ARTS | CULTURE | EVENTS
Oct – Nov 2013 | Vol 2 No 2
The Tools of a Modern Renaissance Sculptor Christian Benefiel Slo-Mo: Cultivating Contemplation Through Film Walt Bartman Painting the Moment Perspective: The Photography of Benita Keller Dickinson & Wait A Made in America Mecca Acting Out Maryland Ensemble Theatre Agri:Culture Settling In Ed:Cetera William Butler Yeats on Pablo Picasso Savoir:Fare Lot 12 Public House Poetry Ed Zahniser Fiction The Snowman Coda Denouemonument
Pure Emotion by Judy Bradshaw
The Tools of a Modern Renaissance Sculptor Christian Benefiel
Slo-Mo: Cultivating Contemplation Through Film
Walt Bartman Painting the Moment
Perspective: The Photography of Benita Keller
Dickinson & Wait: A Made in America Mecca
Acting Out Maryland Ensemble Theatre
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Agri:Culture Settling In
Ed:Cetera William Butler Yeats on Pablo Picasso
Savoir:Fare Lot 12 Public House
Poetry Ed Zahniser
Fiction Jack Trammell
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C O N T R I B U T O R S Todd Coyle is a journeyman musician who has performed in and around the Eastern Panhandle of WVa and around the country for over 30 years. He has worked in folk, blues, pop, jazz and country bands as a guitarist, bassist, singer, producer and sound man. Ginny Fite has won national, regional and state journalism awards for her writing. She was editor of the Gazette Newspapers in Frederick, Lifestyle editor at the Herald-Mail, and Executive Editor at Phillips Publishing before retiring to Harpers Ferry. Amy Mathews Amos has worked at the interface of environmental science and public policy for 25 years. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Pacific Standard, Blue Ridge Press and elsewhere. She serves on the Boards of the American Conservation Film Festival and Marine Conservation Institute. Shepherd Ogden lives in Bakerton, WVa. He is the author of five nonfiction books, one novel–memoir and a book of poetry. His photos and collected poems are at justsopress.typepad.com/facing.
Paula Pennell, a glass artist, writes and lives in Frederick County, Md, with her husband, Don, and their dog, Gander. Cheryl L. Serra is an award-winning writer who began her career as a journalist. She has served as a marketing communications specialist and a magazine founder and publisher. Sheila Vertino is returning to her roots as a freelance writer and journalist, after a career as a magazine editor-inchief and book and research publisher. Based in Shepherdstown, she describes herself as a culturally curious word nerd. Jill Yris, who resides in Berkeley County, writes magazine features, ghostwrites and edits books. www. LinkedIn.com/in/JillYris. Ed Zahniser’s poems have appeared in over 100 literary magazines, 7 anthologies, 3 books and 3 chapbooks in the U.S. and the U.K. He is co-editor of In Good Company, an anthology of area poets celebrating Shepherdstown’s 250th anniversary.
A D V E R T I Z E R S
Skinner Law Firm Mark Muse Photographs Arts & Humanities Alliance The Bridge Gallery
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Over the Mountain Studio Tour Artomatic@Jefferson Throwing Caution Old Opera House
Missed an Issue? Aug–Sep 2013 Subscribe! Fluent Magazine 4 | fluent
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Oct–Nov 2013 | Vol 2 No 2 Nancy McKeithen Editor & Publisher Ginny Fite Managing Editor Sheila Vertino Associate Editor Kathryn Burns Visual Arts Editor Zachary Davis Fiction Editor Tom Donlon Poetry Editor Contributing Editors Amy Mathews Amos, Shepherd Ogden, Paula Pennell, Cheryl L. Serra, Jill Yris, Ed Zahniser Submissions For information on submitting unsolicited fiction, nonfiction, plays and poetry, please see www.fluent-magazine.com/submissions. Please submit events and arts news to email@example.com. Fluent Magazine is published bimonthly and distributed via email. It is available online at www.fluent-magazine.com. To subscribe www.fluent-magazine.com/subscribe All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be duplicated or reprinted without permission from the publisher. © 2013 Fluent Magazine
This one’s for you, Cathy, and Dolly.
Fluent Magazine is grateful for the support of the Jefferson County Arts and Humanities Alliance (AHA) through its Community Arts Impact Award program. Jefferson County, WVa is a Certified Arts Community.
Courting Change Sometimes an editor needs to look back in order to see forward. Online publication layout and design is an imperfect and ever-changing choreography. It’s not always clear at the beginning of the dance where the articles and images are going to fall when the bell—or the deadline—rings. Why do we let these changes creep in between layouts or crash land on pages that are already done? We can. It’s both the same and different for the volunteers and artists of Artomatic@Jefferson—a month-long celebration of the arts in Jefferson County, West Virginia—who have transformed a former retail rock and tile store into a mecca for art. The event opened on Friday, October 4th, and will be open each Friday through Sunday in October, with 52 visual artists, 47 musicians and performing artists, and 17 literary artists sharing their work through exhibits, readings, music, dance and more. It’s the first time for an Artomatic® event in the county and the state—and the first such licensed event in a rural area. Like fluent, it’s free for everyone... it’s ever-changing, with additions to the “art fence” outside, new artwork inside and performance art. By supporting Artomatic@Jefferson with your attendance, you become part of the evolving art. In this issue, fluent contributing editor Shepherd Ogden writes about the changing palette in a fall sunrise (page 6). Artist Christian Benefiel (page 12) infuses his interactive sculptures with potential for change—through inflating, deflating, freezing or burning. Walt Bartman (page 32), a plein air painter, captures change on canvas, by painting the collective moments of a “single scene that represents a period of time.” Change, sometimes, is simply irresistible.
The Artomatic@Jefferson bistro on opening night: Photographer Benita Keller and Steve Parker dance to the music of local legend Paul Pfau.
Nancy McKeithen, Editor & Publisher
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Settling In BY SHEPHERD OGDEN
Driving into Shepherdstown this morning, the fog is light on the tops of the fields, variably displayed beneath a separate horizon of dawn-lit cumulus at what looks to be 3,000-5,000 feet. Its height, depth and coverage varies from field to field, based perhaps on the crop and topography. Crops still actively growing are transpiring—passing moisture from the soil to the air just above—while those that are mature and drying down are not. Combine that with the rolling dips and rises of a given field and it is no surprise that on one of these “verge” mornings this kind of variation appears.
Of course fog is nothing but clouds that happen to be nearer the ground, sometimes clinging to it. If you lack the good sense to avoid excessive curiosity (and are not a pilot), you may wonder about the view from an airliner as it descends through a cloud bank toward the airport at three hundred miles an hour. Driving through a thick patch on Engle Molers Road, I thank God that geese and seagulls are not the size of deer! There is one spot on Uvilla Road where a sinuous wisp of mist resembling the tail on a white horse stretches maybe a hundred yards along the edge of a Photo by Shepherd Ogden
cornfield. I call it mist instead of fog because it is so diaphanous one can see through it to the woods behind, and the only real difference between fog and mist (and the haze that Shenandoah Valley residents know so well when they look to the east or west) is visibility. Mere science perhaps, but sheer beauty as well, and changing moment to moment as the moist air ebbs and flows, and the first hints of sun disturb the dawn’s equilibrium. The past few mornings the fog has been thicker, seemingly impenetrable, and has not lifted till almost noon, but this morning there is maybe half an hour when slips of sunlight sneak from between the Blue Ridge and the cloud deck—origin and canvas both obscured—creating the kind of soft focus on the landscape that the contrasty, shadow-flung sunrise of a clear morning can never produce. I am headed into town so early because I want to get a picture of the small maples recently planted between the new pedestrian tunnel at Shepherd University and the Rumsey Bridge. But when I arrive, the fog is nowhere to be found, so I decide to walk out on the bridge and shoot back toward the Contemporary Arts Center, as I have done many times before, hoping for a glint of rising sun on its copper skin. I get there just as the sun rises above the Blue Ridge—but still behind the clouds east—and lights the rumpled cumulus from beneath. Looking downriver, I see that each small ravine feeding the river has its own tributary finger of fog settling down toward the water, only to disappear (evaporate?) as it reaches the open channel of the Potomac. This “run” of the fog is not something you see in the spring, any more than you would see a maple syrup “run” in the fall. Each depends on a very specific and precise yet flexible set of conditions that its given season provides, and each is thus emblematic of its place in the synoptic symphony that surrounds us. Warm land, warm water, cool air and the humidity left from a recent rain provide the instruments; the season provides the score.
