The Virgin Suicides by Sofia Coppola


I never understood why people liked Sofia Coppola’s movies. I’ve seen a lot of her films but for one reason or the other I had failed to see her most iconic one, her opera prima, “Virgin Suicides”.

What I usually don’t like about her movies is that they tend to be boring movies about how boring it is to be rich, with leading characters that are passive and whose intentions, passions and motivations remain a mystery even to us. This movie is different, it not only touches on something deeper, but it is this passiveness and mystery that makes it more poignant and unbearably touching.


It poses the question “Why would teenage girls take their own lives?” but doesn’t really answer it directly. The main characters are the Lisbon sisters: five virginal sisters whose overprotective parents trap inside their own house. We see the movie not trough her eyes but through those of neighbourhood boys who start obsessing with them. Boys who can’t pin them down themselves.

This is a slow movie that relies on accumulation, it is a story that could only be said trough film, no other medium can be so subtle that it relies on the viewers looking not at what’s pointed out, but at what’s happening in the background.


Opening with a red notice being placed in a tree, not with tape, but with the violent pierce of a nail, the only red in an otherwise pastel palette. The omen that even the title pronounces: the ending is not important, we know how this will end, it is the unfolding of the events that is important. Said tree has a disease, “brought from Europe by the bugs”, they pour plaster into it trough a hole, Cecilia touches the plaster and an imprint of her little hand stays there longer than her. After Cecilia’s suicide, a green pamphlet is distributed in their school, a voice over says that t is green because it is lively color, but not too lively, and it is certainly better than red. Later on, the sisters try to avoid the tree from being cut down by “risking their own lives”, the man in charge of this says that will only make the rest of the trees sick, but he remains helpless towards the girls stubbornness and we soon see all of the other trees with red notices. The last time we see the house, the tree has been cut-down: We never see how this happens, we only see the after-math, the same way we only see the death girls.



Very early in the film the younger sister, Cecelia, tries to take her life away, she fails and when questioned by the doctor about how many troubles may a young girl have to decide to take her life, she answers “you’ve obviously never been a 13 year old girl”.

In our class, David Dietcher recently mentioned how in her movies, you always get to see Sophia Coppola’s extravagant and removed life. That is in-your-face obvious when an ignored wife of an image-maker finds herself alone in a foreign country or when the child of a famous person in the film business has a complicated life with her dad who never manages to really be there for her but takes her to luxurious trips. In The Virgin Suicides it is not as evident: to be a tormented thirteen year old is not a privilege we all have, you can only worry about existentialism when existing is very easy.


As a small parenthesis I’d like to talk about Federico Fellini and his unapologetic portrayal of himself. About how he even made 8 ½ about how he can’t help himself from putting his life into his films. I also think about posing: it has always been very funny to me that every time you see a character that was obviously him, it was either Marcelo Mastroiani, or a Marcello Mastroiani type. Sophia Coppola goes for skinny, silent, mysterious and ethereal beautiful blondes.

It was a pleasant surprise to see that this movie, although not perfect, shows more passion and depth than the rest of her career. I don’t want to be that they-were-better-in-the-ep person but there is something that Coppola lost along the way of making her movies more high-end, a brilliance and innocence that she hasn’t been able to repeat in any of her following films.


Interview with Mary Mattingly

Recently the ICP-Bard MFA first years were able to spend some time with Mary Mattingly in her New York studio. She welcomed us into her space and gave us a comprehensive view of her ongoing project and a brief history of her work and the issues she addresses. Recently the ICP-Bard MFA first years were able to spend some time with artist Mary Mattingly in her New York studio just before she headed to Havana to participate in the 12th Havana Biennial.

  1.  Environmental issues seem to be the forefront of your artistic focus. Why is this an important topic to you?

Well, oftentimes it’s not an immediate concern for people (although more and more it is) but it’s a long view, and one of the most important ones. If we can live together in a way that is less harmful to our environments, ourselves, and each other, we can actually begin to reimagine our future, in a long view. Right now I can’t imagine that future. Since I make art that’s largely about living, it’s one of the topics I can’t avoid if I wanted to. It also has to do with growing up in a town with environmental problems, most notably surrounding toxic drinking water.

