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Painted Ladies and Broken Figurines: The dark feminist art of Jessica Harrison
03.17.2017
08:54 am

Topics:
Art
Feminism

Tags:
Jessica Harrison
figurines

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There must have been thousands of these figurines perched on shelves, mantelpieces and end tables in suburban households across the land. I know my grandmother had about half-a-dozen of these porcelain figurines of fair-skinned women lifting the hem of their dresses that mysteriously billowed like a sail from some absent breeze. Some held poesies or baskets crammed with yellow daffodils and roses. They were difficult to keep clean. Dust clung limpet-like in tufts. My grandmother accidentally broke them all at various times—usually when trying to remove resistant clumps of dust. Hands cracked at the wrist, arms amputated at the elbow, noses chipped off. She always stuck them back together again which made these scarred, now imperfect figures seem oddly more real.

I suppose this in part explains why I like Jessica Harrison’s beautiful and dark creations made from such popular mass-produced figurines. Jessica is an Edinburgh-based artist who refashions these found objects into quirky and visceral works of art. She works with a scalpel and electric saw, and then paints.

My original attraction to these objects was precisely because of this image they portray of the female body – my desire was to counter it and present its opposite within itself. This was quite simple to do, by breaking apart the hollow cast pieces and ‘revealing’ the interior, a standard formula in Western knowledge for making discoveries about the body. The female interior is a space still laced with taboo in a way that the male interior is not, and for me this gender bias of what is most often an invisible space in our everyday lives was a fascinating and important one to address.

Harrison has produced several exhbitions using these startling figurines—her solo shows Broken (2011), Pink, Green, Blue and Black (2016) and most recently in the group show Between Poles and Tides (2017). More of Jessica Harrison’s work can be seen here.
 
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More of Jessica Harrision’s beautiful art, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
There are handmade vagina purses
03.10.2017
12:20 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Feminism

Tags:
purse


 
These aren’t exactly regular-sized purses. More like coin purses to store your small valuables in like credit cards, coins, makeup or really whatever. And of course tampons. They’re made by Etsy shop Not Made In China Sewing and each one sells for around $19.00 + shipping.

They’re made in Austraila and take about 1-2 weeks to ship because there’s such a demand for them. The pubic hair comes in five different colors: blonde, light brown, dark brown, black and ginger. There are also four shades of skin tones to choose from as well.

I dig the different merkin “hairstyles” on the purses. The names of ‘em are even better: “The Tidy Twat,” “The Overly Manicured Muff,” and last but not least “The 70s Porno Pussy.”


 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The beautiful lost sculptures of Augusta Savage
02.28.2017
03:30 pm

Topics:
Art
Feminism
Heroes

Tags:
sculpture
Harlem
Augusta Savage

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The African-American artist Augusta Savage was born in Florida during a leap year on February 29, 1892. Her earliest memories were of the heavy rains and making ducks and chickens from the wet red clay out in the yard. She decided early to become an artist but her father, a strict Methodist minister, tried to whip this dream out of her. He sometimes beat her four or five times a week. It didn’t work. Augusta was determined to go her own way.

The options for most poor girls at the turn of the last century was go to work, get married and have kids. Augusta married at the age of fifteen in 1907 and gave birth to her only child, Irene, a year later. Not long after this, her husband died. Augusta then got hitched to a carpenter by the name of James Savage. The marriage lasted until the early 1920s when the couple divorced. Augusta liked the surname so decided to keep it.

With marriage and a baby to look after, Savage didn’t manage take up sculpting again until 1919 when a local sculptor gave her some clay. She knew she had talent but how much she wasn’t sure. Her talent was decidedly confirmed when she entered a couple of her latest sculptures into a local fair. She won top prize. This was just enough encouragement for Augusta. She gave her daughter over to the temporary care of her parents and headed off to New York to enrol as a student at the Cooper Union School of Art.

To her tutors it became quickly apparent that Savage was an exceptional talent. She passed her four year arts course with flying colors in a speedy three. But not everyone was impressed with this bright and talented young woman. 

In 1923,  Savage won a place among one hundred other American students to travel to Fontainbleau, France for a summer arts program. Arriving at the venue just outside Paris, Augusta was barred from entry and ejected off the course by the French organizers on grounds of her color. But other people’s racism and stupidity was never going to stop Augusta.

She returned to New York where she soon set-up a studio in Harlem. Augusta established herself as a portrait sculptor seeking commission from well-to-do African-American families to produce busts. It was during this time that Augusta produced one of her most famous and celebrated works Gamin.

