A Soldier’s Story

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-PosterA Film Review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Opening the flood gates of super-hero themed films for 2014 is Captain America: The Winter Soldier – an over-the-top, thrill ride that simultaneously builds on the Marvel Studios overarching film mythology while doing a fantastic job of modernizing a hero’s role in the constant fight for freedom.

Returning to the role of our star-spangled hero is the always compelling Chris Evans. Bold, built like a tank and beautiful, Evans fills not only the costume perfectly but also the role by giving audiences a believable and honest performance of a man lost in a time and a hero looking for answers. While extremely naive to the realities of politics and government agencies, Captain America still holds true to himself and the thematic goodness of what he believes America is and what it should stand for.

Set after the devastation of New York in the 2012 film The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. (America’s Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division) has kept the Captain busy, sending him on missions, stopping terrorist threats, and so on. However, it is quickly becoming harder to know who to trust while the freedom he believes in begins coming at a higher cost.

Enter a new threat: The Winter Soldier – an elite assassin with a secret past that can perform his assignments with amazing precision and unbelievable accuracy.

While very muddy with backstabbing and conspiracy connections as the film unfolds, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. More espionage thriller than the expected super-hero film, I found myself extremely engrossed in story’s arc and, by the end, I was pleased at how big of an impact that this film could have on the rest of the film universe – something I did not really feel in some of the other one-off hero films (specifically Iron Man 2 and 3, Thor 2: The Dark World). Plus, while a component of the film is very personal to the main character, it was lovely to hear gasps from my fellow audience members who were not familiar with The Winter Soldier and his true identity.

The Positives:
In my opinion, there are a ton of good things happening in this film. From the action to actors, I found it very easy to let go and just fall into the story. Even as it weaved deeper and deeper into its own history, I never found it difficult to comprehend what was going on or get confused by the various components. While, with any film like this, there are moments of ridiculous exposition that will hammer home either the primary themes or the purposes of certain characters, I was pleasantly surprised that everything still felt very fluid less based on coincidence. Like I said before, I love, love, love the consequences that are established in this film and, without giving any spoilers, what it could mean for the entire Marvel Studios universe. It presents a new dimension of vulnerability that is both wonderful for dramatic development while also reestablishing a menace that will affect each and every hero in the Avengers.

Chris Evans. Do I really need to say any more? While I am not the biggest proponent of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), I do feel Chris Evans was the perfect fit for this role. Quickly my opinion was solidified with his performance in The Avengers. Here, he is amazing. While never looking stupid, Evans wonderfully portrays the ignorant hero while confidently following his heart and jumping into action. At the same time Scarlet Johansson returns to her role at The Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, and while, at times, her character has seemed lost in the grandness of the other heroes, here she is perfect. Adding a snarky, new level to the playing field, she presents a fantastic soiled balance to Captain America’s cleanliness.

Also, I don’t think enough can be said about Anthony Mackie and his portrayal of Sam Wilson (a.k.a. Falcon). Fresh, likable and interesting, Mackie adds a great deal of dimension to a character that in many different situations could be left as just another stereotypical side role. Witty with great appeal, Mackie proves his worth and makes a solid case for being included in future Marvel films.

The Negatives:
While in theory, the Winter Soldier as title villain is amazing and, from what I can remember, this film does a fantastic job adapting Ed Brubaker’s comic book tale (he is also credited on the film), the character is never really given room to full establish himself. It’s clear he is a badass with an extremely important past and in our first encounters with him, he proves his worth greatly. However, with all different conspiracy levels of the film, his silent killer aspects make him a little too quiet and, by the end of the film, he becomes just another heavy for the hero to get around. Without spoiling anything, I feel his role could have been far more significant to the core of the story versus, in the end, just feeling like a small part to a greater threat. This could be intentional since, as a symbol, the Winter Soldier is the perfect protagonist to Captain America and as soldiers, they both are relegated to following orders, but, especially since his name is in the title, I wish there was a little more.

In contrast, I wish there were far fewer explosions. Where I feel this film really works is in the more intimate and, for lack of a better term, grounded action moments. The third act is based on three massive air-based threats, that while wonderfully show off the Falcon and validates his role in the film, quickly disintegrates into massive explosions, large amounts of debris and utter destruction. In my opinion, while spectacular to look at, large special effects and set pieces like these over-power the importance of the characters and overshadows them as characters in a way that negatively impacts the story. For example, an explosion goes off that separates the Captain and the Winter Soldier, distracting from their connection and ending their moment of action. For me, watching those two characters fight was far more engrossing than breaking glass and fire and stopping their moments added an unnecessary break in quality action.

And … well … that’s it.

I sincerely enjoyed this film. Evans is perfect as Captain America and as a leading man; he elevates this film and clearly has helped inspire confidence on what he can accomplish with the character. With a high-quality story as its base, I believe fan boys will be pleased with its dedication to its source material while more mainstream movie watchers with just enjoy a solid film experience. With the success Marvel Studios has been having with these Phase 2 set of films, it is no doubt that these films with just continue to get stronger and stronger. Hopefully the next set of superhero films from Fox and Sony (X-Men: Days of Future Past and Spider-Man 2) can live up to their hype and the expectations that Disney has laid out this far.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens today April 4, 2014.

4 out of 5 Encrypted USB Drives That Can Be Analyzed at the Apple Store

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Windows Between Realities

Jurado1-KCS-ArticleThe Photograph Works of Leonor Jurado-Laspina
By: Annie Raab

It begins and ends with the body. The photographs of and by Leonor Jurado-Laspina are surface vibrations caused by disturbed waters deep below. There is an ominous narrative enclosed in each image, and they have been condensed and cropped to focus on the point of highest tension. These stories are told through body parts, intimate and disturbing moments reflected in a bowed hand, or a covered head. Alongside these fragmented portraits are broken natural structures, such as fallen trees, large branches, and deer skulls, seemingly at the tail end of decomposition. We are taken into a story created through many small, single-subject images. A palm, the bottoms of two feet, or half a torso are photographed with softness, yet the shadowy space beyond the figure is left invisible. This dark space that occupies the photographs is, in many ways, exactly what Jurado-Laspina is exploring. Jurado describes her personal longing for art movements passed, which may explain why some of her figures shield themselves from the lens, denying their inclusion in the canon. An alternate version of reality emerges to overtake the existing one, and so the truth of each photograph becomes more difficult to identify using the framework we possess in this world. How many of these images bear a semblance to the world we are viewing them from? Are the images, like the scarred hand pressed onto glass, living in a world just beyond our reach? If, in this alternate reality, we find truth and answers, would they carry over with the same weight into this reality? Each image lives an antiquated lifestyle. Even when photographed with an iPhone, they seem unassociated with today’s fast-paced technology and self-obsessed social scene. Perhaps they are visitors from the past.

