other [Gravy] issues

http://gravymagazine.com [gravy

Gravy number 11

Updated October 9

Adam Mikos, publisher
Janet Overby, editor

Summer 2001


Edward Weston
at At Art Institute of Chicago

This show at the AIC deals with Weston's final ten years as an active photographer. The years are 1938 to 1948, ending roughly ten years before he died. At this time he had returned to his home in Carmel, California.

When was the last time a show or exhibition left you feeling sad? Introspective? I remember seeing a William Yang show four or five years ago that did it for me. He had documented men and women whose lives were slowly dissolving around them due to the AIDS virus within their bodies. This was a powerful show in its abrupt candid nature. The photographs showed a painful interaction between the victims and the lives they were slowly leaving behind.

One sensation that I have carried with me since seeing that show many years ago was brought back to me when I was viewing Edward Weston's, "Last Years in Carmel" work in the AIC photo galleries. I will return to that sensation in a moment.

Much of the work on display here would not be among the favorites that Weston produced during his career. We see a number of portraits, a few that I would consider "snaps" from around his home, but mostly landscape type shots of rock formations and flotsam from the ocean. These constitute the bulk of the images and are somewhat uninteresting. This is not due to a technical shortcoming at all -- the prints were well made, their contrast ordinary (ordinary for Weston that is). Most strikingly, what is missing stands out.

Gone was his Pictorialist concentration on "revealing the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself." Absent was any element of mystery or three dimensional shape. What had brought shells, vegetables, and household objects to life appeared to have petered out.

In his forward for the exhibition, Colin Westerbeck illustrates that there was a crisis in Weston's life at this time. His marriage was coming to an end and his three boys had joined the military. Whether this prompted the photographs he was making is unmistakable. He was clearly contemplating life moving further beyond his control, as it slipped through his fingers, like so much Dektol in a developing tray. The photographs show Weston slowly stepping back from his life. Stepping away from a marriage, stepping away from trying to protect his children, stepping away from trying to create life in still images.

The rock faces are a question he must have been asking himself. One can feel the inner search of the artist beginning to wane. Rather than asking, "what can I create with this," Weston begins to ask, "what is all this without me?"

The answer being, as far as I understand, exactly what it is. An answer that is both sad and obvious in this case. Not only do falling trees make noise if no one is there, they grow regardless of whether we are alive or not.

While these stark images may seem miles away for William Yang's, the connection is in the contemplation. The eyes and body language of Yang's subjects appear to be asking many of the same questions, and perhaps coming to the same answers.

Weston began asking these silent stone formations the "five W's" in his final years. Hence, to me these images reveal more of Edward Weston than most of his previous work. He was trying to view life as it existed, and would exist without him. Having accomplished so much in his life by constantly challenging and experimenting one could hardly expect him to go without asking a few more questions. Only this time he might not have been in such a hurry to get a reply.

For these existential reasons it is impossible to review this work as a critic. These photographs are a record of an artist's final thoughts, thoughts that live outside of comment of "merit." But well worth experiencing.

Gambia in the rain

Sallam Maleekum.

Well, it's official... One year ago to the day I stepped off the plane and into the mystical world of Peace Corps in Gambia. Ah, the laughs we've had, the tears we've shed, the whiskey I drank. And another whole year ahead. So much to look forward to, like fun rashes, skin infections and fungi galore.

The Rainy season is just about finished now and the sweltering heat has arrived. The nights are soaked in sweat giving new meaning to the phrase "wet dreams" and the children have all gone back to school leaving the village rather quiet during mid day. Last month, with a slack in the work load and really almost nothing to do between the harvest and the beginning of the school season I saw some strange white people riding the bicycles down the "highway" and said to myself, "Hey, why the hell not?" Thus the Friendship Caravan was born.

