Call & Response: Borders | Contributor Bios and Statements

E. Rhōdes Thompson and Kate Fitzpatrick

E. Rhōdes Thompson is an non-binary MFA candidate at George Mason University. They are the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Hellscape, an online magazine dedicated to the creative work of neurodivergent people, and the poetry editor of So to Speak— a feminist literary journal. They are George Mason’s 2018-2019 Thesis Fellow in poetry, the recipient of the 2017 Mark Carver Poetry Award, and the 1st runner-up of the 2016 Jane Lumley Poetry Prize. Their work has been featured or is forthcoming in Juked, DELUGE, Baby Pony, Grimoire, and Palimpsest Magazine among others.

Kate Fitzpatrick is an artist and educator from Alexandria, Virginia. She received her BFA in painting from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and her MA in Art education from the University of New Mexico. Kate was born in Virginia, but grew up in a number of places around the world. Those places and experiences shape the themes within her art. In 2013, she was recognized with the prestigious Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award by the Washington Post. She was acknowledged in 2014 as a Northern Virginian of the Year by Northern Virginia Magazine for creating an art and yoga curriculum she used with her students while teaching at the juvenile detention center. In 2015, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study art education topics in India. While at George Mason, Kate will continue to use art as a means to connect with community while developing themes around identity and place.

Artist Statement:
I am interested in how the marks humans make are communicative tools, and through our own experience and interpretation leaves gaps and holes in our understanding of those forms. Over centuries, the physical and mental process of writing has been used to form our thoughts into symbols. The marks we make carry meaning and become markers of our identity. These varied marks or characters we put to a surface speak directly to the mind without sound. We transfer meaning to lines, we recognize the shapes, and allow the composition to unravel meaning into the inscriptions. Invented writing systems pass on a thread of ideas, and somewhere in the space between the marks we feel the motion of the hand as it creates a journey over the periphery. I investigate and research the significance of how communication plays a larger part in how we understand the human condition.

Statement about the work:
This painting is composed of four main elements: a grid that seeks to define space, unruly lines that threaten it’s order, an asemic alphabet that references the impossibility of language to create boundaries that define certain meanings, and contrasting colors of the dark background and white lines inscribed on the surface. Collectively these four elements are meant to juxtapose the struggle to use language and representation to define space and meaning.

Alexandria Petrassi and Catherine Cole

Alexandria Petrassi studies poetry in the MFA program at George Mason University. She is the Editor in Chief at So to Speak Journal: an intersectional feminist journal of language + art. She is also the founder of Floodmark, a digital poetry inspiration project. In the past, she has worked as a Digital Communications consultant in a variety of contexts. She is the winner of the 2018 Mary Roberts Rhinehart Award in Poetry. Her work has appeared in CALAMITY, Crab Fat Magazine, Sweet Tree Review, The Seldom Review, on The American Writer’s Museum’s blog, and on Stillhouse Press’s blog, Moonshine Murmurs. You can find her on Instagram @alexandriapetra

Statement on “Portrait of a Nude as Forest Fire”:
The theme for this year’s Call and Response is Borders. I have been thinking a lot about the border between the body and society. How do our physical borders confine us, and where do we feel freedom within them? I have been feeling lately, as a cis-gender woman, like my body is beautiful and limitless as much as it makes me feel trapped and limited. When I investigated this within myself, I came to think of it as the way I perceive/feel within the borders of my own body (beautiful/limitless) Vs. how my borders are perceived and judged by society (trapped/limited). And of course, the disturbing question of invasion of the body’s borders is ever-present. In this poem, there’s also the consideration of the borders between the human form and the natural world, which I like to think about dissolving in my work. If we accept that we’re all a part of the natural world, rather than in opposition to it, how does our thinking about borders change

Catherine Cole is an artist and printmaker from Manassas, Virginia currently teaching Printmaking and 2D Design and Color in the School of Art and Visual Technology at George Mason University. In 2011, she received her BA in Studio Art with a concentration in printmaking and a minor in marketing from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 2014, she received her MFA in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. Most of Catherine’s work revolves around observation, figuration, and memory using drawing, painting, printmaking and mixed media.

