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

Crowd pleaser Acoustic Edge to play May’s Final Friday in the brickyard

AcousticEdgeIf you’re a fan of classic country, roots rock or strong male/female harmonies, you don’t want to miss Acoustic Edge at May’s Final Friday concert in downtown Mansfield.

Led by the vocal harmonies of Heidi Ball and Steve Baxter, this well-rounded band can cover everything from Johny Cash and June Carter to Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson. Mitchell Ball plays lead guitar along with Eric Frisch on drums and Baxter on the upright bass.

Fan favorites sung by Acoustic Edge include, Jackson, Mama’s Broken Heart, Seen it in Color and You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.

But you’ll really be blown away by their originals, including Gypsy Soul and Barstool, both of which are available on an upcoming CD to be released from the band. If you listen to a preview of Gypsy Soul below, you can learn the words and sing along in May.

Singer/songwriter Kelly Vaughn to play May’s Final Friday in the brickyard

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Who’s ready for summer weather and outdoor music in the brickyard downtown? To help put you in the mood for Final Fridays and to highlight more music in our featured artist Friday series, we’ll be introducing you to some of the artists who’ll be playing at downtown Mansfield’s Final Friday music events.

Kelly Vaughn, a singer/songwriter from Columbus is the first artist in the Final Friday lineup. She sings originals and cover songs, and plays guitar. She’s been kicking off the downtown summer music series for the past four years.

To preview Kelly’s smooth and soulful sound watch the video below, follow her on Facebook or check out her Website. See you in the brickyard soon!

Welcome to the End of History: a review of Neil Yoder’s paintings at Relax, It’s Just Coffee

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Ghosts of the Demolition Zone, October 2016

I first became aware of Neil Yoder’s work a few years ago, when he submitted a painting into the May Show at the Mansfield Art Center. The outer edge of the canvas had been carefully plastered with pornographic images and it caused quite a stir within that conservative venue. I took him to be a provocateur, out to shock us. I don’t disagree with this approach. In fact, in our saturated media landscape where even the most heartbreaking images of drowned Syrian refugee children are reduced to memes, flattened out into pure spectacle, hijacked and turned into shorthand used by clowns for political theater, an artist must sometimes become a visual terrorist in order to break through the digital hypnoglare of our lives. I’ve been sizing Yoder up, gauging his sincerity, and trying to get a grip on just what the fuck he is up to.

The work that Neil is displaying at Relax, It’s Just Coffee covers a broad range. There are paintings of Mansfield’s old industrial buildings, hallucinatory surrealist landscapes, dayglo gardenscapes, and brutal Baconesque figures. My review will be limited to the paintings of local industrial buildings, though the reader may find that the observations that follow are applicable to Yoder’s work in general.

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Detail of the frottage-like technique from Pulse/Release

The paintings of Mansfield’s industrial buildings are aglow with radioactive light, sickly and oversaturated, but beautiful in their own way. At times Yoder has even embedded glitter in the paint, which pushes the work to the edge of kitsch, but I think appropriately so considering the themes, which I will attempt to tease out in due time. The buildings are rendered convincingly and it’s against the realism of the buildings that the sky, landscape and figures take on an otherworldly quality. There is something realer-than-real about the figures in all of Yoder’s paintings. Not because they’re rendered realistically, but because they possess an irresistible palpability due to the Max Ernst-like frottage technique that Yoder has used to render them. Their reality is not the reality of our world, but of some post-nuclear world of molecular confusion.

Warehouse @ 200 Block E. 5th ST (facing Southeast)

Warehouse @ 200 Block E. 5th ST (facing Southeast)

In “Warehouse @ 200 Block E. 5th ST (facing Southeast)” there is a concentric shock wave emanating from the middle of the image. While the other industrial building paintings seem to capture what remains, quietly and peacefully, after the apocalypse, this painting captures the precise moment the bomb erupts. The precise moment of imbalance, when the atom splits and all of that potential energy, once bound by strong or weak forces (I’m no physicist), is released. In that initial flaring up, a chasm is opened and we glimpse a kind of Gnostic realm beyond the material world. Within this rift a wolf gnashes its teeth and a cloven hoofed beast seems to challenge us with its battering-ram horns. It’s the moment the cosmic egg cracks and all of our terrors and delights flicker in the white-hot magnesium light. 

