Kempt

I’ve been living in my body for many years. It has changed. Girls my age use tweezers and razors, but I let my hair spread lawlessly. When I’m in the bathroom, I take a shower, look in the mirror, and observe the strays that nest beneath the wingspan of my eyebrows. I let them be, wild as beasts beside our backyard creek. I seldom ask for money to visit the drugstore. Deodorant, a little shampoo, and conditioner is all I need. My father says, just use soap. Tried that once. There were flecks in my hair that wouldn’t come out. I walk into my bedroom. Instead of grooming, I use my fingers to draw shapes and shades late into the night. There’s no T.V. My brother is gone. He stole a credit card and was off to Thailand. But there is peace in the house.

Then one night my brother returns home.

A mildewed backpack and a ripped sleeping bag are flung beside the front door where he walks in.

He steps into the bathroom. Unlike me, he loves to shave and pluck the hairs on his body. 

He’s hairy because my mother struggled with infertility for three years. She swallowed a lot of testosterone right before she got pregnant with him.

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‘My Brother’s Death’ by Chuka Susan Chesney, Watercolor with Pen and Ink, 2015

The bathroom door remains locked for many hours. When I have to go, I use the powder room.

When he comes out, the counter is covered with dark stubble, as if it had grown a beard. The razor on the sink is full. I look in the tub. A ring and black, curled pubic hairs blemish the porcelain.

“Clean it up,” my mother tells me. “It’s good practice for when you’re married.”

My brother shaves his cheeks above his beard, his upper arms, his back, and wherever else he can reach. He sculpts his eyebrows because he wants to be pretty.

When he’s not shaving and plucking and tweezing away, he simmers mussels in the kitchen─and leaves a mess. 

After he eats, he drives off in his dented Firebird.  

“He’ll turn up again like a bad penny,” my father remarks.

My brother calls us from the E.R. with a broken jaw. His brakes went out. The car swooped down the hill and wrapped around a traffic pole. 

My father picks him up at 2 a.m.

My mother blends oxtail soup in the blender for him.

When his jaw is healed, he steals a credit card─again.


CHUKA SUSAN CHESNEY has a BFA in Fashion Illustration from Art Center College of Design and an MAT from Occidental College. She is an artist, poet, curator, and editor. Her award-winning paintings and sculpture have been shown in galleries all over the country. Her poems have been published on three continents. You Were a Pie So We Ate You, a book of Chesney’s poems was the winner of the 2018 San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival Chapbook Contest. In October 2018, Chesney curated the “I Pity da Poe” exhibition at the Hive Gallery in Downtown L.A. In November, Chesney hosted a poetry reading with Don Kingfisher Campbell at the YEAR ONE exhibition featuring Loren Philip and Tomoaki Shibata’s collaborative art at Castelli Art Space in Mid City. Chesney’s anthology of poetry and art Lottery Blues, coedited by Ulrica Perkins will be published by Little Red Tree Publishing in 2019.

Failed Cloning Series

Artist Statement: Sublimate, essence. We cut off all unnecessary. Standard, gauge – needle eye. It’s about form.
Ecstasy, bewilderment, reflection, intellectual convulsions on tip of needle – content.
Irony, a little humor and nonsense – a motive that allows you to express your heart to this permanently insane world.


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ALEXANDER LIMAREV, freelance artist, mail art artist, curator, poet, photographer from Russia. Participated in more than 700 international projects and exhibitions. His artworks are part of private and museum collections of 62 countries. His artworks as well as poetry have been featured in various online publications including Undergroundbooks.org, Boek861, Killer Whale Journal, Bukowski Erasure Poetry Anthology (Silver Birch Press), Nokturno.fi, Simulacro, Zoomoozophone Review, Iconic Lit, Briller Magazine, The Gambler Mag, Caravel Literary Arts Journal, Whispers of Soflay Anthology, Tuck Magazine, Angry Old Man Magazine, Caliban Online Magazine, Degenerate Literature, Sonic Boom Journal, M58, Maintenant etc.