In 1929, Augusta Savage won another fellowship to study in Paris. This time there was no institutionalized racism standing in her way and all went well. It led to a second fellowship the following year. But upon her return to America in the early thirties, she found the country devastated by the Wall St. Crash and the ensuing Great Depression. No one wanted portrait busts or civic sculptures. Undeterred, Augusta opened the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in Harlem 1932, where she taught art to young kids in the neighborhood.

Success followed in 1934, when Augusta became the first African-American to be elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. Three years later, she became the first director of the Harlem Community Art Center—which played a crucial role in the lives of many black artists.

Yet, Augusta Savage’s life always seemed shadowed by obstacle and opposition. The height of her greatest sculptural achievement came when she was asked to create a large sculpture for New York’s World Fair in 1939. Augusta produced a work called The Harp. It took her two years to develop and create. This massive piece of sculpture was inspired by the poem Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson. The poem was written in response to “a group of young men in Jacksonville, Florida, [who] arranged to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday in 1900.”

Lift every voice and sing  
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us. 
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Augusta’s statue featured twelve black singers rising up from the palm of God forming the shape of a harp. It was one of the main attractions at the fair. But when the show closed, no one was interested in helping Augusta keep the work or having it cast in bronze. The sculpture was smashed to pieces. It was a symbolic finale to Augusta’s career. On returning to Harlem, she found her position at the Community Arts Center had been taken by someone else. Things began to fall apart—more so after America entered the Second World War in 1941. Thereafter, nearly everything Augusta attempted failed. She moved to Saugerties, in the Catskill Mountains and started producing smaller works. But something had been lost. Something that had once been so powerful and resilient had been destroyed.

Augusta Savage produced less and less work. Most of her original work had been lost or destroyed. By the time of her death in 1962, Augusta Savage was tragically relatively forgotten

I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work.

I don’t know if Augusta celebrated her birthday every four years or shifted around between the 28th Feb. and first of March, but as this is the last day in February maybe we should celebrate Augusta Savage who was truly one of the most significant American sculptors of the twentieth century.
 
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Augusta in her studio.
 
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‘The Harp’ (1939).
 
Read more about Augusta Savage, and see more of her work, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The ‘private’ photographs of Marie Høeg and Bolette Berg: Questioning gender roles circa 1900
02.27.2017
11:41 am

Topics:
Feminism
Sex

Tags:
photography
gender
Bolette Berg
Marie Høeg

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Marie Høeg (1866-1949) had short cropped hair. Bolette Berg (1872-1944) kept hers long. Marie was short. Bolette was taller. They were known to the people of Horten, a busy naval port in Norway, as the two ladies who ran the photography studio called Berg & Høeg. They made their living taking portrait photographs, landscape pictures and the occasional picture of ships. In the late 1800s and early 1900s photography was the latest craze where those who could afford it had their picture taken. There were many such photographic studios in Horten. Berg & Høeg may have been long forgotten had it not been for the discovery some thirty years ago of some 440 of their glass negatives in an old disused barn in Oslo.

Among these glass plates was a box marked “Private.” Inside this box was a set of images featuring Høeg and Berg playing around with traditional gender roles. Høeg dressed as a man with a waxed mustaches, or as a boy with white shirt, cap and cigarette, or in fur pretending to be an Arctic explorer like Roald Amundsen, who led the first expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage in 1903–06.

Berg & Høeg posed with their women friends indulging in some of the worst kind of vices usually attributed to men—smoking, drinking and playing cards. Høeg also posed as husband to an unknown male friend as wife and in a rowing boat as a bowler-hat-wearing suitor to Berg’s elegant object of desire.

The finished photographs would have been shared among their small coterie of friends in Horten. Their friends no doubt laughed at these daring, subversive images which cocked a snook at the strict conventions surrounding sexuality, gender and identity at a time when women were called the “weaker sex,” and forbidden the vote.

Marie Høeg was the main subject of these “private” photographs. During her life she was best known as a pioneering activist for women’s rights. She founded the Horten Branch of the National Association for Women’s Suffrage, the Horten Women’s Council and the Horten Tuberculosis Association. Bolette Berg worked more behind the camera. The two women are believed to have met while studying photography in Finland during the early 1890s. They moved to Horten where they set up a studio together in 1895.

In 1903, the two women left Horten and set up a new studio in Oslo (then called Kristiania) where they had a career producing scenic and portrait postcards. They bought a farm and at some point stored their glass negatives in the barn where these images remained long after both Berg’s and Høeg’s deaths until their discovery in the 1980s.
 
