Occupying the Brooklyn Bridge and the Power of Protest ~ Matthew D’Elia

Part I

I did not know what to expect when I decided to go to New York on Saturday to check out Occupy Wall Street. In fact, I had only opted to go after seeing the now famous footage of police brutality, courtesy of inspector Anthony Bologna aka “Tony Baloney”(video). I had originally planned to go with a couple of friends, but that did not pan out. For a moment I was hesitant to go by myself because I rarely travel to New York City, let alone get involved in a protest in which people have been beaten, pepper sprayed, and arrested. But I decided to go anyway. After walking out of the PATH Station at the World Trade Center I was immediately taken aback by the number of police officers stationed in the area. Apparently the police have occupied their own portions of Lower Manhattan where they are keeping vans, buses, equipment and personnel at the ready just in case the word comes in to start making mass arrests.

I wandered a bit until finally making it to Liberty Plaza Park (formerly known as Zucotti Park), where I continued to wander aimlessly, snapping a few pictures until I happened upon fellow Rutgers University students, Kristin Clark, Matt Cordeiro, and Joel Salvino, who were looking for a bathroom. Joel pointed out a ninety-five year old Marxist-Leninist who had been yelling at a few Ron Paul supporters. I wanted to know why this man was so insistent on being a Leninist as well as a Marxist, so I decided to have a chat with him while I waited for them to come back. Here I learned a valuable lesson: ninety-five year old men do not take shit from anyone. He formed his political beliefs in the 1930s and they seem to have not changed since.What made him a Marxist-Leninist was the idea that radical social change was only possible through a tightly structured organization with ideological cohesion,  a specific set of goals, a powerful leadership and the willingness to achieve their ends by any means necessary. Occupy Wall Street does not follow this model at all.

It is usually difficult to categorize or try to make sense of mass movements and protests that emerge seemingly out of nowhere. Occupy Wall Street is marked partially by a strange alliance of both Ron Paul supporters on the far right (Anarcho-Capitalists) and socialists, Marxists, and Anarcho-Syndicalists on the far left. Barring their consensus on the full expansion of civil liberties, the only agreement among the two sides is that greed and, to borrow a quip from the historian Thomas Bailey, the “international gangsterism” of the global finance industry and powerful states has crippled the global economy and propped up the power of a handful of elites at the expense of the majority.

Liberty Park is not only Occupy Wall Street’s staging ground, but has also become a temporary, indefinite home for the movement’s core group of organizers, including Zu, a former Rutgers student and resident of New Brunswick, who after getting laid off decided to sublet her apartment and move into the park. Most of the youth living in the park seem to be in a similar situation.  In order to accommodate themselves they have set up sleeping spaces, a kitchen of sorts, a medical station, and even a library.

As we began preparing for the 3:00pm march, there were whispers that we would be marching over the Brooklyn Bridge. At the time—and even now—I did not know whether this meant that we would be marching over the walkway or one of the traffic lanes. In any case, the march got underway without incident. We were positioned in the back because Zu had taken up the task of setting the pace from the back of the march. The senior citizens were to take up the vanguard. Ironically enough, there is a much higher chance of getting arrested in the rear of any given protest march, because from there it is much easier for the police to use the “kettling technique” to trap demonstrators. However, being positioned there actually prevented us from joining those on the traffic lanes and subsequent arrest.

The group of marchers was increasing in size as we moved north along Broadway towards the Brooklyn Bridge. This was easy to notice because in order to continue setting the pace from the back we had to keep moving behind all of the new people joining the march. People were getting really excited. There was a very energetic young woman (one of the organizers), who was running around starting up chants and trying to get everyone to close off the gaps between marchers. She accidentally stepped on the back of my shoe, causing my foot to fall out. She quickly said “Sorry, baby!” with real sincerity, and ran ahead to energize the rest of the group.

As we were approaching the bridge, I was still not sure if we were going to cross into the traffic lanes. The police had blocked traffic from travelling eastbound into Brooklyn, but had also formed a line to prevent protesters from entering. We were still at the very back of the march. The police were patrolling up and down the lane parallel to the walkway. It was not until we had travelled a few hundred yards up the bridge that we realized protesters had somehow made it down into the street. I had assumed that the police formed that line blocking protesters from entering the entire time; apparently that was not the case. A large number of protesters had stopped on the walkway to look, take pictures, and express solidarity with those who were fenced in on the street below. The police had already started making arrests, singling out specific individuals and grabbing them as the opportunity presented itself. After making our way a bit further up the bridge, past the penned in group, I heard a familiar shout. I squeezed over to the side to get a look and saw that energetic young woman, struggling and yelling as two police officers were dragging her away.

