Interview with Chris Knickerbocker of “Old Souls Home”

Diane R. Wiener interviewed artist-activist-educator Chris Knickerbocker for Wordgathering. This interview began via email and resumed in-person, over an extended time period, owing to Covid-19 and safety precautions, among other reasons. The in-person interview was recorded using and then edited collaboratively. 

WG: Thank you, so much, for agreeing to talk with me about your stellar and compelling artwork and projects. For the benefit of our readers, can you please describe “Old Souls Home,” and possibly say a bit about your “take” on steampunk and assemblage, to get us started? I would like our readers to get a flavorful sense of your unique aesthetic, before we dive in, more deeply. Much appreciated, Chris!

CK: It has taken me some time to ponder this because it is a natural response for me to “see” disparate objects as pieces of something new. Maybe it is part of my neuroatypical brain (which I consider a gift most of the time) which allows me to actually envision how cast-off, broken or found pieces can be put together to create something new. I was also gifted by having people in my life who allowed me to explore the natural and imaginary world. As a child I did not live in a traditional family unit. Until the age of three I lived with my grandparents. They didn’t have running water or indoor plumbing, but they provided me with love, encouraged my creativity, and fostered my belief in myself as a smart, capable person. We repurposed out of necessity and were often at the local dump looking for what I called “treasures” that we used to create or fix something. My grandmother had the creative eye while my grandfather was the teller of tall tales. I can see now so clearly how that was infused into my creative soul and am so thankful for who they helped me to become.

I created the concept of “Old Souls Home” from the belief that I breathe new life into what others may see as “junk.” I started with old doll parts to make new “characters,” each with their own story. They all lived together in what I saw as a “retirement home”—sort of like the Island of Misfit Toys—but in a house. I am sure the idea of the house stems from stories told to me about “old folks’ homes” where people live out their days—abandoned and cast off from whatever family they had. They had to start over—in a new form. You can see some of that in my “Old Souls Home” logo. The logo showcases some of my favorite component parts. 

Old Souls Home Logo
Old Souls Home logo: An outline of an A-framed house with the words OLD SOULS HOME within. The house has wings on its left and right sides; a bent chimney topped with an arrow rises from the roof. Beneath the house’s base are the words REINCARNATED ART & DECOR. Each of the letters in OLD SOULS HOME is a symbol connected with Chris Knickerbocker’s artwork. The words are centered horizontally. O = wheel with radiating spokes. L = antiquarian pipe with hinge. D = protractor. S = pipe shaped into S. O = eye. U = horseshoe. L = button with L in center. S = snake in profile. H = dotted-line in shape of H. O = toothed gear. M = chandelier with three lights. E = suspended traffic light.

After a bit, I progressed from creating characters using doll parts to creating larger assemblage pieces using more architectural components. I called it “artifactual junque” as I still created a story (thus “artifactual”) associated with what the piece became. I focused a lot on more mystical beings—like angels and fairies. Since I had so many component parts, it seemed natural to have my work categorized as steampunk. I have always liked the aesthetic of “steampunk” which takes a lot of mechanical components to express Victorian imagery. I was a vendor at the Steampunk World’s Fair a few years ago and was so enamored by the breadth of what was considered steampunk, as well as the devotion attendees had to creating their costuming. I am a true nerd at heart so I tried to learn from the attendees how they actually made parts of their costume to “work”—such as brew tea or slide an arrow down their arm sleeve. I was not at all surprised that many were actually mechanical engineers who saw this as their ability to play!

I will forever be a child at heart and in my mind—I like to play, and what I do I consider to be play. When I play I also want to learn how to do something differently so that my creations can become more interactive. I began a few years ago incorporating puns and movement into my pieces so that others could truly interact with them—either by guessing what the Rebus imagery means or by touching something to make something else move in an unexpected way. I visited the Museum of Play in Rochester to get more ideas—I could have stayed there for a few days! While their “displays” were interactive, I would not consider them to be “assemblage”—which I think is my favorite way to make something old new again. But the visit inspired me to learn more about mechanization and audience interaction. 