Now, for those of you who don't know.. I went to Australia for a month and a half the summer before my senior year in High school through this government program called People to People. Given the official title of Student Ambassador, along with 250 other students from across the States, were treated to parades of adolescent sin and debauchery through five star hotels. Streaking luxury hotels in Sydney, entertaining fifty year old toothless hookers, smooching the natives, chasing peacocks on the beach with a bottle of whiskey in hand -- we were truly a great representation of our nation.

Bustling from city to city in customized greyhounds visiting tourist dives and what nots, our program was named "The Friendship Caravan," which is a name so revoltingly wretched and disgustingly Winnie-the-pooh-ish that I couldn't help but re-live the theme here through the Gambia.

So that afternoon when I saw these freaky white folks dripping with sweat, looking absolutely exhausted and writhing in pain as if they were about to collapse and melt away on the pavement (bicycles and all), some perverse demon within my head told me, that's a great idea. When does this gluttony for punishment cease? I know where it comes from, I guess. My mother's insanity of believing she can do anything paired with her brother's belief that the bicycle is some holy chariot for which few have the divine ability to travel extremely long distances upon. This mentality paired with my father's inane idiocy (yes he's an idiot and I love him), have teamed together to create this humble pleeb of a man. Like my Grandmother always sings it, the Cole mystique or the Cole mistake?

So I hopped on a bush taxi and traveled down the road 40 km to a friend's village to see if she wanted to join me. Her Gambian name is, ironically, Mama. I knew she had just returned from a vacation but I figured it was worth a shot. The conversation went something like this, "Hey Mama, I know you just got back from a 3 and a half week vacation in Italy and you've only been at your village for two days now but do you feel like biking about 250 km from here to Banjul -- just for fun?"

"When are we leaving?"

"I don't know, two days?"

"Why not right now?"

"Damn, Skippy." So after transporting her bicycle to my village, she spent the night at my hut and in the morning around 6 am, we left to begin the first leg of the journey.

DAY 1 Six am rise and shine, brush, wash, pack, lock, tell the family.

"What the hell are you doing"

"Biking 250 km to Banjul."


"Ummmmm ...yeah, see yah." Flat open pavement. Empty. The only signs of life are birds and crickets singing and swooping. A few mule bays and goat neighs but total and complete silence during the rising sun. The extent of the rainy season has made the country explode in green and the rising rays glistening in the dew.

The grass glows gold. Rice fields as far as the eye could see. Pull into the city of Soma 20 km and about an hour later. No problem, fresh legs, excited faces, still thriving of the mere spontaneity of it all. Coffee, bread and butter while the market starts rubbing the sleep from its eyes and dusting off the tables to begin another day. Grab fresh veggies and tomato paste to cook lunch at a friends house near by. Go to her house -- nobody's home.

Break in. Hide from the heat for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. Pasta lunch, clean every dish she owns under the "friendship caravan" guise, long nap.

3:30, hop back on the bikes, 10 km, wait an hour for a sketchy ferry of death to take us to the other side of the river. Little did we know what a metaphor this would become. Still rolling though. Once we cross the other side another 15 km into the city of Farefenni to another pcv's house.

"Knock Knock. Friendship caravan here to take over your house for a night." This house was unbelievable. Four wood frame beds all with mosquito nets. Full kitchen, stove, huge fridge, stereo system, indoor hammock, large couches, shower and flush toilet, computer. Health volunteer working at a brand new hospital. From our mud huts, this was the Drake Hotel.

It didn't strike us until that night that our major nemesis was about to arrive. With a howl of the wind and the flashes in the night, the rain arrived to rock us to sleep.

DAY 2 6am, Still floating on the spontaneity, the friendship caravan picks up our host who decided to join us to greet his new volunteer neighbor and the caravan's next stop, 12 k down the road.

But the sudden reality of our situation hits us about 4 km down the road. The pavement has ended long ago but the rains have turned our dirt road into red mud hell. It was blind ambition really. The caravan must continue, and so after 4 more km, our host decides we're looney and there's no way he's riding through this muck just to hang out for ten minutes and turn around to ride home.