Presented with these human parts in another context, we would swell with a kind of love, an instinct to protect, or at least intimate familiarity, but Jurado-Laspina’s series does not take us there. Our memories are disrupted by the macabre, Gothic sensibility of these images and we are denied some of our humanity in favor of fiction. The images truly represent those intimate pieces of ourselves and each other we protect the most, but even through their exposure they remain trapped and inaccessible. Some are more tactile, like the hand pressed against a clear, hard surface, presenting the audience with a long scar cut across the supple palm. Others have more abstract narratives: branches laid out alone or in a cluster of exposed roots and antlers removed from their original posts. In these shots of nature the medium speaks louder than the story, exhibiting her skillful usage of antiquated cameras and old fashion processes. Any photographer to come of age before the digital revolution can appreciate the deftness by which she wields these dinosaur tools, although eventually every image becomes digitized. Such is the photographic way for those on a budget. The truly hands-on process is not in the images, but the porcelain mounts the photos have been transferred onto. She uses old fabric doilies, some of them from her own familial origins. The objects become heavy with clay as she continues to press them into the wet material, giving the images the weight of physical labor and personal history.

Three large prints of the female form appear low-quality and unflattering. Jurado reveals the secret: These photographs have been shot with her iPhone and blown up much larger than the device is capable of shooting. In just three photographs of the canonical female body, Jurado is posing some provocative questions for Western culture. The otherness of the iPhone “selfies” defies both sets of rules for sexting and profile-pic-ing. They are not shot from the most flattering and publicly appealing angle, nor do they condense sexuality into expressions in the eyes, face, or erogenous zones of the body. They are forthright and bold, grainy and unfocused, and are more evocative of the (long replaced) female standards of the past. There are no frills in the black and white triptych. Jurado is only using the device to propagate the media to propagate the culture, and in doing so has challenged us to think about the edits we make to ourselves when we turn the camera (app) around.

When asked about materials, Jurado begins to discuss the negation of the materials and process she is using. As a photographer living in the digital age, she is quick to recognize her practice as having to evolve. A photograph still asserts itself as a photograph, but embraces the digital age whenever necessary. When I ask Jurado about her relationship to memory, she has a surprising reply. The series, she asserts, is not about the memory of the subjects, but the history of the art and subject matter. This feels existential and I consult the images for affirmation. I imagine the subjects weighted down by past lives and false memories of their condition. Gothic in content with Baroque references, the figures are trapped. Jurado talks about her photographs like a disturbed person might talk about another living thing. “I’m not afraid to put my subjects in precarious situations. They are the manifestation of entrapment and internalization of a situation”. She says this with tough love, and concludes “I want the work to feel slightly religious and spiritual without being preachy, like Bill Viola can accomplish in his works.” She expands on the research she has been doing on Viola, but is right to recognize her work as different in many ways. “I’m just very inspired by him right now,” she says, “but I could never make work on that scale.”

The shows larger theme is “displacement”, as enforced by Jurado’s statement. She doesn’t mention it in the show, but she’s moving back to Ecuador this year, leaving the United States behind. Everything she owns will be under scrutiny: Do I take this? Do I have ties to this? Will I be in contact with you? Her home country has become increasingly more appealing to her in the last few years as American policies continue to behave this way. When we know this bit of personal information about the artist, suddenly the broken branches and isolated figures mean that much more. This series is overwhelmingly a study of the past and a longing for a world different from the one we remain in. Just as the figures in the photograph appear to be trying to escape, we are trying to enter.

You can see Leonor Jurado-Laspina’s show at Paragraph Gallery (23 E 12th Street) on April 4th until the end of the month.

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Artist Matthew Dahaemers offers up RE-TREAD

RE-TREAD by Matthew Dehaemers
3-14 – 4-18
Exhibition Hours
Tues – Friday 10 a.m. – noon
1 – 4 p.m.
Saturday noon – 4 p.m.
Exhibition Talk, 3-15
Saturday Noon – 1 p.m.

Artist: Matthew Dehaemers Navigating A Way Material: Wood, plywood, speaker system, steel, 15 minute Audio piece created in collaboration with the originally conceived poem by Jose Faus and original audio sound recording and mixing by Jeffrey Keirsey. Year: 2014

Artist: Matthew Dehaemers
Navigating A Way
Material: Wood, plywood, speaker system, steel, 15 minute Audio piece created in collaboration with the originally conceived poem by Jose Faus and original audio sound recording and mixing by Jeffrey Keirsey. Year: 2014

Studios Inc Exhibition Space is pleased to present RE-TREAD, an exhibition featuring resident artist Matthew Dehaemers, on view from 3-14 to 4-18 with an opening
reception Friday, 3-14 from 6- 9 p.m. RE-TREAD is an exhibition that embarks on a body of large and small-scale work, both sculptural and two-dimensional, by Matthew Dehaemers. The imagery is inspired by
family past and present-an exploration of relationships from personal and universal perspectives. Some of the work is an introspective look at being a father, son and husband. Matt explores these ideas through variety of materials.

Matthew received his BFA in painting and printmaking from Creighton University. After college Matthew spent a year teaching on the Navajo Reservation in St. Michael
Arizona. A few years later he completed an MFA in sculpture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Graduate Fellowship.

He has created numerous installations locally and around the country both for the gallery and for the public art realm. Matthew’s work has been commissioned by numerous organizations including the LA County Arts Commission, the City of Casper, WY, The Kansas City, Missouri Public Municipal Art Commission and The Kansas City Chiefs.

Dehaemers’ received a community award by the Johnson County chapter of the NAACP for his projects that have drawn attention to issues of race and discrimination. His work has been featured at numerous art spaces including the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, The Bemis Center of Contemporary Art and the Salina Arts Center.
Matthew has had the opportunity to be a part of various artist residencies around the country.

Matthew Dehaemers is a resident artist at Studios Inc. The Studios Inc provides studio space, professional development, networking, and exhibitions for mid-career artists in Greater Kansas City. The 2013 – 2014 Exhibition Series has been made possible through the generous financial support of Jane Hunt-Meade and Benjamin Meade.

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Summertime Rocks


It’s never too early to think about fun in the sun. In the Kansas City metropolitan area, consider exploring new venues, seeking outdoors games and adventures,  stepping into the community backyard for some fun or trying a new art project keep boredom at bay.

Christian Youth Theatre:
Act. Sing. Dance. Live!
At a CYT summer camp, including: Pirates & Princesses (ages 4-5), Epic Disney (5-12) and Follow the Yellow Brick Road (5-12). Xtreme camps for ages 10-15 include: Dr. Who, Star Warz, Superman v. Batman and Star Trekkies.

There’s also Camp Willy (Shakespeare, 12-18) and two overnight camps: Unusually Green for middle school (12-14) and high school master camp Crazy for You (14-19), which concludes with three full-length performances July 25-27. CYT is offering 20 weeks of camps this summer at locations across Kansas City, and their HEART program provides opportunity for children with special needs. Call 913-681-3318 or go to cytkc.org for more information.

Kansas City Young Audiences:
Kansas City Young Audiences continues its crowd favorites like Art Sampler, Let’s Put on a Show and Improv Adventure. New programs will include a creative writing camp for teens, a circus arts camp for tweens and an afternoon camp for our littlest campers called Creative Playground, which will dramatize popular children’s stories through Movement, Theatre, or Visual Arts. A three-week theater intensive for 8-18 year olds will perform The Little Mermaid at 7 p.m., July 31.