Those who were not trapped on the street or standing on the walkway to provide moral support made their way across the bridge into Brooklyn, where we rallied at Cadman Plaza Park, surrounding the William Jay Gaynor monument. Here the organizers passed along information regarding our fellow protesters on the bridge as well as advice on what to do next: who to call if a friend has been arrested, etc. Because Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are not permitted to use loudspeakers or megaphones, communication is done through a massive game of telephone. One person shouts the original message, and the surrounding crowd shouts it along to those standing out of earshot of the speaker.  I noticed that the same person never spoke twice. A different person conveyed each message.

While all this was happening, the police were slowly surrounding the park and making their way inside. According to them, we would not be arrested so long as we “did not break park regulations.” They conveniently failed to enumerate these regulations.

I would have loved to stay at Cadman Park, but I had a few obligations that night in New Brunswick. Joel and I decided to walk back across the bridge to get to the PATH station. As we started up the walkway, two police officers warned us that “protesters were blocking the path up ahead and not letting people through.” We snickered to ourselves, musing at how we could assume different identities by not walking with a large group of people.

The police were stationed throughout walkway, telling people that they had to keep moving to the other side of the bridge. Now there were buses (some of which were from MTA) lined up in the street below, outside of which arrested protesters were waiting to be loaded up and taken down to the station. Joel and I shouted down to one of the protesters asking, “how did you get down there!?” The response was “I don’t know, I was just following the group!” We then came upon the group of alledgedly obstructive protesters who, roughly twenty strong, were standing on one side of walkway in solidarity with those below. A few police officers were standing around them, telling them that they had to get off of the bridge. One man questioned the legality of forcing people off of a public walkway, to which an officer in a white shirt responded by grabbing the protester and threatening arrest. They said that we were allowed to be on the bridge, but that we “had to keep moving.” One of the officers began approaching me as I was trying to take a picture, so I quickly put down my camera and walked away.

As Joel and I walked to the train station, I could not help but mull over the greater significance of what happened and what my role was within these events. It was a shared role, of course. I am grateful to have had support from Matt, Kristen, Zu, and Joel. I feel like we are a part of what could become the largest social movement of our generation, but I do not yet know how to classify it.

Part II

History certainly verifies the power of protest, but despite this common technique, Occupy Wall Street is decidedly different from its predecessors in its organization and goals.

Solidarity, which with roughly ten million members would become the largest trade union in history, emerged  from a strike at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk, Poland, in 1980.  Solidarity used civil disobedience and nationwide strikes to demand workers’ rights and social change from a government whose legitimacy was founded upon notions of workers’ rights and social change. Though this movement was violently suppressed by the Communist government in 1981, they would remain underground throughout 1980s until finally reemerging in 1988-89 to successfully negotiate for democratic elections. This set into motion a chain of events leading to the Revolutions of 1989 in the Eastern Bloc and arguably the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Similarly, the Civil Rights movement demonstrates the efficacy of non-violent protest and civil disobedience in an American context. This movement exposed the inherent contradictions in a supposedly liberal, democratic state, which emphasized human equality in theory while in practice systematically marginalized the political power of a select group. In this case, the legal basis of the state itself had provided the means for its own criticism. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution could be used as effective tools to compel the U.S. government to concretely meet its theoretical obligation to guarantee political freedom for all citizens of the United States.

When compared to Solidarity and the Civil Rights movement, Occupy Wall Street lacks the means to make very specific demands because the enemy is not so clearly defined. For those living in the Eastern Bloc, information came from the Politburo and one could either accept it as fact or, as most did, reject it entirely. The goals of the Civil Rights movement were legitimized by the state itself.

Today’s issue is far more nuanced: the enemy is amorphous, and mainstream sources of information provide no basis from which this systematic oppression can be criticized.

Wall Street has become an institution fundamentally embedded within the political and economic structure in not only the US, but the entire world. So much so that its sudden failure carries with it the threat of global collapse through a process that practically nobody–let alone Wall Street bankers– truly understands. By creating specific demands that fit into the typical logic of American politics, the Occupy Wall Street movement would compromise its essence and surrender its claim to representing “the 99%.”

