Friday, September 12, 2014

Lowcountry Artist Market changes hands

London bound

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Businesses like Finklestein's Center have benefitted from Lowcountry Artist Market.
  • Businesses like Finklestein's Center have benefitted from Lowcountry Artist Market.
Sad news for Lowcountry Artist Market vendors and shoppers today. Founder Kristen Gastaldo has announced she’s moving to London.

The DIY enthusiast started the market in 2010 at the Music Farm and it quickly grew, helping launch and support dozens of local businesses from The Adventures of Sammy the Wonder Dachshund author Jonathan Miller to Finkelstein's Center toys. But, in an email to the local media Gastaldo tells us that just because she’s leaving — her husband has a new job in England — doesn’t mean the market is over.

“I was lucky enough to find two ladies who are thrilled to be taking over the market — Allison Merrick (SpaceCraft) and Courtney Loadholt (Provenance Vintage). They have some great ideas about expanding the Market to be more often, in a variety of locations and sizes,” she writes.

Merrick and Loadholt are currently still brainstorming the Holiday market schedule and there is no date yet. But you can be sure we’ll announce that information when we have it. 

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: The Lyons will tear your heart out

The Village Repertory Co.’s The Lyons will tear your heart out

Posted by Courtney Davis O'Leary on Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 1:11 PM

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Every family has their way of interacting, loving, and fighting, giving the word dysfunctional free reign. The Village Repertory Co.’s The Lyons attempts to reveal the heart of a family through three extended vignettes. Centered on matriarch Rita Lyons, her dying husband, aloof son, and neurotic daughter, the play’s emotion and power is often at the mercy of whoever is at the forefront of the conversation. Luckily for the audience, this is often the mother or son, who both ably carry the impressive burden of being honest and humorous.

Starting in a hospital, Rita Lyons (Samille Basler) verbally bludgeons her husband Ben (Nat Jones) with stories, quips, and a waterfall of words, overwhelming her cantankerous bedridden spouse. She is forceful, funny and sometimes mean, slinging opinions like arrows. When Ben exasperatedly exclaims, “I’m dying Rita!” she archly tolerates the outburst and responds, “I know, but I’m trying to be positive.”

Rita is mesmerizing. She regales the room with memories, drawing in the characters and audience into her story. As she reveals a random bit of family history, to the surprise of her husband and son, you can feel the audience lean forward. While there is humor in the storytelling, at its core is the painful revelation that she had a ‘slow and inevitable hatred’ for her husband. Like driving past a car wreck or watching bad reality TV, there’s no turning away from the mess of this family.

The fighting verges on uncomfortable in its authenticity. No one wants to go to the theater to only feel like they’ve stepped into their parents’ daily drama. But for Director Keely Enright, she loved it. “It spoke to me. It is hysterically funny. It is a real and honest story of people at a certain age, asking ‘what is marriage? What happens when you lose a partner and start over?’ And it’s not the cute granny or crazy grandpa. They aren’t relegated to secondary characters. They’re not caricatures,” she says.

Just when the play is heading towards vaudeville, harsh truth bombs explode and weigh the story down. Ben expresses his intense disappointment in his son. Meanwhile, other reveals of heavier themes, like the fact that Rita is considering killing her husband, is told within the context of a joke.

Basler anchors the entire play with her intense, emotional performance that allows the story to transition from witty bickering between her family members to authentic life lessons. When she inappropriately suggests her daughter’s son might be a little slow, she succeeds in being both a bitch and comedic performer. When she reveals her fear at being alone, admitting, “I don’t know what to do or who I am,” sniffles in the audience prove her equal prowess at being relatable.

With only six actors, a tiny Woolfe Street Playhouse stage, and a conversation-based dialogue, the play is revealing and personal, yet at times false depending who is at the helm. Ben is a little wanting. His intense expletives shouted indiscriminately offer needed reprieve from any long lasting serious moment, but it feels overdone with the huffing, puffing, and eye rolls. Daughter Lisa Lyons is a complicated role that is unfulfilled by Samantha Andrews. A nervous, weak woman with poor romantic tastes and an affinity for booze, it’s a fascinating portrait that could steal the show with opportunities for comedic genius or alcohol-fueled vitriol, but instead comes off as pantomime.

Derek T. Pickens sweeps in as son Curtis Lyons and balances his mother’s powerful presence with a well-played sense of boredom and condescension. Skepticism and sarcasm are his defense against a family fraught with emotion.

While the first and third scene are in the hospital, the middle scene is in a New York apartment, highlighting the likeable son as he flirts with a real estate agent selling the flat. This smaller part, played by Jay Danner, is intense and while the acting is superb, the entire premise is peculiar. Despite not balancing the dark humor as successfully as the hospital scenes, it’s still fascinating.

