Category Archives: Uncategorized

Uncategorized

Limbaugh Sidebar

I was once in a fly-on-the-wall position to monitor the behind-scenes workings of Rush Limbaugh’s then-budding radio talk show when it operated out of a rented corner studio some ten yards from my desk in the newsroom of WABC radio in New York.

A memorable moment, among many, came in 1993 and concerned the suicide of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s White House lawyer, Vince Foster.

Breathlessly citing a financial newsletter that had been faxed to his show moments earlier, Limbaugh broadcast, with no prior effort to verify details, this newsletter’s claim that Foster’s body had been moved from an apartment in Virginia to the suburban park where it was found. Limbaugh went on to add his own dramatic embellishment, claiming that “Vince Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton.”

In fact, there was no credible evidence then and there remains none today that Foster’s death was anything but the depression-induced suicide that his family believes it to have been. Five investigations, including those by independent counsels Robert B. Fiske Jr. and Kenneth Starr, concluded that Foster suffered from severe depression that deprived him of sleep, made him unable to work, unable to think clearly, and finally to take his own life.

But the damage had been done. Immediately following Limbaugh’s broadcast, stock and bond prices tumbled with the Dow dropping nearly 23 points, and to this day, unfounded conspiracy theories persist about the nature of Foster’s death.

Music, Uncategorized

Mozart and (oh so much) More on Tap for LexPhil

The Lexington Philharmonic continues the season November 13 at the Singletary Center for the Arts with Mozart and More. As the title indicates, the centerpiece of the evening is Mozart’s magnificent, mature and oft-performed 40th Symphony. Referred to many times as “the Great G Minor symphony,” this classic piece, composed near the end of Mozart’s 35-year life, stands in contrast to his 25th symphony, “the Little G Minor Symphony,” his only other symphonic work in a minor key. For this performance, Amadeus Mozart is in the company of  Felix Mendelssohn, Dmitri Shostakovich and John Corigliano.

Joining UnderMain contributor Chip Sebastian for a chat about Mozart and More and the experience patrons can anticipate is LexPhil Conductor, Scott Terrell and musicians Stephen Campbell and Pei-San Chiu.

UM: Mozart and More. Just the title makes me curious. Why “More?”

ST: As ever, we’ve tried this season to offer a wide range of listening, showing many aspects of music and the wide range of the Lexington Philharmonic. In the course of a season, we wanted to establish a balance. We did Mahler, then went American with Time for Three. There are moments when we want to feature our artists, and this upcoming evening is certainly one of those times.

UM: If you needed a word to sum up the entire evening, what would it be?

ST: If I had to sum it up, it would be “Voyage.”

UM: Why “Voyage?”

ST: Well, the Corigliano piece itself is entitled Voyage, for starters. Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture is one of his finest works and it was composed while he was traveling through the Hebrides Islands. The whole evening has the sense of taking a journey.

GERMANY- CIRCA 1997: stamp printed by Germany, shows Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Composer, circa 1997.

GERMANY- CIRCA 1997: stamp printed by Germany, shows Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Composer, circa 1997.

Hebrides was composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1830. Also known as “Fingal’s Cave,” the work was inspired by Mendelssohn’s trip to Scotland. The ten-minute piece, an overture, was dedicated to Frederick William IV, then Crown Prince of Prussia. The work was revised by Mendelssohn at least once after its premiere in London, and has been featured in many literary works and films.

UM: Hebrides is the first piece on the docket, correct?

ST: Yes. This is one of Mendelssohn’s most beautiful pieces. Dark, rich, and very different from say, Shostakovich, who can be very angular, percussive, dissonant.

UM:  Mendelssohn always seems rich and textured.

ST: Yes. Like most composers coming from the Romantic Era, he has a full, rich sound. Emotional.

UM: A contemporary of Beethoven.

ST: Yes.

UM: It seems the programs are trying to balance the more harmonious with the more dissonant. Would that be fair to say?

ST: It’s more of a thematic thing. What pieces fit together to make a very interesting and dynamic evening. Like a good meal.

UM: Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Another interesting piece.

ST: Shostakovich will bang you over the head, while the others draw you into their worlds.

USSR- CIRCA 1976:  A stamp printed in the USSR shows a portrait of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and the score for his 7th Symphony, circa 1976.

USSR- CIRCA 1976: A stamp printed in the USSR shows a portrait of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and the score for his 7th Symphony, circa 1976.

UM: This first piano concerto was completed in 1933, not so long after the Russian Revolution.

ST: Yes. Shostakovich had a bit of a slap on the wrist from the Russian aristocracy about an opera he had done not long before. He was trying to stay in good graces with this piece.

UM: He was well-established by then?

ST: Yes, but in the 1930s, he was still uncertain about being a pianist. Perhaps not as settled as later in his career.

UM: The pianist and the trumpet have major roles here. The featured pianist: Fei Fei Dong. Tell me a bit about her.

ST: Fei Fei was one of six finalists in the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. She studies at Julliard and she has had nothing but glowing reviews from the many places she’s played. Her pedigree is very good. This is a real tour de force for a pianist. She’s a young and fresh talent and we’re glad to have her.

UM: The other featured performer, trumpeter Stephen Campbell, plays regularly with LexPhil?

ST: Yes, Stephen’s been around for awhile and he’s another wonderful talent.

UM: Do you feel there is a great story between the piano and trumpet?

ST: Absolutely. Certainly the pieces of this season have a protagonist and antagonist. Story is what makes it all interesting.

Stephen Campbell is the Principle Trumpet with LexPhil

UM: Stephen, what is your sense of the structure and power of this Shostakovich piece?

SC: The Concerto is a wonderful composition on so many levels. It’s one of the first major concertos to come from the Soviet era. Shostakovich was constantly falling in and out of favor with the Soviet censors based on their standards of decorum and aesthetics. One moment, he’d be awarded the coveted Stalin Award, the next he’d be publicly criticized. This is one of the compositions which brought him back in favor.

UM: Because of the focus on trumpet, is this a piece that trumpeters look to as a standard for performance? Something every trumpet player wants on their resume?

SC: The concerto is great for trumpeters because of the dramatic range required for performance. We have everything. The character of the second movement is really low. Someone, bourbon in hand staring off into the middle distance, contemplating life. There’s a real folksy section in the fourth movement, as well as a quotation from one of my favorite Haydn sonatas and a very exciting finish.

UM: You seem to be quite at home playing with LexPhil.

SC: Performing with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra is a thrill. I love performing high quality music with friends and colleagues.

UM: Thank you, Stephen.

SC: Thank you.

Resuming with Scott Terrell, we move to John Corigliano

UM: John Corigliano is a name perhaps unfamiliar to many.

photo

ST: Yes. He’s probably most famous for the score to the film, The Red Violin, which featured Joshua Bell on violin.

UM: Great movie.

ST: Yes. John’s very prolific and Voyage is an early piece that demands a great principle flute and we certainly have one in Pei San.

Pei-San Chiu is the principle flute for LexPhil and is featured on Voyage.

UM: Pei-San, what are your thoughts onVoyage, in terms of the flute and the level of performance required?

PC: Voyage is the instrumental version of Corigliano’s choral work based on Baudelaire’s L’Invitation au Voyage. The timbre of flute and strings is very warm and comforting, which gives a new texture and atmosphere to the piece, just as it’s said in Richard Wilbur’s translation, “There, there is nothing else but grace and measure, richness, quietness and pleasure.”

UM: Wonderful to imagine. You’ve been with LexPhil for some time, haven’t you?

PC: I joined LexPhil in 2013 and this is my third season. It’s been such a pleasure to be in the LexPhil and work with my colleagues.

UM: It seems LexPhil has a wider range of endeavors with each passing season.

PC: Thanks to Scott, we’ve done so many great concerts with superb soloists, including classical, opera, film music, works with choral and Pops. As a flutist, I couldn’t be happier to play good music with my colleagues.

More on Voyage from Scott Terrell

UM: Voyage seems to be quite a contrast to Shostakovich.

ST: Exactly. John has done some of the most beautiful music for strings in the last few decades. This is a very warm piece and will work nicely after the dissonance of the Shostakovich. Compositionally, you hear a lot of Barber, Copland and Bernstein in John’s music. 

UM: When you have a piece like this, with the artist still living, do you ever have interactions or brainstorming with the composer about the work or the performance of it?

ST: In this event, no. It’s interesting with composers: you never know if they are watching musical scenes around the country and the world to see if their pieces are being played.

UM: I suppose this would help keep the performance true, not knowing if the person who gave birth to the piece is watching and inevitably critiquing the performance.

ST: There is a sense of being true to the work and its composer.

UM: I know this is true with writers, when films are made of their books. There seems to be an understanding that the message or theme of the work, the writer’s original intent, is preserved.

ST: Yes. One can’t help but think about that when a performance is developing. I’ve done some of John’s pieces before. Gazebo, and The Red Violin. It’s all very listenable stuff, very pleasant to the ear.

UM:  Do you ever wish you had the artist on standby when you perform pieces by living composers?

ST: That’s always nice, if possible. So often it’s not. I did meet John many years ago, when I was in Aspen as a student. Do I know if he knows the music’s being played? No. I had an experience along these lines with Jennifer Higdon, who is a modern composer, won many awards, etc. I was performing a piece of hers titled On a Wire with a group called Eighth Blackbird out of Chicago. I saw Jennifer at an event and introduced myself and she said Eighth Blackbird had been raving about the experience and she knew that we had performed it in Lexington. I was taken aback. You just never know who’s hearing what when.

UM: I know in dance the circles are pretty small. I would imagine the same is true in, especially, classical music.

ST: Yes. Definitely.

CZECHOSLOVAKIA - CIRCA 1981: a stamp printed in the Czechoslovakia shows Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Composer, circa 1981

CZECHOSLOVAKIA – CIRCA 1981: a stamp printed in the Czechoslovakia shows Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Composer, circa 1981

Mozart finished his 40th Symphony in 1788, along with the 39th and 41st in that same year. Even though the three final symphonies were written close together, there are marked differences between them. Mozart composed many other works after the 41st Symphony, “The Jupiter,” living another three years before succumbing to an illness at 35. Scholars still cannot agree on what actually killed Mozart, but it is well-documented that he was bedridden in his final days, and composing to the end.

UM: Mozart’s 40th Symphony is one of his best-known, most-beloved symphonic works.

ST: It’s the linchpin of the evening. Mozart in general is very different in terms of scale and performance. The sound is energetic and profound and really will make for a huge ending to the night. It’s important in any evening that we have that old performance idea of tension and resolution. The audience will certainly have enough tension with the Shostakovich piece with a little steam let off from the others. But the Mozart should really open the floodgates at the end.

UM: A lot of different styles in the evening.

ST: Yes, and the other interesting thing besides the difference in styles is that the composers are at different places in their lives.

UM: This was toward the end of Mozart’s life, but his life being so brief, he would have been approaching middle-age when this was composed, right?

ST: Yes. Noting his early death, there’s still a marked maturity in his later work. A lot more color and nuance that isn’t present to the same degree in the earlier, developmental material.

UM: It seems Mozart never stales, even two hundred-plus years later.

ST: It will always be great to hear and perform.

For information about LexPhil and tickets, click here.

Uncategorized

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Full disclosure: I am a New Orleanian. No matter where I live, or how long I live there, I will always call New Orleans home.  I know how to pronounce Tchoupitoulas, am still confused why bars don’t offer to-go cups and can make a roux with my eyes closed. 

morris01I go to Domilise’s for my po-boys and the Spotted Cat for my jazz.  When I was a teenager, I used to sit on the Mississippi riverbank, elephants and monkeys waking up at the Audubon Zoo a few feet behind me, watching the barges and driftwood compete for current.

When I was a little girl, we’d go to the French Quarter to eat souffléd potatoes and grits and grillades.  When we walked into a restaurant, my mom always asked the waiter for an extra tablecloth to wrap around me because air conditioning is its own element in New Orleans. 

My best friend and I would sneak out and take the streetcar down to Jackson Square when it was a full moon and have our fortunes read at midnight.  We paid for it with our babysitting money.

fortune

I never made a plan past what are we eating for dinner?  New Orleans doesn’t require a plan.  In fact, it’s probably best enjoyed without one – which is only a problem when a Hurricane is threatening to demolish the city.  And when the infrastructure  fails and the city marinates in its own filth, not having a plan is a catastrophe.  That is where we are today, 10 years later … picking up the pieces from that catastrophe. 

After Hurricane Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast, the levees burst and many thousands were left stranded, either literally or in limbo. 

The Superdome became a breeding ground for all things horrific, and it was valuable real estate. To give you some perspective, when the dome reached maximum occupancy, people were shuffled to the nearby Convention Center.  John Burnett, an NPR reporter was there, and gave this stark summary of the Government’s epic failure:

“They couldn’t send them to the Superdome, which was already overcrowded and squalid. Yet more and more people were emerging wet and bewildered from their flooded neighborhoods with nowhere to go. Officials later estimated that 25,000 people were huddled inside the vast convention center — the length of four city blocks — and on the sidewalk. Day after day they waited for buses, but no one came. The fiasco at the convention center came to epitomize the disorganized, inadequate response to the disaster by local, state and federal officials.”

The disaster Burnett described, playing out in a structure that only days prior had hosted Wheel of Fortune, is best understood through imagery.

Katrina was a trauma when it happened, and remains a lingering trauma today.

Walk into any bar on Frenchman Street now and you will hear the sultry, bluesy sounds of poets and showmen weaving the storm into their lyrics.

Like gumbo, Mardi Gras beads in the Oak trees, streetcars and potholes, Katrina has become a part of the fabric of the city.  It remains one of those divisive events that slices through a life, separating it into two categories: pre and post. 

It was a category 3 storm. The death toll was over 1800, making it the third deadliest Hurricane in history.  The third deadliest, yes … but it tops the list in cost: over $100 billion. These numbers do not take into account the many who had no choice but to flee the city, their lives forever altered.

Now, a decade later, the dislocated are hearing appeals to return, with promises of a new land.  Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently gave a speech in Houston and while he was thanking the Texas city for providing refuge for the displaced, he summed up a sentiment about the Big Easy that anyone whos spent time there can agree with:

“We don’t talk the way anybody else talks, we don’t dance the way anybody else dances. [Others] don’t eat the way we eat, they don’t hug the way we hug, and they don’t love the way we love. It’s just different. And it’s wonderful.”

Tens of thousands of New Orleanians escaped the storm. Most settled in Houston. Many have returned, but many others have relocated, resettled and are trying to move on with their lives.

Wayne Lewis is one of those people. He and his wife sought shelter in Austin, TX, Raleigh, NC and eventually landed in Lexington Ky, although he admits that he will always call New Orleans home.  Wayne is many things; a new father, a husband, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies at the University of Kentucky, an education reformer, and a passionate musician – to name a few. 

We caught up with each other in a dimly lit bar in downtown Lexington.  Boisterous, serious and lit from within, Wayne immediately captured my attention.  Had I not known he was from New Orleans, I would’ve assumed as much, which is the best compliment I can think of. 