The Ghosts of Them

Artist Statement: My work is an attempt to follow the footprints left behind by events, memories, and human life. Through the media of ink, paper, and paint, I build a makeshift home for emotions to live in and a lense for others to view them, hopeful for their illumination.


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‘The Ghosts of Them,’ Ink on paper, 2018


ALEXA FERMEGLIA is an American-born, Prague-based visual artist and poet. Graduating with a degree in Art Education in 2013, she has spent the last 6 years navigating the space between helping others express their inner selves and creating personal work that brings out her own.

The Met Gala & Our Notes on Camp


Notes by Maria Prudente

How do we apply language and meaning to an aesthetic? Can we be precise? Susan Sontag attempts precision in 58 paragraphs by listing in detail the sensibility of “camp” for those who are unaware. “The essence of camp” she begins, “is the love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.”

I’d read Sontag’s essay last summer and by the end of it felt I’d need to remember all of it. Highlight number 5 and number 6 oh and number 7, too. Read up on Henry James and Oscar Wilde for good measure. What does Greta Garbo look like again? Oh, I love this word epicene- so precise! Sontag grasped an idea I understood very well but couldn’t explain myself. Camp is better seen and felt. How did Sontag manage to describe taste, style, and convention while simultaneously debunking all three and making it clear and knowable? My answer is research! If you’re thinking this a quick read on some idle Tuesday night, behold, open your google browser and cancel your morning workout.

The 2019 Met Gala gave people who’d never read Sontag’s work or given thought to taste as a sensibility: good and downright awful, nothing in between. On Monday night I feverishly hashtagged metgala and received minute-to-minute updates (yes, this was during finals) of the looks from the evening. On the red carpet, most celebrities shrugged and gritted their teeth when asked of their thoughts on the night’s theme. For me, Kim Kardashian was the complete embodiment of camp as an aesthetic. Kardashian represents a feeling in our country- she doesn’t have any extraordinary talents in the entertainment industry, but she has a famous lineage which has made her popular. Popularity is an aesthetic in the United States. Her choice to work with Thierry Mugler of House of Mugler was a smart choice- Kardashian clearly understood the aesthetic because she is aesthetic. Inspired by Sophia Loren drenched in water in the film Boy On A Dolphin, Kardashian arrived dripped in wet in diamond with a tan that matched her dress. She was a walking photograph- a walking sensibility- Kim Kardashian wearing Mugler was “camp.”

The exhibition takes you from 17th-century fashion to modern day. If only Sontag were alive today I wonder if she would add or cross-off anything to her precise list of “camp” and it’s imprecision. One line I keep with me because it’s easy to remember: “the ultimate camp statement: it’s good because it’s awful…Of course, one can’t always say that.”



Notes by Devanshi Khetarpal

It was my last day in New York before I went home for the summer. I wondered if I had the time, in between packing or resting and going to my favorite diner, to go to the Met and visit the exhibit on “Camp,” the theme for this year’s Met Gala. I wasn’t sure if fashion, or couture, specifically, is something I understand, something I “get.” Thankfully, “Notes on Camp” by Susan Sontag was #trending, and inevitably came to my attention the day after the Met Gala. I read it thoroughly, and enjoyed every bit of it just as I have always enjoyed Sontag’s writing, and thought that maybe this time, after I visit an exhibit on Islamic and Pahari art that interested me, I might as well go to the gallery and have a look at dresses, jewelry, whatever they may have there. I had no idea what to expect, what the displays would be like. Should I be using “Camp” as an adjective at all? Is it one? These are just some of the questions that passed my mind.

