In focus

Oh, how time flies…

Though WAG has long followed the work of Croton-on-Hudson performance artist and art historian Marcy B. Freedman, our last proper “sit-down” was in advance of her interactive Valentine’s Day performance nearly five years ago.

So when we caught up with her on a recent rainy afternoon, once again at The Black Cow Coffee Co. in the Chicago native’s adopted hometown, she not only greeted us warmly but also presented us with a stack of promotional postcards.

“What have I done since 2015? Here are the postcards of what I’ve done since 2015,” she said with a laugh, handing over some 75 cards advancing her varied projects that have ranged from “What are you afraid of?” to “The Global Displacement of Art: Pros & Cons” to “True or False? Ice cream is just for kids.”

In Freedman’s world, whether it be performance art, art history lectures or video work, most everything that captures her interest is fair game for exploration, drawing from her varied experience. 

As an artist, Freedman has worked with painting, drawing, collage, photography, small sculpture, video and performance art. She has long maintained a Peekskill studio. Freedman the art historian has worked as an adjunct professor, curator and freelance lecturer. For the past 10 years, she tells us, her “primary expressive mode” has been performance art.

And that brings us to this afternoon, when Freedman is recapping what was her most recent work, “Do you have 2020 vision?,” which was presented at The Black Cow.

It was a bit of a glimpse into 2020 itself, as she told us about her work in the new year:  “I divided 2020 into two categories — one for projects dealing with political/election year matters and the other for women.”

The “Do you have 2020 vision?” project was designed, Freedman has shared, to engage with “2020” from two perspectives, it being the year of a presidential election and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

While Freedman’s own politics, she tells us, lean to the left, she was anxious to engage with people from all parts of the political spectrum, including those whose views might differ from her own. 

As she said in advance of the event, “As a rule, I present interactive performances in order to remind everyone of the beauty and power of old-fashioned conversation — without the intervention of devices. In this particular case, I also want to learn from my neighbors. What do people think will happen in 2020? What do people want to happen in 2020?”

Freedman set up camp in the café, inviting people to share their thoughts and says the event gave her the chance to “interact with a wider range of people” than she encounters in her daily life.

“The people who showed up were passionate,” she said. “They wanted to discuss these issues.”

The project, she says, was not to impose beliefs on anyone, evidenced by her “Make America Talk Again” cap.

“It’s all about this,” she said, pointing to its slogan. “It’s all about the talking.”

She was most impressed by the way the younger people (in their 20s and 30s) had a real “engagement with topical issues.”

Of the project, Freedman said it was eye-opening for her.

“In my daily life, I live in a bubble, interacting primarily with people who share my social and political points of view — and sources of information.”

Overall, she says, “The people who chose to participate in my political interactives are truly passionate and engaged with the political process — regardless of their political affiliation. I think this is a good sign. Apathy is not OK when there are such crucial matters — the environment, social justice, racial and gender equality — at stake.”

As with all her work, she found this project rewarding.

“I think every performance I’ve done has been gratifying in one way or the other,” she said.

And, she concluded, “As always, I am enriched by the experience of talking to people. I always learn something — maybe factual, but more likely, something about human nature.”

A sampling of Freedman’s 2020 work includes: “Art History with a Twist,” a series of lectures at Hudson Valley MOCA in Peekskill that continues with Jan. 12’s “Art and Identity: The Shape-Shifters;” “I want to love my country,” which will explore the concept of patriotism on Feb. 14 at the BeanRunner Café in Peekskill; a Women’s History Month collaboration with dancer Andrea Elam March 29 at the Budarz Theater of the Ossining Public Library when Freedman will present a new performance piece, “Heroes and Role Models,” which she calls “an illustrated guide to the women who have shaped me;” and an installation on Women’s Right to Vote, as a member of the artist group called “In_Question” from June through September at the Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden in North Salem. For more, contact Freedman at mbf@bestweb.net or 914-271-5891; or visit marcybfreedman.com.

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