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We absolutely love getting publication news from poets, writers, and artists who have been featured in Gertrude over the years. We just learned that the winner of the 2009 Gertrude Chapbook Contest for Poetry, Renee Rossi, is publishing her first full length collection of poetry. Triage is forthcoming in April from Lost Horse Press and we are thrilled for Renee! Click here to read the press release.

Gertrude Art Editor, J. M. Jansen, interviewed Portland arist, Molly Alloy, whose collection, Animal Body, is on display at the Red E Cafe in Portland until July 8th.

J. M. Jansen: Can you remember some of your first experiences with art? What were they and how did they inform your current work?
Molly Alloy: ‘Artists’ was really my first self-proclaimed identity, and that happened so early that I really can’t recall formulating it; it’s somehow the most fundamental part of me. And I was given a lot of access and support and opportunity in that all along, so for me my human development and my artistic development are entirely intertwined. I had a best friend throughout my childhood who was just as into art as me, so we would be art-making in pretty much all of our play- drawing up plans for playhouses, making dolls by stapling two drawings together and stuffing it with tissues, and creating tiny versions of everything. We made a safe space just the two of us, where we could create and imagine so freely- I think that was really formative for me.

J. M. Jansen: Where are you from originally? Did your childhood have an impact on you as an artist?
Molly Alloy: I grew up in St. Louis, MO, and certainly I think that city and culture affected me as an artist a great deal. For one thing, St. Louis has an incredible number of truly world-class museums and cultural centers that are free to the public all the time, and I think that instilled in me a deep sense that the arts are best when all types of folks can consume them together, and often, rather than being held apart from everyday life. At the same time it really wasn’t a totally safe place to grow up queer, but I think that just made my artistic voice that much more important to me.

J. M. Jansen: Color is a very important part of your work. Can you talk about your use of color in these paintings specifically and in your work in general?
Molly Alloy: It’s awesome to me that people respond so much to the color in my work, because it’s something that I hardly even think about- that part of the work is totally intuitive, there’s really no conscious intention in the colors… So if that’s speaking to people that makes me feel good because it’s so natural, it makes me feel appreciated in a deep way, actually. But I have no idea what it is about the colors that speaks to people, or what they think it's saying.

J. M. Jansen: Many pivotal events in your life led up to the creation of this work. Can you explain how these events helped shape the work of Animal Body?
Molly Alloy: Yeah, so the short-ish version of events is that I was in a car wreck that then triggered a severe escalation of a disease I have called Endometriosis; the combination of the two rendered me temporarily disabled for more than two years, and resulted in my having a radical hysterectomy, where they removed every part of my reproductive system (plus some). Since I couldn’t use my body enough to make sculpture, I turned to drawing as a way for me to be doing something- anything!- to have a creative outlet during this ordeal. By the time of the hysterectomy I had found my voice in drawing for the first time, really, and I decided that I wanted to use the vulnerability of my experience to create a collection that was as direct and open as possible.


J. M. Jansen: Tell me more about the materials you’ve used to create the paintings.
Molly Alloy: I do not consider myself a painter, rather I identify as an installation artist and sculptor, and I think this collection actually belies that in the materials. The paintings are all on wood, and the wood has its own voice in a way- adding texture and substance, physical depth that I find is both a conceptual compliment to the pieces and heightens their impact. In many cases the wood is exposed in areas- to me this is part of the search for honesty in the work; rather than wanting to create something that looks perfect and entire, I want the viewer to feel the effort, the movement of my body making the work, and the history of that as an object. It’s the nod to the object itself, that the sculptor in me can’t resist.