Creative Dramatics and Arts Sampler Camps for ages 5-7 year olds feature a variety of themes and arts disciplines to introduce younger children to the performing and visual arts. Children eight and up have the choice of camps such as Improv Adventure, Playground Art, Musical Theatre, Puppet Play, Dance Camps and more. Extended day programs and scholarships are available.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
The Henry Doorly Zoo offers summer day camps ranging from a day to five days. The single day camps include junior zookeepers, junior vet, big cats, sharks and sea turtles. The two-day camps include photography at the zoo, ocean commotion, and animal training. The four-day camps include top predators and buggin’ around. The five-day camp is called Dirty Jobs where campers explore keep the Lauritzen Gardens and Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium and the various operations required in working with nature. Other activities include family classes, small group and family campouts and scout outings.

Leawood Cultural Arts
Summer is a busy time in Leawood. The Leawood Oxford House includes an annual reading club during the months of June and July, says April Bishop, the cultural arts coordinator. This year, the focus will be on Little House on the Prairie. “While it may seem like more of a girl’s story, this is a classic for a reason,” she says. “We have had families ask about reading this book in the past and we are going to tackle this during the summer.”

There will also be three American Girl doll events, which is similar to the book club as young participants can learn about a specific time period. June will be focused on Caroline, a story of 1812. Josefina is a young girl in 1824 Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Santa Fe Trail ran by the school house so it is an appropriate story for July. Bishop says. The August story will be Rebecca, a Jewish immigrant in 1914. “Grinnin’ and Groovin’ will be in the lodge this year and the free Tuesday morning events will be morning entertainment for families including Funky Mama, StoneLion Puppets and the Wings of Love bird show.”

The Will’s Players for Camp Shakespeare will be again in Leawood. “We are always happy to have them,” she says. “Plus the Leawood Stage Company will offer Hello Dolly. It’s a great thing for families to do to have a free evening under the stars. This is a great chance to continue to educate the community about the arts. You can come here at no risk and enjoy the show.”

Kansas City Ballet School:
The Kansas City Ballet School with an Academy is aimed at developing young dancers; Summer Intensives take burgeoning dancers and propel them to new heights; and the Studio program, which provides adults a chance to experience ballet, yoga and other movement-based activities. And that unification is created at the Todd Bolender Center for Creativity & Dance, a building designed with ample space and classrooms with proper flooring for dance.

Kansas City Ballet School offers courses designed for age appropriateness from the youngest dancers at 3 years old to pre-professionals at the age of 18. The Studio presents dance and fitness classes for those 12 and up, with most being adult students. The Summer Intensives offer teens from all over the nation who audition and are accepted the chance to work with nationally renowned faculty. This program is aimed to increase a student’s technique and artistry. There are four levels and 25 students per level.

Kansas City Art Institute:
Youth summer camps and high school intensives are part of the summer landscape at the North campus of the Kansas City Art Institute. Youth classes for students from 6 to 14 include a variety of two-dimensional and three-dimensional art projects including large scale sculpture, drawing, print making, photography, fiber arts, illustration and animation.

High schools courses are offered year round. During the summer, high school classes are scheduled as one- or two-week camps. Need-based scholarships are available for these camps. There is also a pre-college art lab that occurs at the main campus. However, at the north campus, find classes in the areas including portfolio preparation, the art of the sketchbook, painting, and photo documentation.

Mid-Continent Public Library:
Libraries are magical places during the summer. Public Relations Coordinator Jessica Ford says this year’s theme is “Fizz, Boom, READ,” and runs from May 19 to July 31. Listeners (0-6) earn a free book for every 24 books they hear aloud, Readers (6-11) can earn a free book for every 360 minutes they read. Up to 3 books can be earned over the summer. Teens earn a Teen Buck for every book review submitted of a book completed. Teen Bucks can be used to pay library fines, make copies, get a replacement card, or choose from a variety of prizes including books, hats, or messenger bags.

“We are also having some special performances this summer with WildHeart, Dino O’Dell and some mad scientists,” she says.  Begin with a bowlful of nature, add a backpack, and a walking stick, stir in a summer day and Boom! Join the musical adventure “exploding” with encouragement to get outside and discover nature.  WildHeart is the Parent’s Choice and Emmy Award winning family group, conservation educators and entertainers, who have performed at the St. Louis Arch, Silver Dollar City, Missouri State Capitol, and schools and libraries throughout the Midwest. O’Dell provides an interactive music and storytelling adventure that features a pond filled with peanut butter, a plate of pancakes, and a surprise visit from a space alien. WildHeart and Dino O’Dell are shows aimed at all ages. Mad Science is for ages 6 and up. The show is about shocks, states and spectra. Learn about the science of electricity, matter, light, and color. Find dates and register at www.mymcpl.org.

Posted in Kellie Houx, Young at ART | Leave a comment

Kansas City FilmFest

Co-Directors Todd Norris and Mitch Brian experiment in film. They have been creating promotional videos for theater companies such as the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre’s show The Rainmaker.

Co-Directors Todd Norris and Mitch Brian experiment in film. They have been creating promotional videos for theater companies such as the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre’s show The Rainmaker.

Around 130 films – shorts, feature lengths and animated – will be part of the Kansas City FilmFest 2014 in early April. In its 18th year, the film festival has grown film by film, filmmaker by filmmaker. Founder Fred Andrews created the festival to provide a venue for local and independent filmmakers to screen their films.

Veronica Elliott Loncar, executive director for the Kansas City FilmFest, honors Andrews’ initiative, along with an active board and a group of advisors. “Our mission is to bring films to Kansas City and promote those local films and filmmakers. I spend a lot of time, meeting and talking to organizations in Kansas City. We strive to create relationships and partnerships. We have been part of our community for 18 years. We know that many artists are also filmmakers and when we unite with others, we raise the awareness for everyone. Film is a way to celebrate the art of storytelling in the form of film. Film is an art form and another avenue for many artists in our community.”

Loncar believes the movies need to be celebrated as an art form. “It’s an art form that captures storytelling. We need to help artists and those particular filmmakers understand the invaluable joy they give.” The festival has grown to need two cinema theaters: the Alamo and the Cinemark on the Plaza. “We are growing and simply we need more seats. It’s a joy when roughly 70 filmmakers come in with their films. Kansas City likes to talk to them about the blood, sweat and tears it takes to make the films. All of us want to know what inspires filmmakers.”

Loncar started working on films as a production assistant. Her roles with independent films have included craft service, makeup, props, producing and more. “I learned as much as I could. I worked freelance on commercials. I can appreciate what filmmakers do.”

Another event in the festival is the Reel Spirit contest. Loncar says an entire day will be given. “We want them to have their own day. It’s Saturday April 5. The kids and families enjoy the attention.” The Kansas City Women in Film and Television will also get a day dedicated to them. “The focus on scripts and screen plays will be April 8. We want an evening where the actors can attend the staged readings. After all, filmmakers are often actors. It is a nice crossover,” she says.