I should say that in my “professional life” I was Director of Student Affairs Assessment and Strategic Initiatives( SAASI) at Binghamton University. That translates to being a data scientist who is able to answer questions through a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods. One of my favorite methods is called “Visitor Studies,” which is an observational technique used initially by museums to learn how their patrons interacted with their exhibits. So now after retirement from BU I still use my skill set—but this time for myself!

WG: Thank you, Chris, for your thoughtful and nuanced responses! Awesome. As a steampunk fan, I often think about how assemblages and time traveling representations have the potential to disrupt “normative” ideas, imaginatively. You said that you have a “neuroatypical brain”…I wonder if you have any connections with the neurodiversity pride movement, in this respect or others? Also, can you say a bit more about how the work you do is connected—in some if not many ways—with disability arts and culture, given the reclamations you describe?​​

CK: I have not made any connections with my art and the neurodiversity pride movement. To be honest, I didn’t know of such a movement! I was formally diagnosed with ADD in my 50s, so I have spent most of my life (I’m 62) just “being who I am.” Fortunately for me I excelled academically and socially as some components of my ADD (hyperfocus, creativity, multitasking) were seen as strengths and reinforced as such. I never felt out of place, etc. However, as an adult managing a complex organization within academia I saw more clearly how much I had to do to work more “normally.” I had a great staff that helped me to manage (I miss that in my daily life now) and we always focused on our Strengths. We were trained in Strengths Quest assessment as a tool to identify and magnify strengths rather than focusing upon improving “weaknesses.” I must confess ignorance about disability arts/culture…I know that many would consider “outsider art” (which is something my work is often characterized as) to be created by people who have no formal artistic training and/or who create assemblage work with naivete—and sometimes I “feel” that the way in which this art is written about that the “artists” are often characterized as “less than” and therefore—”disabled”—but that is just my take on it.

WG: I appreciate your candor, so much. Thank you, again. Can you say a bit more about your interpretation of “outsider art”? Also, I would love to learn more from you about this idea that “less than” means—or, is set up to mean, or to be understood (in some respects, and in normative spaces) as “disabled,” as if disabled is an artistic disadvantage. Wordgathering’s mission is quite different from that orientation, but it is surely true that many mainstream frameworks about disablement often describe disability as something to be pitied or overcome, as well as being perceived or understood as a disadvantage. 

[extended temporal pause; interview resumed in-person rather than via email]

WG: I am here with the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, but not the imperialistic version. Chris, would you like to introduce yourself for the Wordgathering community?

CK: My name is Chris Knickerbocker and I am not the Wizard of Oz that you think I am, but I live there in my head. What else do I want to say about me? I don’t know. What do they need to know?

WG: Well, I think one of the reasons we were going to have this conversation is to talk about your perspective, experience, and engagement with what some people might call disability arts and culture in the world today. And so any thoughts you have about that? 

So I know from things we’ve discussed that you’re interested in neurodiversity and neurodivergence and in neuroqueerness. And I know as I’m looking at the hands raised in the windowsill, and the hands pointing and gesturing and communicating with one another, and perhaps the outside world, is they’re waving to people, they’re waving to people as people walk by, here in Owego. What does it mean to say that you are connected with disability arts and culture? What does that mean to you?

CK: I feel as someone who is neurodivergent myself that maybe I just incorporated and maybe that’s the theme through my art that I didn’t even realize I was doing, because it’s just so much a part of who I am. And mostly it’s celebrated, I think with people who I know and love. But when it isn’t, you know, so what? But so my connection, I think, is just how I approach what I see and how I make what I want to see. Does that explain it at all? I don’t know. So, I see things as parts.

WG: What kinds of things?

CK: Like when I want to create something, it’s always a story with it. But I want to use things. Like, some people can paint. I can’t paint. I can’t draw. I can’t draw stick figures. I don’t have that skill set. But I think my skill set is to take parts of broken things and make them into a whole and…talking about this is gonna make me cry. I don’t know. Things that were discarded. Things that were meant to be something else, but have strength when they’re put together into something new. And I think I’m thinking about it a lot more lately. As I think more about how I respond to the world and how I see the world and how I operate in it.

