Open Place interviewed Elisabeth Belomlinsky
October 2, 2018
New York, US
Elisabeth Belomlinsky, was born in St Petersburg, Russia. At age 11 along with her family she moved to New York in Jackson Heights, Queens. Inspired by the diversity of her surroundings and mystic rites of various cultural beliefs, having embraced the emotionality of creation she has been crafting a personal and diverse form of devotional art.
“World is based on fairy tales”
I feel that the place where I came from, it is also me. I’m an immigrant, a daughter of Children’s book Illustrator and a writer and storyteller – that influences my art. I was grown on fairy tales, on history, and mythology from all over the world. When I was 11, our family moved to New York, where I have been living since then in Jackson Heights – the region with the most diverse culture in the world. I had an unconscious assimilation of all the cultures that were mixed in my head. At some point I realized that world is based on fairy tales. People strongly believe in those fairy tales, sometimes they kill each other because of them, but these are still just fairy tales. The narrative invented by people, which led our world to a terrible situation. In my art I am rethinking, replaying and rewriting these stories. I use images from different religions to show that this is a play on words, and the way we relate our personal stories – this is how our common history will be weaved. The things that we say, that we write and draw are extremely important. It seems to me the artists are the first people who realize this because they understand that they are writing history.
“If emotions will be respected by everyone, the world will become more sensible”
Creativity for me is an emotional and intellectual process. In America, there are the concepts of emotional intelligence, physical intelligence, and mental intelligence. But I think intelligence is intelligence. We have divided our utilitarian functions really into men and women. We now have a split personality in a human being, which was actually really hurtful to our society if you really think about it. So the fact that we could say this is emotional intelligence and this is intelligence intelligence is completely crazy. Like if you can do math but you don’t understand human feelings, you’re not intelligent, you are half a person.
The reason why we have that understanding is because the emotionality belongs to women. Women were suppressed. Everything that belongs to women was degraded and disrespected. And men felt that they could call themselves intelligent, while not understanding matters of the heart. But really if you didn’t disrespect this whole other side, you will never call a person who doesn’t understand the heart intelligent, because they don’t want to accept the reality of the other half.
I have never seen a human being in male or female form who was able to control, turn off and annihilate their emotionality. Every man who claims to do that, they suppress their emotions, and these emotions come out sideways and in crazy ways. No one has accomplished robot state. Robot is not a possibility. You can be emotional, you can be intelligent about them and you can be creative about them. You can worship them, respect them, and you can know that they are stronger than you.
All art is based on emotions. The men do not talk about this, keeping the story apart from the product. For example, Leonard Cohen, who writes very emotional songs – there’s definitely the certain story behind. My friend met him once on the street and asked: “Look, who is this song about?” and Cohen replied: “I do not remember.” But this is a lie! Of course, he remembered who he wrote this song about. And he has a right to keep this apart. I can also decide at some point that I will not explaining any more, whom my art is about. But initially, as a protest, I don’t do it, because it seems to me that women are linked with people who give them inspiration. We get attached to the people and create our art from this. But why should it be less respected than the denial of these relations? I think this is part of women’s oppression, contempt for women’s life and women’s story. We struggle for this respect.
Female art is hardly recognized by most of the men. Once I was asked to recommend a works of art for the gallery’s event. I sent very female art. The artist Sally McInyre paints women’s silhouettes on old bed sheets. She does not stretch them, but just hang them out. I saw it and was immediately conquered. I suggested her work to the gallery owner for his event , and he immediately replied to me: “Send me something else.” I had to insist that he look one more time. He did not look, but forward this to the organizer. And the organizer was a woman accepted those works immediately. That is why we need women who own the galleries, and women curators. I understand what this art is about, it is clear to me, and a man doesn’t even see it from the start. When the works were already hanging in the gallery, he was impressed too, he understood the idea. That’s why I’m saying that we struggle for this respect. We are fighting for us to be perceived. That is why I realized that we need to elevate our emotions, our voice, and our work by ourselves.
The emotionality that influences women’s life, women’s work and women’s art makes us less respected, because emotions are not respected by patriarchy, in the men’s world. Men suffer from this the same as women. If men lived in a world where their emotions are respected, it would be nice for them. It would be nice for everyone. I think less people would kill.
Human emotions are the main magic existing in the world. I saw women’s groups where they understand that emotion can rise to the desire to kill and return to the feeling of love. When I speak with women who are in anger or hysterics, she is shaking and has a red forehead, after you talk to her, let her speak out, in twenty minutes she is smiling, she is pacified, she is happy. only attention is needed and understanding of the situation. Men are very afraid of this, because they do not know how to turn their anger into love in twenty minutes, as they suppress their emotions. Boys are brought up like that. They are trained differently than girls, and the effect is harmful. We have a lot of aggression and cruelty as the result. I understand that not every man is aggressive, but all women are afraid of aggression. Physical aggression has no race, economic class, nationality, but it has a gender— and it is male. This is a fact of human history: yes, indeed not every man killed someone, but most of the people who killed someone were men. I am talking about physical aggression, because it seems to me that this is connected to the suppression of emotions, later on they pop up unpredictably. I think if emotions will be respected by everyone, the world will become more sensible.
