Mid-Shore Arts: Ian Ghent Will Pop Up in St. Michaels over Memorial Day Weekend

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It is no secret that the Spy loves pop up stores of every kind. These short term wonders of gorilla commerce consistently offer patrons products that typically are never available on most American main streets, and that is particularly true for visual art.

That is why we were excited to hear that New York City-based artist, Ian Ghent, decided to showcase his work in St. Michaels using that format at the end of May. Ghent, a successful advertising creative director by day, uses oil and watercolor to capture the essence of urban life, with a particular emphasis on people and animals that evoke both insight and humor through his portrait work.

The Spy was able to connect with Ian via Skype the other day to talk about his work and methods.

Ian Ghent
314A Talbot Street
St. Michaels
May 25, 26, and 27  from 9:30 – 6:00

Delmarva Review Fiction: American Dream by Mark Jacobs

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Nothing that happened the night Nelson killed the raven was funny. Especially not what happened to me. Started happening, I should say. The mystery was why I kept laughing. I thought if I figured that out, I would know what I was supposed to do. For the record, Nelson did not mean to kill the bird.

Nelson Pacheco was the Hilltoppers’ catcher. He was having a terrific season, batting .285 and making some killer plays at the plate. Somehow he managed to connect with a vicious curve ball delivered by the opposing pitcher. The ball popped up over the third-base dugout at the exact moment the bird happened by. They collided, the bird came down dead, a few morons in the stands laughed, and the ump called a time-out. Everybody thought it was a crow, me included. But there was some sort of professor at the game that night. He recognized the dead bird for what it was. Eventually the play-by-play guy announced it wasn’t a crow, and the ump hollered play ball. Our guys went on to win by a run and hold on to second place in the standings.

From what I read, later on, we didn’t have all that many ravens in our area. Knocking them off with foul balls couldn’t help.

I loved baseball. I loved our stadium. It sat on a hill on the west edge of the city, and from just about any seat in the place you had a knock-out view of the Blue Ridge mountains in the distance. Summer nights, the sun going down softened the scenery. It glowed, and the glow made you feel like you had stumbled into a significant moment. You sat there sipping a cold brew as your eye swept from infield to outfield, over to the scoreboard and up over the fence to the trees, and finally to the mountains in the distance. You wished you could stop time because there it was, right in front of you, the American Dream.

Nelson, the catcher, was living in our basement, in Pete’s old room. Single A ball did not pay much, unless you had a signing bonus. In that case nobody expected you to stick around longthey bumped you up to a Double A or even a Triple A club pretty much overnight. One way the players got by was living with families when they were in town. Most of the host families were pretty well off. Realtors, car dealers, that kind of person. The guys who stayed with them had a good thing going. A big comfortable room of their own, sometimes a private apartment. Nelson did not have it that good, staying with us. I was a welder. My wife worked at Big Lots. Luck of the draw, Nelson’s and mine. Ginny Elizabeth and I tried to make up for not living in a showplace by feeding the hell out of our ballplayers.

We had been hosting players a long time. We got free season tickets out of the deal, but that was not the reason we did it. My wife liked baseball, although not the way I did. It had something to do with the solid feeling you got, making a contribution. In my experience, most people like doing something generous. No one puts a gun to their head to force them to do it.

The night Nelson killed the raven, Ginny Elizabeth was out playing spit-in-the-bucket with her friends, but our daughter, Carrie, came with me. That surprised me, her wanting to see the game. From Carrie’s point of view, baseball was nothing but embarrassment. It meant a strange guy staying in the windowless room her brother fixed up for himself in the basement back when he was a teenager and wanted to get away from us. She knew how the other host families lived. But she was a month away from turning eighteen, and there was not much I understood about her, so when she said she was coming with me, all I said was Great. In the bottom of the second inning, she got a text from a friend on the other side of the stadium and moved away to sit with her.

After the game, I went looking for her. Found her where I did not expect to. She was down on the field staring at Nelson. He was swinging a bat with a doughnut on it like he was warming up. He was staring back at her.

That was all it took. What made fathers so dense? My daughter was growing into her looks. She was not the kind of girl you were going to see on a magazine cover, but there was a freshness about her. Ginny Elizabeth said Carrie was earnest, and earnest was attractive. After a three-month bout with blue, she had let her mother’s wonderful auburn hair grow out again the way it wanted to. The pouty air she had been cultivating through her senior year bugged the hell out of me, but I knew better than to make a big deal out of it. And I was not naïveI also knew it had something to do with sex.