WG: How do you operate in the world?

CK: Well, I’m all over the fucking place. You know, I can’t…I, I can’t sit still. I can’t. I have to be everywhere. My mind doesn’t ever rest. That’s the pillow [referencing a pillow with a phrase about resting]. My mind can’t rest. And I have so many interests and I’m so curious about everything and I want to be involved in everything. But yet I know that I’m learning. I don’t have the energy to do that. I can do great in spurts, but not long-term stuff. And I see things that are not obvious to other people. I see things in detail. I operate in detail. So does that make any sense? Because it makes sense in my head.

WG: It makes sense to me, and I like the shape you’re making around your head as you’re showing shape circles.

CK: Yeah, and my head is feeling very buzzy right now.

WG: Yeah.

CK: Well, I don’t know what it means, exactly, but it feels like it’s something, I think, because I feel vibrations, like right around my forehead and all the way around like my scalp. Mm hmm. And I know that means something but I don’t know what it means.

WG: Do you think art and vibration happen every day or intermittently for you?

CK: Tied together intermittently are every day for me, every single day.

WG: What’s the relationship between art and vibration?

CK: That’s that connection. When you know, when you just know something is? It’s like synchronicity. Like, wow. That was meant to happen. Kind of like us meeting. Right? That doesn’t happen often. And maybe it’s not meant to because it makes it more special when it does. But it’s yeah, it’s when it’s meant to happen is when it all comes together. It’s like that’s it. When I’m orgasmic almost in, like in a nonsexual way. It’s like yes, yeah. See and bear in more. I talk about it. Now. My head is even buzzing. Hmm. It’s like, what is it? That the chakra up here? The Crown Chakra. My crown chakra is way big right now.

WG: Yeah. Like you are pointing to your third eye.

CK: Yes, the third eye. Yeah, yeah. And the third eye is intuition. I can’t remember.

WG: [Diane nods]. What does it mean to you?

CK: That means when I’m on fire, like in a good way, like I’m in my space, this is where I wish I was all the time.

WG: And you’re using your hand to point with a kind of precision. That’s moving around. And the way—to me, my perception—is that when you’re showing your hand pointing with a precision that’s moving around, that matches how you described yourself. 

CK: Yes, that’s really, that’s very perceptive. Yeah. And it’s good that you’re pointing that out because, see, things like movement… It’s good that you’re describing it for Otter.

WG: Well, Otter doesn’t use visual elements, but we do. And so in order to promote enhancing the variety of means of access to promote inclusion in real ways that aren’t bullshit. I think that’s a good thing to do. And I want to say a couple things about what I’m perceiving as I’m sitting here next to you in your amazing space that you’ve cultivated—without being weird about that word. And so there’s a fireplace with many owls and one of the signs under one of the owls that’s kind of above the other two owls says, “Keep away from fire,” and fire is underlined. It’s a flashcard, it’s a bit…it’s a flashcard. Yeah, and above that, there’s a brick that says “pray” on the mantel, and there’s a hand with a bird and the bird is holding an olive on a branch. And above that is another bird on the wall. Also on the opposite wall. 

CK: I love birds and I love this artist.

WG: Do you want to say something about the artist?

CK: Her name is Jennifer Lanie. She actually lives in Ballston Spa, and she’s gold. But I bought that first piece of the smaller bird before I ever met her and then I met her and fell in love with her. And she just paints things. Her work evokes something within my heart. I love…like that. That tuffet is hers. These are her herbs. The pillow, the pillows, my bed cover, I’ve my big mural that’s upstairs in my studio. She did that. She is, yeah, I don’t know what else to say. I would love for you to meet her. She has a rescued squirrel in her barn that she’s made this entire run for the squirrel.

WG: Well, I love that story. There are adolescent squirrels at my house right now. And I love, I love the story about the squirrels having their own special place and I digress for a moment…this world…that what’s…what’s a digression? 

CK: Labels are interesting to me. 