Health sissy. The caravan loses its first friend but we sally forth. To tell you the truth, this mud was horrendous. I couldn't take my eyes off the road three feet ahead because I was dodging the massive puddles whenever possible. I rode through one that came up to mid shin on my bicycle.

The overcast morning gave us a small break from the heat but the effort coated us in flying mud and dripping sweat, our mud caked gears grinding away while our legs pumped, churned, and burned, just to travel 20 m. Tire treads completely disappeared into massive wheels of mud. It was as if the grinding of earth, stones, and metal came from the effort our knee joints were making and not the gears below.

Shifting gears became impossible. Stuck in low gears was the only way to go. I poured more water on my chain than into my mouth. I only remember mud and pain. It took us 2 hours and 45 minutes to go 12 km straight down the highway to Hell.

If you've ever seen the "Never-ending Story," we were in the swamps of despair. We show up at this new volunteer's house who has been at her village for a total of three days -- collapse on her floor, cover her house in mud, drink most of her water. But we gave her a peanut butter chocolate rice crispy treat. She just about kissed us.

So by this time its about 9:30 and the sun has come out drying things up a bit. First off, I want to say I know you're not supposed to ride in mud but this was a road, not a trail, and a road which is being paved this year (yeah, right). This road had more craters in it than the surface of the moon, so all of you anti-trail stompers can just quit right now. Anyway 12k down and about 30 more to go.

We get back on it going very very slow but still going. About an hour later the road is mostly dry with a few exception. Collapse in the grass under the shade of a Cola tree by a Bolong and stare out into the vast ground nut fields and cornstalks.

"Hey Mama, doesn't this place look exactly like the rest of the country?"

"Shut the hell up." Snack on Granola and dried fruit. Slowly stumble into our destined stop at around 12:30 with the rain pouring down upon us about 5 minutes before we reach the village. So here we are, in the middle of bumblefuck west Africa stumbling into a Wolof speaking village, we're both drenched in mud, rain, and sweat, utterly exhausted, practically collapsing upon our handle bars and we both speak Fula.

Nobody else does. Not a lick of English or Fula spoken anywhere. Our pcv friend isn't home and locked his house. Oh despair! A pox on thee, thou devil of the elements! Rain, my bane, you drive me insane!

Again, we break in. They bring us the best lunch I've ever eaten in my life and the two of us collapse into a catatonic nap for 4 and a half hours. Wake up, the sun is out, beautiful day, huge rolling clouds on the horizon with the glow of the grasses below, birds singing, massive groves of African Mahogany, and the Magical Baobob tree (Groves of them!!!) everywhere looking solemn and sacred. Beauty incarnate.

It was when I returned to the house that Mama fixed this gaze upon me that seemed to say, You brought me to this realm of pain and agony that we went through today and I hold you personally responsible for the actions of the elements that have sustained my misery. But instead she said, "I'm not going all the way to Banjul. I'm quitting here and now. I'm getting a taxi when we reach our next stop and I'm putting my bike on the roof and float away in the marvel of modern technology." -- or something like that anyway.

And so the Friendship Caravan now has no friends. How pathetic is that? I might as well dress up like a clown and start crying, or better yet, teach my dog how to play poker. I mean, the Friendship Caravan goes bust. Morale was low. But I was bound and determined to finish what I started.

"I'm not going with you," says Mama, "The ride today was hell and my entire being aches with pain."

"Al right, tomorrow we do nothing," says I, "Then we'll talk about you leaving me alone in the Friendship Caravan, quitter." So here we are, about 120 km into it and after biking about six hours that day, 2 and a half hours through the Swamps of Despair, and finally arrive at our destination for that day in the midst of a rain storm.

