The Artwork of John Thrasher at Main Street Books

An art review by Nick Gardner

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The small loft gallery at Main Street Books in Mansfield is a perfect place to show off John Thrasher’s art. The eight pieces hang on three walls, nestled between windows, above couches, next to the small upright piano. During the opening reception, friends move about drinking wine, snacking, talking about details in the pictures or about other art events or literature. We read John Thrasher’s poetic titles and suss their definitions out of the pieces on the wall. This gallery is one of a very few carpeted galleries I have visited. It is not large and echoic. It is hometown comfort that allows the viewer to zoom into and out of the complex and riveting sketches, watercolors, monoprints.

 

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Detail of Misguided Articles by John Thrasher

And this feel works perfectly with John Thrasher’s personality and style. I hear his drawl over the crowd, good natured and welcoming, as I look into the weave of cartoons and doodles within Misguided Articles. In this work of ink, gouache and watercolor, there is incredible and confounding motion: A ship tossing; graffiti tags confused in sketched smiley faces or frowning faces; an undulating landscape. And all of this is surrounded by the article “The” in neat calligraphy, twisting its way at all angles around the frame. But even within all of the motion is the stillness of a single watercolor tree, seemingly unmoved by wind, growing out of apparent chaos. There is comfort in minutiae. The cartoons taking me back to childhood doodles, the beautiful watercolor tree a serenity in blue sky background. Though as a whole this piece is complex, somewhat perplexing, that single word ‘the’ reminds me to focus back on the simple articles that make up the entire work. Continue reading

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Tender – An Installation by Sean Merchant at the Pearl Conard Art Gallery

Tender: An Installation by Sean Merchant
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Standing in the doorway of the Pearl Conard Art Gallery at The Ohio State University, Mansfield, I am not sure whether I am in a barn or a church. An old growth oak beam is canted from floor to ceiling, seemingly supporting the cupola front and center. To the left is a structure reminiscent of a picket fence, then a series of 2by4s on shelves built into the walls. At first, it is a barn, rural and crafted out of wood.  But as I walk deeper inside, my feet echoing off of the hard floor, the high ceiling, the dim lighting, I find myself sitting on one of two wooden benches staring at the “stained glass” windows that look out over the backwoods of the campus. Continue reading

Neos Ballet fires up the Brickyard

A dance review by Mark Sebastian Jordan

 

Remember when people used to bitch about there being nothing to do in Mansfield? They were always wrong, but if anyone were to dare to say that today, it would be downright laughable. Not only is there a world of interesting things and people, we happen to be entering a golden age of creativity in north central Ohio. The opportunities are little short of astounding:

 

  • Fiery indie musicians like Chico’s Brother, Rust Pelts, 99 Spirits, Oddepoxy, and many more…
  • Challenging artists like Jason Kaufman, Jo Westfall, Thorn Monarch, Lucas Hargis, Neil Yoder, Luke Beekman…
  • Brilliant actors like Ryan Kiley, Scott Schag, Chevy Bond, Colton & Maddie Penwell, Renee Rebman, Ryan Shreve, Lindsey Saltz, Steve Russell, Katy Esmont…
  • Sophisticated classical and jazz musicians like Octavio Mas-Arocas, Condrea Webber, Jeffrey Boyd, Joel Vega, Kelly Knowlton, Wyatt Boggs…
  • Intense poets like Nick Gardner, Jerry Lang, Madison Shilliday, Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz, Jason Kaufman (again), Lucas Hargis (again)…
  • Probing directors like Drew Traxler, Doug Wertz, Michael Thomas, Gretchen Ashbrook…
  • Powerful prose writers like Llalan Fowler, Tim McKee, Nick Gardner (again), Jason Kaufman (again again), Lucas Hargis (again again, too)…
  • Inventive filmmakers like Beau Roberts, Eric Sparks, Jennifer Enskat…
  • Engaging playwrights like Bryan Gladden, Michael Thomas (again), Nancy Nixon, Gertrude Brooke (though that’s a pen name for one of the names listed above)…

 

See what I’m getting at? And I haven’t even done justice to everything that is going on in those categories and the venues that host them. This place is on fire with creativity.

