This week we welcome Aileen Bassis, a visual artist and poet. Bassis’ practice is content driven — she explores issues of identity, immigration, income inequality, racial disparities, the environment, migration and displacement through art. The media she employs varies, but is typically work on paper that may include altered books, unique and small editions of artists books, printmaking, drawing and collage. She often uses her own photos to make prints. The organization and combination of images, and the inclusion of text and additional media shape the viewer’s experience. Bassis is interested in providing an opportunity to reach out to the viewer, to make a cognitive space to reflect and rethink our world, the lives surrounding us and the lives that came before. Her work is often categorized as “political” art but she considers it more broadly about our human experience. Aileen began writing and publishing poetry around eight years ago.
Bassis has been awarded artist residencies that include the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Frans Masereel Center in Belgium and a Dodge fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center. She received a fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, two grants from the Puffin Foundation, the Queens Arts Council, and two poetry residencies to the Atlantic Center for the Arts.
Her work has been shown at York College, LaGuardia Community College, Lewis Latimer House in Queens, Ceres Project Room, Chashama266 in NYC, Watson Institute at Brown University, Rutgers University, University of Pennsylvania, College of St. Elizabeth and Ohio University. The artists’ handmade books are in many collections including Yale University, Temple University, Wellesley College, Swarthmore, Dartmouth, the Newark Public Library, Rhode Island School of Design, Lafayette College and others.
See more of Bassis’ work on her website and Instagram page.
by Aileen Bassis
Some say the name’s from the Aramaic, “a field of blood,” and others
say potters were wanderers, vagrants, rootless ones, the dispossessed
There are videos of crews in white hazmat suits, digging
furrows for coffins. Three deep, row after row. Bodies in white
boxes that will mix with still-born remains, with bones
of the poor who died from yellow fever and Spanish flu. With
AIDS victims who may have walked past me on New York streets
in bodies flush with possibility. Now they mingle in brown
dirt claimed by tree roots and beetles and mindless foraging ants.
And as for the island that holds this Potters Field? It’s named Hart
Island. Not named “heart,” for the organ beating beneath the ribs
but “hart,” a name for a male deer. A name for an island shaped
like a deer leg. A flattened haunch ending in a solitary spit,
reminiscent of a black cloven hoof that can bear a body
as it walks.