“I want people in Kansas City to see films that they might not normally see,” Loncar says. “We are excited to see films as well. There is a sense of pride to have a festival in Kansas City. When people come out to support films, it continually raises the bar on what quality is put forth to an audience. Everyone gets excited when good films are put in front of audiences. Soon we will be mentioned in the same breath as those larger film festivals.

Loncar also believes that people still enjoy watching films together. “Watching a film on the big screen is a unique shared experience … truly a shared cultural experience. One big event I am looking forward to is sharing Ernest and Celestine, an animated film nominated for best animated feature.”

Due to the deadline of KC Studio, the selected films will not be announced until March 1. However, visit KC Studio’s website after March 1 to see the choices. However, several local filmmakers entered films into the contest for judging. Todd Norris is  one such filmmaker. He spends much of his time making short films and music videos. Not only is he
competing in the Kansas City FilmFest, but also other festivals such as the Los Angeles fear film festival called Shriek Fest.

“The first time I ever shot a film, I was in sixth grade,” Norris says. “If I was objective about describing my style, I would describe my work as a mix of comedy and horror. I usually try to put these elements together in my films; the genres of humor and horror are
two of my favorites. As an example,  a favorite is Tremors. It’s an enjoyable and unpretentious film that is not necessarily high art and that seems to lend to its success. I think that ability  to fly below the radar. However, I enjoy trying to stretch myself. I did a romantic drama a couple of years ago called Candy Apple Red. I really do try to do a little bit of everything.”

Norris works often with Mitch Brian, a filmmaker, screenwriter, and visiting assistant professor at UMKC. The two men have worked on several videos for the bands Tiny Horse and the Grisly Hand.  Norris says the video Ride, by Tiny Horse, fronted by Abigail Henderson, is a testament to her legacy. “It’s difficult to watch. She helped bring people together. She and others in the music community founded the Midwest Music Foundation, a group that sponsors health-care programs and provides financial relief to local musicians who have suffered a health-care crisis. She died at the end of August 2013.”

Grisly Hand has an Americana old school, country/rock sound, Norton says. “They are a very upbeat band and that allowed us to be very creative. When they asked me to direct the video, I felt honored. I admire the band and the song. I took the reins to direct a goofy and fun video. On top of it, we have received good press for the videos.” The two men are also working on a video for The LateNight Callers, another local band.

Entering film festival competitions is a toss-up, Norris says. “You can make a great film and the judges don’t care for it. Art, after all, is subjective … so dependent on their moods
and personal tastes. There is no strategy. I worked on a film with Gary Huggins called First Date. We submitted to other film festivals and we were despondent, but then we made it into Sundance.”

Norris is his own cinematographer and editor. “I have worked as a cinematographer on other films from other local filmmakers, and I enjoy that job just as much as I do directing.” He served as cinematographer for First Date. “It is thrilling to have a venue in Kansas City to screen your work and to be judged by professionals and potentially win. Truly, film festivals can be a catalyst to do even more good work. As a filmmaker, the festivals force you to raise the bar. Certainly people will make their art, but a film festival spurs you on to meet deadlines because you want to try to enter a film for
that competition.”

He also likes to make short films and enter those. “I do enjoy short films. I realize I am a better sprinter than a marathon runner. It’s like capturing a one-act play.” As new categories are made for film festival contests, Norris believes it is because of the ever-changing way in which younger filmmakers are sharing their craft with such tools as YouTube. “It comes a lot easier to younger people to use these resources. It’s a different way to get entertainment. Mitch and I may be working on a web series as well. It’s a brand-new form of storytelling we want to jump into, plus Mitch and I have been doing short promos for several live theaters in the city such as the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, the Living Room, and the Unicorn.”

Other Kansas City filmmakers of note include Tony Ladesich, Gary Huggins, Christopher Good, Michelle Davidson, Patrick Rea, Bryce Young, Kendall Sinn, Jeremy Osbern and Lyn Elliot. Young is one of the nominations for his work on various web series including Withered World. The category was added this year. Learn more at kcfilmfest.org.

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Merging Media

KC ConnectKC Studio is Proud to Announce our 40 Featured Artists

KC+ Connect is well underway and Ashley Anders, KC Studio’s curator and events coordinator, hopes others will find her excitement catching. Anders has chosen group of 40 artists and creative entrepreneurs out of 65 submissions and matched the artists with five galleries.

“First, the call for artists was a great response for this inaugural effort,” she says. “Then studio visits were conducted which proved very  rewarding. I have been fortunate that some of these artists were already in my network. Now my network has expanded and I have met even more. That is what we are aiming for with KC Connect. It was such a positive networking venture and I find that satisfying. It was a tough task to select and group the artists. There are so many great artists. I decided to coordinate groups based on the space within the galleries and how the artists unite.”

Anders made the decisions to bring the artists together and put their works together in a complementary way. “I am matching the artists together rather than the art work as I know many of the artists will be creating throughout the year. I am looking forward to unifying the 40 artists together as well as separating artists into the smaller gallery groups to work on each exhibition. We want to see what happens when we put these artists in the same room.”

The first show will be May 2 at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center. “The May show will be full of high energy and vibrant colors in a space with lots of action. This is a great way to kick off the series,” Anders says. “When I was a student at the Kansas City Art Institute, I had an internship with them and I really feel that Leedy-Voulkos is a natural selection. I know the space and I am familiar with the people that work there.

For me, it’s a great opportunity to come full circle, plus it’s a great space and they have a well-known reputation.”

The Weinberger show is June 6 and includes a great line-up of artists, Anders says. Strong artists such as Joe Bussell, Shel Asher and Molly Kaderka will be interesting and exciting to show together. At Weinberger Fine Art, gallery owner Kim Weinberger believes art is not an exclusive privilege, but rather should be a source of community and friendship. “The growth of Kansas City’s art community is an integral part of everyone’s success in this thriving city.”

Anders also got a couple of unique vendors. Boulevard Brewing Co., the beverage company, sponsors the events as does Mood Food, a small up and coming catering company founded by Jaimie Ward. “She uses local and organic food with her own recipes. People will be excited to experience her lively taste,” Anders says.

Now the final addition to this colorful mix comes from art fans. “We want to invite KC Studio’s readers to come and meet these artists. Come and enjoy the event series as we network. It’s going to solidify these 40 artists into one cohesive project. We planned these five shows with the intent to connect the galleries, the community and the KC Studio readers to help further these emerging artists’ careers. We encourage the community to come out and meet them. In smaller group settings, we will have critiques, lectures, workshops and more so look out for these events on kcstudio.org/artscalendar. Almost an entire year will be dedicated to uniting and networking out these artists and in the end, I want to see each artist walk away with a connection that is a worthwhile opportunity, which is individual and propels them into their next career steps.”