WG: How so? 

CK: My nephew who’s just a little bit younger than me, because my sister is so much older, was born with an intellectual disability. He wasn’t allowed to go to school at one point, because it was like the 1960s. There was no education for someone like him. He was educated at home. Until a law was passed that allowed him to go to school. And so his entire life he went through that label, and that limited him in so many ways. He’s no longer living. But he was the historian of our family. His memory was like, he could recite exactly what happened and you know, whatever. He was our family’s memory. And so, when we pigeonhole people, or art, or whatever you want to call it, it limits us. Really? Yeah. So even when I try and describe the kind of art I do, and I look it up, it’s like, okay, it’s outsider art. It’s assemblage, it’s kinetic assemblage, it’s folk art. It’s, it’s visual. A visual storyteller. That’s what I am. I’m writing this grant. I’m trying to define what I’m trying to create. And I can’t even find the right words to describe it. 

WG: You exceed explanation.

CK: Yeah, I’m writing that one down. Exceed explanation. I like that. I never got that on my report card.

WG: Well “exceed explanation” also is a way to destroy a tendency to pathologize because excess is often pathologized. Yeah, you know, exceeding the boundaries is too much. It’s not this. It’s sometimes labeled as too much. But I think excess can be beautiful. Absolutely. Yes. [Diane goes into a riff about “ecolalia” and word association, then Chris and Diane begin playing a word game involving association and alliteration.]

CK: There’s an idea for you. What’s that? To do a poem like that? 

WG: Okay, and let’s do it. Yeah, okay. We can play Word Association, refuse to pathologize it, okay. Okay. Yeah. So here’s a cat. Yes. Cascading cat.

CK: Corruptly something…I don’t know…why did I even think corrupt? But now I can’t think…there is too much pressure! 

WG: See, we’re not going to do it anymore. It’s like test anxiety. I got it. I have it. Do you ever have it when you go to, to get your eyes checked?

CK: I do. I have told my doctor that every single time I said this is not a good way to test for eyesight because I feel like there’s a right answer and a wrong answer and I can’t remember either. I keep asking you to flip and it’s…I don’t feel like I’m accurately representing what I’m truly seeing.

WG: It creates anxiety for a lot of people. It does for me, even people who don’t have experiences, typically, quote unquote, with anxiety. So let’s talk about neurodiversity a little bit, because I think that that’s part of what we’ve been talking about all along. 

CK: So can I add the label? Of course. So I have a seizure disorder. Again, another label that’s not well-defined, but it makes me somewhat neuroatypical. My family has a history of that. Genetically, whatever. I gotta write this down. I’m just DNA. Okay. So, I think I just, I don’t know why I need to say that but I wanted to put that there is, that’s an underlying thing maybe about my brain. Just it works differently but then you know, diagnosed with ADHD. And now the more I read, the more I think, you know, supposedly there’s a connection between Autism and ADD, and I feel the world is a spectrum. We’re all on some kind of slide of something or other and we move in and out of things all the time. And the more I learn about myself, the more I learn, the part of me that probably is someplace on the spectrum. And the more I acknowledge that and what I need, the better I feel. Like, I need routine. If I don’t have routine, I don’t function well. So when I worked at BU, I had a staff that managed me truly frickin’ managed me, and thank God they did. We were all like one brain and we all had different pieces to each other’s strengths. And so when I left there—and I needed to—but I lost that part of me. So in my art, like everything, I don’t lose the motivation because I don’t have it because I can’t create my own routine.

WG: How does one create their structure, what they need to sustain their own experience? Yeah.

CK: How do I do that so the neurodivergent part of me, I think, is…it shows everywhere. Like how I see things and how I have to have things everywhere. But it’s also beautiful and calming. Am I making any sense?

