October 16, 2015

BWTA Road Trip Edition – Ohio Twofer

10/13/15 – Ladies that Dinner

Artist: Laurenn McCubbin

Location: Gallerie Bar + Bistro, Hilton Columbus Downtown

Breakfast (j/k dinner):

LM + SRS – San Pellegrino (fancy!) + Small plates extravaganza: Pork Belly (creamed corn, jalapeño ketchup, smoked paprika oil, micro greens); Gruyère Gougères (fried Gruyère cheese puffs, blackberry ketchup); Shrimp & Grits (prawns, andouille sausage, crispy polenta, lemon aioli, shrimp reduction, frisee); Mussels (roasted banana peppers, crushed tomatoes, chives, white wine-garlic broth, crusty bread); Charcuterie

Yes, GB+B did come incredibly correct with this small plates meal. Those gruyère cheese puffs will remain a happy memory for a long time, and it’s lucky I don’t live closer to Columbus, because those do not need to be in heavy rotation for me. It was a lot of fun. You know what else is a lot of fun? Meeting someone who you only know of, and realizing you are, like, best friends forever after about fifteen seconds. Alright, I exaggerate. It might have taken us two entire minutes.

You know what is not fun? When you have done an incredible piece of thesis work that no one is ready to deal with. To complete her (second) Masters degree, Laurenn created A Monument to the Risen: Emotional Labor, Intimacy, and the Spaces of Sex Work. Granted, the stigma Laurenn has experienced around her graduate work is just a microcosm of the stigma that sex workers experience around their work-work–but the twist here is that, in Laurenn’s mind, the inhibiting factor to this work being accepted (and by accepted, she means, shown anywhere) is that her subjects are not victims. If there’s anything society wants to deal with less than sex workers being marginalized and brutalized, it’s sex workers who are empowered and untraumatized. This, too, is a subset of the fun tendency not to take people at their word when they speak from their experience, when those people are women, and especially women of color. Yes, we know you think you have made your own choice here and are happy with the outcome, but in reality you have been forced into this by an oppressive system and are suppressing your trauma. Which…I dunno. What would even be wrong with that, anyway? Don’t a huge number of people lead quietly desperate lives, ignoring their basic misery over the choices they’ve made and are unwilling to unmake? In what way are miserable sex workers any different from miserable accountants? I digress.

Detail from poster design by Laurenn McCubbin. Image courtesy of the artist.

Poster design by Laurenn McCubbin. Image courtesy of the artist.

No wait, one more thing. Listen, I am furious a lot. There is a lot to be angry about. But there is also something incredibly powerful about a form of feminism that is not raging against the machine, but showing women who are positive and actualized in the light of their not-socially-accepted choices. Single mothers not struggling. Female CEOs who are just fine with authority. Happy hookers. We are not goddamn stereotypes. I will tell you, I went for years not really understanding that my unchecked baseline belief that women were just as much of people as men was somehow a radical concept. I have always just kind of known that I am a person.

Anyway. Laurenn is frustratingly talented. Buried under her video-based social practice art is a graphic design skill set, plus a fledgling comics career, plus plus plus… It takes a special kind of courage to finish a Masters, realize it was the wrong Masters, and go get another one. But Laurenn has been fostering a special kind of courage for a long damn time, and in some ways, this barely ranks in terms of the accomplishments of this sensitive soul. When someone asks you what your art would look like if you didn’t paint or draw, and you respond by finding a whole different expressive medium, and then follow that through another round of academia…that is dedication. So don’t worry, Laurenn. Dedication like that cannot help but pay off, sometimes quickly, as they say, and sometimes infuriatingly slowly. I can’t wait to see what happens when the world finally catches onto you.

"Foxes with Chain Link" by Wesley Berg. Image courtesy of the artist.

“Foxes with Chain Link” by Wesley Berg. Image courtesy of the artist.


10/14/15 – Don’t Worry, Be Wesley

Artist: Wesley Berg

Location: Ghostlight Coffee, Dayton


WB – Nothing

SRS – Coffee (black)

Wes is a guy with quite a lot going on. As a creative generalist myself, I can appreciate an artist who also has an active music practice, a passion for endurance and trail running, and a teaching job, in addition to his visual practice. The last time Wes and I intersected, we were both in a complete rebuilding phase, and it is gratifying to see that the picture is starting to come together, for both of us. Wes describes himself as a cut-and-run artist–literally something I have said about myself many times–and it is a helpful reminder to all of us out there that good things take time to grow. Sometimes we need to hang in there.

If you were going to try and pigeonhole Wes, it might be as the guy who makes these astonishingly gestural and beautiful large-scale charcoal drawings of bears. In reality, there is a lot more going on than that, but Wes seems to draw a lot of inspiration from nature, with recurring animal motifs (foxes, wolves, bears), and an ongoing residency-based relationship with Scandinavia. Wes has done music and art residencies in Iceland and Finland, and seems have found both a creative wellspring and a welcoming audience there.

It’s funny when someone you know has taken a separate path, but you find that you’ve come to many of the same revelations in the intervening time. Wes spoke of his decision, over the summer, to worry about things as little as possible. I can really relate to this. Worrying is an impotent waste of energy. Either you do something to change things, or you don’t, but worrying about it is not a productive force. It’s really just butting heads with your own powerlessness in a situation.

Part of this relates to creative inspiration. As a multi-channel maker, I can relate to Wes when he speaks of previously feeling divided between music and visual art. That people would say, “Why don’t you just focus on one of these, really max it out?” The joke of this is that it implies that we are making the decision about what inspires us, and the form it takes as it comes into the world. You don’t think of a song, and then think, “No, I’m not a musician, I need to find a way to make this a painting.” I mean, maybe you do, but my experience is that things take their own form, and trying to impose my own hierarchy on it tends to make the work weaker, not stronger.

So, thanks for a good trip, Ohio. Here’s to determination, far-ranging inspiration, and joy in the tangled paths we follow to arrive at our destiny. Let’s try not to worry too much along the way!

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