KC+ Connect Featured Galleries & Artists
Leedy-Voulkos Art Center

■ Nathan Alexander Bunch
■ Kevin Deen
■ Joelle Ford
■ Laedan Galicia
■ Max Archimedes Levitt
■ 2014 Absurdist Calendar – Liz Mather, Autumn Randell and contributors
■ Sarah Faye McPherson
■ Live Screen Printing Project – Dan Trott
■ The Simone & Felix Show – Hannah Carr and Brittany Ficken

Weinberger Fine Art
■ Shel Asher
■ Liz Black
■ Stephanie Bloss
■ Joe Bussell
■ Ruben Castillo
■ Emma Jennings
■ Molly Kaderka

Hilliard Gallery
■ Colin Joseph Burke
■ Lydia Boehr DeMonte
■ Brandon Frederick
■ Cory Hinesley
■ Adam McBride
■ Diana Shattuck
■ Taylor Wallace

Outpost Worldwide
■ Cheryl Eve Acosta
■ Siara Berry
■ Derek Dobbins
■ Dustin Downey
■ Bobby Howsare
■ Katrina Revenaugh

Mid-America Arts Alliance
Sponsored by Johnson County Public library
■ Jaclyn Dalbey
■ Allegra Foley
■ Matthew Garcia
■ Noor Higley
■ Jordan Hocker
■ Calder Kamin
■ Annie Raab
■ Nika Winn
■ Kelsey Wroten

Beverage Sponsored by Boulevard Brewery • Featured Artist: Wayne Wilkes
Food Sponsored by Mood Food Catering from Jamie Ward

Posted in KC Connect, Kellie Houx | Leave a comment

Fire Over Kansas

Michael Wickerson, associate professor and chair of sculpture at Kansas City Art Institute, understands land. He is woven into it like the very fabric of the earth, as a weaver takes yarn through a loom. Yet, his creations are impermanent. At Wickerson Studios, in Kansas City, Kan., Wickerson and his wife, Beth and their two young sons, look at the land as something that provides joy, energy and inspiration.

The family treasures the land as another living being, similar to the depiction of land in a Thomas Hardy novel. And much like the heath of Hardy’s world, the 11 acres are unkempt and wild, full of spirit and interest. In Return of the Native, Hardy describes the heath early on as “The somber stretch of rounds and hollows seemed to rise and meet the evening gloom in pure sympathy, the heath exhaling darkness as rapidly as the heavens precipitated it.” In the dictionary, a heath is “an extensive area of rather level open uncultivated land.” Like the heath, the rolling acreage seems to have a wild, untamed spirit, much like the family that lives upon it.

To capture the land, Wickerson has partnered with Polish photographer Jaroslaw Rodcyz. The works are a fusion of architectural design, theater and fire performances, mixed with Rodcyz’s artistic digital imaging techniques. This first series is now known as Fire Over Kansas.
The images from Fire Over Kansas will be making their collective way around Europe and North America. Rodcyz says these first images are just the beginning. He and Wickerson have known each other for 20 years, having met in Wickerson’s native Canada. Future plans could include documenting Wickerson Studios in different seasons.

Ashley Anders, KC Studio’s KC Connect curator, attended KCAI and has worked with Wickerson for years. Her labors have included making hundreds of bricks and serving as coordinator for Fire Over Kansas. She helped manage the volunteers and even fed the fire for the photo documentation on the cover photo. Anders has traveled with Wickerson to share a presentation on the work.

During the documentation process, Anders says, “We all agree that the chance to document the work is critical … The direction and ultimate realization of his work is comfortable being in constant flux. The allowance of free thought and dreaming on this 11-acre land has led us to create and display the prints. In collaboration with Jaroslaw Rodycz and Erik Muelenbelt from Holland, Michael has reached a point with Wickerson Studios in which a great deal of appreciation, contemplation and critique are in order …”

One of the first steps in understanding Wickerson is to understand his joy in working the land. “I am most content and tranquil while shoveling. Digging the earth provides me with more material, both physical and psychical, that I could ever acquire by any other means. I firmly believe that everything we purchase is basically free of charge and that we are only paying for processing and transportation of that material. Looking to the land and what is beneath my feet allows me to ‘stand my ground,’ fundamentally and conceptually, and, in turn, manipulate, transform, and reflect upon all that it provides. …

“There is a time to dig and mix the earth after a rain. Transporting and processing occurs when the earth is dry for about a week. The grass is utilized to bind and ram the adobe mixtures. The sod is employed at the right time of year and the earth clay is pressed and kiln dried in the anagama kiln. There is a season for everything, and the climate dictates what must be done. Most importantly, it won’t get done on its own. “I build what I need because I need to …”

The various rough-hewn buildings are carefully preserved in the photos: Little Otik known as Oscar’s Tower, Hamlet’s Mill, the anagama kiln called Moby Dick, Cupola, Cupola (the burning ship) and the Grieve Foundry. If Wickerson continues to describe his work on the land, it’s appears as a combination of a Roman settlement in ancient Britannia meets Native American structure.

“Understanding the method of construction for each of the buildings is directly tied to gaining knowledge about the content of each of the structures themselves. In an attempt to ‘build ruins’ I have experimented and researched and developed several different processes while aspiring to create these structures,” Wickerson says. Another strength of his is to show how work can be done with brawn and brain. The largest motor used in moving the various timbers has been his 2001 Prius. Again the land and the use of simple tools such as a block and tackle are Wickerson’s first choices.

“My efforts and ambitions seem to be moving beyond my personal development and exhibition of sculptures and ideas. I feel the need to expand my efforts in the arts. My American arts community has grown from 12 students in 2001, when I moved here from Canada, into an international exchange of ideas spanning the globe,” he says. “Beginning to develop my private studios on an institutional level will allow me to continue to serve the alumni and artists that I have come to know. I look forward to creating new artworks, all the while, serving other artists with the same enthusiasm and drive that has inspired me to make a life for myself in America that develops personally and professionally with creative individuals.”

No one who steps on Wickerson Studios leaves unaffected by the family’s passion. “Although I do not feel able to define passion in a general sense, I do believe that the following Mantra sums up the passion I have for the studio and the time I have on earth,” he says. There is a detailed mantra that is defined online, in print and each and every day. The mantra is: work outdoors; value the seasons; utilize natural light; watch the sunrise; follow the moon; let the weather control the temperature; it all returns to the earth; everything exists in a long-term landfill; endure, breath, move; the heart is the only motor; all we are is our mind and our health; and shovel, dig, make bricks.

Wickerson says there is a philosophy of success in his artistic career and personal life. Wickerson’s sons have been raised on the land with his second son, Max, being born at home. His son Oscar has helped in shaping some of the projects and the workload. His wife, Beth Wickerson, according to Wickerson, is the physical embodiment of the heart and passion of Wickerson Studios. “She is the creator of our two sons, Oscar and Max. The latter of which struggled and was born on the floor in front of our family fireplace (hearth and mantle) at Wickerson Studios in 2011.”

Wickerson’s wife, Beth, a web designer, says, “To me, passion is working for yourself in every aspect of life – whether it is reshaping the land to your own private oasis, growing your own food, or running your own business. It is the desire to make life worth living, to put all your energy toward doing the things that make you happy, and to remove yourself from the things that don’t.