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Warehouse Building “A” (Facing North)

So what is Yoder up to? What does it mean to paint the now demolished Westinghouse building in a post nuclear setting? What does it mean to hang these paintings in a coffee shop just blocks from where these buildings stand or once stood? The correlation is simple enough to any Mansfielder who has stood on 4th and Bleckner and surveyed the wasteland of our old industrial district. We are living our own economic post-apocalypse. The nation was just waking from its Cold War fatigue when NAFTA was signed, signaling the wholesale capture of our Republic by Neo-Liberalism. And our shift from an industrial giant to a crippled service economy has a direct relation to those trade policies.

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Ghosts of the Demolition Zone, August 2016

It’s for these reasons that, for me, Yoder’s work is entangled with the nuclear threat and deindustrialization. Our apocalypse hasn’t come in a white-hot instant, but has been slowly unfurling for forty years. The buildings he portrays, these husks of our once thriving industry, illustrate the genealogy of our present historical moment. This Trumpian moment, where truth has been supplanted by reality television and the kitsch simulation of truth. Yoder seems to be saying, “welcome to the post-truth, post-American moment. Welcome to the end of History. Welcome to Mansfield. She’s beautiful in her own way.”


Jason Kaufman is a proud member of Mansfield, Ohio’s artistic community. He has owned and/or been the curator of various local art galleries and is an active participant in writing groups, art critique groups, poetry readings, and many other collaborative projects.

Jason is a co-editor of Voices from the Borderland and the assistant editor of Semaphore Literary Magazine. He is the set designer for the Renaissance Theater.

To read and view more of his work, visit Jason’s personal blog, follow him on Facebook, and Instagram @jasonkaufman_artist.

Does God Work in Mysterious Ways? Hell, Yes.

A review by Mark Sebastian Jordan of the Renaissance Theater’s production “Sister Act.”

It’s not my business here to outrage anyone of a traditional religious bent (though I probably will), but I have devoted my life to finding the places where the truly sacred happens, beatnik beattitudes instead of by-the-rote platitudes. And, truth is, I found my God on Sunday. In a rowdy theater.

I’m not much of a musical comedy person, despite my years in theater. I have performed a grand total of one (1) singing role in a musical, and it may surprise no one to hear that I was drawn to do the part of Benjamin Franklin in 1776, as he’s my hero. But acting, directing, and writing plays has taught me to recognize the infusion of spirit when I see it, and I saw it Sunday in the Renaissance Theater’s performance of Sister Act. Continue reading

​William Trent Pancoast: an excerpt from the novel The Road to Matewan

A note from the editor:   William Trent Pancoast will give a reading from his newly published novel The Road to Matewan at Main Street Books in Mansfield, Ohio on Friday, April 7th, 6-8pm. The novel can be purchased at Main Street Books.


 

In late May 1920, the news spread quickly of the gun battle in Matewan in which Sid Hatfield and several other men had taken on the Baldwin-Felts detectives. It was a victory for the miners. Hatfield was the police chief of Matewan. The Baldwin-Felts men were from a Bluefield detective agency that supplied some of the strike-breakers and guns-for-hire for the coalfields. The detectives had just finished evicting a group of miners from their camp homes, a task that Hatfield refused to undertake. Few men could fight the operators on their own terms. Fewer still could stand up to Sid Hatfield, who shot coins out of the air with his forty-five. How it all started remained a mystery, but seven of the feared Baldwin-Felts men were dead, five with bullet holes in their foreheads, and the Matewan Massacre became a story to be told and retold in the tent colonies that sprang up in the mountains.

Richard was on the first train through after the battle. “Folks were quiet but you could see their pride that someone had finally stood up to the Baldwin-Felts men,” he told Thomas during a June visit after he was laid off from the railroad. “I’ve never seen a war up close, but that’s what this is.”

The tent colonies housed the striking miners, who had, with the help and money of the United Mine Workers, in April struck all of the southern coalfields to settle their grievances once and for all. It made no sense to the southern West Virginia coal miners that they were the only ones in the country not to have the benefits that the union could bring them; they were finished living under the feudal system dictated by the companies. Southern West Virginia had become a battlefield. 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

Continue reading