SAX2bw

Before we talked, he pulled out his saxophone and took a few requests from his captive audience. As the honey poured out from his golden horn, my feet instinctively started moving. Mayor Landrieu is right, we dance differently.  The sound that is created by a New Orleans jazz musician is raw, sweaty, alive and gets right on into your blood. In fact, it’s possible that the first note of When The Saints Go Marching In has an invisible thread tied to your big toe; making it impossible not to dance.

That was the scene in Willie’s Locally Known at 10:00am on a Tuesday morning in Kentucky: two New Orleanians lost in the music, talking about the lagniappe of our lives. 

Wayne is above all else, a man of faith.  When he looked back, he attributes his faith as the saving grace through it all.

“I remember the moment I realized we’d lost everything very clearly,” he said. “My wife and I had just gotten our first apartment in Raleigh. We went to the Walmart to shop and when we walked through the doors, we both looked at each other and, at the same time said … ‘we need everything.’”

I remember the moment I realized we’d lost everything very clearly,” he said. “My wife and I had just gotten our first apartment in Raleigh. We went to the Walmart to shop and when we walked through the doors, we both looked at each other and, at the same time said … ‘we need everything.’

Not some things … EVERY thing. 

“But you know what Lillie, we laughed about it,” he recalled.  “We laughed.  Not once throughout the whole thing did we feel hopeless.  It was just understood that God was going to take care of us.  And he did.”

He went on to tell me about how the storm changed his perspective about life in general. 

“When you lose everything and realize that you’re ok, that you’re still the man you were before, maybe even stronger … when you know that in your heart, then you can really see what living is all about.”

saxBWSo, what does living look like for Dr. Lewis these days? Well, for one thing, he plays his sax as often as he can, which admittedly, is not often enough. 

Currently, he plays in a band called The City. One of their songs, The Levee, composed by lead vocalist/guitarist Gene Woods and featuring a solo by Wayne, is a message of solidarity with those left behind in Katrina’s awful aftermath. The song is haunting in its contradiction and counterpoint: a traditional, upbeat N’awlins second line rhythm that defiantly marches the barely concealed pain and heartbreak of abandonment through the sodden streets of the Lower Ninth Ward, past a preacher shouting from atop the ruins: “Hold the line! Don’t you succumb! You gotta find the will. To carry on.”  Sad and honest, mysterious and revealing; it tells the tale of New Orleans after the levees broke. 

Like Wayne, like New Orleans, like many of us, the profound injustice and sadness is disguised behind a facade of determined joy.

The Levee is an appropriately sad song.  Katrina caused immeasurable sadness in the souls of many. She wreaked havoc on the bayous and flooded the streets with hate and anger. 

But in the end, The Levee is a song … because that’s what New Orleanians do. We deal with the heartbreak by making beats, beans and boudin.  We dance when we’re up, we dance when we’re down.  We let the music explain us and guide us.  It guides us to the food most of the time, where we are the happiest, eating lunch and talking about dinner.

What can you do to help New Orleans today?

Go there. Experience it for yourself.  Eat.  Dance.  Fall in love and spend your money on an experience that will change you forever.  Feel alive. Feel it all.  Let your sunglasses fog up when you walk outside and embrace it as the city’s way of crying for you. Cry on your own.  The river will take it.  In the words of Rebirth Brass Band, just “Do whacha wanna do …” and Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler.

If you need recommendations (which you don’t btw), Wayne Lewis is happy to give them to you.


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All, Arts, Entertainment, Music, Uncategorized

And Her Name is Jazz!

Les McCann with Jazz Whatley Cole, the very first scholarship recipient of the Les McCann School For the Arts

This past Saturday night, my husband and I headed down to the Lyric Theater to hear Les McCann again! Les and Javon Jackson rocked the house and occassionally cradled us too. Mike has fond memories of hearing Les play when he was younger; those memories take him back to his early years in Lexington, Kentucky. For your listening pleasure, here is one of his favorites: Every Time I See A Butterfly.

That same night the Les McCann School for the Arts (LMSA) announced their inaugural scholarship recipient and her name is Jazz Whatley Cole.  Jazz is an amazing young woman, a theater major in SCAPA since 4th grade where she concentrating much of her time with the extracurricular activities in the costume department.

She is an aspiring fashion designer, starting Jazz Cole Designs during her freshman year at Lafayette High School. Last year as a junior, she was accepted into the prestigious Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles, CA. This scholarship will help her make that transition.

It was a big night for both her and the namesake of this award; that same day Les McCann was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Kentucky. UnderMain would like to thank Chester Grundy, Everett McCorvey and Dave McWhorter for all of their hard work in honoring this jazz great.

Also to Gus Puerdikakis (Les’ mean cowbell brother) whose generosity has made this award possible along with the teaching of music, photography, jewelry making and fashion design to so many in our community.

Overall, I believe creativity doesn’t just occur by it’s self, something has to catch your eye, something has to inspire you to whatever it is that you do and are truly passionate about. Therefore, if you can conceive it, and you believe it, then you can achieve it! – Jazz Cole

For more information on the School for the Arts, contact Denise Brown, artistic director for the LMSA. at ladyfuj@hotmail.com.

Arts, Entertainment, News, Uncategorized

Kuhn in the Congo – who knew?

UnderMain would like to acknowledge the work of another one of our own: Christine Kuhn. Last year Kuhn was among four muralists to participate in a cultural exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Kuhn worked with Congolese artists and students from November to December 2014 to create murals in Kinshasa, Matadi and Bukavu. Back home in Lexington, Kentucky, we knew nothing of it – Kuhn received no coverage.

For more on her experiences, check out her blogpost.

Kuhn is a working artist, art teacher and activist specializing in using art to empower non-artists and to promote liberal social change. She holds degrees in biology, chemistry and diplomacy and is a graduate of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Training Program.

“My art focuses on expressing right-brain, non-rational experiences–emotion, passion, humor, fear, symbolism, in short, the magical and mystical elements of existence,” Christine told us. “I have exhibited widely throughout the Southeastern US, in Central America, Africa and in Bulgaria and have received numerous grants from the Kentucky Arts Council, LexArts and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.”

If you are not familiar with Kuhn’s work or you just need another dose, stop by Source on High during LexArts’ May Gallery Hop for her solo exhibition – that’s Friday, May 15th – or, find these murals in and around the Lexington area. Do you know where they are? UnderMain would like to know that you know. Find them, take selfies, send them to editorial@undermain.com and watch this article grow!

Arts, News, Uncategorized

Artist Finalists To Present Proposals for Oliver Lewis Way Bridge Public Art

LexArts Inc., in association with 2nd District Council Member Shevawn Akers and the LFUCG Corridors Commission, earlier this year issued a call to artists to create public art that enhances the Oliver Lewis Way Bridge, located just south of the intersection of Main Street and Newtown Pike.

The three finalists, Blessing Hancock, Guy Kemper, and Christopher Weed, have created site-specific proposals (links below) and will present them to the public at 5:30pm today (2/11). The presentations will be made at the MS Rezny Studio and Gallery at 903 Manchester Street in the Distillery District, a fitting location as the bridge, designed on a volunteer basis by Lexington brother-architects Graham and Clive Pohl specifically to accommodate art, is within eyesight and most guests will travel the Oliver Lewis Way bridge to arrive at the venue.

Over the past two weeks, the proposals have been on display for public discussion and voting at ArtsPlace, the Downtown Arts Center and the LFUCG Government Center. After the public presentations, a final review of the site-specific proposals, with consideration from the public’s votes, will be conducted by the selection committee and one artist or artist team will be selected to realize their proposal.

The budget for the project is $100,000, making this one of the largest public art projects the city of Lexington has ever commissioned. While the timeline for completion will not be known until the selection of the winning design, the intention is for Lexington’s newest public art project to be unveiled and dedicated in time for Keeneland and the city of Lexington to welcome guests to the Breeder’s Cup World Championships, one of Thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious international events. That event is scheduled to take place on the final weekend of October of this year.

VIEW THE PROPOSALS:

Christopher Weed

Guy Kemper

Blessing Hancock

Arts, Entertainment, Literary Arts, News, Politics, Uncategorized

White Ring: Reflections on the words of Wendell Berry

(Photo provided by the Carnegie Center for Learning and Literacy)

(Photo provided by the Carnegie Center for Learning and Literacy)

‘The survival of literacy in an age of illiteracy may require us to remember how physical, how much of the senses, the life of literacy is.’ – Wendell Berry (courtesy of the Carnegie Center, Lexington, Kentucky.)

I was sitting on the only piece of paper within reach – an oversize name tag reserving my chair for the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony of Wendell Berry. The paper was beige, dull, and heavy – not really of a character to form any sort of story. The letters of my name were nicely printed on it, each had serifs that matched the decorative embellishments framing the length of my name top and bottom.

Like a mother hen to egg; I guarded it as though it was something very special. The piece of paper was after all saving a chair for me in the front room of the Carnegie Center amidst some of the most dedicated writers, journalists, editors, and publishers in all of Kentucky. Equally important: I knew the opposite side of it was blank.

Guy Davenport (1927-2005), Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007), Effie Waller Smith (1879-1960), Jim Wayne Miller (1936-1996) and Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) were inducted that night too. Excerpts from the writings of each was selected as carefully as were the readers of them.  Ron Whitehead read Hunter S. Thompson’s words with a volume that was maybe intended to mimic Thompson’s humor but played more clearly as the rawness of life in the absence of his long-lost friend.

Mary Ellen Miller whispered through weaker vocal chords; reminiscing – with a melancholy that each of us could sense – on her late husband’s work.  Neil Chethik’s clear articulation as he introduced Wendell Berry removed any need for us to explain why we were there.

For me, each of the voices that spoke that night resounded more intently than the words spoken. There was something in the act of reading them aloud. They were comforting, familiar, communal sounds that we all know and I hope will continue to know.

Then, it was quiet as Wendell Berry – the first living inductee to be honored into the Hall of Fame – stepped up to read what he must have prepared as an acceptance speech. But, his cadence, his tonality, his sincerity and humility, and the words that filled the then hot room in the Carnegie Center on that cold January night in Lexington, Kentucky were a marked call-to-action.

No electronic devices, scratchings of pen on paper or the turning of pages interrupted as Berry made reference to many urgent public issues. He emphatically stated that in Kentucky we have no way to vet our concerns, no public forum, no healthy outlet for the a much needed dialogue about many things including the writings of Kentucky authors. There was only silence as he spoke of the ‘cloud of silence’. Postures shifted. I gently pulled the piece of paper from its resting place.

Berry continued noting that here in Kentucky ‘we have a sufficiency of writers of books, publishers of books, and readers of books, but no space for related public discourse.’ We roost with eyes closed, content on expressing our opinions in what has now become our public – the semi-private world of the Facebook and Twitter. As Leon Wieseltier notes in Among the Disrupted (New York Times, January 7, 2015) what we prefer now is a ‘twittering cacophony’ where alacritous and terse one-liners grant the highest of merits – a like, a comment. Cackling hens that only ding.

As the co-publisher of a young, fully digital magazine dedicated to arts and culture in Kentucky, I left feeling a keen sense of responsibility – not to explain what Wendell Berry had said, but to more fully understand it for myself. How much time do we have before something more significant is lost? What is my responsibility in the digital age? How can I help move us beyond what Wieseltier describes as the ‘lag between invention in the apprehension of its consequences’?

We cannot explain it fully, but my fellow UnderMain-ers and I have agreed to bring to our readers and our listeners reviews of books by Kentucky authors as well as the occasional reading. Just as in Berry’s move back to Kentucky, we might find sustenance in a new iteration of the sounding pages.

We thank the Carnegie Center for hosting the induction and for inviting us to attend. For a copy of the full text of Wendell Berry’s speech, click here.

For The Explainers
Spell the spiel of cause and effect
Ride the long rail of fact after fact;
What curled the plume of the Drake’s tail
and put the white ring around his neck?

– Wendell Berry

All, Arts, Entertainment, Literary Arts, Music, News, Uncategorized

Our Conversation with Nan Plummer – First of Many

UnderMain would like to welcome Nan Plummer to the position of LexArts President and CEO.  What you are about to read is a recent and very casual conversation between Nan, my UnderMain colleague Tom Martin, and myself. Nan is a new-arrival on Planet Lexington and there is so much to discuss with her about the arts in our community as well as the broader Central Kentucky region. UnderMain is committed not only to opening this dialogue, but to continuing it in a series of discussions throughout the year. In future interviews, I hope to expand upon some of the concepts raised, including the viability of a United Arts Fund model for raising and granting monies and what that means for area arts organizations large and small; the role of the non-traditional arts from dance to music to the visual arts; the current state of theater; our specific history with public art; and our present and future opportunities for both the public and private sectors. Just as we consulted some of you about questions for this initial interview, your opinions and input are necessary for this conversation to evolve. We invite your thoughts via the UnderMain Facebook page.

Nan with her daughter, Maggie.

Nan with Communications Director Maury Sparrow and Operations Manager Alma Kajtazovic.

Nan with Nathan Zamarron, LexArts Community Arts Manager, and J. David Smith, Jr., Stoll Keenon Ogden and LexArts Grants Chair

Nan with Liz Swanson, artist, designer, and Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Kentucky College of Design

Nan with Allison Kaiser – Executive Director, LexPhil

Christine: Welcome Nan, and thank you for joining UnderMain today. Let’s begin by learning a little about your background and what attracted you to this position with LexArts.

Nan:   There are a bunch of things that drew me to this position. My whole career has been in the arts, mostly the visual arts, and in museums with really strong performing arts components, performing arts, and music especially. I’ve been on a diversion into being a full-time, frontline fundraiser for Arkansas Children’s Hospital – a place I have adored for a long time. And, it was just time for me to get back into the arts and take what I’ve learned in the training ground that was ACH back into something where I knew a lot more. I’ll be 60 on my next birthday and I know what I know and I do what I do. And, it occurred to me that not only would this make me happier, but I think that my best contribution will be taking what I’ve been doing for all this time and combine it with what I know and love in the arts. LexArts, because it helps so many people and so many organizations in such a broad context, just looked delicious and – you know – it just seemed like the perfect thing.

Christine: Yes, the role of the organization appears very broad in general. Do you see any real successes that you would like to continue or anything that you would like to eliminate with regard to LexArts’ recent history and its role in supporting the arts in our community?

Nan:  The big task ahead of us – because there are so many things that organizations like LexArts can do and does do across the country – is to find out what Lexington and Central Kentucky need LexArts to do right now. There are a lot of things we are very good at. The United Arts Fund model of raising money, for instance, for general operating support is not what it was in the 60’s and 70’s, but it isn’t broken and it’s still generating lots of income. So, raising money for the arts is something that I think LexArts needs to keep doing.