Sharing Fire Over Kansas is still somewhat unfamiliar. “I am still processing the meaning of the series of digital prints; I believe that I have come to understand that it is collection of analogue images that center on the same concept, place, and time: the Wickerson Ranch. Similar to Greek theater, the collaborators, attempted in a very short period of time to immortalize a happening that was framed by several years of building and planning,” he says.

“I hold very dear to me the statement that Ashley Anders, a long time participant at Wickerson Studios, has demanded an answer to and what the series of works resonates and captures. Although I remain completely overwhelmed with the outcome, Ashley manages to simply and clearly uncovered the critical moment that all involved in the project are currently facing: ‘In collaboration with Jaroslaw Rodycz and Erik Meulenbelt from Holland, Michael has reached a point with Wickerson Studios in which a great deal of appreciation, contemplation and critique is in order. [Their} accomplishments call for internalization by individuals not only in our community but also around the world.’”

Coming shows will be in Krakow through the middle of March. Wickerson also expects a show in Canada too. “I wish to further develop the private studio and sculptural landscape of Wickerson Studios by facilitating it with additional equipment, supplies and materials in order to serve a growing community of artists,” he says.

On a final and invitational note, whatever the future does hold, Wickerson will continue to seek out the new and different. That’s why he enjoys art and design. “Please feel free to contact us, should you be interested in proposing a site specific work or would just like to shoot around some creative ideas with a herd of deer or a rafter of turkeys.”

Learn more about Wickerson Studios and the Project Overview of Fire Over Kansas.
Collaborator: Jaroslaw Rodycz, concept/photography & editing
Collaborator: Michael Wickerson, production manager/buildings, artworks and forms
Collaborator: Erik Meulenbelt, consultant/logistics & personnel
All images © Rodycz Wickerson

Posted in Kellie Houx, Visual | Leave a comment

The Big Bupkis

Kansas City Comedian/Magician Shane Baker Invigorates The Jewish Community Center with Yiddish Humor

Kansas City Comedian/Magician Shane Baker
Invigorates The Jewish Community Center with Yiddish Humor

From the moment prehistoric man laughed at his companion slipping in the mud while hunting for dinner, humor has been part of life. Humor has developed and matured throughout the centuries. One of the heights of this maturation came with the development of vaudeville.

Historically, vaudeville ran for about 50 years, the early 1880s to the early 1930s. During the early 1900s, vaudeville was running the circuit with musicians, singers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, jugglers, celebrities and more. Some of the leading entertainers in vaudeville also happened to be Yiddish. Much like American burlesque, Yiddish vaudeville is laced with unpretentious and sometimes crude humor. One individual bond and determined to make sure Yiddish vaudeville survives is an Episcopalian from south Kansas City, Shane Bertram Baker. He brings his show to Kansas City March 8 and 9 at the Jewish Community Center.

Krista Lang Blackwood, the director of cultural arts at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, calls Baker’s show, The Big Bupkis: A Complete Gentile’s Guide to Yiddish Vaudeville a perfect fit. “The 2013-2014 Season at the White Theatre is designed to have a little something for all ages and backgrounds. With Paul Mesner creating a Hanukkah puppet show designed to appeal to younger audiences, it just made sense to book Mr. Baker, with his throwback to the golden age of Yiddish vaudeville, and appeal to our older audiences. As a bonus, Mr. Baker’s act will provide a doorway to our younger audiences to this almost-lost art form.”

Baker has even spent time with some of the last Yiddish vaudeville stars including Fyvush Finkel, plus others such as Arthur Tracy, also known as The Street Singer. “The typical Yiddish vaudeville bill was shorter than what we think of on the American English stage, and usually with a little less variety, typically a comedian, a husband and wife team who would tell jokes and sing and dance, a solo singer, and then the body sketch – what we know as a tab show (shortened version of a popular play),” Baker explains. “The broader variety would be covered by the opening act, when they usually brought in a juggler or magician from uptown. In any vaudeville bill, the opening spot was a kind of throwaway, the roughest for the performer, because folks would still be wandering in.”

When Baker was about 13 years old, he had the chance to see Tempest Storm, the burlesque star, at the Folly Theatre. “I think the fact that we had my grandmothers with us was a little bit funny, but Ms. Storm is a good comedian and I saw that,” Baker says. “However, the real start came when I was about 5 years old and I heard Groucho Marx say a Yiddish word in one of his films. It’s not like I knew I had to study Yiddish, but it might have been an early signifier.”

The magician bug bit him first because of long-time neighbor Claude Enslow. “He was the Magician of the Year, but he was that kind man who taught me about show biz. He showed a number of routines and I still do many of them, with modifications.” Baker also learned some tricks from Whizzo the Clown. Whizzo, known as Frank Wiziarde, came from a circus family. In 1930 they created the Wiziarde Novelty Circus, a traveling act that made appearances at stores, shopping areas, and any place where a crowd was desired. But the circus life had its up and downs, and by 1947 he was working as a radio announcer in St. Joseph, Missouri, where he became known for his man-in-the-street interviews.

Baker knows the drive is not just in preservation, but in propelling the art form forward. When Baker moved to New York, he spent time with some of the legends of the Yiddish stage including Mina Bern, Shifra Lehrer, and Luba Kadison Buloff. Buloff actually played opposite actress and teacher Stella Adler. “Luba taught me to act,” he says.

Baker also spent time learning Yiddish. He studied the language for about three years, often juggling lessons from books and those from his friends such as Buloff and Bern. “Mina invited me for soup and I heard her story. I became friends with her. At the time, I understood about half of what I was hearing in Yiddish,” he says. “Then I started becoming a regular in her apartment. Being around Mina and Luba was being immersed in the Yiddish cultural world and I knew it was not just keeping a culture alive, but being inspired and seeing the relevance.”

So with that spark, the desire to work in the field of Yiddish entertainment and bring everything into the best possible light, Baker studied the language even more. “I find the work amusing today and I wanted to create a show that mirrored that light and humor. What I have put together may be called a kitchen sink show. There are routines I learned from Claude, Mina and Luba.”

By the way, in a means to clarify the title of his show, Baker defines “bupkis.” “It’s a rude way of saying nothing. It’s like saying beans or goat droppings. So my show is the Big Nothing.”

In New York, the Sholem Aleichem Memorial Foundation and the Congress for Yiddish Culture often celebrate Yiddish vaudeville. It’s not only about the performance, but collecting the scholarly data. “Vaudeville was the industrialization of entertainment where performers were assigned specific tasks. That fascinates me.” Baker has also received support from David Mandelbaum, founder of the New Yiddish Rep.

When Baker brings The Big Bupkis: The Complete Gentile’s Guide to Yiddish Vaudeville to the White Theatre in early March, he will bring in a refreshed show. He has been working with co-writer Lewis Rickman. “Families will be welcome. As with all vaudeville, good taste is stretched. I can remember Claude telling me that a person can work ‘blue’ – that sort of inappropriate humor – and get a laugh. The trick is not to look more at the humor that you don’t see on TV. Slapstick is fun and so is refined word play. I like to be a monologist.”

