Q&A: Natalia Zukerman Discusses Queer Conventionality and The Women Who Rode Away

Natalia Zukerman Pittsburgh
Photo via Carnegie Stage

Off the Wall Productions and Carnegie Stage host an intriguing performance series this weekend – queer artist and singersongwriter Natalia Zukerman in a one woman show The Women Who Rode Away. Featuring original music and projected paintings by Zukerman, this intimate portrait recounts the artist’s journey of finding her own voice through the stories of the women in her life that paved the way.

I first encountered Natalia at a 2014 show she did at Club Cafe with Melissa Ferrick. I began following her on IG and very much look forward to this evening of a queer woman storytelling.

The Women Who Rode Away is on stage Thursday, Firday, and Saturday at 8 PM. Tickets start at $5 and go up to $20. They include a special rate for students and artists.


My greatest hope is that this show is an invitation for people to do just that, to tell the stories of women who paved the way for us, of our ancestors. It’s through the lens of these women’s lives that we can more deeply understand who are and who we want to become.


Your Name: Natalia Zukerman
Your Age: 44
Your Pronouns: She/Her

How do you describe your identity? I have always really liked the word queer because I feel like it encompasses more than sexuality to include a world view and an approach to life and politics that is questioning and outside the boundaries of convention. So I identify as Queer. I have also identified as a “Lesbian” and as a “Dyke” as those are powerful words with their own historical connotations. What I also want to say is that when asked about my identity, I don’t first think of my sexuality, though I am assuming that is what you were asking. I am a lot of things, as we all are. My sexuality is just one part of my humanness.

Please tell us about your very first impression of Pittsburgh: I have always called Pittsburgh “The San Francisco of the midwest,” though I know you’re not technically the midwest. But those hills! The drive into your city and those incredible (and incredibly hard to navigate!) bridges is one of my favorites approaches to a city in the country. I think Pittsburgh is just stunning. Always have.

What Pittsburgh creators – writers, musicians, poets, etc – have influenced your work? Is there anyone with whom you’d like to collaborate? I love this question because I am currently collaborating with a proud Pittsburgh native, Lisa Ferraro! Together, we are calling our collaboration SeekHer7 (http://www.seekher7.com) and we are about to release our first EP which is called “Where We Begin.” Our songs are soul-full and Spirit filled and while we have been collaborating for less than a year, we are already performing, teaching and co-facilitating retreats internationally.

Our name is about “the seeker,” those of us who approach this wonderful and complicated human incarnation with curiosity and a desire to deepen connection. The feminization of the name (seekHer) is acknowledging and paying homage to the rise of the Divine Feminine, which not necessarily about cis-gendered womxn but rather a recognition that we are in a time where women are being called to power and into their Power. We believe that that recognition alone has its own power to do nothing short of shift our planet towards sustainability and peace.

I am also excited to meet more artists that are working at Off The Wall in Carnegie where I’ll be performing my show. The directors of that theatre, Hans and Virginia, are committed to inclusion and diversity so I can only imagine they’ve attracted a group of total badasses that I know I will learn so much from. I also had a wonderful interview with a local artist named Marianne Bayard and I look forward to digging into what she is creating!

You’ve described women’s stories as powerful tools. Yet most women’s stories remain unknown to us, at least via traditional histories. How does the typical person find these sources of power in their own lives, their own families? It’s so important to tell women’s stories, particularly those whose voices were and are silenced. My greatest hope is that this show is an invitation for people to do just that, to tell the stories of women who paved the way for us, of our ancestors. It’s through the lens of these women’s lives that we can more deeply understand who are and who we want to become.

Is your project informed by the D.H. Lawrence story The Woman Who Rode Away? No.

I had a poster on my dorm room wall in college of Georgia O’Keeffe on the back of a motorcycle with the words written on it, “The Women Who Rode Away.” I stared at that poster non-stop and dreamed of the independence and autonomy that precedes escape. Not escape from participating in society, although that has appealed to me at times, but the escape from conformity and the complete acceptance of self.

I created a blog series about my eight 2x great-grandmothers , most of whose names I did not know when I was growing up. Meeting them through family history research has imbued them with a realness that I didn’t expect, almost like I uncovered them and they are with me every day shaping my life as fully formed human beings, not just through the lens of the generations in between. My blog posts are a tribute to them as well as a way for me to share that fullness with the world and future generations. Is this in any way similar to what you are doing in your show with your unique artistic talents?

How cool, Sue! What a powerful resource for you and others and YES! This is exactly what I’m talking about. We are kindred souls, my friend.

Why did you choose to partner with Carnegie Stage and Off the wall Productions for your Pittsburgh show? I was introduced to Hans and Virginia at Carnegie Stage through Kira Simring, the artistic director of the cell in NY where I had an artist residency and got to create and first perform my one woman show that I’ve since been touring across the country. Like Carnegie, the cell is committed to inclusion and diversity and creating an atmosphere for artists to explore and expand. Since seekers tend to find one another, the introduction was a natural one and I couldn’t be more excited to get to perform my show THREE times in this great space.

Please tell us about the first LGBTQ person that you knew and what impact they had on your life. This is a story I actually tell in my show! It’s the story of my art teacher from high school, an incredible artist named Nancy Fried who introduced me to an entire universe of art, poetry and philosophy. Her openness, honesty and fierce commitment to being true to yourself has been one of the most impactful relationships in my life.

What is your love song for LGBTQ youth? What a sweet question! I wrote a song many years ago called, “Come As You Are” and in it I say:
“Come out
Come as you are
It may not even be that hard
Come out, come out, come out wherever you are
You are nothing less than a star”
https://open.spotify.com/track/6ufAWuHZoYFFUT4asOtr6j


I have always really liked the word queer because I feel like it encompasses more than sexuality to include a world view and an approach to life and politics that is questioning and outside the boundaries of convention.


 

Who are some of the younger openly LGBTQ artists that our readers should be listening to, but might not know about?

I’m sure your followers have more of a list of younger artists than I do (and I’d love to learn about them!) but I can share my direct group of amazing friends that everyone should know about:
Heather Mae
Crys Matthews
Ty Greenstein (Mouths of Babes)
Pamela Means
Trina Hamlin
Garrison Starr
Erin McKeown
Susan Werner
Janis Ian

Meghan Toohey
Catie Curtis
Ferron
Bitch
Ganessa James
Be Steadwell
Toshi Reagan
The indigo girls

and everyone else I’m forgetting!

Where can readers find you on social media?

Facebook: facebook.com/nzukerman/

Twitter twitter.com/zukertweets

Instagram instagram.com/nataliazukerman/

YouTube

Thank you, Natalia.

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