J. M. Jansen: Each painting seems to have a story contained within it. Can you tell the story of one or two of the paintings?
Molly Alloy:Sure, of course. Each painting is essentially a collage of some specific narrative elements that do tell some kind of story to me, but couldn’t possibly be reassembled by the viewer. I want it that way so that the viewer’s own story is the first thing they see, but at the same time this whole project for me is practising radical acceptance of my own story, and sharing that story freely is part of it. So, I’ll start with the painting that sort of kicked this whole thing off for me, which is Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady. It portrays two specific watershed moments for my sexual identity- one was the dream I had that made me understand I was queer for the first time, the other when I put on a packing dildo for the first time. When I made that it actually made me super uncomfortable, it very much challenged my self acceptance and brought up feelings of shame. But somehow I also kind of loved the painting. I remember thinking “This is the first real painting I’ve ever made”. So I brought it to show a women’s therapy group that I was working with at the time and they said stuff like ‘beautiful’ and ‘cool’, and it was so healing and encouraging that I felt like if that was ok, anything was ok. The other story I’ll tell is a funny one- so I made a few paintings that are my name, because I was thinking about these different representations of identity and my graffiti history, but one of those, Molly (teal), is on a repurposed previous painting. And now I think that’s the best part of it, because there’s a little spot where you can see just enough to make out letters. Well, I’d totally forgotten it until we hung the show, but I realized it used to say “Every time you go away, you take a piece of me with you”, because when I woke up from surgery, the first time, I think, my surgeon told me that I’d been singing that to her right before I went under! I love that story.


J. M. Jansen: Which piece did you have the most fun creating?
Molly Alloy: That’s an interesting question… I had a lot of emotional engagement with this work, so there were some pieces that were really moving for me to make, but not what I’d exactly call ‘fun’. I suppose I had the most fun making DaVinci and the Whale, because that piece I had decided what I wanted to make, and that I wanted to make it in the days leading up to the show. I’m such a procrastinator that I knew I needed to leave something for the end or else I'd end up leaving everything for the end, so that was the piece I chose, and the scale of it along with the time pressure made it end up feeling almost performative to make it. I was so excited to be physically capable of such a thing again, too, that it was quite exhilarating.

J. M. Jansen: What elements of our culture impact your work? Things like fashion, street art, skate culture...something like that...
Molly Alloy: I kind of came up through the graffiti and street art movement. St. Louis has a really vibrant graffiti scene and it was a place where you were only judged by the work, since often the artists working in the same areas were anonymous to each other. I love how incredibly much can be done with lettering and how graffiti integrates fine art, design, and pop culture. The older I get, the more radicalized I become and the more I understand that the most suppressed voices in our culture are the most honest and nuanced, so now I pay a lot of attention to young activists and the black and queer communities for my cultural inspiration. Especially in terms of fashion and design- I’m so inspired by those places where fine art touches down in everyday places like clothing and housewares, but also really sensitive to the story those things are telling. Too often fashion and design are just trying to tell a story of wealth and power, and it’s a shame because the story-telling power of objects can be put to such good use- so I am learning to be more savvy about seeking the taste-makers who are telling a more complex story.

J. M. Jansen: Is there an artist or a couple artists that you are inspired by?
Molly Alloy: The first artist I ever fell in love with is Egon Schiele. I came across a book of postcards at a museum shop, I was maybe seven or so, and it was like time froze. I was so riveted. Now I can see how the movement of his mark making, the high contrast color application, the way the sloppy lines actually make the figures seem more alive- all that is still influencing me a lot today. But more than anything, that bold white outline he uses really works on me, and I appropriate it liberally. As far as mark making and process, Basquiat is the other icon who stands out to me- everything I see of his gives me that best kind of jealousy, where I wish I had made it. As for ‘who I want to be when I grow up’ kind of inspiration, my #1 is Yayoi Kusama. She is her work, and her work brings you into her world so directly and so effectively. For me, she is flawless and what her work achieves is a great inspiration.

J. M. Jansen: How has your process evolved as a result of creating this body of work?
Molly Alloy: Well, it sort of feels like I’ve finally found a process that actually works for me, that channels my voice. the basic idea is that I make the drawings first, and then paint in the background- if you look closely you can tell that the figure ground is reversed. I’ll make a couple drawings and then when I move in closer, doing the painting, I can’t see the whole thing anymore, especially on the larger works, and so I’m in the painting and making all these little choices- when I pull back out I see something unexpected, there’s room for give and take in that way and that’s what draws me into the piece and moves it forward. I’m enjoying it so much I already have new work started in my studio- I thought I’d want to finally start working sculpturally but the painting process is still calling me.