The show will be about 40 to 50 percent in Yiddish, Baker explains. “I will clarify jokes, but there are also supertitles. The material will be almost all vaudeville, but there is a modern, tongue-in-cheek feel. There is some self-lacerating humor. There is self-mockery. While vaudeville used to have a goal of a laugh every 15 seconds, I think I take a little bit longer for my jokes. However, there will be broad variety. I even dance.”

Finding new audiences for Yiddish, Baker said, requires showing people that Yiddish is a language of both the gutter and the academy, and everything in between. “I want to advance the language. We add color to our own language with Yiddish words like schlep, schlock and shtick. Yiddish is a full language, rich and real. That is one of my jobs to show that in roughly 75 minutes.”

In the end and at the end of the show, Baker wants to leave an audience with a smile. Baker is perspicacious. He has a unique understanding of the past and hopeful future. “The influences of acts that recycled their great skits, say such as a Burns and Allen, can’t be underestimated.  I’d say that first and foremost I want them to have a really good laugh as well as the desire to see more Yiddish theater. I like to laugh … I like belly laughs, side-splitting ones as well as knee slappers. I hope my humor delivers just a few of these.”

Learn more about The Big Bupkis! by clicking here.


Posted in Kellie Houx, Performing | Leave a comment

Enjoyable and Quirky …. Find Some Fun with Motherhood Out Loud

Julie Shaw, Kelly Main and Natalie Liccardello. Photography by Manon Halliburton

Julie Shaw, Kelly Main and Natalie Liccardello. Photography by Manon Halliburton

I had the chance to take my mother to see Spinning Tree Theatre’s production of Motherhood Out Loud on Sunday, Feb. 9. The play continues Feb. 13-16.  In the intimate space of the Off Center Theatre in Crown Center, we watched three women and one man move through the emotions and life experiences of being a child, being a parent, watching growth, leaving the nest and sometimes returning home.

The roughly 90 minutes weaves through moments in life. While different scenes will resonate with others, I want to share the scenes I loved.  Personally I loved Kelly Main as the adoptive mom who is trying to explain her love of a daughter from China. Her role as mother who sent a child to Afghanistan moved me to tears.  She is a strong woman with a beaming smile and eyes that pull an audience into the reality of the role.

For the lovely Natalie Liccardello, the condemning world of the playground was probably one of the most charming scenes for her. She’s an enchanting actress who has an impish grin and a coy style to her acting. She’s a delight to watch.

OK, Julie Shaw shines and her blue eyes are liquid. When the emotions of the character she is portraying bubble to the surface, the waves of emotions are so visible. One particular scene sticks with me. She plays a Jewish mother whose son wants to be Queen Esther for Purim and she decides to allow him to do this. It’s a rueful scene and a bittersweet relationship that comes to light with lots of love thrown in.

The other blue-eyed one is Rick Truman. He gets a couple of scenes that made me laugh and cry. His scene of impending parenthood as a gay man reflects on how families are put together in unique ways in today’s modern society.  The scene that brought tears to my eyes takes Truman in the role of a divorced son who moves back into his mother’s home and discovers she has dementia.

This is a play held together by the real emotions of being a parent … whether that role comes in the words mother, grandmother, father, daughter or son. We hold these roles in our hearts and Motherhood Out Loud puts it on the stage, under the watchful eyes and directions of Spinning Tree Theatre’s co-founders Andy Parkhurst and Michael Grayman. It is a mirror held up with all the humor and love that life brings us all.

Posted in Kellie Houx, Performing | 1 Comment

Post Internet: From Instagram to The White Cubicle

New Charlotte Street resident Lindsey Von Eskind, Bard College alumni curated Objet Boutique's sister show LYLAS (Internet lingo for "Love You Like a Sis" at Paragraph Gallery.

New Charlotte Street resident Lindsey Von Eskind, Bard College alumni curated Objet Boutique’s sister show LYLAS (Internet lingo for “Love You Like a Sis” at Paragraph Gallery.

While the contemporary art world has spurned many sub-categories of aesthetic preferences delineated by the artist’s medium, the majority of the American masses cannot specify any revolutionary art movements within the last two decades. Many art history classes in secondary schools stop with “post-modern art” and to describe the dilemma of not being able to categorize what has developed hereafter, will slop the messy title “post-postmodern art” in frustration.

Since the rise of the Internet and distribution of contemporary art resources and artist property through analytical search engines, it seems there are many encompassing niches for any kind of art which is being made, if one only knows the URL. Sites such as Tumblr, Instagram, 4chan, and Pinterest have all grown sustainable audiences whose creative projects take on similar forms and represent what is “cutting edge” and “hipster” in the marketplace today. While Internet art, more commonly referenced as “net art” (1994-early 2000s) has been created since the World Wide Web was originally instated, Post Internet art (2006- ) deals with our art which is a direct yield of our time on the Internet. Think Peggy Noland’s Social Media dresses, decorated with screenshots of news feeds, or of many younger artists who are photographing subjects in studio and then elaborating their compositions with idealistic objects found via the Internet. This work is publicly inclusive, at least to those who know of its channels, but yet exclusive to older generations who only frequent galleries to see fine art. What are the benefits and disadvantages of this new art field, and why are we just beginning to see it bloom in Kansas City?

Perhaps my generation is one of appropriation, but to me I see the radical changes in our art scene as a reaction to globalization and urban culture. Many students graduating with liberal arts degrees this year count their blessings from the small padding they had from the 2008 economic crisis. Any closer, and we, like our friends, might have graduated with the general warning: “What are you going to do with that degree?” Some schools including KCAI closed some of their commercial art departments, believing that there was no marketplace for the “luxury” of professional aestheticism. During the post-WWII 1960s, the United States’ economy expanded exponentially, leading to a redistribution of funds to many who now had the means and interest in art patronage. This created an art boom, allowing young artists the chance to make it big as pop culture stars. This newfound wealth gave birth to pop culture and a certain appreciation for luxurious goods. Today as our economy is pulling itself out of stagnation and we can now reflect on a solid year of positive growth, a wave of materialistic appreciation is growing as well.

The world and promotion of the fine artist has landscaped itself dramatically different in the last 20 years. Whereas before artist representatives and gallerists often would discover artists and promote them in accordance to their talents, now artists are self-reliant on that marketing via the internet. It has been said that rather than the art object, artists are made based on “personal empires” which are shaped through internet posts and web styles. Based on a well-designed website an early career artist may win out on commissions over a more technically advanced, late career professional. “Internet Aware” is the mentality of the artist which recognizes that whether or not they choose to distribute their work on the internet, it will be cast into this realm to be devalued, revalued, and distributed. To recognize this fate and consider its effect on the art object may affect any number of layers of production from original composition, digital collaging and time-based video and gif work, to simply how an art object is documented and edited. Adjusting the levels of a piece to read more clearly online inherently changes the content of an artwork.