WG: I think what you’re saying is beautiful, evocative, and complicated in a way that I’m trying to hold space in myself both as your friend and as the editor, and as the interviewer simultaneously, but what I really want to say and so I’ll say is it really is so clear why we get along the way that we do because I think that we have different biographies, but also have a lot of overlapping, synergistic, holy shit, connected familiar energies and like people have more and more in more recent years talked about neurodiversity as a concept or a framework. That’s like ecological diversity, that there’s just a huge variety of fucking human life and that we have enormous variance in how people think, how they perceive, how they cogitate, how they communicate, how they engage in timing, which I always demonstrate by pausing. [Diane pauses.]

CK: And then you lifted yourself up, your body up, very different body posture when you said that.

WG: Yeah. And I think that’s because I’m like sitting intensely leaning toward you, but I also want to be like, open, right? And I’m doing both and it’s so…thank you and I, I feel like I could describe everything around me that I’m perceiving but it would take the rest of my life just to talk about the one aspect of the ceiling because it’s so, I mean, it’s completely about your aesthetic—to put it that way. But I feel so comfortable here. I mean, I love being next to you in this space that you’ve created and it is all your home, but it is all the art. It’s really the same.

CK: Oh, that’s lovely. That’s really lovely. Because for me, this space has to be calming and soothing. When I go to my studio… Yeah, this has to be the rest part. Right? To have my life.

WG: Yeah. So it’s almost like there’s a way, if I’m understanding what you are saying, I’m looking up and seeing a pig flying. Yes. Isn’t that fantastic? When pigs fly. Exactly. So hell has frozen over and I’m relieved because actually hell was always cold. I mean, the idea that hell was hot is some…I don’t know who made that up, or come from, I wonder Yeah, well, there are theories, I guess, but I wonder about how like, people sometimes say to me—usually nondisabled people (or abled, some people call them)—like, “why do you need to have a disability poetry journal?” Like why do we need to have a journal for, you know, any, any, you know, group, group blank, and I’m like, “Well, I have a lot of opinions about that.” What do you think about that?

CK: I saw…I feel, in groups, labels, let’s…I’m gonna call them labels, have been separated from the mainstream. And in that separateness the culture comes together. There’s a safeness, first of all, in that…I’m not…I have trouble expressing my thoughts in words. It’s all in my brain.

WG: Can you show me a picture? Can you draw a picture in your mind of what you can perceive a picture so…?

CK: And you know, I can’t draw, so let’s say these are lesbians. Uh huh. Okay, so this is a picture of lesbians. So lesbians are outcasts. And together, this is safe. This is its own world and environment. [Earlier in the conversation, Chris and Diane had discussed a shared history of having had romantic relationships with women.]

WG: That circle, it’s like a circle caucus of lesbians. 

CK: Yes, a caucus. A Murder of Crows. A Caucus of Lesbians. That’s right.

WG: An Exaltation of Larks.

CK: Let’s keep going. There are so many other conversations I want to have with you.

WG: Me too. And we’re having conversations within our conversation. Yes, we are. That’s what we do, though. 

CK: That’s right. So to me, this group creates a culture of safety and sameness, right. Meanwhile, everybody else is saying stay away from us. But really, for us all to live together, we, we need to integrate more. So I think having whatever we want to say a journal of disability is part of the integration of the other culture, the other labels, learning more about it, but also this group celebrating who we are. Yeah. Yeah. Does that make sense?

WG: Absolutely!

[Chris and Diane embark upon a wildly nuanced conversation about enfreakment, freakery, and circuses, linking these topics to recent artistic endeavors by Chris. Then Chris and Diane talk at length about neuroqueerness and the ND movement. At one point, Diane shares her ironic statement that she “passes as linear as an accommodation for other people.”]

CK: Isn’t that kind of funny, right, like what you said. Yeah, I pass as linear. Right. Act as if…and I had to do that. A lot.

WG: So, for me, the thing about doing that to be present for other people, which I think is compassionate, and some people call it code switching. It’s also about adapting yourself. And I get mad sometimes or angry or annoyed or frustrated or something because I’m like, “Why don’t some people try to adapt to us—like why [not]?”

CK: Well, because we’re not dominant. And it’s all about power. We don’t have.

WG: Yeah, right. Well, maybe that’s another reason why the journal and the idea of caucusing, is, you know…are important because, because it’s about, it’s like some people call it outsider art. Yes. Like you did before. 

