The Pearl Conard Art Gallery at OSU Mansfield is empty on a Tuesday afternoon. The halls that rumbled with conversation and squeaked with damp sneaker friction are at rest and, after asking me to sign in at the door, the student watching over the gallery promptly puts on her headphones and digs into a book. I am alone to peruse this room.
Omid Shekari is a young Iranian artist who has lived through the terror and war in the Middle East. He states that his “work has been focusing toward representing people’s relationships and reactions to events.” He says, “instead of being specific, I try to make some stories, which globally talk about these feelings that repeat during the human history.”
Standing in the entryway I am confronted by two large paintings in acrylics, both in dull colors. On the right is a convocation, a raincoated politician type with arms raised in benediction speaking to a stone-faced crowd who look on, somewhere past the speaker, somewhere off the canvas. On the left, a donkey on a palanquin standing proud is carried by haggard-looking men with legs left incomplete or rather fading into the paint that drips at the bottom of the canvas off the edge.
Dan Newland was born and raised in Wapakoneta, Ohio, but has lived and worked in South America since 1973 as a journalist, editor, and freelance writer. While on a recent return visit to the states, he ventured over to Mansfield in the company of his friends (and former high school classmates) Jim Bowsher and Joerdie Fisher, who asked me to help give Dan a whirlwind tour of Mansfield and Malabar Farm. Dan has published a three-part series, full of astute observations and interesting pictures, on his blog, The Southern Yankee, detailing his reflections on the vitality he saw persisting and springing up anew in Mansfield.
Voices from the Borderland is kicking off our Featured Artist Friday series with Jerry Lang reading at the Borderlands: Poetry on the Edge. This reading took place a few years ago, but has never been made public. We hope you enjoy it. Stay tuned for more featured artists.
It ain’t some chest-thumping, dumbed-down recycled-classic-rock with a yella-dog-in-a-pickup-truck-with-a-red-hatted-good-ol-bubba making Merica meth again. It ain’t the scratchy skirl of a Scottish fiddle playing a weathered tune, it ain’t the trip-skittle of hard bop, not the altered states of a Mahler mind-field, not The Beatles, no Nirvana, and it sure as fuck ain’t the latest auto-tuned non-entity sliding across the charts of lucre.
You wanna hear America right now? This is it. Folk ‘n’ urban, sweet as candy, and ready to cut you. Chico’s Brother, harmonious and alienating, narrative and nonsense, avant-ghetto, is the expression of Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz, resident of Mansfield, Ohio, and elsewhere. He’s a stew of ethnic and cultural storms, rich in voice, startlingly open and maddeningly elusive, like everything and like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz is Chico’s Brother, the prince of Midwestern avant-ghetto. (Photo courtesy of Michael Pfahler.)