Moon Cleavage Celebrates Mansfield’s Female Artists

You know that one lifelong friend who encourages you to stay in touch with your primal, wild self? The one who’s uninhibited and rebellious and reminds you not to take yourself too seriously?

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For me, that friend is JP. She lives in the woods near Zanesville and mows her lawn topless. She rides motorcycles, eats organic and thumbs her nose at society’s rules.

Sometimes at random, JP will text me and say, “Let’s go outside tonight and scream as loud as we can at the moon.”

We text back and forth about Mother Moona. We send photos of moonlit shadows and wild notions. And all the ills we want to fling side-armed into the night.

So when Aurelio Diaz asked if I wanted to be involved in his inaugural Moon Cleavage event to showcase local female artists, of course I thought of those texts with JP.

I gathered my Mother Moona strength, picked a few provocative poems and agreed to participate.

Moon Cleavage I Screams at the Moon

What did I expect of Moon Cleavage? I knew I’d recognize a few familiar faces. I figured I’d be heard by a respectful crowd. And I looked forward to being inspired by other local artists.

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Jai Merina at Moon Cleavage. Photo by Tracey Graziani.

But what I found was a radical, talented lineup of artists and supporters embracing each other’s raw brilliance, reveling in each other’s openness and welcoming each other as long lost friends.

Five musical acts, five spoken word acts and five photographers gathered at La Luna for that first Moon Cleavage, plus the beautiful crowd of friendly faces, and it felt like we were all there somehow as a group to “scream as loud as we can at the moon.”

A few of the Moon Cleavage acts had never performed live in front of a crowd before. Others only had once or twice. Most of us were nervous, but we each rode the force of the performer before us and we each left the stage to warm embraces, requests to hear more and genuine questions about specific aspects of our art.

From Cindy Fowler’s favorite folk artists and Kathy Goodwin’s rhythmic recollections to Jai Merina’s forceful voice and Jillian Caudill’s heartbreaking lyrics, I felt a lunar connection to everyone who came and went from the stage. The night started with Ireland’s original music and ended with Mansfield’s new female funk band The Rust Pelts. Llalan Fowler and Rico Ché rounded out the lineup.

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Photos by Tracey Graziani from Moon Cleavage I are displayed for Moon Cleavage II.

Moon Cleavage II Says Hello to Heaven

Where Moon Cleavage felt radical and empowering, Moon Cleavage II felt radiant and familial. Five of the acts from the first show returned and the same supportive lunar vibe permeated the night.

Moon Cleavage II took place the Friday before mother’s day and included an essay by Cindy Fowler about motherhood and a list of advice to young women everywhere from Llalan Fowler. This excerpt from Llalan’s reading is a fitting summary of the Moon Cleavage vibe:

When you’ve been with your love for a long time, do not bemoan the routine, the normalcy, the familiarity. Instead revel in this. Revel in being the one person who knows them that well. The only person that loves them that hard. Revel in your partnership and the way you take on the world as a team, and the new reality you’ve created together.

When you’ve been single a long time, revel in that, too. Your individuality. The concentrated, pure, singular version of you. Be the you you’ve always wanted to be.

Eat as much as you want to.

Know that when something bad happens, it’s okay to go a little wild.

Maintain your friendships as carefully as your romantic relationships. You form an invisible web around each other so when any one friend slips there is always something to catch them. And they will help you go a little wild, if you need it.

Jennifer Hurst opened Moon Cleavage II with writings about radical bravery, and the artists who followed demonstrated it. Jillian Caudill sang about heartache and longing. Joan the Wad echoed originality and Kathy Goodwin reminded us all how lucky we are. Maggie Allred, Sairah Fields and Little Goat completed the lineup with almost every artist thanking Aurelio and commenting on the support and intimacy of the event.

Photographs by Shay Harris and Tracey Graziani from Moon Cleavage I were displayed throughout the room to tie the two events together.

To conclude the evening, Jai Merina proved why she was born to sing with a cover of Chris Cornell’s “Say Hello to Heaven.” And Moon Cleavage II felt again like a small slice of Mother Moona’s heaven.

How to Celebrate Female Artists

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Kate Westfall of the Rust Pelts at Moon Cleavage. Photo by Tracey Graziani.