"We create Goddess"
I have met radical feminists through Michelle Southerland, when she gathered women for collaboration. It was an intuitive process, like love at first sight. It’s like soul mates – you see a person and already realize: you understand each other, love each other, and need each other. If you say to a man when you just met: “I love you, I need you, I understand you,” the man says: “Oh, shit, oh-oh!” A woman looks at you with absolutely the same trust and says: “I love you too, I understand you too, I need you too” – and we hug each other! And so it was with Michelle. We exchanged a few words, she said that she was organizing protests, helping women, and going on a women’s march at the end of the week. I told her that I wanted to do something important in my life, that I was already forty years old and I want to help women organize protests, and I asked how I can help ? Michelle said that she always needed help, and invited me to come to the event. I attended few events where I met soul mates literally one after another.
There are a lot of female art groups, but there’s no place for me there either. The difference is that precisely this art group is a spiritual one. We have no plan in Radical Matriarchy, but we have an ideology that we grow together. The members of Radical Matriarchy are not just artists — they are women who believe in soul relationship, in emotional intelligence, in mysticism. Every other says that she is a spiritual healer, an energy worker. Michelle calls herself a sister Leona. I worked with icons for seven years and also thought that I was a nun. Recently, I suddenly understood what we are really doing: we are creating art to revive the goddess. We create the goddess. We call each other goddesses.
I was joking that after my project with icons I became an atheist, I stopped believing in God and started believing in Goddess. We don’t need God anymore, but Goddess should exist. Let me explain the main difference from god and goddess, as I see it now. The mythology of God is that: he created man in his own image. Goddess does not exist here, and we make and create the goddess now, in our image. This is called responsibility, creative responsibility. When you take responsibility for your creation, you take responsibility for yourself. We all understand that if the Goddess is to be love – we must be love, if we want her to heal – we must heal, if a goddess will create, we must create. And for me this is a very important distinction for our world: why there should be a goddess, and not a god. Because we need to create this deity and not think that it has created us. God does not have an author, and therefore he does what he wants.
Therefore, women in Radical Matriarchy take responsibility by creating the goddess in their image. Women in their history very often and intensely competed with each other, because they were dependent. We depended on men: it was important that they feed us, marry us, and feed our children. We competed and were jealous of each other. Women oppress each other. They degrade each other emotionally and intellectually. They tell to each other: you have ugly body, horrible hair, not trendy clothes. We often do this, we all do this, and I was doing the same at some point. And all of us were criticized. Radical Matriarchy is an experiment. The goal is to see what happens if women would invest the same extreme energy in supporting each other, accepting each other and understanding each other. What if we support each other with the same sincere emotion? I must say it really works. I come out of these meetings and I feel love in my heart. I love myself and I love all other women in the world.
It is not a simple thing to invent a goddess. It does not mean merely to draw a creature with breasts. It is important to understand what a feminine divine is, what is her sexuality is and how it meets the concept of the divine. Women from Radical Matriarchy want to stop the sexualization of the female body. We must look at the woman as a person first off all.
Transgender is a future of humanity. But before it happens, we need make one of our genders equally respected. Because if I were asked whether I wish to become a man, I would say: “Yes, of course.” To live as a woman in this world, is uncomfortable for me. For all of my life, I wanted to be a man. From the age of ten I had a main dream – to become a man. Because I immediately saw: the boys do what they want, and the girls clean the apartment, the boys play, and the girls cook dinner. So, how could we merge the genders if one of the genders is degraded? We will not combine two genders, but simply remove one of them. To put them together on an equal footing, it is necessary to raise a woman to the level of a person in everyone’s perception.
Sexualization of the body is a complicated thing. We need to eliminate this ideology when a woman is recognized only as an object for sex. Recently we had the “Me Too” movement (in social media it became popular in October 2017 – OP), each woman who was raped wrote about it on Facebook. It was a wave of trauma. It was the first time when women start to tell their stories openly, in social media. Before that, we did not even realize how many women were sexually abused. We don’t work with female trauma, we were simply afraid to demonstrate our traumas to the people around us, that is a problem. Women need a space where they could express their traumatic stories, and only then we can realize how to move further. The movements such as “Me Too” are just like a flash, which is turned on for a second, and you see what is around you. Yes, you can start doing art, you can start to make changes, but what was before, what is the starting point? We did not even begin to deal with a female trauma, because the flashlight turned on only for a second.
"Love is just belief and work"
In the documentary “The cave of forgotten dreams” they tell about the cave with ancient paintings. They talk about Neanderthals and cavemen, and investigate why cavemen survived, but Neanderthals didn’t. Scientists have discovered that Neanderthals at some point began to copy what cavemen did. For example, cavemen started making tools and Neanderthals too. There was one thing that cavemen did, but Neanderthals didn’t do. Cavemen began to decorate their improvised weapons. On the tip of the arrow a man carefully made a border with tiny flowers. When I saw it, I realized why they did it, because they believed that with their own hands and effort they would strengthen this weapon. This is not a practical thing – this is the existence of God, this is how God was invented. Because if we would believe, that with our work, we can empower this arrow – it will kill more mammoths. And I, as an artist, and as a witch, believe in this — that there is no craft, but only magic. There is only human work and human faith. And the things, where you put your faith and your action will really work.
I think that love is also at the level of this border – it is just faith and work. Two people love each other only while they believe that they love each other. And while you believe, you would work on those relationships. And when you stop believing, you stop loving. Nature is chaos, and human love is the first structure of order that we imposed over nature. We decided that we can believe that such a spiritual feeling is part of human nature.