Tom: In that regard, LexArts has not seemed welcoming to the non-traditional music community in Lexington and I’m not sure why that is. I’m not finding fault, because I’m sure that there is some structural reason for that. Speaking for those of us who are not classical players, but nonetheless are working musicians with significant investment of funds and time and creativity, we do not feel supported by LexArts.

Nan: What would support  mean to you? Money? Which is important.

Tom: Well, it is, but it’s more than that. The compensation for what we do has to come from the market. I think we need help with marketing to the masses the fact that we have an historically vibrant music community here. Lots of songwriters, lots of musicians across a wide spectrum of genres.

Christine: It has been noted that for some in our community it appears that LexArts’  holds a primary allegiance to larger, more established organizations.

Nan: And here is the second thing I think LexArts needs to do, along with being clear about its mission: to remind people about its history. United Arts Funds were established to fund those big, grand, pillar organizations. In the 50’s and 60’s and 70’s those were the organizations that communities believed needed support in order for the arts to thrive. I think as time has gone on, people in general in UAF have figured out that an art scene is not only those great big organizations. But what would the arts be like in Lexington if those ceased to exist? So, the trick for LexArts is to remind people, this is how we got started. We don’t sit in the room and pick favorites. This is how we got started and we have to now broaden that. We tend to broaden our support maybe less quickly than the arts community springs up around us. So, while it may appear that way, it’s not a bias. Here is where we started and we can’t change where we started. That’s historical fact.

Christine: Let’s turn to our attention to the annual fund. The actual amount of funds raised for the annual fund, aside from the city’s contribution, seems very limited for a city of our size in a region as wealthy as ours. Nan, Is there anything that you think we could change to generate more giving?

Nan: Oh, absolutely. I think that there is a lot of potential to raise more money and I think that’s one of the reasons I was brought here, so that I’d spend a long time learning how to raise money. I’ve raised a lot of money for the arts in my other roles. So, sure, let’s go. There is no perfect leader for an organization, ever. No one is perfect.  Organizations, boards over time hire a series of imperfect and incomplete people whose strengths we hope  match the needs of the organization at that time. How many – have there only been two other directors?

Christine: Jim Clark was director for 14 years.  Dee Fizdale prior to that.

Nan: And the organization has changed a lot. It was founded under Dee, Jim changed it a lot. And so, they brought things that certainly I couldn’t have brought. I’m not the founder type and I’m learning everyday what my predecessor was good at that I’m not quite so good at. But, what I hope to be good at is fundraising and growing – growing the funding base and maturing LexArts’ fundraising ability so that it’s on par with the artistic activity here in Lexington. I think there’s a lot of potential. And getting back to the first question: why did I want to come here?Potential is really the core word; there is so much waiting to happen here. I’ve never seen a downtown like this, I really haven’t. It’s just the right size. I’m thinking about the skyscrapers and the lawyers and the bankers and, oh my gosh, all these artful places within walking distance. I know that there are other places like this, I’ve just never been this close to one.

Christine: And this growth, this particular sort of vibrancy is very new for Lexington. In fact, it has changed the conversation in Lexington about LexArts as a funding organization and specifically about transparency. Do you see how that that might be addressed in a more formal way? For instance, many non-profit organizations supply a 990 (a Form 990 is an annual reporting return that certain tax exempt organizations must file with the IRS).

Nan: Oh, we all must.

Christine: To my knowledge, LexArts does not make that readily available.

Nan: Of course we do – we must. If you walk into the building and ask for it, I am legally required under federal law to provide that to you within twenty four hours. You can also get it from the IRS website and you can also go to GuideStar and get it, so it’s publicly available.

Tom: This question came from somebody who’s been looking at the websites of similar organizations and found their 990’s readily available.

Nan: Oh, some organizations put it on their own website?

Tom: Uh-hm.

Nan: Making a note. Yeah, this is public information and I guess that what it always comes down to for me is, it’s not our money. If you work in a non-profit organization, it is not your money. And neither is the city money that we re-grant or the state money that we re-grant or the federal money that we pass through the other organizations or the federal money that we spend on public art projects. It’s not our money. And that’s why non-profit boards really need to take their fiduciary duty very, very seriously. I take it very seriously. And so I think part of the misunderstanding about LexArts’ affection for non-traditional arts groups is a lack of proactive transparency – education about how we make grants with the money that we raised and the money that we received.

Tom: That’s a two-way street. There will be those who just love to complain.

Nan: Yes.

Tom: But when you say, “Okay, what are you going to do about it? What are you willing to invest?” they often seem to disappear.

Nan: That’s human nature.

Tom: I think it would be really interesting to see what would happen if LexArts were to put that challenge to the non-traditional community and say to them, “We want to engage with you, you have to tell us how and you also have to tell us what you bring to the table; what can you do – you want us to do for you, what can you do for us?” Which creates…

Nan: It is a collaborative…

Tom: I’d love to see what would happen.

Nan: I’ve had a couple of conversations where arts group leaders have essentially said LexArts has favorites, ‘you sit in the room, you pick the big guys, you just – you like classical music to the exclusion of just about everything else.’ That’s not how the process goes. It’s an open grant process. There are five general operating support partners who are the core going back to when the organization was formed. And then, other organizations of almost every size may apply for project and program support. We serve as fiscal agent for organizations that aren’t even incorporated as 501(c)(3)s yet to help them get going. And so, if we’re not supporting you or we don’t seem to be interested it might be because you’ve never come to talk to us or looked into the process.

Tom: Would you say that those organizations who would like to see support from LexArts are not stepping forward and basically need to sharpen their pencils?

Nan: I think so and I think that that process, the way I understand it is that process has been ongoing – that Jim (Clark) did a great job at that, really professionalizing the application process because again, it’s not our money and when we give it away we aren’t just saying, “Oh, we love you, here you go,” “Oh, you bother me, go away.” No. They are as objective as we can make them. It’s not who we like better and who we don’t. Everybody who works at LexArts and everyone who sits on the grants committee – and it’s a committee, not the LexArts staff who makes the decisions – is a human being, last time I checked.  And so, we – we have emotions and preferences and are not immune to the things that other human beings respond to when they made judgments. So that’s why there is this process.

I’ve told my colleague, Nathan Zamarron who’s our programs guy that I think he’s brilliant, that he is a very, very good bureaucrat and that is a compliment. In fact, I would like to restore the nobility of that term. It’s a French term like amateur and dilettante that’s gotten a bad rap. A bureaucrat is someone who practices the art of the office, the art of administering public goods for the common good. And we are trying to do that really well at LexArts.

Christine: I have a specific interest in public art and have for a very long time, from Dynamic Doors in 2002 to Horse Mania to the Outdoor Mural Project and more recent developments like the murals being installed by PRHBTN. Do you have any insight there as far how LexArts might encourage more conversation about public art?

Nan: Great, great question. I am not hearing, “Okay, we’ve got enough public art, you can stop now.” I’m seeing a lot of enthusiasm and it was really exciting to me that that article in Herald-Leader, which I was looking at online in the period between my hire and my arrival, that the lead story on Sunday above the fold with a big color picture is about art, I thought, woo-hoo! So it’s controversial.  Art is a topic about which thoughtful, intelligent, loving, well-educated, wonderful people can and will disagree. That’s the point. So, not everyone is going to love everything that goes up in a public or publicly visible private space. I don’t think everybody loves Bernini either. I’m not sure everybody thought that The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel was totally thrilled with it at first. So this is a process. And contemporary art is a conversation and while it can be absolutely beautiful, most artists are really asking you to engage with their idea, not to admire their technique.

Tom: One recent development that has received publicity is LexArts sponsoring a new theater group. Isn’t this a conflict of interest for an organization that has community arts organizations vying competitively for funding from LexArts?

Nan: Supporting a new theater group?

Christine: Athens West.

Nan: Support is a spectrum at LexArts and financial support for competitive grant process is not the only way we support arts organizations. Maybe some folks think it should be the only way we do that. I guess that’s the question, but it hasn’t been. And so, the short answer is: it’s not a conflict of interest, it’s a different interest. It’s a different way that LexArts supports the arts here. And it kind of goes to the question of well, how many things can you be to how many people? There are lots of resources that LexArts brings to the arts community. One of them is funding, and another is expertise. We’re a staff of five at this point, so every function has somebody’s name on it. The community has invested us with this (and by the community, I mean the whole nation) IRS tax-exempt status – it is conferred upon an organization by the people. So we use that to benefit organizations that don’t yet have them. So, that’s a long answer to that question.

Christine: The question arises at a very tumultuous time for other theater organizations.

Nan: Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Tom: Theater, like many art forms in Lexington, ebbs and flows and at the moment we have some new companies that are beginning to rise. And then, there’s Balagula Theatre which has brought really provocative content to the stage.

Nan: Yes, they have been a general offering support partner at LexArts. Part of my job is getting out to see all that I can. Imagine getting paid to do that. In December, my daughter and I got to see Venus in Fur on a Friday night before the announcement of (co-director) Ryan Case’s resignation. And I was just flabbergasted because it was so good. I’ve been a theater kid all my life and while I don’t see nearly as much theater as I would like, I like to call myself an expert. I like to think I know what’s good. That was really good. I thought it was wonderful. That’s me as an arts consumer. My next task is to really get to know them as an organization and learn how can we help.  So, yeah, lots of ebb and flow at the moment and I guess Lexington should consider itself lucky that there are folks who are coming to theater.  Not everything succeeds and that’s one of the reasons that LexArts exists: to level the playing field. One of the things that I would love to see happen with increased funding to LexArts is to fund artistic startups – entrepreneurial creative endeavors.

Christine: Sure. But one of the things I think is a very serious problem is the development and retention of audience. Frequently it will be to the downfall of the organization because there’s nobody coming, there’s no one attending. Goes back to marketing…

Nan: Yeah, Michael Kaiser who wrote The Art of the Turnaround and then two more books – a kind of trilogy on arts organization management, has brought forward a model to every organization that he’s helped: great arts, aggressively marketed. The two need to exist together for success. You could have something that is aggressively marketed and if it’s no good the audience figures that out pretty fast. So, they go hand in hand. I’m not sure what that would look like in Lexington, but  think that’s something that – we already do work at, you know. For the visual arts, for example, Gallery Hop has been going on for a long time, it’s one of our oldest programs, I think.

Christine: Very successful.

Nan: Very successful. We talked about how – like every arts organization, perhaps – we need to upgrade our website.

Tom: See if my impression is correct just of your vision because I think I’m hearing something here that’s a little…

Nan: I hope I’m being consistent.

Tom: You are.  It sounds to me as if you view LexArts’ role as one which creates that level playing field and makes it possible for individuals, groups, organizations to merit consideration because they are good at articulating what they want to do. It makes it possible for them to receive support based on merits versus ‘who you know.’

Nan: Um-hm. Yeah. I like the way you said that. I think that the call from the community is: we need more, we need more, we need more. And growing an arts organization – even one like LexArts that has a long history and is sort of an institution – is a little like building Brunelleschi’s Dome: you build one course and you stand on it to build the next. It’s incremental. So, it’s matter of learning what needs most to be done next and then being able to build the resources to do that, because the temptation is to say, “Sure, we will. Oh, we’d love to do that. Yeah, let’s try.” And then, you’re not doing well at anything for anyone. And, so we need to avoid that, resist that temptation and really learn strategies about saying no to a whole bunch of good ideas. And so,  figuring out our strategy based on what we can do and who are. ‘We’ are five people, ‘we’ are this board, ‘we’ are an arts organization, ‘we’ are the organizations that feed into us, ‘we’ are our donors. You know?

Tom: One last question that was raised during the search for new leadership: Is LexArts strictly about fundraising? Or is it, in addition to fundraising, also about advocacy for the arts? And can those two things be balanced without conflicting?

Nan: (LexArts board chair) John Long has said that LexArts’ mission and vision came under scrutiny at this transitional point and they thought about it a lot. Funding and advocacy are there together. And that conflict is the nature of human existence I think and again, transparency is the best solution for when those conflicts appear. If they appear, you name them: ‘uh-oh, these things are in conflict.’ That’s not necessarily bad. Conflicts get resolved all the time. And so, if there’s a perceived conflict, call it and look at it.

Christine: Under Main exists to examine things a little more thoroughly – take them a little deeper. In fact, I would love to see a series of meetings with you that incorporate video or audio about the various topics that we’ve only broached today. We thank you Nan for your time and your dedication to the arts and look forward to what lies ahead.

Arts, Entertainment, Music, Uncategorized

The Enchanting Ute Lemper: A New Year’s Concert to Remember

As 2014 comes to a close, Lexington bids farewell with a welcoming: a special New Year’s Eve performance of the incomparable chanteuse,  Ute Lemper.

Photo by Lucas Allen

Photo by Lucas Allen

The evening pays tribute to the sounds of the Moulin Rouge, including musical selections from Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose to Bertolt Brecht’s Surabaya Johnny.

The program begins with an orchestral Tribute Medley to the Moulin Rouge, concluding with Jacques Offenbach’s famous “Can-Can” from his satirical opera, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Ute Lemper takes the stage to perform classic French songs by some of the nation’s most beloved singers, Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel. After intermission, the show continues with the orchestral and cabaret selections of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht.

On the selection of Ute Lemper as the featured soloist of the NYE Celebration, LexPhil Music Director and Conductor, Scott Terrell describes Ute as, “an internationally acclaimed chanteuse that I am honored to bring to the LexPhil stage this season. Her range of cabaret songs from Edith Piaf to Bertolt Brecht will dazzle the audience for a truly memorable New Year’s Eve!”

Ms. Lemper, a native of Münster, Germany, spent her first eighteen years there, before traveling the world, living in Paris, and finally settling in New York City, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

I chatted by phone with Ms. Lemper, concerning her upcoming date in Lexington, her many awards and talents, and what makes her tick.

You lived in Germany until you were 18. What made you leave at that time and pursue the arts?

I was in the original Viennese production of Cats after studying in Vienna in the early 80s. This was after I graduated from the Dance Academy in Cologne and the Max Reinhardt Seminary Drama School in Vienna.

And this led to other opportunities?

Yes. Particularly playing the original European Sally Bowles in Cabaret. This was in Paris. Then Velma Kelley in Chicago. We did that in London and New York, and I won the Olivier Award in London for the performance.

Then voice-overs for films dubbed for German-speaking audiences?

They called me to do the voice of Ariel for Disney’s Little Mermaid and for Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame for the German-releases, yes.

But, more than anything, you’ve become known for singing Kurt Weill, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, and singers who have seemed absent in the last generation. Is that accurate?

I have quite a bit more in my repertoire, like show tunes and original songs I’ve written. As a matter of fact, I’ve been writing a lot more of my own material in recent years, but I became known for singing the songs of these artists. I put out an album in 1987 called Ute Lemper sings Kurt Weill, and it was a huge success. In the early-90s I followed it with a second album of Weill’s songs and it did well too. I do Weill songs in my performances, among other pieces.

What do you feel is the common thread in your performances? What are you trying to achieve?