“You going home with me?”

I was talking to both of them. I guess this is the place to say that Nelson was from the Dominican Republic and spoke English with a pretty heavy accent. And had brown skin. People are going to climb all over me for mentioning that. All I can say is, it was relevant.

“Thanks, Mr. Boggs,” he said. “I’m going out with the guys. Home later.” He dug in his pocket and brought out a key ring with a neon orange fish head, held it up. Ginny Elizabeth had given him a house key once we decided we trusted him.

He smiled. It was a smile you could imagine seeing on a baseball card some day. He was handsome in a sports-hero way.

The ride home with Carrie was not one of my finer moments.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she said.


“What am I thinking?”

“That me and Nelson are going to…do something.”


I won’t repeat everything we said. My part came down to, Nelson was too old for her and wasn’t going to be around anyway. Her part was accusing me of being a racist.

“He’s living in our house,” I said. “He sits at our table. Tell me what’s racist about that.”

She pounded the dashboard in frustration. It was her way of telling me I didn’t get it. At home she flounced off, made herself scarce. I watched a little TV then went to bed. Six a.m. came early. By the time Ginny Elizabeth came to bed, I was sawing serious wood.

It must have been fatherly intuition that woke me in the middle of the night and sent me to the window. When I looked out, there was my daughter dancing with Nelson on the flagstone patio I’d laid myself three years ago. Dancing, and no music. There wasn’t much light, either, just a couple of lanterns on the picnic table.

Ginny Elizabeth sat up in bed and said What’s wrong, Patterson? I didn’t answer. I tore downstairs and outside and broke up the dance party. To his credit, Nelson knew he had crossed a line. He hung his head. Meantime, Carrie was furious, spouting every kind of nonsense about me not trusting her and her having the right to live her own life and…fill in the blanks based on your own experience.

“Get out of my house,” I said to Nelson.

It was two o’clock in the a.m. He had no car. There were no buses in our neighborhood. He might or might not have had enough cash on him to cover a hotel room. But he went.

“You’re mean,” my daughter moaned when he was gone. “You’re a racist pig.”

Well, I was mad, but I took it. What choice did I have? Harder to take was Ginny Elizabeth’s analysis of the evening’s events. She said I overreacted. After a while, I put a pillow over my head and did my best to sleep.

At Cushman Machine & Welding the next morning, my head was pounding like it used to when I drank too much and got hangovers. Not enough sleepit brings out the darkness in a new day. My friend Randy Bullock and I were working on a rush job for the foreman. The customer had invented a machine for sorting gravel by size. The novelty was how the shaker connected to and moved the sorter tray. He needed a working model to try and sell the idea. It was a kick-ass concept, and normally I would have enjoyed working on it. But the incident with Carrie and Nelson had me rattled.

“It’s simple,” said Randy.

For Randy, everything was simple. He spent way too much time listening to the hotheads on talk radio. There was gray in his beard now, and he’d been walking with a limp since he took a spill on his brand-new Yamaha, taking a curve on one of those mountain roads meant for scenic cruises, not daredevil bikers past their riding prime. He lifted his mask and prepared to lecture me.

“This country was started by guys with names like Patterson Boggs and Randy Bullock. Am I right or am I right? They’re turning it into a country that caters to guys with names like Nelson Pacheco and Ali Baba. They sneak over the border and look for a sign called Easy Street. They park their ass and stick out their hand. Before you and me are in our graves, they’ll outnumber us, and the whole thing is over.”

My friend’s immigration theory did not make me feel better. I did not regret throwing Nelson out of the house. He had betrayed my trust. But I liked the guy. And now it was going to be hell, getting through the rest of the summer with Carrie. In the fall, if everything went the way it was supposed to, she started college. To make that happen, Ginny Elizabeth and I were taking out a humongous loan. Which, be it said, we were more than happy to do. I didn’t give a shit what she studied as long as she studied.

After work, I drove to Hilltoppers Stadium and hunted up Will Abbott. Will handled community relations for the team, including which players stayed with which host families. I found him in the grass outside his office having a smoke. He was a long drink of water with hands like grandma’s spaghetti bowls. Way back when, he used to play third base for the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Never made it to the big leagues but handled defeat better than most of them. He was leathery now. The baseball life will do that to a person’s skin.