For example, demanding a specific tax increase on large corporations or a clearly defined fiscal policy on Wall Street–within the framework of mainstream economics–would do little curb their power over society.Wall Street and other corporate interests have gained such influence over the political and economic sphere that any such maneuver would require the support of these institutions to succeed. Having the power to convert and move its capital anywhere in the world in an instant, Wall Street could easily adapt to new economic circumstances. Large corporations, using the money they have already accumulated, could likewise send their productive potential outside of the country. In short, operating within the mainstream political, economic, and social paradigm would be self-defeating.

The failure of this paradigm  is apparent in its inability to predict the economic crisis of 2008, while Libertarians like Ron Paul and Marxists such as David Harvey had a sense that the system was untenable.

More importantly, creating narrow demands would undoubtedly alienate individuals who, although they support the revolutionary spirit of Occupy Wall Street, may see certain demands as being counterproductive to the overall intent of this movement. If the group’s demands do not receive something like unanimous consent, leaders would have to take the charge and set the agenda. Such an organization has certainly worked for movements in the past, but conditions in the present seem to belie this kind of structure.

Solidarity was lead by the personality of Lech Walesa and individuals such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were specific figures of inspiration within the Civil Rights Movement. These were all charismatic figures around whom personality cults formed and served as a source of inspiration and ideological cohesion.

Despite their effectiveness, Solidarity and the Civil Rights movement often did not represent “the 99%.” They represented certain classes of people who were clearly being oppressed within the legal framework of society. So they applied pragmatic political means, within the structure of their society, to achieve their ends. After taking power, Solidarity itself, as a political organization, succumbed to infighting among the leadership, causing its decline (Paradox of Change). Even Dr. King had to refrain from openly opposing the Vietnam War until after 1965, as doing so would have undermined support for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

Occupy Wall Street has no definitive leaders, just familiar faces.

This movement is not about playing politics with actors in a broken system. It has emerged as a result of the inability of so-called “leaders” to deliver on their promises and fix these errors. The masses of unemployed, underpaid, or indebted are sick of these political games and are seeking to build a new system in which they are free to use their vast creative potential and are not subject to all of the crap being shoveled by our political institutions. The only option is to try to create a movement that stands outside of this paradigm.

Occupy Wall Street should be seen as continuation of the Arab Spring, like the protests in Wisconsin, the demonstrations against austerity measures in London, and the protests in Greece and Spain in May. This is a global protest against the current organization of power: one that is suppressing the power of most individuals through exceedingly complicated mechanisms which are run by only a few. But this movement may be even more than just a reaction to thirty years of lying by global elites that is to be considered only within the context of recent history. Perhaps it is the enduring idea that those in power, whether they are political, bureaucratic, financial, or industrial elites, must be held accountable for their actions. An expansion of democracy beyond polls and voting booths, following through with principles established during the Enlightenment. In this regard, it may be more appropriate to consider this movement as a part of a tradition that dates back to the revolutions of 1688, 1776 and 1789.


Photos by Mr. Matthew D’Elia. All rights reserved by the artist.

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Coming to Grips with the Holocaust in “The Reader” ~ M. Blaha

Coming to Grips with the Holocaust in The Reader
By M. BlahaI recently read Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and watched the film adaptation directed by Stephen Daldry, and I found myself as conflicted as the main character and narrator, Michael Berg. The book offers more insight than the film because, since the story is told in first person narrative, it allows direct access to Michael’s thoughts. The movie certainly provokes the viewer to sympathize with Hanna when she is on trial and throughout the duration of her prison sentence. It does an excellent job of convincing the viewer that Hanna is the victim of uncontrollable circumstances that forced her into her position as an SS guard of a satellite camp of Auschwitz, but, unlike the novel, I think the film fails to properly convey the struggle Michael has in trying to understand her crime, while simultaneously having to condemn it. Hanna and a group of women stand trial for allowing three-hundred Jewish women to burn to death in a locked church that was bombed during the camp’s evacuation, even though these Jewish women were placed under their care and protection. In the novel, Michael clearly states that in trying to understand Hanna’s crime he is humanizing her actions, and making it impossible to condemn her crime. Perhaps Hanna does not deserve Michael’s understanding. Maybe condemning a crime leaves no room for understanding.

The courtroom scene has the most emphasis in both the novel and film, as it spotlights the question Hanna asks the judge during the trial, “What would you have done?” Hanna wants to know what she could have done differently. This question is very important when discussing the Holocaust and convicting those guilty of Nazi War Crimes. “What would you have done?” It’s easy to blame Hanna without considering the context of her situation, “Hanna had not decided in favor of crime. She had decided against a promotion at Siemens, and fell into a job as a guard.” Hanna does not wake up one morning and decide to work in a Nazi concentration camp, containing women like animals as they await transport to their deaths. She only decides against a promotion and finds another job to support herself. Hanna’s decisions are all made for her own sake.