Artist Statement
Taking inspiration from my surroundings and my life, my work is a reflection of what I pay attention to, what enraptures me. I fall in love with my environment, with people I interact with or observe from a distance. I examine the behavior, gestures, stances and body language of others, and sometimes I reflect on my own behavior and quirks in self-portraiture. Occasionally, I get engrossed in memories that I filter through the lens of my art. For the majority of my work, I prefer working directly from observation and from life, especially using print media, where changes may be difficult or tedious to make, especially in making sure the image is not distorted upon reflection in printing.

I wish to efficiently capture not just a likeness, but something deeper within my subjects, their individualities, as suggested by what I can see of their stances, gaze, gestures, or position in space, and their posture or carriage. This stems from an interest I developed early on in my artwork and life, as an identical twin I wanted to find ways to depict my sister and I in a way that showed who we were and how different we were, despite our similar outer appearances. I often aim to draw attention to dimensions of inner strength or spiritual qualities I see in varying degrees in my subjects: focus, power, drive, a sense of direction or mindfulness. I carry doubts as to whether these qualities can truly be captured by 2D material means, but I try my best to convey what I see, feel, and understand about my subject.

My work is very much influenced by my favorite artists, many who were printmakers and painters who worked from the figure and based their art on their observed experiences and the people and world around them, such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Goya, Delacroix, Daumier, Van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Édouard Vuillard, Edvard Munch, Kathë Kollwitz, Pablo Picasso, William Kentridge, Alex Katz. Working from life has been important to me, and although I feel aspects of my work may be reminiscent of artwork that has come from artists before our present, it will always be a representation of my individual experience, place, feelings, people I know and what I am observant of, maintaining some aspect of originality in that sense.

Description of Work in the Show
My response to “Portrait of a Nude as a Forest Fire” is based on my vision of the nude as the forest fire and how her story may continue. My interpretation of the poem saw her as encompassing and consuming her environment, becoming “one” with the forest as she moves forward, simultaneously finding solace and remaining confined in her grief, which parallels how people often internalize their grief and suffering, keeping it to themselves only to find what they bottle up may ignite and be unleashed at a later point in time. We are left to imagine her possibly continuing in her destructive path, and yet we see that there are already elements, such as the Virga that threat her existence. In my vision, she recognizes her doom, the possible end of her life as she knows it, by the rain or from burning herself out. She then encounters a border: a body of water. Considering her fate, she makes the decision to wade in, a choice that brings relief from her sorrow and self-destruction. In this moment her attention pivots from her sorrow to rapture, release from her suffering, and transforms from fire to smoke and steam to stream. Whether she passes on or becomes one with the water, we can only guess.

Jhanvi Ramaiya and Brigitte Caramanna

Jhanvi Ramaiya is a nonfiction MFA candidate at George Mason University. She serves as a social media coordinator for the program and for Hellscape Press, is the nonfiction editor for So To Speak Magazine, and teaches composition in her free time. Graduate of Gettysburg College (Sociology BA), winner of two undergraduate writing awards, and purveyor of many puns, Jhanvi does not let fame get to her head. You can find her work in The Mercury, or performed live once a year at Gettysburg College. Follow her @jhanviactually on Twitter.