 

And if creativity is a flame, then there was a bonfire in the Brickyard in downtown Mansfield Saturday evening. Ballet @ the Brickyard was an evening of dance hosted by the Neos Ballet Theatre, with additional participation from the Richland Academy Dance Ensemble and the RNI Dance Troupe from Richland Newhope. The whole event was tied to an Art in the Alley art show, covered by Llalan Fowler here on VFTB. It is true that Neos no longer has a studio in Mansfield, but Robert Wesner’s troupe has made a commitment to maintaining an artistic presence here and providing this area with the highest quality ballet and modern dance.

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Find Me At La Luna: A Review of “qPOC…&LMNOP”

qPOC…&LMNOP by Chico’s Brother
review by Nick Gardner

So often we find ourselves caught up in arguments of politics, discussing race and gender, citing articles we have read, or anecdotes we have been told without questioning our personal truths. As Chico’s Brother, Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz rejects this PC banter and academic discourse in favor of introspection in his new album “qPOC…&LMNOP” (available on Bandcamp). This series of songs replaces politics with heart, pushing grand narratives into the periphery in order to locate the personal narrative in the forefront.

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It must be noted that Aurelio has not broken form from his previous album. Each song is derived from specific experiences. There is a vivid dream, a short history of his father and grandfather, a song for friend who passed away. Each track is personal, an internal struggle, but when converted to music and shared with the world, it becomes something we can all relate to.
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William Trent Pancoast and his Triptych for the Working Class

 – A Review by Nick Gardner

When reading about work, and by work I mean hard manual labor, and by this I mean hacking in the coal mines, servicing cars, running a factory press, and by this I mean coming home dirty, sore, and growing older only to find that the work has left lasting damage, a permanent stoop or carpal tunnel, arthritis — when reading about this type of work, and especially the near feudal system of industrial economics, I often cringe and scowl. But I can’t give up reading.

William Trent Pancoast tells real stories of real work. They are grungy, wild, and often violent. They are something anyone can relate to, with love and hate and characters who live and breath… but these stories can also be relentless. They sucker-punch you, knock you to the ground, and kick you till you can’t feel the kicks anymore, till the pain is finally replaced by outrage.

I decided to read William Trent Pancoast’s oeuvre in a week. I had read Wildcat before and much of his short fiction so I knew they would be quick reads, all but Crashing taking only a 4-5 hour stint. I moved through the books in the order that Pancoast presented them to me over the last couple years: Wildcat, Crashing, and most recently, The Road To Matewan. I wanted to see if there was something deeper that tied these varied stories together. What emerged was a new understanding of this subject of work.wildcat

First, I reread Wildcat, a story featuring a General Motors stamping plant as its protagonist. It is set in fictional Cranston, Ohio and proceeds as a series of short biographies and vignettes about the characters that work at the plant. As the reader learns the history of the factory through the lives of the workers, through PTSD, amputations, alcoholism, and the general alienation and disassociation of industrialization, there is also a sense of the factory as a whole, the people being only members of the factory body. If the machines are muscle, the laborers are the vital organs, performing specific functions to urge the factory on. The union serves as ligaments holding the workers together with the management, and the building houses them all. Through this series of symbiotic beings, the factory struggles, overworked by its general managers, CEOs, and the capitalistic structure in general to always produce more, to win a race with no definite finish line. Finally the workers give up and the factory topples. In GM’s death throes, the owners survive, jeering at an empty cement slab. Continue reading

Altered Eats Pre-Concert Dinner: When Swing Was King

I have a coworker who will never understand buying a ticket for five course meal. Especially when that meal includes uncooked cured meat, pickled cauliflower, and brandy cocktails with rosewater. He looks confused when I bring up Boudin Noir and spits out a chunk of his bologna sandwich when I describe how this specific sausage is made.

For those who cleave to steak ‘n’ potato or hamburger fare, the food that Altered Eats has prepared for the pre-concert dinner for When Swing Was King at the Renaissance Theatre may seem foreign or even just plain weird. But if you can get past the initial shock of the seemingly odd ingredients you will see that the Altered Eats team has crafted a menu that celebrates different attributes of many foreign cultures but also comes from your backyard. The result is a meal that tastes like nothing you’ve had before but also tastes a lot like home.

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The Night’s Menu

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Not Too Far Away by Omid Shekari

A review by Nick Gardner

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.”

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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.

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