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.
Jackboots and Sinful Fishes: The Prophecies of Mahler’s Resurrection.
I love all music, but I’m a classical music nut. I’m also a bit like a vegan mentioning eating habits: if the subject comes up, people soon find my favorite composer is Gustav Mahler. I first heard his music when I was twelve and exploring the classics via a stack of old vinyl records my mom picked up for me at Goodwill.
I was hooked on the classics by my elementary school music teacher, Mrs. Lumadue, who one day played Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 in our weekly class. The dark rich colors, pulsing rhythms, and delicious tang of that music perked up my attention so much, I came in after class and asked to listen to it again. Before long, I was exploring her record collection instead of going out to recess, looking up the composers of this strange and wonderful music in encyclopedias. This wildly varying, unpredictable art form immediately struck me as being more like life, more like nature than anything playing on the radio I was forced to endure on the school bus every day. I found a better world. And I found who I was with that music. Many things create a person, but I could not have been the person I am without classical music.
But the big bomb didn’t drop until I was working my way through my stack of records and found a piece of music by some guy I’d never heard of. Gustav Mahler, born 1860, died 1911. It was an excerpt from his Symphony No. 1 on a sampler of recordings by the great German conductor Bruno Walter. I loved the record’s other contents, Beethoven, Brahms, Johann Strauss and such, but who was this Mahler guy? Mrs. Lumadue never mentioned him. Continue reading
I was shaken today when I went up to the northern Ohio town of L_____ to do some research for a history talk I have coming up next month. So often people complain about Mansfield, but today I saw a town tottering on its last legs. Imagine the worst blocks in Mansfield going on for entire neighborhoods, to the vanishing point. Street after street of abandoned, falling-down houses, mold-filled forgotten churches, a homeless shelter shutting down because the building is eroding around them.
It’s stark out there, my friends.
What we have already done down here to bring life to this little town on the hill is vibrant and nothing short of astonishing. I don’t know if it is enough to cut through the rising red-hatted dark tide, I don’t know if it can spark the dead eyes like those I saw strewn around L_____ today, but I want to try. I want to do something. Maybe I’m not much more than some joker that spews pretty words. Or maybe it is more. Maybe I do things & we all do things with words and images and sound that heal wounded people. It’s what I have to give, and this blog is another way to give it. I’m grateful for the chance to make somebody’s—anybody’s— life a little less dark.
Mark Sebastian Jordan
December 12, 2016
Just a word or two (thousand) to urge you to see the collages of James Lee Van Horn and Riley Kemerling at Relax, It’s Just Coffee!
Over the last two years I’ve kept tabs on the progress of James Lee Van Horn’s massive collage project, titled “B’reshith.”
The collage began with the Milky Way chocolate bar advertisement in the lower left corner. In the advertisement, the bar is broken and the caramel center stretches enticingly between the halves. Behind the stretching caramel, James inserted the image of a woman parting the stream of caramel, revealing a deeper orb of light. He was smart to begin with a reference to the Milky Way, because he was indeed setting off to create a virtual universe of images, whose complex (absurd, poetic, accidental) referentiality open and sustain a kind of internal ‘space’. B’reshith is 8ft. x 4ft., but most of the images that fill the space are taken from magazines of a standard 9in. x 11in. format. Because the relatively large space within the frame dwarfs the comparatively small images (figures), there is really no dominant figure in the piece. No protagonist, or unifying subject, but a homogeneous spattering of subjects vying for our attention. If we stand back and view the piece as a whole the figures go out of focus, and we are forced to read it as a formal surface of rhythms, colors, and lines. It’s only when we approach the piece, taking it in section by section, that we can clearly see the images and begin to tease out possible narratives. This visual limitation is important because it simulates an epistemological limitation, which I believe is central to James’ worldview and which can be summed up by Bucky Fuller’s maxim, “The world is non-simultaneously apprehended.”
B’reshith has gone through many stages since then, and it’s great to finally see it in its ‘finished’ state. The beauty of James’ approach to Work is that he rolls with whatever happens. I don’t mean to say that he doesn’t have certain intentions when he begins his work. He does, and those intentions continue to shape it throughout the process, but he isn’t afraid to lose control. Example: In one of B’reshith’s later stages it was vandalized pretty heavily with graffiti. This might lead others to abandon the project, but I swear to god when he told me about it he was giddy as a school girl. He loves the accidental. He welcomes the Other. His starting place is the external. He curates fragments of others, appropriates, adds to, removes from, referees the most disparate aspects of our culture. I see him more as a caretaker of these small public spaces than an author. His work is a disorienting blend of gaudy found materials, the most banal pop-cultural references, and references to esoteric wisdom traditions. Though his work begins from the outside, it’s clear the work is praxis for internal change (psycho-spiritual): for James in the creation, for us in the reading. I’ll leave you to the reading.
The collaboration between James and Riley Kemerling started when James gave her the collage scraps left over from B’reshith. From these scraps she made two collages (Fig. A and Fig. B).
Riley’s approach is significantly different than James’. James seems concerned with simulating the sensation of rapid change, spacial disorientation, and the anxiety we all (unconsciously) feel as inhabitants of the contemporary imagescape, something akin to what Fredric Jameson called post-modern hyperspace, where technology and information processing leave us unable to locate ourselves within space. We are smeared out, at all times, online, in television. We circle the globe in nanoseconds and are everywhere but here, quietly, now. Riley, by contrast, seems to neutralize the onslaught of images by digesting them. Whereas the images in James’ collages remain distinct because of his clean-edged style, Riley paints the collages, obscuring the edges and burying the images within the surface of the work. It’s as if she is changing and blending the appropriated images into her own Being-substance. The soft, diffused surfaces and the subject matter itself lend her work a feminine, sexy quality that James’ hard-edged, brutal compositions don’t possess.
I claimed the starting place of James’ work seems to be the joy he takes in displacing his own Self, by opening himself up to the Other. For him the work begins with the external. By contrast, I sense that Riley’s approach is more internal. Her work feels rooted in a deep, sensitive relationship to her own interior life. In James’ work, the appropriated images are never really altered. They operate much as they always have, as referents to things in the world. James offers us a sea of images to drown in, and the pleasure of viewing his work is that he simultaneously teaches us how to swim in the randomness. By contrast, because of the way Riley has manipulated these same appropriated images, they no longer seem to refer to the outside world, but to disclose something intimate about herself.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas of how to approach the work. Please, please, please go to Relax, It’s Just Coffee, grab a latte, and spend some time with their work. This is a great collaboration! Here are a few more images from the show.
Born in the thresholds of dial-up and hypertext James Lee Van Horn, aka Teenwolf, stalks the Rust Belt as a trickster and a pundit’s worst nightmare. Nourished on the teats of Maybe logic and ontological graffiti he searches for the silver bullet that will signal his PERICHORESIS.
Riley Kemerling is an Ohio born and raised artist, now studying Illustration and Drawing at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Riley uses a variety of materials in her work, such as charcoal, acrylics, oils, watercolors, graphite, and pen and ink.
Jason Kaufman is a writer and sculptor living in Mansfield, Ohio with his wife, Jenny, and son, Cormac. He is closely involved with the local art community in Mansfield, where he participates in monthly art critiques and writing workshops, poetry & prose open-mics, and writes reviews of regional art exhibitions. Jason works for The Renaissance and Main Street Books, a local independent book store.