Brigitte Caramanna is an artist whose work relies heavily on the intersection of science and fine art. Her process centers on production through drawing and printmaking. Caramanna thoroughly examines details of nature; allowing careful consideration for what is possible in the universe. Her work serves to uncover mysteries, form connections, and convey excitement for all that is yet to be discovered. The intricacies of her etchings are used to portray the expansiveness of the universe. Caramanna appreciates the fragility of life while she aims to understand the significance of it.
Brigitte Caramanna was born in Nassua Bay, Texas while she has spent the majority of life living in New Jersey, Long Island, and New York City. She graduated with a BFA from Adelphi University; concentrating in printmaking and with a minor in psychology. She received the Presidential Purchase Award at Adelphi’s BFA Thesis Exhibition. Her work has been part of numerous exhibits, including many juried shows, and has been interviewed for publications. Her work is part of both public and private collections. Caramanna currently lives in Virginia while attending George Mason University as part of the MFA program.

Statement for work in show
This is the recurring nightmare of being extracted from your natural environment and used as an experiment. Flamingos obtain their pink color naturally; while these will do so, artificially. Expelled from their land onto another; they become distorted. What seems to be an alternative reality may be what is to come.

Artist Statement
I am fascinated by the complexity, fragility, and precious quality present in the natural world. I closely observe countless textures and intricacies. As I study these details patterns assert themselves. My intention is to convey the transcendent and sublime beauty that exists in all natural environments and life forms.

My process relates to the serene, spiritual presence nature possesses. I experience a connection to certain forms and take time to be methodical and contemplative as I examine them. I am deliberate in the representation of each drawing; my goal is to convey intricacies in each print.

The natural world provides me with inspiration although the colors I create and the juxtapositions I compose are often imaginative. I intend for my work to be closely observed and for those who do to feel as if they are discovering worlds, atmospheres, and forms of life. My hope is for viewers to contemplate their existence and significance relating to the universe while realizing the eminence and beauty of all life forms and natural processes.

Andrew Art and Jake Lahah

Andrew Art, a native of Ohio, lives and writes in Virginia. He is the Heritage Writer Fellow in Poetry at George Mason University. Other honors include the Howard McCord Poetry Award, the Grandma Goda Award, and the Joseph A. Lohman III Poetry Award. He currently serves on the editorial staff of the literary journal phoebe.

Statement about the work:
When thinking of borders, I’m specifically interested in the idea of separation. What exists between here and there? This poem draws its guiding metaphor from a domestic act—slicing a loaf of bread. An act of division. Knives are also objects of violence, and in pairing a kind of threat with such a domestic act, I wanted to provide space to think about our own culpability in modern agriculture. What separates us from the fields that produce our bread? In the poem, the domestic space of a kitchen counter is invaded by these fields and the agricultural landscape takes over—the boundaries, the borders, between the inside and the outside fading.

Jake Lahah is a visual artist working in living in Richmond, VA. Through his printmaking practice, he explores concepts on sexuality, queer culture, and masculinity. He graduated with his BFA in Printmaking from George Mason University, and is a current member and instructor at Studio Two Three in Richmond. He has been included in exhibits at McLean Project For The Arts in McLean, VA, the Target Gallery at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA, Gallery 130 at Western Carolina University, and at the Anne Wright Wilson Gallery at Georgetown University. He has a love for artist books and zines and has participated in notable book airs fair such as the DC Art Book Fair, Current Books in Richmond, and Publications and Multiples Festival in Baltimore.

Statement about the work:
My artist book “Cutting” explores the way in which borders are created within disciplines of ideas. Andrew Art ’s “Slicing Bread” metaphorically dissects a concept into two separate disciplines. The depiction of an entity splitting another into two new revealing parts, reminded me of the process of creating accordion books (cutting pages and gluing them together). I used this visual narrative as a launch point in my response. I decided to create loose accordions that explored different topics about my queer identity. I’m interested in the ways that queer people craft their identities, and how often times it is pieced together from a multitude of different standpoints. Each of these accordions have repurposed studies and photos that were used from previous works of art. I placed a single floating exacto-knife at the end of each accordion. Rather than constructing a larger narrative that is stitched together, I felt it was appropriate to leave the accordions separated informed by the language in Art’s work. The resulting work is a series of works that can be moved around and handled allowing the viewer of the book, to make a conscious decision in the connections between them.

