Sing Out about this UNsung Woman
Sponsored by ArtRoots,
a Writer in Residence Project
January to June 2022
Submitted by Mary Elizabeth Nelson
A perfect passion for people and the arts combined with a heart of gold describes Samira Gdisis, recognized as April’s UNsung Woman honoree. Her nominator Mary Nelson writes, “Samira willingly organizes and offers her artist’s expertise and enthusiasm to adults and children. She puts her creative genius behind every project. This is why I feel that Samira needs to be “Sung”.
Samira freely shares with others her vast knowledge and resources for artists from technique to grant writing. Her opinions and feedback are always solid and respected.
She operates the Black-Eyed Press at 1415-16th St. Her 16th Street studio is often the place for children and adult classes where she hosts writing groups and teaches book binding and print making. Previously at her 6th Street studio, she welcomed various performance artists into her space for poetry readings.
Her studio always has an open door for any event and for any new artist to find a place to nest. She opened her studio for Thursday’s Artists Coffee Hour, a place for artists of all media gather, share ideas, get resources and create. During COVID, the coffee hour continued via Zoom.
Working with the Koss Family Foundation, Samira designed and printed invitations and advertising for a fundraising gala to aid oncology patients with expenses incurred for their care.
A major accomplishment was the driving force for the development and success of the Gallery on 16th while serving as its director and curator for the five years that it persisted.
Samiera responded to Mary’s letter: “I am so humbled and honored by Mary Nelson requesting to feature me. I am not certain what I have done to receive the kind words and recognition. I did not begin the Black-Eyed Press to be alone in my art. I believe art is about community, sharing life, and learning to see the world differently. I love to see how art and creativity builds people up in a world that sometimes seems upside down. The artists who make up my community are part of my family. I cannot tell you how fortunate I am to do what I do in this community. It is a dream.
“I talk to a lot of artists,” she continued. “I love to learn what drives them and makes their work unique. This quality of each artist is elusive. It is a quality about their work and their practice that others could see and not name and often has not been recorded. Last spring, Samiera received an ArtSeed Grant from the Racine Arts Council to pilot a series of three documentary short films that record the stories of local artists and why they do what they do. She teamed up with filmmaker Jason Love for the project called Capturing the Elusive.
“We are almost done with the first three documentaries,” she said. “They feature abstract artist Maggie Venn; sculptor Bradford Lee; and painter Dan Simoneau. The screening of Capturing the Elusive will take place Saturday, April 30 at 6 p.m. at the Racine Business Center in the Suite that was formerly the Gallery on 16th, 1405 16th Street in Racine.”
Mary Nelson concluded Samira Gdisis nomination with “She enthusiastically and quietly contributes to the arts and artists in a generous and unassuming manner and she deserves to be SUNG by those who may not even know her name and her value to art and artists of all media.
Fingal’s Cave, Mother Nature’s cathedral
The Isle of Staffa, The Hebrides, Northern Scotland
By Jeanne Arnold
Sixty million years ago or more, ancient lava exploded black basalt into the air that formed hexagonal columns rising above the sea. The sea, in turn, took its time to carve out Fingal’s Cave, Mother Nature’s Cathedral, on an uninhabited island in Northern Scotland. Wild waves crashed about long enough to open an arched entrance and create a sea cave with natural acoustics.
It was relatively calm on the day our small group debarked from the small tour boat at an equally small pier. I carefully followed the others holding a railing and balancing like mountain goats on the slippery uneven rockpile with waves splashing below. I anticipated that exploring the energy of the waves in the ancient cave and waiting to feel the echoing sounds would be divine.
I stepped into the sunlit cave’s opening, moved forward into dark shadows and stopped just in time after I saw a low chain at the slippery lower columns lower to the flowing and ebbing surf below. After my heart beat recovered, I called “Hello” over the sounds of the waves into the bright sun shining on one side of the cave and deep darkness on the other. It curved left and I could not see where it ended.
After I mulled over simple concepts of light and dark, stillness and movement, I sang out, “We all come from the Goddess/ And to her we shall return./ Like a drop of water,/ Flowing to the ocean.”
Three times a round, I felt my chant’s echoing deeply back to me. When I finally turned to leave, I was startled to see a boy taking my picture and a man smiling at me. “That was impressive,” he said. “I’ll always remember what you did.”
I thanked them and slowly, carefully, slid against the wall as they passed me, cautiously stepping forward on the edge to where I’d stood and sang.
Exhilarated but exhausted from experiencing this emotionally spiritual connection with Mother Earth, I walked carefully to the pier where my partner was waiting on the boat. She’d decided that she couldn’t make it to the cave. It was, she said, good enough for the boat’s captain to have steered it into the narrow mouth of the cave as far as the smashing waves would allow so we all could see it from there. Barbara’s legs couldn’t reach where mine had taken me, and she was happy that our travels far and near had given me another peak experience.
A life is lit from many sources
that radiate warmth and light.
Uncounted stars shine
on solemn emptiness
like clusters of crystals
adding sparkle that brighten
a cool, cloudless night
and light the way to infinity.
A vast darkness is penetrated
by ribboned rays from the moon,
slender illusions of warmth,
cool and blue, uncommitted in space,
pulling at tides, at hearts, at lunatics
who need to be moved in the night.
The sun’s light is too huge to be seen.
Its warmth is felt beyond horizons,
melting white ice, making life new,
pulling green and good from the earth.
Yet stand too long in its radiance,
the distant heat will sear and scar.
In contrast is lava within the aching gut,
or the brilliant flame within the soul of one
who stands in awe — defenseless, by choice,
while absorbing life’s lights
from whatever the source.
UNsung Women: the UN-known Herstory History
Submit written nominations about past or present women from Racine/Kenosha whose contributions to the wellbeing of our families, churches, schools, communities and beyond who have not or have been UNder acknowledged.
Loreen Greene Mohr is our SUNG woman for March and Samiera Gbisis is April’s honoree. Two or more UNsung women nominees will be selected from May through June, 2022.
The nominator is asked to provide:
• answers to Who, What, When, Where, How and Why details of your nominee’s herstory in a document or resume format.
• photographs, drawings, illustrations to enhance herstory;
• a reference person or documentation serving as evidence of proof.
Submit your nomination details to <email@example.com> with your name and where you may be reached.
Please do not nominate women who have already been “sung.”