  1.  We noticed that a solution you had was self-sustainability. Do you believe your goal is to teach people what to do in a potential post-apocalyptic world or do you want to show these images as an attempt to persuade us to change our ways before we need to take such drastic actions?

I believe in interdependent sustainability more than self-sustainability but they do go hand-in-hand. Yes, I think it’s important to always be learning from each other, and hope self-reflection is a part of that and change is a part of that.

  1.  You work extensively with collaborators. How much does that affect your work as compared to work you do alone?

Working with collaborators many times becomes the subject of a collaborative work – the process is inextricably linked to the outcome. It’s about compromise and chance. While working alone I’m still compromising, but with materials, with equipment. The work I do alone is also about coming to terms with how I occupy space inside of a social, political, and even art-world apparatus. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can be understood and heard.

  1.  How different is working with unfamiliar and foreign communities as compared to your own?

While many places are foreign including my own communities, I still find myself becoming part of many networks inside of each place, even if it is the network that brings me to a foreign place (whether it’s a museum or another entity). Because I’m usually operating within these different structures to some extent, there is always a foreign and familiar or even familial level to a place. People drawn to participate in the projects I do in NYC can be strangers just as much as people I’m working with in Havana. It’s as much a learning experience to navigate barter in Havana as it is to navigate the world of New York’s waterfront. They are both equally intriguing proposals.


02.Morning, Murmansk, 2007

As part of Joanna Lehan’s class this semester we took two artist visits where we had the chance to meet and talk with artists in their studios. We met Yola Monakhov Stockton, who actually teaches at ICP, and followed up with her about some outstanding questions. You can check out Yola’s beautiful work here.

1. How did you become a photographer? What is your personal history using the medium? I first took a darkroom photography class in high school, and loved the feeling of walking around with a camera, and of spending time in the darkroom, often during the lunch hour. I wrote and photographed for the university newspaper in college, but did not take studio courses, rather majoring in literature. (I regret not taking undergraduate studio courses.) But I did get a job my senior year as a darkroom printer for a university lab, and completed jobs ranging from printing pictures of specimens photographed through a microscope to printing large glass negatives from the historical society archive, and a lot of other archival material which came to me in the form of internegatives (medium format), after the archival pictures were rephotographed. It was a wonderful introduction to the range of materials and processes, and also to the many uses of the medium. Later, when I started considering leaving my PhD program in Italian literature to pursue photography, I took two classes at the ICP (uptown), one of which was a project class with Lauren Greenfield. After that, I had the basis of a portfolio that got me my first editorial work (for Time Out New York), and I decided to pursue photography instead of Italian literature.

Anti-Taliban fighters from the Eastern Shura force survey a plume of smoke from a round dropped by a B-52 bomber on their enemy lines in the foothills of the Tora Bora mountains, where they are on the front lines of the fight against the remaining Al-Quaeda fores in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan on December 5, 2001. Photo by Yola Monakhov.

Anti-Taliban fighters from the Eastern Shura force survey a plume of smoke from a round dropped by a B-52 bomber on their enemy lines in the foothills of the Tora Bora mountains, where they are on the front lines of the fight against the remaining Al-Quaeda fores in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan on December 5, 2001. 

2. How do you feel like your background as a photojournalist has affected the ways that you work in the studio? What elements of that practice have carried over into the work that you are doing now? I look to my background in photojournalist for its concerns, bodies in peril, places in transition, and for its curiosity about the world. Journalism teaches its practitioners to perform research and become educated about a subject of inquiry, which I continue to think is important, and to pursue access, and see unfolding events in terms of a narrative. It also teaches about mise-en-scene, as filmmaking does, about what must be in a picture in order to clarify a meaning. At the present moment, photojournalism may be more of a metaphor than an actual practice in my work, but this may not always remain the case.

