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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Jackboots and Sinful Fishes

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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

“Krokus,” an exhibition of collages at Relax, It’s Just Coffee; a review by Jason Kaufman

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.

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James Lee Van Horn

James Lee Van Horn

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

 

 

 

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

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.

“Da Field,” by Chico’s Brother

In “Da Field,” Chico’s Brother, aka Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz, explores the darker side of Mansfield, Ohio, circa the 1980’s. The song starts off with a harsh mechanical percussion, reminiscent of the town’s industrial roots, like a sheet-metal press stamping out car parts, which gives way to the sound of wind-chimes. The song’s affect is of drinking lemonade on the front porch in summer, deeply peaceful, but you can’t shake the feeling that something Cthulhic inhabits the shadows. After a while you realize sheet-metal press percussion has ceased, but it’s all the more real for its absence —like the blood pulse in your ears, this eerie clack of teeth. This shit is rotten to the core!

Sovroncourt to re-release album on cassette–Richland Source

Check out Sovroncourt in Richland Source: http://www.richlandsource.com/life_and_culture/article_e794ecbe-77d0-11e3-90e2-0019bb30f31a.html.

Then head over to pre-order Waves and Wheel on cassette, due to release from Wild Kindness Records Feb. 18, 2014.

On Base, by Llalan Fowler

Summer tastes like cut grass and infield dirt and warm water out of paper Dixie cups. Between the ages of ten and sixteen I spent every summer banging dirt out of my cleats on the dugout cement, dreaming about the boys in the big league.

First Base

I was fourteen and pretty sure I’d be the first girl in the history of ever to get a high school diploma before she got kissed. And then I got kissed and it was so sadly cliched I wanted a do-over even at the time. We were on the band bus on the way home from a football away game when I was fed a sluggish mouthful of tongue. I would not kiss anyone else until I was in college.

First base was my favorite base in softball, though I never fielded it, being neither tall nor left-handed. But as a runner you can run past it and still be safe. On the other bases an infielder could tag you out with the ball if you overran the base, but you can stomp on first and blow on past at top speed into the outfield. You could could just keep going, really, out past the fence and the wild grass into the corn and down to the river or beyond.

Second Base

In girl’s softball, you aren’t allowed to lead off the bases; you have to wait until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand before teasing to the right. On base at second I was invisible to the pitcher and felt sly as though holding up bunny ears behind her in a snapshot. I was slow, so the possibility of getting past the shortstop and third baseman to steal was slim, but still, I liked that I represented a threat.

The boys in high school thought I was a tease, but I was really just terrified. How long do you play defense against them? I liked that I represented a challenge, but not the prize. I was more comfortable shifting from one crouched leg to the other along the baseline between first and second, swaying slightly, letting my glove trace the sign of infinity in the infield dirt between my cleats.

Third Base

In eleventh grade Jackie Parson turned to me in English class and said, “Did you know a blow job has absolutely nothing to do with blowing?” I answered something like, “Oh yeah! That’s so weird!” even though I didn’t really have clue.

It is the most physical of bases, always sliding into it if you’re doing it right. Hit a triple, steal, get caught looking at home a little too hungrily and take two lurching steps back before sliding in safe. The third baseman, shortstop, pitcher, and catcher all keep a wary eye on it: the penultimate step before changing the whole game.

Fourth Base

In college I slunk away from a bonfire when they started passing the bottle of Jack Daniels and playing “never have I ever.” The girls giggled and acted coy, as though they actually had done the acts they pretended they hadn’t, saying they’d  never “done it” in a lifeguard chair or their parent’s minivan. I just never had. Ever. I was very far away from home.

Fourth base represented my target, the goal I studied in class behind my eyelids. I was a pitcher. I threw windmill — the style of whirling your arm in one fierce circle while taking a saucy, hip-swinging step towards home base. I pictured a channel of energy stretching from my open hand, beneath the hitter’s bat, smack into the catcher’s glove. I was in charge. I got what I wanted. What secret did I know? There is no fourth base; only home.

© Llalan Fowler, 2013
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Llalan Fowler

Hello. My name is Llalan, pronounced LAY-lin. I am a reader, a writer, and an Ohioan. I am also the manager of Main Street Books, the only independent, general bookstore in Mansfield, Ohio. So not only am I a big reader, but I am also an avid supporter of local business. Please visit my blog, The Bookstore Lady, which follows the ups and downs of bookselling in a small town, the trials and successes of running a small business and some difficult or beautiful parts of just being human.

Other incidentals that might be helpful to know: I love beer, am kind of a snob about it, and have been known to brew it when the mood suits (I actually write for another blog called PitchKnives & ButterForks in a column called “Just Add Beer”); sometimes I cry at commercials, even the ones just about paper towels; I have never been tan in my life.