Mustard Sandwich No. 20190110

                         Commentary by Lucas Hargis

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My mama grew up the opposite of rich. As a kid, she lived in a house on a bend in a dirt road way out in the North Carolina country. Her family of seven kept a few chickens pecking the yard, escaping the southern sun in the shade under the house. Mama fed those chickens through gaps in the kitchen floorboards. In exchange, the chickens supplied eggs.

One day in 2nd grade, Mama got in trouble for eating a mustard sandwich. That’s all she, her brothers & sisters ate for lunch most days. Well, she didn’t get in trouble for the actual eating of the mustard sandwich. Nah, she was forced to walk laps around the ball field at recess because of another little girl’s tattling to the teacher.

Now, it’s possible the principal’s daughter simply misunderstood what my mama answered when asked, “What you got for lunch, Debbie Jean?”

But when Mama tells the story, there was no misunderstanding. The tattletale twisted Mama’s words around. She knew exactly what she was doing.

Seemingly unrelated, there’s this archetype that’s been in the social consciousness for, idk, plenty of years. As soon as you read the words, you’ll be like, “Oh, yeah. Totally know that phrase. Everybody knows it. Heard it so many times I aint never thought much about the truth behind it, tbh.”

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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

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

Pilate: Myth and Liberation, a review of Thorn Monarch’s solo exhibition

“I am innocent of this just man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” With these words the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate turned Jesus of Nazareth over to the religious authorities of the Jewish Sanhedrin for crucifixion. I’m intrigued by Monarch’s decision to title his show “Pilate,” as there’s no explicit Christian iconography amid the clowns, bloodied boxers, and the mythic American cowboys.

In “Pilate” Monarch combines an illustrator’s sense of character development, storytelling, and clean line work with the brooding and atmospheric impasto work of an expressionist painter. The effect is a midwestern folk aesthetic that nods respectfully to Thomas Hart Benton. In keeping with Benton, Monarch’s Boxer and Cowboy compositions appear presented through a fisheye lens, the figures are exaggerated and the environment askew. Monarch’s figures, however, are not overly rendered in the manner of Benton, but are hashed out loosely in a manner I’d describe as George Bellows-meets-Francis Bacon.

This is where I see the biggest improvement in Monarch’s work of late, in his loose and gestural application of paint. There are still moments in the work where the surface falls flat, but overall the surfaces of his paintings are vibrant and compelling. Narrative content aside, I found myself sidling up to his work, nose to canvas, becoming lost in the color and brushstrokes.

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Art in the Alley: When Art Isn’t Your Job; It’s Your Calling

The evening was idyllic, and I wove through the crowd, beer in hand, feeling quite right about the world. Later this night would be Neos Dance Theatre’s performance of Ballet @ the Brickyard, an annual summer performance outside in Mansfield’s Brickyard performance area. (Read Mark Jordan’s coverage of the event here.) But before that, while the sun still sizzled our shoulders, Mansfielders walked from tent to tent at Art in the Alley.

KenArthurAt many booths, artists were creating work while envious crowds looked on. I saw watercolors coming to life, pastels, and at one booth, paper forming from what seemed to be just a bin of dirty dish water. Ken Arthur stopped me there, and convinced me to set down my beer long enough to make some paper of my own.

Ken — funky hat, old T-shirt, chainmail necklace — helped me fill a framed screen with pulp. He was working at MP Marion’s booth. She is a paper artist who wanted to not only show her art, but to also share the act of creating it with the crowd. Her pieces are vibrant, abstract stories told in paper pulp. Ken, himself, is an artist of found objects and repurposed materials. His pieces are big, dark, heavy, and every one winks at you until you get it or move on. Continue reading

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.

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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The Art of Orie Rush

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Poor Power Supply

Orie Rush’s show in the Book Loft Gallery opened two weeks ago to a crowd of friends, family, and total strangers. It is Rush’s first solo show, though you wouldn’t know by the huge group gathered in the loft of my bookstore. For a solid two hours, Rush is pinned behind a table on which his sketchbooks and prints sit, entertaining one admirer after another.

The show consists of twenty-plus drawings, paintings, pieces of digital art, and piles of prints plus a selection of Rush’s sketchbooks. For those of us not well-versed in the techniques of visual art, it was difficult to distinguish one style from another save by the title cards. Micron, digital, watercolor, acrylic: all stand together in the delicate precision of their execution as well as the question they pose to the viewer — can you tell my story?

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A selection of digital prints

Though the subject matter varies wildly — sleek samurais and geisha, art deco-like figure studies, whimsical critters in watercolor — the thread that remains consistent is that of wonder. By wonder, I mean the power to create questions and curiosity, to create stories in the viewers’ minds. A triumvirate of wizened heads, a hand like a firecracker, a startled creature — part potted plant, part octopus…one cannot help but insert their own stories and create their own worlds. From gritty to dreamy and rough to flawlessly clean, these works demonstrate the fecund, twisty wilderness of Rush’s imagination. Continue reading

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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We Stand With Standing Rock

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In late July, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stating their concern that a pipeline slated to be built encroached upon ancestral lands.


It’s a five dollar donation to get in the doors of the Standing Rock Solidarity Benefit show, to be enveloped in the warmth, the glow, the murmur of conversations cut frequently by loud laughter. It looks like someone’s family reunion with folding chairs and cheap plastic table cloths, a buffet set-up with six donated Two Cousin’s Gut Buster pizzas and cheap booze. As the place slowly fills with people, the room becomes a beacon in the cold night, a bright light in a row of dim buildings, a convention of friends new and old, setting the stage for solidarity.


September 4th, Dakota Access begins clearing ground for the pipeline, bulldozing over sacred sites and burials. Protesters are attacked by dogs and pepper sprayed.


It took just under two weeks for Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz, Mark Sebastian Jordan, Kathy Fetzer-Goodwin to bring this event into the public eye, being touted in the local papers and drawing over a hundred contributors and participants. It even received threats, though none came to fruition. The K.E. McCarthy building was donated as a space for the show and by door time, all money spent on food, drink, and entrance would be sent to the Oceti Sakowin Camp.

Mark Jordan opens the show as MC and performer and along with Jason Kauffman, Lucas Hargis, and Nate Weiland presents a spoken word piece (Pronouncement: An Invocation for the Standing Rock Benefit Concert). He repeats the question: “who speaks?” over the murmur of the settling audience and we listen, and finally erupt into applause on his final call-to-arms, that “We speak!”

This becomes the theme of the show, the different voices no longer silenced, but calling for an end to injustice. This is a shout for self-expression and for claiming a space in the land.

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