M1250_BR_2013 001

3. Your bodies of work are very strong, but so disparate. For example, your photographs of birds versus your post office project. Is there any specific contemplation that connects these two? The disparity among my projects suggests an attitude toward the role of subject matter in photography. It may not be birds or post offices that are the points of interest, but strategies of investigation, the sense of being trapped, and the conditions of flight and travel. One of Josef Koudelka’s acclaimed books is called Exiles. For a long time he photographed gypsies throughout Europe, perhaps because, among other reasons, he felt like one, or struggled to make sense of how cultures become displaced, but still perpetuate themselves. Now he has photographed the wall in Israel/the West Bank. Again, the exile and banishment theme is at play, but in a new context, and with new materials. My shifts may seem more radical, because the materials change even more than the aspect ratio of a frame, but the trajectory of thought is similar. Perhaps the shift in material approaches is also a way to reflect on the melancholy qualities of the medium. Tonight, I was in the darkroom, and I reloaded an arsenal of pinhole camera boxes with different sizes of film and darkroom paper, and the combination of them felt appropriate, and I also loaded a five-reel tank with ten 120mm rolls, taped back to back in pairs, for later developing. These different ways of working may signal greed, or desperation. I find that replying to this e-mail is also a form of working in photography. Many ways of being involved in process, production and contemplation may make a fragmentation meaningful and generative.
4. How do you feel like motherhood has affected your work? With children, there is less sleep, and more high-pitched emotions all around. And growing up and learning to see and to know and to become moral agents and the care for others and for work and the acute awareness of the passage of time all play into the process. The love of children challenges and, I hope, augments the love of work.  
11.Untitled (Exposed through United States Postal Service) 2013 Unique silver print 11x14

Marisa Sottos ICP-Bard MFA Solo Thesis Exhibition “Exalting the Voice”

Please join Marisa Sottos for the opening of her ICP-Bard MFA these exhibition, Exalting the Voice

Opening reception  Thursday, May 7th, 6-10pm

Performance at 7pm

Gallery Open May 7-10, 2015 | 11-6 PM | Friday through Sunday or by appointment

At her opening for “Exalting the Voice” Marisa Sottos (Nutley, New Jersey) will perform three arias she has selected: Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini, Don Giovanni by Amadeus Mozart and Carmen by George Bizet.

I chose these three songs specifically because they all have a kind of stereotypical portrait of women in opera. Using opera is a new thing in my work, because I feel the same kind of conflicting emotions that I feel with a lot of the other work, in other things that I am addressing.

Niagara Falls Suspended, 2015. Marisa Sottos

Niagara Falls Suspended, 2015. Marisa Sottos

The show is about my conflicting emotions and indecision regarding what is the right or wrong idea to be presented. A lot of people think you have to take a side with things, but I think there is a nice place that you can be by not picking a side. Then you can imagine yourself on either side and make more educated decisions or opinions.

What moves me about art is the sense of being heard. That’s where the songs and the singing and the vocals tie in. I want to give a nice listening experience. I still get super nervous singing in front of the people, but being able to perform for everybody is such a freeing experience.

Romeo & Juliet in a Laundry Room, 2014. Marisa Sottos

Romeo & Juliet in a Laundry Room, 2014. Marisa Sottos

In “Exalting the Voice” Marisa is presenting videos, photographs and photobooks that create a dialogue with one other. Part of my process when I am in between making things, I go to antique stores or antique centers and just look at things. When I am inspired or attracted to an a object, if it is affordable I buy it and I make something with it or I get inspired to make something. That’s how my video ‘Untitled, Love in Every Room’ came to be. 

Untitled, Paramount Pictures, 2015

Untitled, Paramount Pictures, 2015. Marisa Sottos

I get most of my influences from my family members and my living environment. I reference a lot of music and art as well as experiences that I had when I was younger.

Marisa received her BA in Art concentrating in photography from Monmouth University. She has been doing art her entire life, mostly drawing and painting. In high school she picked up a camera for the first time: I used to go to concerts all the time with my friends and take pictures of us.

In college I started to learn about studio lighting. I was influenced by Cindy Sherman and Gregory Crewdson, in the way they use lighting and staging. I never thought about staging things before. And I fell in love with color film, I think mostly because I interned with Jen Davis before I got accepted into the program at ICP-Bard.

Untitled, Joshua Tree Desert, 2015

Untitled, Joshua Tree Desert, 2015. Marisa Sottos

ICP totally changed my life. Before ICP, I set these boundaries for myself to make sure that everything followed strict guidelines. Here at ICP we are encouraged to just be free, and make whatever you want. It  was really a great time for me to just explore and do whatever I wanted.

Coming here was scary but also very good. My classmates and faculty share things that can help you to imagine things differently or think about your work differently. Art has become a way for me to share thoughts but not a necessarily a message. I want people to think about how things are and gain something from it.