The calmness after the tumult of summer lets the fog settle in, as we do, this time of year, in preparation for winter. Twenty minutes and a cup of coffee later, I head home. The sun is fully above the Blue Ridge when I reach Molers Crossroads, and the fog over the Knott Road cornfield has melted to a continuous mist, now a bright iridescent yellow tinged at the edges with blue reflected from the sky. The white church at the corner fades in and out moment to moment as the mist dissipates until finally clearing into the blue. fluent To view the photographs referenced above, please visit the fluent gallery.
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William Butler Yeats on Pablo Picasso BY ED ZAHNISER
“Laughter not time destroyed my voice,” the poet William Butler Yeats told me. Indeed, his voice sounded like a blender getting started on a handful of walnuts. “I have many truths to tell whereat the living mock.” Did he think that the painter Pablo Picasso had stolen the impulse for much of his work from African art? “Only the dead can be forgiven; but when I think of that my tongue’s a stone,” Yeats said. “We must laugh and we must sing. We are blest by everything. Everything we look on is blest.” So you mean that even if he did steal those themes, I asked, he made them his own? Yeats nodded in assent. But should we consider Picasso’s abuse of women in evaluating his artwork? “Conduct and work grow coarse, and coarse the soul,” Yeats affirmed. “Whether we have chosen chisel, pen or brush, we are but critics, or but half create, timid, entangled, empty and abashed, lacking the countenance of our friends.” Given Picasso’s unacknowledged African borrowings and his abusive relationships with women, can we still claim a spiritual dimension for the corpus of his art? Yeats was slow to answer, as though he might be making sure the blender was plugged in. “Who can distinguish darkness from the soul?” he asked rhetorically, then gestured with his hands as though to say “on the other hand.” He continued: “Though pedantry denies, it’s plain the Bible means that Solomon grew wise while talking with his queens.” What role did Picasso play in creating the extreme greed of the art market that haunted the 1980s, greed fueled largely by the sudden wealth of Japanese business and their initial lust for Vincent van Gogh paintings? Can that circumstance be laid at Picasso’s feet? 8 | fluent
“Gold-sewn silk on the sword-blade,” Yeats responded, with the obscurity of a forgotten tradition, “beauty and the fool together laid.” I ventured a personal query. As a famous poet, was Yeats jealous of the often lucrative market for the visual arts whereas writing poetry has become the lifestyle equivalent of homelessness? “But is there any comfort to be found?” the poet again posed rhetorically. “Man is in love and loves what vanishes, what more is there to say?” I said I didn’t know, so Yeats elaborated. “All things hang like a drop of dew upon a blade of grass.” I must have looked blank still, because the great mystic poet quickly and impatiently added, “Consume my heart away; sick with desire and fastened to a dying animal it knows not what it is; and gather me into the artifice of eternity.” Do you think, I asked, that some superstar poet could come along today and do for American or British poetry what Picasso, despite his character flaws we have discussed, accomplished for the visual arts? Yeats thought definitely not: “All neighborly content and easy talk are gone, but there’s no good complaining, for money’s rant is on. He that’s mounting up must on his neighbor mount, and we and all the Muses are things of no account.” What did Yeats think of the attitudes of our conservative American legislators and their ilk toward art and the federal government’s attitude of suppressing whatever it might find antisocial, blasphemous or sometimes simply not understood? “Leave nothing but the nothings that belong to this bare soul,” he said while gesturing toward his own chest cavity. “Let all men judge that can whether it be
an animal or a man,” meaning, I supposed, that government as a collectivity has no business getting involved in individual judgment. In a sense, for the arts, this was the liberal position expressed though the conservative attitude, a brilliant synthesis. To veer away from foul-talk and philosophy, I inquired about the role of women in his own art, particularly in the early narrative poems and later lyrics. What most hung with him even now? “Pictures of the mind,” he smiled, more to himself, I thought, than to me. “Recall that table and the talk of youth, two girls in silk kimonos, both beautiful, one a gazelle.” Is sexuality a force in creativity in general? I asked. Or another way to ask the question, I speculated, might be to ask whether Sigmund Freud was right, from an artistic perspective, about the fundamental role of repression in all forms of human expression? Yeats seemed visibly touched by the implication of the question. He appeared to reach deep within himself to formulate his answer. “The night can sweat with terror as before we pierced our thoughts into philosophy,” he said, then paused before continuing, “and planned to bring the world under a rule, who are but weasels fighting in a hole.” The final figure of speech seemed sexual, but I recalled the rumor that Yeats had undergone rejuvenation surgery. To change the subject, I asked him about the fascination of modern English-language poetry with Asian writing and art. Did he think Asian poetry, for example, was more pictorial than English and American? He nodded assent and quoted by way of confirmation a snippet, as he explained, from the great Chinese poet Li Po in Witter Bynner’s translation: “Holy cock-crow in space, myriad peaks and more valleys and nowhere a road.” The aptness of the quotation blew me away. I asked him for a one-sentence assessment of our contemporary American idiom of poetry, admitting that it is perhaps too diverse for generalization. “There is enough evil in the crying of wind,” he replied. The summary spontaneity of his response seemed to delight Yeats more than I would expect. So I asked what advice he would have for today’s beginning writer, based on the satisfactions of his own long and distinguished career in letters?
“Consume my heart away,” he volunteered, “sick with desire and fastened to a dying animal it knows now that it is,” then paused so long I thought our interview was at an end “and gather me into the artifice of eternity.” That was the last time I was privileged to interview the great white-haired eminence of English letters. Many years before, as a hungry and hopeful but naïve student, I had written to ask him what his favorite quotation from the Bible might be. I had expected something from the King James Version, like the story of David and Bathsheba or the frank sexuality of “The Song of Songs,” but his reply fooled me. Yeats quoted a sentence from the thirteenth chapter of “To the Hebrews”: “Those who come from Italy send you greetings.” I took that to be his generous declaration of homage to the younger, expatriate American poet, Ezra Pound, who had lived in Italy. Pound was the elder poet’s personal secretary near London for a time. Pound reputedly harangued Yeats to join the campaign for literary renewal that we now know as the persistent beast Modernism. I was deeply humbled. fluent
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Join us! at the AHA! November Exhibit
“Contouring Eve” Opening Reception Friday, Nov 8 5:30–7:30 pm Exhibition Dates Nov 6–29, 2013 AHA! Fire Hall Gallery 108 North George St Charles Town, WV Woman of Byzantine by Isabelle Truchon
Become a member today! www.ahajc.org
The Bridge Fine Art & Framing Gallery
Abstractions • Through Oct 20 Eco-Art • Opens Nov 1, in conjunction with the American Conservation Film Festival
8566 Shepherdstown Pike, Shepherdstown WV 25443 • 304.876.2300 Fine Art, Ceramics, Photography & Custom Framing 10 | fluent
24th Annual publish your ad in fluent magazine and reach a regional audience that enjoys arts & culture for a media kit, click here contact email@example.com or call Nancy @ 304.876.1218 <Dec–Jan issue deadline: Nov 22>
November 9th & 10th, 2013 10:00am – 5:00pm both days
Enjoy the Hospitality of Twenty-one Exceptional West Virginia Artisans at Nine Fascinating Stops Located in Historic Jefferson County, WV www.STudioTourWV.org
a celebration of the arts
Through October 31 • Charles Town, WVa www.artomaticjefferson.com • firstname.lastname@example.org fluent | 11
The Tools of a Modern Renaissance
SCULPTOR HE WAS THAT NEIGHBORHOOD KID who was always building ramps and obstacles for his skateboard, and adding functional, cool accessories—like emergency pumps and panniers— to his bike. “As soon as I was old enough to ride something with wheels on it, I was in the garage trying to enhance the experience of riding on it, even at the expense of aesthetic,” Christian Benefiel recalls. The leap from tinkerer to sculptor came in a defining moment when he was 12, and saw the Claes Oldenburg retrospective at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Benefiel says he knew that day what he wanted to do with his life. u
Suspended Ladder by Christian Benefiel 12 | fluent
By Sheila Kelly Vertino
Like many sculptors, his formal training involved mastering traditional materials — wood, stone and metal — but Benefiel came to believe that “there are no rules anymore about what sculpture consists of.” A fellowship in Tallinn, Estonia, further convinced him to explore other materials in his work. “Resources like [wood, stone and metal] were so expensive or just unavailable that they were out of the reach of artists like me. Being in a position where I was forced out of familiar materiality demanded broadening and exploration.” It’s also where he started to incorporate electrical current into his sculptures. “I wired radios in a way u
Right Spending It All In One Place. Below Structure, wood and steel. This modular sculpture is uniquely assembled by a third party for each exhibition. Far Right The Efficacy of Wishing, wood, dacron, mixed media. Video at http:// vimeo.com/32355114.
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that combined electrical interference and physical interference with the speakers to create a distorted sound.” He taught himself how to wire the Eastern European 220-volt system by deciphering the pictures in technical manuals written all in Russian, applying the scientific method and learning through trial and — ZAP! — error. Today, Benefiel’s aesthetic is wide-ranging, using materials from construction projects, reclaimed commercial scrap and parts made from disassembled, lowquality consumer products. “The choice of materials for me is about the relationship between production, consumption and disposal. I am fascinated with the commercial process that creates items with disposability as a major principle of their design. While this might lead to a certain level of hoarding, I feel that there is a method to the materials I use.” A unique combination of playfulness and interactivity imbues his sculptures, and prevents them from
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being heavy-handed or didactic. Rather than “art for the sake of art,” Benefiel calls it “art for the hell of it. I like making work that’s fun.”
Recent inflatable works involve intricate geometric shapes sewn from used sail fabric, encased in handcrafted wooden frames, animated by fans and motion sensors and micro-computers. “I don’t try to hide the elements. For the inflatables, I keep the fans and the electrical and the components open and exposed.” The pieces might inflate or deflate, based on the crowd viewing them. Some encourage the viewers to touch them and transform them according to their whim. “I’m very much into materials and into the interaction.” Benefiel explains, “A lot of the work I do is not really performance art, but it’s perfomative in nature.” Benefiel, assistant professor of art and coordinator of the sculpture program at Shepherd University, is passionate about encouraging his students to explore many types of materials, processes and technologies, so they’ll never feel intimidated or limited. Admitting that some processes can be dangerous,
Benefiel is careful to show students how to do it properly — “wiring, building a blow torch, everything from rudimentary woodworking up through computer programming. Empowerment is important.” On the technology front, Benefiel himself is unafraid to explore new applications. He sees himself as neither a “digital immigrant” nor a “digital native,” having access to technology as a child, but also u
Top Left Although he has branched out into many types of materials, Christian Benefiel’s tattoo is testament to his first love, metal sculpture. Bottom Left Hatchet Job, wood, sailcloth, automated blower unit, 100 x 100 x 100 cm. Below Push, Pull, mixed media, nylon, cast iron, blower unit. Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNkm0JnV.
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Fire and Ice Winter nights at Vermont Studio, temperatures often hover around -20 degrees. Inspired by the deep cold, Christian Benefiel envisioned a 6-foot-tall, wood-frame sculpture, encased in a thick shell of ice, with an empty chamber inside. “I built the structure from wood, and I kept soaking it and soaking it in water,” which rapidly formed layer upon layer of ice on the wooden infrastructure. When darkness fell, Benefiel lit a fire inside the sculpture, which acted like a chimenea: The flames drew upward and leapt high above the top of the sculpture. Although the interior fire was roaring hot, the exterior, Benefiel remembers, “was like molten metal. You could touch the outside while it burned inside the ice. Eventually, it was consumed and destroyed.” Fire, ice and wood, an allegory on the impermanence of elements.
u learning more traditional skills like woodworking. “Sometimes I feel like I am from a weird point in history. Technically, I am classified as a Millennial, but I’m right on the edge of Gen X.” He built the MakerBot 3D printer in his Keedysville, Maryland, studio from parts and directions he got on the Internet, back when MakerBot was still open source. Benefiel programs it to extrude ABS plastic parts he then casts in metal. That combination of skill sets doesn’t seem the least bit daunting to Benefiel, who wonders if it’s “a generational thing. Working with tools doesn’t always come naturally to students.” Although he is comfortable with new technology tools, Benefiel has a soft spot for old ones. “I really prefer buying tools that are pre-1980, American made. If it doesn’t take two guys to load it into a truck, I’m not that interested in it.” Arts and science, tools and technology. Like a modern Renaissance man, sculptor Christian Benefiel uses common materials to create complex works that beckon and invite you to bring them to life. fluent 18 | fluent
Find more of Christian Benefiel’s art on christianbenefiel.com.
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Making a poem is like exhaling, and love is the inspiration for breath in this new book of poems by Ginny Fite. Anyone who has ever loved, or lost, will ﬁnd themselves in the poems in THROWING CAUTION. Somewhere in this book is your experience of love. THROWING CAUTION is available on Amazon.com and also at the Washington Street Artists’ Cooperative in Charles Town, WV.
things you’ll find on the fluent website all free, all the time the magazine: current & past issues to read and download gallery exhibit information calls for artists / contest info / audition listings arts & culture events listings arts class listings arts news how to subscribe, how to advertise, how to submit work, how to contact us <updated daily>
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Cultivating Contemplation Through Film by Amy Mathews Amos 22 | fluent
rom the fast food, eat-on-the-run culture of the 1990s emerged the Slow Food Movement. Amidst the endless tweets, status updates and memes of today, filmmaker John Grabowska offers a modern variation: the slow film movement. It’s not that you can’t watch his natural history showpieces on your smartphone if you want, but they’d be much better on a big screen. And it’s not that his films are slow — his sweeping aerial shots of breathtaking scenery move effortlessly to intimate close-ups of wildlife, and back again. It’s just that Grabowksa’s betting that enough of us will be so captivated — and contemplative — we won’t be tempted to multitask. His latest film, The Ends of the Earth: Alaska’s Wild Peninsula, was screened at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in September and will screen at the American Conservation Film Festival October 31– November 3. A shorter version aired on PBS stations for most of the summer. But Grabowska doesn’t make his films for television: He claims he doesn’t care if you change the channel. If you do, you’re not his audience. Instead, he says he crafts his u
Photo by Roy Wood
films for those who “enjoy the voyage of intellectual curiosity, who relish erudition and wit, who have the patience and interest in discovering something that is at home in the world of art rather than merely commerce.” Yeah, but…the bears, man. The bears are way cool. A Stephen Colbert-nightmare of bears. Catching salmon. Fighting with other bears that are catching salmon. Playing with their cubs. Killing someone else’s cubs. Walking like cowboys (see for yourself). I became a Grabowska fan as a board member and selector for the American Conservation Film Festival (ACFF) in Shepherdstown, WV. Grabowska is a filmmaker for the National Park Service based in nearby Harpers Ferry, WV and was a past board member of ACFF. Still, we had never met. I had admired his 2003 film Crown of the Continent: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve from afar and fallen in love with Ribbon of Sand, about North Carolina’s barrier islands, in 2008. With Meryl Streep channeling Rachel Carson’s seashore writings, Ribbon offered me a triple-whammy: The barrier islands are my default vacation destination, Rachel Carson is my hero and Meryl Streep is, well, Meryl Streep. In fact, I was so blinded by love that I didn’t think twice about the film’s lyricism. When Meryl/Rachel intoned “in every curving beach, in every grain of sand is the story of the Earth,” I thought “yes, yes—I know just what you mean girl.” But The Ends of the Earth was different. Grabowska dedicates the film to Loren Eiseley, a noted anthropologist, philosopher and writer who, according to his 1977 New York Times obituary, “wrote of the need for the contemplative naturalist, a man who, in a less frenzied era, had time to observe, to speculate, to dream.” Grabowska quotes from several of Eiseley’s works and turned to poet and Pulitzer-prize winning writer N. Scott Momaday to narrate. When Momaday’s majestic baritone proclaimed “(w)e are only one of many appearances of life; we are not its perfect image; for it has no image except life itself, and life is exuberant and emergent in the stream of time,” I had to think: What the hell is he saying? And more importantly: Will anybody care?
y the time I arrive for our interview, John Grabowska’s tall lanky frame is already folded into a wooden chair at a tiny table beside the plate-glass window of the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop. It’s a rainy
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Wednesday in late August and classes have just started at the local university. Parking had been a challenge, but finally, coffee and tea in hand, we settle in for a lengthy discussion: Namely, what’s with all this literature in such a visual medium like film? To answer, Grabowska goes back to his childhood in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He grew up in an academic household, the youngest son of well-traveled professors at Northern State University. Maps of the United States and the world covered the family’s dining room wall, and the news of the day was a frequent topic of conversation. When he attended Northern State himself in the mid-1980s, he majored in English and history, and had “vague notions of being a writer.” Instead, he became a journalist for a South Dakota television station, schlepping camera, tripod and lights around the statehouse in Pierre and interviewing politicians while the legislature was in session. When the sessions ended, Grabowska would venture out into the vast hinterlands of South Dakota to film other, perhaps more compelling, stories — wildfire on the Rosebud Reservation, bison recovery in the western part of the state and more. After two years of filming and filing stories daily, he indulged his inner policy wonk and moved to Washington, D.C. to be an aide to thenfreshman South Dakota Congressman Tim Johnson. But the English major in him wasn’t satisfied. “There’s no poetry in writing legislation,” he says. After a stint in Honduras for the Peace Corps with his wife, Monica, Grabowska returned to the United States in the spring of 1991 and found work as a filmmaker with the National Park Service. “Two weeks later I was directing a crew on the Big Island of Hawaii.” Soon, he was also drawing on his academic upbringing. At home, and in the classroom, his parents had taught in a provocative fashion, challenging their charges to think, rather than spoon-feed them information. “So those are the kinds of films that I try to make,” says Grabowska. He wants viewers to bring their own experiences and perspectives to a film, to draw their own connections and meaning from the concert of images, words and music he presents on the screen. “I try to stay away from didacticism and assume a certain degree of knowledge and intelligence and perspicacity on the part of the audience.” (Look it up.) Writers such as Carson, Eiseley and Momaday are part of that. Grabowska first turned to Momaday for
his 2005 film “Remembered Earth: New Mexico’s High Desert.” Momaday had captured the ethos of contemplation that Grabowska was shooting for with a quote from his book The Presence of the Sun: “Once in his life, a man ought to concentrate his mind on the remembered earth.” But the language wasn’t quite right for film. In a bold improving-upon-Shakespeare move, Grabowska asked Momaday for permission to alter the quote, changing the masculine terms to the more inclusive “we.” Momaday agreed. Grabowska opened the film with the altered quote and embedded more of Momaday’s writing throughout — all read by Momaday himself. Later, he narrated Grabowska’s “Sky Island: New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains” in 2011. Momaday lives in the Southwest, and much of his writing takes place in that region. But why choose him to narrate The Ends of the Earth, which features Eiseley’s writing and explores the Katmai and Aniakchak Preserves in Alaska? “The bear is Momaday’s totem,” says Grabowska. His Kiowa name translates to Rock-Tree Boy, which refers to the Native American legend of Devil’s Tower and its creation by the boy who turns into a bear and claws up the side of a tree in pursuit of his sisters. And many of Momaday’s writings identify with bears, including his collection of essays and poems called In the Bear’s House. Scholars might know this, but the rest of us don’t. And even Grabowska concedes that Eiseley isn’t easy to read. Delivered through Momaday’s imposing voice, the words sound as if they’re coming from God Aniakchak Cloud Niagara, Photo by Roy Wood
Himself, bestowing wisdom from above that we mere mortals struggle to understand. “I thought about getting Stephen Colbert to narrate,” says Grabowska. “But that would have made it a totally different film.” So how does Grabowska’s approach work in this age of clickable distractions? Traditionally, park visitor centers have been the primary outlet for National Park Service films. But as Grabowska notes, park visitors are the already converted — they’ve made the trek. And not everyone has the time or means to travel, particularly to remote places in Alaska. To reach a wider audience, Grabowska began submitting his films to film festivals and then to PBS, which over the years has run all six films he’s submitted as national prime time specials. The Ends of the Earth triggered sold-out back-toback showings at Washington, D.C.’s Environmental Film Festival in March and at Anchorage’s Bear tooth Theatrepub in May. It’s easy to see why. In it, we get up close and personal with bears, yes. But we also swim underwater with brilliant red salmon, float among their coral-colored eggs and peer into their lifeless eyes when they wash ashore, spent. We soar above “cloud niagaras” that spill over the rim of the Aniakchak caldera, fly through the narrow gate in the caldera’s wall, and tumble down the river below on a whitewater raft. We admire colorful wildflowers on the volcanic floor and marvel at the cryptobiotic soil that makes life possible in such a volatile place. Who needs erudition when you have all that? But I still want Stephen Colbert. fluent
walt bartman painting the moment
By Paula Pennell
allery 322 in downtown Frederick, Maryland, is just waking up as Walt Bartman moves paintings from room to room, prepping for one of the city’s popular street events and the crowds he hopes will soon fill the gallery. The hardwood floors, white-painted walls and rustic red brick are a relaxed and unpretentious backdrop to a feast of color and motion. Bartman’s trademark cows — painted from his Jefferson, Maryland, home of 30 years — graze in Summer Storm
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a quiet side room. The grand old Point of Rocks train station anchors the back wall of the main gallery, and to its right is a bold vintage automobile with a Cuban flair. Each scene is very different, yet recognizable as his work in a gallery representing various artists. Bartman had returned the day before from teaching a workshop in Lake Como, Italy. “I just got my hair cut,” he says, smiling. Life is busy for the painter, whose name and work are included among
the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Library Collections. Bartman is founder and director of three world-class art centers; conducts painting workshops locally and internationally; and co-owns two successful art galleries. He’s writing a book and filming an instructional art series. And he paints. Easy to understand why finding time for a haircut is a challenge. Yet, Walt Bartman does not appear tired, overworked or stressed. “I’m 66 and I have the energy and enthusiasm of a 14-year-old,” he says.
Bartman primarily paints figures and landscapes, using oils and acrylics. He prefers to paint “en plein air,” French for “in the open air.” He never paints from a photograph. “I like the movement of real life, and I enjoy the challenge of creating a single scene that represents a period of time.” Bartman often paints throughout the day and into the night. “Painting through the day is like painting a microcosm of life. The day is full of change,” he says. “We think much more abstractly in the morning and at night.” He explains that nighttime offers artists
a chance to see color in a different light, that often, “what an artist thinks he put on canvas [at night] will show up differently in the daylight.”
He recalls transferring images from his mind onto paper at a very young age. Growing up in Pittsburgh, he soaked in as much art and culture as the city could offer. At 14, he began training with Joe Fitzpatrick, an award-winning painter and visual arts instructor who also taught Andy Warhol and Philip Pearlstein. Bartman admits that Fitzpatrick was influential in his life choices, and in fact, the similarities between their two histories seem more than coincidental: Both are from Pittsburgh, both are highly regarded painters and both are nationally recognized visual arts teachers. “We all have our guides,” says Bartman, “people we build our lives on.” Bartman always knew his profession would include art. He produced mechanical drawings for an engineering firm and dabbled in commercial art, even thought at one time he might become an architect. Then he tried teaching. “It just fit,” he says. fluent | 27
Walt Bartman (left) often teaches and paints with his students en plein air.
Bartman’s path as an educator was set. He earned an art education degree from the University of Maryland, a master’s degree in painting and art history from American University, and was awarded a Fulbright grant, which allowed him to study in Belgium and Holland. Returning to Maryland, Bartman began teaching visual arts at the top-rated Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, where he transformed the school’s art curriculum into a nationally recognized visual arts program. Recognition by two U.S. Presidents, an appearance on “CBS Sunday Morning” and enough awards to fill a gallery wall are testament to his teaching achievements. Many of his students are now prominent contributors to the visual arts industry, including Emmy Awardwinning designer Jason Park (he acknowledged Bartman during his acceptance speech) and Harry Cooper, Curator of Modern Art at the National Gallery. “Harry is speaking at The Yellow Barn,” he says, excitement in his voice. Bartman is director of the Yellow Barn Studio and Gallery in Glen Echo, Maryland, which he founded 20 years ago. His son teaches there, as do several of his past students. “They come back to me,” he says like a proud parent and laughs: “They need another shot of what they got in my class.” What they got was a uniquely creative environment where anyone could be an artist if they worked hard and believed their work made a difference. He 28 | fluent
instilled a sense of community into his classroom, making it a place where ideas could be shared and showcased. “There’s no division between teaching and art — it’s all art,” he explains. “What I did was immerse the two.” Bartman uses more philosophy in his teaching than techniques. “I don’t give the answers, I give the questions. I open doors,” he explains. “I paint with my students and I inspire them to make ideas. There are many ways to see a tree,” he says. “The most important thing is to bring as many perspectives to the work as possible.” He teaches students to see with their minds and their eyes, to find the invisible within the visible. “I want art to be a challenge, to create a problem.” He admits that’s probably why he paints landscapes. “I prefer emotional moments. The change in atmosphere and the weather creates drama. Style in landscape has to change because of movement. Every moment has a certain energy, rhythm and movement. Every moment is about a period of time and the change that occurs during that time,” he continues, the pace of his words mirroring the change he describes. Bartman’s style is considered “atmospheric.” He says it changes with his moods. “I want to paint everything. It’s not about one style or one subject, it’s about expressing the idea,” he says. He considers himself a colorist. “Color is fuel, it’s energizing, it teaches us to feel.”
His method of teaching enables him to speak to students at all levels of experience simultaneously, which perhaps is why his painting workshops are so popular. Or maybe it’s because of the destinations — Lake Como, Italy, the Bahamas, even Cuba. “We go there legally,” he adds quickly, before the question is asked. “The students love it!” He also teaches in Rehoboth, Tilghman Island, and locally. And students are invited to his home to paint cows. “You can see Bartman Mountain from my house, just to the left of South Mountain,” he explains. The name is purely coincidental, but it lends to Bartman’s belief in fate and destiny. Red Stripe
His most recent project may be one aspect of that destiny — a book titled Dead Horses. It’s based on Bartman’s way of teaching and has been adapted as an instructional video series. “We’ve filmed 11 episodes,” he notes. [See the trailer.]
Along with the teaching and painting and writing, there are the galleries. In addition to Gallery 322, his first in Frederick, Bartman is founder and director of the recently opened Hummingbird Cottage Art Centre in the Bahamas, and co-owner with partner Alice Hoxie and his wife, Robyn, of the
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Shades of Red
Griffin Art Center in downtown Frederick. He loves serving the Bahamian community and getting them involved, especially the young artists. The Griffin, which sits at the corner of 5th and North Market streets in downtown Frederick, offers exhibition opportunities, as well as classes and workshops for children and adults. Always, he is the teacher. Forty years into his career, Bartman has helped more than 10,000 students “find art. I always try to help my students find their own fresh ideas, and through working with them I’ve been able to broaden my own style and work.” Challenging his students. Challenged by them. fluent
To view more of the artist’s work, please visit: Facebook Gallery 322 Griffin Art Center Hummingbird Cottage Art Center and Gallery The Bridge Gallery & Framing The Yellow Barn Studio and Gallery email@example.com
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The Photography of BENITA KELLER
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benitakellerphotography.com bridgegalleryandframing.com trailerandtrash.com email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dickinson & Wait: A Made in America Mecca By Cheryl L. Serra
MADE IN AMERICA is more than a catchy tag
line for Debbie Dickinson and Meredith Wait. It’s a way of honoring artists and craftspeople by showcasing their American-made wares. Dickinson & Wait Craft Gallery in Shepherdstown, wv, is their mecca. “We absolutely love working with the craftspeople we work with,” Wait says of the business that opened in 1991. “We’ve watched a lot of these people raise their kids and send them to college.” Dickinson and Wait have a personal relationship with the approximately 150 artists and craftspeople with whom they work. Many have been friends of theirs for more than two decades. The gallery is a well-held commercial anchor in this thriving artists’ community. Dickinson was earning her living as a potter prior to opening the gallery. She had recently moved to Shepherdstown from Maryland and thought opening the gallery would allow her to connect with likeminded artists and craftspeople. She was accustomed to showing her work at craft shows and selling her products to galleries all over the country, so she had an inside track to what opening a gallery would entail. Wait, a graphic designer, created Dickinson’s first gallery business card. Shortly thereafter, Wait was seeking office space and approached Dickinson to see if she could use space at Dickinson & Wait. She never left. “We reinvent ourselves all the time so I reinvented myself as part graphic designer and part shop owner,” she recalls.
Searching for Talent Dickinson and Wait are always looking for the art and crafts that will find their limelight in the gallery. Their products are fun, clever, practical, quirky and original. 38 | fluent
PHOTO Cheryl L. Serra
Debbie Dickinson and Meredith Wait inside the gallery they started 22 years ago.
Oh, did we mention made in America? They include games, sculpture, ornaments, hats, jewelry, paintings, pottery and more. They scour wholesale craft shows and calculate that out of every 1,000 craftspeople whose work they see, four or five will have it shown in the gallery. It’s not that the other work isn’t good; it just isn’t just right for Dickinson & Wait. They also find artists and craftspeople at smaller, local and retail venues such as the Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival in nearby Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Whenever they travel, they’re on the lookout for possible merchandise that fits their high-quality, unique and made-inAmerica requirements.
But do they always agree on which products meet these requirements? Mostly, yes, they say. But the occasional powers of persuasion may be needed to help sway a decision. “It’s called ‘you wear your partner down,’ ” Dickinson says with a smile. “Anything that we both spontaneously fall in love with inevitably does really well in the shop,” Wait adds, lending credence to their selection process.
The Business Side Several factors affect buying for the gallery: the economy, buyers’ trends and the cost of creating the art or craft. For instance, products made from recycled materials and natural materials in their natural state, such as rocks, are popular today. Between 2001 and 2008, however, art glass was a big seller. But due to the rising cost of materials, that trend has waned. Sometimes their products are impacted by other products—the leather cellphone holders they had in stock became less popular as the size of cell phones changed. Yet overall, the products in Dickinson & Wait have withstood time and trends. Dickinson and Wait weigh all their purchasing decisions, calculating their cost against the market. They need to stay business savvy—attuned to market demands and other factors. Wait is also very community-minded, and was so even before the gallery opened. She volunteers in the community and is outgoing president of the Shepherdstown Business Association, having served two three-year terms, the first back in the early ’90s. Both she and Dickinson work hard to promote Shepherdstown and all it offers. Yet it’s their artist’s sense of product placement and space design that’s appealing to customers walking in the front door. The best marketing, they say, is word of mouth. Evidenced by their success, a lot of people have been speaking well of the gallery over the past 22 years. u Photos provided by Dickinson & Wait
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Local Artists’ Work Showcased at Dickinson & Wait Craft Gallery YEARS AGO Judy Bradshaw had to be nudged in the ribs when a shop owner asked, “What do you do?” It was just so difficult for the humble painter to say, “artist.” Tara Bell, who has worked at Dickinson & Wait for 10 years, had become more than a “weekend artist” when she asked to have her work on display at the gallery (the answer was—and remains—yes). Diana Suttenfield started showing her artwork in the Shepherdstown area in 1966. More recently, when she needed a break from her ambitious schedule of producing paintings for gallery viewing—the equivalent of an artist’s breath of salty sea air—she approached Dickinson and Wait and they agreed to carry her work. Local artists displaying their talent on their home turf. Fluent asked what it means to them as artists. Throughout her life, Bradshaw had taken art classes and workshops. She also taught herself by collecting art books and studying artists, always trying to see what made a painting work. She began working with pencils, then moved to colored pencils, pastels, and acrylics. “And other things in between, “she says. In 2005, still lacking confidence in her ability as an artist, she walked into Dickinson & Wait with “some little, tiny, colored pencil drawings of this area” and asked if they would be interested in carrying her work. They were. They did. It sold.
Autumn Joy, acrylic, by Judy Bradshaw
“And I kept on rolling.” Today, Bradshaw has much more confidence as an artist, but she has maintained her humility. “Debbie and Meredith are fabulous to work with. I love that I have space on the wall [at Dickinson & Wait] where I can hang my work.” Bradshaw’s work has included landscapes—many inspired by local scenes—and often features weathered barns, trees and lanes. Lately she has also been experimenting with abstract. She belongs to a painters’ group and has been in two shows at the Bridge Gallery in Shepherdstown (http:// www.bridgegalleryandframing.com/). Bell knew Dickinson & Wait—both the gallery and its owners—because she worked for a nearby business and shopped at the gallery. Several years back, Bell had majored in art for a year but then went on to get a degree in recreational therapy from Shenandoah University in Winchester, va.
Trees to Sky, colored pencil, by Tara Bell 40 | fluent
Photos provided by the artists
She worked at the then Grafton School, using art to work with students with behavioral health issues. Fast forward: Bell continued her artwork, which she describes as having a dreamlike quality, colorful, fun, joyful and luminous. But she’d been challenged by the business aspects of being an artist—keeping enough inventory, marketing, selling. “Working at Dickinson and Wait has given me more structure and incentive to keep creating,” she says. “I’m also in touch with my customers when I’m in the gallery. I like these people, who also like American-made art and crafts. I appreciate their input. It’s nice to feel connected to the artist community, too.” Suttenfield worked in pastels for some 25 years, but in 2007 she gave up her pastels, literally, and decided to experiment with oils and acrylics. She is delighted to have her work at Dickinson and Wait, where she can display five or six
paintings at a time and change them every month or so. It allows her to work in a new medium at a leisurely pace. In addition, she says, “I’m a very patriotic person. I feel that made in America is so important at a time when so much business has gone overseas.” fluent
To see more of Judy Bradshaw’s work, please go to: http://judybradshawart.com To see more of Tara Bell’s work, please go to: www.etsy.com/people/TaraBell or www.studiotourwv.org To see more of Diana Suttenfield’s work, please go to: http://www.shepherdstowngoodnewspaper.org/artistgallery/artist-gallery-diana-suttenfield/
Bales near Shenandoah Junction, acrylic, by Diana Suttenfield
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By Cheryl L. Serra
“WHAT IS ACTING?” asks teacher Melissa Baughman. “Pretending to be somebody you’re not,” replies the eager-to-please young boy sitting cross-legged on the floor in a circle with other aspiring actors. “For example, if there’s a Joseph in the class and we’re doing a play on three goats, he can’t just be Joseph.” That’s right, Ms. Baughman says, you need to use your imagination when acting. For the next hour, students will use their imagination to experience their five senses during exercises such as smelling perfume, looking at a rainbow, and touching a hot stove. They discuss character develop-
ment, too, describing personality and physical traits of the characters in Little Red Riding Hood. They mimic how the characters might walk, for instance, hunching over when it’s time to imitate the grandmother. Through it all, Baughman expertly guides their youthful exuberance to the task at hand, telling them that focusing their mind is also a critical skill in acting. Tonight, in early September, is the first night of acting class this season for the young actors. What’s happening in this classroom is but one facet of the creativity, electricity, originality and energy that courses through the Maryland Ensemble Theatre (MET) in Frederick, md.
Photo by Joe Williams
MET’s summer 2013 production of “Peter Pan.”
Matt Baughman in an early publicity photo for MET’s production of Oscar Wilde’s comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest,” October 18–November 17.
Founded on Original Works Tad Janes, MET artistic director, and Gené Fouché, associate artistic director, are founding members of the ensemble, formed in the early 1990s. At that time, they were working for the summer for the Contemporary American Theater Festival and staying at nearby Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, wv. “We knew we could build a theater where original works were performed. We just happened to have the right eight people in the room,” Janes recalls. From the MET’s inception, Janes said group members knew they wanted to work with people they knew, trusted and liked. Above all, they wanted to create. “Seeing a piece of new work come to life is pretty amazing,” Fouché says. Devising work, or creating plays in house, is much more labor-intensive than producing scripted work, she adds. Fouché says finding talent for the plays is easy because they have very large casting calls. They are also able to capitalize on the actors they have trained in their classes. “The play’s direction is guided by the artists in the room,” Janes says. “Every process is organic.” The ensemble has been prolific; its creativity and collaboration has resulted in six full-length plays, numerous children’s theater plays, and many comedy sketches and original songs.
MET: Many Offerings Under an Expanding Roof The first ensemble group performed together in April 1993 and created The Comedy Pigs, a comedy/ improv troupe that still performs at MET. The group began teaching classes in Acting and Improvisation in 1995, the same year The Fun Company, which
Photo by Dan Brick
provides family programming, began. The MET piloted its main-stage program in 1997 with an original play created by the ensemble called, “Finally Heard! Heroines of an Uncivil War.” In 1998, the MET opened its first theater space and a full season of plays. The MET is a busy place. Following the September acting class, an evening reading was held for the upcoming performance of The Importance of Being Earnest. Throughout the month, MainStage hosted Completely Hollywood (Abridged) each Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Comedy Pigs performed twice. The Fun Company had two shows; throughout the year, the Fun Company also has an In School Productions outreach program and Fun Camp. (An impressive side note: An independent panel of over 40 theatre professionals recently chose a Fun Company-produced play, The Young Olympians and the Most Amazingly Awesome Adventure Ever, to win an Overall Excellence Award for an Ensemble during the New York International Fringe Festival.) And then there’s MET-X, created to expand the collective horizons of the MET ensemble and its audience. Laugh Station, described as “the surreal, scifi horror extravaganza,” is part of the MET-X series. fluent | 43
Tad Janes, right, MET Artistic Director, shows the planned renovation/addition. Below, acting teacher Melissa Baughman and her students will enjoy the planned enhancements to the classroom space.
And now, Janes adds, demand has called upon the MET to add a publishing arm. Last year, I Am (Not) My Mother, a play based on true stories from and about women of Frederick, made its world premiere at the MET; in July it returned for a limited run. The play was written by Suzanne Beal, recently named the co-artistic director of Rep Stage, the professional Equity theater in residence at Howard Community College. Beal has directed numerous productions in the DC-Baltimore area and is MET board chair. The play focuses on womenâ€™s relationships Photos by Cheryl L. Serra
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with their mothers and was based on stories gathered by holding story circles with local women of all ages and from all walks of life. In addition to the stories, the production features original songs performed by local singer/songwriter Jessica Bowers. Fouché directed the production, which has received new productions in Baltimore and Philadelphia since its premiere. The MET-created musical “Planet Claire” will get a new production, too. Emma Bowers (born into the MET) is doing the show with her student company, Cursed Church, in Philadelphia (https://www. facebook.com/CursedChurchTheater).
Maryland Ensemble Theatre 31 W Patrick St, Frederick, Md 21701 (corner of W Patrick & N Court streets) MET Box Office 301.694.4744 email@example.com http://marylandensemble.org
Capital Campaign Off to a Good Start The MET is growing, and running out of space. To remedy the situation, in September it launched the Stage2 Capital Campaign, a $100,000 campaign to build additional performance space and to alter its existing space. They currently have $39,000, much of it collected before the campaign formally launched. The renovation/addition of Stage2—a temporary name because naming rights are available—is already underway thanks to early contributions. It’s scheduled to open September 1, 2014. The current MET home is the lower level of the historic FSK Hotel, at 31 West Patrick Street. The approximately 12,000 square feet includes the performance venue, offices, a classroom, rehearsal area and backstage. The MET recently signed a new six-year lease extension that includes space previously occupied by Volunteer Frederick. The renovation will mean additional flexible performance space. “With the amount of producing we do it’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while,” said Janes. “It’s always been difficult to find stage time for everything. We might have three shows all going on at once and sharing a set or lights.” That, he hopes, will change. fluent Photo by Dan Brick
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“Upscale Comfort Cuisine” BY JILL YRIS
Sitting in Lot 12’s bar—his office during the day and dining table at night—Chef Damian Heath wears a crisp, white, monogrammed chef ’s coat, his dreadlocks pulled back under a navy print bandana. As he speaks, his constantly moving hands join in. Heath describes himself as an Italian and Irish “melting pot.” He learned about his grandfather’s mussels in marinara from the Italian side of his family, and best of all, that with each meal there is always love.
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PHOTOS Provided by Lot 12 Public House
The son of Berkeley Springs, WV artists Jonathan and Jan Heath, Chef Damian took a different route to art—culinary art. He attended Baltimore International Culinary College and trained in Europe, with “further seasoning” working at various East Coast venues. In the late ’90s, he and then-fiancé Betsy, now married and co-owners of Lot 12, began a culinary R&D adventure where they decided to experiment with food and experience fine dining. In the process, they learned what they like “and maxed out our credit cards,” recalls Heath. Knowing there was an unfilled niche for the kind of restaurant he envisioned opening in Berkeley Springs, he and Betsy returned to his hometown and family, and in 1999 opened Lot 12 Public House in a 1913 Victorian with a wraparound open-air porch. The name comes from George Washington’s plat of 134 lots. The R&D has since paid off, in focus and longevity. “We have weathered the storms and trends,” says Chef Damian. “Seasonal upscale comfort cuisine” is how the restaurant’s website describes Lot 12’s offering. Chef Damian changes the menu frequently, with a special nod to the abundance and quality of local produce. “With a little Italian heritage for complexity and flavor. “After dinner, I stroll through the dining room, and you can hear me laughing,” he says. “When you have a dinner party and everyone leaves happy—that’s what we do every night here.” The chef admits that Betsy has the eye for details. “And me? I’m the boisterous, laughing guy who overpours for people sitting at the bar and over-cuts the steaks.” Together, they make a good team. fluent
Chef Damian on the porch of Lot 12 Public House
Where I’m From I’m from clotheslines off back porches, from pickle brine and cook cheese from a mother who made us kids sniff horseradish at the first sign of a cold. I’m from shape notes, knitting needles and pickling corn, ink stains and silver typeset Dad’s Heidelberg Press forever snorting like a stallion in the old chicken coop.
Lot 12 Public House 117 Warren St, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411 304.258.6264 | www.lot12.com | Thursday–Saturday 5–9 pm, Sunday 5–8 pm
Butternut Squash Soup Ingredients 3 lbs butternut squash, cut & cleaned 2 sweet potatoes, peeled & sliced 2 russet potatoes, peeled & sliced 6 celery stalks, sliced 2 small yellow onions, diced 12 garlic cloves, sliced 1/2 gallon apple cider 1/2 tsp nutmeg 1 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper water or chicken broth to cover 12 oz heavy cream Preparation Sauté garlic, celery and onions, add butternut squash, potatoes & cider. Add water or chicken broth (or combination of the two) to cover the vegetables. Add spices and simmer until tender. Add heavy cream and return to simmer. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion stick, or in a Cuisinart or blender. Adjust thickness, and salt and pepper as you desire. Garnish with crème fraîche, apple butter or fried sage leaves.
From neighbor kids flooding the backyard for hockey imagining ourselves as Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr. From a giant white Bible on a coffee table with a picture of Solomon about to split a baby in two. I’m from home-sewn bathing suits, accordion lessons, breaking curfew and smoking Players, Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and Farrah Fawcett hair. From a mother who had two dates in one night, a father who snuck out of the parsonage to see South Pacific at that verboten movie house. From a grandfather who refused to go to war, sent west to fight forest fires instead while his wife gave birth on a poultry farm. I’m from recycled ancestors the ones I can’t name and don’t understand, but who somehow survive in my bones, grounding me here, to this place where I’m from.
Cheryl Denise is the author of two books of poetry, What’s in the Blood (2012) and I Saw God Dancing (2005), both published by Cascadia Publishing House. She also has a spoken word and music CD called Leaving Eden. Cheryl and her husband live in the intentional community of Shepherds Field near Philippi, wv, where they raise a small flock of Jacob sheep.
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Entangled Particles Entangled particles on either side of the universe don’t give a hoot about how a butterfly’s fluttering wings may change the weather in Madagascar when the particles (who may wave at you if you even think of them) always react to each other’s movements instantly without regard for space or time like long-married couples at cocktail parties.
Climate Change You ask me what winter was like in the old days but I say ask the chickadee whose energy budget is so tight—he told me this himself— if he but moves overnight he may starve to death by morning
Ghazal of the Commonplace I want the cactus to retract its spines and the catfish sheathe its barbs. I want the burdock to taste like rhubarb and the avocado stay out late dancing. I want the horses to slide off the pasture and all hills be flat-topped mesas with doors. I want duende to flare like the mare’s nostrils and retool the liturgy with Ray Charles tunes. I want Samothrace to be a town in West Virginia and Sappho to move to Left Hand, Greece. I want the halo to settle on her gently and light up the desire even God must know.
Ed Zahniser’s poems have appeared in over 125 literary magazines and websites in the United States and the United Kingdom; seven anthologies; three books, most recently Mall-hopping with the Great I AM (Somondoco Press, 2006); and three chapbooks, most recently Slow Down and Live, a collaboration with artist/designer Heather Watson. (Download pdf at www.pernotandtatlin.com: click on “Categories” then “Zines.”) He lives in Shepherdstown, WV, where he co-founded the Good News Paper with Randy Tremba. For the town’s 250th anniversary in 2012, he co-edited the poetry anthology In Good Company, with the town’s Poet Laureate, Georgia Lee McElhaney. Ed is a Fluent columnist.
Remedio Farms the Sonoran Desert I have been thinking about this many nights now — when I leave here and go, no more on the Earth — that I should begin to prepare for that. I’m working today to make a new field and a shrine nearby. See, my mind has been going this way — that I should be planting things, leaving little green things growing up. Gathering the smoothened arroyo stones for a shrine—That’s how I want to be remembered by my grandchildren, and for the live things that will just keep growing. Tend the Earth and help the desert yield its food— Remedio was leaning on his shovel looking out over the desert talking to me as if listening for the things he wanted to say for their meaning to rise out of the desert and come to him.
In Mem. F. Ethan Fischer I was reading Thirst by Mary Oliver the day my good friend Ethan died in Bolivar. The arts think tank grew shallower. Let us now empathize with the sword swallower. 48 | fluent
“Climate Change” appeared in The Externalist; “Ghazal of the Commonplace” in Praxilla; “Remedio Farms the Sonoran Desert” in The Other Side; and “In Late Summer” in WV Highlands Voice.
Photo by Angela Faulkner
In Late Summer Ace global commuters shorebirds scoot about arctic mudflats—breeding done— to double their body weight —like double-A batteries— for the long flight back south Don’t try this at home they’re trained professionals besides which you would
Stalking My Shadow I flaunt secret stuff to my shadow beat into submission decades gone. I try to shake my demons but see my angels moving on. The world is ambiguous and not so safe as I once thought. Tongues turn out forked and parents polyglot. Skies loom, only looking blue. Winds you cannot see may not be spirit. The quiet I used to bathe my soul in grows so silent now I fear it.
That Horse Glue We Call “Love” Paul Grant grew up in a slaughterhouse. He learned to cut meat as a teen and how to tell good meat from bad by its smell. “And I still can” he says but this did color his movie watching “when they first came out with the real on-screen slasher movies” arterial spurting and the like which is not to say Paul is movie-squeamish who watches the macabre early morning TV offerings after his night shift at the post office— “from the sorting to the sordid,” he says— then recounts the tale of how the tight-wad who wanted to keep wedding expenses down bought old cheap off-brand envelopes his wife-to-be died from licking. “You just never know, do you?” Paul says with a smile.
have to eat—in 30 days— sixteen hundred hamburgers with no note from your doctor. You don’t even know how to fly.
Footnote to a Comment by the Apostle Paul Flesh is not the only thing going but it’s tough to keep your act together without it and it’s so much fun to celebrate it because by doing so you may make more flesh that will eventually walk away from you and go to college or into the armed forces where if it keeps its act together it may return to celebrate flesh as well until now you have grandflesh who talk real cute for the first four or five years and don’t usually live with you full-time or largely ignore you until their early teens but if you’re lucky and keep your own act together into your seventies or eighties that grandflesh may take care of you in their own forties a story that’s told over and over again in the Bible the Koran the Ramayana and maybe even the Dhammapada although for sure in Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss.
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The Snowman BY JACK TRAMMELL
A neighbor boy made fun of grandfather for standing out in the cold in his night clothes, referring to him as the snowman, but that came later. A great Civil War battle had been fought in the rolling hills near our farm. I knew it because my grandfather said so many times, and also because I heard it in grade school from my math teacher (who seldom talked about math). Moreover, I found tangible evidence during my childhood, ranging from misshapen lead slugs in the ground to mysterious pieces of corroding metal I imagined were belt buckles or sword scabbards. My imagination replayed the infantry charges, the stout defenses, and the brave leaders waving their swords, over and over again in my mind’s eye. Later, that very same history seemed much less important when I had wood to chop, hay to rick, and cows to chase into the barn. Those same fields became backgrounds, rather than battlegrounds, shapeless, earthy color washes serving mainly to bring work into sharper focus. I was abusive of them, sometimes intentionally ignoring them, even as they called out to me on dramatic fog-filled mornings. One day when I was more a young man than a boy, I found my grandfather wandering the fields, and though that alone could not be considered unusual, something struck me, and I deviated from the worn path to the spring and joined him along a thin tree line of cedars. He was standing still, slowly gazing across the barren corn stubble as if looking for someone or something, his cloudy gray eyes unusually intense. “They’re almost here,” he said. “Do you see them?” I looked across the hills and saw nothing but the brownness of wintered corn stubble. The wind 50 | fluent
suddenly gusted, and I could hear the cedars rustling behind us, along with grandpa’s rapid breathing. It was bitingly cold. “They’re almost here,” he said, “and I don’t want to miss it. Cleburne’s men can always be counted on, thick or thin, and a fine Irishman he is, too. He’ll likely be right at the head of them, and I for one, am not going to miss him.” He continued to gaze intently at the crest of the nearest slope. I found myself feeling more than cold. The only time I would stand or sit still outdoors at this time of year was to outwait a squirrel. No gun with me this time; no patience for the hunt. “Grandpa, there’s no one there.” He nodded his head. “They’re coming. They’re coming! Just wait a minute.” For the first time, I noticed he didn’t have a coat. I didn’t want to leave him, but my mother was waiting for the water to boil. I shook my head and left him there. Later, after dinner, ma brought up the water trip again. “Layne, what on earth took you so long?” Grandpa was at the table with us, and I looked at him first to see his reaction. He acted as if he didn’t hear. “I was walking with Grandpa,” I said slowly. “I mean, he wasn’t walking. I walked over to see what he was doing.” Grandpa continued to eat, apparently oblivious. My father seldom said a word during dinner, his philosophy being that words and mouthfuls of food were antithetical to each other, or that food was sometimes more important than words. “Well,” father said, “it’s a good to keep an eye on him these days.” That was it. Nothing more was said.
After finding him again in the same place and in similar circumstances, I began to realize my grandfather was sick. The thing that bothered me was he so believed he was in the middle of that Civil War battle that he had me convinced, too, and I desperately wanted to see it. “No such things as ghosts,” my mother said, Blessed assurance in her voice. “Your grandfather is remembering scenes from a book, or stories told to him in school. Land’s sake, I suppose it’s possible he was alive when some of the old-timers were still around. Maybe he heard their stories. But listen to me, there are no such things as ghosts, and he is not really seeing anything.” Still, I wasn’t certain. In my world, ghosts did exist. They had to — there had to be something connecting me to everyone who had come before and made the land the beautiful place I now found it. There had to be Indian spirits, and nature spirits, and maybe even ghosts of conquistadors. The neighbor boy started calling grandfather the snowman, and the name spread around town like a bad cold. They eventually took grandfather away. And
Photo by Judy Olsen Photography
when I’d go out to the barren winter crest of the hill, there was nothing. Without him there, I couldn’t summon the drums, the gunfire, or the sound of horses. All I could think was that the cold might have somehow intensified his senses, so I tried stripping down to my briefs. Nothing. But the snowman saw something. After grandfather passed away, I made a small marker out of old furniture wood and carved the phrase “Cleburne is coming” on it. I hid it in the trees at the edge of the field and took satisfaction that no one but me knew it was there. And the snowman, of course. fluent
Jack Trammell was born in Berea, Kentucky, and is descended from generations of Appalachian farmers. He is a professor, researcher and writer, as well as a small family farmer currently residing in central Virginia with his wife, children and various animals. Trammell teaches and administrates at RandolphMacon College in Ashland, Virginia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Photo by Shepherd Ogden
Found art at the intersection of Paynes Ford Road and Leetown Pike in Jefferson County, WV.
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