Most of our decisions are made for us, our families, and for the good of the people we know and love without thinking about how they affect other people. Humans are not capable of looking beyond their immediate relationships, unless they have a position that requires them to make decisions to benefit more people than themselves and the people they know directly. I recently watched a repeat episode of Law and Order: SVU that is an interesting example of how a decision a single member of a community makes, takes a heavy toll on the lives of other people in the area.

A little girl dies from contracting the measles because she is too young to receive the vaccination to protect her from the disease, which forces the SVU to search for the source of a possible measles epidemic. The source of the measles chain is a little boy old enough to receive the vaccination, but does not because his mother believes his natural immune system is strong enough to fight off the infection, which it does. The boy’s mother does not think her decision concerns anyone outside of her own family. Her research on vaccinations and the power the body has against fighting disease are the only things that inform her decision. Since her son’s immune system is able to fight the disease, she does not consider herself responsible for the death of the little girl; she is just trying to be a “good” mother to her son. The woman is arrested for the murder of the little girl. The episode shows that while the woman’s decision was best for her family, it was detrimental to society at large. We have privacy and freedom of choice, but there are certain rules that help society function, and if these rules are disobeyed, society will crumble. Her decision would be applicable in a small, sprawling area where the lives of people are more private, but not a densely populated area like New York City.

The Reader is concerned with whether one person knows what is best for another person. Is the law or the community at large able to define what is good for its individuals? Michael has information that can serve to give Hanna a lesser sentence, and disprove accusations the other women on trial blame her for. Michael knows Hanna is illiterate, and that to reveal this would be exposing a life-long secret she goes to great lengths to hide. Hanna simply accepts the accusations the other women make, because defending herself would force her to face the humiliation of her secret. Hanna’s illiteracy affects her entire life. She refuses the offer of a promotion at Siemens because she cannot read, and accepts a position as a guard where she chose prisoners to read to her “because she wanted to make their last month bearable before their inevitable dispatch to Auschwitz.” At the trial, Hanna is too concerned with keeping her illiteracy secret that she does not consider what it means to be exposed as a criminal.

Since Michael knows Hanna’s secret, he wonders if he has a responsibility to share this information with the judge.  Hanna does not try to defend herself, and she says things that constantly infuriate the judge, which compels Michael to want to help her; he wants to help the judge understand Hanna’s behavior, and, also, justify her behavior for himself.

In the novel, Michael’s father, who is a philosopher and lawyer, tells him that Hanna’s freedom and dignity must be considered in the situation, and he poses this question, “don’t you remember how furious you would get as a little boy when mamma knew better what was good for you? Even how far one can act like this with children is a real problem.” The movie does not emphasize this point as much as the book, but this question is important to keep in mind when considering Michael’s inner conflict. A person cannot place what other people say is good for them above their own ideas of what is good for themselves because, as the father puts it, “it was no comfort to you [Michael] that your mother was always right.” In order for Michael to help Hanna, he has to address her about the matter and allow her to decide what she believes is best. Hanna needs to have “the last word;” doing it any other way would deprive her of her freedom and dignity, without giving her some promise of a future.

The movie focuses on Michael’s need to understand Hanna’s actions, and his struggle to come to terms with her crime because he loves her. The novel weaves Michael’s inner conflict into the struggle of subsequent generations trying to make peace with Germany’s Nazi past and the Holocaust.  Michael’s generation is exposed to films and literature about the concentration camps to the point that it is no longer a subject beyond imagination. Michael and other young people cannot rely on past generations to provide them with answers about Nazi atrocities, because their parents either committed Nazi crimes or watched them happen.

Coming to grips with a Nazi past was not just a generational conflict, because the children of the second generation, portrayed in The Reade,r did not know whether condemning their parents was enough. They would punish the guilty, but would continue to be “silenced by revulsion, shame and guilt.”