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More of Høeg and Berg’s cross-dressing pictures, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Complete your LEGO Women’s March with pink Pussyhats!
02.09.2017
07:53 am

Topics:
Design
Feminism

Tags:
LEGO
Pussyhat
Women's March


 
Okay, these are downright sweet. I love them. Sadly, the Pussyhats for your LEGO figurines are not available to purchase but can be made with a 3D printer. That’s how these LEGO-like hats and signs were created. 

From Thingiverse:

This LEGO® minifig compatible Pussyhat celebrates the millions that joined the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and around the world on January 21, 2017. “The Pussyhat Project is a movement, not just a moment.” Print a Pussyhat and create a Women’s March minifig to display as a reminder of the fight for women’s rights and equality.

There are 2 version of the Pussyhat model, v1 requires supports but is a better fit while v2 requires no supports. Some trial and error and/or post-processing may be needed to get a perfect fit with your printer. Scale the model up or down slightly as needed. Designed in Tinkercad and printed on an Ultimaker 2.

According to Thingiverse, if you do decide to tackle this project on your own with your 3D printer and have any questions, you can contact the designer on Facebook or Twitter.


 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
When comic book ‘heroes’ were sexist women beaters

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We don’t have to time travel like Dr. Sam Beckett to find out just how terrible things were in the past. No, we’ve got the Internet to do that for us.

If you’ve ever wondered how easy sexism, misogyny and violence is passed on generation to generation then look no further than this brutal gallery featuring some of the world’s favorite cartoon characters and comic book superheroes spanking women. Their actions are supposed to be funny. Their actions are supposed to be normal. It’s even encouraged by their fellow comic strip characters and worse accepted as a suitable punishment by the women being hit.

Dr. Beckett would have had a hell of a time trying to sort all this sexist crap out and “change history for the better.”

Between the 1940s and 1970s, spanking in comic books appeared to be mandatory. Virtually every comic book hero from Batman, Daredevil, the Phantom, Li’l Abner and Superman indulged in this kind of abuse. Let’s be clear Lois Lane would have dumped Clark Kent for his psychotic penchant for domestic abuse. Bruce Wayne would have been put on at least on community service for his cosplay sadism. Then there were all the dimwits in the newspaper “Funnies” who only reinforced the worst kind of behavior.

The spanking may have stopped but the sexism is still very much a part of today’s comic books as can be seen by the cover of Spider-Woman #1 or through the Hawkeye Intiative. No doubt Dr. Beckett is out there right now trying to fix that too….
 
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More sexist superhero violence, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Beautiful portraits of the Iconic Stars, Bad Girls and Pioneering Women of Hollywood’s Golden Age

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Artist Charles Gates Sheldon (1889-1960) is best known for his cover art for publications like Photoplay, the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s Magazine. His work also included advertising and book illustration. But I like to think of Charles Sheldon Gates as the man who reinvented religious iconography for the twentieth century by replacing the portraits of angels and saints with pastel portraits of the silent movie stars and Hollywood legends of the 1920s and 1930s.

Sheldon’s portraits of actresses deserve to be glorified. These women were all tough dames. Most came from blue collar backgrounds and made their own way to the top in Hollywood at a time of autocratic studio bosses and sex pest producers. Some like Clara Bow lived a life of excess and ultimately paid for it. Others like Katharine Hepburn were strong-willed and fiercely independent who relished their freedom and privacy. Many died far too young. But all had a talent to entertain, inspire and bring a little hope—the kind of thing people get from religious paintings.
 
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The original ‘It Girl’ Clara Bow.
 
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Clara Bow.
 
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The original ‘sex symbol’ and ‘Blonde Bombshell’ Jean Harlow.
 
More icons of the silver screen, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Girls on Motorcycles: Retro photos of pioneering biker chicks
01.31.2017
11:03 am

Topics:
Feminism
Heroes
History

Tags:
motorcycles
bikers
women bikers

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It really all began with the bicycle in the 1890s when wheelmen clubs across America started promoting the bicycle as a new sport—an enjoyable way to travel, exercise and spend free time. Similar clubs opened up in various parts of Europe, but while these were mainly the preserve of the wealthy and leisured class, Americans had the greater opportunity through the cheap mass production of bicycles, the space, the inclination, the time and the desire to get about on two wheels.

