By Tammy Scileppi
Watching performance artist Deborah Wasserman in action, you’d swear she had multiple personalities.
Last Saturday at Corona Plaza, she channeled her inner nature goddess and became green Mother Earth/Queen of Trash, a long cape of garbage trailing behind her, as curious passers-by watched and wondered. As part of the Rego Park Green Alliance Studio’s “Make Queens Clean” Art Intervention 2016, her site-specific, interactive performance, “Dumped: Mother Earth/Queen of Trash” aspires to bring awareness and understanding of the importance of environmental issues. Wasserman will repeat her performance at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights Saturday afternoon.
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and raised in Israel, Wasserman has worked in a variety of artistic media, and her eclectic approach to art and teaching has been evident in her installations and interventions, paintings, drawings, sound work, sculpture and videos. “When I think of an art project I want to execute, I always try to imagine what material or media will best serve my concept,” she said.
In a recent interview, the artist noted that her most inspiring teachers have been female artists who succeeded in carving a niche for their own feminine voice. “I see my artistic path now moving in that direction,” she noted.
That artistic path has already taken Wasserman in some rather unusual directions. In 2014, her first RPGA event featured “The Longest Journey Starts with a Single Step,” an installation of 140 pairs of girls’ shoes.
She said they accepted her proposal to display all of her two daughters’ shoes (which she had collected since they were born) and invited the public to interact with her installation and join her journey as a mother who watches her children grow.
Another of her works illustrated the ties between domestic duties and artistic expression. Entitled “Washing my Dirty Laundry in the Basement, in high heel shoes, as I got rained out,” it unfolded last year in her basement laundry room, where she acknowledged and embraced (if only for a time) her homemaker tendencies. It’s an interesting, slice-of-life, female-centric vignette.
“We want to have all the roles and do them all perfectly at once: To be fantastic mothers, have fulfilling careers, be politically involved and fight for change, raise wonder kids, run the marathon, look good and fit into size 4 jeans…,” Wasserman explained. “I’m very familiar with this type of drive to move forward and do things, to leave an impact on this world…but at times I wonder, from a more spiritual point of view, why we are so motivated to keep proving ourselves.”
Wasserman’s art is just one part of the wide range of events taking place at RPGA Studio’s Queens Art Intervention Day this Saturday from 1 p.m to 4 p.m. at Diversity Plaza, 37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets in Jackson Heights
In addition to Wasserman’s “Dumped,” the day will include something being referred to as a “vote your butt installation.” The butts in question, however, are cigarette butts : “People will discuss one new innovative design created by RPGA Studio to stop people from littering on the streets,” said RPGA Founder and Executive Director Yvonne Shortt. “Cigarette butts are litter and we want people to use their butts to vote. Plus, we will be giving away free portable ashtrays that can be carried in your pocket or pocketbook.”
There will also be a 110-second-long virtual reality installation that shows people where garbage goes and asks them to make one change to reduce their litter. Another featured piece will be a trash can with an innovative hoop that lights up when garbage goes in. “We will also be giving out gifts for people who get their garbage in the hoop,” Shortt noted.
Other works will include Niizeki Hiromi’s “GumHearts,” in which T-shirts will be turned into reusable bags with the help of the community and the “Road to Realization,” an installation that shows two roads—one littered with garbage, the other beautiful. “We then invite the public to discuss ways to make the community cleaner,” according to Shortt.
When Wasserman isn’t performing or creating multimedia artwork, she teaches after-school art classes to local kids, ages 4½ to 11, at her Art for a Start program (www.artfo
On the weekends, she preps students for specialized art schools at her Woodside studio.