Poetry, play on words explore Native American issues
Oregon native Jessica Mehta has returned home after a nine-month fellowship in Washington, D.C., curating an anthology of written poetry by incarcerated and previously incarcerated indigenous women for the Halcyon Arts Lab. And her recent success doesn't end there.
Mehta is making her return directly after receiving an Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship to access the Sylvia Plath archives, in addition to winning first prize for her novel, "The Wrong Kind of Indian," at the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards earlier this month.
This novel and her experience curating on the East Coast go hand-in-hand with Mehta's personal passions as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Much of her creative work, including 14 books, focuses on self-identity and Native American issues — particularly in contemporary hostile climates.
This interest can now be seen at the Halcyon Arts Labs, where Mehta also collaborated with Equal Reality to create proprietary virtual reality software — allowing visitors to embody the poetry, stories and lives of indigenous women on display. The project, Red/Act, hopes to increase viewers' compassion and understanding for indigenous peoples and their history through VR.
Mehta also incorporated performance art into the project with the painting of experimental poetry, called antipodes, onto nude forms — often underrepresented in the modern art world and traditionally objectified, according to the creative.
Antipodes, Mehta's poetry creations from 2015, were inspired by "reverse poetry" and the palindrome. They can be read word-for-word, both forward and backward, often resulting in opposing messages.
The author is currently preparing for a two-month fellowship in Willits, Calif., at North Street Collective and a two-year Eccles Centre Traveling Fellowship at The British Library.
Mehta's most recent book, "Gimme the Familiars," features indigenous stories re-told in a contemporary way, and was released early May. She also has five other forthcoming books including, "Antipodes," that will feature work similar to what she created at her last fellowship.
Those interested can visit jessicamehta.com to explore Mehta's antipodes, visuals and written works.
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