One common thread is to make a journey through time, to bring people on an historical journey. Making classical sounds more contemporary. But I have also fallen into this niche of keeping alive many songs that have fallen by the wayside or in some cases were purposely forgotten.

Purposely Forgotten?

Yes. Like many of the Weill songs, which were abandoned in post-war Germany because they reminded the people who lived through those times of the horrors. It’s only many years later that they can be reflected upon and brought out into the light. The wounds were too deep for decades.

Photo by Lucas Allen

Photo by Lucas Allen

I imagine you feel a strong connection to this, having grown up in post-war Germany?

Yes, it is part of my heritage, but this also happened when I went to live in Paris.

What exactly?

When I lived as a Parisian, I found myself becoming an ardent pupil of the French chanson. As a result, I have incorporated many of Edith Piaf’s songs and Brel’s pieces into my show.

For a sampling, here is Ute performing Piaf’s La Vie en Rose.

So you’ve become something of a torchbearer for these artists who may very well have been left behind?. 

I’m not sure if they would have been left behind, but each of them speaks to a certain time and place and the music is very good. I feel drawn to these more cabaret-style pieces. At one point I was a dancer in Maurice Bejart’s company. I paint. I have many creative and artistic outlets, but the song is what I’m really known for and what I do the most. And with my performances, they are a mish-mash of many songs, with many histories behind them. Many of the songs from one artist can sound and feel different, however. Weill is a good case in point. Like so many of his contemporaries, he had the first half of his career in Europe, then came to the States. The songs from later in his canon have a different feel than those earlier songs. This is what cabaret should be: a blending of many different tones and feelings for variety and appeal.

(Ute was part of the German reunification of artists after the Wall was torn down in 1989. She performed in Roger Waters’ staging of Pink Floyd’s album The Wall, celebrating Germany’s historic move toward peace and solidarity.)

You were part of the German unification after the Wall fell?

Yes. It was and still is a complicated process, unifying the artists from East and West. While it’s had its challenges, there has been no other day like it in history. Unbelievable and overwhelming. Most artists had difficulty even expressing the feelings of it in their work, it was so intense and powerful. I wrote a song, Ghosts of Berlin, concerning it.

Do you feel the unification has been good for Germany, 25 years past the demolition of the Wall?

Absolutely. Today we face other issues, like Solidarity tax.

Solidarity Tax? 

When the Wall fell, a Solidarity tax was imposed on West Germany to rebuild East Germany. While this was supposed to last only a few years, to get East Germany on their feet, it continues to this day. While West Germans are perhaps bitter about the tax, there is no doubt that the freeing of East Germany, and the money used to rebuild it from the West is nothing but a success story. Sadly, this cannot be said for many similar situations in the European Union.

Do you feel the wounds and ghosts of the past have healed and settled enough to bring out many of these songs in places so affected by wartime?

I did a concert with Zubin Mehta back in 1988. There were at least 50 holocaust survivors, people with numbers on their arms, that attended. One is not sure about the healing and settling, even with sufficient time passing.

What’s the next exciting step for Ute Lemper?

I’ll be doing a 70 years of liberation concert in Rome. I’m showcasing songs that were written in the death camps. Most are in Yiddish and German. I’m finishing up a great project with Paul Coelho called 9 Secrets, from his work, Manuscripts found in Accra. I did the original music for it, so I’m very excited about that.

I also released an album of love songs based on the poems of Pablo Neruda.

Ute, thank you so much for your time. Lexington’s lucky to have you for this special night!

Of course. Thank you!

Photo by Lucas Allen

Photo by Lucas Allen

Tickets to the New Year’s Eve Celebration range from $25-$75 with $11 student tickets as available. Special seating is also available for parties of four with bottle service of champagne at prices of $500 for cabaret tables and $600 for box seating. Price of the special seating includes one bottle of champagne. Bottle service is limited to ticket holders over 21-years of age. Valet parking is available for $10 per car at the Short Street Entrance to the Lexington Opera House.

A New Year’s Eve Dinner at Portofino’s will be hosted following the concert by LexPhil for $75 per person. Tickets include a three-course prix fixe menu and Champagne toast, and must be purchased in advance by December 26, 2014.  20 percent of dinner ticket is tax-deductible, as allowed by law, and will benefit LexPhil.

Ute Lemper will perform at the Lexington Opera House on December 31st at 7:30. To purchase tickets, click here, or call (859) 233-4226.

All, News, Sports, Uncategorized

Nothing Blue Can Stay: The Platoons of Kentucky Men’s Basketball

How long can the platoons last?

Each year it is with some reluctance that I transfer my affections from the University of Kentucky football team to its men’s basketball team. Their seasons’ overlap in November is awkward for me, a struggle to adjust from the wide martial arc of football to the dogfights of basketball. This tempo change is aggravated, in the John Calipari era, by the prospect of an entirely new roster of starters each year, fab freshman whose ever subdividing stages of recruitment—unofficial and official visits, verbal commitments, Letters of Intent—I do not happen to follow. Except for Nerlens Noel, who gave proof of his outsized personality and heart when he announced his choice on live TV by swiveling around in his chair to display the UK logo shaved into his nape.

Simply put, it’s hard caring about a brand new team every year. Longtime fans are accustomed to watching players develop over three, four, sometimes five years. I didn’t set foot in this state until my thirties, and without any  birthright to the Big Blue Nation, my enthusiasm relies on an interest in the players, their strengths and weaknesses, histories, personalities, and how they compete. In UK basketball, with so few returning starters each year, I was becoming jaded with the one-and-done business, despite Calipari’s laudable “players first” philosophy, which I completely embrace in theory. In 2011–12 I revolted, vowing not to tune in until conference play, and not really watching until February, thereby missing the early-to-mid-season progress of a phenomenal team and the NBA’s brightest young light, Anthony Davis. Lesson learned.

So, after the incredible tournament run of the 2013–14 team and its loss in the national championship, I rejoiced along with the rest of BBN when multiple starters announced their intentions to return. We knew another amazing freshman class was on its way to town, and we wondered, who would start? We trusted Coach Cal to work out the details, and he did, inverting Donald Rumsfeld and going to war with the army he had, which was twice as good as the army he may have wished to have. Calipari invented the system, named the system, and suddenly, the fairly urgent problem of too many star players was transformed into an endlessly fascinating new array of tactics and tempos for everyone involved. With the platoon system, we are watching something entirely new: no division 1 team has ever sustained it, because they haven’t needed to, because it’s a new problem, a now inevitable-seeming outcome of Calipari’s recruiting genius.

But Coach Cal isn’t just a recruiting guy, a marketing guy, a carnival barker as one sporstwriter dubbed him: he can also coach. Pre-season, everyone smelled blood, eager to see a clash of personalities as this plethora of star newcomers and veterans would be required to set aside their entirely reasonable expectations for games with 30–35 minutes of playing time and the resulting big statistics. Instead, they’d get 20 minutes and smaller stats through which to pursue their NBA dreams. Yet, these have become in every way salubrious platoons—for the players, the fans, the media, and the sport itself.

Ample make this team.

Make this team with awe.

In it wait till March Madness break

Excellent and Fair

Be its passes straight

Be its foul shots round

Let no rivals’ yellow noise

Interrupt this ground.

(after Emily Dickinson)

The platoon system solves several basketball problems. First, it’s regrettable that such a fun game to play and watch has the smallest roster of any team sport, only 5, versus football’s 11, soccer’s 11, lacrosse’s 10, baseball’s 9, ice hockey’s 6. That basketball is the smallest-roster team sport is a recipe for heartbreak beginning in middle school, in this town where basketball is a religion and so many youth are highly skilled at the game and expect to make their school team. “He’s one of the toughest kids in the school, but when anyone talks about the try-out, he starts tearing up,” reported my 6th grader in illustration of the widespread agony around try-out time for those who didn’t make the team.

Basketball is also the sport most vulnerable to selfish playing styles, such as ball-hogging and offensive showboating. Yet it seems that the founding articles of Calipari’s platoon system are unselfish play and attention to defense. We must credit his leadership for building a team of 10 starters who are off the charts in numbers of assists and blocked shots and opponents’ low shooting percentages. “The best defensive team in the modern era of college basketball” is what the Eastern Kentucky coach declared, having lost 82–49.

Platoons change the game, for players, opponents, and even fans. With so many games in a season, there is the temptation for busy fans to tune in only after halftime. Doing so this year would mean missing the exquisite drama of the Blue Platoon, who start the game, warming up the opponent for 4 minutes, probably with some blocked shots and alley-oops, until around 16:00 when Blue exits en masse to be replaced by the White Platoon, who also block shots and alley-oop, and so forth throughout the game in roughly 4-minute increments. Wonder which team gets tired first?

The White Platoon, which starts the second half, has just one starter from last year, Dakari Johnson, plus three freshman, Tyler Ulis, Trey Lyles and Devin Booker, and last year’s bench warmer Marcus Lee. Lee had one break-out half in the tournament last year, when he scored 10 crucial points vs. Michigan, securing him a spot in BBN’s hearts forever. How terrible it would have been, without this platoon system, to see Marcus Lee only warming that bench again this year! Thank you, Coach Cal, for finding a way to consistently play Marcus Lee. And Dakari Johnson, who stepped into a starting role after Willie Cauley-Stein’s injury last year, has accomplished very good things already, but he would likely be the 6th man again, behind Cauley-Stein and Towns, were it not for these salubrious platoons.

The Blue Platoon is returning starters Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Willie Cauley Stein, Alex Poythress, and the extraordinarily talented, well-spoken, and huge freshman Karl-Anthony Towns, whose name accurately conveys the grandeur of his person and prospects. Now all those amazing buzzer-beaters by Aaron Harrison, the reassuring game management and dribble-drives of Andrew Harrison, the nimble eccentricity of Cauley-Stein, the periodic explosiveness of Poythress: their remembered feats make fond penumbras around the new season.

Much has been written about Alex Poythress and his season-ending ACL tear on December 11. He was a team favorite, a fan favorite, and a coaches’ favorite for his achievements and character on and off the court. There is even a Twitter tribute account worth visiting, @APTheTypeOfDude, affectionately mocking his straight-arrow personality, in which every tweet begins the same, e.g., “Poythress the type of dude to use the clear nights we’ve had lately as a chance to finally test out his new telescope.” Poignantly, its tweet on December 12 was, “Poythress the type of dude to come back from his injury better than ever, whether it’s with UK or the NBA. He’ll be back.”

I asked my friend Whitney if she ever mentally assembles her favorite players into a hypothetical starting 5, say the best players from each platoon. “No,” she said, “because the platoons are so well balanced.” It’s true: scoring and other stats across both platoons bear this out, and that’s no coincidence. Balance is fundamental to sustaining the platoon system. Otherwise, if one platoon significantly outperformed the other, it would be untenable to continue giving equal minutes to both platoons. Time will tell if the balance endures, and certainly Poythress’s vacancy is a challenge to the system. “I’m on a mission to make this work for each of these kids,” said Calipari pre-season, and if the firehose of talent is to continue gushing our way with each new recruiting class, it has to. The platoons have got to be sustainable.

Meanwhile, fans are in a state of ecstasy, not only because we’re 12–0, but because we have twice as many players to love. Coach Cal didn’t invent platoons to enhance the fan experience, but he surely knew that Big Blue Nation and its attendant media could easily absorb a double helping of greatness.

Arts, Uncategorized

Do the Write Thing: Read Between the Lines

by Paul Michael Brown ~

October 30-December 21, 2014
Christian Berst Art Brut (Klein and Berst)
95 Rivington Street, New York, NY 10002

The desire to communicate with others, to externalize thought in some way that is cohesive or comprehensible, is deep and universally human. Language provides a vehicle by which to do so, albeit in imperfect and often frustrating one. The 19 artists on display in Do the Write Thing: Read Between the Lines, the inaugural exhibition at Christian Berst Art Brut’s NYC location (helmed by Lexington’s own Phillip March Jones), engage with the necessity and inadequacy of language in the form of text.

The methods and materials employed by the artists in the show are wide-ranging, reflective of the disparate challenges encountered in the attempt to make oneself heard. In her introduction to the extensive catalogue that accompanies the show, critic and poet Lilly Lampe groups the works into three broad and overlapping categories: predictive or communicative, cataloguing or mapping, and asemic or wordless writing. It is worth noting that many of the artist’s work straddle multiple categories, or occasionally deal with themes outside these three most immediate groupings.

Of special interest to me were the works that fell into the last category. Asemic writing, by definition, is work that has no observable semantic consequence, at least in the way we are generally trained to ingest information from text. It is wordless, bypassing traditional methods of signifying through recognizable characters and instead uses forms reminiscent of language to communicate in novel ways. The asemic art in the show can be further divided into two modes, works that begin with legible text that is eventually obfuscated by other forms or marks, and works using marks that resemble text, but are nonsensical; in these works, meaning is either destroyed, erased, or not present in the first place.

Harald Stoffers
Brief 160, 2009
Waterproofed Feltpen on cardboard
19.67 x 27.5 inches
Courtesy of Christian Berst Art Brut

Brief 338 (2014) by Harold Stoffers is an expansive work, spanning the vertical length of a thin wall towards the rear of the gallery. It is made up of tightly packed groups of parallel horizontal lines resembling muscle fascia that obscure text written in jerky cursive script, often addressed to the artists’s mother. The work is comparable to the structure of a musical staff, allowing reference to both written and musical language simultaneously, but not functional in communicating either in a traditional sense. It draws the viewer near with its intricacy. Varying densities of line, text, and free space pace the speed at which it is taken in. The accelerations, decelerations, and breaks encountered while ‘reading’ this work are not unlike those signaled by punctuation, paragraph, and page break found in more traditional texts.


Beverly Baker
Untitled, 2014
Ballpoint pen on paper
16.25 x 23 inches
Courtesy of Christian Berst Art Brut

Likewise, Beverly Baker, of Lexington, obscures her original text, but to an even greater degree. Baker’s works in ballpoint pen start as legible writing, copied from a small number of source materials. These fragments are layered one upon the other until the paper is completely covered and the content of the text is rendered moot. Baker’s methodology is analogous to that of Zhang Huan in his work ‘Family Portrait’ (2000), a series of photographs tightly cropped in on his own face, increasingly obscured by the names of his family members until his visage is entirely blacked out by ink. Baker’s use of ballpoint pen, coupled with the force of the marks utilized, form divots and peaks, creating a variegated and even three dimensional abstract landscape of dense color and surprising intensity, a suggestion echoed in the horizontal presentation of her work in the show. 

Yuichi Saito
Mo letter (Doraemon), circa 2005
Ink on paper
15 x 21.5 inches
Courtesy of Christian Berst Art Brut

Yuichi Saito utilizes superimposition in similar ways to Baker and Stoffers, repeating the titles of his favorite TV shows over and over until they converge into densely populated clusters of characters against a stark white background. The effect here is a bit like what occurs when one says a single word aloud repeatedly until it loses meaning and begins to dissolve into its phonetic constituents, warped and distilled by repetition .The work is also an exercise in documentation, as Saito creates the each piece the day that the show airs.  They are restrained in composition, the clouds of text compliant in the chaos they make up, bearing mild visual reference to animal herds, birds in flight, and other natural phenomena (linking them to the grandiose landscapes of Xu Bing rendered in Chinese text).
 

