radical art/work: meet author-climber-yoga teacher Georgie Abel

As I write this week's installment of our radical art/work series, Northern California is burning. 

Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, and beyond; so many beloved homes in cinders, elderly folks unable to get out quickly, shell-shocked locals evacuating with just the clothes on their backs. Wineries, subdivisions, small family farms, historic California sites, trailer parks; all wiped out.

The heaviness of the relentless devastation in a place I called home for so many years hangs over me, even these 2500 miles away. So I can't think of anyone more bittersweetly perfectly-suited to feature today than the fantastic Georgie Abel, who writes and climbs and teaches in the Bay Area herself, and whose work is "so much informed by the wild places" there. 

I am inspired by Georgie's love for the West, its wildness, and the ways in which divinity shows up in its vast sky, its sweeping vistas, the bodies that give it breath, and the craggy places in between.

Meet Georgie.

Name: Georgie Abel

What's your medium?
Bodies, poetry, essays.

What's your latest project?
I just started a Masters program in somatic psychology, so right now I'm learning more than I'm creating. This is a welcome change because the last five years were all about producing work and I was feeling like a dried up sponge from all of the output. Although I'm thankful that that cycle is over, it was a transformative time in my life that resulted in publishing a book of poetry full of words and ideas that have been brewing inside of me since I was a young girl.

Who's your target audience? 
I used to be really concerned about my work appealing to everyone. I struggled for awhile about whether or not I should include the word woman in the title of my poetry book because I feared that men wouldn't want to read it. Thankfully I got over that shit, because as soon as I stopped worrying about my appeal, writing became nourishing again. My target audience these days are people who want to remember their bodies, male feminists, angry women, and empaths.

Three key words that shape your art/work:
Cyclical, raw, connecting.

Who or what introduced you to this medium?
I was introduced to poetry of the body and on the page around the same time. I was doing my undergrad in Creative Writing at Georgia Southern University and took a poetry class and starting practicing yoga in the same semester. Although I had been writing and moving my body since I was very young, I hadn't yet studied these forms of expression in any kind of concrete way.

Where do you live and how does your hometown/region affect your art work?
I've moved around a lot in my life, but I always find myself pulled back to the San Francisco Bay Area, which is where I grew up and where I am now. For me, The Bay Area doesn't feel like one singular place but instead acts as a portal into many different places. I also love the entire state of California, and so much of my writing is informed by the wild places here. I'm especially drawn to the Eastern Sierra and the Yosemite high country.

Public or private school education?
I grew up in public schools that may as well have been private schools, did my Bachelor's degree in a public school, and now I'm at a private school getting my Masters.

Do you have any kind of spiritual practice? What does it look like?
My spirituality has always been a body- and movement-based practice with a dash of nature. The past few years I've been doing a lot of rock climbing and running in the mountains. I feel closest to God and myself after a long day in the backcountry.

Three books that changed your life:
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves

Three artists you admire:
Ijeoma Oluo
Louise Bourgeois
Jill Soloway

Three causes you're passionate about:
Access to women's healthcare
Reading (I don't know if this is technically a "cause" but holy shit, reading is the most healing thing we can do and it's going to save the world)
Native American land rights

Three teachers who taught you something important:
Peter Christopher (my magical realism professor) taught me to be brave and go for the jugular with my writing and in life.
Anne Lamott taught me to slow down.
Rebecca Solnit taught me that being smart is sexy and to stay hopeful during times of horror.

Virginia Woolf famously said a woman writer needs a room of her own. What do you need to create your art? Any non-negotiables?
I feel Virginia on this one. I have to be alone to create art that's honest. I am really empathic, oftentimes to a fault, and pick up on other people's energy quite easily. If someone else is in the room with me, their presence impacts and guides my writing in strange ways. I've been thinking about boundaries a lot recently, and how important it is for creative people to boundary the hell out of themselves.

One thing that pisses you off:
Donald Trump. He is the patriarchy embodied. He is unhealthy masculine. He is peak whiteness.

Shittiest job you've ever had:
Like being harassed at work and paid less than my male coworkers shitty, or cleaning bathrooms shitty? Cause I've done both. I also worked at American Eagle Outfitters back when I was still pretending to be a normal person, so that kind of sucked.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Stop trying to make people like you, you're weird in all the best ways, joy is coming for you.

Secret pop culture crush:
So I can't figure out if I love Justin Bieber because he looks like Miley Cyrus, or if I love Miley Cyrus because she looks like Justin Bieber. Or maybe it's because they both look like Ruby Rose?

Biggest challenge of your art/work?
I do not want to be a reliable or predictable artist. I want to constantly reinvent myself and birth new identities. This is a hard thing to stay committed to when so much of being an artist today is about branding and marketing and social media followers. Building an audience means being reliable — staying on brand, using the same voice, and speaking on similar topics. In my opinion, this is why so many artists are so burned out these days. Creativity cannot be bridled by something as astringent and capitalistic as branding. This is one of the main reasons why I'm not writing for a living anymore.

In five years, what does your art/work look like?
I will likely be a therapist by then, so I would love to be working with women who have had abortions/miscarriages, and researching how white supremacy and male supremacy is upheld within our bodies. And I don't mean that in a metaphorical way, I really do think that racism and sexism and all of the -isms are perpetuated by our unwillingness to tolerate discomfort in our physical bodies.

Website and social media links where we can follow you and learn more about your art/work?

In addition to be being rad, multi-faceted, and prolific, Georgie is the author of two books and a diversity of articles, all of which you can find linked at her website:

Modern Redpointing

2016, Rock Climbing Instruction

While most climbing performance books focus on external improvement (through training, nutrition, etc) this one takes an inward dive, covering topics like visualization, meditation, how to channel emotional energy, and more.

Supplemented with audio and video guides, the strategies presented are designed to improve your climbing outside of simply spending more time on the campus board or eating more veggies. The methods are actionable and require no equipment and no partner … just an open mind and a willingness to experiment.

2017, Poetry

Go West, Young Woman is a story about love, cycles, and identities. In her first collection of poetry, Georgie Abel takes us on an intimate journey through the American West and into her heart.

Thanks for being you, Georgie. Can’t wait to see what you do next.


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