Our friend is nowhere to be seen and after invading his house and covering it in mud and water, we decide to nap, bathe, and eat in no particular order. Three hours later, still no sign of our fellow pcv. I go ask his father in broken Wolof and waving arms. Turns out our chum's gone to the weekly market about 15 km down the road and is spending the night there. I turn around, walk back into the house and inform Mama. She glowers. She pouts. I ask her, "Should we go?"

"Hell, no." So I says, "Two choices here toots, stay here by yourself or get your ass up and bike 15 more km with me." She didn't wanna be alone I guess cause next thing I know, we're back on those infernal contraptions which used to be Trek 820's but now resemble something more along the lines of Mudmobiles.

We get on the road with huge thunderclouds behind us at around 5 o'clock, and out 10 km down the road, there's our ol' chum Matt Judd whom we'll just call Judd. Now Judd is here doing his masters work for forestry and is one of the nicest fellas I've met here so far. Very laid back, and I mean laid back. If this guy were any mellower he'd be a Reclining La-z-boy. Feller's from Minnesota, went to school in Montana. He works a lot, but any sort of conversation he deems unnecessary seems to be a waste of effort. But he's nicer than nice.

Anyway, he takes one look at us and says, "Uh, holy shit. What are you guys doing here?" His village is in the middle of nowhere, two person parade.

"Oh, yah know, in the neighborhood."

"Well, there's cold beer about 10 km up the road. You wanna go?"

"Does a peace corps volunteer shit in the woods?" you could hear our jaws drop to the ground. Suddenly, biking 10 km is easier than sleeping and our legs have completely taken over any and all effort to get us closer to beer. I swear to you, that was the easiest ride of the whole trip. The thunder clouds passed us to the north, giving us a cool breeze as we rode straight into a blood red sunset through the sweeping fields of green.

We pull in just around 8 o'clock and there's an empty house for us to crash in. Huge bed, large back yard, cool water ready. Another pcv's house, but she's gone to America for three weeks. Word. Throw the bikes and gear into the mud hut, sprint to the bar and find there's no more cold beer.

"Um excuse me, if you don't bring me a beer now I will be forced to destroy your village." Turns out beer is there, we just need to send Awa.

Now if Shakespeare were to write a play in Africa, this woman would be the one character who shows up, tells everybody to go screw themselves at which point everyone would just laugh at her and then have her hung. I mean this woman was Shakespearean to the core. All day, everyday, she'd bust her hump in the rice fields or the groundnut fields or corn fields to come home and do all her washing by hand. Finally after cooking dinner for her entire family, she's ordered around by all sorts of men who waltz into her bar and demand her to walk to the shop down the way to get beers or cigarettes every ten minutes.

At that point, Awa unleashes her tongue upon each one of these bastards with all the fury of a woman scorned, tears in her eyes as she screams to the heavens and curses her maker. Goes off on how her body aches, how her clothes are torn, how she ain't got a nickel. Then she gets up and walks to the shop to get the beer and cigarettes because she knows she'll get about the equivalent of a nickel for her pocket and after she does it six or seven times, she can buy herself a beer. Ten minutes later the process starts all over again. Because we wanted beer.

So after two of the most depressing beers I drank in my entire life, we decided to take some for the road, head back to the house where we're joined by two more female volunteers who proceed to light it all up and together we relax and pass out to a tape recorder playing my Grateful Dead tapes.

DAY 3 We wake up the next morning and Mama seems to be in a good mood. Of course she is, we're not getting on the bikes today. Yippee. So all day most of the volunteers at this house concentrate on doing absolutely nothing, and I mean they're trying real hard at it. Meanwhile I'm stirring in my juices because my energy level has been so high for the past, oh.. year, and while they're sitting in the house listening to music, my body's freaking out saying, "DO SOMETHING DAMMIT, ANYTHING, JUST GET ME GOING!" So I proceed to begin weeding this girls back yard. After about five hours of weeding, my body said, "OK, beer me." which I promptly did and then did nothing but sit around and laugh with friends for the rest of the evening.