J. M. Jansen: You’ve said some aspects of the work are the result of coming to realize that you were a victim of child sexual trauma. How has this realization impacted your work? Have you experienced a sense of healing as a result of creating the work?
Molly Alloy: Yeah, it’s been healing all along. It’s always healing for me, making work, although with this project that was one of my objectives in a way, in making the work, and that’s something I’ve never done. But it’s really about taboo breaking for me- I get started on a painting, and then things come up and I feel bashful or confused or ashamed and I can recognize those feelings as a sign that I’m feeling some judgement towards what’s coming through. But it’s just a painting and I can follow the process and see it transforming, and in there somewhere those taboo’s I’ve been holding are being diffused. Sharing the work with others extends that, because it just reaffirms that sense of acceptance, which is stabilizing and makes me feel comfortable in the risk of that exposure.

J. M. Jansen: It’s hard to miss that there are a lot of dildo images in this work! How does sexuality and queer identity play a part in your artwork?
Molly Alloy: Haha, yeah, the dildo is one of my most essential characters in the narratives of this collection. It’s something that conveys so much dynamic meaning that it even tells a story all by itself, like I explored in Monolith. But also I see that there is something about the penis that I am still working through, there is an exploration happening in the work, and I don’t have all the answers on where that’s headed. For now, I see it as an appropriation, I am re-framing that body part and all that it implies, as gentle, soft (harmless), or literally object-ified in dildo form as something to be claimed (still harmless). As for queer identity in my work- I used to be afraid that if I got a reputation for making penis art I’d be labelled a Lesbian Artist. It’s one of many places I’ve come to recognize my internalized homophobia manifesting. More recently a friend referred to me as her ‘favorite queer radical artist’ and I was delighted and flattered, so there’s progress!


Reading in Place with Signal Fire

Posted by on in Literary Ooh La La


I had the good fortune of revisiting Rebecca Solnit’s essay “Open Door” upon attending Signal Fire’s second-ever event in a monthly series called Reading In Place. “Open Door” is contained in a book called A Field Guide to Getting Lost, a devotional hymn celebrating the ways we constantly lose and find ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, and artistically. Many gorgeous stories are woven together within “Open Door”, but I found myself continuously returning to this passage:

Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.

In a way, these words summarize the entire message of the essay. They remind us to welcome life’s mysteries and possibilities as we navigate our own unique path on this planet. With these ideas reverberating in our heads, eight of us piled into two cars and headed to Mt. Hood for Reading in Place, an adventure concocted by Signal Fire, a residency program dedicated to artistic creation and the natural world.

Two dynamic people co-founded Signal Fire, and they happen to be married to one another. The passionate Amy Harwood is an advocate and activist for forestland conservation. She has served as the Program Director for Bark, an organization devoted to protecting Mt. Hood National Forest. Ryan Pierce, who exudes a Zen-like aura, is an artist whose work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. Each summer Signal Fire leads artists into the wilderness to “instill self-reliance, catalyze creative energy, and invite interdisciplinary collaboration.” This year there are seven residency programs in which artists are participating. If this sounds like a box of creative cookies you would like to devour, you can find out more about Signal Fire’s programing and how to apply here.

One of their programs, Reading in Place, is part book club and part wilderness adventure. For each Reading in Place excursion, a Signal Fire alumni, board member, or visiting artist chooses a piece of writing for participants to read before embarking on a day hike together. Author Justin Hocking, whose memoir “The Great Floodgates of the Wonderland” won the 2015 Oregon Book Award for creative non-fiction, selected the essay “Open Door” during the event I attended.

On the day of the hike, eight of us met at Alberta Park and drove to a little-known part of Mt. Hood National Forest. Before we started our journey, Justin set the tone for the day by asking us to reflect on a time when we felt lost in our lives and to consider sharing thoughts on the subject during our lunch-time discussion. Then he shared the first half of a lively story about a student getting lost in a remote part of Colorado when he worked as an outdoor educator. He promised to finish the story later in the day.

