Vanessa German is a performance and visual artist currently based in Pittsburgh, PA. Her mixed media sculptural works gather inspiration from the Kongo "Nkisi" power figures, Mexican iconography, and the many potent, tragic, and stark realities of present day life. Seeking to create work that evokes not only the visceral emotional response of spirit and memory, Vanessa's work also seeks to create a visual contemporary ritual iconography relevant to the realities of the modern world; to employ objects with the power to invoke. Recent exhibitions include "Celebration of Visual Traditions", touring PA through 2008; "Migrations" at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts; "In Our House", at 937 Liberty Avenue, and "Objectification" at Gallerie Chiz.
German has shown and performed throughout the country. A featured performer at the International Arts Festival in Grahmstown, South Africa, Vanessa's performance poetry could be seen and heard in Germany, Sweden, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Olympia, and New Mexico.
Vanessa was a 2005 and 2006 nominee for Emerging Artist of the Year at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. She is the National Slam Bush Champion, Ink Tank Slam Champion, and was voted Best Spoken-word Poet by the Pittsburgh City Paper. Other performance credits include August Wilson's “The Piano Lesson”, “Seven Guitars”, and Jo Turner’s Come and Gone”; "Fire", her performance project with the Three Rivers Arts Festival, and this spring's Kuntu Repertory Theater production of "Relativity".
"I am interested in work that is most thoroughly alive. Work which itself is a contribution to a culture of humanity, connected by ritual, ceremony and celebration."
I met Vanessa at the Storyfield Conference last August, where the mantle of organizing the next conference landed on her shoulders. As a teacher, she is currently working on a project that was born out of Storyfield, to enable students to create "Vision videos"- individual and collective videos expressing hopeful visions for the future.
P.S.On the day we did this show, I became violently ill, unfortunately it was very sudden and started only minutes before the show began, so I finally gave up at one hour and forty-five minutes into the show. We actually thought I had appendicitis, and my husband called 911, and I was taken by ambulance to the hospital. I was diagnosed with having a kidney stone. Eventually, I was stabilized and sent home, and I'll be taking a rest and recuperating with family over the holidays.
I felt very badly about not finishing the show, especially since I have great love and respect for Vanessa. I did want to share my favorite poem with her, but was unable to do so. So let me, at least, post it here:
It is from Magister Ludi, or The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse
As every flower fades and as all youth
Departs, so life at every stage,
So every virtue, so our grasp of truth,
Blooms in its day and may not last forever.
Since life may summon us at every age
Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor,
Be ready bravely and without remorse
To find new light that old ties cannot give.
In all beginnings dwells a magic force
For guarding us and helping us to live.
Serenely let us move to distant places
And let no sentiments of home detain us.
The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us
But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces.
If we accept a home of our own making,
Familiar habit makes for indolence.
We must prepare for parting and leave-taking
Or else remain the slaves of permanence.
Even the hour of our death may send
Us speeding on to fresh and newer spaces,
And life may summon us to newer races.
So be it, heart: bid farewell without end.