[Chris and Diane discuss a recent art project and Chris’s submission to a NY State grant competition for artists. Then they switch gears. Yet again.]

WG: Can I ask you another question, from before?

CK: Do you remember what it was? Yes. Okay, I’m ready.

WG: How do you respond to this? I think you’re an Oracle.

CK: Really?

WG: What do you think of that?

CK: That sounds so honorific that I don’t deserve it.

WG: Why not?

CK: To me an Oracle is like, almost like Buddha or something. You know, you’re showing that’s…that’s a lot of power.

WG: Okay. What would be a different description of my opinion of you sitting on a couch with a boa nearby or some rugby thing, and then behind you, are three globes, and a globe next to a globe and orbs under the orbs? And glasses. That could be the world, you can see the world with the glasses that the globe has resting on it. On its head above one of its axes. And there are all these like, it’s sort of like sometimes when I’m really frustrated and I want to do some mindfulness work…I’ve told this to so many people. I’ll just focus on everything green. Like I’m just going to look at everything green right now. Green, green, green. And what’s happening today, here, is I’m noticing how many orbs there are. How many globes and globular shaped things you have, like all over the place. But you have so many different shapes of so many other types of all things, all kinds of things all over the place. And the hat, you know, on the rack, and the…it looks like the little cat bed has a tongue hanging out of it. You know, it’s like there are all these things going on. And we could just spend hours and hours and hours. Stories stories stories. Yeah.

CK: Or play some words or something. Yeah. Like Miss Gracie’s School of Expression, which I’m just looking at right now. Right? So that was a wonderful thing. I had to have that at an antique show. So underneath it, there’s that coppery head thing with her mouth open. But underneath it is a headless doll because to me she can’t speak. So I find it ironic: Miss Gracie’s School of Expression, like that’s…I put that together intentionally. And then there’s a sign underneath. It says “Speak gently.”

WG: Well, there are so many people in the neurodiversity pride movement who have insisted that there are many ways to speak. There’s a t-shirt that I have from the Center of Human Policy (in Syracuse) that says, “Not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say.” 

CK: Oh my god, yes. 

WG: And that t-shirt is connected with a lot of movement around advocacy, by, for, with, and in solidarity alongside nonspeaking people who type to communicate, who use images to communicate, who point to images to communicate, who use what was often in the past called Facilitated Communication (FC). And there are so many people who are nonspeaking—which is different from saying someone’s nonverbal. It’s a more, I think, nuanced way to describe experience. So I think some of the ways that people think about discrimination against Disabled people…well…I like to think about what it means to have greater solidarity and a “cross-disabilities” movement, in ways where people who have intellectual disabilities and people with emotional variances and people with psychiatric disabilities and psychiatric labels and people who are physically disabled and, you know, have reading disabilities, all these different types of disabilities, sometimes more than one at once, oftentimes more than one at once, how might we all collaborate? That, that there isn’t a hierarchy, where verbal communication is not the only way, and people understanding across spaces that nonspeaking people are communicating, because “not being able to speak doesn’t mean not having anything to say,” so those individuals are included and welcomed, always, in all kinds of conversations—about art, and in artistic creation. And I feel like your art makes that possible in ways, because you are not privileging modes of expression that exclude people who have those kinds of experiences with and approaches to communication. Maybe that’s connected to your nephew. Maybe it’s connected to your grandmother. And maybe (so it seems) it’s connected to your ethics. 

CK: So I was in an exhibit at the State of the Art gallery in Ithaca and they did a review and they called my art “polemical.” Uh huh. And I had to look it up, right. I’m like, really? Yeah. But they were saying in contrast to other pieces that were there and the pieces I chose to bring there—I can understand why they would say that, but mostly, I would never describe my stuff as that, and not that I…like, there are some things, I’m like a big “fuck you, if that offends you, fuck you.” But that’s more so my political shit. I feel like I’m a kind person and I don’t want to purposely hurt people who have been hurt so much before.

