The Female Gaze: Winter 2014

The Female Gaze Sheila Benedis

Sheila Benedis ’58

An artist and writer based in New York’s Westchester County, Sheila Meyer Benedis ’58 handcrafts homemade and found paper into “collapsible art.” Working as a professional sculptor for more than twenty-five years, she has created artist books that range from accordion-folded collages to complex three-dimensional pieces that she cuts and sculpts to create twisted, vertical-helix structures. The pages of her most recent books also are adorned with her original poetry. Earlier in her career Benedis created sculptural baskets from natural materials she found while hiking in the woods. Her work has been exhibited at the Citicorp Building in New York City, at Sarah Lawrence College, and at Westchester Community College.

—By Olivia Lammel ’14

The Female Gaze Sweetening the PillSweetening the Pill: or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control

Holly Grigg-Spall
Zero Books
While acknowledging the role hormonal contracep-tives have played in the advancement of women’s rights, Holly Grigg-Spall, in her investigative book, asks the question, “Why can’t we criticize the Pill?” Citing scientific studies, interviews, and case histories, the author takes a look at the Pill’s negative side effects, including depression, anxiety, paranoia, rage, and panic attacks and advocates for better contraceptive education for women.

Holly Grigg-Spall attended Mount Holyoke as a foreign fellow during the 2003–04 academic year and in her acknowledgements thanks the College for “planting a seed in [her] mind.” She has written for Easy Living, the Washington Post, and the UK Independent, among other publications.


The Female Gaze The Peerless FourThe Peerless Four: A Novel

Victoria Patterson
Set in 1928, the year female athletes were permitted to compete in Olympic track and field events for the first time, this novel tells the story of a Canadian women’s track team. Nicknamed the “Peerless Four,” the athletes— accompanied by their chaperone, who narrates the book—endure mounting pressure as they must overcome unexpected conflicts and are forced to face their fears knowing that the future of female Olympic athletes may depend on their performance.

Victoria Smith Patterson ’92 is the author of the novel The Vacant Paradise and Drift, a collection of interlinked short stories. She teaches in the Master of Fine Arts program at Antioch University and is visiting assistant professor at UC Riverside.


The Female Gaze The Language InsideThe Language Inside

Holly Thompson
Written in verse, this young adult novel is told from the point of view of Emma Karas, an American teenager raised in Japan. Returning to the states so that her mother can undergo cancer treatment, Emma has trouble adjusting to her new life.

At her grandmother’s urging, she takes a volunteer job at a long-term-care facility, where she helps a patient with locked-in syndrome write down her poems and becomes close to a fellow volunteer. After finally finding a place for herself in the States, when it comes time to decide whether to stay or return to Japan, Emma is faced with a painful choice.

Holly A. Thompson ’81 has written or edited four other books for children and adults, and her essays and short stories have been widely published. She teaches creative writing at Yokohama City University in Japan.

Sarah Kimball ’86 Bridges Cabaret and the Corporate World

The Female Gaze Sarah Kimball

Sarah Kimball ’86 performs her own cabaret shows in New York City.
(Photo by Leslie Hassler)

When she began studying cabaret, Sarah J. Kimball ’86 vowed she would perform her own show before she reached the age of forty-seven, giving herself about two years to get to the stage. “If you have something you really want to do and it scares you, go do it. That’s what it’s there for,” she says. Kimball succeeded in her goal. In March 2011, the night before her forty-seventh birthday, she stepped in front of an audience in Heart & Home. It was the third performance of her first self-produced cabaret show.

Kimball launched her cabaret career in 2009 with a “sort of crash course cum summer camp.” At “Summer in the City,” a five-day intensive program then in its tenth year in New York City, she studied under program directors Rick Jensen and Lina Koutrakos. The following fall, Kimball began training with them in earnest, and just over a year later, they directed her first cabaret show. Her second show, Blue, premiered in May 2013 at New York’s renowned cabaret club, the Metropolitan Room. The theme grew from Kimball’s love of the Joni Mitchell song by the same name. Throughout the show, she explored the color through bluesy tunes and songs reminiscent of the ocean by artists such as Leonard Cohen and Annie Lennox. “It’s blue as interpreted by me,” she says.

A theatre major at Mount Holyoke, Kimball decided early on that the Broadway lifestyle wasn’t for her. A career in performance “wasn’t feeding me on a lot of levels,” she says. Now she works in the corporate world and produces her work on the side. “I’m doing something for me,” she says. “It [cabaret] feeds my soul.”

—By Olivia Lammel ’14

This article appeared in the winter 2014 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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