I finally made the decision to go to the exhibit and thought I’d just skim through everything I needed to see in order to understand. I didn’t have too many questions, I didn’t want too many answers. But as soon as I saw the pink wall (…“is this millennial pink?” I asked myself) with “CAMP” written on it, I was taken aback by surprise because the first thing I noticed was the abundance of text. Old books and manuscripts were kept open behind the glass, sometimes next to shoes or dresses or miniature sculptures that looked like paperweights, the kind no one uses now. As I kept making my way through the exhibit, I saw familiar names: William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Christopher Isherwood, Susan Sontag, among others. I saw brand names, too, of course: Gucci, Louis Vutton, fashion houses I have not heard of and whose names I cannot pronounce but whose clothes, I am certain, are beyond what I can ever imagine affording. I realise that fashion is everything I love and loathe, perhaps like writing in some ways.

But the textuality of the exhibit was unexpected. I didn’t expect to see the world of fashion, the fashion industry, take such an initiative to reflect on its language, the history of its language and to use it as a method to innovate, create, critique, expand. I have been obsessed with the sartorial choices of my favorite writers. I think of Tishani Doshi in Georgia Hardinge’s “sculptural dresses,” I often think of Arundhati Roy draping a saree with her deliciously curly, short hair. I have always wanted to steal their wardrobes; when I was growing up, I wanted to dress up as a writer, like the people I have seen at literary festivals across the country: unapologetically Indian, apparently comfortable, truly colorful and invariably and individually stylish. I had no clue how they did it and through the years, I have been trying to develop my own “sensibility” rather than style. I put myself together deliberately, slowly, cautiously before any poetry reading or public lecture. And even though I am not too well acquainted with the artifice, extravagance and how they must be effectively constructed, or amalgamated into one’s identity, donned as one’s outfit, I do know that camp is a different kind of textuality and intertextuality, one that’s atmospheric too.

I realized this as I walked through the exhibit: the text was pasted onto the glass and the specimens were behind the text. The text became the foreground and retained its textuality, while the specimens became not just evidence of the text but also became the subtext, the background, even in the event of the text merely describing the specimen. This three-dimensional presentation is something intriguing. Was I supposed to treat the text as something that brings out the real of the specimen? Am I supposed to treat the text rather than the specimen as the interface of the textual and the embodied, the real, the exhibited? Or am I supposed to treat the text as hyper-real, something with the capability to break free from the specimen and emerge embodied? I might never know. But while I saw Sontag’s notes on Camp (note the capital ‘C’), I recalled the phrases I had been seeing: “akimbo pose,” “queer attitudes,” “camp it up.” Every piece certainly was different but what appealed to me most was the necessity of the text. The text, the writer of the text was on top of the whole and Sontag’s text appeared atop the semicircle of glass displays, each letter being typed away, fading into each other as the line extended with the soft sound of a typewriter emerging. That, for me, was camp: the crowd, the abundance of text, the many glass displays, the specimens, the color, the sound, the bright light shining on each one, making them stars in the show.


To plan your visit or find out more about the ongoing exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, visit their website by clicking here


155113583331125364MARIA PRUDENTE has written about feminist ethics for Manifest-Station and is featured in Grey Wolfe Publishing’s upcoming anthology of nonfiction short stories. Maria is a professional stage and film actress. She received her training from the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute and graduated from the American Musical & Dramatic Academy with a concentration in Musical Theatre performance. Maria is the Content Editor at CountrySkyline, LLC and proud member of Actor’s Equity Association. She lives in NYC where she studies Creative Writing at Columbia University.

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DEVANSHI KHETARPAL is from Bhopal, India, but currently lives in New York City, where she is a junior at  NYU majoring in Comparative Literature with a minor in Creative Writing. Her poetry collection, Small Talk, is coming out soon from Writers Workshop India, Kolkata, and her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Sahitya Akademi’s Indian LiteratureBest Indian Poetry 2018, Transom, Aainanagar, Vayavya, TRACK//FOUR etc. among others. She is a recipient of the 2018 David J. Travis Undergraduate Research Fund for research on modern Italy, and has studied abroad at NYU Florence and NYU Paris. She has served as an intern at Poets House, and currently works as an application manager for The Speakeasy Project, a poetry reader for Muzzle Magazine, and as a student office assistant for the NYU Department of Comparative Literature. Khetarpal can speak, read, write and translate from or to Hindi, English and Italian, and will start learning Punjabi soon.