The hike itself was gorgeous. We started by climbing up, up, up through tall trees with the soft sound of running water accompanying us the entire way. Conversation along the trail was inspiring as topics ranged from Amy’s work on Mt. Hood trying to stop a pipeline from running through the forest to childhood homes and experiences. It was fascinating to learn tiny fragments about the lives of the diverse group of artists assembled together for the excursion.

About half way through the hike we stopped for lunch. The delicious picnic feast of veggies, cheeses, guacamole, bread, crackers, and cookies provided by Signal Fire impressed us. Justin opened lunchtime conversation by inviting anyone willing to share a tale of being lost in some aspect of life. What proceeded was an honest discussion about our experiences, paired with thoughts and reflections about “Open Door” all while sharing a meal in the middle of the forest.

After that, Justin asked if we were willing to experience a taste of being lost in the woods. All of us agreed, so he brought out the blindfolds! After being paired in groups of two, we took turns blindfolding the other person and spinning him or her around to create a feeling of disorientation. Then we led the other person through the woods to a log or rock that was explored with all the senses except sight. After that, we led the blindfolded individual back to where we started, removed the blindfold, and asked the person to navigate back to the spot. I was amazed that everyone in the group was able to find his or her way back to the mysterious point of exploration. It was a humbling experience trusting another person to guide me through the forest without the sense of sight.


After handing in our blindfolds, we were ready to trek back to our starting point. Amy was excited to take the route down a recently decommissioned logging road to see how the habitat restoration was coming along. She enthusiastically explained the benefits of allowing the road to return to a natural state. We took this less-travelled path and it proved to be more challenging than our hike into the woods. There were large potholes to traverse, undergrowth to jump over, and creeks to forge. It felt a little more like the uncharted territory that Solnit refers to in her writing, though in reality it was a road created by the logging industry.

At the end of the day we arrived safely back to our cars. We reminded Justin that he never finished his story of the lost student, and he told us the ending. I won’t spoil it as he said it has the potential to become a part of a future book, but the ending was optimistic. His tale was about being physically lost in the wilderness, but the message can also apply to many other aspects of life.

At the conclusion of our hike we piled into two cars for the trip back to Portland and a return to urban life. During the drive I thought about our journey together. The authentic people and interactions of Reading in Place provided a platform for a more pure form of interaction.



Gertrude is partnering with local Portland artist, Molly Alloy, whose collection, Animal Body, will be on display at the Red E Cafe Gallery from June 10 to July 8. The Red E Cafe Gallery is located at 1006 N Killingsworth Ave., Portland, OR 97217.

Join us for the opening reception on June 11th from 7-10pm or for the extravagant multi-media closing party on July 7th from 7-10pm. The closing party will be a dynamic evening of musical, literary, and fine art. You’ll enjoy raucous live music, literary readings, public participation, a live auctioneer, a keg of beer, and so much more! The Gertrude Board will be at the Red E Cafe Gallery on both June 11th and July 7th, so we hope to see you there!

Molly Alloy is a Portland, OR based fine artist. The Animal Body collection began when severe illness and a radical hysterectomy provoked new insight into her early childhood sexual trauma, re-contextualizing Molly’s identities around gender and sexuality. The result is a series of bawdy, nonsensical self-portraiture rendered in vividly colorful collages of personal narrative. The works are grounded in an exploration of the deep knowledge held in the physical self, or ‘animal body’.

“I approached this work with no judgement, and no filter... the result is incredibly colorful- in more ways than one!” - Molly Alloy

The Red E Cafe continues to bring daring fine art to a coffeehouse setting with this audacious collection of new works by local artist Molly Alloy. The work will be available for viewing during all cafe hours from June 10th to July 8th. This collection creates a context for difficult themes that is unapologetic, optimistic and empowering, welcoming the viewer to a space where richly colored unicorns, giant dildos and ailing female forms are as intermingled as grief and joy and determination; where there is room for whatever subjects or experiences may arise from them.