Jill Galliéni

Jill Galliéni
Untitled
Colored ink on paper
9.45 x 6. 3 inches
Courtesy of Christian Berst Art Brut

Blocks of differently colored inks made up of lines of cursive like curley q’s make up Jill Gallieni’s work. According to a statement provided by the gallery, she began to create these works as prayers with meaning only discernible by her, addressed to Saint Rita, patron saint of lost causes. The brightly colored inks conform to blocky shapes often configured into abstract compositions that look somewhat like crochet or weave. The more heavily fragmented pieces bear unlikely but adequate resemblance to Coogi sweaters, a material used by Jayson Musson (aka Hennessy Youngman) in some of his recent work. The lines of text are continuous, interrupted only by the limits of the page. Gallieni’s prayers are ceaseless, constrained, and intensely private.

Although not in the way we expect, these works communicate strongly. Within them, compulsions to express, document, copy, obliterate, and even to enact divine intervention, can be found, all without the utterance of a concrete word. Here we find language, stripped of its explicit functionality, being used as a completely experimental and untested tool. These artists operate outside of normal syntax to establish new patterns of (a)textual expression, creating enigmatic and nonsensical readings that provide openings for us to push what and how we communicate, a necessary and admirable endeavor.

Arts, Uncategorized

Takeshi Murata, featuring Robert Beatty at Salon 94, Bowery

by Paul Michael Brown ~

Last week, I braved the rapidly approaching winter to see ‘OM Rider,’ (2013) a short video work by Takeshi Murata, with sound designed by his frequent collaborator, Lexington based artist/musician Robert Beatty, at Salon 94. The project may be familiar to Central Kentuckians and frequenters of local contemporary art bedrock Institute 193, as they, along with Glistening Examples, produced ‘Soundtracks for Takeshi Murata,’ making Beatty’s dense, brooding, and lonely retro-futuristic accompaniments to Murata’s work previously only heard in gallery settings available for stand alone consumption.

The two artists work effortlessly in tandem, likely shaped by roughly a decade of collaboration and conversation between the two. The profession of their collaborative work seems to have even engaged a kind of osmotic exchange between the two, ideas bleeding into their individual practice as well.

Murata’s work can be generally grouped into three overlapping categories

http://vimeo.com/timessquarearts/murata

His early animations, consisting of hand drawn, computer aided, forever melting layers of candy colored lava as in Melter 2 (2003, 3:50 min, color, sound) which took over the gargantuan monument to consumer culture, Times Square as a part of their Midnight Moment series. The works are bright, hypnotic, and absolutely enjoyable.

Next, the artist uses the limitations and manipulative ability of readily available video editing software to produce glitch heavy, constantly shifting assemblages of occasionally recognizable footage, creating a dizzy, fragmented, psychedelic space of occasional object discernment among pulsing chaos. The mood is reminiscent of a synthetic drug come down, misfiring synapses and fading abstracted vision, a vague hollowness drowned out by the low bass beat of an overworked central nervous system and the occasional cringe of biting into aluminum foil.


Night Moves, Takeshi Murata

Last, the uncomfortably smooth surfaces, flawless gradients, and vague narrative most recently exercised in OM Rider filled with dark, empty landscapes, references to pop and consumer culture, and impeccably rendered plasticine and gelatinous textures. Murata’s renderings and animations in this mode are often hyper real, sparsely populated, strangely tense settings that seem at once impossible and familiar.

Likewise, Beatty’s visual work is rife with gradient super smooth texture, differentiated from Murata’s video works by both a muted palette and a visible grain, rendering them seemingly older. Viscous fluid reminiscent of a Goosebumps cover or a Floam infomercial spells out text and spills out of Bosch-like eggs set against backdrops of rigid, too perfect geometries lit by dubious and multiple sources.

His audio work, often released under as ‘Three Legged Race,’ combines found sound, retro synth licks, and heavy digital manipulation to create aural landscapes that feel like dripping neon space caves of indeterminate size, constantly growing and shrinking, seeming to glow gray and saturated green.

In ‘OM Rider,’ Murata weaves a dark, moody thriller, dwelling on the inevitable meeting between two characters of unclear relation. The first, a pot smoking, motorbike riding, synthesizer playing half wolf half man, wanders aimlessly around a flat, deep purple desert populated mostly by rocks and trash.  The second, a sour faced, despicable looking, elderly gentleman paces all alone in his dimly lit home outfitted in dark wood and imposing but infrequent furniture and a seemingly infinite spiral staircase.

Both spend the early portion of the video in contemplation of an unclear, but  serious immediate fate, heralded by Beatty’s soundscape dominated by the anxiety inducing rev of an airplane engine, on loop, and in increasing volume as the work reaches its inevitable conclusion, and the meeting of the two figures involved.

The work is tense. The vagueness of Murata’s narrative, the uncomfortable smoothness and his not quite real objects and figures, coupled with Beatty’s anxious and hypnotic soundtrack, broadcast a dark, nervous, and occasionally humorous mood that is effective and absolutely worth seeing.

All, Arts, Entertainment, Music, Uncategorized

With Tele in hand, he’s Golden

Whether you were born and bred in the Bluegrass or are a transplant, chances are good to great that you know Lexington has a rich artistic heritage. This is especially true with respect to music. Some of the greatest pickers and grinners of all time have come from Fayette County and the areas surrounding it.

Patrick Golden is one such artist.

Patrick Golden with his collection of Fender Telecasters

Lexington-based guitarist Patrick Golden with his collection of Fender Telecasters

Born in Lexington, July 14, 1966, Pat recently celebrated over 40 years in music and has influenced hundreds of students and peers. Known worldwide for his ‘chicken-pickin’ style, Golden is an accomplished guitarist, transcending genre with a style recalling many great players, but most definitely all his own.

Before we chat with Pat and a host of guitar greats who have performed and studied with him, how about a listen? Here’s a clip of Golden promoting Knight Guitars. He is playing a signature Richard Young edition, customized for the Kentucky Headhunters’ rhythm guitarist and vocalist.

The Headhunters still tour a great deal and have had a string of hits over the last 25 years. Headhunters’ lead guitarist Greg Martin has been friends with Golden for some time.

How did you and Pat hook up?

Pat was freelancing with my stepdaughter, Sherri McGee who is in Little Miss Tammy Smith and the Inbreds. That’s how I got to know him. He reached out to me years ago. He’s great about being open to learning new things.

Pat with Doug Phelps and Greg Martin of The Headhunters

Pat with Doug Phelps and Greg Martin of The Headhunters

What is most striking to you about his playing style and approach to teaching?

Pat’s a very dedicated player, a very patient player, and a great teacher. Stylistically, he has his own take on the Tele “twang” thang for one thing, but there is much more to his playing. He loves Telecaster and he’s really creative with its use.

Here’s a clip of the Pat and Greg working some magic.  And here he is, jammin’ with Headhunters’ drummer, Fred Young.

In this exclusive conversation for UnderMain, Golden talks about his playing, his teaching, and growing up in the Bluegrass.

Why electric guitar?

“It all started acoustic,” he explains. “My step-dad gave me an old Craftsman Acoustic back in 1973. It was the f-hole style guitar and it wasn’t much, but it got me started. I banged around on that old thing for a few years. My mother and grandmother wanted to see if I was serious and would stick with it before they bought me an electric, which is what I really wanted.”

Soon after, Pat got his first electric guitar, an old Sears and Roebuck model.

Was it just getting that electric guitar that set you on your path, or something else?

“My mother took me to an Elvis concert in 1976 in Cincinnati; this was just a year or two before he died, and it changed everything for me. It felt like I was supposed to be there. I could tell you what the weather was like and what we had for lunch. It was the most intense experience of my life up to that point and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about it.”

It wasn’t just the King’s charisma that captured Golden, however.

“It was James Burton. James Burton was and is my biggest influence. I saw him originally playing with Elvis and I became absorbed by his style and professional manner. He could cross into any genre and he has many times, playing with Merle Haggard, with Elvis Costello, John Denver, Johnny Cash, the list goes on and on.”

Golden with James Burton

Golden with James Burton

It was also Burton’s influence that led Golden to play a particular type of electric guitar: the Fender Telecaster, or “Tele” for short.

What is it about the Telecaster that made sense to you?

“My first good quality electric was a Gibson Les Paul. I just found playing very limiting for what I was trying to do. The Tele offers me a much wider range of options. I can do more of the things I really want to do with a Tele. Stratocasters, Les Paul, they’re all great, but the Tele is right for me.”

What happened after the Burton experience?

“I started to absorb everything I could to be versatile like Burton: Django Reinhardt, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis. I’d watch all the great acts on Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Express in the 70s; Hee Haw, which, of course, had Roy Clark, Buck Owens, and Don Rich. Right after watching something that was Country, Rock, or Blues, I’d switch over and take in Lawrence Welk. All of these things and more were influences. In those days there were just three channels and no internet, so you watched what came on, and I watched intently, with the idea of applying it to playing.”

Pat with Waylon Jennings

Pat with Waylon Jennings

You’ve taught Blues, Funk, Rock, Country, Jazz and many other genres, but you seem to have a lot of Country influence. How did that come about?

“Well, in the 70s in Lexington, you would have bands playing in local bars 6-7 nights a week. Most of the stuff being played was Country. I was a teen and wanted to play, so that’s where I landed, but I’ve always been interested in and played everything.”

When did your playing first get some real notice?

“Many years ago WKQQ had a contest for the best young rock guitarist and I submitted a demo, which, of course, at that time was on a cassette tape. There were a lot of people entering. Ben Lacy was in the mix, and a lot of other amazing guitarists. Neither of us won, but it did give me more exposure.”

Ben Lacy’s been on the Lexington music scene as a highly refined guitarist for many years. Lacy said the following recently of Pat’s playing:

“He is the purest of tele pickers, able to capture the essence and truly honor the personality of the Tele from classic country sounds and the blues. You can hear all that glorious pedigree of such greats as Danny Gatton and Scotty Anderson but still you can hear Pat’s own voice on the instrument. I’m proud to know Pat and admire his ability to not only perpetuate the rich tradition of the telecaster but also to forge his own path.”

Pat with Phil and Don Everly

Pat with Phil and Don Everly

But was this what got Pat to Nashville and becoming a sought-after sessions player?

“It helped, but late in the 80s I met Bobby Anderson, who was then a writer for Hee Haw. Bobby was from Somerset and we went down to Nashville together, and he connected me to the staff at The Grand Ol’ Opry; Jim Ed Brown, who had a show for many years and many well-known artists. Most of them would hang out at the Nashville Palace. If you’re a sessions-player, singer, songwriter, or anything else musical in Nashville, the Palace is the place to be.”

What happened when you got deeper into the Nashville scene?

The same thing that happens to all players who go there: a reality check. I thought I was a great player, but I didn’t know what that was until I got to Nashville, and there’s one on every corner. I remember going to a show and being sick in the parking lot after, realizing what I was up against.”

Pat with sought-after Nashville sessions player, Reggie Young

Pat with sought-after Nashville sessions player, Reggie Young

Where did you go from there?

“Well, I had a decision to make. Either tuck my tail and go home, which is what happens to so many players, or buckle down and get focused.”

You chose the latter, but how exactly did it manifest?

“I went looking for the best people I could find to study with and learn. The first teacher I sought out was Ray Flacke. He was known at the time as being one of the best country pickers and had recorded with everybody.”

Some of those artists include Ricky Scaggs, Travis Tritt, Marty Stuart, Kathy Mattea, and Emmylou Harris. The English-born Flacke has been known for four decades as one of the greatest country Tele-pickers in the industry. He is also well-known as an instructor and sessions player.

Pat with Garth Brooks

Pat with Garth Brooks

Golden continues:

“Someone who continues to influence me greatly is Scotty Anderson. I still drive up to Ohio and study with Scotty; he’s in the top .01 percent of players in the world, but he’s kept a low-profile for many years. Any serious player knows about Scotty, though; he’s in a realm all his own. I’ve been with him over twenty years now and I’m still working on that first lesson.”

Here’s what Anderson has to say about his long-time student and friend, Pat Golden:

“Throughout the years I’ve seen Patrick turn into a fantastic player. He was always a really good player, but now he’s reached the level of commercial music greatness really, really unique in his own style. Maybe I was able to help him a little bit; I definitely could tell his playing in a room full of players. He always plays the right notes at the right time and he’s a hell of a nice guy.”

These sentiments about Golden echo throughout the industry, not just with his instructor of many years.

Cartersville, Kentucky singer/songwriter, Josh Logan, has been friends with Golden since the 80s. Logan recorded four albums for the world-renowned Curb Records, starting in 1988. Somebody Paints the Wall included three chart singles which have been covered by artists like Tracy Lawrence and Aaron Tippin.

You and Golden go back a long way?

“Oh, yes. My friend Pat: I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s one of finest real country guitar pickers that I have ever met, his style is the real deal, not computer automated!”

On your tours, did you ever use Pat?”

“The sad part of my story is that I never had him as my lead guitar picker. The timing was always wrong for him to join my band, when I was on the road heavy in the 80s and 90s and early 2000. However, he’s a real country guitar picker, and with his ability to play just about anything that you need on a guitar, I’m sure he could just about fit any style that you need.

Golden’s influence crosses genres and spills out of the Country music scene as well. Blair Carmen, who tours with his band, Blair Carmen and The Belleview Boys, hails from Cincinnati, Ohio. The band stays with a lot of Jerry Lee Lewis and Big Band-style songs. Carmen commented on Pat’s playing and professionalism.

“In 2010, I contacted Patrick about an audition to see about him filling in on some road dates with my band. Since we were doing a mix of retro Honky Tonk Rockabilly Piano Pumpin’ Rock & Roll type stuff, I needed someone who was pretty versatile, yet still hardcore at the old country and rock & roll styles. First chance I had, we went down and met him at his home for an audition, which ended up only lasting five minutes. He introduced himself as a no-nonsense, hardcore honky Tonkin’ chicken pickin’ Telecaster picker…and that he was! I looked around, saw many of his different telecasters and vintage Fender amps and knew I was in the right place. He strapped on his 50s Tele and fired into Merle Haggard’s The Bottle Let Me Down and I said ‘Whoa now, we don’t even do that song, but maybe we will now!’  Then he played a little of Workin’ Man Blues and a bit of a rock & roll tune called Big Hunk a Love and I said ‘When can ya start ?’ He asked, ‘When do ya need me?’ And I said: ‘tomorrow.’ It’s been a blast ever since.”

So how did the rehearsals play out?