DAY 4 There was a new volunteer who was posted about 25 km from where we slept that night and it was her birthday today, so we agreed to ride down and surprise her and go swim in the river, but it had rained the night before and the roads returned to their status of despair. Now the thing was, Judd had returned to his site the night before and was planning on meeting us there. But when the rains came, a female pcv named Maggie said her mother had returned from birthday girl's village and b-day girl had fled to Banjul to remedy some affliction of hers, so the party was canceled but Judd doesn't know this yet.

But not to worry, says Maggie, I can stop him in the morning before he goes. Well, turns out Maggie sleeps in, doesn't catch him but she believes he didn't go anywhere because of the rain.

"So who's gonna go look?" she says. I just about burst with rage, but suppress it, look at the two women there who are both eyeing me. Grit my teeth, storm out, grab my bike and ride the 15 km back to Judd's village by myself through the Swamps of Despair all the while cursing just about anything I can think of, and, of course, Judd had left for b-day girl's village at the crack of dawn. Why me?

But a least he's got a guitar at his house so I sit and play my blues away for an hour, then get back on the bike and backtrack the original backtrack. i have ridden this road three times and it just wasn't getting any better. 30 km in the morning with nothing to show for it. The overcast sky just about mimicked my head at that moment.

Walk in the house, break the news and nobody gives a shit. Walk through the house to the hammock and stew in my juices till lunch arrives. We eat and Mama turns to me and says, "Do you wanna bike to Kerewan now?" This from the girl who was ready to kick it the day before. Kerewan is about another 30 km away and there's a pc regional house there. Free digs for volunteers in the area. Kinda like a refuge for the village workers when they need it.

Maybe it was the fact that if I looked at Maggie at all I knew I'd probably just bite her nose off like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs or maybe it was just my astonishment that Mama actually wanted to go but there, but there I was packing up my bike and just going. As if by making myself tired all this frustration would just go away. And 15 km into it, it did.

We rode into this village along the halfway point called Njawarra and as we're riding in, a huge drum circle is going on in the middle of the village, and we're talking DRUMS baby. THIS is Africa. This is the middle of nowhere, in a valley of huge Baobob trees with the Senegalese border in sight, women pounding cous, kids dancing in the street with about 15 Gambian drummers taking everything to the next level. Metal shacks and mud huts falling down around us. Goats, chickens and mules waltzing where they wish. Laughter smiles and looks of astonishment at the two white kids covered in mud and drenched in sweat pulling into their village. We just dropped the bikes and danced. Thank You Allah.

Twenty minutes, three liters of water, and some cookies called "Nice Biscuits" later, we're off to Kerewan and, praise be, it's all down hill, 15 km of basically coasting. It's about freaking time. Pull into Kerewan and get cold cokes, and pasta fixins. Bathe, eat, and sit around for two hours. That's when Mama breaks it to me. No further will she go. Damn, back to the crying clown.

DAY 5 I'm up at the ass crack of dawn to beat the heat. Get to the city of Kerewan, eat an egg sandwich and drink some instant coffee and I'm off. This is the last leg of the trip, 54 km but all of it paved. A brand new road. No more moon craters or small ponds in the middle of the road, I mean this sucker was brand spanking new. But to get to it I had to cross a Bolong on a ferry, so there I am, 6-ish am at the ferry landing when I hear, "Ferry doesn't start running till ten."

Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle. Now I haven't really talked about it, but the sun at 10 o'clock is a little bit like Alabama asphalt on an August afternoon. But, I had an alternative. It turns out a new bridge had just been built next to the ferry landing for vehicles. But the president had yet to "bless" this bridge he built so officially nobody could cross it yet till this blessing occurred. Now I had heard of volunteers trying to walk across and little troll men appeared wearing something resembling a uniform physically restraining people from crossing the bridge. Volunteers had been dragged away at club point and forced to take the ferry. So you're darn tootin I turned my bike around and headed straight for that bridge.