There were literally millions of bikes in the US by end of the 19th century. Very soon women were taking to the road and cycling their way across town and city and into history. The women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony said something to the effect that the bicycle did “more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.” Women she said were “riding into suffrage on the bicycle.”

Not everyone agreed or was even happy with this. One crotchety dinosaur at the Washington Sunday Herald newspaper in 1891 described “a woman on a bicycle” as “the most vicious thing” he had ever seen. But like the dinosaur such attitudes soon extinct as once women were off on their bikes, there was no just stopping ‘em.

In parallel with the rise of the bicycle was the development of the motorcycle which was originally just a bike with an engine—though some had four wheels for balance instead of two. By 1903, Harley-Davidson sold their first motorcycles. The demand was soon fierce and companies popped up across the States producing motorbikes with thrilling names like the Marvel, the Indian and the Excelsior.

When the Indian motorcycle company added front and back shock absorbers to their motorbikes in 1915, the once far-fetched notion of long distance travel on two wheels quickly became a reality. That same year mother and daughter Avis and Effie Hotchkiss completed a 9,000 mile roundtrip by motorcycle from New York to San Francisco. In 1916, Adeline and Augusta Van Buren traveled across country on their motorbikes.

Now let’s just stop and think about these two long grueling incredible journeys. At the time there were no proper freeways. Most roads were dirt and dust. And women traveling on their own a century ago would have had to fend off unwanted advances and the unwarranted censure of every hick town they visited. Also, these women had to know how to fix their bikes when things went wrong.

By the 1920s a new generation of pioneering women bikers were taking to the road and traveling across continent. One such woman was Vivian Bales who became the first female biker to appear on the cover of Harley-Davidson’s Enthusiast magazine. Vivian was a little over five feet tall and and lacked the physical strength to kickstart her own bike but she still made a 5,000 mile trip across country on her flathead engine D-series Harley-Davidson in 1929.

Vivian wasn’t the only pioneering woman who rode into history on her motorbike during the 1920s. These photos of women bikers in America and Europe—mainly from around this decade—document the two-wheeled revolution that brought a new kind of freedom for women.
 
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Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, 1915.
 
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The Van Buren sisters.
 
More pioneering biker chicks, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Some of the best (trust me, they are tremendous) protest signs from the Women’s March


One of the many signs I saw and photographed during the Seattle ‘Women’s March,’ January 21st, 2017.
 
On Saturday I spent the better part of the day walking the streets of Seattle with a few of my “delicate snowflake” friends and approximately 175,000 other like-minded women, men and children during our Women’s March. The event, which was the largest protest in the history of the city, was by far one of the most powerful and empowering things I have ever personally experienced in my life. And while it’s not an alternate fact that our work is just beginning, judging from the numbers of people who collectively participated in the massive march in Washington DC, and the local support marches around the globe, there is still room for hope.

Many of the images of the signs in this post, were taken by yours truly and by friends of mine, old and new, who I walked with in Seattle. Others were culled from the Facebook page Pantsuit Nation and I’ve done the best I can to attach locations to each photo. While I have plenty to say on the subject when it comes to why millions of people took to the streets all over the country and the world, I’d much prefer to let the images of the protest signs that marchers carried with them on Saturday do the talking. So to the new administration and our new Commander-in-Grief, get ready because you haven’t seen anything yet. Viva la VULVA!
 

Seattle Women’s March, January 21st, 2017. Photo taken by a member of my marching group.
 

Seattle. Photo by Cherrybomb.
 

A 91-year-old retired doctor protesting in Los Angeles.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Lucifer, Satan & other Devils: The Occult art of Rosaleen Norton, the Witch of Kings Cross

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‘Lucifer and the Goat Mendes.’
 
The most notorious witch in Australian history was an artist named Rosaleen Norton (1917-79) who scandalized her ultra-conservative homeland with her outrageous bohemian lifestyle and strange occult beliefs during the 1950s.

The press dubbed Norton the “Witch of Kings Cross”—a low-rent artists’ quarter and red light district in Sydney, New South Wales. They claimed she was an evil Satanist who revelled in perverted Black Masses and unnatural orgies with her sex-mad coven. It was true Rosaleen (Roie to her friends) liked sex with both men and women. She enjoyed sex and saw no shame in admitting that she did. She also practised sex magick and made no secret of its powers. But Rosaleen was no Satanist. She was a pagan who followed her own particular belief in Pan.