Allegro Vivace

Artist Statement: I drew on Duchamp’s simultaneously disjointed yet fluid and overlapping depictions of action to create this piece, based on the flurry of movements at an honor band concert I attended; to me, it evokes the emotional transformation that music and creation can bring upon us.”


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“Allegro Vivace,” Oil Paint on Canvas, 2016


JESSICA LAO is a junior and Writing Fellow at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta. She is an editor for her school’s literary magazine and a top nonfiction writer/Editor’s Choice award winner for Teen Ink magazine. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Blue Marble Review, Embryo, and After the Pause, as well as recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

Interview with Amy O. Woodbury

” Amy Woodbury is a connoisseur of abstraction, an artist who unflinchingly exposes fierce secrets and restless dreams– all with a deft precision. Here, we cross over into a plane that moves with uncanny ease from the physical to abstract. Stroke after stroke scorches with unnamed longing, melodic stillness. This art, this surreal entity, is a deeply reflective meditation of modern wanderlust, yearning, and enigma. As a former modern dancer, Woodbury paints in much the same way as she danced–with daring, elegance, and a wondrous verve.”

-Maggie Lu, Visual Art Editor 


Inklette: How do you think your 22 years of artistic background in dancing/choreography influence your visual artwork? What was the catalyst in your transition from dance to artwork?

Amy: i consider my dance background to be my visual art training. to me, there are many similarities between composing a dance and composing a painting in that both art forms address improvisation, lyricism, space, line, texture, scale, abstraction and narrative. and with my figurative work, i often feel as though i’m still choreographing, still inventing movement. i love that!

throughout my dancing career, i would simultaneously be drawing and painting something, whether it be on costumes, on set pieces, on the walls of our home, on paper. the christmas after i retired, my husband gave me canvases and paints and that was that – i haven’t looked back.  

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“The Snail’s on the Thorn,” 30″ X 40″, Acrylic on Canvas. ©Amy O. Woodbury

Inklette: I love your painting “The Snail’s on the Thorn”; can you speak about your composition and inspirations for that one specifically?

Amy: thank you. i am very pleased with how she turned out. it’s a romantic piece with a romantic ending (regarding its sale). 

the line, “all’s right with the world”, from robert browning’s verse poem, pippa passes, kept running through my head as i was making this. i love birds, the whole of the animal kingdom, and i love english literature and old books too, and i wanted to create a peaceful and harmonious world, where things were “right”, to quote mr. browning. when the foreground  figures were complete, i added the miniature chorus behind them, gave the earth an organic striation and the sky a crunchy texture. the palette was a guiding force, too.

Inklette:  Do you ever find moments of artist’s block? If so, how do you regain momentum?

Amy: i do and when it happens, i remind myself of the children i know and how fearless they are when they’re making art, “oh, i’ll just do this and add this and make this happen because i want to”. the judgement and editorializing go out the window, they’re free. i also have a mantra, “move off the spot”. just go. and even if what i throw down isn’t very good, it’s a start, it’s movement – have i mentioned that word before?

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“Yin Yin,” 18″ X 24″, Acrylic and water color pencil on canvas. ©Amy O. Woodbury

Inklette: As an Illinois native, how do you find your work influenced by your upbringing and surroundings?

Amy: i was born in a quintessentially midwestern small town, mendota, and i have sweet memories of walking out our back door into cornfields and sky. there is variety to the landscape here. and there is a plethora of green and water and four very real, very distinct seasons. all of which makes for rich fodder for my work. i also live part time in southern utah, but illinois stays with me; oftentimes i will paint an illinois-infused piece while i’m in utah. so i take my roots with me wherever i go. i like that.