I actually went up this small hill before the bridge in order to get some momentum so there I am, top of the hill, sun just beginning to rise with this forbidden bridge of destiny ahead of me. Like Andretti waiting for the flag -- and away I go.

By the time I get to this bridge, I'm really moving, my gear combined with what's left of my weight and fresh morning legs -- I'm cruising and right when I get to the mouth of this bridge, sure enough, troll guard comes running, rubbing sleep from his eyes, baton in hand, yelling at me to stop. Yeah right. I leave him behind in a cloud of dust while he's shaking his fist in the air like some angry landlady and suddenly I'm on the forbidden bridge, crossing at sunrise, the water reflecting the colors of the clouds and the shining green of the dew soaked grasses. Ahhhhhhhh Life.

As soon as I cross the bridge, I'm still cruising. No trollman repercussions and up ahead I see this huge white cement block on the side of the road with the numbers 52 on it. Mile markers. I realize these lil bastards go all the way to the end of the road and are counting down every kilometer I bike. The last day and I've got numbers in my face. Now I'm sure anyone who's done any sort of training can tell you that sometimes, numbers can be your friend. But for me, I'd rather just bike till I got there instead knowing exactly where kilometer 37 ends and 36 begins. But I suck it up.

Its a beautiful day, not too hot, sun's out but I suddenly realize that this is it. This is why I did this. This road was the reward for all the bullshit I put up with over the past three days. It was the most beautiful road I had seen in my entire life. And it was all mine. All morning and not a single car passes. I'm biking through huge groves of coconut palms, African Mahogany, Baobobs galore, rice fields. The works. Lovin it.

When I reach mile marker 30 or so, I look over and there's a new volunteer hauling water to his house. So I pull up, and after a few astonished glances, he invites me in to his house where about 4 other volunteers are hanging out and it turns out they're about to ride down to the site where I was planning on sleeping, "Wanna come along?"

THE FRIENDSHIP CARAVAN LIVES!!! And twice as strong. This just about made my day. We bike about 20 km and we see a fella climbing around these coconut palms with jugs tied to his belt. And we realize he's making palm wine. Now for those of you who don't know, palm wine is basically sap from coconut palms that's fermented about three days on the tree. It only has a drinkable time frame of about six hours. Too early and it tastes like mayonnaise, too late and it tastes like pure vinegar. So we pull over.

This guy's got a fresh batch and we buy 6 liters of it. Ride to my buddies house and proceed to cook more pasta, but this time its with pesto made from fresh basil and garlic. We proceed to get thoroughly sauced and watch the Matrix on the DVD on this guys computer. Yeah, I'm really roughing it.

DAY 6 Wake up with a hangover the size of Delaware, stumble to the bike ride three km to get in line for a ferry crossing and low and behold I see pigs swimming in the water. If that don't beat all, swimming pigs. After the ferry, bike 10 km to the hostel here and take the longest shower of my life. Spent the rest of the day swinging in a hammock on the beach and drinking cold beers in the shade. And nothing more. Ah, the Peace Corps.

Take care love you all hope to hear from you soon. -- McCamie Cole PCV.

at Joymore through June 3
curated by Pedro Valez

There is nothing overtly pornographic about most of the work in "Porn". The only exception being Marc Fischer's three ring binder chock full o' kink and mayhem. This collection of torn out magazine pages and print outs in plastic sleeves more than makes up for the rest. Otherwise it is a fairly banal show.

Mr. Valez explains that in curating Porn he was interested in the aggressive nature of pornography rather than the actual T&A side of it. I sensed a little P.T. Barnum as I looked around the gallery one more time. Other than Macroporno's video the entire show was as passive as could be.

Pedro's MO did stick with me as I walked back toward Western Ave. There is a conditioned response to the title of this show, and when an audience doesn't get the conditioned expectation they have to wonder who the weirdo really is. My thrill came from trying to read into what about "Porn" was pornographic. Not quite as thrilling as Quimby's black bag special though. Now that can make your heart flutter.

Meanwhile, the undies stole the show.

Tony Berlant
at Klein Art Works through July 7

To his advantage, Tony is the only person that I am aware of doing this kind of work in Chicago. He cuts up pieces of colored sheet metal then tacks them down onto canvas like constructions using small finishing nails. The result is a many layered collage. Some pieces at Klein are slightly figurative, most are color field abstractions. Unfortunately Berlant has allowed the process to overtake the end result. These pieces are colorful and very well finished (which is something more artists should consider), but there is a need for more compelling content.

Price Check
Mark Murphy at Standard
through June 30

Entitled "Price Check", the work here refers to the experience of the walls of packaging one walks down when at the grocery store. There are two bodies of work with this in mind hung in the space. Murphy's paintings approach this with an abstract eye while his puzzles are more direct, using actual sides from the products boxes (one was from an Animal Crackers box). These little beauties measure around 5"x7" in size and are skillfully made. All the pieces fit exactly, but the image they make when assembled is scrambled. Nicely designed while also understated.

Murphy's paintings were at the other end of the craftsmanship spectrum, looking very rounded and generic having virtually no detail. Most of these were too bland for my tastes, except for the TV dinner (loved the corn) and the Apple Jacks. The cereal was represented by green rings overlapping each other, which doesn't sound like much, but he somehow exactly captured the peculiar Apple Jacks green. The green that does not exist in nature but somehow represents Granny Smith apples. You could almost smell 'em too.

R.L. Butterfield, Jessica Rowe, and Jamie Kelter
at Open Ended through June 8

There are many, many pitfalls when using found materials to paint on. Ryan Butterfield shows he can swing on the vines and leap from alligator head to alligator head better than Activision. He uses alley picked wood for canvases and successfully negotiates their individual flavors into his paintings. Two pieces look to be cut from the same childrens' bed headboard.

Jessica Rowe's photographs of a domestic interior are immediately familiar. They appear candid and posed at the same time, boring and fascinating simultaneously. Her attention to subtle color relationships and balance within the frame make these sleepers worth looking at a couple times.

The gallery is also to commended for throwing damn good "kegger".

Search For Love
Dj Cam, DZine, and Judy Ledgerwood
at 312

Hamza Walker, in the beginning of his lengthy introduction to the panel discussion concerning "Search for Love," explains that he has little knowledge of "DJ culture," music or otherwise. A little later Judy Ledgerwood, one of the three artists responsible for the "Search For Love" project, blurts out that she doesn't know much about "DJ" or "club" culture either, but likes the fashion.

The focus of this project was world famous Frenchy badass Dj Cam. The collaboration began with a track ("song") produced by Cam entitled "Search For Love." Whether he made it specifically for this event or if it was previously released material wasn't confirmed. Whichever it was, he sent it to DZine who had asked him to be involved. From there, DZine and Judy proceeded to paint a painting while in the atmosphere of/ under the guidance of the music.

There is a long history of visual artists working under the influence or music. From college dorms with smoke coming from under the door to studios with the tape player on. I'm sure books have been written on it. What is interesting here is direct interaction between the artists. The painting end of the collaboration was made in direct reaction to the song, attempting to envision its essence.

The finished painting currently hangs in Gallery 312 and is somewhere in the neighborhood of forty feet long by fifteen feet high. So large in fact that they must have had to assemble it in the space. My only hope is that after the show they can somehow cut the beast to pieces and donate the carcass to some art students. You could probably get twenty or thirty good size canvasses out of it.

I fully salute Guidance Recordings, DZine, Joe Shanahan, and MM Projects for putting this together. I only wished it could have been done a different way. I immediately think of how incredible "Exhibition Transition" was, while still way underground.