When I filled him in, he shook his head, let out a mouthful of smoke. His voice rumbled like a gravel sorter. “Too bad. Pacheco is a decent kid. But they know the rules. No fraternizing. Never mind, I’ll find someplace for him to stay.”

“Ginny Elizabeth and me, we’re happy to take another guy.”

He shook his head. I didn’t know what that meant. He told me, “‘Course, you hear this all the time.”

“Hear what?”

“Guy’s got a future in the game.”


“You got scouts looking at him?”


He wouldn’t say much more. Team management held that kind of information pretty close to the chest. They had their reasons. But it stabbed me in a soft place, thinking about Nelson moving up. He had a consistently hot bat, he had the command of the field of play a catcher had to have. It would be sensational to watch a ball player who had eaten your meatloaf and mashed potatoes rise through the ranks. Nobody that stayed with us ever got beyond Double A. The best was, one time a guy they called Skinny Pockets hit a grand slam in a playoff game while he was with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.

Driving home, I kind of wished I hadn’t kicked Nelson out of our house. Not so much because he might make it to the bigs but because, as a person, he was one of the nicest we ever hosted. Polite, soft-spoken, and you got the impression he didn’t mind a bit staying in a welder’s basement. But by the time I pulled into the driveway I was facing a fact I did not particularly want to face.

Think of it as a movie trailer, and here’s the plot: Dominican kid makes it to the majors. Bam, he’s a star, a fence buster with a slugging percentage to die for. The baseball world gushes, look at those XBH numbers. Cameras follow him home, where his young wife is waiting to hug him. Welcome home, sweetie. She’s got stunning auburn hair. A couple of kids are horsing around in the yard. They’ve got light tan skin, a color a lot of people considered cool.

Watching the trailer, feeling a twinge when the ball player’s wife hugged him. Did that make me a racist?

The team was away for a three-day series against the Mosby Raiders. At home, we managed to keep the peace by talking about anything that wasn’t Nelson Pacheco. Carrie went around the house looking like I had run over her dogon purposebut if I asked her a question she answered, and I figured time would smooth things out.

Wrong again.

The next home game, I told Ginny Elizabeth I’d meet her at the stadium and went early. I had no plan, only a hunch. I ate a hot dog and watched the team warm up. There wasn’t much of a crowd. The weather was hot and muggy, and our guys were playing the team in the cellar, who played like ice hockey was their sport. Not much drama.

My brain took notice of the atmospheric conditions. It slowed down, the way you imagine a bear’s brain does in hibernation. Ginny Elizabeth texted me that she was taking an overtime shift at the store. In all the years we’ve been together, neither of us has ever said no to overtime. That’s part of the American Dream, too, but don’t ask me to explain how, it just is.

So I watched the game by myself. Nelson had another good one, smacking a three-run homer. He also made an impossible catch at the plate, body stretched out like a ballerina’s, foot on the bag. Out. It felt strange, cheering my lungs out for a guy I had booted out of my house. Live an adult life long enough and you’re guaranteed to feel something similar.

After the game, the guidance from my slow brain was to stick around and spy. Aye-aye, Captain. I stuck. What I spied was Nelson getting into Carrie’s car and the two of them driving off laughing like a couple of hyenas. He’s only nineteen and a half, she had huffed once in a moment of exasperation. Meaning not too old for her.

I could have followed them. I didn’t. Not because my noble nature stopped me. Hill City was small by anybody’s yardstick.

First time Carrie looked in the rear-view mirror, she would see my F-150, which was both old and purple. Also, I thought I might do something stupid if I caught up to them. If I was going to do something stupid, it needed advance planning.

All the planning I was capable of that night was getting smashed, something I had not done in maybe ten years. That was the one drawback to Ginny Elizabeth’s overtime shift. It left me alone. I found the bottle of Jack we kept for company and did some major-league damage to it. I fell asleep on the couch. When Ginny Elizabeth got home from work, she shook me awake and told me I smelled like a brewery. She meant distillery. I didn’t correct her.

