Laura and Jessica

Laura Rifkin and Jessica Barshay

“Jess’ suicide left behind a torn piece of fabric in the universe. I continue to stitch my needle and thread into the fibers of it knowing that it is work I must undertake, even though it cannot be repaired.” -Laura Rifkin

Laura Rifkin, Ph.D. is a femme artist, performer, activist, and published writer. She is the creative catalyst of Fabled Asp: Fabulous/Activist Bay Area Lesbians with Disabilities: A Storytelling Project ( She co-founded Wry Crips Disabled Women’s Reader’s Theater and was an early member of AXIS Dance Company. Her art centers around using scraps to make meaning of the torn and discarded pieces of life. Growing up she had the good fortune to study with Murray Louis and Merce Cunningham who remain important influences on her aesthetic sensibilities. She is honored in Oakland’s mural Mitzvah: The Jewish Cultural Experience.

Jessica Barshay was a treasured and pioneering Jewish feminist lesbian therapist and writer (sometimes published under the pseudonym J. Peartree) who spoke and wrote frequently on issues of illness, and what she termed other people’s “active unwillingness to know”. She suffered with severe chronic fatigue and multiple chemical sensitivity at a time when there was no real acceptance of the diagnosis. As her illness progressed she increasingly experienced herself as “other” in the myriad of communities she belonged to. She chose to end her own life by her own hand and was an active proponent of the right to die.

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From Jessica Barshay’s Archive


Jess Unfurling (2010)
Typewriter (vintage), underwood brand birdcage, altered book, poster, ephemera, page inserts, 3 blow-ups, poem on vintage typewriter paper – Dimensions variable