This generation needed to know how man could practice such cruelty toward other men, and, most importantly, how any group of people could choose to become victims without fighting back. In the novel, Michael ventures to the site of a concentration camp to experience it firsthand. He meets a man while hitchhiking, who explains that executioners do not hate the people they execute; execution just happens to be their line of work. The people that hated the Jews never directly killed them, but devised a plan that distanced them from the mass execution of the people they despised. The people who carried out the physical part of the extermination were indifferent toward the Jews, which made murdering them easier; it’s easy to discard something you have no emotional attachment to. The Jews, to the executioners, were a matter of such indifference that they could “kill them as easily as not.” It is numbness. Literature I have read about the perpetrators of Nazi crimes describes how difficult killing was at first, but after doing it over and over again, mass execution was all in a day’s work. This “numbness” is somewhat akin to the numbness that pervades the literature and other accounts of concentration camp survivors. A prisoner in Auschwitz who manages to survive for several months becomes accustomed to seeing death, and to doing whatever it takes to survive. Prisoners of the concentration camps began to exhibit selfish and indifferent behavior to the other inmates. However, prisoners of Nazi concentration camps were stripped of their humanity, and so their actions and behaviors became animalistic; morals cannot be applied to the victims of Nazi atrocities.

Perhaps we cannot judge people’s actions without considering their circumstances, but should a person’s circumstances make a difference in how we judge her behavior? It does not make a person’s actions any better or worse. Behavior is an independent faculty. It is influenced by circumstance and other social factors, but in the end, it needs to be judged separately. The law is designed to punish actions. The novel states that behavior has its own sources and is a person’s own, just as a person’s thoughts and decisions are her own.

The novel and film adaptation of The Reader, both question whether “law” is something that is actually written and obeyed, or whether it is something that “must be” obeyed – written or not – in order for society to function. So, what is law?


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia


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A Poem by Amy Lynn Ruth

blackest canopies over this longing suburban town and also the very night time shade of navy where unsinkable ships have glided with coy buoyancy into silence I just think it’s wild how evanescent is a smile have you ever felt depersonalization after a couple too many hits nah, man I’m good over here but these cans don’t taste the same when we were fifteen and grasping grappling with key locks pushed up against this couch back unzipped and pressing teaching sweet first loves and lasts that I swore to her would never fade away well, we’re back in town again and her new boyfriend awkwardly stands in the kitchen corner tracing chaser circles on the counter he’ll tell you the government’s been stealing from our essence earth pretending it’s for some greater good and we don’t have the slightest of clues what goes on out there but hey, man I’m just trying to have a good time don’t even bring up time tonight.

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Alfa Art Gallery’s New Brunswick Salon ~ Call for Artists

New Brunswick Art Salon, Fall 2011 – Call for Artists

About the Exhibition

In the 18th and 19th century, Art Salons were the greatest annual or biannual art events in the Western world, celebrating the farthest advances in academia and the arts. The Alfa Art Gallery, in order to bridge talented and highly esteemed artists with the New Brunswick public, holds its own Art Salon exhibition biannually in the spring and fall.

Call for Entries

The Alfa Art Gallery would like to invite artists to submit work for the New Brunswick Art Salon, Fall ’11. There are two artist categories: newly emerging artists and professional artists. All submissions must be in by September 25. Artists will be notified if their work is accepted by September 30. The exhibition opening will be held on Friday, October 21.


For this exhibition, artists must submit works celebrating diversity or unity in a community.

Submission Requirements

All applicants must be associated with New Brunswick as a resident or as an artist who exhibits in New Jersey. Students and faculty members of Rutgers University and neighboring schools may enter. You must at least be pursuing an undergraduate career to participate. Degree does not need to be related to art.  There is no limit to the number of works entered.

To enter for consideration, please email the following to info@alfaart.org:

  • Images with title/dimensions
  • Resume/CV
  • Statement about your work
Or contact:
Jewel Lim, Event coordinator,

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Alfa Art Gallery ~ 2011 Spring Art Salon

New Brunswick Art Salon, Spring 2011: Part I

Exhibition duration: April 22 – May 12, 2011
Opening Reception: Friday, April 22  @ 6:30-10:30pm
Jewel Lim
Multiciplinary Event: The New World Order

The Alfa Art Gallery is proud to present “The Double-Edged Search for the Truth & the Ideal,” the first of two spring exhibitions of the New Brunswick Art Salon 2011.

About  Alfa’s New Brunswick Art Salon

In the 18th and 19th century, Art Salons were the greatest annual or biannual art events in the Western world, celebrating the farthest advances in academia and the arts. The Alfa Art Gallery, in order to bridge talented and highly esteemed artists with the New Brunswick public, holds its own Art Salon exhibitions biannually in the Spring and Fall.