“Patrick joined us on the road immediately with no practice, no rehearsal, no set list, and no keys to any song and he hung right in and honky tonk’d and rock’d & roll’d like we’d been playing together for years. We played throughout Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Washington, DC, at a huge swing dance in the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park, and outside Atlanta, Georgia, where special guests, J.W. Brown, Rusty Brown, and Jerry Lee Lewis’ ex wife/2nd cousin (13 year old child bride) Myra Gale joined us.  J.W. Brown was Jerry Lee Lewis’ original bass player in the 50s and 60s and played on all of his hit records. J.W. Brown got up and played a few songs with us. He was really impressed with Patrick’s playing and even told me after the show, ‘Now that there’s a guitar picker!’ That’s what we musicians love to hear!”

So, are you still get together?

“Oh, yeah. Patrick still fills in often with us and is always very professional. He’s always early and on time. He’s also very picky about and always has great tone! Very reliable and great personality, too. That means a lot when you have to work and travel with someone.

Pat with Reba McEntire

Pat with Reba McEntire

Rick “LD” Wayne, the lead guitarist for Randy Travis, concurs. A good friend a Pat’s for the last twenty years, Wayne has toured and recorded with Tom T. Hall, Waylon Jennings, Porter Wagoner, and many others, in addition to the Travis albums.

What’s the story with you and Pat?

“I met Pat many years ago when I was working at the Nashville Palace, and he came in with Bobby Anderson, who worked on the Hee Haw staff. We started talking about Telecasters and realized we both had a passion for them. He’s a wonderful player. He’s always learning something and showing me something. He comes and plays with me all the time. He’s a wonderful friend.”

Wayne’s is a Cinderella story, heading to Nashville from Columbus, GA when he was 18 with his guitar strapped to his back. He immediately got a job with Tom T. Hall, then with Johnny Rodriguez. After being at the Nashville Palace for about three years, he met Randy Ray, who became Randy Travis. Randy became a star and Wayne started toured and recorded with him until 2013, when Travis had a stroke and had to slow down.

What is it that makes Pat’s playing so special?

“Pat has mastered the Telecaster. He knows what pickup to use in the front, back, and middle positions. He’s learned how to play between these for particular songs. He is one of the most efficient players I have ever seen. I deeply respect him personally. No one’s better than Patrick at getting the most out of a Tele. He puts a lot of heart and soul in it and I respect his playing immensely. He’s a great player and teacher.”

Wayne says he and Golden have spent many hours learning from each other.

“I’ll say ‘what did you do there, show me that!’ I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s showed me stuff he’s learned from others like Clint Strong; he just has so much skill and a lot of soul. I’ll usually send potential students his way, if they’re up near Kentucky. The thing about Pat, he’s very humble and doesn’t talk himself up a lot the way a lot of people do in this industry. You can’t help but respect his playing, but his humbleness makes me respect him as a person.”

It was in the mid-90s when many years of playing and teaching paid off for Golden. He got the call to tour with Jerry Lee Lewis and play alongside Lewis’ longtime guitarist, Kenny Lovelace.

Pat, Kenny Lovelace (Jerry Lee Lewis' longtime guitarist), and James Burton (Elvis' guitarist)

Pat, Kenny Lovelace (Jerry Lee Lewis’ longtime guitarist), and James Burton (Elvis’ guitarist)

Touring with Lewis taught him a lot and when Golden returned to Kentucky, he focused on teaching and running to sessions in Nashville, Austin, and a handful of other music meccas in America. Many of his lessons are taught through Skype these days as well as his home, with students from all over the world.

What do you like about teaching, Pat?

“It’s so important as a teacher to be able to transcend genre, relate to the student, and ultimately give students what they come to you to learn. I usually just ask students where they want to go with their playing and take them on that journey. Doing it this way, you’re always giving the student what they want, which keeps them interested and makes the process fun.”

NOTE: Pat Golden can be reached at (859)221-4633 or (859)271-8812. His email address is hottelepicker@yahoo.com. Pat is also on Facebook and can be messaged there as well.

Photos courtesy of Patrick Golden

Arts, Uncategorized

Inspiration Found in Dime Booth Portraits

by Ryan Filchak ~

Maxine Payne’s projects strive to affirm her own sense of place by documenting the experiences of others through photography. Now with two shows open simultaneously, one at Transylvania University’s Morlan Gallery, and the other at Institute 193, Payne splits her inter-continental portrait series from the dime store photo booth portraits that inspire her work.

“My work is a way for me, to understand where I come from, a way to honor it, to be critical of it,” Payne writes. While the Morlan Gallery exhibits Payne’s portraits of the rural women that connect her to a global community, her exhibit at the Institute 193 features the found amateur photographs from a dust-bowl era Arkansas that connect the artist directly to home and family.

This expansion and contraction of identity through the vehicle of place carries throughout both exhibitions despite their separate approaches to the subject. In either series of portraits, whether staged in a mobile trailer or in the subject’s home as most often is the case with Payne’s rural women, the portrait subjects give an archival image of themselves while limited in their ability to tell their full story. The black and white portraits taken by Payne do have matching texts that reveal the subject’s voice, but again the quick shifts between personal identity and abstraction prevail. This element of the work speaks more to the limitations of portraiture than the goals of the Rural Women project Payne and her friend, colleague and anthropologist Dr. Anne Goldberg have set for themselves.

Since 2006, Payne has teamed with Goldberg to work on a project known as The Rural Women and Globalization Project. The exhibition currently on view at the Morlan gallery, Rural Women: Photographs by Maxine Payne is the culminating work of this ever-expanding project of activist portraiture. In the show, Payne’s portraits feature women from four distinct regions, including San Luis, Costa Rica, Bagamayo, Tanzania, Vinh Linh, Vietnam, and the U.S./Mexico Border. Each location features five raw, earnest portraits of the women while the subject’s own words express the particular hardships of their daily lives.

Beginning in San Luis, Costa Rica, upon a request to finish the work of fellow anthropologist Ilse Leitinger, Payne and Goldberg worked with the women of the community, asking “questions designed to be gentle in order to illicit their stories about themselves and the places they know best.” These interviews would build trust and connection with the women to increase the authenticity of the portraits while never “romanticizing or eroticizing.”

The strength of these 20 unaltered prints do not come directly from the stories that these women tell, but instead from the full confidence and trust the subject’s share through Payne’s portraits. Each photograph expresses the solidarity Payne and Goldberg have achieved with their subjects and the subjects’ permission to the artist to have their stories told.

It is not that the stories lack substance but instead the opposite. Goldberg and Payne’s ability to connect with women of the global community in such a meaningful way provides the audience with an overwhelming breadth of material. The 20 portraits featured in the exhibition discuss deeply personal subjects including the HIV/AIDS crisis, Post Vietnam War U.S. relations, domestic abuse, marriage, motherhood, and sex education. Each woman has her own cross to bear ranging from hard labor to abject tragedy and yet the common denominators of strength, resilience and place inevitably rise from each personal account.

These same attributes appear again with the Massengill family photographs on display at the Institute 193. Made inside a mobile photo booth trailer during the 30s and 40s, the Massengill family traveled from town-to-town selling portraits “three for a dime.” Payne would later inherit over 700 of these photo-booth portraits made by Jim and Mancy Massengill, the grandparents of family friend Sondra Massengill Mckelvey, during a trip home for a funeral in Arkansas. “[The] photographs can be playful, serious, strange, and at times haunting. Originally created as precious souvenirs, these photographs recorded moments experienced by the very young, the very old and everyone in between,” writes Institute 193 founder Philip March Jones.

For ten years now, these portraits born from the resourcefulness and entrepreneurial work ethic of an Arkansas family have inspired Maxine Payne to exhibit these visual records of place from which she deeply connects.

Co-published by Dust-to-Digital and Institute 193, the accompanying publication for Making Pictures: Three for a Dime represents the culmination of this ongoing project of Payne’s – previously she had kept the photographs in handmade 2’ x 1’5’’ albums. This outsider approach to publishing foreshadows the larger installation pieces she would later use with her Rural Women series.

For the Morlan Gallery installation Payne uses three large format collage prints to evoke a more visceral connection to the hands on work preformed by her rural subjects. Evocative of the outsider art that the Three for a Dime Portraits represent, these roughly handled prints are tied together by string, accented by meat packing tape and stained by walnut dye. These rough build techniques emphasize the passion for past and place that Payne cites as inspiration for all of her work.

Payne’s work, although placed on a linear timeline continues to expand in scope, and fortunately we can all witness the grand connections that she makes with history in order to build a powerful monument of personal identity .

Making Pictures: Three for a Dime at the Institute 193 will remain open until Dec. 1, while Rural Women at the Morlan Gallery exhibit will run until Dec. 2. The Morlan Gallery opens on weekdays noon – 5 p.m. and by special appointment. The Institute opens Wednesday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and by appointment. Both galleries will be open for the Lexington Gallery Hop on Nov. 21 from 5 – 8 p.m.

Literary Arts, Uncategorized

UnderMain Essay: The songs of the caged birds

Depositphotos_21973065_m

As with most people who have access to Netflix, I fell in love with the series Orange is the New Black. My dedication to watching the show began with the typical interest in the novelty of prisons, institutions that take people away from society, making them disappear.

The series is about a rich white girl who has to leave her comfortable life and do time in prison for a past offense.  As I continued watching, I fell in love with the stories of each individual character. I became so interested in seeing just how they got to where they were in life. By the third episode, however, I became very sad, not only for the fictional characters in Orange but for women in prison in real life – for those real women in my life.

My experience with visiting women’s prisons began when I was seven. My cousin was arrested and convicted as an accomplice to the murder of two people, one of whom was a child. At the time my cousin was young, the age I am now (20), and in a tumultuous marriage. Needless to say, drugs were involved. She was driving the car the day her husband shot and killed a man and his child in their home.

I can remember feeling scared for her as we drove her mother to the scene of the crime. I remember the court trials and going to visit my cousin in prison.

I remember talking to her, sitting right in front of her but having to use a phone to talk to her. I thought of how lonely it must be to have a glass wall between you and everyone you have ever known, to never have privacy and never to be able to go out in public.

The prison seemed like the inside of a metal lunchbox to me. It was crowded with visitors who were loud. I remember not being able to hear my cousin because the phone had a bad connection. Her mother would always cry whenever we visited her but I was always confused. I didn’t understand what was going on or why she had to be behind a glass wall. I didn’t understand why I had to walk through metal detectors before I was even ten years old. I also didn’t understand how my cousin could behave as though this place was normal. I never understood how she got used to it.

Our entire town saw her as different from other people. She was put away, “disappeared.” She was the subject of gossip for a few months, and then she was forgotten. Everyone felt “safe” and they moved on to something new.

My next experience with women’s correctional facilities involved my older sister. The first incident happened within a few months of our mother’s death of pancreatic cancer. I was fifteen and my sister was thirty-eight. I had known that my sister had been on drugs for years by that point, but the death of our mother caused such emotional trauma that her drug problem became much worse. She was arrested one night for driving under the influence and for having Meth under the passenger’s seat in her car.  Later that year she was arrested again for making and selling it.

I still have all the letters from my sister and my cousin. Little crochet key chains and Precious Moments coloring book pages from my cousin…confessions and apologies from my sister.

I would always receive the letters, with their names and ID numbers on them and become excited. It was like a pen pal, almost. At the beginning of their sentences, I became very excited to get their letters. They would ask me about soccer games, guitar practice and school. They never had much to say about their lives though, except for apologizing about their pasts and telling me about things that they missed. I couldn’t quite understand how they missed certain things. They missed biscuits and sitting on the front porch stringing beans with the family. My cousin even wrote me once explaining how badly she missed showers. As I got older, the letters between us became less frequent. I let myself get caught up with the outside world and forgot about the comfort those letters gave them. When the letters became fewer and fewer they were able to find comfort in other outlets.

I knew about the letters, but what I did not know about was their personal writings.

The women in prisons have to experience personal writings and expression and art in a different way from those of us who are on “the outside.”  Women have been oppressed for generations and limited in their ability to be in the public sphere as easily as men due to society’s judgment of women in writing. But women inmates have an even more difficult time with having their voices heard.

Women inmates have a more difficult time having their voices heard because of the negative stigma of being inmates; they are not only separate from the public sphere physically, but ideologically through the stereotypes and opinions of them. They have important things to say, but it is difficult for their words to get to us on the outside. The separation and stigma prevent women inmates from experiencing the therapeutic experience of being heard.

Just as women in general had been silenced simply as a consequence of their gender, the women in prisons are silenced for that and their inmate status.

Distinguishing between “good vs bad” enhances the negative stigma against the women in prison.  Women have been marginalized just for being women and thus cut out of the public sphere, but female inmates have to carry the labels of both “woman” and “criminal.”

The only access prisoners really have to “the outside” are through letters between themselves and family members, friends and penpals. While the rest of us can call in to news talk shows and chime in with our opinions, write letters to editors and blog about everything that angers us, those incarcerated do not have these options.

In our society, prison is a way of removing from the public eye, those who have committed crimes. They do not Facebook. They cannot have cell phones. They are limited in the amount of time they can use the prison phones and the phone calls they get and their in-person visits are timed and restricted to people on a pre-determined list.

It is easy to think, “Oh well, they are prisoners, they deserve it.” However, they are humans and separating them from society and limiting their resources only creates a cycle of low socioeconomic status and continuation of crime. It is hard to “come back up” when you are being kept down by your past mistakes.

The punishment that society imposes on inmates has the possibility of keeping them down for the rest of their lives, essentially extending their sentences even when they are eventually returned to “the outside.”

When I did a Google search on what people think about women in prison I found all of these terms: Untrustworthy; Trash; Bad; Poor; Unskilled. It is hard to carry all of these stereotypes with you – it can even make you start believing these things about yourself.

These labels lead to people deciding to not listen to what women in prison have to say. The thought of interacting with a prisoner makes people afraid and squeamish, so instead of being open to the idea of listening to an inmate, society pretends they are not there.

Who listens to the women locked in cages? Who listens to the women who are separate from their families, their friends and their jobs? Who listens to the women who are considered “violent” and “angry”?

Inmates have often been perceived as brutal, which is a false perception. In her poem, “Ready to Go”, inmate Tammica L. Summers, incarcerated at Broward Correctional Institution in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, compares the bars of prison to the bars of the zoo:

I wish I was somewhere else

Rather than this zoo

I take a long hard look at myself

And what I’ve been through.

(Women + Prison)

Summers was a college graduate who has been writing short stories and poems since grade school. However, she is not being recited at poetry clubs and appearing at poetry slams because she is incarcerated.

The legitimacy of the expressive writings of female inmates is no less than those lucky enough to receive an education in creative writing. Due to their status as an “inmate,” though, they lose all rhetorical credit and are easily disregarded.

There are many important reasons as to why we should open our eyes and ears and listen to the words of female inmates. They are humans and have the right to be heard. They are human just like all of us, which means we are just as likely to make the same mistakes they made that ended up with their incarceration.

Their words can encourage us to accept one another; to comfort one another; to listen to one another before it is too late; and to think about our actions before we do them. We are all capable of making mistakes and not every criminal is from a “rough background.”