Jayne Matricardi-Burke and Kristen Brida

Jayne Matricardi-Burke, originally from Baltimore, Maryland, has been living in the DC area since 1996. After a brief career as a web designer, she became a studio art teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools. She has taught at Woodson High School since 2001. She received a bachelor’s degree in painting and art history from the University of Virginia, and a master’s degree in education from the George Washington University. She is currently pursuing an MFA in painting at George Mason University.

Artist Statement
And this is the paradox of landscape and memory: the landscape itself often seems to have forgotten, or we have learned to see the landscape as a refuge, a zone of tranquility, and thus to assume the innocence of its past- or the evidence is too slight. Landscape is visible; too often history is not, or assumes strange unrecognizable forms.” – Rebeca Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent

I am interested in “landscape” in the broadest sense of the word, and in all its possible poetic similes. Horizon lines, hillsides, lakes and trees make appearances in my work. Yet, I also depict landscapes of family histories and ghosted memories, the mother as a hidden landscape, and the landscape of invisible support networks. In terms of media, my work ranges widely from hand-made books to paintings with photo-transfers, and from highly detailed graphite drawings to web-based community projects. Dualisms such as connection/isolation, revealing/obscuring, and presence/absence visually mark my ‘landscapes’ as do recurring motifs of outstretched hands, ships at sea, telephone wires draped from pole to pole, and mother and child portraits. My research interests tend to gravitate toward topics often avoided in polite conversation or discussed in hushed tones: post-partum depression, teen suicide, and adoption. All are issues which directly affect me, my teaching, and my family. Through a mindful artistic practice, I gain self-awareness, sensitivity and empathy, which I hope will also be shared with my viewers.

Statement about the work:
“Scarred Landscape” represents a flash of memory: a place that still contains remnants of the past, only visible in the mind’s eye, fleeting and ghosted; the presence of absence. Yet how are those place-memories held? Are they contained within individuals, or do they form a collective consciousness that marks the land, creating a web of connected borders?

Kristen Brida‘s poetry has appeared in Fairy Tale Review, Tinderbox, Hobart, Bone Bouquet, Barrelhouse, New Delta Review, The Journal, Bad Pony, Whiskey Island, and elsewhere. She is the Marketing Editor in Charge of Promotions for Gazing Grain Press. Currently, she works in Philadelphia as an editorial assistant.

Erwin Thamm and Madeleine Wattenberg

Erwin Thamm is an artist, printmaker, photographer and video editor. Born to a career military non-commissioned officer and his wife, Thamm traveled the world attending military sponsored schools until he settled back in the Washington D.C. area. The ethnicities he experienced filled his ideals with a balanced attitude that has served him well. Thamm became a professional photographer in 1996 while helping educate his two children with a full-time job selling auto parts. He became a member of the National Press Club in 2006. After putting his children through school he entered George Mason University in 2005 to further his education in photography.

Printmaking became his decided artist practice with its uses of alternate processes mixed within photography and drawing. Thamm has printed with Lily Press and Navigation Press, working with many prominent American artists such as Sam Gilliam, William Wiley, Renee Stout, Michael Gross, and EJ Montgomery.

Thamm holds a BFA, Magna Cum Laude, with a concentration in printmaking, from George Mason University. He is Assistant Printer for Lily Press, Technical Director Midwest Matrix, Media Manager Printmaking Legacy Project, and partner in Sargent-Thamm. Thamm prints collaboratively with many Washington D.C. artists and has created a body of work entitled “Witness” with fellow artist Pat Sargent, which has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including the University of Shanghai, China, New York City, Manassas, VA, Havre de Grace, MD, Detroit MI, San Francisco CA, Jacksonville, FL, Chicago, IL, Miami, FL, Washington D.C. and many more galleries. View his work at

Statement about the work:
I usually work with portraits and not landscapes, but the idea of some type of borders intrigued me. This is a screen print I created by first making it thicker with gesso, spread onto Rives BFK art paper. After it dried, I fattened it by running it through the etching press, which allowed me to screen print six layers of ink, making a hard subject colorful. Drawn partly from an idea and a photograph, I made the razor barbed wire, created the upside down flag and sunset allowing the foreground to become somewhat of a silhouette adding to the bleakness of the situation.

