfriend Adele.

Lehrer told Windy City Times that until she met William she did not think she would ever have a romantic relationship with anyone due to her disability. William giving her the nickname Chen from Liebchen which means the beloved one in German further solidified her belief that she was a desirable person.

"When you give each other nicknames it is a way to give you a little private circle around the two of you," said Lehrer. "We were making in literal and figurative ways spaces that were just for the two of us. Given that he is an architect space both conceptually and symbolically was important to the both of us."

As for Adele, Lehrer met her in a drawing class and she said that falling in love with her awakened her queer identity. She added that at the time people only used the word bisexual to describe who she was but that word never spoke to her.

"Both relationships completely refuted what I expected from the world," said Lehrer. "I can never be grateful enough for the fact that everything I expected adulthood would be which was isolated and lonely. I have always been surprised when anyone is interested in me. I have never quite gotten over that.

"It is a little hard to trust people but having two extremely beautiful, smart, creative, incredible people who I could clearly see that other people in our community thought were hot stuff would choose me, on the one hand I kept waiting to see if it was a joke of some kind or a trick but on the other hand when it became more real I could not completely believe anymore in the messages I had grown up with."

Today, Lehrer is still really good friends with William and Adele and last year she did a portrait of William over a long weekend where he sat for her in her Chicago studio. This took many months to finish.

"William was supposed to come back again this past February to stay for another long weekend so I could work on the portrait but of course by then it was looking like that was not going to be a good idea due to the emerging pandemic," said Lehrer. "I had to finish it through Zoom sessions and mailing some stuff back and forth. It took a very long time. We were extremely sad about not being able to see each other in person."

When asked if Lehrer thinks things would have been different had she been born a decade or more later, she said "yes, however, individuals are extremely variant because it is not like everyone who is younger than me does not have impairments. It was more than ten years later but they did in utero surgery to correct some things for fetuses with spina bifida. What they can do even now depends on the placement and size of the lesion on the spine, and also the kind of medical team involved."

Lehrer pursued an artistic career because at the time various other careers were blocked to her due to her disability.

"Everybody said for some bizarre reason that I should be a kindergarten teacher which was the last thing on Earth I wanted to be," said Lehrer. "I ended up choosing art school because it seemed like it was never going to make me a lot of money but it was something I was allowed to do. I also really enjoy doing art."

Of the many artistic endeavors Lehrer talks about in her book were her Circle Stories portraits beginning with "Circle Stories: Jeff Carpenter."

"His painting became the first of a series: 'Circle Stories,' named for the wheel of a wheelchair, for the universal symbol of impairment, and for the Collective, my circle of safety. And whether or not I was a bad painter, I could give people control over how they were portrayed. These works weren't commissions. Technically I needn't obey anyone's wishes but my own, but this work actively demanded a collaborative ethics of representation."

A number of years ago, Lehrer's practice opened up to other ways of expressing her art in addition to her work focusing on disability and gender presentation.

"In terms of the future, I am really hoping to work more deeply with people who have not had access to representation for reasons of some kind of embodiment," said Lehrer. "My work is always going to be around embodiment in one way or another and that includes non-visible disabilities; for example people with psychiatric diagnoses."

One of Lehrer's 2020 projects that took place over Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a portrait of Alice Wong. She is also finishing other works that were already in progress before the pandemic over Zoom or via mailing things back and forth.

In terms of how Lehrer has navigated this pandemic "my message is that disabled people are extremely accustomed to having to drop whatever the way that they used to do something and have to find a new route or seeing someone who had to invent a new route from the beginning. That they were never going to have access to the standard way of doing something.

"The level of creative invention in the community is intense. Even though this is on a scale that I do not normally have to encounter, having to scrap an entire practice, but on the other hand I am used to it as are so many of my compatriots. To say, that was then and this is now. Right now, I am trying to figure out how to continue to be a portraitist when I cannot have anyone in my studio at all."

As for what Lehrer wants the readers to take away from reading her book, she said she "hopes it makes more space for the life that you have. The book is about how people perceive and manipulate each other's embodiment, about the pressure we bring to bear on each other depending on whether we think each other's embodiment is desirable, appropriate or problematic.

"I use my life to talk about that. It still is not important to me at all that people know the specifics of my life. I was writing about my life to talk about how we turn each other into monsters and then try to change each other to be more accessible."

See rivalehrerart.com/ .