A return to the hospital for the final scene is also a return to the play’s strength, with Rita flinging cutting words like knives, skewering her grown children. She harshly zings her son, “You’ve had a dozen years to write your way out of mediocre obscurity and you’ve failed.” And as the laughter dies down, she unflinchingly continues, “My friends are stranger and my children are sad and unforgiving.” It’s a perfect example of the dark comedic wit at the heart of the play, revealing painful truth with laughter. She’s deftly manages to be a bitch, while also the play’s champion. As she marches off the stage towards her new future, the audience applauds her exit, cheering for the unlikely hero.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

1858 Prize Profile: Sonya Clark

Head full of stories

Posted by Elizabeth Pandolfi on Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 10:45 AM

Each year, the Gibbes Museum of Art and Society 1858, a young Gibbes patrons fundraising group, award the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art to an artist living and working south of the Mason-Dixon line. This year, seven artists made the short list: Jim Arendt, Sonya Clark, André Leon Gray, Jackson Martin, Jason Mitcham, Damian Stamer, and Stacy Lynn Waddell. We'll be posting a short Q&A with one artist each week.

Craft artist Sonya Clark has her feet in two worlds. The first is in high 
SONYA CLARK
  • Sonya Clark
academia — she’s a graduate of Amherst College and the prestigious Washington, D.C. Sidwell Friends School, and she holds fine art degrees from the Cranbrook Academy of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. She’s won major fellowships from countries around the world, including this one, and currently chairs the Department of Craft /Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
The second, however, is firmly planted in the world of folk or populist art. Clark works with hair, combs, beads, cloth, and copper to explore American history and identity, pulling her inspiration from her family, her West African heritage, and her experience as an African-American woman. 

One of her recent projects is the Hair Craft Project — Clark asked African-American hairdressers to create designs on her head, and then re-create them with thread on canvas. 

City Paper: How did you begin working with such unusual materials?

Sonya Clark: From an early age I recognized that hairstyling was an important craft that was not only beautiful, but represented identity and character. When I was growing up in D.C., my family lived across the street from the Ambassador of Benin and his family of fourteen. They lived in a large mansion and always welcomed us. My sister and I would go over there to play and return home with elaborate hairstyles.

Years later in my first college degree I studied African Art with Professor Roland Abiodun at Amherst College. I learned about Yoruba culture and reinforced those early notions of hairdressing not as vanity, but as ritual. My formal training as an artist began at the Art institute of Chicago with Ann Wilson, Nick Cave, and Joan Livingstone, and cemented the artful connections between hair, craft, and design. Once I gained a second degree from there I went on for a Masters of Fine Art degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art with Gerhardt Knodel. He and my fellow classmates were instrumental in helping me articulate and hone in on my authentic obsessions: textiles and hair as a lens to better focus on culture, identity, and race.

CP: What role do stories play in your art?

SC: [When I was young], my Jamaican grandmother lived with us. She had great skills as a tailor and milliner. I was a quiet child and she would draw me in by encouraging me to sit and stitch with her as we traded stories. She told me stories about her travels around the world visiting with my cousins in Ghana, England, and Jamaica. I would tell her stories about the things I had observed, childhood reminiscences peppered with synesthesia: how the sky smelled, a gender system I had applied to numbers to help me learn addition, or how our laughter felt like something warm and fuzzy or jagged and sharp depending on the intent. These memories were among the many seeds that became the fruits of my artwork.

CP: What’s next for you?

SC: My next projects continue to expand my art practice into the community by engaging hairdressers, African Art collections in major museums, and language. I like to think that the most artful moments are ever present. My challenge is to take the most familiar activity or quotidian object, hold it ear-close, and give voice to its story in a new context. 

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

You Can’t Take It With You Stomps its way into our heart

A bigger-than-life comedy

Posted by Maria Martin on Sun, Aug 31, 2014 at 2:08 PM

You Can’t Take It With You, written by Moss Hart and George Kaufman, takes place in the eccentric Sycamore family’s 1920’s home. Grandpa (George Younts) — the head of the household — quit his high-paying job 35 years ago without a second thought, and hasn’t payed income tax since the law was enacted. In keeping with his free spirit, he's encouraged his family to be whatever they want, without thinking about an income. In the Sycamore family that means eating cornflakes for every meal and having a lot of hobbies.