WG: I also feel like what you’re saying—and have been sharing throughout our conversation—is that you are claiming membership in this community of neurodivergent and disabled people. And so even though you don’t hold every single identity in the communities, no one does. 

CK: Well, we’ll find that out, way after we’re dead. They’ll figure that out.

[Chris and Diane veer into a layered conversation about the messiness of categories, the problems with history and who tells the stories of the past, and other topics. To be continued…]

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About Chris Knickerbocker and Artist’s Statement

Chris Knickerbocker began her professional life as a social worker but transferred into various administrative roles in higher education before retiring from Binghamton University in 2017 as Director of Student Affairs Assessment and Strategic Initiatives. She is currently an artisan, entrepreneur, and community activist living in the Coolest Small Town in America—Owego, NY. Chris has been active locally with organizations that support the arts, historic preservation, history, tourism, and merchants.

Chris comes from a long line of “junkers” who repurposed out of necessity. Her grandmother always said, “Make do with whachu got,” which inspired Chris to create something new from cast-off pieces. She owes a lot to her grandmother who engaged her curiosity and sense of wonder by helping her see that a button can become an eye, and a rock might look like a mushroom. Chris owes her grandfather her sense of humor and storytelling-especially when it comes to anything a bit off, so-to-speak.

Chris calls her creations “reincarnated art and décor” because each piece had a past life as something else and now has a new story to tell. She loves the odd and the spiritual, the lovely and the funny. Mostly, Chris likes to create a piece that is interactive with an audience—from as simple as guessing the intended pun or by engaging a crank to make the piece “move.” Chris creates custom pieces for both homes and businesses. Featured business installations include the Belva Lockwood Inn (the Knickerbocker Room, and the inn’s bar) and the Owego Kitchen.

If you want to get all fancy, then you can call Chris’s work “Mixed Media, which includes assemblage, collage, and sculpture.” She always considered art to be what someone creates from scratch—with talent she certainly does not have. Her drawings look the same as they did in kindergarten. She can’t match colors when she dresses herself. She didn’t do well in her college pottery class. So, Chris is not an “artist,” in that sense—but what she creates does require the talent of seeing ordinary things through a different lens.

Chris’s creations have been sold at juried national, regional, and local shows and galleries. She is proud to have received awards including Best in Show, People’s Choice, and Best in Category. Chris’s home, work, and studio have been featured in newspapers, social media outlets, and magazines—including the Fall 2021 issue of Where Women Create. You can find more of what Chris does at the Black Cat Gallery (214 Front Street, Owego, NY), Pink Arrow Arts (35 Pine Street, Montrose, PA), at her studio in Owego, and who knows where next?

You can reach Chris at:, and on Instagram at _oldsoulshome

About Diane R. Wiener

Diane R. Wiener (she/they) became Editor-in-Chief of Wordgathering in January 2020. She is the author of The Golem Verses (Nine Mile Press, 2018), Flashes & Specks (Finishing Line Press, 2021), and The Golem Returns (swallow::tale press, 2022). Diane’s poems also appear in Nine Mile Magazine, Wordgathering, Tammy, Queerly, The South Carolina ReviewWelcome to the Resistance: Poetry as ProtestDiagrams Sketched on the Wind, Jason’s Connection, the Kalonopia Collective’s 2021 Disability Pride Anthology, and elsewhere. Her creative nonfiction appears in Stone CanoeMollyhouse, The Abstract Elephant Magazine, and Pop the Culture Pill. Diane’s flash fiction appears in Ordinary Madness; her short fiction is published in A Coup of Owls. Diane served as Nine Mile Literary Magazine’s Assistant Editor after being Guest Editor for the Fall 2019 Special Double Issue on Neurodivergent, Disability, Deaf, Mad, and Crip poetics. Diane has published widely on Disability, education, accessibility, equity, and empowerment, among other subjects. She is a proud Neuroqueer, Mad, Crip, Genderqueer and Enby, Ashkenazi Jewish Hylozoist Nerd (etc.) who is honored to serve in the nonprofit sector–including as a Zoeglossia Board member. You can visit Diane online at: