A M E SS A G E F R O M T H E B O A R D
WAS A GREAT YEAR for the Jasper Project. We expanded our board by 100%, growing from eight members to sixteen, and we organized and executed a variety of projects across multiple disciplines. We published two issues of Jasper Magazine and one literary magazine, Fall Lines – a literary convergence; helped organize a literary festival, Deckle Edge; sponsored the innovative play, Black Super Hero Magic Mama at Trustus Theatre, with a curated visual arts show and panel discussion on inclusivity; pro-
duced a play, Sharks and Other Lovers, in our Play Right Series; hosted a fundraiser, Summer Lovin’, and crowned a lip sync champion; produced Syzygy, a poetry and theatre project commemorating Columbia’s total solar eclipse; and we’re currently preparing for the 2nd Act Film Festival in late October and the JAYs in early December. I’m especially thankful for the efforts of our talented and amazing board, but nothing we do is possible without our extended family of partners, artists, donors, Guild members, volunteers, and friends. Thank you for making Jasper work – know that we’re committed to making it work even better. Going forward, we’ll be exploring new ways to deliver more content faster and in multiple media formats. While our contributors and artists come from all over South Carolina, and outside the state, our primary footprint remains in the Midlands. Our goals in 2018 are to seek out collaborative partnerships with more arts communities, artists, and arts-related non-proﬁts across South Carolina, as well as to develop technology solutions that will help us expand our reach. As always, our focus remains on building the Jasper Guild, but we’re also planning an advisory board of artists, arts administrators, and other professionals in multiple disciplines, including theatre, literary arts, ﬁlm, music, visual arts, design, and dance. Together, we can do bigger, better projects, tell more sto-
T H E JA S P E R PRO JECT // Cindi Boiter EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Lee Snelgrove TREASURER Brian Harmon
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Barry Wheeler PRESIDENT
ries about South Carolina artists, and highlight the talent and diversity of more South Carolina arts communities. Let’s do this. On a personal note, I am constantly reminded how arts and artists and art lovers enrich lives. My decision to get a Master of Arts in Media Arts was easily the smartest thing I’ve ever done. It introduced me to another world of creative, kind, loving, and nurturing people – it was a rebirth of sorts. From the rigid worlds of physical chemistry and IT to the random, organic, and beautiful world of art, I found a balance in life, and then I somehow found my way to The Jasper Project. Administering art and making art are two very different things, but each satisﬁes in a way the other cannot. In my role as chair of the board of the Jasper Project, I’ve been privileged to converse with many artists at our events, and I am constantly taken aback by the extreme talent, kindness, humility, and drive of artists in all disciplines in our Columbia arts community. Our arts lovers and volunteers and philanthropists are passionate, tireless, and generous, and all of that – together – is what makes it so enriching. So be kind to one another, love your neighbors (all of them), hug an artist, shake the hands of volunteers and donors, and be enriched by art – that’s what it’s for.
Phillip Blair VICE PRESIDENT . Wade Sellers SECRETARY
The Jasper Project is a project-oriented, multidisciplinary arts facilitator serving the greater Columbia and South Carolina communities by providing collaborative arts engineering and providing community-wide arts communication.
5 A MESSAGE FROM JASPER 8 JASPER ARTISTS OF THE YEAR FINALISTS 18 LISTENS •
Local Record Reviews
18 LISTENS •
CENT ER F O LD / H EID I D ARR-HOPE
3 A MESSAGE FROM THE BOARD
Joseph Tollefsen & Classical Guitar
30 SPECIAL •
Art Bar 25th Anniversary
38 GAZES •
46 CENTERFOLD •
54 READS •
The Nature of Shadow
An Eclipse and A Butcher
Arthur Turfa’s Accents
Denos Trakas’s Messenger from Mystery
Bren McClain’s One Good Mama Bone
Letter from Nicola Waldron
Apache by Vimbai Nyamukapa
66 SPECIAL •
38 ON THE COVER
JASPER ARTISTS OF THE YEAR
69 ESSAY •
The Better Angels of Our Nature
70 SCREENS •
2nd Act Filmmakers
44 IN MEMORIAM •
Remembrance of Skipp Pearson
76 GAZES Michaela Pilar Brown
Yarn Bombing with Bohumila Augustinova
Kara Gunter VISUAL ARTS EDITOR Nicola Waldron PROSE EDITOR
Tom Dempster ASSISTANT MUSIC EDITOR
Ray McManus CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
. Julia Elliott CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Wade Sellers FILM EDITOR
Thomas Hammond STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Annie Boiter-Jolley OPERATIONS MANAGER
CONT R I BU T OR S Bria Barton . David Travis Bland . Jonathan Butler . Tim Conroy
Thomas Hammond . Chad Henderson . Ann Humphries . Deva Kellam
Black Hole Music
90 SPECIAL Andrew Stinson
94 IN MEMORIAM •
Susan Lenz DANCE EDITOR
Karie Grace Duncan . Josh English . Molly Harrel . Kristine Hartvigsen
Ed Madden LITERARY ARTS EDITOR Michael Spawn MUSIC EDITOR
Kyle Petersen ASSISTANT EDITOR Forrest Clonts PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR
Bree Burchfield STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Theologies of Terrain by Tim Conroy
Michael Dantzler STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Cynthia Boiter EDITOR-IN-CHIEF W. Heyward Sims ART DIRECTOR
Bonnie Boiter-Jolley CONTRIBUTING DANCE EDITOR
A Remembrance of Jim Thigpen
Matthew O’Leary . Maggie Olszewski . Jasmine Ranjit . Mark Rapp Aïda Rogers . Maggie Schein . Jenna Schiferl
J A S P E R ONL I NE jaspercolumbia.com jaspercolumbia.net/blog facebook.com/jaspercolumbia twitter.com/jasperadvises
A M E SS A G E F R O M J A S P E R
Dear Friends, rom looking at the faces of our friends to reading posts on social media it’s easy to tell that the world is a tough place to be these days— tougher than some of us have ever known. A kind of malaise has fallen over the country and our culture is reﬂecting it in the form of horrendous violence and regressing to a less tolerant, less enlightened, less loving populace and leadership. So often we see the civility and basic human kindness that once governed our interactions with one another left by the wayside. We like to think we are immune from the madness but, try as we might, we still see it in ourselves as hatred feeds on frustration and disappointment, anger takes over, and before we know it, we’re part
of the problem ourselves. If we didn’t know better we’d all just bury our heads and hide from the world that we no longer believe we can count on. But we do know better, don’t we? As artists and individuals who have declared the arts to be an important part of our lives, we know what art is capable of. Art is not just a mood changer, it’s a game changer and it can get us through these difficult times. We know the sweetness of a turn of phrase and how it captures us, mid-sentence, and makes us go back and re-read a passage again and again just to feel it wash over us like a warm breeze. We know the breathlessness of a note held in the air until our own lungs quiver just listening to it. The lost beats of our hearts as we wait for a dancer to ﬁnally return to the ground she leapt from. The way a brush stroke can take us inside a painting and to another world. We cherish the ﬁlms
that make us forget time and space. We know the peace that perfection in design can deliver to us. We know well the magic that art brings to our lives because it helped make us who we are. It gave us much of the enlightenment that makes this world we are in today so tough to abide. Do these words have religious overtones? Yes, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. We know what art can do for us and now, more than ever, we have to embrace it and honor it and put it in the forefronts of our lives. Make art, support art, trade it, barter for it, immerse yourself in it. But most importantly, use it as a tool to make our culture a better approximation of what it should be. I don’t know that I believe in miracles, but I believe in art.
Jasper// as in Johns, the abstract expressionist, neo-Dadaist artist
Jasper Magazine – www.jaspercolumbia.com – is dedicated to the promotion and
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support of Columbia, SC artists and arts lovers. Jasper Magazine is copyrighted and may
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not be reproduced in any manner without the publisher’s written consent.
as in Magazine, the Word on Columbia Arts FALL 2017 / VOLUME 007 / ISSUE 001
MARCIA E. STINE MASTER
TONY TALLENT . HUNTER BOYLE . GREGORY GARRETT GREG EARLY AND LEMUEL WATSON . WILLIAM STARRETT SUSAN FELLEMAN AND PETER CHAMETZKY BARRY WHEELER . WILLIAM SCHMIDT . SARA JUNE GOLDSTEIN ROBERT B. JOLLEY, JR.
JOURNEYMAN ERIC MORRIS . LEE SIPE . RON HAGELL . THE KIRALY FAMILY . NANCY BROCK . NICOLE KALLENBERG HEERE KAREN M. PELUSO . BILLY GUESS . JOE HUDSON & LARRY HEMBREE . ROBIN GOTTLIEB LEE SNELGROVE & DOREEN TUOHY . LAURIE & DUNCAN MCINTOSH . MARGARET CLARKSON & PETER RONEY THEODORE TSOLOVOS . CINDI BOITER . KAY THIGPEN . ANN CHADWELL HUMPHRIES APPRENTICE JON TUTTLE . MARY BENTZ GILKERSON . OSAMU KOBAYASHI . EILEEN BLYTH . CATHY PETERSEN PATRICK PARISE . DAVID YAGHJIAN . RAY MCMANUS . TERRYE & TIM CONROY . CARLA DAMRON . JOSEPH COUNTS RAIA JANE HIRSCH . SHARON MAY . SUSAN CRAIG . DAVID WHITEMAN . DIANE HARE
JEAN LOMASTO . MARV WARD . NICOLA WALDRON . SUSANNE KAPPLER . RENEA ESHLEMAN . EVA FOUSSAT & MATT MATHENY TODD MATHIS & CULLY SALEHI . MICHAEL KRAJEWSKI . TISH LOWE . SARA SCHNECKLOTH . ELENA MARTINEZ-VIDAL DON MCCALLISTER . CASSIE PREMO STEELE . ROBBIE PRUITT . FLAVIA LOVATELLI . JJ MACKEY . TRINESSA DUBAS
ISN’T IT TIME THAT YOU JOIN THE
The Jasper Guild is a group of supporting artists and arts lovers who appreciate not only the vital Columbia, SC arts scene, but the magazine devoted to promoting it. Members of the Jasper Guild recognize the labor-of-love that is Jasper and work to do their parts to ensure that Jasper continues to publish a 100% LOCAL & artist-produced magazine. You’re invited to join us in our mission to make Columbia, SC the Southeast arts capitol by becoming a member of the Jasper Guild. And the next time you open a copy of Jasper you’ll be able to say,
“I helped make this happen and here’s my name to prove it!”
There’s Good News for Jasper Guild Members! New Guild Memberships and Renewals are Now
TAX-DEDUCTIBLE* Please consider becoming a part of the Jasper Team at one of the following levels:
APPRENTICE 1 year delivery of Jasper to your home your name listed in Jasper Magazine for 1 year - $50
JOURNEYMAN The above + your name in LARGE LETTERS - $100
MASTER The above + free admission to the November 2017 JAY ceremony - $250
CENTERFOLD SPONSORSHIP The above + your name or dedication printed on the centerfold - $500
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ARTIST PEER Practicing artists are invited to join the Jasper Guild and see your name in Jasper Magazine - $25
*above the cost of a subscription ($40) to the new (September 2016) perfect bound, archival Jasper Magazine – if you prefer to donate the full cost of membership by not receiving Jasper in your mailbox in September, March, and July, please indicate so upon joining, or contact Annie@Jaspercolumbia.com
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JASPER O F
T H E
Y E A R
F I N A L I S T S
PHOTOGRAPHY BY FORREST CLONTS
NCE A YEAR at The Jasper Project we like to celebrate the artists in the greater Midlands arts community who have enjoyed that very special year—the kind of year that reputations and legacies are made on, when career goals are met and both the artists and their supporting communities realize that they are growing and excelling, moving to new heights in their artistic journey. To recognize these special artists we ask their colleagues and fans to nominate them along with a list of their accomplishments over the past year. The top three in each category—music, theatre, visual arts, and literary arts (we also ask for nominations in dance, but this is the second year in a row that we have not had enough nominations to make an award)—are selected, notiﬁed, and asked to complete their nomination by sharing with us any accomplishments, accolades, or artistic activities they have enjoyed over the past year. NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. From now until midnight on December 1st, it is your job not only to vote for your choices for the 2017 JAYS—Jasper Artists of the Year—but to campaign for your choices as well. Let’s celebrate this community of exciting artistic growth and what it means to all of us to live in it. We can all be advocates of the Jasper Artists of the Year. Congratulations to the 2017 Finalists for Jasper Artists of the Year listed in the following pages.
JASPER ARTISTS OF THE YEAR . 9
A R T S
10 . JASPER ARTISTS OF THE YEAR
Al Black Al Black is a northern born Southern poet who is trying to make up for 50 years of hiding his poetic life beneath a layered costume of respectability. He publishes in journals, online blogs and anthologies, most recently in Fall Lines 2017. He organizes and hosts a weekly poetry venue called Mind Gravy and three monthly poetry venues called Magnify Magnolias, Poems: Bones of the Spirit, and Blue Note Poetry as well as two monthly poetry workshops, in addition to organizing and hosting a monthly lyric singer/songwriter event called Songversation. Al co-founded the Poets Respond to Race Initiative with the poet, Len Lawson in May 2015 on which Len and Al continue to tour organizing and hosting readings and events connected with the initiative and, in February 2017, they co-edited, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race published by Muddy Ford Press.
Don McCallister Over the past year, Don began his own indie publishing company, calling it Mind Harvest Press, to publish his own backlog of material including Let the Glory Pass Away which launched in February 2017. His short story, “Eye of the Vandal” received an Honorable Mention from the Short Story America Fiction Contest and his short story, “Ruby in the Dust,” was published in Fall Lines 2017. In addition, his papers from the publication of Fellow Traveler were selected for the Grateful Dead Archives at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Don teaches creative writing at Midlands Technical College.
Nicola Waldron Nicola Waldron has enjoyed a number of essays being accepted for publication or published in nationally-recognized magazines and websites this year, including “Ictus, or 1984 Redux” which was shortlisted for the Proximity personal essay prize in July 2017; “If Plan ‘A’ Don’t Work Out”: in About Place; and “Containing the Chaos: Spiral Form in Memoir” in Assay. “Spill” which was published in Marked by the Water in October, 2016 was performed as a staged oration at Tapp’s Art Center as part of the Marked by the Water commemoration of the ﬁrst anniversary of the 1000 year ﬂood. An excerpt from her book, River Running Backwards, was published in Fall Lines, summer 2017, and she was selected as a playwright for the Syzygy: Eclipse Plays project in spring 2017 for which she wrote the play Visitation. Her poems “Dream” and “Birthday in October” were published in in California Quarterly, July 2017; “Walking the Sawmill” in California Quarterly, in fall 2016, and “Crawlspace” and “After a Flood” were published in Marked By The Water, 2016. (“Crawlspace” was also published in Jasper, October 2016.) Nicola also participated in Bones of the Spirit, Mind Gravy, and Magnify Magnolias.
Vote for Jasper Artists of the Year at JasperProject.org until December 1
JASPER ARTISTS OF THE YEAR . 11
A R T S
12 . JASPER ARTISTS OF THE YEAR
Nicole Kallenberg Heere Through December 2016, Nicole’s painting “Mommy’s Little Helpers” was used by Theatre Lazina Nowa to advertise the play All About My Mother on billboards and posters in the city of Krakow, Poland. She continues to be an Artist in Residence at Tapp’s Art Center in Columbia, South Carolina where her artwork was presented at “Figure Out” art exhibition in 2016. Her work was included in the Columbia Artists Guild inaugural show, “Our Art: A Celebration of Life and Creative Freedom,” at City Art gallery in Columbia. In October 2016 she was selected as the cover artist for the fall issue of Jasper Magazine and was featured along with magazine editor Cindi Boiter on ArtsWACH for WACH Fox news. From October 2016 - May 2017, Nicole showed with French Art Network at Galerie Rue Toulouse: New Orleans, LA and was honored at an artist meet and greet at Galerie Rue Toulouse in December. In January 2017, she enjoyed a solo show at Kershaw County Arts Center in Camden, SC and in February 2017 she was featured in French Quarterly Magazine, New Orleans, LA. In April 2017, she had a solo show at Patriot’s Hall Performing Arts Center (Formerly Jasper John’s High School) in Sumter, SC, and from May 2017 – present she has been represented by Mitchell Hill Gallery in Charleston.
Sean Rayford Sean Rayford is a freelance photojournalist and commercial photographer working during the last year with The New York Times, The Washington Post, Getty Images, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, the Associated Press and more. His commercial clients include the ACLU, Chernoff Newman, and the Columbia Visitors Bureau. Sean produces The Angry Whale, a photography webzine focusing primarily on local narratives with a heavy emphasis on the local music scene, along with national stories including a look at street protests in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. He won the Best Photo Story from the South Carolina Press Association in 2016 and the Atlantic Institute Peace and Dialogue Award: Media and Communication in 2017. He enjoyed a Solo exhibition called “Documents” at Anastasia and Friends, a book release, Inundated, and was named one of 51 Instagram Photographers to Follow in the US by Time Magazine, all in 2016. He won the Free Times Best of Instagram Honorable Mention, in 2017. In 2016 Rayford had extensive coverage of rioting in Charlotte, NC for Getty Images, and Hurricane Matthew in the Carolina’s for The New York Times, Getty Images and The European Press Agency. After the election of Donald Trump Sean’s storylines have often intersected with the resulting protest movements including contentious congressional town hall meetings.
Cedric Umoja Cedric Umoja has enjoyed the following exhibitions over the past year: Afrofuturism (a group exhibition) at 4th Wall Gallery in Charleston SC, as part of the Spoleto Arts Festival; “WE BLEED TOO!” a solo exhibition at the Goodall Gallery in Columbia; “Libation,” a three person exhibition at Charleston City Gallery in Charleston SC; and, the MOJA African American / Caribbean Arts Festival. Cedric has completed a number of murals including “The space I’m in” in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA and “23 Million miles” on Millwood Avenue in Columbia. He has performed live art at MOCAD (Museum Of Contemporary Art Detroit) and performed in the ﬁlm, Bridge (Refrain) as an actor/co-producer, and music supervisor, shot in Columbia. He has also completed commission work for Radio Krimi, Experience Columbia, LuLu Lemon, USC, and Coach Michael and Chantal Peterson.
Vote for Jasper Artists of the Year at JasperProject.org until December 1
JASPER ARTISTS OF THE YEAR . 13
14 . JASPER ARTISTS OF THE YEAR
Mandy Applegate Bloom Mandy offered a burlesque performance featuring a body positivity, sexuality, and autonomy talkback at Hoechella Music Festival in August 2016, and was presented in an article and podcast with Auntie Bellum on Burlesque in August 2016. She also taught the Burlesque Beginners Dance Class Series at Tapp’s Arts Center in October 2016. Mandy was a singer and performer in the PALSS Torch Cabaret Beneﬁt at CMFA October 2016 and was choreographer/movement coach for The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical at Trustus Theatre in December 2016. Her most outstanding performance though was the dual leading roles in (and choreographer for) Grey Gardens at Trustus, March 2017. Mandy also judged the annual Vista Queen Pageant at Trustus Theatre this year.
Christopher Cockrell Christopher Cockrell is both a musician and actor, with most of his musical contributions being offered to the theatre. In July, 2016 Chris musically directed the Trustus season opener American Idiot, nominated for the Free Times Best Theatrical Production award. In October 2016, after 15 years of playing Riff Raff, Chris musically directed The Rocky Horror Picture Show which won the Free Times award. In December he was the sound guy for the Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical. And in February 2017 he musically directed the Love is Love cabaret. During March 2017 he was the artist in residence at Hammond School and musically directed Into the Woods. In May he competed in the Vista Queen Pageant as Raven Black for which he won the Judge’s Choice award. He reprised his role in July for the Jasper Summer Lovin’ Lip Sync Battle and won. June 2017 saw him musically directing Rock of Ages.