It is easy to think that we are not capable of going to jail, that we are “good people”.

Every “good” person makes mistakes. Every person makes mistakes. We need to listen to female inmates and hear their stories and their pain. If we are unable to learn from them, then we are even more susceptible to incarceration ourselves. It is possible for any of us to also be in situations where we are one day silenced, as we as a society have silenced so many. It is even more possible that we will one day be cast away from society, just as we have cast so many away.

There are more than 200,000 women behind bars. Those are 200,000 voices that could teach us so much..

Maya Angelou, in her famous poem, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings writes,

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

or the caged bird

sings of freedom.

The caged bird may sing, but have you heard her?

To read the writings of female inmates you can:

*Become a penpal

*Go to one of these websites:

Angelfire

The Prison Arts Coalition

Women + Prison

*Read this book by the talented Lexington writer Bianca Spriggs.

Bridgett Howard is in her third year at Transylvania University as a Writing, Rhetoric and Communications major and Studio Art minor.  A native of Whitesburg, KY., Bridgett will graduate in May, 2015. She is UnderMain’s first intern.

All, Arts, Entertainment, Music, Uncategorized

Phyne Art: UnderMain’s Sebastian chats with Brian Greene

Physicist Brian Greene

Physicist Brian Greene

The Lexington Philharmonic recently presented Heroes: Eroica and Icarus in the orchestra’s Lexington Opera House debut. UnderMain music writer Charles Sebastian chatted with renowned physicist Brian Greene who conceived this modern retelling of the Greek myth of Icarus, replacing the sun of the original with a black hole in space.

First, some background: Eroica or Heroic Symphony was composed in 1804 and originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, though Beethoven later changed his mind. Longer and more richly textured than contemporary symphonic works of its day, the Eroica stands as a breakaway from the classical forms that preceded it. LexPhil conductor Scott Terrell contends that it is for this reason the symphony makes good sense adjacent to the Philip Glass score for Icarus on the Edge of Time.

The novella of Icarus was published in 2008 and sets the well-known story in space with images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The Philip Glass score was commissioned by the World Science Festival in New York, the brainchild of Greene. It has developed a great deal of momentum since its inaugural year in 2008. The film accompanying Icarus was created by surrealist filmmakers Al and Al, with a narrative by Brian Greene and playwright David Henry Hwang, who is perhaps best known for his award-winning play, M. Butterfly. In the Lexington performance, Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker will provide the narrative.

Here’s Sebastian’s conversation with Dr. Greene, speaking from his office in New York City:

What was the germ of Icarus? The one thing that let you know this was the story?

“The Greek myth had fascinated me since childhood, but the deeper piece is about being willing to go against the norm. Being willing to break out of the box with science or with anything is essential to progress and these are the things that create a whole new world. Science is a great story of adventure.”

Why use the media of film and music for science?

“Melding film and music with these scientific ideas I feel teaches science in a deeper way. The recognition of how science affects our daily lives is essential to the quality of our lives and our knowledge of the world around us and ourselves.”

You’re known mainly for your scientific writings. Are you still teaching?

“Oh yes! I maintain my position at Columbia University as a professor of mathematics and physics and I have my graduate students. Writing was a hobby that took off. It makes for a busy schedule. Then there is the World Science Festival, started by me and my wife.”

What role, if any, does education play in Icarus?

“Icarus fits with the general perspective in all my books, which is that they must make science penetrating. The language of science is math and many people have to have it translated. The ideas of science can be big and hard to fathom, and no one wants to feel stupid. By educating through the arts, these ideas are more accessible to most people.”

Was this your first time working with Philip Glass?

“Yes. I didn’t know what to expect. We met on a panel some time ago, he probably doesn’t remember it, but I do, because it happened to be where I met my wife. I sent him a story after the discussion. That was ten years ago.”

That sounds memorable. What was the collaboration with Glass like?

“Highly collaborative. He really wanted to understand the science behind Icarus. He asked me down to his studio one night around 11 o’clock. He was trying to understand how a black hole functions; he was very thorough with his questions and stayed open to my thoughts. Fortunately, we live in the same city, so it was a quick trip to his place.”

Whose decision was it to bring David Henry Hwang into the project?

“Glass’s. He had used Hwang on many previous projects as a librettist and felt it would add to the overall impact if he had a role in the writing.

How many times has Icarus been performed at this point?

“The Lexington performance is around 25. It’s been around the world in places as exotic as Malta.”

Had you delved into theatre or film prior to this?

“Yes. I developed another show that ran for three performances called Spooky Action, which deals with the concept of quantum entanglement. It premiered at the World Science Festival here in New York.”

What is the main ingredient for Icarus that you feel has made it a popular piece?

“I believe it works on so many different levels. Boys and men like it because it is a hero adventure, but then there is the science that goes along with it, that makes it different than the myth from which it’s borrowed.”

It’s obvious in this case that science is affecting the arts. Do you feel your piece somehow affects science, in reverse order?

“It’s a two-way street. Icarus may open up more avenues in art and it might dovetail back into science and somehow affect processes within it. It’s hard to say, but I would like to think that would be the case.”

How do you find working in collaboration?

“It’s one of the things that most excites me: working in new forms with others. I can spread my own wings in ways that are challenging and new.”

Will we hear more about Icarus?

“A sequel is planned, hopefully to coincide with the 100th anniversary of General Relativity.”

Arts, Entertainment, Uncategorized

Victory without Fanfare, Image with Purpose

By Ryan Filchak ~

Victory without Fanfare displays the culminating body of work from a three-month residency at the Lexington Art League’s Loudon House by artists Lori Larusso and Melissa Vandenberg.  Guests were invited each Tuesday during the residency to see how the artists had transformed into their personal studios space typically reserved for exhibitions.  These studio visits allowed guests the opportunity to preview the works, meet the artists and observe the art-making process prior to installation.

Although the Lexington Art League is familiar with summer residency programs, this year curator Becky Alley handpicked two artists whose works compliment each other in a gallery space. Vandenberg and Larusso work with two different mediums – each artist uses imagery ranging from the tragically inane to the overwhelmingly significant to reveal the purpose of representation.  “Both artists work with themes of nostalgia and sentimentality in a way that questions the mythologies of the idyllic American Dream, patriotic pride and duty, and the way in which we culturally and systematically romanticize a history that was no more perfect than our present,” she writes in her curator statement. Larusso’s paintings and Vandenberg’s sculptures complicate the image at hand (the American flag, a life jacket, an ice cream clown, etc.) either through process or form to add new meaning on a personal or national level that causes the viewer to reinterpret the familiar.

Larusso’s shape paintings use imagery of the home to address the separation between an attempted idealized domesticity and a more common reality.  A women’s studies minor while attending the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, Larusso uses her paintings to acknowledge a return to the perfectly manicured lifestyle images of the 1950’s housewife. “We have a curated existence on social media: it’s still edited and you’re not showing the real stuff,” Larusso says in an interview with LAL. Instead of painting a solitary cup of coffee, perched perfectly on a windowsill from where one may gaze stolidly into a distant mountain range as one might expect to see in a lifestyle magazine, Larusso’s ‘To-Go Coffee Spill’ and ‘Homewrecker’ depict misfortune and broken dishes.

Interestingly, Larusso makes these moments of imperfection in her paintings more subtle in their disruption of the picturesque through a unique layering process of color.  Each layer of paint is first drawn out and then taped so as to prevent upon application any bleed-over from one section of color to the other. This results in crisp lines that seem to lay one on top of the other.  When you pair this technique with how Larusso literally cuts the negative space out of her paintings with a jigsaw, she ironically creates paintings devoid of the same spontaneity of the subject matter.

Vandenberg’s sculptural works transform the readymade (a lifejacket, handkerchief, sewing machines) to create an alternative interpretation of the image at hand on a political level in the same way Larusso’s shape paintings of spilt coffee and broken dishes express a present dichotomy of perception and reality on a social level.  The sculpture Rapunzel for example – a braid of fabric that stretches from high on the wall down to the gallery floor – contains not only the preexisting connotations of patriotic imagery because it repurposes torn American flags, but the fairy tale allusion turns a symbol of pride into one of distress.  Vandenberg repeats this theme with her series of photos in which she covers a female face with temporary tattoos culled from a bygone bicentennial celebration.  Entitled Red, White and Blue in the Face Vandenberg photographs her model wearing a string of American flag lights.

Forget Me k(not), Melissa Vandenderg

Forget Me k(not), Melissa Vandenderg

Red, White, and Blue in the Face, Melissa Vanderberg

Red, White, and Blue in the Face, Melissa Vanderberg

In addition to these political sculptures and paintings, Vandenberg weaves themes of eastern philosophy into traditionally western artifacts through her larger installation pieces.  For example, Forget me (k)not is an installation piece of 800 used handkerchiefs collected from deceased family members and estate sales.  The handkerchiefs hang both inside and outside the gallery in formations that mimic the Tibetan prayer flags found on Mt. Everest.   With her performance installation Mandala Machine – eight sewing machines arranged in a circle, sewing thread onto a continuous piece of fabric with a finite amount of thread – Vandenberg again infuses domestic objects with Buddhist ritual.

To quote Vandenberg, “I think we both feel the irony and have an appreciation for the clever when it comes to mid-century idealism”, and this is most evident with The Cold Charmer Series by Larusso.

The Cold Charmer Series, Lori Larusso

The Cold Charmer Series, Lori Larusso

These paintings of ice cream sundaes made to look like clowns do not contain the political gravity of the American dream unrealized, but instead they serve a crucial purpose to remind visitors that these artists seek a reinterpretation of familiar imagery in their work that can also be playful and lighthearted.

Visitors can see Victory Without Fanfare at the Loudon House located at 209 Castlewood Drive until October 5th.  Gallery hours for the Loudon House are Tuesday through Friday, 10-4, Saturday and Sunday, 1-4.

All, Environment, News, Politics, Uncategorized

Watch what we wish for?

(Credit - Natural Resources Defense Council)

(Credit – Natural Resources Defense Council)

A nod to Randall Stevens for a provocative Facebook posting about contemporary progressive urbanism – “Smart Growth” – posing the question, “What can Lexington learn from this?”

Tiptoe gingerly through the ideologically argumentative minefield and you might recall some troubling cautionary tales taken from such otherwise “cool” places as Boulder and Austin.

Please read and offer your thoughts about our own aspirations for Lexington, Kentucky.

Arts, Entertainment, Literary Arts, Uncategorized

I Might As Well Bathe In Cheese

by Cherry  –

Oh, if only I had made that deadline for Lexington’s first ever Flash Fiction Contest, here is what I would have submitted.

Cheesy Mouse#2

Searching for her teeth, I went into the kitchen and found a pot of soup they must have forgotten when the ambulance came. It was cheesy soup, probably cream of cheddar, yellow and gloppy. Already angry, I jerked the pot toward the sink only to nearly drop it at the site of a mouse sitting chest deep in what must have smelled like a good idea at the time.

My phone buzzed again with more text messages from my six siblings. I threw up my hands. This was too much! As if a possible accidental overdose of sleeping pills, missing prescription drugs, and the ensuing argument that either the help took them or mom literally took them, was not.

I snuck back into the kitchen and peaked over the rim of the oversize pot. He was just a baby. I knew I had to get him out, despite having spent the prior week reading Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner and coming to the conclusion that I would no longer over-function in stressful situations.

Mom’s house is in a quiet neighborhood with no real side door and a dangerous back exit. I picked up the old crusty spoon in one hand, the pot in the other. I walked out the front door to the small flower bed that we planted last Easter when mom showed signs of recovering from the last hospital visit.

Gently I scooped the cheesy mouse up and placed him under some purple flowers. I took the pot back in and threw it in the kitchen sink and filled it with soapy water. Just to get even, I decided not to wash the thing, because I meant business this time.

An hour later I headed back to the hospital to take mom’s lunch. I was feeling like a failure, having not found her dentures that disappeared the night of the 911 call. Another text came in and mom was getting out. ‘Wait she was supposed to…’ ‘Stay, who can stay with her?’ another text bleeped.

This time I would set my boundaries with my family. I would say ‘no’.

I arrived in room 5404 only to find my mother shaking a little, so I sat with her while she ate her cheese sandwich and fresh fruit with a Diet Coke.

It felt good; mom was going home like she has the last hundred times. It was so refreshing that I decided to share my story. With my second-eldest sister on the phone, my six-foot-five brother crammed into the chair in the corner of the room, and mom in her hospital bed, I told the story of the cheesy mouse. We laughed nervous but genuine, gut-wrenching laughter – the kind that has let us pass through such major dysfunction in the past, many times over.

Collecting ourselves, my sister asked when mom was being released, just what the doctors were saying and what to do about her medicines when she got home. Oh, and most importantly, she finished with, ‘Sis, did you wash the cheese off the mouse?’

All, Arts, Entertainment, Literary Arts, Music, Uncategorized

Transy’s Polashek publishes writers’ block battering ram

polashek_student

“Why isn’t there a word rhythm dictionary?” Tim Polashek once wondered.  He no longer asks. No need. The Transylvania University Assistant Professor of Music got busy responding to his own question, resulting in publication of The Word Rhythm Dictionary: A Resource for Writers, Rappers, Poets, and Lyricists (Rowman & Littlefield), a 689 page gold mine for the creative-yet-stumped.

“I really just see this as another tool. Tools matter in that they offer different perspectives and methods, and can shape direction of creativity,” said Polashek. “For example, some computer programs allow easy reversing of melodic motives. Others don’t. This affects creativity. I’m constantly asking myself and students how a given tool shapes creativity, and to be objective about the tool.”

Rhythm rhymes are defined in the introduction as consisting of two or more words with the same rhythm, sharing the same number of syllables “and relative positions of primarily accented, secondarily accented and unstressed syllables.” Unlike traditional rhymes, rhythm rhymes need not have matching vowel sounds.

Polashek said the book is an expression of his longtime interest in the relationships between music and speech as well as the pitch and rhythms of spoken speech.

He has created a series of computer programs to help him manipulate and search for words with certain properties for creative projects. “For example, show me all the words that have two ‘t’ sounds and a ‘z’ sound.  Or, show me ten words that are five syllables long that have accents on the third syllables.”

Has also has written programs to generate nonsensical text with certain musical properties. “So, when I got around to actually writing the dictionary, I had a lot of software tools to help me.”

The typical rhyming dictionary groups words based on vowel sounds and is primarily concerned with the vowels at the ends of words. The Word Rhythm Dictionary takes a different approach, grouping words by several properties:  syllabic stress (primary, secondary, and unstressed) which determines the rhythm tendencies of the word; within these groups, secondary sorting occurs by vowels; and by consonants. “So as you read the rhythm rhyme-groups there is movement along a timbre/word sound similarity continuum,” he explained.

How might a lyricist or poet use the Polashek dictionary? The author suggests three methods: thinking of a word, then browsing a list of words with identical rhythms; coming up with a poetic foot and then searching a list of words that rhythmically match; or establishing a musical rhythm and then browsing a list of words that rhythmically or lyrically fit.

