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By Peter Lamborn Wilson

IRA


Ira Cohen and I travelled together a lot--on the astral plane, or the "Akashic" as he called it. Like H. D. Thoreau, who "travelled much-in Concord" (Massachussetts), we voyaged together without physically removing ourselves from New York City.

           We could do this voyaging fairly easily thanks to our sharing the same guru, the famous Ganesh Baba (who looked likr a small elephant in orange saddhu gear with a black tightly-rolled British umbrrella. I met Ganesh in 1969 in Darjeeling, India-an old hillstation of the British Raj near Sikkirn in the Himalayan foothills, land of orchids and monsoon mudslides-perfect set for Gariesh's cod "Oxford" accent and mannerisms.

           Ira met Ganesh (in 1972 I think) in Kathmandu and later brought him to the USA, where. he still has many devotees and chillam chelas. Ira photographed him on The Wild Mouse at Coney Island with gleeful stoned grin.

           Ganesh taught us to say BOM BOM BHOLE ("Hail to Mad Shiva") upon lighting up first thing in the morning-always to sit up straight, especially when smoking, so Kundalini chakras would be clear for slither of smoke-snake up the backbone. He taught me how to dress properly in Indian clothes, not like a dirty hippy-he suggested The Khadi Bhavan Emporium in New Delhi for hand-spun hand-sewn cotton gear made according to Mahatma Ghandi's rules--cheap and dignified.

           Ira himself I didn't meet till about 1985 when he and I shared the podium at a poetry reading at some long-lost downtown venue. He happened to mention Ganesh Baba. Afterwards I rushed to question him-at the time I had no idea of Ganesh's other American disciples-and we swore instant brotherhood.

           So began our astral travels together. Besides India and Nepal we often found our "aural sheathes" together in Morocco, the land that had first shaped our oriental inclinations and trajectories. I remember a party Ira threw once in New York, with Moroccan music and majoun-and Moorish food better than any I'd ever tasted even in the "real" Morocco, If you've ever read Baudelaire and Gauthier on the Club des Hasheeshiens in Paris you'll have some notion of our adventures that night.

           We did do some actual physical trael together-mostly to Holland, where Ira was well-connected to Beats, hippies, old India Hands, Provos and other 60s types including the mad village of Ruijoort where everyone is a poet, even the cats and dogs. In 1999 we (& Jordan Zinovitch) were coming back together from the Po Fest in Ruijoort to NYC. Ira's girlfrend at the time worked for the Dutch Airline and arranged for us to be "bumped up" to Business Class. We swallowed all the odd bits and pieces left over from Amsterdam coffee houses, and cracked open our free champagne, and lolled back in our vast Capitalist tbrones. When we reched NYC I told Jordan and Ira—"This was the best flight I ever had—and you know what?—it still sucked. I'm never getting on an airplane again." And so far I haven't. Akashic flight is plenty good enough for me now.

           I want to finish on a personal note. I know Ira was considered in some circles to be a "difficult" character. Well-I never had one tiny moment of disagreement with Ira, much less a "difficulty." We liked each other and we liked each other's work. If Ira was sometimes bitter it's no wonder, since he never received due recognition and respect for his pioneer publishing ventures in Morocco and Nepal, nor for his innovative evocative photography, nor for being the greatest hippy dandy and creative clothes-wearer of the whole era-nor for his great beat baroque heartfelt poetry-his greatest accomplishment.

           If I were sure there existed an Akashic Afterlife where I could again BE with Ganesh Baba amd Ira Cohen, I might well be tempted to make one last flight. But I guess I can wait. <>

By Jenny Tango

PUT UP YER DUKES, JUDY CHICAGO


I have been an active member of the Feminist Art Movement since 1975 when I changed my name to Jenny Tango. I knew about Judy Chicago. Who didn't? Thirty-seven years later, I rediscovered Judy Chicago in Gail Levin's book, On Becoming Judy Chicago. On the cover of the book is a 1970 photograph of a feisty young female contender in the comer of a boxing ring, ready to take on the big fight against the academic and artistic traditions that excluded her and other women artist

           Although I'm also a Jewish woman artist, I am the opposite of Judy Chicago. My parents were also secular Jews but my father was not a government employee and a communist. He was a skilled garment worker and voted for President Roosevelt. Chicago had a very close relationship with her father for a girl but I had a closer relationship with my mother. At an early age, Chicago felt that she was a genius. My entire family felt that, at an early age, I was a genius. Chicago spent her life seeking ways to prove her genius. I spent my life, running away from fulfilling my family's meshugena (crazy) designation.

           Chicago completed The Dinner Party with the help of 129 volunteers in 1979 when she was 39. It was a mind-boggling feat. I self-published an artist's book, The Women ofChelm with the input of 18 women in 1992 when I was 66. Granted that my book was not in the same league as Chicago's monumental installation now permanently housed in the Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth W. Sackler Gallery of Feminist Art but it was good enough to be picked up by Printed Matter, Dia Foundation, Soho. Chicago worked on projects all over California and then spread out across the U.S.A. I worked on Staten Island, known as the Forgotten Borough of New York City, and I'm still there.