Bakari Lebby In August 2016 Bakari was inducted as a Trustus Theatre Company Member where, the month before he had performed as Gerard in American Idiot. He is an actor, sound designer, and writer for The Mothers Sketch Comedy troupe. He ran projection and did video design for Hand to God at Trustus Theatre, directed, did sound design, projection design, and graphic design for some girl(s) at Workshop Theatre, assisted with costume design for Sex on Sunday at Trustus Theatre. Bakari was also selected to direct One Another (Jon Tuttle) for Syzygy: Eclipse Plays. His podcast, Soda City Sessions, boasts more than 70 interviews online, and his band, Sandcastles, released the album, Die Alone, in 2016.
Vote for Jasper Artists of the Year at JasperProject.org until December 1
JASPER ARTISTS OF THE YEAR . 15
16 . JASPER ARTISTS OF THE YEAR
FatRat Da Czar As South Carolina’s godfather of hip hop, Fat was the Invited speaker/panelist at 2017 Charleston Music Confab and a performer at Charleston Music Confab (Charleston Music Hall). He was named the Free Times Best Hip Hop Artist and the 2017 Free Times Writers Pick for Best Annual Event or Festival for Love, Peace & Hip-Hop Festival, which he previously founded. He established a hip-hop headquarters at Tapp’s Arts Center on Main Street, and was an invited participant in EdVenture’s 100 Men Who Cook for Kids fundraiser. He executive Produced hip-hop artist Cole Connor’s album: SODA (Sometimes Our Dreams Align) and was an invited speaker at Richland Library’s Music Entrepreneur Seminar: Find Your Voice. Fat released the album, RailRoad, co-authored the book Da Cold Warrior, released the Cold Warrior double CD, performed at Freeway Music Festival (at the Music Farm Columbia) and performed at the Indie Grits opening party.
Tyler Matthews One of Tyler Matthews’ goals for the last 12 months was to gain music coverage beyond state lines. Producing his ﬁrst full-length album in the form of the soundtrack for Exit 8 achieved just that — generating positive reviews, commentary, and interest from music blogs across the country. Along with scoring Exit 8, he served as the video editor for the ﬁlm which gave him the opportunity to create a ﬁlm trailer. This led to scoring and producing an additional composition which subsequently went on to receive a Gold Addy Award for Original Music at the Addy Awards. Tyler was one of 2 freelancers to win a gold award out of 250 professional entries. He was recognized by the American Advertising Federation of the Midlands as the member of the year for the video he volunteered to make promoting the Addy’s. He was a selected ﬁlmmaker for the 2nd Act (Mr. Wonderful) Film Festival in October 2016, which involved creating original music for the ﬁlm as well as tapping into music industry contacts Skylar Spence and Niilas who gave me the green light to use their music for Mr. Wonderful. He ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to submit Mr. Wonderful to the short ﬁlm festival circuit, and supported other musical artists and organizations around the community through video and audio production. He played shows around Columbia for Jasper, Scenario Collective, and miscellaneous house parties. However, the vast majority of his music work was done in the studio setting on a Macbook Pro - Writing, Recording, Engineering, Mixing, Mastering, etc. He was the producer of Insanity Podcast and was selected “Who to Stream” by Cola Daily, after being named New & Noteworthy on iTunes earlier in the year. He produces the music and all multimedia for the podcast.
Those Lavender Whales The group was mainly focused on releasing and supporting their second full length “My Bones Are Singing” (which came out in April) which garnered some national and international press, a Free Times cover story, and a good amount of touring up the east coast and around the southeast. Before the release of their album, they played an Arts & Draughts last fall, a special stripped down set with upright bass and electric guitar at the Nickelodeon for a Magic Hour in January with Valley Maker, and a songwriter event at Deckle Edge literary festival earlier this year.
Vote for Jasper Artists of the Year at JasperProject.org until December 1
JASPER ARTISTS OF THE YEAR . 17
VACATION STATE Tree All things considered, there might not have been a better time for local rock troupe Vacation State to release its debut EP Tree, which saw the official light of day in late July. With the recent death of Soundgarden frontman and grunge icon Chris Cornell and his late 1990s/early 2000s rock progeny Chester Bennington, the whole musical movement that, for better or worse, deﬁned an entire decade and brought the descriptor “alternative rock” into the cultural lexicon, would appear to have prematurely withered away. Cornell is gone. Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley is gone. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain himself has been rendered immortal but he, too, is most certainly gone. From the musical generation that gave us monetized disaffected-ness, ﬂannel-as-fashion, and that may have saved a small deodorant company (I forget the
18 . JASPER LISTENS
name) from ﬁnancial collapse, Eddie Vedder is really the last man standing. But, having comfortably embraced his elder statesman status, the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee bears little resemblance to the crazy-eyed hooligan who schlepped his Pope of Angst persona well into the new millennium. Not that anyone expected him to stay twenty-three forever. It is into this fatherless bastard of an abyss that Vacation State offers forth Tree, not as homage to what once was or as an audition for the posterboy mantle, but as a brief mission statement that seems to aim for little more than the celebration and continued existence of a rock style that, presumably, meant something to the band members in their formative years. The three songs that make up Tree, lacking Nirvana’s nihilistic melodic splendor and Soundgarden’s half-smirking metal edge, steer closer to the propulsive stoner slog of Alice in Chains. “Better Maker” is the best of the three and, I suppose non-coincidentally, the most prototypically grunge. The rhythm section gives the verses a bouncing momentum that works both with and against the guitars’ bottom-end gloom and the vocal’s soaring hybrid of apathy and grandeur. And while Tree is a welcome release and its three songs show undeniable promise, it doesn’t feel quite deﬁnitive. A band that can so naturally tap into the strange alchemy of a subgenre that can claim more suicides and ODs than any other in rock is bound to have tricks up its ﬂannel sleeve that Tree likely only hints at. Keep the faith, Vacation Tree. Someone out there needs you. - M I C H A E L S P AW N
BLUE, GIRL Blue, Girl I was going to begin this by saying something about how Blue, Girl’s self-titled EP would never work as road trip music; not just because such a sentiment might make me seem knowledgeable about both music and road trips, but because it seemed more interesting than simply stating how sad this music can get when you let it get its hooks in you. We (or at least I) typically associate road trip music with songs of joy, freedom, embracing the unknown, etc., and Blue, Girl contains none of these, at least not in any traditional or literal sense. But I was wrong, I think. As anyone who’s ever taken one of those long, age-deﬁning, perspective-altering sojourns across the open roads of the American landscape knows, road trips aren’t all sunny
skies with the top down, the radio blasting whatever high-energy music most affirms your vitality. Those are the best parts, for sure, and the most fun to relive later through shared stories and private nostalgia, but they’re not the whole thing. There are other moments that can matter just as much when you look back and take stock of what a given trip was all about, moments that rarely make it on a greatest hits list: When money’s running low and gas is way more expensive than you planned for and someone vocalizes the horrible thought that you’d have been better off not going at all. When yours is the only car for a million miles and you’re the only one still awake and the open night sky is spangled with so many stars you almost veer off the road trying to take them all in and you want to feel gratitude but all you can muster is the irrepressible knowledge that you’re insignificant and far from home. When the destination is so built up in your imagination that you know the real thing will only leave you disappointed. These moments matter too, and are no less deserving of a soundtrack, even if that’s the last thing on your mind at the time. Columbia-based singer/songwriter Ahomari has always written music that seems tailor-made for these small-scale but heartbreaking vignettes, but never more so than on the maiden release of the Blue, Girl project. Despite cautious ﬂirtations with relatively traditional pop sensibilities, the four songs here are relentlessly sad, the sort of music that can only come from authentic loneliness and confusion in a world that wasn’t what was promised. It’s a rare gift when music this honest and vulnerable is also so well-written, the product of a big heart with a brain to match. So go ahead and bring Blue, Girl on your road trip. Just wait for the right moment, because it’s coming. (For more on Ahomari read Kyle Petersen’s proﬁle on page 26.) -M I C H A E L S P AW N
BOO HAG The Further There are two ways to interpret the title of Boo Hag’s latest long-player, The Further. The ﬁrst is as a sort of pithy boast—‘Over there, that was where we were,’ the title might seem to say, its chest puffed outward two inches more than necessary. ‘But this, this is where we are now. We’ve bypassed the bar. We’ve gone…(imaginary drum roll and deep breath, visible in the sudden cold for dramatic effect)…further.’ The second interpretation is that the title is a slight error in word choice, a minor wrong turn in pursuit of what might have seemed at ﬁrst glance like a simple synonym. In this view, the title is merely confused; the album was supposed to be called The Extension or, better yet, The Furthermore. Boo Hag didn’t mean to mislead us, this defense goes. Their new tunes don’t represent some wild-eyed leap forward as much as a continued stroll down a pre-established path. Both readings are probably wrong, but one is likely more wrong than the other. The ﬁrst felt ridiculous even to me. The duo’s self-titled debut revealed Boo Hag to be a smart, talented rock band. And smart, talented
rock bands know enough not to advertise their own smarts and talent (unless it’s done ironically, which can still fail spectacularly.) As the old cliché goes, it’s best to let the music do the talking. The odds that Boo Hag are insecure enough to actually name their sophomore album after a self-observed advancement in musical chops and songcraft seem low (though anything’s possible.) The second reading also feels unlikely, just slightly less so. Not because Saul Seibert and Scott E. Tempo made a minor misstep in wordage, but because there’s little on The Further to indicate that they grew in any way as a band or that they even wanted to. This isn’t a necessarily a negative criticism. AC/DC never grew as a band and they’re responsible for roughly 40% of the most bitchin’ rock compositions ever committed to tape. But there was something about Boo Hag that seemed to announce the band as one that was too propulsive, too built around kinetic sexual energy not to evolve. The hard-rocking two-person blues band hasn’t been a novel idea for years and years (and years) now, but Boo Hag approached it not as a crowd-tested formula for success, but as the only way to do those songs justice. It somehow felt fresh in the face of oversaturation. It reeked pleasantly of deﬁance. Don’t misunderstand--Boo Hag was one of the best debuts from a Columbia band in recent memory and The Further strays hardly at all from the elements that made its predecessor such a smash (minus the element of surprise that accompanies any stellar debut, but the band can hardly be blamed for that.) Looking closely at The Further, however, it’s clear now that Boo Hag’s screechy, distorted, heavy, and horny approach to blues-soaked rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t a reaction to anything. It was the action itself; it was the plan all along, but this was impossible to know from the vantage point of only one album. The good news is, we now know who Boo Hag are and
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what they’ll be bringing to the table. Their mission is clear and the veil of mystery has been lifted. The bad news is precisely the same. -M I C H A E L S P AW N
a more traditional or purist album is common for the genre, but did not translate well in eight tracks where the last two are identical in mood and style. The overall effect is disjointed. However, the record presents lots of promise and showcases a raw emerging talent on the local scene - D E VA K E L L A M
sitions the album from alt-country into altrock. These songs highlight the best of what the album has to offer—romantic, poetic, nostalgic, gritty, and, as the name would suggest, unmistakably Southern. - D E VA K E L L A M
Is This the Life You Wanted
Old Souls, New Laces
Is This the Life You Wanted is the ﬁrst album from local emo indie-punk band Social Outcast. Most fans of punk and indie rock across the spectrum will ﬁnd something they like in this album. Although they keep true to the emo-punk tag (think Jimmy Eats World meets Panic at the Disco), they are also at times reminiscent of early 90s indie rockers like Built to Spill or Blur. But whereas these artists might show up on a coffee shop playlist, Social Outcast is a little more hardcore, with some scattered math-rock ﬂourishes. In terms of listenability, you can credit the presence of lead singer Sean Bowick, whose charismatic vocals are a clear highlight. On ﬁrst blush it can give off a “if Conor Oberst decided to join a punk band” vibe, and by track 7 (“Shannon”) you could be convinced that you had somehow switched over to Bright Eyes Radio (in a good way). Whereas the previous tracks included a full band and relied on a relatively consistent instrumental/vocal dynamic, the last two tracks feature only the lead singer and guitar. While these are my favorite songs, they seem a bit out of place here. The technique of including a slower, acoustic piece in
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E THAN FOGUS Southbound If, like me, you’ve grown tired of the honey-thick harmonies and whimsy that dominate the post-Mumford folk-rock scene, then Southbound is the refreshing alternative you have been waiting for. Ethan Fogus takes the genre back to its roots with raw, unpolished vocals that push up against smooth, bluesy guitar riffs and a driving rock ‘n’ roll beat. Fans of Jay Farrar, Okkervil River, and Deer Tick will appreciate the warm and sometimes raspy quality of his voice, which softens those tense, near-dissonant harmonies that give this sound here an angsty folkrock edge. Despite its unreﬁned character, this album is cohesive. The imperfections of the recording capture those ﬂeeting moments of experience, which Fogus ties together with graceful lyricism. I would suggest listening to Southbound in one sitting on the ﬁrst go. Perfect for rush hour on I-26, or else played over a chorus of cicadas on someone’s porch. On your second round, take time to appreciate its composition. Notice the folksy turn at “Old Clothes” and “Windowbox” that tran-
The Juniors’ Old Souls, New Laces might have some of the most angelic harmonizing outside whatever backwoods church keeps its gospel bluegrass band in tune under threat of damnation to the lake of ﬁre. Not a stray note wanders or shredded vocal croaks — neither a slur nor burp lets itself out on the band’s debut release. The duo of acoustic guitars and occasional mandolin is just as pristine. The waves coming off these songs are measured, accurate, professional, and tidy. The record is so pretty it’s hideous. “On The Radio” shimmers out ﬁrst, a liquorice-laced pop ditty that makes you think you’re in for a Lisa Loeb acoustic record. You also get the ﬁrst taste of The Junior’s sugar-ﬁlled songwriting. They wear their sassy britches on songs like “Learn Your Lesson” and “Bleeding,” the most stripped-down duet on the record, in which the characters tell a story about each other’s poisoned position in the relationship. The number also shows some of the clever ways the Juniors utilize their male-female singing. The lines are the blended thoughts of the story’s characters and, by the end, the melody and words have been woven into a colorful pallet of sound.
Lincoln Street Tunnel in between Lady St & Taylor St
3rd Annual Nov 4th
Come join and experience Columbiaâ€™s Third Annual At the Lincoln Street Tunnel in the heart of the Vista.
readings | panels | exhibitors | writersŇ‹workshops activities for children and young adult readers
March 3, 2018
The guitars and vocals make a similar tidal pool of hues in the minor key jig of “Most of the Moving.” They might go for a bit of darkness in these numbers but The Juniors are utopianists. Many of the recordings have such a soft-glow saccharine taste that could induce diabetes. The whistling and kids-song chording in “Porch Song” would make a cynic crawl into a hole. Lines like, “Sitting on the porch with you and your mama / more at home than a pair of old pajamas,” and, “No one will try without hope / don’t let the world die without hope,” in the appropriately named “Hope” — that kind of schmaltz makes you want to ﬁnd the nearest baby and kick a ﬁeld goal with it. Maybe the sweetness is a good thing though— just depending on who’s listening. They strike a better blood-sugar level in songs like “Next Year,” with its mystical sound, and “Bartender.” As always, the harmonies light up the songs and the songwriting is structurally sound. In “Martyr,” with soaring, uniﬁed pitches they sing “Let’s muddy up the water, see if you swim or sink / that silver lining needs a little tarnish don’t you think.” Old Souls, New Laces could use some of that tarnish in all its shine. - D AV I D T R AV I S BLAND
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nose. The guitar lick keeps it coming back to the Palmetto State’s dance even when the song strays from the laurels of the music. For your money, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” might be your best deal. Reggie might have written it while listening Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters and strolling through New Orleans. The song’s got the energy of Sullivan’s live performance, a feel that’s lacking throughout most of the record. Even if you don’t need all six minutes of it, the closer, “In My Head” leaves you on a nice Bill Wither’s like number with touches of soul revival. In line with the rest of the album, it’s good stuff to cut a rug to. -D AV I D T R AV I S
REGGIE SULLIVAN BAND
Supernatural You can shake out all kinds of moves to the Reggie Sullivan Band’s latest Supernatural. You hit the disco with the titular opening track. Synth steps mingle with the bass line groove to make some Earth Wind and Fire dance ﬂoor funk. Also, a good taste of Sullivan’s vocals guides you through the moves, his understated, velvet tone mixing with a light falsetto that hits well in the hook. With “Hard Heart,” you aren’t dancing as much as listening. Along with Stevie Wonder-type balladeering, what you hear is the Americana grits that Sullivan has in his voice. At a certain point he, with his inﬂection and the boys backing him, he sounds a bit like Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Nile Rodgers could have produced “Baby Be Gone.” Lots of airy synth mixes with the slick guitar grooves. With Geoff Shackley on vocals you get a bit more personality than Sullivan’s sometimes grey voice. “Friends” ups the tempo into an indie rock shoe-shuffler with a bumping bass line as well as new wave synth. They follow it up with an amalgam of their late ‘70s/early ‘80s sounds in “Don’t Feel the Same.” The Gap Band and Dire Strait got together and wrote Reggie Sullivan a song for this one. With “Carolina Stays With Me,” you can shag even if the lyrics are a bit on the
DONALD MERCKLE The Ballad of Lincoln Wray Donald Merckle’s voice has long been a ﬁxture on the Columbia music scene, from his early days fronting the Celtic/Appalachian folk-punk Loch Ness Johnny to his stint in the muscular alt-country group American Gun to his current group The Blacksmiths, a sort of acoustic-leaning middle ground between those two bands. A skilled and talented if occasionally workman-like songwriter, Merckle has always has a tendency to lean into the rowdy and raucous aspects of the music he loves, with a throaty Pogues-like
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B U I LD I N G TH E WA LL October 6-14, 2017
EVIL DEAD, THE MUSICAL October 27-November ber 11, 2017
A C H R I S T M A S M I R A C L E AT T H E R I C H L A N D FA S H I O N M A L L December 1-16, 20177
A B R I G H T R O O M C A L L E D D AY January 19-Februaryy 3, 2018
SUNSET BABY February 23-March 3, 2018
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B OY A B O U T T E N August 17-25, 2018
This season at Trustus Theatre, we are approaching the upcoming year with our eyes open. As an organization, Trustus values diversity in our programming and we intend to stay vigilant in regards to social justice, cultural exploration, and examining what it is to be human in the 21st Century. With open eyes we can embrace new ways of seeing ourselves, others, and the world. We can expand how we view SRVVLELOLWLHV DQG LVVXHV WKDW DÎ?HFW XV GDLO\ LQ RXU FRPPXQLW\ :LWK RXU H\HV RSHQ ZH FDQ VHH ZLWK PRUH FODULW\ DQG Č´QDOO\ QRWLFH WKH things we sometimes ignore. We can be more observant of what is, while being more open to what might be.
is growing. While we will produce important works in both of our theatres on Lady Street, we will be moving beyond the walls of our space to engage more frequently with our communityâ€”to bring the power of theatre to those who are seeking its magic. Theatre shares a lineage of storytelling that started with humans JDWKHUHGDURXQGČ´UHVH[SORULQJWKHUHDOLW\RIWKHKXPDQFRQGLWLRQ WKURXJK Č´FWLRQ :H ORRN IRUZDUG WR JDWKHULQJ ZLWK \RX DURXQG WKH glow of our stage lights as we continue to be one of South Carolinaâ€™s PRVWLQČľXHQWLDOWKHDWUHVČƒVKDULQJVWRULHVWKDWRSHQRXUPLQGVRSHQ our hearts, and open our eyes.
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shout and clipped send-off sufficing instead of pushing himself to the more stately singing and darkly emotional lyrical contours that are the hallmark of his best work. Thankfully, The Ballad of Lincoln Wray is an album that plays into those strengths, even if it might have more difficulty translating into a noisy bar. A concept record that has Merckle ruminating on grandparents, who lived through World War II, and the album is richly arranged with horns, piano and backing vocals serving the understated Americana grandeur of the proceedings, and the idea clearly brought out the singer/songwriter’s A game. The opening title track is a gorgeous mid-tempo ballad that pairs laidback ﬁngerpicking with an elegiac countermelody on piano with the plainspoken story of a blue-collar boy going off to war delivered with the kind of effortless roots-rock sweep which has made Jason Isbell and The Avett Brothers into household names. “Cold, Cold War” follows with a plodding, bluesy guitar ﬁgure and funeral march horns as the story continues with the young man a continent away lost in the rigors of war and pining for his new wife. Here Merckle’s delivery circles in on his most comfortable delivery territory, with a kind of resigned stoicism with glimpses of real pain cracking through the veneer, and it balances nicely against the bouncier strum-along agrarian paean “North Carolina” that proceeds it and serves as a character sketch of Merckle’s grandmother. The album proper closes with the rousing “Follow Me Boys” and ﬁrecracker PTSDblues of “My Lord, My Lord,” the latter of which romps hard with a charging horn section and blistering guitar leads which gives the basic blues template plenty of room to swing and howl. The acoustic renditions of the opening two songs are nice if superﬂuous, particularly given the care taken with their full arrangement counterparts. On the whole, this is the kind of thoughtful and well-executed roots-rock record that can be deceptively difficult to pull off, and Merckle and his many Jangly Records sidekicks pull off with aplomb. -K Y L E P E T E R S E N
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WESS “ WARMDADDY” ANDERSON & MARK RAPP Natural History There’s a certain magic that’s in the air any time two jazz greats work their way into a conversation with each other, when a tune is no longer a comfortable avenue for baton-passing solos and instead becomes the fuel for two performers to test each other’s meddle. That, at its core, is the appeal of saxophonist Wess Anderson and trumpet player Mark Rapp getting in the studio together. Each instrumentalist boasts a stellar pedigree and adventurous spirit, and what they do to these mostly-Anderson-composed tunes, along with organist David Ellington and drummer Chris Burroughs, is let things ride until that magic happens. Whether it becomes a steely tumbleweed of exultations as it does on the title track, a stretched-out playful duel as on the organ-drenched “Rosie Posie,” or an emotional journey as on the gospel-tinged soul wanderings of “Dem Dirty Blues” hardly seems material. There’s a natural deftness with genre and improvisation throughout which makes for an enjoyable listening experience, but it’s the moments of ﬁre and verve that makes this collection tick. -KYLE PETERSEN
Classical Guitar A Young Literary Artist Explores Another Art Form BY JASMINE RANJIT
oseph Tollefsen has a gift with the guitar- to say the least. In his total of six years playing, he has crossed the country performing in major youth classical guitar competitions. His performances established him as a young virtuoso and set him on the path for musical success. In his short career, Joseph has performed for TEDX Columbia, ECU Guitarfest, and Boston Guitarfest and won numerous awards for his work. Raised in Columbia, SC, Joseph is now in Baltimore where he attends Johns Hopkins University and studies Music at the Peabody Conservatory. Before understanding Joseph’s accomplishments, I ﬁrst had to reckon with my own knowledge of classical music. It is fair to say that I knew little if not nothing about the classical guitar. I vaguely remembered learning about Andres Segovia during Spanish in my junior year of high school. The classical guitar brings back memories of teenage nervousness and sleep-deprivation. In that way, classical guitar became a stilted relic of my past. My ﬁrst challenge of writing this story was to understand that classical guitar as an evolving genre. Joseph is a representation of this niche genre’s ﬂourishing future. Joseph was introduced to the guitar at 11 years old when he was given an acoustic guitar for Christmas. Laurie Tollefsen, Joseph’s mother, says his passion did not begin right away. Instead, Joseph played the acoustic guitar and switched to the electric guitar a bit which lasted a year until he began to play the
classical guitar which is where things “really began to take off.” Joseph says that playing classical guitar is more challenging for him and that the “techniques are all different.” He started playing the acoustic guitar as “just something enjoyable to do” then changed paths to the classical guitar which required more effort but was also more rewarding. At 12 years old, Joseph began to take classical guitar lessons with Marina Alexandra, a Columbia-based guitar artist, impresario, and educator. Through Marina, Joseph was able to participate in events such as the Southern Guitar Festival where he received the distinction of an honorable mention. When I started listening to classical music, I began to understand the difference between acoustic and classical. Hearing the acoustic guitar, I found myself waiting patiently for something to happen. I realized that I was waiting for a voice. But, when I listened to classical guitar, the player was the singer. The trills and slurs gave the classical guitar an emotive voice. Classical guitar overlays two different sounds; two different voices. I listened to a piece Joseph played entitled “Giga” from Bach’s Lute Suite, BWV 996. The deeper voice controls the tone of the piece. The other higher string of notes is repetitive, but rhythmically interesting. The higher notes seem to speed up as the voices begin to grow until they reach the peak. At this peak the dialogue intensiﬁes. I happened upon a video of Ana Vidovic, a favorite of Joseph’s, playing Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude in G major. While listening to this piece, I rejected another misconception that classical guitar was limited to interpreting Latin American compositions. Listening to Vidovic play Bach, I was astounded by how well Vidovic could change personas. While her version of Segovia’s
“Asturia” maintained a traditional Latin American intonation, with equal portions of passion and steadiness, the Bach piece had the crisp edges of Baroque style music. Both Tollefsen and Vidovic effectively mimic the feeling of a ﬂeet without needing anyone else. Their performances are astoundingly effective. Watching the TEDX event was perhaps the most telling. Joseph performed three songs. The lights are drawn low, leaving the audience in darkness. Rather than have a row of artiﬁcial lights casting the speaker in stark light, this stage has a somber blue light in the ceiling. Joseph picks up the cigar box guitar, brown and with a rectangular body, that he made himself. He plays a few notes. They are quiet and straightforward. Each note following the other like an assembly line. Gradually as the notes become faster and more easily strung together, the piece begins to develop layers. It has a soft padding of ﬂicks of the ﬁngernail on which all else is left to lay. The following notes crescendo and have direction as they lead up to the strongest section of the piece. Even the strongest notes at the piece’s peak are still soft. The piece is meant to be an intimate greeting, a gentle hello, a ﬁrst introduction. And so, the music continues to build and reaches a gentle apex then ﬁnds its way back down into silence. The last note fades, and the audience applauds. The guitar is replaced. The next song begins. For the next hour, Joseph and other classical guitarists played over my speakers. Each piece is a painting of an ancient ritual, requiring imagination to ﬁnd out how it ﬁts with today’s times; how it ﬁts in our world. Listening to Joseph, I began to understand that the future of classical guitar is alive and evolving. And its beautiful dialogues are just as potent today as they were in the time of Segovia.
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Their Voice Ahomari Raymond Turner is a Left-Field Pop Artist with a Great New Project Called blue, girl by Kyle Petersen
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROBERT COFFEY
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vaguely shoegazey Loamers and their new project, blue, girl, a lushly orchestrated set of indie pop that brings to mind the richly wrought contours of Anohni or Rufus Wainwright. As a black artist who identiﬁes as queer and speaks with a ﬁrm indifference to white fragility, Turner also is part of a new generation of young Columbia musicians who are dispensing with gender binaries and who are comfortable bringing an explicit, even radical, sense of social justice and awareness to their music. Jasper caught up with Turner to learn more about their songwriting process and where they are at currently with blue, girl. I’m curious how you ﬁrst started making music--it seems like your earlier work was largely programmed beats and melodic lines that you sang over. How did it all start? A: I started writing songs at 8. It wasn’t until I was 21 that I started producing. A very dear friend and supporter got me my ﬁrst music sequencer when I turned 21. Forever thankful to him. At that time in my life no one really wanted to work with me so it was either keep singing a capella or learn how to make instrumentals. That changed after Loamers/ blue,girl was formed. HOMARI RAYMOND TURNER is a presence you won’t likely forget. There’s a soft boldness in the way the singer handles the stage, and a certain haunting quality to the deep, sonorous sound of their voice that feels wizened beyond its years, whether delivering a devastating original tune or re-imagining a Beyonce song. Turner originally appeared on the scene performing moody, self-produced DIY pop music with minimal ornamentation under Ahomari or Cyberbae, although in recent years has appeared in the guitar-driven,
Your music seems tied to your racial and sexual identity in some critical ways. How does your sense of self effect or drive your creativity? A: I write my music about me so it’s going to be tied to my sexual identity and race. It affects it heavily because that’s my daily life. Being in blue, girl may have even opened that door wider. You recorded and played a lot mostly solo prior to blue, girl. How did the collaboration with Sean Jones happen? A: Me and Sean would always run into each other at parties and I’d call him by the wrong name. One day early in 2016 I invited him over and we kind of jammed but nothing came out of it. Then I met Matt Mossman and we formed Loamers. I invited Sean to one of our practices because I still wanted to do something musically with him. He got there, we as a group write one of our best songs and that day he joined. While Loamers was on break we started coming up with our own songs that eventually became the EP. The songs seem more structured and honed on this new EP--was there something you were trying to do differently in terms of writing or singing?
You write very direct, emotional songs-- A: The structure is Sean’s doing. If it were who inspires you as a writer/performer up to me our songs would be 6 minutes of reverb and echoes. In terms of songwriting I in that regard? just wanted to be more honest with myself as A: As a songwriter people that inﬂuence me a person. In our last band a lot of the things daily are people like Martin Gore, Max Mar- I sing I couldn’t sing in that band so it was a tin, Janet Jackson (during the Velvet Rope bit of a rebellion. But also that’s just the way album) and etc. As a performer I was origi- I talk to my friends. So those songs are more nally inﬂuenced by Arthur Russell and Janet so text messages on top of Sean’s arrangeJackson but now I’m more inﬂuenced by the ments. I been singing differently for about soul artist from Stax back in the day and punk a year and that’s due to being in a shoegaze band and having to project over a guitar amp frontmen and women. when I couldn’t hear myself. So my voice has changed drastically. It’s a new person. It’s still changing. These days it’s more gritty and intense. Not something I wanted but I can’t complain.
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25 Years Through the Eyes of a Groupie By Kristine Har tvigsen
First, let me be clear. I never sacriďŹ ced my values. I became involved because I care deeply about the art.
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In my decades-long relationship with the Art Bar, I will admit to some bartender crushes. Um. Hello. They’re rock stars! Then can pour shots with ambidextrous efficiency. They replace my beer when it’s empty without being asked. Back then, I wore the merch. I stayed after closing. Heck, my ﬁrst published poem was titled “Ramblings of an Art Bar Groupie.” Of course, like any good groupie, I understand that it’s not about me. Everyone’s Art Bar story is unique. And their experiences are their own to tell. An Idea That Would Hold Air Clark Ellefson moved into the then-derelict and mostly industrial Vista neighborhood west of downtown Columbia in the early 1980s. He established Lewis+Clark, an innovative furniture design studio, on Lincoln Street. The warehouse rent was affordable, and, well, let’s just say that parking was not an issue. A small tire shop about a block over on Park Street caught Ellefson’s eye, and the seeds of an idea were sown. When the Strock Tire Company eventually closed, Ellefson joined forces with local entrepreneur Jeff Helsley to lease and convert the structure into the Art Bar, which opened on September 18, 1992. So how do I pay homage to the Art Bar on its 25th anniversary? I begin by sitting down with founder Ellefson and his partner, general manager Andy Rodgers. Both are co-owners of the landmark Vista establishment. Longtime friends, we’re all older now, grayer, and chagrined at how quickly the time passed. “In the beginning, it wasn’t just a bar to me,” Ellefson says. He viewed it as a sort of laboratory where creative minds could join and perhaps be cultivated. It also happened to be within convenient walking distance for Ellefson to unwind after closing up shop for the day. Like me, Andy Rodgers heard about the new bar and wanted to check it out. However, the location gave us pause.
“I was reluctant at ﬁrst because the Art Bar was in a bad area of town. It seemed so isolated. I was afraid to go in,” Rodgers says. “But they were playing music I like such as The Smiths, Depeche Mode, and The Cure. I felt like I had found my home. I planted myself on a bar stool.” Rodgers soon became a regular at the Art Bar, suggesting playlists and sharing from his own music library. Before long, he was offered a job but was hesitant initially. “I felt I didn’t have the right people skills for a bar,” he says, “but eventually I said I’d give it a try. And it worked out.” Indeed it did. Within a year and a half, Rodgers was general manager, and in 2005, he bought Helmsley’s share of the bar and became a co-owner. “I always wished that I could be an owner, not knowing the responsibilities and what goes along with it,” he says. Rodgers had a year-old child (Ava) and was examining his life. “I thought to myself, holy crap; I need to get my life together. I have a family to provide for. … It was now or never. I already was familiar with the business. I already knew the systems. I already had a great relationship with Clark.” “Early on, when Andy was just a bartender, he would take initiative,” Ellefson says. He had worthwhile ideas. “Every time he wanted to step up, I would agree to it. He is that good.”
Elvis lives in our hearts, our minds 32 . JASPER SPECIAL
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If These Walls Could Talk One of the ﬁrst things people notice about the Art Bar, after they’ve had time to down a drink or two, is the small bathrooms whose walls dispense big thoughts. Art Bar patrons have helped keep everyone’s bathroom time entertaining with all manner of lavatory wisdom and philosophy. Sharpies are complimentary. “We gave out markers from day one,” Ellefson notes. It was a multi-colored-ink stroke of genius. Every now and then the Art Bar would give the bathroom walls a fresh coat of paint, and within days, they were ﬁlled up again with clever and sometimes crude graffiti. “One of my favorite scribbles was: ‘Elvis lives in our hearts, our minds, … and a trailer park in Chapin,’” Rodgers recalls. Every other design element in the bar has been carefully weighed and measured, with Ellefson as the lead designer, craftsman, and art curator. “I spent hours and hours renovating the building, but I had to pull back on my craftsmanship because we didn’t have the budget!” Ellefson laments. “Clark is an artist, but he’s also very business-minded,” Rodgers adds. “He understands the practical concerns. He has sacriﬁced for his art.” With a disciplined academic foundation grounded in the ﬁne arts as well as experience opening art galleries, Ellefson refuses to sacriﬁce his standards when it comes to the art on display throughout the bar. “All artists I displayed were local at the time and mostly people I knew,” he says. “Eleanor Byrne, who had her studio upstairs before Art Bar opened. Others include Steven Chesley, Mike Williams, Colin Dodd, David Zacharias, and John Shultz.” In the early years, Ellefson was inundated with requests by artists to display their work. He is unapologetic in his rejections. “I have turned down so much bad art that people don’t approach me unless they have never met me before,” he says.
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‘Sibilance. Check 1, Check.’ To drum up more business on relatively “off” weeknights, the Art Bar lent its stage for a number of participatory shenanigans, including Two Worlds Collide (open mic), performances by improv comics the Art Bar Players, and Mr. B’s Goodtime Karaoke Explosion. On Tuesday nights during the mid-1990s, Two Worlds Collide invited Art Bar patrons onstage to share their poetry, spoken word, or music. When I started hosting in 1997, it was being hosted by Alex Smith and Anne Kelly (Tromsness). For a while we shared hosting duties on a rotating basis until it was primarily me. From 1997 to 1999, the Art Bar published a little newsletter called Aurora Borealis full of pictures and the writings of our open mic performers. Two World Collide was not just for reading and playing music. The inimitable drag queen Trixie Trash has graced our stage. We’ve featured live haircuts onstage. And believe it or not, we conducted an actual tongue-piercing live and onstage at Two Worlds Collide. “Hizaa!” When you heard this exclamation under the twinkling lights, you know the Art Bar Players have taken the stage. A ragtag, Monty Python-esque troupe of local improv actors, the Art Bar Players enjoy dramatic exercises and games as well as act out scenarios suggested by the audience. Every time they take the stage, they conjure up fresh material, often to hilarious effect. Performances by the Art Bar Players faded out about four years ago, but their fans can take heart. A reunion show is scheduled for Friday night, September 22, at the Art Bar during anniversary week. Two of the original Art Bar Players, Russ Tabor and wife Risa Nagasaki Tabor, dropped out of the troupe about eight years ago but will return for the reunion. “We are pulling out a couple of our old bits. We will be doing a really short show,” Risa says. “The last of the old soldiers fell away, but the old Players coming back will join a couple of the newer Players, so you will be getting a taste of the old and new at once.” Players alum Todd Watkins says a new comedy troupe called Tomorrow Quest Theatre now has begun performing at the Art Bar on Tuesday nights. It’s more of a variety show that combines improv, standup comedy, music, and open mic.
Chris Bickel was a dream and a nightmare in one 36 . JASPER SPECIAL
Perhaps the most enduring — and outrageous — of the Art Bar’s weeknight escapes was Mr. B’s Goodtime Karaoke Explosion, hosted by local musician, ﬁlmmaker, and avowed troublemaker Chris Bickel. Mr. B’s Karaoke happened on Wednesday nights from 2004 to 2012. Readers of the Free Times newspaper voted Mr. B’s the “Best Karaoke” each of the eight years of its run. “Chris Bickel was a dream and a nightmare in one,” Rodgers says shaking his head. “He was a difficult person to manage. He liked the anarchy and chaos of it.” That formula somehow must have worked because it has been one of the Art Bar’s most popular and successful events ever. Revelers often dressed in superhero costumes, lingerie, or leisure suits to ﬂamboyantly belt out their favorite tunes. On the most raucous nights, they shared the microphone (and sometimes saliva). They threw glitter, confetti, and silly string. They let out long-winded primal screams. They engaged in food ﬁghts with morsels smuggled in (the Art Bar doesn’t sell food). They tore apart stuffed animals. It was the working man’s nightlife equivalent of The Purge. Without question, Mr. B’s was delicious mayhem. Cleaning up after, not so much. “My favorite nights at the Art Bar were the ‘Cabana Nights,’” Bickel says, when inﬂatable kiddie pools were set up just outside the bar. On hot summer nights, they were ideal for cooling off and other mischief. “Those were always completely manic, and it’s a wonder no one got killed!” Let’s Dance! Throughout most of the 1990s, on weekends, the Art Bar became Columbia’s latenight destination to enjoy cocktails and blow off steam on the dance ﬂoor. “In the early days, right after the back room was opened up by knocking down a brick wall, there used to be bands playing on Wednesday nights only. The Friday and Saturday dance crowd was huge back then, so there was no need for bands,” says Jay Matheson, musician and owner of the Jam Room recording studio. It was a great run. “Bands that fre-
quently played the back room on Wednesdays were Cherry Cherry Pow Pow. Jebel, The Void, and The New Jack Rubies.” “I started going to Art Bar in ‘92 when I moved back to Columbia,” artist/musician Thomas Crouch says. “The Losers were the house band every Wednesday. So after band practice, my friends and I would go to see The Losers at Art Bar.” Around 2002 the dance crowd began to taper off, and it was time to change things up. “In 2003, we had a string of outdoor shows to celebrate the Jam Room’s 15th anniversary. That’s the ﬁrst time that a cover was charged to get in.” Matheson says. Soon after, musician and Columbia Arts Academy (CAA) owner Marty Fort suggested that the Art Bar offer live music on Saturdays. Ellefson and Rodgers agreed. “A really big deal for the Art Bar has been overcoming the decline of their old dance scene,” Matheson explains. However, by the mid-2000s, live bands began to pack the bar on Saturday nights, most playing from the larger Blue Lady Lounge stage. For 14 years now, the Art Bar has successfully run live music shows and been recognized as a legitimate music venue. Agora Mania Clearly, Ellefson set an extremely high bar for what he would allow on the Art Bar’s walls. But what about up-and-coming artists who needed some experience and exposure? Fort and Crouch in 2010 pitched an idea that ultimately became Art Bar Agora — a rudimentary, laid-back outdoor marketplace for artists and musicians seeking to get noticed. “Marty and I knew the Columbia scene from playing and going to shows in the ‘80s through the ‘90s,” Crouch explains. “So after I started concentrating more on visual art around town, he contacted me, and we created Art Bar Agora. We will have our 11th Agora next year.” “At ﬁrst, I thought it was too lowbrow for an art environment,” Ellefson says of displaying art outside in the bar’s parking lot. But he went along with the idea. “We added a live music element and food by (local chef ) Joe
Turkaly,” Rodgers adds. “That was a selling point.” “I always recommend Art Bar to people visiting Columbia and Agora to new visual and musical artists who I admire,” Crouch says. “Everyone always has a great time and comes away with a positive experience and a unique perspective of Columbia.” Of course, there’s not enough space here to properly recognize every Art Bar-inspired activity or trend, such as the “Smart Drink,” the oxygen bar, or the 2003 Men of the Art Bar Calendar (published only once). Many remember Goth Nights, The Session Live, Art Bar Proms, Christmas Night Pajama Parties, the online forums (before Facebook), and performances by Delirium Tribal Bellydance and Columbia Alternacirque. The Euro Motorcycle Club still meets on Mondays with occasional group rides on Sundays. And of course, the Art Bar’s annual Halloween and New Year’s Eve parties are legend. Rodgers says there have been at least three weddings at the bar as well as countless wedding receptions. I even had my pre-wedding lingerie shower at the Art Bar in the fall of 1993. It was a blast. Visitors to Columbia, including celebrities, often hear that the Art Bar as a muststop. Over the years, the likes of Jack Palance, Kevin Bacon, Danny DeVito, Gregory Hines, Tony Hawk, and John Waters have occupied a bar stool and admired the robots. “John Waters especially loved the Art Bar,” Rodgers says. “He insisted we ﬁnd Clark so he could tell him in person.” “People often tell me this is not the kind of bar they would expect to ﬁnd in Columbia,” Rodgers adds. Ch…Ch…Ch… Changes A lot changes in 25 years. Art Bar opened before the city’s no-smoking ordinances, so in the late-night hours during the 1990s, smoke ﬂoated heavy in the air, creating a thick ﬁlm noir vibe. The tang of nicotine clung to everyone long after they got home. Another legislatively driven change was the switch from minibottle to free-pour drinks. “We were afraid of the minibottle law
says local poet Worthy Evans, “… and if they played dubstep/trance electronica, I could move around on the ﬂoor for a while.” For many, the Art Bar represents acceptance and inclusivity. Everyone is welcome no matter your myriad proclivities. All have permission to nurture every bit of their outrageous selves. Carolyn Kelley echoed my own thoughts about the Art Bar. We both considered it that rare safe place for a single woman to go alone. “The Art Bar was my home Thursday through Saturday nights in the ‘90s. I would often go out by myself, knowing I was safe and that I would end up meeting friends there,” she says. “The music was so good back then. … The Art Bar will always remind me of some the best times of my 20s.” “I remember the open mic poetry nights … and sitting in the back, ﬁring ideas at each other and arguing over different styles, poets, and movements,” says Jason Bundrick. “Two Worlds Collide was my testing ground for new music,” adds Chad Elvington. “I met friends for life there.” Rodgers says the Art Bar has always been a safe, nonviolent place, even very late at night. Many of the bar’s clientele work in the service industry and unwind at the Art Bar after work. For many, it is their sanctuary, and God help anyone who threatens it. You might say the Art Bar has crowd-sourced security. “If someone acted up, customers would jump in as readily as the doorman,” Rodgers says. “They’d say ‘I’m not going to let you do this in my bar!’” I don’t think there will ever be another place quite like the Art Bar. In a poem, I once called it “my arrested-in-chains techno-rave addiction.” For many years, the Art Bar was my place — a place where “motorcyclers, wrestling fans, comic book heroes, blue-colMeeting Friends for Life lar lovers, nerds, rappers, poets, and queers I asked a few of my friends to weigh in on mingle, bitch, ﬂirt, and compare tattoos.” what the Art Bar has meant to them. “The Art Bar was a nice, low-key place to have an anonymous beer,” Crouch says. “The bands were always new to me and pretty much all Kristine Hartvigsen is the author of To the ‘art punky,’ so I enjoyed that, too.” “I’d hit that place after football games, Wren Nesting, published in 2012 by Muddy smoke cigs, and look at the skyline for a bit,” Ford Press. She lives in Clinton, SC. change, but it ended up being a non-issue,” Ellefson says. “It was actually a good thing.” “To me, the biggest change involves competition,” Rodgers notes. “We kind of had a monopoly. We were the kings of the alternative scene. … Peoples’ time is so precious now. We have to compete with things like X-Box, Netﬂix, Red Box, and Facebook.” In addition, business nearly ground to a halt when the state passed a law limiting weekend hours for bars. “We were a latenight bar,” Ellefson says. “The city imposed a 2 a.m. closing time. That almost put us out of business.” Fortunately, patrons eventually reconciled the earlier closing, and the Art Bar continued to prosper. I asked Ellefson if he ever considered franchising. “We talked about it in the early days,” he says, “but we realized that this is a really hands-on business. Lewis+Clark is my main business. Art Bar is a social experiment. … We didn’t have a sign for a long time. We did no advertising.” Yet the people came. “What makes Art Bar the Art Bar is the décor and design, Clark’s vision, the people, and the staff,” Rodgers says. “You can’t just fabricate the people. Our employees are enthusiastic. They love their jobs. They are in coveted positions. I have bartenders that have been working for me for 13-14 years now.” “The Art Bar also has been a big supporter of the Jam Room Music Festival and has been very generous in helping us put on fundraisers and after parties there,” Matheson says. Franchising just isn’t consistent with the unique concept and longevity of the original Art Bar. “There are so many bars that are corporate-run. They don’t connect with the community. They are just money machines,” Ellefson says. The Art Bar will never be that.
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DOGON K R I G GA AND AFROFUTURISM IN HIS OWN WORDS
INTERVIEW BY KARIE GRACE DUNCAN
Dogon Krigga is from here but, in another, more ethereal sense, he’s really not. Texas-born and Columbia-raised, Krigga is a digital artist heavily invested in an Afrofuturist aesthetic that gives him an otherworldly creative spirit, someone both borne of this time and place and somehow above it. On the eve of his 29th birthday (“I’ll be 29,” he says. “I think it’s going to be a really interesting birthday, sandwiched between two eclipses. There’s a lot of ambient energy buzzing around my birthday so that’s pretty cool.”), Jasper sat down with the charismatic, self-trained graphic designer and visual artist to learn more about his creative history and vision.
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOMAS HAMMOND
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J: How did you get your start in graphic out albums and singles and thought that I could help. So, I ended up becoming a managart? er and started managing them. I joined a colDK: “’I’ve always been in art. I used to draw lective called the Steam Squad based out of and paint as a kid, and I was doing dance and Columbia and I was managing a lot of artists. gymnastics too in my elementary and middle I was doing design the whole time, executiveschool years. So I was always around the arts. ly producing albums and mixtapes. That was I started as a self-taught graphic designer. I a hidden talent that I realized I had, being did that for about 7 years, starting in 2007 as able to take what somebody already had and a side project with a friend of mine. We were shine it up, help perfect it, and make it more running an underground music blog, and we professional. I did that for about 5 years, and didn’t have any money. So, when we need- then everyone ended up moving apart. That ed somebody to design our website I taught was my time to focus more on my art because myself how to use [the open source image the music was taking me away from that. I editing software] GIMP. That was my ﬁrst remember making the decision to put my art software. We were making banners and so to the side and focus on the music and then on. Through the website, I started to make a within that month calamity struck. Then all lot of friends who were in music, and I start- I had was just my art and my graphics. That’s ed making a lot of their album covers. Then, when I got to really study and put my time in in 2012, I developed a style that was mine, and develop my style.” that people liked, but it wasn’t always what my core client base was really looking for. I What is your creative process? was always trying to take designs to the next level and do some visually pretty daring stuff DK: “I developed a pretty unique creative proand they weren’t always looking for that. So, cess when I was doing primarily music, espeI just decided to do art on my own. I did my cially for song covers. As I was learning more ﬁrst series of pieces then and it kind of took about executive production, I was developing this creative style where I would take a song off from there.” and I would listen to the song and break the Tell us about your work in the music song down into components because of all the time I spent watching my roommates industry. make beats. Seeing their software, I saw the DK: “I got my start in music doing art through similarities between the music software and the blog and everything and just making a lot video editing software and my own photo edof friends with underground rappers and iting software. Everything operates on layers. singers and a few bands. I started learning You take one thing, put effects on it, and you about how to create and release albums be- arrange it in your timeline. Seeing that, I recause a lot of the guys that I worked for were alized I could pretty much use the same exnovices as well. So, on top of providing them act process that one would make a beat with artwork, I would also be able to give them a and do it visually. So, I started taking songs little insight on the music because I was basi- and breaking down all the components and cally a music blogger at that point. So, I stud- ascribing a visual symbol for all those parts ied a lot of music, primarily hip-hop. I got to and then putting those pieces together. Esmeet A&R and managers and PR people and sentially what I’m doing is converting an learn from them, because a lot of times they MP3 into a JPEG, a sound ﬁle into a picture. would be the ones shopping for art for their It would be subconscious, but you would look recording artists. Then, in 2011, I got my ﬁrst at the artwork and you might not notice it but apartment and all of my roommates were every element of that song is there. Most of musicians so they were doing their thing and the time when people are looking for artwork I was watching how they went about putting for music, they want something that visually
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represents the sound. So, I took that literally and would take the sounds and give them a visual meaning and put that together and give it to them and they started loving that because the essence of what they created was all there. When I’m working on something, that’s all I listen to because I’m converting all those sounds into something visually using myself as a conduit for transformation. It’s alchemical. I started taking that and putting that into my own art. A lot of my earlier pieces reﬂected what I listened to. I can’t create without listening to music. So, what I was working on would start showing up in the music. I used to listen to Sun Ra a lot. Us both being in that same realm of Afrofuturism, I would take his music and just convert it visually and create.” Explain Afrofuturism for our readers. DK: “Afrofuturism is a theory and a practice that teaches the practitioner how to manipulate time with a recursive model, through an Afrocentric lens. The way I work with Afrofuturism is taking the past, ancient concepts and placing them in the future or taking future concepts or values and placing those into the past. You can also see Afrofuturism as a response to modern Sci-Fi. It’s always been a concept, the term emerged in the 70s or 80s but it was seen in the aesthetics and the music of Sun Ra and George Clinton. George Clinton is known for their very unapologetically Black, futuristic stuff. When you look at a lot of modern Sci-Fi you don’t see Black people or characters, or Black and ancient African principles in the future. It’s always representations of primarily white men performing colonialism in space. The people who traveled space and time are always military. So there’s always an imperialistic thing to everything that has to do with sci-ﬁ and there’s so much more to the world than military; than trying to police the universe. So, Afrofuturism steps in and brings that spirit of ancient African life and of Black people to the future where we engage in space and intergalactic travel with alien races.”
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How do you use symbolism in your artwork? DK: “The 3 or 4 years after I stopped doing music and I was at home working on my art, I was studying a lot of different spiritual, esoteric, occult concepts and traditions. One of my ﬁrst stops was understanding and studying alchemy. Modern alchemy comes from medieval Europe, but they were informed by even more ancient alchemical traditions from ancient Egypt. When you’re looking at pyramids and carvings on temple walls, they are depicting whole stories in imagery. They have people wearing certain things, posed in certain ways and in certain positions holding objects as instructions on performing certain tasks. A lot of the ancient Greek alchemists and philosophers were students of those Kemetic mystery schools [a reconstruction of ancient Egyptian polytheism] where they would teach a lot of these esoteric concepts. You would see that style of transcribing processes through visuals from hieroglyphics and temple carvings in Greek tapestries and artwork and then it moved into Europe where alchemists would take their chemical processes and codify them in a way that kept it secret but also transcended language boundaries because there were a lot of alchemists that spoke different languages. So they communicated in a form that was primarily writing. They used those ancient concepts to create a new language for sharing their processes and ideas and concepts. So I studied how they did that, and I started doing the same thing.” What is the mission of your artwork? DK: “To reawaken a part of our psyche that we have forgotten and that we are distracted from, and to remind Black people living in this country where we have systemic oppression and we are physically taken away from our ancient practices and beliefs and traditions. I’m studying that to bring that past beyond the present and into the future. And healing; a lot of the work is meant to counter-
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act some of the harmful concepts that have been bestowed on us through oppression. I’m giving people medicine basically to remind people who they were, but also who they are still and who they can be.”
four faces is older than the next. As they develop, it’s from my original state as a kernel of knowledge into a fully bloomed spiritual being. I think that’s one of my favorite pieces because it’s one of the pieces I’m deﬁnitely going to get tattooed on me to carry for life.”
Who are a few of your favorite AfrofuBeing a young artist, how do you want to turistic artists? shape the arts community around you? DK: “My ultimate favorite is deﬁnitely Sun Ra. Listening to his freeform style of jazz DK: “I really want to shake it up. I want to you’re not even quite sure if you’re really lis- make space for more people like me. I want tening to music or not because you’re really to create space for queer Black artists and more entranced in a soundscape. His music queer Black artists that work in Afrofuturcan create vivid hallucinations if you really ism. I used my art to spread the ideology just focus on the frequencies and vibrations and the theories of Afrofuturism, teaching people how to tap into the ancient and the that he’s creating with these instruments. future parts of themselves. I want to create I grew up listening to George Clinton. Two of my favorite contemporaries are more space for that because it’s necessary. good friends of mine and forerunners of It’s medicine. It’s all healing. Each piece I Afrofuturism in this era: Rasheedah Phillips, create is essentially a healing regimen. So, I who is an author based out of Philly and Moor want to make more space for people who heal Mother who is a DJ and record producer also through art.” “I used to believe that escapism was esbased out of Philadelphia. They created this collective called the Afrofuturistic Affair and sential to being a big artist, but it’s really not Black Quantum Futurism. They’re both ge- because we have technology. I’m able to reach people on the other side of the globe. I was niuses.” able to be the head designer for an AfrofuturWhat is your favorite piece of art that ism festival that was put on by the Worm gallery in Rotterdam. I didn’t even get to go, but you’ve worked on? I was able to cross the Atlantic Ocean and put DK: “It’s a piece called Orthogenesis. It’s re- this energy in a place. So, I don’t need to move ally a self portrait in a sense. It’s not an actual to New York or L.A., places I’ll travel to, but portrait of my body but it’s a self portrait of Columbia, SC where we are, with the history my spirit. It’s showing my growth and de- of Black people, this is where the medicine is velopment spiritually and physically, start- needed the most.” ing out as a seed or an infant and each of the
JASPER GAZES - COVER ARTIST . 45
The Art and Healing Heidi Darr-Hope B Y M AT T H E W O â€™ L E A R Y
here probably arenâ€™t a lot of people who can claim to have been saved by a ruptured appendix, but when artist Heidi Darr-Hope checked into the hospital last October for abdominal pain, the diagnosis was that she had been walking around for days with a ruptured appendix. The doctors performed their tests before treatment. During an endoscopy, they noticed something concerning. On her pancreas, there was a cyst. It was the beginning of a pancreatic cancer.
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALEXIS SCHWALLIER
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I know more than I would like to about pancreatic cancer. If caught in its earliest stages, it has a 15% ﬁve year survival rate. Once someone starts showing symptoms, like my mother did when she began experiencing sharp pains in her abdomen, the doctors don’t talk about stages. They talk about time, and not much of it. Three months after her ﬁrst doctor’s appointment, my mother was dead. The discovery of Darr-Hope’s neoplasm was nothing short of luck. She’s in Baltimore recovering from the cyst’s removal in March when I ﬁrst get in contact with her. It takes a few weeks for her to get back home to Columbia (the recovery takes a little longer than expected). But when I meet her at her studio inside Gallery 80808, she’s nothing but energy. She’s excited to talk about her work, and keeps apologizing to me for her enthusiasm. Her recent health troubles, as well as other stressors like the 2016 election, has led to her most recent work to start from a (literally) darker place than ususal. Before she begins bringing her work to life, she paints the canvases black. Then the positive energy starts to emerge. From the center of these dark voids bloom plants, hybrids of petals, leaves and peacock plumage in reds, yellows, blues, and greens. Hiding behind them are frames made of white cursive, words upon words. “We held a place for you a place of peace” reads the tiniest fraction of text. These most recent pieces are from a collection she calls “From Darkness Into Light,” a collection that would undoubtedly be less sparse if not for her hospital stays. The dichotomy of darkness and light is a running theme in Darr-Hope’s work: twisting dreams out of the “incredible, repetitive nightmares” that sent her digging into the works of Carl Jung. She had long been an artist, having an MFA from the University of South Carolina, but it was her determination to interpret these visions that set her on her path.
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Her level of expertise has required a process. The artist ﬁrst visited apocryphal Columbia bookstore The Happy Bookseller, back when it was still in business, and got a copy of Peter London’s No More Secondhand Art, described as “using art as an instrument of personal transformation”. She became active in Very Special Arts (now just VSA), a program in SC Arts Commission dealing with children, youth, and adults with disabilities. She worked with the SC Cancer Center at Palmetto Health. All the while, she was building her own family. She’s been married for 40 years, has two children, and three grandchildren. They all live in Columbia, and are all supportive of her art. Going after cancer was a natural venture long before her diagnosis. Her little brother had died at age six from the disease. She was only eleven. Grief counseling was not yet as widespread as it is today, so she and her family were left to just cope. But while grief groups are fairly ubiquitous, and can be found anywhere in the vicinity of a hospital, everyone grieves in a different way. Not everyone gets solace from sitting in a circle and talking. Some people want to express themselves wordlessly. And Darr-Hope’s preferred starting point is the mandala. Literally translated from Sanskrit as “circle”, a mandala is a ritual symbol often used by Buddhists and Hindus. The deﬁnition is fairly broad, but imagine a circle surrounded by four sides, and ﬁll in the rest with your imagination. Christians have their own version of the mandala in the Celtic Cross or the rose windows in cathedrals. The therapeutic value of this design is most immediately evident in its use in adult coloring books, which can be used to alleviate anxiety. While cancer patients tend to be the main focus of Darr-Hope’s program, Healing Icons, her website makes it very clear that art ther-
apy can be beneﬁcial to sufferers of any disease, and she offers regular classes to explore her theory. The current course, Creating Brave, can beneﬁt the afflicted, their caretakers, their family, or anyone who feels there is something inside of them that needs to be soothed. And the art that comes out of these sessions has the potential to be shown at art shows at 80808 Studios. Aside from mandalas, Heidi Darr-Hope is best known for masks, collages, and what is best described as shrines. She deﬁnes herself as a mixed media artist, and the shrines are busy affairs, composed of mosaic tiles, feathers, bells, or other material from one of the hundreds of plastic containers stacked to the ceiling of her studio. The hanging colors put me in the mind of Tibetan prayer ﬂags, which is almost certainly intentional. On one occasion, Darr-Hope brought Tibetan monks to visit Columbia. The next venture for Darr-Hope is a series called Incidental Findings. It started with a blind contour drawing that she developed while working with abstract painter Brucie Holler. She is also participating in this year’s Vista Lights, and will be among the artists whose work is featured during the 50th Anniversary of the South Carolina Arts Commission. Her work will be at Benedict College Henry Ponder Gallery in May of 2018. There is currently a plan to move 80808 to an unbuilt building behind One Eared Cow Glass on Huger. The proposed art colony, Stormwater Studios, hopes to be available in the new year. When she mentions moving, I take an exaggerated glance around her packed studio. “Good luck with that,” I say. She sighs loudly. “No kidding.” Information about the art programs can be found at healingicons.org. The next Creating Brave is planned to start in December.
Matthew O’Leary is the author of Symptoms of a Teratoma, (Muddy Ford Press, 2017), which is excerpted on page 64.
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Henri Matisse: Jazz & Poetry on Paper
Face Value: Artists’ Portraits by Alphonse van Woerkom
September 15, 2017 – January 15, 2018 The CMA is proud to present 81 works in a sweeping exhibition that celebrates four of the artist’s books, including his most famous, the colorful Jazz portfolio from 1947. Together, these pages offer meditations on life, love, hardship, and utter joy.
October 6 – November 26, 2017 Alphonse van Woerkom is fascinated with other artists. A life-long draftsman, his natural response is to draw portraits of them. A master of the medium, Van Woerkom uses a wide variety of drawing techniques. The result is a realistic likeness full of evocative marks.
Renée Cox: Soul Culture
Seen & Unseen: Photographs by Imogen Cunningham
December 15, 2017 – April 22, 2018 Pioneering photographer Renée Cox, stirrer of controversy and breaker of boundaries, debuts her new series of work Soul Culture at the CMA. Cox continues to deconstruct issues of race and gender using the body as central image to promote positivity and empowerment.
February 2 – April 29, 2018 American photographer Imogen Cunningham was an extraordinary technician who produced deeply poetic work. She was also a social activist, documenting the beat movement of the 1950s and the countercultural revolution of the 1960s.
Learn more at 803-799-2810 or columbiamuseum.org
BODY LANGUAGE BY JOSHUA ENGLISH
A burst of chaos and then it’s over. Whether or not our hearts peeled open keep beating there is a limit to how naked we can become and remain human. The mystery of touch is that it rhymes secret with tremble. I leave a cup of water by my bedside to encourage dreaming; the same I open my window and my body speaks in blue. All the connective tissue has been replaced with weightlessness. The hope is that I can ﬁt all your dreams inside my mouth.
Josh English’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cutbank, Denver Quarterly, Prelude, Sixth Finch, Third Coast and elsewhere. He received his MFA from the University of South Carolina and is a co-founding editor of the poetry journal Oxidant|Engine. Originally from New Jersey, he currently lives and teaches in Columbia, SC.
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THE NATURE OF SHADOW BY MAGGIE OLSZEWSKI
From where I sit on the corner couch I Count nine instances of shadow. There’s mine Draped down the hardwood, poised elbow bent to The tassels of that Oriental rug. The shadows cast like capes from the muddle Of our mantle, minute enough to count As one. Three pitched forth from the feathered lamp, The television, the ancient coffee Table. Then the shadow of the mark I Made across the wall in pen, because the Way we scrubbed spread the ink enough to stay. I count my father’s stubble, his late night Summer standard. And Night itself I’d say Is our penultimate eight, Sun climbing Skies we can’t see, Moon bringing in the dark, Like the bald head of a woman at her Lover’s funeral, deep black veil draping Down to the dirt. Then shadow has many Meanings: the ghost of something that once was, The masking of something that still is, the Indistinct semblance of a ﬁgure, Some distorted reﬂection thrown from the Body as carelessly as we throw Our feet to the Earth. I am the ghost of My father who once was young, and of my Mother who once was here. I am the masked Something, as Moon eclipses Sun I am Bathed in penumbra, in the wake bent Back behind those busy moving forward. A buoy only moves when boats pass, and Don’t ﬂowers notice when they stand in shade
For too long? Don’t they start to wilt? I am the Distorted reﬂection of this corner Of our word, ostensibly the same but Don’t look too close. Shadows don’t account for Wrinkles unless you touch your nose to them. Shadows are products, and I am product, Built from the walls I grew up in, from the Faces I knew and have known, from the games We played like tag when everyone ran for Me and shouted the rules into my ears As if I didn’t know them all the times I sat alone at lunch. And here I am, On the corner couch as my father snores, Listening to the washing machine Wash the day away from my clothes, feeling More like a shadow than I ever have Standing in others’. But, I think, if Night Is the weeping mourner of Day, all sharp And wary and dark but still sought after, Always the tail end of hours spent Out kicking rocks down gravel parkways and Testing pools with the bare arches of our Feet and evolving in the evidence Of who we share our lunches with but still Loved for what only it can offer, for Stars that turn critics into dreamers, for Lightning bugs and crickets and those creatures Who perform their tireless routine for A tired crowd, for sideways worlds once our Heads hit the pillow, if Night can be loved By the ones who love Day, why can’t I be?
AN ECLIPSE AND A BUTCHER BY ANN HUMPHRIES
Howard Brice had a soft spot for my mother. He’d plug wedges in watermelons for our family to taste. He’d drawl, No good; no sale. Brice’s Mercantile was one of only two grocery stores in the county seat
he had given us. Raw, red meat squirmed from his grinder. He swept a quivering pink pile to weigh on a silver scale, wrapped it in white paper, ﬂourished the price with a black wax pen, then slid the bulging
(population 397) in that remote Texas Hill Country. Saturdays, my mother, whom people said was more beautiful than Jacqueline Kennedy, piled the four of us into a ’58 station wagon —no seat belts nor air conditioning—
package gently to me. I thanked him as I had been taught, found my mother with our little brother in her overﬂowing buggy, then joined my sisters at the candy counter. That Saturday
to drive thirteen miles past sheep and goats, summer camps and tourist cabins to the tiny market on the courthouse square. When we pulled in, we kids tumbled out to race through the screen door.
was July 20, 1963. At checkout, we asked Mr. Brice for cardboard boxes to make our pinhole projectors. On our way out, we passed San Antonio papers which headlined the President
Not yet ten, I was entrusted to order our usual three pounds of hamburger. When I approached the lighted case, Mr. Brice sang out, how is Miss Ann today? We talked about the great white Pyrenees puppy
and Mrs. Kennedy’s pending trip to Dallas. But that day, in the gravel lot of a small town’s grocer, a family turned its back to the sky to watch the moon slide across the sun.
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Coherence Amidst All the Loose Ends: Arthur Turfa’s Accents
Almost thirty years after that, another lecture on the decline of the American steel industry. Even though I tell him where I come from, an orotund explanation still ensues as I look for another drink.
At the conclusion of “First Kiss,” a poem that recalls a high school courtship that ends with Turfa learning via the local paper that his sweetheart has married a sailor (“a voyage to oblivion, no college anymore”), he writes:
JOHNATHAN BUTLER rthur Turfa’s Accents (2017 Blue Deco Publishing) develops and expands the project of Turfa’s previous book, Places and Times (2015 eLectio Publishing), cataloguing the settings, sounds, and people that have shaped the poet’s experience. What connects these “loose ends,” as the poet calls them in the book’s title poem, is Turfa’s capacity to hold these experiences in the light of recollection without judgment. The realities he catalogues are not always pretty, and some events seem to have stuck with the poet for their lack of resolution. Take the case of “Fifty Years On,” which describes an exodus from a dying steel town. What really stings, Turfa shows, ﬁfty years later, is the condescension of people who didn’t share the experience:
Almost twenty years later, a University of Chicago genius who never sweat a day in his life lectures me about what my father should have done. Tensely, I suggest he conﬁne his remarks to whatever he actually knows.
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A little later when I ﬁrst heard Tangled Up in Blue I smiled and thought maybe we would meet one day on the Avenue. We never did meet up again there or anywhere else.
If these examples give an impression of bitterness, they are the exception rather than the rule in this collection. The overriding sense that Accents gives is one of gratitude, including gratitude for what is irreparably lost. When Turfa writes about cities that have been part of his life, he does not celebrate, for example, an eternal Paris that endures outside the ﬂux of historical time, but places that are lost except to memory and language, as in “Trier, 1974”:
Decades later returning to ﬁnd the irony of all ironies: restored amphitheater and baths, ancient items abounding to be appreciated, but my haunts long-absorbed by covetous neighbors and the like with no trace of their existence except in my memories.
recalls, and, as in the case of “Trier, 1974,” the poet himself is sometimes surprised at what has not endured, of how the apparently permanent and taken for granted does not, in the end, sit still. This sentiment makes Accents in many ways a book of loss, but it is a loss informed by hard earned gratitude and peace. This sense of peace with memories and experiences becomes something of a motif in Accents. In “A Glimpse of Green Ridge in Midlands Sunset,” a poem about a view of midlands mountains stirring the memory of another mountain range and long-past losses and yearnings, he writes, “I see the distant ridge and am at peace.” Similarly, when Turfa reﬂects on his ﬂirtation with playing music, he expresses his peace with having given his time to writing instead: “Content with listening, I compose in my own fashion” (although in another poem he does imagine drinking with Waylon Jennings and providing lyrics for the outlaw singer to dress in “his ﬂawless music and / his gritty baritone voice”). Above all, Accents is about recognizing connections, those between lovers and friends separated by politics, technology, and time, between the present and the shimmering cities of memory. “Times and places slip away / softly and inexorably from us,” Turfa writes. His poetry is itself a kind of reclaiming, a way of returning our attention to “the moment that contains all moments” where what is lost and what is yet to be lost reside. Coming to this place might involve a little pain, but, Turfa suggests, it is also a path to peace. Let us hope that he is right.
Jonathan Brent Butler’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Foothill, The Raintown Review, Fall Lines, and most recently in The World Begins, a collaborative gallery show and chapbook with painter Laura Spong. He It is the fragile and ﬂeeting rather than the is the Writing Center director at Presbyterian grand and enduring that Turfa preserves and College and lives in Columbia.
“Hell If I Know” of a Better Mystery Set in Columbia than Messenger from Mystery by Deno Trakas REVIEW BY
you were alive, aware, and American in the years between 1979 and 1981, you knew the Iran hostage crisis was going on. Lucky for us, Deno Trakas was too, and he must have been keeping a terriﬁc journal because his riveting debut novel - a romantic political thriller – puts readers in situations and places only someone with a sharp eye and keen ear could produce. Set largely in Columbia and on the University of South Carolina campus, Messenger from Mystery – its title comes from Rumi – follows a third generation Greek American English Ph.D. student. Jay Nichols is studying for his comps, teaching American literature, and leading a conversational English course for a class of Middle Eastern students. His love affair with one of them, a beautiful Persian named Azi, leads him into international intrigue and danger so intense I had to put the book down a few times just to regain my breath. Those chapters come near the end, as Jay tries to rescue Azi from a mission gone bad in Greece that got worse in Iran. We see him realizing—in life-threatening ways— how small and safe his world has been before his heart leads him across an ocean and into a region throbbing with war. Trakas doles the intensity out carefully, shocking you with it in the beginning before ﬂashing back to calmer days on campus. And oh, what days those were—the days of massive stereo equipment, Earth, Wind & Fire, halter tops, marijuana, M*A*S*H. Trakas’s
description of his apartment, with its ducttaped couch and wooden spool coffee table, will resonate with any college student of that era. Local readers will recognize neighborhoods, restaurants, bars, and landmarks; there also are sojourns to Spartanburg, where Jay grew up and his widowed mother still lives. The author may be having the most fun—I sure did—recalling the language of the time. I’d forgotten “hell if I know” and “damn right” and “tough shit.” I laughed out loud as Nadia, Jay’s Kuwaiti student, stumbles her way through common English. In one scene, Nadia, who watches television to learn how to speak like Americans, tries to get her conversational shit together: “No, I am chicken shit. Or I am scared shitless. What is right? Do I have shit or not?” A 30-year English professor at Wofford College who earned his Ph.D. at USC in 1981, Trakas also seems to be having fun scattering literary bits throughout the novel. There are references to Hemingway, Dickinson, and Frost; even James Dickey, USC’s poet in residence at the time, is described with his watches and hats. But none of it feels like a lesson. It’s a testament to his talent that Trakas never wastes your time. The literary bits in the beginning return with more meaning near the end, and the necessary history and geography to understand the hostage crisis is easily digested. My bet is his students are not surprised. I was just grateful. One thing Jay preaches to his students is to look at the big picture and the small picture, and we gather Trakas is attempting the same with his novel. Jay, Azi, Nadia, and the grand Oman Lare—Jay’s hilarious and successful writer buddy from Spartanburg—all are coping in their private lives and then heroically in a larger, terror-ﬁlled landscape. Does Trakas pull it off ? Damn right he does. Like a priceless Persian carpet, Messenger from Mystery is beautiful, intricate, and crafted with great care. Deno Trakas has woven a winner.
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A Secret About Mama-hood in Bren McClain’s One Good Mama Bone REVIEW BY
MAGGIE SCHEIN ne Good Mama Bone bears evidence of the rough, hard, and enduring work that birthed it. Like any child, it is a work of wonder in many ways, full of promise. And because of that promise, also capable of disappointments. Through complicated layering of perspectives and framing techniques, Bren McClain freshens the traditional Southern story formula involving agricultural poverty, a boy’s coming-of-age, and the ragged dynamics between domesticated animals, human physical needs and the aspirations of human hearts. In McClain’s rendering, we follow a woman (Sarah) struggling to discover what it means to be a good mother. Being a good mama she learns—by happenstance observation of a mother cow she comes to possess-- means to “stay with” someone, especially when that role was neither chosen nor encouraged. This immediately invites a vulnerability and an expectation motivating the reader and rooting the story. What happens when something that is supposedly a natural right--as organic, necessary, and un-thought as a bone-- instead feels alien, artiﬁcial, imposed? Can it be implanted? Learned? Was it always there? Orbiting Sarah and her internal and external struggles are the wealthy though dysfunctional Dobbins family down the way: the needy and mostly insigniﬁcant land-owner, Ike, Mama Red (the cow), the protagonist’s son, Emerson, and Mama Red’s son, the steer, Lucky. Alongside Sarah’s search is Emerson’s coming-of-age, his 60 . JASPER READS
learning of loss, of love found, and of the tragically adult truth that to love is often to choose sacriﬁce. The stories making up this book are often both wrenching and tender. McClain has a brazen and palpable love of words and a keen sense of story-telling. As with any good work, there are a few, not damning, imperfections: the imagery, though mostly brilliant, can be repetitive, the development of the characters over the course of the book feels a little uneven, and though the momentum created by the boy’s coming-of-age is reminiscent of that in A Day No Pigs Would Die, it stretches on too long to fully retain its tension. The opening scenes of the book plunk us immediately into the hardships of poverty, death, nature, guilt, failing, sin, and supplication. We experience a best friend’s suicide after birth; a husband’s misery, guilt, and ineptitude; an unwitting mother with only a pear to feed a growing boy; and an already past-her-prime cow giving birth to twins, one of whom is graphically plucked to death by vultures as the mama cow watches and shields the other with her body. It is not all oppressive August-heat, gore, or hopelessness, however. Rather, these bleak circumstances lay the foundation for the expectation that Sarah, despite them, will be an image of redemption, will stand for the possibility of love. She will, we anticipate, overcome her past and learn her own heart enough to give it to the son, who is the bastard child of her husband and her best friend. The promise is also that there might be a secret about mama-hood: that that kind of love can be taught and shared, is naturally shared, even between different species, and even in unplanned and “unnatural” circumstances. This humble redemption is ambitious. That can make a reader hope for an awful lot. McClain’s language is rich, easily and comfortably Southern with masterful use of vibrant and cinematic images that put the reader in the present of the experience. She also uses simple and subtle syntax choices to animate the passive: e.g. making the earth “lay ready” to receive her dead. These aspects of the writing help offset the sometimes repetitive images and sustain the impact of McClain’s ﬁne story-telling. There is another related but different difficulty: there are excellent and beautiful experiences of each (human) character, however
it feels as though the narrator had an uneven or not fully honest relationship with the characters. The reader can feel the attempt to love them, even the ugly ones, and so we begin with the hope we will deeply care. As presented, however, they often fall short of being three-dimensional and their moments of transformation sometimes come off a bit unexpectedly or artiﬁcially. The reader has little reason to feel more than pity for the main (human) characters, which can be trying to invest in for long. This is a big claim, and certainly, like any review, a purely subjective matter, revealing more about the reviewer than the author. Note: the voice and character of the animals was treated with unquestionable empathy and depth. Overall, there were moments when I cared more about Mama Red and Lucky than the human characters. The weaves of this story ultimately do hold together and, though one doesn’t always care as much one might wish, you care enough. This story matters. Like any child, it is imperfect, and we may want more. But in the end, that is also evidence of its importance and our desire for more.
Maggie Schein is an author of both ﬁction (Lost Cantos of the Ouroboros Caves, 2015) and non-ﬁction. She is the Research Director for a humanities lab at Harvard University, and a research fellow at The Citadel, where she researching ethics instruction. She lives in Beaufort, SC with her husband, some cats, some pit bulls, and the occasional stray squirrel.
‘Disclosures’ (Or Thoughts from my Laptop) ull disclosure, I am writing this from Massachusetts, the Yankee portal through which I ﬁrst entered America twenty years ago, having left behind my English homeland. It is July and here it is cool, the view from my borrowed window almost obscenely green, the grass thigh-tickling and tick-laden. Maples and sumacs, rather than longleaf pines and oaks, contend for the high, pale light, and there are popovers for breakfast, lobster for dinner. Soon
though, I will return to our home in Columbia and begin again the work of adjustment. I have learned that this is a helpful condition from which to write and edit, a state of outsider-ness and otherness. I have always been a foreigner in some sense, a curious, often lonely observer, and it is in reading the work of others that I have most often found community, through my own writing that I have discovered the ways in which I do or do not belong, and what delights or offends me. What am I claiming here, impostor that I am? Access, perhaps, to some understanding of the thing that makes each of us who writes want to undertake that difficult, often thankless task. A strong need to be heard and understood, to deﬁne ourselves in a way no one else can. No doubt we all have this need, and writing is just one way in, or out. In any case, an appreciation for literature, especially for the contemporary voice, has become essential to how I identify with the place I ﬁnd myself. I was delighted, therefore, when Cindi Boiter asked me to join the Jasper team as prose editor. I have long admired the quality, breadth, and mission of the magazine and the organization behind it. When I ﬁrst arrived in Columbia a decade ago, utterly bewildered by my situation and surroundings, ﬁnding a copy in the city newsstands was one of the things that helped me believe I could ﬁnd a place here. That and the people, of course. I’m getting there. I came late to prose. I started out a poet, and continue to experience the world and compose with what might be termed a poet’s sensibility, but at some point in my life––I can name it exactly, it was the moment I ﬁrst gave birth after a long, difficult journey––I needed to tell stories in a way my poems seemed unable to do, or unwilling to contain.
Once my child came, so the pages of narrative, ﬂooding, milk-like, onto the pages. And after I’d done telling that story, another came, and another, episodes of this awkward, disoriented life. A way of understanding. The discipline of memoir, the truths revealed therein, have compelled me now for an embarrassing number of years, and I am ever delighted, of course, by the dramatic truths revealed through ﬁction’s brave inventions. Good writing of any kind can change the texture of my day, the very way I feel about breathing. If you are reading this, I suspect it does for you, too. We inhabit such a fascinating place and time: a South emerging with radiant newness out of a once-tight chrysalis. Or that’s how I see it. Voices have been raised, tentatively, courageously, and the ﬂag is down. My hope here is to feature the diverse visions and voices of both the best established writers in the region, and those just emerging. As a teacher of writing at the university, I am fortunate to encounter these new voices on a regular basis and hope to introduce them in these pages. Whether your stories are grounded here or elsewhere, I hope you will submit them for consideration. I would love to create a boundary-splitting chorus of prose voices to accompany the poetry that appears in these pages. If what you write is true, if you ﬁnd solace or a way out, a way home, via the written word, if you love to dissect and rebuild language, to reimagine this world we share, I’d love to hear from you.
Nicola Waldron Jasper Prose Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
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Apache by Vimbai Nyamukapa his was the type of place that forced you to be an artist. It was like melting down the Harlem Renaissance and New Orleans jazz, and tucking that bronze brick in a rundown alley, an unknown shadow to the Fox Theatre. But there was no doubting this place was special. It had an aura, and that aura could inﬂuence the mind of anyone within the sound scope of the music. The rhythms vibrated through the sidewalk, recalibrating how you walked. Your pace was now in 4/4 time, mimicking the music, hips swaying to the bassline. It was as if you could not break the plane into the building unless you had a certain swagger. It was as if the bouncer would not let you in unless he could smell the paint or ink staining your hands, or see the residual ﬂash of a camera in your eyes, or hear the faint hum of an instrument or song emanating from your body. It was my ﬁrst time at the Apache Night Café, and I can already tell that this was where Atlanta’s artists breathed. I remember having to rip through a wall of smoke to get through the doorway. “Eyes wide open,” my best friend warned, wagging his short dreads at me, “so you don’t catch the cover charge desk in your belly and get thrown back out into those streets.” Josh had been there plenty of times, with his new friends, but it was my ﬁrst summer back home after starting college so he knew he had to educate me. He already looked the part of an artist, his vibrant dashiki bold against his dark skin, only missing the strap of his Nikon snug around his neck. The bouncer sat behind the desk, old but powerful, like he was seated at a table in Valhalla, a cigarette perched precariously on his lips. The silver cash box propped up his elbow as he took my license and the ten dollar bill from my hand. His touch was gentle and careful. A
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quick scan made him take my wrist and mark it with a thick ‘X’ from a felt tip pen. There was just enough space to slide between the desk and the back corner of the stage to get to where the ﬂoor ﬁnally opened up and I could breathe. On my right was a bar, with what little light there was, blocked by the people leaned all the way over the countertop to yell their poisons into the bartender’s ear. To the left was a large dance ﬂoor, half-covered by a barely raised stage, where a Black punk band shook the building, threatening to rock off the roof. It could hardly hold them in so it clung desperately to the high halls, covered in Black Modernist art, each painting punctuated by orange wall lamps, giving the room its dark ﬁery glow. The rest of the dance ﬂoor was jampacked with Black bodies grooving in a way punk music has never seen and never will see outside this building. Three steps at the end of the dance ﬂoor carried me, Josh, and one of his new friends, up to a neat, café-like sitting area, peopled by short, black tables lit by fake candles and with backless couches for chairs. Off in the front corner of this night café was a DJ booth, where the DJ and the band’s sound engineer shared too little space, and were way too open to the drunken requests of those few people who were not dancing. That’s where I wanted to be. I approached the booth, already abandoned by Josh. He had other friends tucked into some corner somewhere. There wasn’t much for me to say, so I leaned my back up against the booth and just listened: listened to the music, listened to the banter between the DJ and the sound engineer, and listened to the people living their lives, Black in Atlanta and ﬂourishing. Josh said this is where Black artists came to network, photogs found models, bands found an audience, painters found a muse, and I found myself so out of place. I was barely an artist. I had not written anything that wasn’t a tired essay for
a professor who was tired of reading essays in what felt like years. Novels festered in my laptop like open wounds, untouched for fear of infecting them with someone else’s ideas as I read an unending chain of British comedies and Scottish short stories, by and for White men who would never know me, while I was forced to know them—my degree depended on it. I barely knew how I got into this place, because all there was for me to do was imagine I was the lead singer of that band, ignoring how much I wasn’t badass and had let my voice go to shit. I was sinking into the ﬂoor as the drummer tap, tap, tap, tapped out all the things I had let fall to the wayside, all for chasing an education that wasn’t designed for me. I closed my eyes and thought about how I could dare to be a writer when I spent my entire ﬁrst year of university reading books by not-Black women and being taught to write by not-Black women. It was enough to force me to think that writing was for not-Black women, and I felt like Salvador Dali was melting my face into the heat of the DJ booth, while the ﬂoor wrapped around my ankles to pull me in. The only thing saving me was the Blackness of the place. “How are you drowning in your sorrows when I haven’t even bought you a drink yet?” I opened my eyes to Josh’s smirk near my face. “Shushhhhh,” I replied, as I mushed his face away from me. I hadn’t even noticed that the band had ﬁnished playing during my pity party; stagehands were carrying away their drum set and mixing board. “Look, this is the best part. This is why I brought you.” He nudged me excitedly, focusing me on the tall, Obsidian woman gliding onto the stage. Her hair was platinum blonde, the striking contrast shaved close to her head. Her full lips ‘ahem’d into the microphone before she let out this immaculate stream of passion of a like that poetry had never experienced.
The pain deep inside wrecks me like a raging hurricane that decimates a city. These soul consuming diseases attaches itself to me and overstays its welcome. Spiritual parasites that drain me and leave my mind cluttered with lies. And when the sun rises, I do it all over again. A master at the trickery A thespian in my own right I put on my mask and spend all day trying to keep myself together.
“Damn, it’s like she’s just breathing a whole new world into existence,” I whispered. “Yeah, doesn’t it just make you wanna be great? Shit, I wish I brought my camera.” I looked into his ardent eyes and nodded. I wanted to be her, so intent and amazing at what I loved. I couldn’t leave that place without wishing I was writing more, developing my art. At school, I was letting the artist in me die, but I stood in that dark building surrounded by Black poets, musicians, photographers, dancers, and I knew, the doors of that great hall were open, eagerly awaiting me.
Vimbai Nyamukapa is an Zimbabwean-American writing student at the University of South Carolina. She plans to graduate in May 2018 with a double major in English and African American studies.
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Matthew O’Leary’s Symptoms of a Teratoma
rologue: One of the most basic biological instincts is that of self-preservation. If you hear a noise, you react. If you feel pain, you pull back from it. This is how nature keeps us alive. The more cynical among us suggest that even an act that seems selﬂess, like protecting your children before yourself, is still ultimately an act of self-preservation. Instinctively, you protect your genetics. But the world is full of chaos, and even genetics fall prey to mutations. Sometimes, the mutation is physical, a mass of cells growing in the wrong place, killing its host. Other times, the mutation involves neurological pathways and affects the brain. The brain begins to have the wrong thoughts. These thoughts can kill the host just as easily as any tumor. This is a biopsy of my mutation. It’s a mutation passed down from generation to generation. My grandfather carried it with him into the Battle of Okinawa, where it gained strength and made him into a person he
didn’t deserve to be. My mother inherited it, and it followed her into adulthood, never fully known to me until a different mutation took her away. The past few years have been good for my mutation. It’s gained strength and conﬁdence, while sapping mine away. The pieces that follow are my attempt to ﬁght back. Maybe if I show it to the world, ugly and deformed, perhaps it will become the one afraid to show its face. Maybe I’ll take my conﬁdence back. Maybe I’ll remember what it is to want to preserve myself. I want to tell it, “you may still kill me, but you’ve got a lot more work to do.”
Munchausen Syndrome: I’m sorry. I’m not feeling well today. I won’t be able to make it in. My throat is really sore, and I’ve been feeling kind of nauseous. When I was a child, I succeeded without trying, and that passive success became not just the standard to which I was held, but the standard to which I would hold myself. When it became clear that there was a threshold, a cap to the superiority over my peers, I dis-
covered that I was smart, but no more so than many people I had known for most of my life. By the end of high school, I had to face the reality that I was not spectacular. I was normal. A ﬁctional mother tells a ﬁctional son that she failed as a mother, and I spend the evening crying. How can I miss degradation this badly? Why do I long for a tangible ailment? Am I white and liberal enough to write out my pent-up sexual expression, and call it closure? Can I sell my story to an independent ﬁlm studio, eager for more tales of disaffected depressives upset when their parents start dying? How much will they give me? And will I ﬁnally be able to afford the ways and means to reprogram three decades of illness? The Doctor recommends a patch that seeps opium into my ﬂesh. He says, “it will make you normal.” Upon leaving his office, I saturate it with butane. I watch the ﬂame change from yellow to blue. The heat will sterilize me, clean me of fear and failures. My disease is real, I keep repeating. If it weren’t, would the treatment be as perfectly ineffective?
The above is an excerpt from Matthew O’Leary’s new book, Symptoms of a Teratoma, published by Muddy Ford Press, 2017. Read O’Leary’s article on Heidi Darr-Hope on page 46.
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! t s e B d n
2nd best to the national award - winning art museum. 2018... challenge accepted.
ART EXHIBITIONS, CONCERTS, PLAYS, DANCE PARTIES, LECTURES, CONFERENCES, STAND UP COMEDY, FILMS, VENUE RENTALS, PHOTO STUDIO, ARTIST STUDIOS, ARTIST IN RESIDENCE OPPORTUNITIES...IF YOU CAN THINK OF IT, :(Â·//),*85(287+2:72'2,7
Local Comedian Jenn Snyder Continues Her Upward Climb in the Often Harsh Business of Laughter BY
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ny form of public speaking can be a nerve-shattering experience, but standing center stage before a roomful of strangers whose sole expectation is that you amuse them is a whole ‘nother cold mug of horror as far as most people are concerned. Ask the average citizen whether they’d rather submit to a tax audit/cavity search combo or attempt ﬁve minutes of stand-up comedy in front of people who don’t already like them. You may not get a straight answer, but the shake of the head and aw-come-on grin that follow should clue you in. Based on this criteria, Jenn Snyder is not the average citizen. She might not even be the average comic. Most comedian origin stories begin with a dare at an open mic night or a cautious tryout period wherein the amateur joke-slinger decides whether this is something they might be good at and should pursue further. Snyder just wanted to skip class. “I was thirteen and they had a talent show at my middle school,” she says over a pint at a downtown Columbia pub. “Basically the prize was that you got to miss the whole next day of class…I was going to sing because I like to sing. I told my mom about it and she was like, ‘Why don’t you tell jokes? You’re funnier than you can sing.’ So I decided to do jokes. I did jokes about my mom. I also did some prop comedy with this big pair of googly-eye glasses, you know? It was terrible, but I did well enough to win and I got to do it again the next day at assembly. That’s when I was like, Yeah, this is it.” A wry smile creeps across her face as the memory unfolds. This is clearly a story she enjoys telling, and she delivers it with the relaxed self-conﬁdence that marks every anecdote she’ll relate over the course of the afternoon. Listening to her speak, even off the clock, it’s easy to see why she’s emerged over the past several years as the most popular voice in Columbia’s small but passion-
ate comedy scene. She possesses in spades something that anyone pursuing the craft shouldn’t leave home without besides a sense of humor—a genuine affinity for the spoken word. This is something all smart stand-ups understand, be it intuitively or through classic trial and error. Even those comics that employ the shy, introverted shtick—maybe especially those comics—grasp the simple principle that words are sneaky but powerful things. If you don’t know how to make them jibe with your speciﬁc purpose to maximum effect, then you’re just up there on a stage, self-ﬂagellating away. Anyone who’s seen her perform knows that Snyder doesn’t have this problem. She’s good with words, which is fortunate because she uses a lot of them, especially when working an audience. Her onstage persona is that of the jolly wiseass at the end of the bar, holding court for employees and eavesdroppers alike, buzzed enough to be fearless but not enough to misread the room and say something obnoxious. Her act is a time-tested blend of observational humor, occasional dips into wait’ll-you-hear-this-shit storytelling, and raw personality. And she knows how to keep foot to gas; she’s not one to waste valuable stage time waiting for the laughs. If they don’t come as intended, she’s on to the next bit, no hard feelings. Though she can be endearingly self-effacing--her weight and sexuality are both fair game, frequently mined for comedic potential--she doesn’t mind admitting that she gets laughs more often than she doesn’t, often reducing entire rooms to laughter, or ‘killing,’ in industry parlance. On the whole, Jenn Snyder the Comedian doesn’t live too far down the hall from Jenn Snyder the Person, though her Columbia-born southern drawl is harder to spot in the absence of a PA system. “I’m a version of me,” the Person says of the Comedian. “I’m a much more conﬁdent, cocky version of myself…I feel like I’m in that kind of Katt Williams, that kind of Eddie Murphy thing. To watch me is kind of an experience. I’m gonna move. I’m gonna be loud. I’m not just gonna stand there. You know how Steven Wright
PHOTOGRAPHY BY FORREST CLONTS
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can get up there and just deadpan deliver it? I can’t do that. I’m like an animal, man. I’ve gotta be able to pace around and pull you in.” But as surely as this type of self-awareness didn’t just show up in the mail one ﬁne day, the path from middle school clown to professional, working comic wasn’t a smooth one. Despite the revelation that came with her talent show triumph, it took Snyder some years before she hunkered down and got serious. “I just dicked around in my twenties because I’m irresponsible and I just ﬁgured it would happen without doing any work.” She hangs her head in mock embarrassment and chuckles. “That was wrong, it turns out.” Save the odd gig, this inaction persisted until Ma Snyder stepped in once again, sending her daughter to a weekly class in Atlanta to hone her chops and make an honest go of it. “I drove there once a week and took this class where they taught me how, basically, to formulate my thoughts and turn them into jokes. And it’s really hard! I was already conversationally funny like most people are but this helped me come up with real jokes. I know a lot of people look down on classes like that but I thought it was awesome. Anything that helps you with your craft is not a waste of time.” When I ask if she would be good enough to divulge the formula for funny on record, her eyes roll upward as she scans her memory drive for some sort of answer. For the ﬁrst and only time all day, she’s at an actual loss for words. “No,” she says ﬁnally. “I wouldn’t know how. I don’t know if it’s even a real formula.” There’s no reason not to believe her. Immersed in her ambition, Snyder’s next big move was a literal one. Four years ago, she took off for New York City to make a go of it in a place that seemingly offered more opportunities. The pilgrimage was to be short-lived. After running out of money, she returned to Columbia three months later. Brief as it was, the experience gave Snyder a renewed respect for the odds she was up against in trying to make it in such a profession, and her focus narrowed accordingly. When she wasn’t hitting every open mic she could every day she was there, Snyder also took another comedy class at New York’s Comedy School where the instructor tried to instill in her some supposed wisdom, namely that a) she wasn’t fat enough to tell fat jokes
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“It taught me that I’m never going to quit, that this is what I’m supposed to do with my life and that fear is just one more thing you’ve got to overcome…”
and b) bookers didn’t like female comics. Too wordy, he told her. Snyder admits that he got inside her head brieﬂy but her conﬁdence wouldn’t be undermined for long. “It taught me something,” she says of her Big Apple sojourn. “It taught me that I’m never going to quit, that this is what I’m supposed to do with my life and that fear is just one more thing you’ve got to overcome. And it taught me that I wasn’t ready. I just went up there with a bunch of talent and I thought that was enough. And it wasn’t. It wasn’t enough. I needed more structure. I needed time to hone my craft. And when I came home, that’s when it really happened for me. I really started to put time into these shows and cultivated comics and put in the stage time and just work, work, work, work. Now I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do.” Summing up her general opinion on New York City, she adds, “I can’t live in a town where people won’t let you pet their dogs.” When Snyder says that things really started happening for her upon returning to Columbia, she’s not kidding. She’s gigged relentlessly, taking her act as far west as
Los Angeles. She’s toured with infamous anti-comic Neil Hamburger. And last March, she recorded her ﬁrst stand-up special at West Columbia’s New Brookland Tavern. The October 1st release of Building the Jenpire will coincide with Snyder’s next big step—a move to Portland. “A really good Portland comic was telling me that when you’re not from LA you get more opportunities there because you’re like an ‘out of town comic.’ I’m hoping that some West Coast exposure will get me where I need to be.” Her CD release party at New Brookland Tavern will double as a farewell bash. “I’m trying to pack it out with as many people as I possibly can to help me fund my trip.” And so Jenn Snyder will ride off into the sunset once more, bound for (hopefully) greener pastures, armed with jokes and the sort of conﬁdence that can only come from years of hard-earned experience where every knee scrape represents a lesson learned. Dog owners of Portland, you’ve been warned.
The Better Angels of Our Nature BY KYLE PETERSEN
you’re anything like me (an overeducated cis-gendered white dude who wastes too much time on Twitter), you’re mostly ensconced in your own semi-curated echo chamber online. When I log on to my social media feeds, I see a host of friends and acquaintances full-throatedly speaking out against white supremacy, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, and bigotry in various forms. In part, this is because of the cultural and social space that I occupy—I’m well aware that there’s a whole other world that I would ﬁnd extraordinarily discomforting if I swung into a different social circle or online space. But another reason why this uniformity exists is because it’s, well, easy. As my internet friends repeatedly remind me, condemning neo-Nazis is a pretty easy thing to do. For a lot of us, it’s pretty easy to champion Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest on the football ﬁeld, to cry foul when the rights of immigrant are trampled on, or to denounce politicians who target transgender troops in the military for reasons that are as politically conniving as they are morally reprehensible. What’s harder as an ally is confronting a friend or family member about such intolerance—to speak to people whom we have to see every day, or that would be socially advantageous to stay on good terms with. Then our righteousness becomes a more nuanced practice of weighing relative values of good and evil, of entering a moral gray area that forces us to admit on some level that our comfort, our privilege, is something that has value to us that cannot be as easily jettisoned as we might imagine. That same challenge is also one we face day in and day out in our arts community here in Columbia. There’s no doubt that the
vast majority of the scene holds similar values of inclusion and equality, but a mixture of economics, gatekeepers, and desire for belonging can mean that we can let things slide, or explains things away, rather than confronting oppressions both big and small. Our motivations range from rugged necessity to mere convenience, but our hedging is quite real. When you add the potentially explosive reality that art itself is often adventurous or exploratory by design, and that many disciplines come with historical baggage that is pitted and pockmarked with the same sort of dark oppressive forces that exist in our social worlds, and you’re necessarily dealing with some thorny quandaries. I know it’s a bit too easy and safe for an ally to equivocate about these close-to-home issues, to plead moderation or incremental progress. I often feel like I might be the kind of white moderate that Martin Luther King, Jr. writes about in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the person “who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” And some days, to my dismay, I surely am. But King also believed in building on imperfection, of forging a more perfect union, and that’s really what I want for, and want to ﬁght for, in our weird little arts community. I want people to speak out, and loudly, against all forms of oppression and the things that matter to them. But I also want to build on and with the people who are here, imperfect as they are, and grow together. I know such hopes can come across as naïve or feckless, but that’s what still seems right to me at this moment.