I started this post with the thought that I might write a list of steps for creating an event that honors and embraces local female artists. It’s likely Aurelio could come up with that complete list, but after jotting down my thoughts on the two events, all I can think of is this:

Step 1 for celebrating female artists:
Invite a talented group of female singers, writers and photographers, and give them a stage.

That’s it. They will rock the rest.

And they did.

Naturally.

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“Labors,” a New Art Show at OSU-Mansfield

“Labors” runs from Feb 26-March 23, closed March 12-16 for spring break, at the Pearl Conard Gallery in Ovalwood Hall

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Untitled IV (Stuff) by Courtney Kessel

A new art show called “Labors” opened at the Pearl Conard Gallery at OSU-Mansfield this Monday. The show, curated by Kate Shannon, aims to explore the complexities of motherhood and discusses much that remains unspoken in public dialogs on parenting and motherhood, specifically.

“Labors” includes pieces by 18 artists who are also mothers of young children. Shannon said in a statement that she sought out “artists who address motherhood in their work and integrate art-making with tedious parenting responsibilities.” The show was certainly successful in making me think about how few mother-artists I knew and why that was. Continue reading

The Collapse of the Titans

The #metoo movement is bringing down abusive power brokers in the arts. But what will we put in their place?

 

An editorial by Mark Sebastian Jordan

 

The titans are falling.

Let them fall.

But let’s not just raise up new monsters in their places.

The recent fallout generated by the #metoo movement has seen formerly untouchable celebrities finally receive their comeuppance. Victims of sexual harassment and assault, cowed into years of silence by the harsh court of public opinion, have turned the tables, publicly naming the perpetrators. That lawless court has just as harshly turned on such celebrities as Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, and Kevin Spacey, finding them guilty without due process. Every person deserves due process, of course, but the urge to fulfill overdue justice has run ahead, for the moment, and careers are crumbling.

It hit the classical music world big time recently with the firestorm of accusations against long-time conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, James Levine, who has been accused of molesting young men (at least one of whom was under the age of consent at the time) for decades.

But a couple of Ohio connections have brought this major cultural shift home to me. One way is fairly impersonal: I am scheduled to cover a concert of the Cleveland Orchestra this winter that was originally slated to be conducted by the distinguished Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit, 81. That was before a half-dozen accusations of sexual misconduct erupted this week, apparently rising up out of a stew of gossip brewing for decades around the musician. In the last few days, Dutoit’s international career has collapsed as orchestra after orchestra has announced his replacement for upcoming concerts, with some stating outright that they are severing ties with him. A replacement conductor has not yet been named for Dutoit’s Cleveland concert.

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Charles Dutoit

 

Continue reading

Meditation Extreme: a Team Sport

medextremeRecently I was given the special privilege of being at the screening of the short film, Meditation Extreme. The film is the culmination of an “Acting for Screen” class taught by Daniel Roemer this past summer. This screening was the first time the actors — all locals — had seen the finished product. I had no clue what to expect from this product of our community.

Daniel Roemer grew up in this town, graduating from Mansfield Christian in 1999. He moved away to study film at USC and stayed out in LA for the next 15 years. In that time his CV exploded impressively with top honors and finalist positions in such programs as “On the Lot,” a reality show produced by Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett, showcasing filmmakers “bound for stardom.” He was also twice a finalist for best director in the esteemed Project Greenlight. Continue reading

Beers & Opera: Feed Your Soul

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Joel Vega & Andrew Potter, singing at The Phoenix Brewing Company

I don’t know one bean about opera. What I do know, is that Andrew Potter produced a note Monday night so low and resonant I felt it in my bones. You don’t have to know much Wagner to appreciate the talent and hard work behind making that music.

I attended “Hopera2!” at The Phoenix Brewing Company — a pairing of Phoenix’s beer with music by Mid-Ohio Opera. The opera company was founded by Joel Vega, a name I knew growing up here as someone to watch out for at the yearly solo and ensemble music competitions. And now look at him! Maybe it was the beer, but the man couldn’t stop smiling. As someone who has created his own successful arts nonprofit in a town where many said, opera? he has every right to grin. Mid-Ohio Opera brings in singers from around the country and offers Mansfield world-class performances. Not to mention the fact that Joel, himself, is a talented opera singer who teaches others for a living. Continue reading