About this Exhibition

This exhibition “The Double-Edged Search for the Truth & the Ideal” features Carlos Frias, Dara Alter, Peter Arakawa and Rita Herzfeld, four talented painters from different backgrounds.  True to its title, this first part of the spring exhibitions for the New Brunswick Art Salon 2011 explores the individual’s search for the truth and the ideal in a larger community. The colors of the paintings in this collection are optimistic and vibrant; however, each piece contains an underlying narrative of the struggle to attain knowledge or to illustrate a desire in the bigger scheme of Life. Dara Alter creates multi-perspective, aerial landscapes without a fixed viewpoint as a response to her yearning for an ideal Israel. Peter Arakawa paints his works in only clusters of twos or threes in an attempt to avoid repetition: his works, created from observations of daily life, serve as voyages, combining patterns and shapes that are unlikely together, in search for an order that fits. In his paintings, Carlos Frias, with his intriguing Kandinsky-like palette, attempts to analyze and capture the essence of human beings as organic and spiritual forms with their ability to grow and self-destruct. Rita Herzfeld, acting and reacting in a cycle to each step in her creative process, attacks her canvases with ardent, moving paint strokes to actively demonstrate the gap and interactions between instinct, ideas, self-exploration and, ultimately, truth in a stilled image.

About the Artists

Carlos Frias received his BFA in Painting from the Parsons School of Design. His recent works aims to highlight our humanity , creativity, relationships and  urges to grow and self-destruct while, at the same time, strip us of our spirituality and culture, representing humans as organic forms bound to decompose and regenerate. Additionally, his work visually demonstrates the parallel between what art is able to represent of the evolution of humankind and how much we want to preserve and manipulate art to represent the history of our species. He has exhibited in Japan, the Dominican Republic, Spain, and the United States.

Dara Alter obtained her degree in Studio Art from the University of Guelph.  Heavily influenced by her cultural ties, she paints her memories of Israel in order to examine the North American Jewish nostalgia for an idealized nation.  In the last five years, she travelled to South America, North America, Asia, and the Middle East, which additionally influenced her works. Alter is most interested exploring location and place as it relates to her personal experiences and uses a specific palette that corresponds to the scenery in a particular region. She has exhibited in Minnesota, New York and New Jersey in the United States as well as in Toronto, Ontario in Canada.

Peter Arakawa obtained his MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. He became an artist through the influences of creative family members.  Arakawa has been a professional artist for over twenty-five years. His works are held in many institutions and museums, including the Zimmerli Art Museum, Newark Public Library, Jersey City Museum, the State Museum, Hunterdon Art Museum and Johnson & Johnson Corporation.

Rita Herzfeld attended the School of Visual Arts and City College of N.Y. and obtained her BA from Rutgers University.  Inspired by her artistic mother, Herzfeld became an artist who grew up believing in the power that comes with creation and its processes from simple tools such as pencil and paper. Her works are held in the Hurterdon Museum of Art, the Zimmerli Art Museum and various private collections.

Best Artists of New Brunswick Art Salon’ 2010

First Place: Wes Sherman
Second Place: Marsha Goldberg
Third Place: Larry McKim

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Feminism is Not a Dirty Word ~ Marlana Moore

“I’m not a feminist, but…”

I hear this phrase a lot, and I suppose that at one point in time I was guilty of using it too. However, just as I grew out of my Hot Topic shopping habits and eventually realized that my seventh grade obsession with wearing cat ears to school was embarrassing, I have outgrown my previously immature attitudes. What my aversion was, and what others’ continue to be, is a misconstrued vision of what a feminist is. If the thought that a feminist is a dirty hippie who burns her bras and never washes her hair, who scorns men every chance she can, and devotes her free time demonstrating at pro-choice rallies, then believe me, I am no feminist. However, if these strange social conventions are stripped from the word, and for example, the world sees feminism as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, “advocacy of the rights of women (based on the theory of equality of the sexes),” then maybe more people would understand that they are in fact feminists.

Think of it this way: if I were to say, “I am not a Rutgers student, but I take all of my classes at Rutgers,” something would sound off. By taking Rutgers classes at any of the three campuses, I am a Rutgers student. Because I fulfill the only criteria necessary to be a student at Rutgers, not identifying as one makes me sound ridiculous. The same goes for those who say, “I am not a feminist, but I believe women should have the same rights as men,” or something analogous. The criteria for being a feminist is fulfilled, yet the person chooses not to identify as one. For some reason, this is an overwhelmingly acceptable attitude. The whole idea strikes me as absurd.

The problem lies in the general attitude toward feminists, and in turn how feminism is perceived. For example, instead of defining a Rutgers student as one who attends Rutgers classes, I have defined the term as a person who attends Rutgers football games. Therefore, I am not a Rutgers student because I do not attend Rutgers football games. It is true that many Rutgers students attend the football games at the brand new stadium on Busch campus, and many Rutgers students also wear Rutgers attire. Though these characteristics describe Rutgers students, they are not conditions of being a Rutgers student. In the same way, certain characteristics that are ascribed to feminists do not make a person a feminist.