You Can’t Take It With You is the type of screwball comedy that always has a lot happening on stage, and in this play, a lot of the action stems from the Sycamore family’s myriad pursuits. Grandpa keeps snakes. Daughter Penny Sycamore (Marybeth Clark) writes plays — but only because a typewriter was sent in the mail to her house by mistake. Her husband, Paul Sycamore (Chris O’Leary), makes fireworks in the basement with his partner Mr. DePinna (Brian Porter), their former milkman, who came to the Sycamore’s house eight years earlier on his mail route and never left. Their eldest daughter Essie Sycamore Carmichael (Katie Bianchi) believes that she is training to be a prima ballerina though she is in her 30s and has no talent. Her husband, Ed Carmichael (Ryan Pixlar), is a jack of all hobbies and a master of none, dividing his day between practicing his very basic skills at the xylophone, printmaking, and creating masks. And there's  Alice Sycamore (Jocelyn Lonquist) — the “normal” daughter. Alice holds a job in town and is about to become engaged to the Vice President of her company, Tony Kirby (Corbin Williams). Though she loves her family and appreciates their enthusiasm for life, she is aware of how improper they would seem to an outsider, especially a well-to-do family like the Kirbys. Things come to a head when upon her engagement finds she must invite his wealthy and traditional parents to dinner so that the two families can meet. Alice is optimistic, and carefully plans a normal dinner. But wouldn’t you know it? The Kirby’s come on the wrong night.

And while the classic plot twist serves up plenty of laughs, some of the performances come off as caricature. George, the patriarch of the family is the voice of wisdom and dignity. But most of the family members each has a physical quirk, something about them like a strange voice or walk. The impact of which was that at times it felt as if each performer were shouting "I’m unusual!" from the stage. Penny (Clark) squinted as she pecked at her typewriter with two fingers, and spoke loudly and without a filter to guests. Essie (Bianchi) was played with a wide-eyed hey-whats-so-funny? lack of awareness as she clapped her feet down to the stage in her pathetic attempts at dancing, which got a lot of laughs. Ed (Pixlar) attended to his hobbies with concentration and devotion and spoke with a voice and mannerisms that seemed to say, “Hey! I’m a character!”. In her role as Alice, Jocelyn Lonquist was strong, and worked the tension between loving her own family but wishing that they could pursue their happiness without impinging on her own.

The standout performer of the night was John Michael Chappell in his role as Mr. Boris Kolenkhov, Essie’s Russian ballet instructor. He was able to have both a commanding and funny presence on stage while not detracting from the action. Though playing a comedic role, Chappell performed unselfconsciously: you were not aware of him trying to get laughs; he just did.

Director Julian Wiles writes in his director’s notes that the secret to the longevity of the You Can’t Take It With You is that “[i]t’s not built on slapstick or even on traditional one liners. Instead, it celebrates the follies and foibles of a typical family ... those other families, those really wild and eccentric folks that live just down the block.” This was particularly striking to me because while I think that that would have been an interesting possibility for this play, this particular production didn't fit that description. It is a slapstick production. The laughs actually do come primarily from things like Essie’s dancing, or the chaos on stage, than from the foibles of the family. The play was fun, and the audience enjoyed it, but it lacked the subtlety that Wiles describes in his notes.

All the same, there was a full house and the play held the audience’s attention throughout. If you like loud, bigger-than-life comedies, then you will enjoy this production of You Can’t Take It With You

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Christophe Artisan Chocolatier seeks muralist

Mural, mural on the wall

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Christophe Artisan Chocolatier is about as close as you can get in Charleston to a Parisian patisserie. The tiny spot on Society Street is an olfactory fun house, filled with the scents of hand-painted truffles, tiny pain au chocolates, and coconut macaroons. It’s the kind of space you want to linger longer. But while there are seats upstairs, the only outdoor seating is a back courtyard. And it would be perfect for splitting a bag of sable viennois with a date if it weren't for one problem — a large, water-stained concrete wall. Which is why the chocolatier is taking applications for a local artist to paint a mural.

“The dimension are 15 feet high by 25 feet wide,” says Gordon Galloway, the store manager spearheading the search.

The wall officially belongs to M. Dumas who has given Christophe’s the greenlight to paint it. “They actually said we could paint the entire thing,” says Galloway. “But that’s pretty big.”

Instead, they’re keeping the canvas small, but the image can be of pretty much anything. “We’d like the scene to maybe be French-inspired or incorporate some of Charleston, but it’s open to interpretation,” Galloway says.

So far he’s received about 18 inquiries via a post on Craigslist and a sign up in the shop. But Christophe's is still accepting applications. “They can send in a sample or a link to their portfolios,” says Galloway. 

The best part of the gig? It’s paid. Galloway says an agreement will be negotiated with the selected artist. 

Interested artists are asked to email gordon@christophechocolatier.com.

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