They Required of Us a Song

Posted by on in Politics

Recently I stood before that great marble likeness of Abraham Lincoln and read the inscription carved above that figure’s head:

“In this temple
As in the hearts of the people
For whom he saved the Union
The memory of Abraham Lincoln
Is enshrined forever.”

This year marks the sesquicentennial of the end of the Civil War, the war of northern aggression, that “late unpleasantness” as it was often referred to in the years that followed. And I do believe that in so many ways, at least by the end of that unpleasantness, Lincoln was trying to save the Union for all of us, for each and every person. But as we all know, the stench of slavery and racism, the stench of that antebellum slave jail that could be smelled from the steps of the Capitol, has lingered well beyond the next century to dog us to this day. Racism did not end with the Civil War and prejudice still haunts the streets of every American town so that black men and women seem to be dying everyday at the hands of the American law and order that Lincoln hoped to preserve.

For the past few weeks I have been listening to a lecture series about the Civil War as taught by David Blight at Yale. Blight is an amazing speaker and his description of the antebellum period leading up to the war has been fascinating for me to listen to so far. During one description of the abolitionist movement before the war, the professor relates the story of an abolitionist group who invited Frederick Douglass to speak before them on the Fourth of July. In his speech, Douglass quoted without reference Psalm 137-1:

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."

When I arrived at work after listening to this lecture on my bike ride, I found myself reading through a discussion two friends were having on Facebook about the protests in Baltimore and whether the looting and destruction in that city were a justified and appropriate responses. One friend argued that while people of color should protest and should be upset, they should strive for non-violent protest.

I thought of Douglass quoting this passage. They said, “[s]ing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” America cannot expect black men and women to sing the song of our narrative when they have been excluded from it. We cannot expect anyone to appreciate our pax americana when they have been circumscribed from it. Who are we to set the tone and meter of someone else’s narrative when we continue to kill that other’s family in the street?

At the beginning of his speech, Frederick Douglass praises our American founding fathers. But there on Independence Day in 1852 Douglass says to these people who have invited him there to speak:

“I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me.

We have not yet shared our liberty, our equality, our independence with everyone who lives in this country and we should not expect those who have been looked over to sing for us. That late unpleasantness has lasted long into our present.


Welcome to a new type of Gertrude blog post, the Top Ten List. To kick off this series, here's a conglomeration of the random stuff the Gertrude Board is into right now, ranging from the bizarre to the highbrow, and covering all manner of in between. In future posts of this series we'll feature top ten lists from selected writers and artists whose work has appeared in Gertrude, as well as the interesting, creative queers and allies we meet out and about in Portland.


  • Kathy Acker's resurrection → more
  • 20-year-old singer-songwriter Shamir, whose brand of pop music mixes disco, funk, hip hop, and house with undefinable sexuality → more
  • Medicinal honey
  • The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters by Anthony Pagden → more
  • Printing synthetic DNA using tiny metal beads with endless possibilities
  • The Babadookmore
  • Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3more
  • Keeping ducks instead of chickens
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin → more
  • The album Tracker by Mark Knopfler → more


Jerry Saltz tore up and burned his MoMA press pass over the recent Björk retrospective there.

There’s been a lot of criticism of the Björk retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, but I bet the museum right now is really believing that all news is good news. I’m sure everyone wants to see for themselves how bad this show is. MoMA probably has people lined up around the block to scoff, in a similar but different way that crowds flocked to many of their recent exhibitions, such as the Marina Abramovic exhibit several years ago.

Jerry Saltz is known for being cranky. He scatters vitriol like buckshot across the scene. He absolutely makes me laugh sometimes, but I cannot always take him seriously. Beyond Saltz it seems that critics are not questioning Björk’s right to be featured as an artist. The lines between high and low art blurred long ago, particularly if one recounts the scandalous High and Low exhibit at MoMA in 1990. The concern here seems mostly to be terrible curation of the Björk exhibit or perhaps even the show’s aim. As for the curation of the show, if all the bad press is to be believed this one seems like a dud. I haven’t been to the exhibit but it sounds boring. I have the impression that it is a display of Björk music video memorabilia. It doesn’t sound like the sort of interactive, interdisciplinary work that Björk herself would develop.