Case in point, on a Friday night in my apartment before going out, my female friend interjects that she would like to put on some make up before we left. A certain male friend gives her a funny look and says, “Why are you putting on make up? I thought you were a feminist.” And in the next thirty seconds he got schooled in how taking pride in your appearance as a woman does not contradict feminist values. In fact, feminists can take any number of shapes from women’s studies majors to housewives to even men. Because the “feminazi” stereotype first perpetuated by Rush Limbaugh has run rampant through the American vernacular, feminism is something to fear, like a militant state run by Hitler or “woman power” in the same way as the Neo-Nazi “White Power.” These associations retard the social progress necessary for women to finally achieve equal rights as men.

Though since the Woman’s Suffrage movement of the 1920s, America has come a far way in extending equal rights to women. However, if we concede this to be a victory and render feminism no longer necessary, we will lose far more in the long run. If women were equal to men in American society today, then women would be paid the same as men, women would not have to worry about sexual harassment, abuse or assault. Just readBen’s article from two weeks ago to see how these issues are handled at Rutgers. If we look around the world at these issues, we will see that of the 2.5 million people forced into labor, 43% are forced into commercial sexual exploitation. 98% of these people are women and girls.

We need to be feminists for these women. We need to stand up for women’s rights for all those who do not have the same fundamental rights as men. When we deny feminism and we are scared to identify as feminists, then we turn a blind eye to the women who are treated profoundly unequal to their male counterparts. Feminism is absolutely necessary in our culture today, if not to recognize that inequality both exists and abounds in our world. When we allow for the “Feminazi” stereotype to persist, we give a victory to those who want to oppress women or make us believe that these issues do not exist anymore. They clearly do. And for this reason, feminism should not be a dirty word. You are a feminist, and so am I.


Photo courtesy of novaseeker.wordpress.com


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Meet the Pollifax Crew and More at Alfa Art Gallery

Upcoming Events:

  • March 26, (Friday) – 7pm-11pm – POLLIFAX at Alfa
  • March 27, (Saturday) – 2pm-4pm – “The Contemporary Relevance of the Renaissance Palette” – a lecture by Michael Price
  • April 2, (Friday) – 7:30pm-10:30pm – Vesselin Kourtev – solo exhibition
  • April 9, (Friday) – 7:30pm-10:30pm – “Uptown”, a Novel – Book promotion and signing

March 26th, 2010 – “Another Sunny Day” – POLLIFAX at Alfa

The Alfa Art Gallery is pleased to collaborate with the independent online creative arts publication, POLLIFAX, presenting “Another Sunny Day” on Friday, March 26th. Pollifax features the works of artists ranging from musicians to local writers from in and around the area. During their time as Rutgers students, founders Christine Tran and Kevin Olitan encountered instances of unrest regarding the lack of public art spaces and local venues for music while even independent coffee shops were closing down. The two created Pollifax as a “space” for the growing amount of talent coming in and out of the city.Currator: Julianna Ritter
Doors open at 7pm – $5 suggested donation

The founders will introduce their initiative to showcase the arts community of New Brunswick, New Jersey. Olitan will present “Wanderer Sessions”, a set of live, music videos featuring both local New Brunswick musicians and the ever-growing stream of talented bands passing through the city. Local poets will perform pieces inspired by art from the Alfa. Followed by performances by bands featured in the “Wanderer Sessions.”

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March 27th, 2010 – 2-4pm – “The Contemporary Relevance of the Renaissance Palette” – a lecture by Michael Price

Outline (approx. 2 hours + questions/discussion)

Most contemporary artists are fighting a battle on their canvases. They have no knowledge of what is in their tubes of oil or acrylic paint, and to make matters worse they paint on canvases primed with a ground that carries the mysterious and generic name of “gesso”.

This lecture focuses on a lost art of painting. Its revival is in its infancy. The presentation focuses on a comparison of the so-called “historical pigments”, i.e. natural and mineral pigments such as lapis lazuli, azurite, malachite, cinnabar etc. with modern synthetic pigments such as cobalt blue, French ultramarine and cadmium red. Michael Price presents his ongoing pigment research with the world famous Doerner Institute of Munich, Germany.