“Gitmo, Trouble in Paradise”, 10″ x 15”, 6 color Screen-Print on gesso and paper

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Spanish: Base Naval de la Bahía de Guantánamo), officially known as Naval Station Guantanamo Bay or NSGB (also called GTMO because of the abbreviation of Guantanamo or Gitmo because of the common pronunciation of this word by the U.S. military), is a United States military base located on 120 square kilometers (45 sq. mi) of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which the U.S. leased for use as a coaling station and naval base in 1903 for $2,000 in gold per year until 1934, when the payment was set to match the value in gold in dollars; in 1974, the yearly lease was set to $4,085.

The base is on the shore of Guantánamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the oldest overseas U.S. Naval Base. Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Cuban government has consistently protested against the U.S. presence on Cuban soil and called it illegal under international law, alleging that the base was imposed on Cuba by force.
Since 2002, the naval base has contained a military prison, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, for alleged unlawful combatants captured in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places during the War on Terror. Cases of torture of prisoners, and their alleged denial of protection under the Geneva Conventions, have been condemned internationally.

Madeleine Wattenberg graduated from George Mason University with an MFA in poetry. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as cream city review, DIAGRAM, Fairy Tale Review, Ninth Letter, Mid-American Review, Guernica, and Best New Poets 2017. She regularly writes poetry reviews for The Bind and is currently a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati.

Michael Walton and Elspeth Jensen

Michael Walton was born in Key West Florida. He grew up living in San Diego, Midway Island and Chesapeake, VA. He received his Eagle Scout Rank at age 16. Michael attended Old Dominion University (ODU) where he studied Computer Science and received his Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science. While at ODU he took fundamental courses in art history and studio art. After graduation he worked for Mobil Oil in New York City where he continued his art education at private studios. Michael then relocated to Northern Virginia where he joined a coop-gallery called Gallery West in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. He was a member of Gallery West for several years. In the spring of 2017 he received a Bachelors of Fine Art with a concentration in Sculpture from George Mason University. He is now a Masters candidate in George Mason University’s graduate program.

Walton creates works that examine social conditions such as the exploitation of children, particularly the plight of Child Soldiers, along with the mismanagement of natural resources through the availability of potable water. He has also explores depression and anxiety, and how we humans live both as sufferers and supporters. His recent exploration and research is centered on understanding the principals of space time and eternal paradigms, how they conflict and exist simultaneously.

Michael is a printmaker and sculptor. His printmaking methods include etching, block and serigraph as well as digital. He uses both commercially manufactured paper and handmade paper from recycled materials, clothing and paper remnants for his prints and for artists books. The materials and processes he uses for sculpting varies widely, either additive or subtractive. The raw materials are wood, stone, resins, clay, metals, ready-made components and milled lumber.

Though Michael’s work will have a thematic focus based on one of the mentioned topic areas of research, the foundation is centered on his belief and faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for all.

Statement about the work:
I became interested in Ship Breaking many years ago, starting in 2011 when I was loaned a book of images on the subject. I was fascinated that such a massive steel structure could be run aground and then disassembled solely by blow torch and muscle. There is no heavy machinery to hoist, push and drag steel plates across the beaches. It is all done with human labor. There were adults, but many of those laboring are children. There are small children that work in tight spaces. Few if any of the laborers care little about their safety, the ramifications of the environment or the conditions that they are working. The older children or younger adults by the tens lift and transport large sheets of steel on their shoulders for hundreds of yards where they are cut into smaller pieces which are then transported by shoulder and back to yet another location. The environmental contamination is enormous. Many of the ships being deconstructed are oil tankers and cargo ships. Any remaining toxic material left in the ships is simple dumped right where the ship sits aground.