This article shared 1763 times since Wed Nov 18, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

LGBT HISTORY MONTH Angela Davis, revolutionary
2021-10-24
By Victoria A. Brownworth - "You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time," said Angela Davis, 78, the country's most famous living revolutionary. She was born ...


Gay News

WORLD Indian commission, queer royals, MTV, Putin, attack in Jamaica
2021-10-24
India's National Medical Commission has ordered publishers and medical schools to edit their textbooks and curricula to exclude discriminatory and unscientific portrayals of LGBTI people, according to Human Rights Watch. ...


Gay News

LGBT History Month: Staten Island museum throws open Austen's closet door
2021-10-22
It's been a long time coming, but officials at the Alice Austen House on New York's Staten Island have thrown open the closet door, now fully embracing the lesbian pioneer and photographer who lived in the ...


Gay News

LGBT History Project: Tee A. Corinne: Photographer of lesbian sexuality
2021-10-19
By Victoria A. Brownworth - Over her decades as a lesbian photographer and artist, Tee Corinne said, "I'm one of the most obscure famous artists." Famous? Yes. Obscure? Certainly not within artistic circles nor within the queer art world where she ...


Gay News

BOOKS Twelfth (and final) 'Boystown' cover revealed
2021-10-17
Boystown author Jake Biondi has revealed the cover of the twelfth book of his series—while simultaneously sharing that the next installment will be the final one. Boystown: Season Twelve: The Final Season will be released in ...


Gay News

Dozens of celebrities, companies set to take part in Spirit Day on Oct. 21
2021-10-15
--From a press release - New York, NY, Thursday, October 14, 2021 - Today, GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, announced a preliminary list of celebrities, shows ...


Gay News

LGBTQ History Month: Pauli Murray, architect of history
2021-10-13
By Victoria A. Brownworth - (Note: The pronouns she/her are used in keeping with Murray's own writings, but Murray was a transmasculine and gender-nonconforming lesbian.) Some say Pauli Murray is the most important U.S. activist many have never heard of. An ...


Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Activist Peter Staley's Memoir 'Never Silent' is a real-life thriller
2021-10-13
--From marksking.com - "Attention must be paid to such a man." — Arthur Miller Peter Staley's much-anticipated new memoir, Never Silent, opens with almost unbearable nail-biting suspense, sweeping us into the behind-the-scenes machinations of an ACT UP takeover of ...


Gay News

MUSIC Janis Ian's last Chicago concert May 14
2021-10-13
In what is being advertised as her last concert in Chicago, LGBTQ singer Janis Ian will be performing at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. on Saturday, May 14, 2022, at 8 p.m. Tickets ($48-$50) will ...


Gay News

President Biden appoints Debra Shore to key EPA position
2021-10-12
--From a press release - Washington, DC — Today President Joe Biden appointed former LGBTQ Victory Institute board chair Debra Shore to be the next Region Five Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency — representing six states in the Midwest and ...


Gay News

Donations needed for LGBTQ+-affirming spiritual leader's recovery
2021-10-12
In July, Sofia G. Sarabia—an activist and community leader who provided spiritual counseling to LGBTQ+ youth and undocumented immigrants—suffered an unexpected stroke that injured her brain and left her immobile and unable to speak or eat. ...


Gay News

Achy Obejas' bilingual poetry book Boomerang/Bumeran explores immigration, liberation
2021-10-11
By Max Lubbers - Achy Obejas is a Cuban-American writer, translator and activist. Boomerang/Bumerán, her newest book, confronts questions of immigration, love and liberation. Like a boomerang, these ideas return throughout the collection, even ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Victory Institute, LGBTQ books, youth items, NASA, LGBTQ Nation
2021-10-10
LGBTQ Victory Institute and nine additional candidate-training organizations announced a partnership with Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, to provide a native-to-mobile tool to encourage young people to run for office, a press release noted. ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Drag Race' winners, Playboy, punk band, The Dinah, Daniel Craig
2021-10-10
Video below - As part of VH1's #LGBTQHerstoryMonth project, five winners from the RuPaul's Drag Race winner's circle—season one's BeBe Zahara Benet, All Stars 4 winner Monet X Change, season 11 winner Yvie Oddly, season 12 victor Jaida Essence ...


Gay News

WORLD Japan politics, video games, lesbian tennis player, Mr. Gay World
2021-10-10
LGBTQ+-rights activists were hoping Japan would finally allow same-sex marriage if Taro Kono, who has publicly supported same-sex marriage, became the country's next prime minister—but their hopes were dashed. Japan's ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.