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2017 2 N D A C T F I L M M A K E R S its fourth year of production, The Jasper Project’s 2nd Act Film festival, under the direction of Emmy-nominated ﬁlmmaker and Jasper Magazine ﬁlm editor Wade Sellers, is a one-of-a-kind event. Ten artists are chosen from among dozens who apply. The artists are given the ﬁrst and third acts of a screenplay and asked to write the second act and create the ﬁlm in its entirety. Films must be 6 minutes or less, including credits. Past ﬁlms have included everything from slapstick comedies to experimental montages to LGBTQ love stories, with a smorgasbord of other genres mixed in. It’s exciting to see how, each year, the ensemble of ﬁlmmakers work with their prompts to create an evening of some of South Carolina’s best independent ﬁlm entertainment. From seasoned professionals to novices in the ﬁeld to professionals in other ﬁelds who are new to ﬁlmmaking, the 2017 2nd Act Filmmakers bring diverse and exciting perspectives and skill sets to this year’s festival. Jasper is proud to introduce this year’s slate of 2nd Act Filmmakers.
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY CATHERINE HUNSINGER
Smith Austin Smith Austin is a 19 year old Psychology major at the University of South Carolina who has always been interested in writing and loves watching movies. Austin worked on a few short ﬁlm sets and made his own short ﬁlm during his senior year of high school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts summer program.
Justin Brown Justin Brown was born in Rochester, New York, in 1985. Whenever his parents got out the big, bulky video camera that recorded to VHS, he always asked to use it. In 1996, his parents moved his family to Columbia where he wouldn’t pick up a camera until the early 2000s. A decade later, after an attempted music career, he enrolled in the University of South Carolina to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Media Arts. Initially his thought was to make music videos and documentaries, but the more he learned about ﬁlm making, the more he became drawn to creating narrative ﬁlms.
Chad Henderson Chad Henderson is the Artistic Director of Trustus Theatre and has directed dozens of theatrical productions in SC including The Brother/Sister Plays, Passing Strange, Avenue Q, Anatomy of a Hug, Assassins, and Dog Sees God. He is the co-creator and book writer of the original musical The Restoration’s Constance which will be fully staged in spring 2018 at Trustus Theatre. Chad will also be making his debut at PURE Theatre in Charleston, SC to direct Fun Home in winter 2018. His production of The Brothers Size was invited to the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in 2016. Henderson also wrote and directed a new one-act play called Reese and June with Hope in a Bunker, which was part of the Jasper Project’s Syzygy – an original play festival. This is his ﬁrst foray into ﬁlm since making an egregious rom-com in high school called Story of a Nobody – it was terrible and he hopes he’s learned a lot since then.
Carl W. Heyward, Jr. Video Producer Carl W. Heyward, Jr. is from South Carolina’s Lowcountry, raised in the small town of Cross, SC. Understanding the importance in creating a strong community of family and friends that truly support and care for one another, Carl pursued his Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication at Benedict College in Columbia, where he also served as the Station Manager for BCTV Productions, the college’s news station. After dabbling in Sports Broadcasting, Carl realized his passion for creative storytelling and made the switch to a career in Video Production. Since graduating, Carl has managed the video production and photography company, CHQ Productions LLC. JASPER SCREENS . 71
Cory John Born and raised in Columbia, SC, Cory John started his career in music where he won several awards with his singing group and record label, Real Records. Real Records later produced four television programs regularly airing on local television networks. The Jamal Bates Show, Spare the Rod, Columbia Christian Countdown, and Metro Music Movies. Cory served as producer, writer, and often actor and director of these shows. He currently runs a solo business called, A Cory John Story, which has spearheaded projects such as Bird’s Eye View, a DVD of music videos. He directs the television series Evolve with Tiffany J and Breaking the Barrier. He is the director for the Empowerment Corp and has directed, written, and produced several plays and ﬁlms.
Mario Johnson Mario Johnson was raised in Fort Lawn S.C. He is married with one child. He ﬁrst got into shooting ﬁlm about three years ago and started posting funny videos on Facebook using a Samsung Galaxy S4. He found himself watching movies and picking out errors. Mario graduated from York Technical College with an Associate’s degree in Teleproduction Technology.
Rachel Napolitano Rachel Napolitano is a freelance screenwriter living in Columbia, South Carolina. Last year, Rachel participated in Jasper’s 2nd Act Film Festival and wrote/co-directed the short that won Director’s Choice at Lander University Film Festival. Her short script, Paper Sunday, has been an official selection in various festivals across the country.
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Ethan Ravens Twenty-one year old Ethan Ravens grew up in Ohio and is in his senior year at the University of South Carolina where he is a business, economics, and ﬁnance major though he admits that his true passion is ﬁlm making. He is the executive co-producer of 1080c, USC’s only short ﬁlm club and his goal with the club is to get people as excited about ﬁlm making as he is.
Gail Shields Raised in Spartanburg SC, Gail Shields attended the University of South Carolina Upstate, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mass media and a minor in ﬁlm production. While in college, Gail worked as a student media producer for ETV and as a reporter for ESPN Spartanburg. After graduation in 2014, Gail started writing short ﬁlms. Her ﬁrst ﬁlm, Listen to His Silence, won the Adjacent Film festival in Spartanburg.
Collins Abbott White Collins Abbott White is a ﬁlm and video producer from Greenville, SC. After receiving a master’s degree in ﬁlm and video production from Bob Jones University, he founded Other Vision Studios in 2011 where he currently serves as Producer/Director. Since 2011, he has primarily used his ﬁlm and video talents to produce videos on behalf of corporate clients throughout the South East. Last year he entered the 2nd Act Film Festival as a way to start transitioning from the world of commercial advertising to the world of narrative film. He hopes to continue that journey with this year’s entry.
2ND ACT FILM FESTIVAL October 19, 2017, 7PM 701 Whaley Market Place $10 - $75 eventbrite.com JASPER SCREENS . 73
E M O R I A M
Thales Thomas Skipp “Pops” Pearson NOVEMBER 21, 1937 – JUNE 5, 2017
Jazz trumpeter, arranger, composer, educator, and Jasper’s 2016 Artist of the Year in Music, Mark Rapp, remembers his mentor, South Carolina jazz icon Skipp “Pops” Pearson, who passed away earlier this year. Throughout his life, Pearson shared the stage with international luminaries including Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, Otis Redding, and Patti Labelle and, in 2009, he played for President Barack Obama’s inauguration ball. He was our South Carolina’s Ambassador of Jazz.
kipp Pearson lovingly called our city, “Jazz Town USA.” In my many conversations and musical hangs with Skipp, he would discuss with me his desires, goals and vision not only for our city, but for our beautiful state as a whole and for all its people. He saw a state that celebrates the arts and thrives on diversity. He saw culturally rich cities growing in all sectors, inspired by the creative endeavors of our state’s artists. He saw our collective community reveling in the soulful and the sophistication that is affirmed, explored, and celebrated through the living music of jazz. To know Skipp, you needed to know a little something about jazz. To know jazz, all you had to do was meet Skipp. Jazz is an eternally active music. It is a music based on communication regardless of who you are, where you come from, what you believe or what you look like. Jazz doesn’t deal in the superﬁcial. Instead, jazz dwells in the deep. Jazz is a music about humanity. It teaches us to be tolerant of the different and to openly explore differences with genuine curiosity and excitement. Jazz teaches us how to thoughtfully handle conﬂict with intelligence, empathy, and integrity. Jazz teaches us to be accepting of others and to work well with them. It teaches us to listen as much as we talk. Jazz
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teaches us the reality of constant change and how to wrestle through the tensions and releases to create something beautiful. It faces adversity straight-on and sees it through until we arrive at an exalted resolution, leaving us satisﬁed and fundamentally improved. Jazz demands that we always seek to better ourselves. It asks of us to speak with passion and authority, while at the same time, being immediately willing to celebrate an opposing view and humbly accept a different outcome. Jazz is love. Jazz is Skipp; Skipp is jazz. Skipp was a friend and will always be an inspiration. He played patiently just as he was patient with others. He played with love just as he loved everyone. He played with soulful sophistication. If he wasn’t making the music, he was out where it was being made and out supporting others into the wee small hours of the morning. He welcomed everyone. Skipp Pearson made Columbia become “Jazz Town USA!” Skipp was a beautiful cat and he will be dearly missed. We love you, Skipp. -M A R K R A P P Rapp continues to keep busy gigging in various outﬁts and promoting his ColaJazz initiative in an effort that makes him a successor to Pearson’s role in the scene, so we thought we’d ask him a few questions about the legacy of his mentor.
As a friend and mentee of Skipp Pearson, how have you been personally affected by his passing and where do you feel his absence the most?
gether, to sit down in a room together, and talk about the state of the scene—what’s working, what’s not working, what’s going well with venues, what they’re doing right or wrong, what we as musicians are doing right or wrong. And twenty or thirty musicians came together and we talked for about an hour and a half. When I was opening up the meeting it dawned on me that this is exactly what Skipp would have wanted. I mentioned that in the meeting and I couldn’t help it, I choked up. It was white and black, young and old, male and female and we were all together, concerned about the scene, and wanting what was best for everybody. And it was fucking beautiful.
I feel it most in a deeper level of seriousness, of aggressiveness, of carrying on his vision and his goals. It really motivated me to start taking bolder and bigger actions and to really move forward on things that I’ve been thinking about or wanting to do in relation to Skipp’s passion and his goals and his desires for the city. So when he passed, it was kind of like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to grab this bull by the horns and run with it and keep his name alive.’ He did a lifetime of work to beneﬁt this The loss of a beloved and talented percity. son is never a good thing, but is there What are some of those goals you feel anything positive Columbia’s jazz coma responsibility to see through on his munity can take from his legacy moving forward? behalf? In jazz, I don’t know if there’s ever a ﬁnish line. It’s always a journey, it’s always growth. So I don’t want to make it seem as if he left things undone. It’s more of wanting to develop and carry on what he started…synergizing the jazz community and bringing the community together, trying to raise the level for everybody—for the venues, for the artists, and for the audiences. To continue to produce better shows with a higher quality of music. Growing an audience so that different venues have people ﬁlling up the space. And also just community support amongst all the musicians. To get us talking and acting with a singular voice. Pretty quickly after Pops’ passing I organized this roundtable where I invited all the musicians around town that are actively out there performing to come to-
When you lose something, you stop taking it for granted. You kind of wake up to the realization of the greatness that you had. That can have a lot of reverberating, positive effects if you don’t allow yourself to feel guilty. Losing Skipp, I think that woke everybody up to the realization of everything that he was doing and his greatness as a musician and just the soul, the sound, his playing. If there’s a positive, it’s that it kind of brought another level of seriousness to the scene, but it also brought a realization of how amazing the scene we have really is. I’m telling you, man. You’d be hard-pressed to ﬁnd another city with another community of musicians that are this kind and caring and interested in each other than the one we have in Columbia. Not to mention the level of talent that we have.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOMAS HAMMOND
Catching Up w i t h
Michaela Pilar Brown by
ichaela Pilar Brown has always been a creator. She became exposed to professional art at a young age during the time she spent at the Colorado Historical Society, where her mother worked as a security guard. Today, Brown works with sculpture to examine social constructs regarding gender, race, and sexuality. Much of her work is deeply personal — highlighting her family’s history through found objects that are intimate but also widely relatable. Brown’s latest project debuted at Tapp’s Art Center as part of the Smaller Beckons revamp, aptly titled “Smaller Beckons II.” This exhibit features smallscale work from over 20 local artists. Jasper caught up with Brown to discuss the gallery, her inspirations, and upcoming work. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
coming home a little bit — being on those red rocks and looking at the mountains. So the major focus of the assemblage is a bingo card. My mother used to play bingo when I was growing up, it was kind of part of this whole military experience … the wives would be on one side playing bingo and the men would be on the other side drinking. So it was a constant in my childhood. But it was also about my family’s journey west. My father was military and decided to retire at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver. Part of going west was about ﬁnding better opportunities. There were jobs, there was a chance to go and work for the federal government after you retire, there were rumors about jobs being in Colorado; so my parents decided to settle there for the same reasons Blacks went west in the 19th century. J: So the collection seems to translate directly to your own personal history?
MPB: Yes, my work always involves my own personal history. I think that as much as the work is really individual and really personal, J: How did you decide to approach it speaks to broader truths; I think that all of our experience does that. So I tell my family “Smaller Beckons II”? story because it is the most familiar to me, MPB: I work really big, so I’m always excited but it ﬁts into the continuum in a larger way. by the challenge of working small. But it also gives me a certain amount of freedom. Even J: Within your work there is often a though I knew I was doing an installation and common theme of the human body it is I knew exactly what I wanted it to be about, I explored through the space that it occudidn’t actually know what it was going to be pies. Did you ever think about how that until I got it on the wall. The other pieces are might come across in an exhibit with defrom a residency I did last summer in Sedona. manding size restraints? I’m from the west. I’m from Colorado. It was just a really interesting experience. It wasn’t MPB: I’ve done some small pieces before. work-heavy, in terms of residency. Usually I’m that oddball, I make the really big stuff I go with this plan to make all of this work, and the really tiny stuff. In fact, it’s been a but this was much more cerebral. It felt like discipline lately to try and teach myself to 76 . JASPER GAZES
“A L L O W I N G
M Y S E L F T H AT S PAC E
TO S LOW D OW N E X PA N D S T H E R I S K
I’M T H AT
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALEXIS SCHWALLIER
W I L L I N G TO TA K E .
I S W H E R E R E A L F R E E D O M L I V E S .”
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make some work that is kind of in between. I like the peculiarities of working really really, small scale and really, really big scale. I like the particular challenges. J: Do you think that poses any interesting challenges for the viewers? MPB: It makes them look a little closer, I think. J: Do you view art as something compulsive? MPB: No, more of like a curiosity. Wanting to answer certain questions. I use objects because I get curious about the object and I live with it for a while and eventually it becomes a piece of something that I’m making. I’m not hyper in that way that some people are ... It’s more of a drive to answer certain questions and a desire to make pretty things. I say that with a wink and a nod, because some of my stuff is not pretty. It’s violent and visceral and gory, but I also hope kind of delicate, soft and inviting. I like contradictions. J: What are you working on now? MPB: I have felt the need to give attention to one speciﬁc area of the creative process. 2016 was extremely deadline driven. I work well under those circumstances, enjoy it and even thrive there. I was however feeling the need to make work that was based more in open exploration, research and risk. I needed to remind myself that failure is part of the creative process. Allowing myself that space to slow down expands the risk I’m willing to take. That is where real freedom lives. My work has always been about ﬁnding freedom. Freedom in my life in my work in my community. So I’m showing less. Building new bodies of work. Exploring some important collaborations. Working in my community.
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Bombing Main Street with Beauty and Art Bohumila Augustinova and the Columbia Yarnbombers by
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There’s a lot that can be done with 55,000 yards of yarn. That amount of material could theoretically produce 55 sweaters, 578 hats, or 414 pairs of mittens. But Bohumila Augustinova and the Yarnbombers of Columbia have larger landscapes to cover as they use their yarn to create public artwork on Columbia’s Main Street. Augustinova is the curator and manager of Anastasia and Friends gallery, as well as the art curator for Motor Supply Company in the Vista. Also an artist herself, Augustinova, who is originally from the Czech Republic but became a US citizen this summer, works mostly with wire sculpture and jewelry. Two years ago, Augustinova managed a business that had difficulties attracting customers into the storefront. For her, yarnbombing started as a creative and inexpensive way to attract customer attention, but has since evolved into a large-scale art installment. For those who may be unfamiliar with the practice, yarn bombing is a temporary guerrilla art form that has gained popularity in recent years. Members of the community spend months knitting or crocheting pieces to adorn common objects found in an urban environment, including parking meters, lampposts, benches, bike racks, and trees. Augustinova can create a lamppost cover in two days, but says it can take up to two months to create a piece for a large tree — which sometimes requires multiple pieces to be sewn together. After Augustinova’s yarn bombing debut, Lee Snelgrove, executive director of One Columbia, approached Augustinova with an idea for a large scale project. This led to the creation of a more formal organization of ﬁber artists. After ﬁve months of work, Augustinova and twenty-two other Yarnbombers installed their pieces last year during the annual Main Street Latin Festival. During this time, Augustinova spoke with hundreds of festival-goers who were curious about the installation as she battled the ﬂu and performed the physical labor of installation in the summer heat. “I think that even though I felt so awful last year during the ﬁrst day of the installation, when I was leaving the street I felt so happy. It was such a satisfying experience, fever or not,” Augustinova says.
The Yarnbombers installed their most recent project on July 29. The collective has almost doubled in member size, and the installment has expanded to cover the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Main Street. The pieces will be displayed for two months, and this year the project has a theme to celebrate the solar eclipse. All lampposts are covered in yellow yarn, and all parking meters are orange. Some members, including yarnbombing veteran Nancy Caudill, knitted or crocheted large mandala suns. Caudill sewed her piece onto a hula hoop in order to achieve the desired 36-inch diameter. “The project is important to me because I have always wanted to be a part of something bigger. The yarnbombing project will be one of the biggest art installations I have ever been a part of,” Caudill says. Members typically meet once a month at Anastasia and Friends Gallery to knit or crochet together, but much of the work must be accomplished at home. In the months approaching installation date, the group will meet closer to every two weeks. Although most of the Yarnbombers of Columbia live locally, two members no longer live in the area and ship their pieces from homes in North Carolina and Colorado in order to be involved with the project. Yarnbombing doesn’t require a high-level of skill or knowledge of intricate patterns – most pieces can be accomplished with a simple stitch. Augustinova emphasizes the value she ﬁnds in working with individuals who originally might not consider themselves artists. “I think the beauty of yarn bombing itself, or knitting and crocheting, is that these traditional crafts are coming back. More and more people are interested in crafting. I think it is so accessible to people.” And making art and beauty more accessible to Columbia’s Main Street is a mission that Augustinova and her fellow Yarnbombers have mastered well.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY FORREST CLONTS
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Theologies of Terrain by Tim Conroy, edited by Ed Madden F IRST IN T HE L AUREATE S ERIES FROM M UDDY F ORD P RESS
In Ed Madden’s Introduction to Theologies of Terrain by Tim Conroy, a book he not only edited but midwifed into existence as part of Muddy Ford Press’s The Laureate Series, he writes, “Tim Conroy is a theologian of the best kind, a theologian of the ordinary” and goes on to extoll Conroy’s unique and tender-but-objective take on the rewards and punishments of living the lives we are both given and make, as evidenced in this new poetry collection. Madden knows these poems well as he worked with Conroy on every one, word by word and line by line, to help hew them into what the two poets hope and believe are their best forms. “There are so many lovely things in this book,” Madden writes, “There are poems that break me and poems that resonate long after I’ve turned the page. I am delighted to help bring this beautiful book into the world.” Theologies of Terrain is the ﬁrst in a new series of books offered by Muddy Ford Press called The Laureate Series. “The purpose of The Laureate Series,” according to its mission statement, “is to celebrate the tradition of poetry that is born to South Carolinians and to promote and honor the relationship between mentor and protégé, advocate and postulant, poet and poet.” To that end,
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Madden and Conroy worked the better part of 2017 honing and assembling the collection in preparation for its October release. The Laureate Series invites all poets laureate in South Carolina to work similarly with other novice poets who have yet to publish a book or chapbook, providing structure, promotion, and publication of the projects. (Full disclosure: Jasper Magazine editor-in-chief Cindi Boiter is an associate publisher at Muddy Ford Press and Muddy Ford Press underwrote the ﬁrst ﬁve years of publication of Jasper Magazine.) While this is Conroy’s ﬁrst published collection the former special education teacher, school administrator, and vice president of the South Carolina Autism Society is a long-time poet and participant in local readings and writing groups. His poetry and short ﬁction have been published in literary journals, magazines, and compilations, including Auntie Bellum as well as Fall Lines and Marked by the Water, both endeavors of The Jasper Project. Conroy is also a founding board member of the Pat Conroy Literary Center, established in his brother’s honor and headed up by former University of South Carolina Press executive director, Jonathan Haupt. On the next page is an excerpt from the book, Theologies of Terrain.