Ship Breaking is considered to be the most dangerous job in the world. It is especially so in countries where there is little regulation for the environment and the safety for the workers. Seventy percent of the ship breaking takes place in impoverished regions of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. For the ship owner, these locations are the most cost effective place to reclaim the steel or sell it to a broker. The ship owners, the shipyard owners and the governments make millions, while the daily wage of the laborer ranges from less than a dollar to 5 dollars a day for a twelve hour shift. There are no health benefits, no paid vacations and no holidays. You work, then you get paid.

This is a new colonialism, Neo-Colonialism or Economic Colonialism. The new imperial regime is not the foreign power, but the foreign corporation and capitalist. It is not the land or the natural resources that the new conquer wants, but the impoverished human resource, the corrupt governments and lax environment regulation.

Broken and Lowest Cost are two new works about the exploitation of the human laborer. Both are made to resemble three-quarter inch plate steel that has been cut by torch and welded. Broken highlights the physical danger to the laborer while Lowest Cost focuses on the emotional and physical destruction to the laborer and to the family that he is supporting.

I am not against capitalism. I am all for it. My call to action is for responsible capitalism. God calls us to love and help one another. God gave us dominion over the earth. This means compassion, stewardship and responsibility. Greed and exploitation does not have a place in responsible capitalism.

Elspeth Jensen earned her BA in Creative Writing from Western Washington University, and is currently pursuing her MFA from George Mason University. Her writing can be found in journals such as the Bellevue Literary Review, Rust + Moth, Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Midway Review, The Penn Review, and elsewhere. She is the Poetry Editor for So to Speak and Sweet Tree Review.

Artist Statement/Description:
In response to Mike Walton’s visual piece, I wrote the poem “Shipbreaking”, which considers the exploited laborers, sometimes children, in the ship-breaking industry, where ship-scrapping is cheap, brutal, often deadly, and hidden from view.

Nahid Navab is an Iranian-American artist based in Fairfax, VA. Born and raised in Iran she moved to the United States in her early thirties. She served in the medical profession for some years before she found her passion for art. Art became her means of communication, a bridge to reach others and for others to connect to her. Navab skillfully blends cultures from across the globe to create artwork infused with a synthesis of heritage and contemporary urban life.

She is an MFA graduate from the George Mason University School of Art.

Statement about the work:
“Smoky Sweet Memories” is a visual documentary of a fragmented life of a Middle Eastern woman. This layered handprint depicts randomly chosen pictures from my childhood and my parents. There are layers of sketches and broken pieces of calligraphic forms and shapes. Storyteller talks of untold and destroyed. Walls of separation built to create distance between known and unknown and here and there. I feel I am far away from my childhood, my past, and a vital part of my identity. There is war, sanction, and separations.

Hannah Kimbal lives in Alexandria, Virginia, where she teaches high school English. Her work has appeared in Atticus Review, Virga Magazine, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, among others. She was a finalist in the Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition and commended in the Hippocrates Open Prize for Poetry and Medicine. She is pursuing her MFA in poetry at George Mason University.

My poetry emerges from the feelings closest to my heart at the time I am writing. I work to control not the feelings I express but the medium of expression: this is my craft. When I first saw Nahid’s painting, I recognized an affinity between our works—the intimacy of subject matter and a commitment to honing its expression. The conviction that images speak intellectual and spiritual truths no explanation can broach. And the desire for richness in every stroke. I felt a great responsibility, in writing this poem, to honor both my truths and those of Nahid. Despite the borders that separate our home countries, I found many connections between us, especially the longing to cross the borders of time to enter a cherished memory. As women, we live within the borders of our bodies and must navigate the world, our past, and our future within those boundaries. It is an honor to work with Nahid, whose work resonates with my own heart.