  1. Introduction – The language of colour (physical characteristics).
  2. Prerequisites for the luminosity of the Renaissance Masters – Support, ground, pigments & binding mediums.
  3. Support and ground – panel v. stretched canvas – (traditional gesso v. the decline into the confusion and profusion of modern grounds).
  4. A comparison of natural & and mineral pigments from rocks and crystals with modern synthetic pigments – (pigment chroma)

    • Detailed analysis – mineral and synthetic pigments under the microscope – (pigment particle size, refractive index of pigments)Mineral pigment preparation – (levigation techniques)
    • How to improve the luminosity and drying time of synthetic pigments.
  5. Prerequisites for the choice of binding mediums with natural and mineral pigments (natural distempers, egg tempera; natural fir balsams, pine resins, cold pressed oils, polymerized and co-polymerized oils). This information can be applied to modern pigments.
  6. When is “oil paint” really oil paint?
  7. Conclusion: historical and contemporary examples of paintings with “chromatic intensity”.

Admission: $5

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April 2nd, 2010 – Vesselin Kourtev – Solo Exhibition Opening Reception

Opening Reception: April 2nd, 7:30-10:30pm
Exhibition Duration: April 2nd – April 21st

Starting in the early 1990s, Vesselin Kourtev has exhibited his artwork worldwide. Now in April 2010, the Alfa Art Gallery in New Brunswick, New Jersey will present his newest exhibition in collaboration with the release of Virginia DeBerry’s newest book Uptown where the title of each painting correlates to a chapter in her novel. There is an overtone of alluring energy in the figures and their composition with the background, offering the viewer ghostly, yet harmonious, visions of an abstract world. His tones and hues, especially in his painting Full to the brim of future(Chapter 20), express a sense of liberation as birds cascade over a saturated green landscape presenting a celebration of hope. The product of this process of creating a relationship between language and image is to build the bridge between different art mediums and to create a layer of ideas, a central theme in Kourtev’s work.

About Vesselin Kourtev’s exhibition by Virginia DeBerry

New Year’s Celebration leads to a Cross-Cultural Collaboration when bestselling author Virginia DeBerry attended a New Year’s Eve dinner at New Brunswick, New Jersey’s Alfa Gallery, she anticipated only an entertaining evening with friends old and new, and a different way to begin a new decade. Instead, the event gave rise to the Uptown exhibit, pairing Uptown, the latest novel by DeBerry and her writing partner Donna Grant, with the paintings of noted Bulgarian artist Vesselin Kourtev.

“I visited the gallery and was shown several canvases of Vesselin’s new work,” says DeBerry. “One painting in particular struck me as representative of both the closeness and the struggle between cousins Avery and Dwight, the main characters in our book.” This realization led to a discussion about the relationships between different art forms which proved to be the catalyst for gallery co-owner Galina Kourtev to put together a show called Uptown. Each painting is named for a chapter in the book, and Vesselin drew inspiration from the story for one special work entitled “Uptown.”

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April 9th, 2010 – “Uptown”, a Novel – Book Promotion

Reception: April 2th, 7:30-10:30pm

The 2000’s have witnessed both the real estate boom and the real estate meltdown. The fluctuating market has made headlines nationwide. In the seventh novel by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant, they too reached for the headlines in undertaking a story about a mogul’s dreams to build a real estate empire.

What is the true price of greed, unfettered ambition—and forgiveness? New York Times bestselling co-authors and best friends, Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant, who brought you Gotta Keep on Tryin’ (2008) and What Doesn’t Kill You (2009) are back with a story as big as New York City itself, following a wealthy, prominent family caught in a storm of sexual scandal, secrets, betrayal, and politics.

In UPTOWN: A Novel (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster Trade Paperback; March 2, 2010; ISBN: 9781439137765; $14.99) Dwight Dixon’s dream is to take over the Harlem real estate empire his father King has painstakingly built and to bring to fruition Dixon Plaza, a luxury high-rise complex on Central Park North. Everything, including his wife and daughter, comes second to his goal of changing the face of Harlem, and finally earning his callous father’s approval.

Avery Lyons, Dwight’s estranged cousin, returns to New York City after the tragic death of her mother, who also held a stake in King’s real estate company. After nearly two decades abroad, Avery reluctantly re-enters the life and neighborhood she had fled after Dwight, with whom she once shared a close bond, betrayed her trust. To Avery, Dwight’s lies cut deeper than the hurt and shame she felt after being attacked by one of her cousin’s friends. With her sassy and hot-tempered high school best friend Alicia at her side, Avery wades through the papers and deeds her mother left her, including the key piece of property Dwight needs in order to get his precious Dixon Plaza off the … (click here for the rest)

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