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Interview: Authors of XXXV Talk Powerful Visuals With Sensual Text

What happens when a Russian American poet and Peruvian American mixed media artist decide to publish a book? Enter XXXV, a book that is an immersive exploration with provocative poems and black and white imagery. This beautiful, foil-embossed book features poetry by Sasha Perelman and photography by Anna Sibel. The combination of Sasha’s poetry which intentionally evokes visceral responses to the human experience of love, lust, heartbreak and her perception of society combined with Anna’s heart pounding work, this book is a must-have for your Herman Miller coffee table.

We caught up with Sasha and Anna to discuss the book, how they met, and what’s next for them.

Sasha Perelman (left), Anna Sibel (right)

AZ: Give us a brief background on how you came to create this book.

SP: I’ve been writing poetry since I was a little girl. I dreamt of creating a coffee table style book full of my poems and really beautiful visuals. XXXV started as a gift to myself for my 35th birthday: 35 provocative poems paired with beautiful black and white photography. Collaborating with Anna helped snowball the project into a highly curated, tactile experience that we’re sharing with the world.

AZ: How did you team with the artist Anna Sibel?

SP: I’ve known Anna for a few years and have always admired her work. On a recent trip to NY this past summer, we reconnected on a joy ride through what felt like post-apocalyptic New York City. I shared about the project and invited her to co-create the book with me.

AZ: What inspired you to start writing poetry? Is there something intrinsic to writing poetry that satisfies you?

SP: I believe my ability to write, poetry specifically, is a gift I was born with. I love using words to paint pictures, and I love rhythm. Poetry is the most meaningful medium in which to intersect those two passions. My inspiration has evolved over the years and is fueled mainly by love, lust, heartache, and perspective on society. 

AZ: What were your inspirations/reference points for this book?

SP: XXXV is a play on 35 and XXX to represent the proactive nature of the book. A lot of my poetry and Anna’s art plays on the edge of beauty, lust, and desire. It’s meant to be more alluring than overly sexual; although that’s subject to interpretation. There are two books that I visually obsessed over for inspiration on XXXV: Russian Style and François Nars’ 15×15.

AZ: What came first, the visuals or the poetry? Or was it concurrently?

SP: Don’t you mean ‘who’ came first?! Ha! The poetry came first. I had some visuals as inspiration, and I left the rest to Anna. She paired a lot of the poems with her photography and illustrations (all specifically designed and manipulated for the book). It was a really fun, collaborative process of witnessing Anna interpreting the poems into images.

AZ: What type of environment do you feel most creative? Set the scene

SP: The room is dimly lit, sometimes not at all. There are candles burning and sultry music playing (xxxv playlist). I’m sitting at my white lacquered writing desk with a blank sheet of paper inside an old vintage typewriter from 1920. I inhale deep hits of Blue Dream between lines and furiously pound the keys as the thoughts quickly manifest in my mind.

AS: Loose and free, baby. I second that hit of Blue Dream – anytime my hands are clean 

AZ: The book is black and white, so what significance does color (or lack of it) play?

AS: Sasha was very passionate about the idea of a black and white book when we first started speaking about our aesthetic direction. For me, black and white are timeless and elegant. It also supports the text vs. pulling the attention away from it.  I find that happens a lot with magazines and books today; it is so easy to get distracted and seduced by images and color. That is why I took as a personal challenge to balance both the words and imagery to complement and support each other.  Using black and white art and photography helps to bring depth and layers to images, and that coincides with the depth of Sasha’s poems. You want to re-read and thoroughly comprehend the imaginative, descriptive experience she lays out with her word magic. The visuals are there to arouse a different kind of emotion.

AZ: Do you dabble in other creative mediums?

SP: One of my favorite things is space design. I love to create environments that feel moody, inviting, and homey. I also love repurposing objects, surfaces, whatever I can get my hands on that inspires me into serving a new purpose.

AS: I am an expressionist artist, so I definitely use and practice with a lot of different mediums.  Any type of paint from spray paint to oil paint. I love working with ink and charcoal; old auctions, hardware stores, and scrap yards are my own little sanctuaries. It is really important for me to stay unrestricted when it comes to mediums. I use what I feel will best represent what I want to create and the mood I want to convey. Incorporating and using my photography has opened up a whole new world of expression for me as a mixed media artist.

AZ: If you could sum up the book in 5 words or less…

SP: Edgy artistry paired with provocative poetry

AZ: Do you have a favorite page in the book?

SP: VI – Gasping 

AS: IX – Creative Stranger 

AZ: How can people follow you and purchase the book?

SP: xxxvthebook.com to purchase, @3xvthebook on IG

AZ: What’s next for you?

SP: I’m in the process of writing a novel about my family’s immigration from the former USSR to America. It’s a dynamic story about the hardships of growing up Jewish in an anti-Semitic nation and the desire for acceptance at any cost told from the perspective of a first-generation American.

AS:  I have two projects that I am working on right now that I’m very proud to be wrapping up this year; “Nightcrawler,” Homeless City Project and “WeLax (LatinX),” the seeds we plant for stronger roots.

They will be on display (virtually and in person) in several cities over the course of Spring/Summer of 2021. My intention is to bring attention to worldly social, cultural and economical topics. Art with a purpose. Over the next year, I have a handful of “sensitive” topics that I intend to bring to light in the “post” Covid artistic renaissance that will be going on for decades to come.

You can purchase a copy of XXXV here.


images // courtesy of authors