Inklette: Which artists or pieces of artwork did you find yourself drawn to in your formative years?

Amy: as a choreographer, henri matisse; he was a massive presence. i created an evening-length work, “ ode to a wild beast”,  based on several of his paper cut-outs. years later, working with paper and constructing collages, i felt i was channeling him all over again. 

but before the paper pieces, in my formative years, i was drawn to asian art: scroll paintings, woodblock prints, the “floating world”, kanji symbols, etc., which led me to purchase the tale of the bamboo cutter with superb illustrations by masayuki miyata. that little book fed me for several years – long enough that people thought i was asian. simultaneously, i loved poring through my grandmother’s art history books and selecting portraits of medieval madonnas for inspiration- icons by the likes of carlo crivelli, fra filippo lippi, piero della francesca. and i painted them on 4’x4’ sheets of masonite –  they were very primitive but a whole lot of fun to make.

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“Michigan,” 36″ X 48 “, Acrylic on canvas.   ©Amy O. Woodbury

Inklette: Finally, I’d love to hear about your current exhibition at cafe selmarie in Chicago. How were you attracted to the venue? What sort of materials and inspirations did you draw on for your pieces “yin yin” and “michigan”?

Amy: i’m good friends with the owners; in fact, one was a dance colleague of mine. i enjoy showing there because of its lay-out, the generous wall space, the palette and the fact that the cafe’s clientele includes art collectors – i owe a lot to cafe selmarie in terms of my own client base. my current show, 20 strong, is a good example of the many different things i love to paint/draw: “yin yin” is a re-inventing of an older portrait that i felt wasn’t working so i flipped it upside down and there she was. she has a tinge of the surreal and with the two-female-portraits-in-one, i titled her “yin yin”. “michigan” is, once again, a manifestation of my love affair with the midwest; every summer we head north to the upper peninsula of michigan, on the southern shore of lake superior. aptly named. 


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Photo Credit: Richard Woodbury

A former dancer and choreographer, AMY O. WOODBURY has been a visual artist for twenty years. Mostly self-taught, Ms. Woodbury works in acrylic and mixed media, painting and drawing a variety of things: fantasy figures within dense detritus-laden terrains, portraits of imagined women, abstract expanses of water and land. What motivates her? Movement, memories, intuition, color, randomness, thinking outside the stretched canvas. Born and raised in Illinois, Amy makes art in Chicago and Boulder, Utah. Exhibits include: Judy A. Saslow Gallery, the Goodman Theatre (scenic elements), the Evanston Public Library, permanent collection, the Evanston Art Center, GenesisMke, Cafe Selmarie, the Burr Trail Outpost, and her Annual Front Yard Art Sale, an anticipated Evanston event.

Five Pieces

Artist Statement: These acrylic pour paintings are part of a large collection of over 70 paintings that explore the earth, the body, the environment and the mystery that binds it all together. The pieces are created by combining acrylic paint with various substrates and silicone oil. The layers of paint react within the mixture according to their density, and form an abstract design. I interpret the design in terms of land, water, sky, body, natural elements and phenomena, particularly exploring the magical and mysterious nature of these things. My aim in creating this collection is to present unusual and alternative views of life and nature in order to inspire viewers to “widen their world.” I believe that when we can perceive with our imaginations and not rely only on literal interpretation, our world (our connection to and understanding of it) becomes more meaningful to us. The way the paints interact with the substrates is solely science based (think specific gravity) but what is produced is random and unique. Our understanding of the earth, the sky, and the body opens on other levels when viewing this art.”


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SANDY COOMER is an artist and poet living in Brentwood, TN. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks, including the recent Rivers Within Us (Unsolicited Press). Her art has been featured in local art shows and exhibits, and has been published in journals such as Lunch Ticket (Antioch University Los Angeles), Gravel, The Wire’s Dream Magazine, and The Magnolia Review. She is a teacher, a dreamer, a seeker, and an explorer. Her favorite word is “Believe.”

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