As for the aim of the show, ostensibly it’s a retrospective or “mid-career survey” or something, and unfortunately it sounds like the most boring sort of retrospective focused on a subject that could be so dynamic. Beyond this, let’s be honest - the show is a potential cash cow for MoMA. A lot of MoMA’s recent exhibitions have been money makers, perhaps purposefully. Saltz writes that, “By now all of these shows feel like the museum trying to boost its numbers, pandering, and at sea,” and says that what he’s really worried about is “MoMA’s further damaging its credibility (with the permission of its trustees), riding on the backs of generations of artists and curators as it makes a suicidal slide into becoming a box-office-driven carnival. Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass vitrine; Queen Marina staring at smitten viewers in the atrium; the trashy Tim Burton show; last season's gee-whiz Rain Room; and of course, the wrecking ball Diller Scofidio + Renfro is about to swing: All are signs of a deep institutional rot.” I would say yeah, Jerry Saltz, these exhibits are about making money, but this prerogative issues not from MoMA specifically but extends out from a larger institutional and economic framework.

MoMA’s main problem may be that it exists at a nexus of ley lines in the art world and the institution is attempting to balance them all. It is first and foremost an institution of preservation for “Modern” works of art being created by artists working internationally roughly between 1880 and 1960. Founded by the “adamantine ladies” (including John D. Rockefeller’s wife,) the museum at its inception looked to collect relevant contemporary works. Following in this tradition the museum still attempts to follow and foster the development of contemporary art and artist, including acquiring such art. Finally, public relevance is MoMA’s third function, which can be especially difficult to balance at a time when, for generations, art and art consumption has become increasingly academic and less popularized. So yes, MoMA must turn to summer parties and Tim Burton and Tilda Swinton and the popular stars that all of America might recognize to draw patrons to a museum and thereby retain its popularity and populist relevance. And it has to do this to make money in order to conserve the Modern art of its past and to acquire the contemporary art of our present.

If we want a preservationist institution unaffected by the conditions of capitalism we have to nationalize our past, prepare to pay for its conservation with tax dollars. But an institution like this would not be able to simultaneously preserve the past and identify and support present art and artists. In part, we may have to accept these strategies employed by MoMA to get large crowds in the door, but we can also hope that institutions like this engage the public in different ways. In this way, Jerry Saltz may be overreacting. There’s a larger economic problem here that needs to be addressed. And while we can criticize the curator and curation of this Björk retrospective at MoMA, it may be unfair to call out all the shows at MoMA just because it is attempting to resolve itself into an institution of wider appeal to both maintain its economic position as well as its relevance in an era during which visual art revolves in a sphere largely separated academically from popular culture and interest.

Andy Coolquitt at c3:initiative

Posted by on in Visual Art

altAndy Coolquitt’s work is rooted in the physical acts of exploring, scavenging, and collecting. He sifts through discarded objects and finds purpose, merit, and a gritty beauty in materials others have abandoned as trash. Rescuing these objects from their fate of insignificance, Coolquitt offers them a new life. In his exhibitions he uses found, forsaken treasures in various combinations to redefine an architectural space, hoping to encourage new modes of social interaction.

Surprisingly Good Tomes

Posted by on in Read These!

The staff at Gertrude Press doesn’t just make books—we read them, too! Check out what managing editor LeAnna Crawford and treasurer Kelly Arthur have to say about the books they’ve read this year. Read more here...






Love and Country

Posted by on in Gertrude News

Love and Country


Love and Country

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to have coffee with the dynamic writer, filmmaker, and interactive producer Dan Sadowsky.  In his time on this planet, Dan has had many enviable reincarnations career-wise.  For three years he and his wife ran the vegetarian restaurant The Purple Parlor on Mississippi Ave in North Portland.  After that, Dan worked for Mercy Corps in several different positions allowing him to travel the world.  One of Dan’s jobs was to tell the stories of individuals helped by this powerful humanitarian aid agency; in this way he honed his skills as a storyteller.   



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