Ghada Amer
at Rhona Hoffman

What a pleasant surprise to spot this show on the way out from 312. Catching the artists name through the window from the sidewalk I immediately thought of the last body of Amer's work I had seen, and quickly became very anxious to get inside. Boy was I surprised to see Martha Stewart inspired closet organizers hanging in the middle of the gallery.

The walls were covered with flat work on paper, most of which even the snappy frames couldn't save.

While I wasn't blown away by most of the show, I was thankful to have a look at more of her work.


Salam Maleekum!!!!

It was like a dream. I sat there on the rooftops listening to the sounds of life in a city unlike any I'd ever seen; watching laundry lines waving colors to the wind. The sounds of djembe rifts echoing through the streets off of broken down 19th century colonial buildings of the island of St. Louis on the coast. The laughter of men and women in the bars below while the setting sun began its assault of color upon everything. Every building teeming with color. And our hotel/brothel with no such thing as a maid service or a seat on the toilet, dripping water evermore and the table of Bisimili growing with contributions of food, fresh fruit (strawberries in Africa!!!) liquor bottles half full with homemade concoctions of some drunkards idea of taste.

With volunteers from six different countries all there to unleash their built up energy and stress onto this town of concrete ancients echoing the same voices since the first ships rolled into the harbor and lay claim in the name of France. Garbage lined every street and the tails of the wind followed the flights of wrappers. And the JAZZ!! Miles of melody in the afternoons. Saxophone riffs that would make you swirl like a whirlpool. Homages to the classics in the early evenings and organ rifts to put the world a-flight by Miss Rhoda Scott. But when the main stages closed at 11:30 pm the night was just beginning.

That was when the keraucian scenes would unfold. Horns running SMACK POP POW, 3 drums on milk crates screaming TAT PUMP WHAM, the smell of smoke and sweet sweat from the dancers packed into bars no bigger than a boxcar with no room for speakers or microphones rolling with the rhythms and rifts screaming YEAH GO GO!!! THAT'S IT! DO IT MAN DO IT! expecting to find Cassidy screaming a beeping in my ears for the horns to blow faster louder, stronger than ever imaginable while the beautiful black women falling out of their dresses hung over the tourists speaking only french the delicate tongue of the romantics in a bar with blue walls, not enough light, no room for error but plenty for improv.

This is the place where the whiskey flowed like water and the air filled with the hot intensity of life at full speed. This is the place where the bird flies free and the train never stops, where blue is not a color but it is everything. This is the cabaret of Louie, the river of the mississippi that flows halfway across the world and back to bring the music wherever it might be needed and loved. This is the place where the only language is music from the djembe drum to the hammond organ, the tin flute to russian oboes. Where the bagpipes (YES BAGPIPES) played the funk with ten horns behind him. This is the place where Maceo was born, where James Brown lives forever with hot pants tight dresses screaming laughter, flailing limbs, bouncing heads, raunchy crowds are the only passports needed.

You have been here, if only in your dreams or my head. This is not just St. Louis Senegal's Jazzfest, this is every moment of youth of life of energy of music. This is history present and future all rolled into one. This is the greatest tale told by every grandfather to their children that begins "Once when I was young..." And as I sat there on the rooftops overlooking it all, rolling through the visions of my life while the sun set into the ocean and the call for prayer echoed behind it all through a towering mosque and the palms swayed their gentle dance to the wind, as I gently rolled along with this vibe of life I thought to myself "I deserve this. Everyone deserves this." And its true. Everyone does.

Love, light, life -- McCamie

p.s. Aminatta (the well girl) has returned to the village with a fractured foot and severely bruised ankle. Now I'm starting to find help for her epilepsy. Life is good. Love you all.

other [Gravy] issues

Site Host: Mylar Outflux Net
URL: http://gravymagazine.com/gravy11.htm
[gravy logo]