The approach, said Polashek, makes it easier to locate words that feature similar sounds, matching meters, and rhythmic grooves, from traditional rhymes like “clashing” and “splashing,” to near rhymes like “rollover” and “bulldozer,” “unrefuted undisputed” to pure metrical matches, like “biology” and “photography.”

“Upon observing a couple of words in the same group, some interesting scene or semantic concept might pop into mind that will generate a line of poetry or a lyric, perhaps reflecting some subconscious things that the writer had been considering—a linguist Rorschach test, perhaps?”

All, Arts, Entertainment, Music, News, Uncategorized

Let’s Focus on What We Already Have

Courthouse section

With the Rupp Arena Area Entertainment District concept now shelved, at least for the time being, attention is returning to some of Lexington’s outstanding existing historic structures in dire need of TLC and holding great potential as re-purposed public spaces.

One such building is the Old Courthouse – situated smack dab in the center of our city, yet sitting there shuttered, moth-balled even as 21c begins to take shape immediately across Upper Street with CentrePointe underway just a stone’s throw across Main. And this is not to mention the burgeoning dining and entertainment district on Short Street.

One consistent advocate of investing in the building’s renovation and return to Lexington’s civic landscape has been Foster Ockerman, Jr. He offers his thoughts in an OpEd appearing in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Please read it, offer your views and share with your friends. We believe this to be a conversation whose time has come.

Arts, Entertainment, Literary Arts, Music, Uncategorized

Cross-pollination on the rise in Lexington

Broken Queen – Photo by Mark Cornelison

This is not to suggest that it hasn’t always been there, but networking or “cross-pollination” among various arts disciplines seems to be happening with more frequency lately in Lexington.

As some wise person once said: “more ‘o that!”

Writing in ACE Magazine several years ago, Candace Chaney noted Lexington’s rich literary history and the presence of a serious, if struggling, theatre community and suggested that cooperation and collaboration between the two might give rise to homegrown playwrights. This inspired idea remains a long way from yielding onstage results – although we have seen growth and development in local theatre production. But the concept has taken hold in other areas and we think it’s worth noting.

Recent examples include the mid-June production at the Downtown Arts Center of The Broken Queen, a multi-disciplinary collaboration between Blackbird Dance Theatre and a reunion of the Lexington band Chico Fellini.

And Story Magazine has launched its “Story Sessions” series – intimate concerts that engage a variety of talents and skills ranging from music and sound production to communication and publishing.

Coming up later this month, on June 27, is the Lexington Art League’s CSA LIVE: An evening of story and song, billed as a convergence of Lexington’s literary, music and visual arts scenes.

These productions and events join The Carnegie Center’s Carnegie Classics, and Balagula Theatre in inviting varieties of artists to share talents and skills in collaborative settings.

This departure from limiting our arts scene to the pitting of one discipline against another to grovel for scarce financial lifeblood is healthy and promising.

The question is, what does it take to establish a “go to” network to enable vital communication between, perhaps, a videographer and a sound-designer, or a performance artist and a sound and lighting talent? Is this a function of some independent non-profit? Or should our municipal government establish such a role?

Wouldn’t it be great if we figured out how to sustain arts production in Lexington?

Please offer your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Thanks!

All, News, Politics, Uncategorized

The Rise of ISIS and Why You Should Care

Transylvania University political science associate professor Michael Cairo

Transylvania University political science associate professor Michael Cairo

In the wake of two Gulf wars costing thousands of American lives and billions in U.S. treasure, Iraq is now rapidly being reshaped into a terrorist state. Transylvania University Political Science professor Michael Cairo, author of The Gulf: The Bush Presidencies and the Middle East (Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy and Peace), replied via email to a series of questions concerning the current escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq as Sunni insurgents seek to create a new ultra fundamentalist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Tom Martin: There may be confusion about the forces now in play in Iraq: Shiite versus Sunni and in particular, the full scale of the intentions of the Sunni insurgency and what its success would imply.

Michael Cairo: What most people fail to realize is that Iraq, in its present state, is a post-World War I creation of the mandate system.

Under the Ottoman Empire, the areas within Iraq were far from the center and relatively autonomous.  As long as these regions remained stable and did not upset the Empire’s interests, the Ottomans stayed out of the region.

Following World War I, the British brought three relatively autonomous groups together under one state: the Kurds in the north, the Shiite in the south, and the Sunni triangle in the center of the country.  It is also important to realize that the Shiite have a majority in the country.  Despite the Kurds also being Sunni, they share different interests than the Sunni in the center of the country.

Throughout Iraq’s existence, violence, paternalism, corruption, and patronage have been central to politics.  Saddam Hussein’s rule added to the distrust since he used violence against the Kurdish and Shiite populations and promoted the power and position of the Sunni population within the triangle.

The overthrow of Saddam Hussein contributed to distrust and violence.  The Bush administration’s de-Baathification of the country meant the removal of all those associated with Hussein’s regime, including those involved simply for employment. This created a ready-made “angry” Sunni population. The Shiite government of Nouri al-Maliki has also contributed to this by ensuring benefits for the Shiite population at the expense of the Sunni.

The current sectarian violence, thus, is not a surprise to anyone familiar with the region and its history.

TM: What US interests are at stake in the present crisis?

MC: First, there is a bit of irony here since it may serve to create additional channels of cooperation for the US and Iran.

In recent years, the Shiite Government of Iraq and the Iranian Government have developed closer relations. Moreover, the Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called for fighting against the insurgents in the north, suggesting a possible collaborative effort between the Iraqi Shiites, the Iraqi Government, and the Iranian Government with possible assistance from the US (most likely air strikes).  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country is ready to help Iraq if asked, and would consider working with the United States in fighting Sunni extremists if the US decides to take action.

At the same time, this could prove problematic for the US since it might potentially increase Iranian power in the region. Not showing a degree of interest could signal to Iran that the US is willing to let Iran extend its power in the region. The U.S. aircraft carrier deployed in the Gulf has, in my opinion, two purposes – one to send a signal to Iran and two to be prepared if the president chooses an air strike option.

Second, the US most certainly has economic interests in the region.  Gas prices have spiked as ISIS has had an impact on oil fields in northern Iraq, shutting down exports from that region.  The heart of Iraq’s oil region is located in the south and an ISIS advance could seriously threaten oil exports and US economic interests in the region.

Third, ISIS could have a significant impact on Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, putting potentially threatening and violent regimes near their borders.  Spill-over from the crisis could have a significant affect on the region and lead to a wider war, which could prove disastrous.

TM: How does the present event differ from previous episodes of civil upheaval in Iraq and the region? The Iranian angle might be one example, but anything else?

MC: The current situation could be seen as a continuation of the past, as well as retribution for the past. Sectarian conflict has been a part of Iraqi history.  Saddam Hussein’s atrocities against the Kurds and Shiites are well known.  The Shiites have dominated the system since 2003 and have used economic and political patronage, and violence, as a form of retribution and control.  The difference today is that there is an increasingly religious element to the conflict.  Saddam Hussein’s regime was secular. ISIS is an Islamist group, changing the nature of the conflict somewhat.  Iraq is also home to one of the holiest sites for the Shiites, Karbala.  This adds to the threat that ISIS presents.

TM: Is there a credible possibility that what is now Iraq might end up fragmented, giving rise to the imagined ISIS?

MC: Absolutely.  This is certainly a possibility given the fact that Iraq as a state is an artificial creation, drawn on a map with a pencil and a ruler by British diplomats. This, however, would not necessarily mean a reduction in violence since these entities would likely have conflicting interests.  In addition, control of the economic resources – oil – could become even more significant for these new entities.

TM: Why should Americans care about what is happening in Iraq?

MC: First, Iraq’s geographic position in the Middle East – surrounded by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey – means that it has implications for the countries that surround it.  What happens in Iraq can have significant ramifications for what happens elsewhere in the Middle East.

Second, Iraq has significant implications for the international economy with its vast oil reserves.  We have already seen oil prices go above $113 as a result, in part, of the conflict.  In addition, the conflict constrains companies  from investing in those oil fields.  It is also important to remember that we are partially responsible for the current crisis in Iraq.  We opened the floodgates with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

TM: There have been observations made in media in recent days to the effect that if Bush over-reached in Iraq, Obama has under-reached. Wherever blame for any U.S. failures may rest, it doesn’t change the fact that with the rise of ISIS we have lost thousands of lives, damaged thousands more and evidently wasted billions in treasure in an attempt to stabilize Iraq.

MC: It is generally correct.  It is a tragic case of conflict.  While Bush certainly overreached, I am not so sure that Obama under reached.  Frankly, I am not convinced that increased US force in Iraq can stabilize the region without a serious long-term commitment.  The American public is not prepared for a permanent  American presence in Iraq and such a presence might only serve to increase reactions from forces like ISIS.

It is important to remember that American domestic politics matters too.  Obama could not have “overreached” even if he wanted to.  The critics often forget what he was handed.  While I certainly admit he’s made mistakes along the way, we need to be careful not to forget that he entered office facing an American public that was tired of war and ready to get out.  Perhaps he over responded to the American public, but our recent experiences in Iraq were impacting both him and the public.  The idea of fighting a long term war was out of the question for most Americans.

Uncategorized

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Bulletin board at 3rd Street Stuff Coffee Shop, crowded with posters touting current events

Bulletin board at 3rd Street Stuff Coffee Shop, crowded with posters touting current events

By Tom Martin –

If 15 years ago you had suggested to many in Lexington that there was just “too much going on” you likely would have been met with some knowing skepticism. Even cynicism.

Not so today.

With a boost from the 2010 World Equestrian Games today’s planners of events, shows, theatre, screenings, gigs – audience-driven entertainment of any sort – will probably tell you that for a market Lexington’s size (population approaching 300,000) there are so many options competing for such a limited audience that it’s becoming a challenge to attract enough of a crowd to support costs.

Some might call this a “lovely problem” and indeed, it sure beats the opposite. But it remains that the non-stop weekly array of choices, in combination with the powerfully seductive competition posed by digital technologies, often make event planning in Lexington a nerve-wracking gamble.

UnderMain would like to know what you think of this. What is your perception of the entertainment scene in Lexington today? Will market forces sort out the winners and losers on that crowded events calendar?

Uncategorized

Firing Bullets in the Museum

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By Paul Brown  –

In early 2012, a Navy SEALs sharpshooter fired multiple shots that rang through the Great Hall at the Cincinnati Art Museum. There were no casualties.

Crown, an installation by Todd Pavlisko, commissioned by the Museum and now on display, has been criticized by some members of the Cincinnati community and representatives from the board of the museum itself as being an inappropriate fit for the institution.

To create the work, Pavlisko hired a professional marksman to fire 19 rounds from a high-powered rifle through the Great Hall, an area housing a survey of some of the museum’s most prized and historically-relevant works.

Each bullet found it’s mark, ripping through the front of  a bronze cube modeled after a Donald Judd sculpture held elsewhere in the museum and leaving dimples in the opposite side. The title ‘Crown‘ is marksman lingo for the shape bullets create when they pierce an object.  Several inches of ballistic gel, in which the bullets are now permanently lodged, cushioned the force. Footage of the bullets whizzing past the Great Hall’s collection has been slowed and transformed into an eight-channel video to accompany the affected object.

Pavlisko conceived the piece as a metaphorical odyssey through art history.  As patrons follow the shots’ trajectories past the famous works, centuries are compressed into a fraction of a second.  We rush from antiquity to modernity faster than you can say ‘Soup Can.’ However, firearms are symbolically freighted with heavy cultural baggage requiring a deeper reading of this work.

Regardless of the artist’s intention, the piece strikes a nerve for many, given the United States’ complicated historical and present day relationship with guns, and their interaction with public space. This is especially relevant given the sheer number of recent mass shootings.

The massacre at Sandy Hook occurred just a few weeks after the piece was created in 2012. And the recent shooting at Fort Hood, the second to have taken place there in the last decade, happened just a few weeks after the show finally opened in March, with the most recent tragedy at Isla Vista occurring as the exhibition winds down before closing in mid June. There were, of course, many others in the two years spanning these events, which polarized and fortified many Americans’ feelings towards guns, and how they should or should not be regulated

In ‘Crown’ we not only have a government-sponsored rifleman, but, if examined through the lens of Michael Fried’s analysis of Donald Judd’s work, the bronze box is a human body.  The figure is vaguely human in proportion, forcing us to relate to the piece and engage with a ‘silent presence of another person,’ according to Fried.  The hollow cavity of the original indicates an intangible space contained within a kind of shell, the human soul within the body. In Pavlisko’s replica, this space is appropriately filled with a more fleshy component; nineteen bullets encased in ballistics gel serve as a grim reminder of how very not impermeable we people are.

Pavlisko’s work is a relevant and necessary conversation starter. Pavlisko, whether or not it was intentional, manages to open dialogue while neither passing judgment nor providing clear answers, a delicate touch necessary when handling such an incendiary topic without alienating either side of the argument.

Crown detail

Environment, News, Politics, Uncategorized

Kentucky Pols: right or wrong on Climate Change?

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says of President Obama’s plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants, “It was a dumb-ass thing to do, and you can quote me.”  Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from coal-producing Clay County, told the Lexington Herald-Leader he agrees with Stumbo’s assessment of the proposed regulations.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes calls the president’s plan “pie-in-the-sky regulations that are impossible to achieve.”

Will history prove them famously correct? Or terribly wrong? Please take a moment to read thoroughly Ezra Kein’s sobering assessment of just where things stand with this matter of climate change. (With apologies to the sensitive for the profanity in the beginning.)

Then, we hope you will offer your thoughts via one or some of our social media options.

All, Literary Arts, News, Politics, Uncategorized

25 Years After Tiananmen Square

 

I remember watching the coverage on television, mouth agape, at the sudden exuberant explosion of peaceful protests in Beijing.  The crafting of the Goddess of Democracy statue in the square, the excited demands, hopes, yearnings for freedom of thought, expression, and democratic governance.  The hopefulness of it all.  The crazy courage and determination of protesters from all walks of Chinese life.

And then, of course, came this.

The Chinese government has not just whitewashed the brutal crackdown, in true Orwellian fashion it has attempted to remove the entire episode from national historic memory.

Louisa Lim’s new book, The People’s Republic of Amnesia, takes us back to those momentous times, and individuals whose lives were forever changed by the protests and crackdown.  National Geographic just published a brief interview with her.

All, Arts, Uncategorized

Another Rainy Day

This will wake you up! Fast and fun, it is Colin Doherty in a new short shot and edited by Ian Friley.

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Colin Doherty is a painter among many things, who loves living and working in Lexington, Kentucky. His paintings are on display at the Living Arts and Science Center in an exhibition titled The Edifice in Front of Us: Explorations in Architecture and Identity until May 8th.

The Living Arts and Science Center is located at 362 North Martin Luther King Boulevard

Phone: 859-252-5222

Email: jnichols@lasclex.org