Join 2015 ICP-Bard student Joseph Desler Costa at the MFA Studios for the opening of his solo thesis exhibition, Supplemental Materials.

Exhibition Opening
April 30 | Thursday | 6–10 pm ET

Coffee with the Artist
May 1 | Friday | 12–4 pm ET

On View
May 1–3 | Friday–Sunday | 11–7 pm ET

Joseph Desler Costa. "Tall Boy".

The Curiosity Rover Celebrates a Year on Mars by Singing Happy Birthday. To Itself.

The Curiosity Rover is programmed to vibrate its sampling sifter mechanism to create specific tones which move certain kinds of particles away from the dirt so it can analyze them better. On its birthday it used this technology to vibrate to the tune of happy birthday. We can only hope that no one else heard it.

Return from ICE Guadeloupe 2015

In March I was invited by Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator to be one of six artists from the United States to partake in an International Cultural Exchange in Guadeloupe. DVCAI is an arts organization based in Miami-Dade County in Florida. Its mission is to promote, nurture and cultivate the talents of emerging artists form the Caribbean and Latin America Diaspora. The cultural exchange they foster brings together artists, curators, writers, and cultural workers to engage in exhibitions, studio visits, and workshop intensives in the Caribbean. I was invited by Rosie Gordon-Wallace, DVCAI’s executive director and curator, whom I met at a portfolio review hosted by En Foco in 2009. The exchange served as a powerful affirmation; finding commonalities with so many diasporic artists working all around the globe was invigorating.


Zacuanpapalotls installation by Nadia Rea Morales; below light box image by David Gumbs.

DVCAI’s exchange is a collaboration with L’Artocarpe, an artist-driven residency and exhibition space located in Le Moule, Guadeloupe. Its director is Joëlle Ferly a multidisciplinary artist whose goal is to create a space that nurtures international artists to create work. The seven participating artists from L’Artocarpe were Kelly Sinnapah Mary, Francois Piquet, Henri Tauliaut, Annabel G, Florence Poirier-Nkpa, Joëlle Ferly, and David Gumbs. From the US the six artists, aside from myself, were Rosa Naday Garmendia, Francesca LaLanne, Juana Valdes, Nadia Rea Morales, Aisha Tandiwe Bell, and Jaquenette Arnette; supported by Vincent Scatliffe, Continuous Line and photographer Roy Wallace. The first half of the week long residency was dedicated to artist presentations and studio visits to acquaint each other with our work. The rest of the time included exhibition openings, portfolio reviews with local high school students, and discussions culminating in a group exhibition of participating artists.


Photographs by groana melendez; Vagina installation by Kelly Sinnapah Mary

Alternate Currents: New Art from the Diaspora was the group exhibition co-curated by Rosie Gordon-Wallace and Dr. Alix Pierre a professor in the African Diaspora and the World Program at Spelman College who is originally from Guadeloupe. The exhibition was cohesive and a huge success. At the beginning of the exchange there was a lot of eagerness to connect among artists, but it was challenging communicating between French and English speakers, More complex was navigating the differences between American and French-Caribbean culture.

The differences only meant we had to spend more time together talking everything out. The most exciting moments were the “aha!” moments where I saw eye to eye with another artist and we realized we understood each other. The beauty of that experience reminds me of Mrs. Gordon-Wallace’s mission statement. She states, “A diaspora is about the dispersion of a people. Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator looks at the places where our paths cross and intersect, how we sound and who is standing at these points of connection.” In all our activities, workshops, and conversations the moments of magic happened when we noticed that regardless of our upbringing or how far we live from each other, something in the shared history of our dispersion created countless points of intersection.

Mrs. Gordon-Wallace, like a loving mother, advised us individually not to forget to think about ourselves. Take the time to contemplate our own practice. We can get lost in the act of doing, networking, and applying in art making that we forget to take a breath for ourselves. She also spoke of how she creates these opportunities to make us feel special and see the value in ourselves and in our work. The 2015 International Cultural Exchange to Guadeloupe definitely provided this and more to my practice. I cannot wait to continue the dialogue with the new friends I made during my trip, and I especially cannot wait to share their work with my artist community in the United States.


Outside view of L’Artocarpe

To learn more about DVCAI and L’Artocarpe please visit their websites and via facebook at and