           In the period of Modernist Art, it was unheard of for a woman to realize a project on such a huge scale as The Dinner Party, the installation created by Chicago with women volunteers working in ceramics, porcelain, and textiles. On the other hand, the monumental scale of the COR-TEN sheet metal walls of sculptor Richard Serra, fabricated by Beth Ship shipyard and rolling mill, was not unexpected, for a man. Serra's 50 foot walls are overpoweringly beautiful. They surround you, entrap you, dominate, and even threaten you. Chicago's installation invites the viewer into a room to meet 1038 mythical and historical females whose lives and contributions to society have been ignored and forgotten. There are place settings for 39 women on the three 48 foot wings of a triangular table. An additional 999 women's names are transcribed on the Heritage platform upon which the table stands. Chicago's work is evocative of an altar or sacred space. It fills you and energizes you.

           The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci may thrill us with its beauty and vision but no women were invited to it although I bet they made the chicken soup. Like Picasso's Guernica, The Dinner Party is more than a work of art. It is the intematonal icon of the struggle of women to have "a place at the table" in a world that totally disregarded and devalued their contributions. Over a million men and women have attended The Dinner Party in six countries on three continents and the invitation still stands.

           Chicago is an active creative force who went on to realize many other challenging feminist art projects. For me, her validation is not about heing a genius or a "great artist" but about how she changes our perception of the role of art and of ourselves. Who Chicago is tells me who I am and as a result, I can appreciate and respect both her and myself. This interchange is what makes Chicago's work, so powerful for me. Thank you, Gail Levin, for bringing back the Judy Chicago who put up her dukes for us all!

By Rudy Scheneib


NOTES FROM ABROAD

Excerpts from 21 Days in Spain, Or: Washington Irving, Extramadura, and Val de Boi.

On a warm April evening my wife and I landed in Granada, Our "airport-bus-time_ capsule" took us back through the ages of architecture, into narrow streets lined with Art Deco and Neo-classicist_ Baroque and Renaissance facades on our way to our stop at the Gothic cathedral. Nearby we found our small hotel, located below the citadel where the Thirteenth_ Century Moorish palace, the Alhambra, overlooked the city. In our hotel, we noticed the rooms were given names of famous people. Our room was "Washington Irving." His name rang a bell but I had already forgotten him as we unpacked and afterwards set out to find a bar where we had tapas and red wine. Tasting tapas and red wines was to become our evening ritual in all of the cities we were to visit.

The next day we made our way up the mountain to the Alhambra along a pleasant, shady forested path and were surprised to encounter Washington Irving again, this time as a statue. I vaguely recalled that Washington Irving was the author of "Sleepy Hollow," but where was the connection? Later, the internet told me that Washington Irving lived in Granada between 1829 and 1832 during which time he wrote a collection of short stories and legends, The Tales of the Alhambra which made him and the Alhambra famous throughout Europe. At that time, 500 years after the Reconquista, the Alhambra was forgotten and in desperate .need of restoration. With his engagement the Alhambra was restored after having deteriorated for centuries. He later became American Ambassador to Spain.

            The restored Alhambra comprises both a fortress and a palace, manifesting a meditative atmosphere in a variety of marble, courtyard gardens and beautiful alabaster decor. The Moors began establishing their realm, AI-Andalus, 1,000 years ago and they brought their architecture. The Great Mosques that we visited in Cordoba and Sevi lIe once accomodated hundreds of worshipers under vaulted roofs held up by a multitude of parallel rows of columns joined together with up to three stories of horseshoe arches. We soon learned to recognize the influence of the Islamic style in later epochs of Spanish architecture, and of course in the courtyard gardens of the Roman Catholic monasteries.

           After a week of visiting Andalusian cities we were happy to drive out into the countryside. Our route took us through the Extremadura and La Mancha on our way to Toledo. We saw vast plains with sparse oak tree forests and fenced-in fincas devoted to the breeding of hulls for the arenas and for the production o(hogs for the famous Jamon Serrano-the delicious Serrano ham that we had been enjoying as tapas; and of course extensive vineyards for wine. As we passed one large meadow I spotted in the distance a small herd of resting black came lazily chewing their cud. They were fenced in so I quietly stepped out out of the car to get some photos with my zoom. I was surprised to see the resting bulls immediately stand up and look my way. In spite of the fence, I retreated to the car as the bulls began trotting towards me.

            About a week later, my friend Guillermo Melendez, professor of palaeontology at the University of Zaragoza, invited us to an unforgettable tour into Val de Boi in the Catalonian Pyrenees. As a passionate spare-time historian, he introduced us into an enchanted valley which preserves a unique ensemble of thousand year old Romanesque churches. Guillermo told us the mountains were settled hy Cataloians from the plains as the Arabs began conquering the Iberian Peninsula in 711 AD. The Pyrenees became a Christian stronghold that protected an important route to Santiago de Compostela from Italy and from Jerusalem, which allowed Lombard stonemasons to bring the very early Romanesque style into Val de Boi. The last chapel we saw, its humble silhouette in quiet seclusion. <>


Created on ... September 27, 2007