Open Signal Fellow: Jessica Mehta and “emBODY Poetry”

By Thursday Bram

Jessica Mehta, one of this year’s Open Signal fellows, is currently showing her work “emBODY poetry” at Open Signal. The show, which opened March 10, combines Mehta’s poetry with performance to examine body image and eating disorders.

Jessica Mehta reading some of her poetry for her emBODY exhibition

Since Open Signal is currently closed due to coronavirus, check out this virtual tour of Jessica Mehta’s current exhibition.

The first iteration of the show opened in Washington D.C. last spring. In it, Mehta led attendees in painting words on the body of a nude model. Mehta chose a human body as a canvass as a conscious break from stereotypical sexualization in poetry.

For Mehta, “emBODY poetry” is just one work out of many that give audiences more ways to experience poetry. Her work, “Red/Act” uses virtual reality to create an immersive encounter with indigenous poetry. Mehta is the author of more than a dozen books. More information about her writing and art is available at jessicamehta.com.

Her fellowship with Open Signal isn’t the first time Mehta’s worked in Eliot. Her first job was with the African-American Health Coalition then located in the neighborhood. “The majority of my hours were spent in Eliot at one point.” Mehta, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and was born in southern Oregon, draws deeply on her own experiences in her work. She says, “Space and place play a huge role in my work.”

Learn More: opensignalpdx.org/embodypoetry 

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