We are encountering a new realm of art presentation. Twentieth century art practice taught the artist to value and consider context of art creation. As styles and movements rapidly evolved, the contextual intent of the artist’s influence and studio practice defined the importance of the piece itself. Internet surfing-as-art and the juxtaposition of found materials photographed in luxurious and isolated compositions against that of idealized cultural icons from the internet speaks to the art historical precedents of Duchamp’s specification-as-art and more recently, consumption-as-art. While appropriation considers the owner of a material and the right to reproduce its likeness, this new wave of Internet art views the forms of our everyday household and wardrobe as a form which represents today’s manufacturing and Internet profile. The “face of the Internet” is considered heavily for thousands of artists who create images with the direct intention of uploading to Tumblr, Instagram, or Pinterest. Indeed, in Art Institute critiques we hear the term “Tumblr art” as a descriptive aesthetic term.

So where does this movement find its way into the gallery scene? In terms of KCAI students, the majority of the painting department has decidedly been moving away from traditional painting to Post Internet digital work. Interestingly, so too has the Ceramics department. As students begin to experience their first recruitments and press recognition via the internet, their interest in the art object wanes and a fixation of image manipulation and presentation reigns. Objet Boutique, currently on display at Paragraph Gallery displays the work of many ceramicists, local printmakers and fibers artists who have taken a departure from hang-on-the-wall white cube gallery work to create functional house goods and wearables. For as much time as the floor-planning and gallery curating took, the creation of promotional imagery and their Tumblr blog easily took as much precedence. In the words of Joseph Beuys, “If you want to express yourself you must present something tangible. But after a while this has only the function of a historic document. Objects aren’t very important anymore. I want to get to the origin of matter, to the thought behind it.” Text and typography have a high conceptual value in these art works as well, as printing costs become elevated and less-accessible. Many Post Internet pieces today center on the use of typographic elements which are distorted or used as graphic elements to represent the collapse of the print and text empire.

This "Google Me" spandex dress is customizable to the buyer's preference - by Peggy Noland

This “Google Me” spandex dress is customizable to the buyer’s preference – by Peggy Noland

While this art movement has been gaining relevance and use for the last 10 years, we are still slim to see it in Kansas City’s gallery scene. A large reason for this is that the work is meant to exist in alternative spaces. As Instagram photos and photo documentation become more readily accepted art forms and credible institutions such as The Nelson-Atkins teaches “Instagram Photography classes,” we see a melding of our everyday surroundings and installation art. Local gallery Plug Project’s #lostandfoundart initiative offers users of any social media to tag their photos in exchange for a potential cash prize. This art is new and devoid of the traditional conventions of the art world, and therefore has had problems with its presentation in the white cubicle. But as the movement becomes more serious and noteworthy, its practitioners invariably wish to see it regarded with the prestige of a gallery institution. New media used to be displayed in a very isolated setting, but now is becoming more co-mingled.

Objet Boutique - a pop-up shop, in the main gallery of Paragraph, is filled with semi-utilitarian objects created by upcoming artists based in traditional materials such as ceramics, fiber and printmaking.

Objet Boutique – a pop-up shop, in the main gallery of Paragraph, is filled with semi-utilitarian objects created by upcoming artists based in traditional materials such as ceramics, fiber and printmaking.

Lindsey Von Eskind, a recent Charlotte Street addition and alumni of Bard College

curated LYLAS, a conjoining show to the Objet Boutique which presents a number of her friends working in the Post Internet theme. Their work is progressive and sometimes even offensive, showcasing everyday objects, girlish colors and the nude body, but also a deliberate awareness of how the exhibition will be photographed as well as contemporary Internet themes. Lindsey’s work is in edited video, showcased on VCRS with padded materials and wrappings which engage the viewer. Her actors are hired on 4chan, paid small amounts of money to read to her, pose for pictures or even come to her exhibitions and participate in an installation. One corner of the gallery had a nail-painting booth manned by a local magician hired from Craigslist.

Is this art? Does it offend you? Does this vapid materialism define to you the lost generations of our capitalist society? While many in Kansas City have just begun to consider these questions in terms of internet and new media, I think we can agree that this is a vital argument to have and that it is long past time for our local art institutions to play host to this conversation.

To read more and subscribe to The Bohemian Zine, visit thebohemianzine.com.

Posted in Carrie Riehl, Columnist, New Mediums, Visual | Leave a comment

Author Barry Miles

Author Barry Miles at Rainy Day Books

Author Barry Miles at Rainy Day Books

Who knew that William Burroughs, the Beat Generation’s leading author and Godfather of Counterculture who lived out his last days in Lawrence, Kansas, and hung out with The Beatles but didn’t like The Rolling Stones? Barry Miles, the author of Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now and the new book Call Me Burroughs, definitely knew that and a lot more.

Miles (yes, he says, “Call me Miles”) journeyed from London to Kansas City recently to participate in the February 5th 100th Birthday Anniversary for Burroughs which coincided with the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles first American appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday, February 9, 1964. Miles was both a participant and a chronicler of the London Underground in the l960’s. He co-owned Indica, the Bookshop/Art Gallery where John Lennon & Yoko Ono famously met and it was said “everyone who was going to be anyone passed, or claimed to have passed” through his door.

In conversation, Miles explored the epic life of the complicated author of the once-notorious Naked Lunch, who saw his life as “an evil river,” and spent most of it trying to exorcise what his artist and poet friend Brion Gysin named “The Ugly Spirit” in Paris in 1959.

Miles explained that Burroughs’ life was quite colorful from the beginning. His family was very interesting, and well off in St. Louis. His grandfather invented the adding machine. His uncle Ivy Lee, one of the early public relations gurus, consulted with Goebbels for Hitler. His mother (he believed that she was clairvoyant) told her son “I worship the ground you walk on.” His father was more distant, but paid “Bill” an allowance until he was 50 years old. Still, his early social milieu was one that he came to reject completely. He went on to reject both Buddhism and Communism at Harvard, where as a loner and an outsider, he transitioned into his persona as “El hombre invisible.”

CallMeBurroughsbyBarryMilesMiles addressed the common view that Burroughs was a misogynist by recalling that Bill developed “the bizarre idea that women came from another galaxy.” Still, Miles described the incident in 1951 when Burroughs accidentally shot his wife Joan Vollmer in a drunken game of “William Tell” as a huge catalyst in his life. He said that Bill would later often say,” I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death.” Burroughs as Miles described him was both a chameleon and a collaborator. “Everyone has their own William S. Burroughs,” he explained.

When asked about Bill’s musical collaborations with everyone from Paul McCartney (Bill is on the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) to Curt Cobain, Miles explained that Bill “really didn’t like rock and roll.” Miles explored the many roads taken and not taken in Burroughs’ life, but it was touching to hear that this peripatetic world traveler finally found a home in Lawrence, Kansas at age 69 and lived a softer old age with a support system of friends and cats while he continued his lifelong love of writing, photography, music, art, as well as guns and fishing.

Speaking of roads taken or not taken, if you want to know more about Bill “The Exterminator,” or how he might have been the head of the CIA, you’ll have to read Call Me Burroughs.


Vivien Jennings is the Founder & President of Rainy Day Books, Inc., Kansas City’s Community Bookseller, and the oldest Independent Bookstore in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. www.rainydaybooks.com

Posted in Literary, Vivien jennings | Leave a comment