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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Young Composer Featured at Academy

A concert preview by Mark Sebastian Jordan.

The music of the brilliant young area musician Wyatt Boggs will be featured in a concert Thursday Evening at the Richland Academy of the Arts in downtown Mansfield. At 17, Boggs is navigating just as packed a schedule as the editors of this blog, so we’re postponing a full interview until later this summer (early August is our target), but this event is too good to not preview. Boggs channels his restless energy into music of an often brooding intensity, often cut by jazzy wit. No question about it: he’s the real thing.

Wyatt Boggs 1I had the brief opportunity to pause in my schedule of work, writing workshops, poetry readings, and concert reviews to hear part of a rehearsal for the upcoming show. The Richland Academy of the Arts is hosting this week an honors band made up of student musicians from around the area, and they are working on premiering a set of original works by Boggs. And based on what I heard (and saw in the other scores the composer showed me), we’re witnessing the emergence of a vital new voice in the arts.

Wyatt Boggs 2The works being premiered are Galactic Fanfare, which arises from a questioning gesture into a glorious blaze; Pets, a playful suite of mischievous portraits; Pandora’s Box, a fascinating conceptual piece that unleashes extended instrumental techniques and strange dissonances; Prometheus, commissioned for the concert, which combines rich chords and otherwise sparse textures; and Rage, a dark, hypnotic work that adds synthesizer to the full band.

The concert will take place Thursday at 6:00 pm at the Richland Academy of the Arts, 75 N Walnut St, Mansfield, but will be preceded by music from the Euterpe Jazz Band, in which Boggs also performs.

A Voice of Survival and Regeneration: A Review of “40; Hopscotchin’ Carcasses”

40; Hopscotchin’ Carcasses by Chico’s Brother

                    A review by Mark Sebastian Jordan.

You wanna hear America right now?

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.

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Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz is Chico’s Brother, the prince of Midwestern avant-ghetto. (Photo courtesy of Michael Pfahler.)

 

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