From earliest childhood Rosaleen felt she was different—and felt compelled to prove this indeed was the case. As her friend and biographer Nevill Drury later recalled:

[Rosaleen] revelled in being the odd one out, purporting to despise her schoolmates. She argued continuously with her mother. She ‘hated’ authority figures like headmistresses, policemen, politicians and priests. She had no time at all for organised religion, and the gods she embraced - a cluster of ancient gods centred around Pan - were, of course, pagan to the hilt. She regarded Pan as the God of Infinite Being.

~snip!~

Pan was undoubtedly a rather unusual god for a young woman to be worshipping in Australia. But then Roie was different. And she was different in an age when it was quite a lot harder to be different than it is now. She was bohemian, bisexual, outspoken, rebellious and thoroughly independent in an era when most young ladies growing up on Sydney’s North Shore would be thinking simply of staying home, happily married with a husband and children. Roie was not afraid to say what she thought, draw her pagan images on city pavements, or flaunt her occult beliefs in the pages of the tabloids. To most people who read about her in newspapers and magazines she was simply outrageous.

Rosaleen was certainly outrageous. She was expelled from school for drawing pictures of vampires, pentagrams and demons during art class, which were claimed to have terrified her fellow classmates. In 1952, when a collection of her work was first published in book form as The Art of Rosaleen Norton three of the images contained therein—“Black Magic” (which depicted Rosaleen herself having sex with a panther), “Rites of Baron Samedi” and “Fohat” (which depicted a demon with a large muscled snake for a penis)—caused such offence that the publisher was prosecuted for obscenity and the pictures removed from all future printings. In America the book was deemed so pornographic that all imported copies were destroyed by custom officials.

Worse was to follow in 1955 when a woman named Anna Karina Hoffman was arrested for vagrancy. When questioned by police, Hoffman claimed she had participated in horrific Satanic black masses organized by Rosaleen. It was this accusation that led the tabloid press to dub Rosaleen the “Witch of Kings Cross” and promulgate the series of trumped-up news stories about her lurid (s)excesses.

However, the following year, one of her lovers, the highly respected composer Sir Eugene Goossens was arrested by Australian customs for attempting to bring some 800 pornographic images into the country—many of them marked “SM” for “sex magick.” The ensuing investigation by officials was heavily detailed by the press. It destroyed Goossens’ career and further denigrated Rosaleen’s character.

Still Rosaleen continued on her own way—painting pictures, following her own religious beliefs, enjoying a varied and active sex life and even dropping LSD to “induce visionary states” to enhance her awareness as an artist.

It was this visionary aspect which was at the heart of Rosaleen’s art:

From an early age she had a remarkable capacity to explore the visionary depths of her subconscious mind, and the archetypal beings she encountered on those occasions became the focus of her art. It was only later that Roie was labelled a witch, was described as such in the popular press, and began to develop the persona which accompanied that description. As this process gathered momentum, Roie in turn became intent on trying to demonstrate that she had been born a witch. After all, she had somewhat pointed ears, small blue markings on her left knee, and also a long strand of flesh which hung from underneath her armpit to her waist - a variant on the extra nipple sometimes ascribed to witches in the Middle Ages.

~snip!~

Roie’s personal beliefs were a strange mix of magic, mythology and fantasy, but derived substantially from mystical experiences which, for her, were completely real. She was no theoretician. Part of her disdain for the public at large, I believe, derived from the fact that she felt she had access to a wondrous visionary universe - while most people lived lives that were narrow, bigoted, and based on fear. Roie was very much an adventurer - a free spirit - and she liked to fly through the worlds opened to her by her imagination.

Roie’s art reflected this. It was her main passion, her main reason for living. She had no career ambitions other than to reflect on the forces within her essential being, and to manifest these psychic and magical energies in the only way she knew how. As Roie’s older sister Cecily later told me, art was the very centre of her life, and Roie took great pride in the brief recognition she received when the English critic and landscape artist John Sackville-West described her in 1970 as one of Australia’s finest artists, alongside Norman Lindsay. It was praise from an unexpected quarter, and it heartened Roie considerably because she felt that at last someone had understood her art and had responded to it positively. All too often her critics had responded only to her outer veneer - the bizarre and often distorted persona created by the media - and this was not the ‘real’ Roie at all.

Today no one would I doubt if anyone would bat an eyelid at Rosaleen’s lifestyle or beliefs—which shows how much our world has evolved. This year marks the centenary of her birth which should bring a new assessment of her life and work and introduce a new generation to the artist behind Australia’s most notorious witch.
 
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‘Black Magic.’
 
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‘Self Portrait with Occult Animals and Symbols.’
 
More of Rosaleen’s art, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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