A Tidal River Answers Prayer Pat Conroy (1945-2016), for Cassandra BY TIM CONROY I.
Dear Tidal River, immerse me in the world below bridges. Mud my youth within you, poultice a desperate need away from the roaring of ﬁghter pilots at tables, away from backhanded love. Soak away family secrets and heal my unseen bruises.
Hear my prayer, Tidal River, call me at the hour of my tide. Incantations lift sea foam in prisms of light like sunrise.
Submerge me in stories through a thousand eyes and mouths. Lead me to curvatures of remarkable passage, to salute awe-soaked ﬁddlers, to marvel at the courtship of herons. Dare me to leap off docks, to hear your rhythmic songs, to feel the ooze of pluff between my toes and sink into creation. Teach me to listen to your call, the beckoning of tides.
But sunrise will not come for me. Oh, Osprey! Winged messenger! Skim my soul across the river, slip it soundless in the tide. I leave to write alone, our lives but water slipping to the sea. Already it is turning. I watch a world from my back, my neck cranes with excitement. Eyes of turtles, conchs, ghost crabs, bull sharks bump against my thigh to remind me it’s precious to be alive. Devilﬁsh stir in the sound darken pinpricks of starlight through the murk of no longer. I swim soft body to a shell abandoned in Battery Creek.
III. Generous River let others ﬁnd currents of conviction to write what must be written. Drink, love, live: all in good company, this a shimmering body. Swim the storied river, occupy a geography, with gonads for the truth. For this River rescues, crosses us to shores reveals the stories we must tell, answer tides with words, Amen.
JASPER READS . 83
THEATRE and from the audience’s perspective, actors sometimes come and go. There is sometimes a transient nature to the people we get to see on stage as they pass through town and our viewing lives on their way to other places or opportunities or careers. But not everyone is going somewhere. Some stick around and we get used to seeing them. We begin to recognize their faces on the stage and names in the playbill. We start to look forward to who we might see in a new play and hope it’s a face we’ve seen before. We assess the performances of familiar faces and compare them to the roles the face has played in the past. Before we know it, we become fans. If we’re lucky, the faces become friends. Hunter. Dewey. Elena. Terrence. Bobby. These are just a few of the faces and names we have come to claim as Columbia theatre’s own. There seems to be a new batch of familiar faces showing up on our theatre stages these days and we decided to skip ahead a few steps and let you in on who and what these folks are all about. Michael. Katie. Cayla, Kari, and Devin. You already know their faces. It’s time to remember their names. THE
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY CATHERINE HUNSINGER
JASPER WATCHES . 85
K AT I E L E I T N E R
B A K A R I L E B BY
Katie Leitner is 26 years old and a native of Columbia having graduated from USC with a degree in music education and vocal performance. A consummate vocalist, Leitner didn’t get serious about theatre until, at the age of 17, Dewey Scott-Wiley cast her in the enviable role of Mimi in Rent at Trustus Theatre. “The experience changed my life,” she says. “I had little to no stage experience and knew that I was in a little over my head when I was cast in such a big role. I knew I was going to have to work hard to prove that they cast the right person – I wouldn’t have been able to do that without Dewey. She had so much faith in me from the beginning and was able to help me navigate my way through an incredibly challenging role.” When Leitner isn’t acting or singing she focuses on writing music.
Bakari Lebby cannot imagine life with theatre. “I legitimately cannot consider living without being involved in theatre to some extent. It scares the shit out of me to think that I may not be able to do it as a full-time job. I honestly don’t know if I want to live my life behind a desk doing something menial. Music and theatre aren’t something I do in my spare time. Everything else is.” The 26 year-old graduated from USC with a degree in Theatre and, after performing in several children’s plays at Heathwood Hall, has gone on to perform such challenging roles as Booth in Topdog/Underdog at Theatre South Carolina and Elegba in The Brothers Size and In the Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney at Trustus. (Lebby confesses that his most desired role is that of Frank in The Rocky Horror Picture Show though.) Lebby is a big fan of the Duplass brothers and indie ﬁlmmaker Joe Swanberg, but locally he admires Chad Henderson—(He’s always been there to assist me and suggest things to me when I ask for it, and I’ve always been impressed by his scope of vision)—and names a list of “superstars and legends” that include (Lebby’s fellow JAY theatre artist ﬁnalist) Chris Cockrell, Terrence Henderson, Walter Graham, Dewey Scott-Wiley, Jason Stokes, Hunter Boyle, Scott Blanks and Ann Dreher
MICHAEL HAZIN Also a native of Columbia, 27 year-old Michael Hazin has been hooked on theatre since he ﬁrst performed in Seussical the Musical at Workshop Theatre. “I haven’t looked back,” he says. Hazin’s biggest role thus far has been that of Ash in Evil Dead at Trustus, a role he is reprising this fall. Asked to name his inspirations Hazin says, “There are so many wonderful, talented local artists to admire in this tight knit arts community we have here. One thing that has amazed me is the cavalcade of talent in the old guard that has been around and performing in Columbia for years. And in my time performing here I have seen so many people my age start to come to the forefront and be welcomed with open arms by everyone around them.” Hazin continues, “Theatre is my oasis away from everything else. All the noise and traffic and are completely drowned out by the act of performing with a group of people with the singular goal of telling a story.”
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K AY L A C A H I L L Kayla Cahill is a Jersey girl who came to SC with a theatre scholarship to USC in her back pocket. Inspired by her grandmother who often directed the offspring of her own large Irish Catholic family in school plays, Cahill grew up dancing and performing on stage, crediting her dance teachers with the work ethic she prizes now. In terms of favorites, the full-time theatre educator (Cahill teaches at Hand Middle School) gives Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl “a very special place in my heart, but locally, my favorite director to work with is Dewey Scott-Wiley.” These days, the 27 year-old artist also gets to grow through writ-
ing as she performs and writes for The Mothers sketch comedy and improve group. The group will premiere a full play on the Trustus stage this holiday season and Cahill just ﬁnished writing the draft of a scene. “Thinking about watching an actor say words I wrote onstage has me positively giddy.”
DEVIN ANDERSON Devin Anderson fell in love with the performing arts at a young age and has been pursuing theatre and music ever since. A Columbia native, Anderson attended Palmetto Center for the Performing Arts at Richland Northeast before graduating from Coastal Carolina. The 26 year-old ﬁrst began performing in the Columbia theatre community in 2011 when she was cast in Spring Awakening at Trustus, but her biggest role thus far has been that of Celie in The Color Purple. “I didn’t realize how difficult this role would be,” Anderson says. “Stepping into a character’s shoes can be exhausting at times, but the reward you get from doing so, and successfully, is far greater. For me it’s just more of a conﬁrmation that performing is my passion, and I am on the right path.” Anderson lists a cadre of stellar Black actors as her role models, including “Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Phylicia Rashad, Diahann Carroll, Queen Latifah, Kimberly Elise, and Halle Berry just to name a few. These women look like me, with voluptuous bodies, chocolate skin, and curly hair. When I look at these women I see myself, and I see the various doors they have opened for me as well as other black actresses. But,” she says, “locally Terrance Henderson and Bobby Craft are my biggest role models. I was 7 when I saw my ﬁrst musical, it was Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Workshop theatre and they were in it. I didn’t fully understand the magic of theatre until seeing it for myself. I remember I couldn’t take my eyes off of them the entire time. I may even still have the autographed program!
K AT I E L E I T N E R
KAYL A CAHILL
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By Michael Spawn
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here’s my mission, as I understand it. I’m to share my thoughts regarding my time in Shallow Palace, a Columbia-based rock band that existed from 2005 to 2017 and played its ﬁnal show on September 23, the day before my thirty-ﬁrst birthday. I shouldn’t be too maudlin about it and I should resist the urge to get cocky about our adventures while being forthright about the fact that many people in Columbia and our hometown of Greenville—including many close friends—had to be harassed into coming to a show. I must avoid clichés (like how a self-funded rock and roll tour is tough but inﬁnitely rewarding) while giving the truth its due (a self-funded rock and roll tour is tough but inﬁnitely rewarding.)
in baggy-eyed shambles after a night of underage carousing on the streets of Manhattan. We return home to no fanfare and are compared in the local press to the likes of Nirvana, the Stooges, Muse, the Beatles, and the MC5 (but not all at once, and I maintain that the Beatles comparison was meant to be ironic.) Brett Kent joins the band, replacing Andy on bass. George Fish joins on guitar and keys, replacing no one. Our ﬁrst fulllength album is a bit too long, has a handful of songs that people enjoy, and sells accordingly. We record and tour again, record and tour again, and so on and so forth. Things stagnate. We’ve been at this for a long while with few ﬁnancial or existential merit badges to show. Brett makes his exit, followed shortly by Josh. Replacing Brett on bass is Ameer Raja, chosen for his skill and for the Shallow Palace tattoo he gamely pretends not to regret. The one time we discuss replacing Josh, a guffaw is heard from on high and the matter is dropped. We play a smattering of modestly attended shows before admitting to ourselves that this thing has run its course. With Ameer stepping aside like the goddam gentleman he is, Josh and Brett are enlisted for one last hurrah. Our ﬁnal show takes place at Art Bar to what is one of the biggest crowds we’ve ever drawn in that establishment.
At least I have a word limit. “That went about as well as it could have,” I think when I wake up the following morning, any remaining illusions of youth and stardom now shovel-smacked under cold dirt. A scattered, mostly chronological history: Greg Slattery, Andy Auvil, and I start playing in the living room of my house on Laurens Street and our ﬁrst show is a Battle of the Bands at a Christian college. Jesus, apparently unmoved by songs about sex and speeding, sends us packing. Josh Bumgarner joins the band on guitar. We appear on MTV
I have no interest in convincing any reader who has never heard of Shallow Palace that they missed out on something magical (I’d actually be impressed they made it this far) but, hokey as it will probably come across, that’s kind of what it was—for me, anyway.
And I think it was for the other guys, too. I spent twelve years of my life writing, playing, and causing irreparable damage to my ear drums with guys I’ll consider brothers until my brain ceases to consider. There were countless hours in the van, the studio, or the practice space where we couldn’t even look one another in the eye, much less get through a conversation without slinging shit. Ask anyone who’s spent considerable time in a band—certain interpersonal miseries are part of the bargain. But that’s not what I’m going to see clearest when I look back. I’m going to see Greg doing a whole east coast run in a cast because he broke his arm practicing David Lee Roth kicks in the kitchen right before we hit the road and never once complaining about the pain. I’m going to see Maurice, the lonely middle-aged man who let us crash in his Massachusetts basement after telling us about the severe depression that had taken hold after his daughter left him, and how much he missed her. I hope he is alive and happy. I’m going to see George behind the wheel of the van, the two of us the only ones still awake as snowﬂakes gather steam outside, explaining to me that if a human being were somehow able to stand on the edge of a black hole, he’d be able to see the beginning and the end of all creation, all in one moment, and then debating what song we would want to be playing if it ever happened to us (I think we settled on something by Queen.) I’m going to remember being on a NYC subway car as 2008 became 2009 (or was it 09-10?) and then waking up, freezing cold, on the ﬂoor of the van on a Polish street in Brooklyn. I’ll remember how hard we laughed at all of the inside jokes that wouldn’t make any sense if you weren’t there. I’ll remember knowing that no matter what happened, I was in it with people I trusted and loved. We could have been any anonymous rock band in the world. I’ll be grateful forever.
JASPER ESSAY . 89
ANDREW STINSON’S MANY WAYS OF SEEING the World by
ndrew Stinson, CFD picks a plain white paper napkin off the table. He holds it between thumb and foreﬁnger and begins to skillfully fold it with delicate precision as he lists off the potential objects he pictures within it. “I’ve never been a person to say that this is just a napkin and it’s only for wiping things up,” Stinson says. “But I think how many other ways can I use this napkin. This can be anything. Trying to come up with as many ways to use something—other than what it was intended for—is the nucleus of my aesthetic.” The event designer—and recent nationally certiﬁed ﬂoral designer—is dressed in his characteristic green, not merely a personal favorite but also a vital component to his aesthetic. Just as green signiﬁes renewal, Stinson’s own design trademark is that of innovation and resourcefulness.
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PHOTOGRAPH BY RANSOM SNELLINGS
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PHOTOGRAPHS BY FORREST CLONTS
My creative process is really just trying to see the world through a completely different lens than what’s
“Growing up in a small town where everything except Walmart closed down at nine o’clock every night—and me being a night owl—that’s where I would spend a lot of my time just walking around. With my aesthetic in mind, I would look at products and think: How can I use them,” Stinson says. “I think my tendency to use what’s on hand comes from humble beginnings where I didn’t have a big budget or a lot to work with. So it’s a means to an end that you’ve got to use what you have.” The owner of WAS Design Works often showcases his talent for transforming trash to treasure in his collaborations with local chef and caterer, Scott Hall. Together, the two prepared the “X Marks the Spot” dinner for the Deckle Edge Literary Festival in 2016. The dinner consisted of a menu featuring Hall’s reinvention of dishes mentioned in eight varied works of literature, alongside Stinson’s interpretation of their universes—a theme he describes as “literary magic.” “I remember going to Lowes to see what I could use in a different way with the materials that were at my hands,” Stinson says. “I found this steel framing that could be bent into a framework for different shapes. I then went to Goodwill on their 25-cent book day and loaded down three carts full of books. I was able to take the book pages and cover the framework to make certain shapes. So it looks like these pages ﬂy out of the books and up off the table and make these swirls.” With the assistance of LED smart bulbs and an app, Stinson assigned each piece of literature to a color he felt was representative of the mood he wanted to evoke for each course. He was then able to transport diners from the depths of purgatory to the turbulent seas of the evasive white whale through special effects lighting and plenty of ingenuity. “When Scott and I work together it’s a match made in heaven. His crazy brain and my crazy aesthetic of looking at things differently tend to create these worlds that—someone once said—is like Disneyland for adults,” Stinson says.
When the 35-year-old North Carolina native is not hard at work designing events, he can be found amongst ﬂowers. As the President of the SC Florist Association, Stinson recently discovered he passed the assessment that accepts him as an accredited member of the American Institute of Floral Design, a dream he’s carried closely for the past 17 years. Stinson compares the AIFD assessment— as well as the many competitions he’s participated in—to the television show Chopped. He says participants never know what articles they must work with, so they’re left with only their knowledge and creativity to guide them—an aspect Stinson says allowed him to become more resourceful and quick on his feet. “My creative process is really just trying to see the world through a completely different lens than what’s normal—but I don’t mean normal because that’s just a setting on your dryer,” Stinson says. “You’ve got to take what you have and be able to tap into that lens of seeing it from a different angle. It might be a book or a bundle of sticks, but if you look at it through a different lens you see so many more possibilities for what that could be.” Although Stinson named WAS Design Works after himself, this master of improvised innovation and self-proclaimed aﬁcionado for Plan Qs, says that over the years it has taken on revised meaning to him and clients. His tagline “I am, you are, it was” embodies the hope that his love of ingenious and original design is talked about long after it was featured in an event. “I think design has always been a part of who I am. I have been the odd creative child all my life,” Stinson says. “But everybody tends to say you need to look at the world and see this. And I’m like I don’t see that. I want to look at it from a completely different angle and let everybody else see that there is more than one way of doing things.”
normal—but I don’t mean normal because that’s just a setting on your dryer. JASPER SPECIAL . 93
Badoobas and Badabas A REMEMBRANCE
By Chad Henderson
hursday August 31st, 2017 is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. As I stood in the divide where the house and lobby meet at Trustus Theatre, sandwiched between hundreds of theatre artists and patrons from the Midlands and beyond, I watched as Kay Thigpen took the stage. An ignition of applause generated a full house standing ovation for a performance that began 33 years earlier. My hands were passionately clapping with tears ﬂowing down my face. Kay, in her class-act graciousness accepted the ovation for a moment, and then with a wave of a hand demanded that folks be seated and listen. “Thank you for coming,” she began. We had gathered to send our thanks and love into the ether for Jim Thigpen, the original Artistic Director of Trustus Theatre and Co-Founder, with his wife Kay. As our theatre matriarch addressed the audience it became real for me—Jim was no longer with us. Looking around the room I saw evidence that this truth was ﬁnally sinking in for many of us. With eloquence Kay assured us that “it was time” for Jim to leave us, and with that she calmed us. What followed was an hour of family and friends that took the stage to share personal stories about their time with the Thigpens and Trustus Theatre. I didn’t speak at the celebration of Jim Thigpen’s life, so I’m glad that I get this opportunity to do so now. And when I speak of Jim, I can’t help but include Kay, too, because that’s the kind of team they were. Working together to make so many of us not only the theatre artists we are today, but also the human beings we’ve become. I’m thankful we still have Kay to carry on this tradition.
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As they were for so many of us, Jim and Kay Thigpen were my theatre family and Kay continues to be my theatre Mom. They were the ﬁrst people to hire me and treat me like a professional. We often had Chinese takeout from Jin Jin’s together on Friday evenings before shows in the Trustus bar, and they taught me things then. Sometimes Jim would order a new type of beer for the bar, and we’d try it together. Kay would teach me about applying for show licenses, and that the best way to keep a budget in check is to say “No.” Jim would personally create the seating chart and teach me who of their patrons were friends and wanted to sit together – and also, who was a “pain in the ass.” Kay would tell me stories about the early days of Trustus and all of the ups and downs they went through. As a director, Jim imparted tremendous knowledge to me as he did to the countless artists he worked with during his career. Just ask anyone who worked with Jim – he taught them something that lasted. He made an impact. They also taught me an important lesson through example that I didn’t realize until recently—there must be a balance between work and family. One is much happier when surrounded by family, blood or otherwise. This is an essential aspect of the Trustus experience, and one we continue to endeavor to bring to our artists and patrons. Seeing the hundreds of people jammed into the Main Stage space to celebrate Jim’s life proved that Jim and Kay’s unspoken mission to create family was successful on a large and lasting scale. As the celebration of Jim’s life was winding down and all the stories had been told, another reality began to settle in for me. I get to be the Artistic Director of this amazing theatre. I felt like I was where I was supposed
to be and where Jim wanted me to be, and I became almost overwhelmed at this amazing opportunity. Jim Thigpen gave me some of the greatest moments of my life—a career, and a destiny, and for that I will always be grateful. His voice is in my head every time I work on a project, and I often feel like he’s sitting with me in my office as I’m reading scripts or thinking of what we can do next. He’s there, sewed into both the fabric of the theatre itself as well as into the theatre artist I have become. And I know he’ll never leave me even though he’s not here in the ﬂesh. There was one more standing ovation and a ﬁnal toast to Jim, and Santana began to play over the speakers. I felt completely surrounded by the man who had meant so much to me, even though he was no longer with us. I looked over at my wife with tears in my eyes only to see her sobbing as well. She wiped her eyes and unexpectedly apologized, “I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t deserve to be so upset. You were so much closer to him. It’s just so inspiring. Look at how much of an impact he made. It inspires me to be inspiring.” She hit the nail on the head. Jim Thigpen inspired us to be inspiring. My resolve is stronger now than ever to continue the work he and Kay started back in 1985 in that walk-up space on Assembly Street that they named Trustus Theatre. With all the badoobas and badabas in the world Jim, we love you. Thank you for the many gifts you gave so many of us. We can never repay you, but we’ll hold you in our hearts forever.
“Chad, when you’re opening a show, you’ve got to make sure all your badoobas and badabas are in place and they’ll eat it up like brain candy.” JIM THIGPEN AUGUST 25, 1942 – AUGUST 29, 2017
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MOLLY HARRELL
JASPER MEMORIAM . 95
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