I paid for it, next day at work. Randy and I were really pushing to get the gravel-sorter done on time. That morning, however, I did not hold up my end. Which Randy found highly entertaining. His color commentary made my head pound worse. He kept yakking on that I had to have it out with Nelson. The kid had to know there would be consequences if he didn’t leave my daughter alone.

“What about Carrie?” I said.

“Ginny Elizabeth is talking to her.”


“What makes you so sure?”


“What makes you so dumb?”


Everything was worse because I had drunk the Jack with Coke. On the rocks would have been smarter.

That was when I started laughing. I had no idea why. Randy gave me a look like I was going soft in the head. When we pulled our masks down and went back to work, I was still smiling.

I laughed when Ginny Elizabeth told me Carrie was AWOL.

“What’s funny about that, Patterson?”


We had been together a long time, since two years before we got married. We sagged more than we used to. We told old stories. We saw more yesterday than tomorrow in each other’s faces. None of that was bad, it only meant we had to be deliberate in the way we touched each other.

She asked me again what was funny.

“The situation, I guess.”


She shook her head. I didn’t understand me any better than she did.

Carrie was working at the Sonic on Ward’s Road for the summer. She left a voicemail on our land line saying she was calling in sick and, by the way, she was thinking about taking a year off before college. Rich kids did it all the time. They called it their gap year. There was no law said you had to be rich to do that, was there?

The message hit both of us hard. At that point, we’d have broken our arms and legs and whistled Black Sabbath tunes in a nudist colony if it meant she went to college. We were devastated. And she wouldn’t pick up her phone, she wouldn’t answer her mother’s texts. The night was long.

“She’s in Keysburg,” I said.


“Not necessarily.”


“Count on it.”


“Then why are you laughing?”


“I’m cracking up. In a good way, maybe.”


The Hilltoppers were playing an away game against the

Keysburg Mighty Mice. A two-hour drive. The question was whether Carrie came home that night.

She did not.

Next morning at work, Randy told me it was time to play hardball.

“He’s a catcher,” I pointed out.

“But is he a U.S. citizen? Call the border cops. ICE, they call ‘em. I seen it on the backs of their jackets on the news. If he ain’t a citizen they can deport his ass right back to Taco Land.”

“You’re a piece a work,” I told him.

Which was objectively true. My friend and workmate was three times divorced. He believed he was sexy, down to the Colt .45 tattooed on his butt. He drank too much and thought too little. His favorite sport was telling me how to run my life.

The upshot of Randy telling me I had to do something about Nelson Pacheco was I spent the rest of the day building up a scenario in my mind where I had it out with the guy. You know how you can get carried away with an idea? I got lost in mine. Sometimes the scenario ended in violence. Sometimes it ended in tragedy, and sometimes it was black and bitter. But no matter how it played out, the scenario had me stalking the kid, tracking him down.

So it threw me that afternoon when he showed up at Cushman. Lisa, the secretary, strolled out to the work floor to tell me there was a Spanish guy outside wanted to see me. This was no sacrifice on her part. She came out on the floor on any flimsy excuse so the guys had ample opportunity to ogle her in her clean dress, her red shoes, sashaying across the crowded space where we did our dirty work.

“Now’s your chance,” Randy told me. He was looking up the ICE phone number on his phone.

“Forget it,” I told him.

“What do you mean, forget it? And what’s so funny?”


I found Nelson in the parking lot leaning against a red Hyundai he had borrowed from somebody. He was calm and cool, just like an innocent man. I asked him what he was doing there.

“I want to explain something.”

“I don’t give a damn what you want,” I told him, which was a lie. I really did want to hear what he had to say. I thought for a second about pleading with him to leave my daughter alone so she would go to Lynchburg College like she was supposed to. But the picture in my mind of me begging him was so pathetic I couldn’t open my mouth to try.

“It’s me, isn’t it?” he said.

“What’s you?”


“The way I look.”

“You look like a catcher. You’ve got the ideal build to play the position.”

He shook his head. “That’s not what I’m talking about.”

“The end of August, Carrie goes to college.”


“I know. She wants to study Spanish.”


“That’s news to me.”

“I don’t get why you’re laughing,” he said. His tone of voice was respectful. “It’s like you are full of anger and laughing at the same time.”

I was beginning to understand why that was happening. He was the last person I was going to explain it to.

“Last night,” I said.

He waved at me, not like I didn’t matter but like he was giving me his blessing, which of course he had no right to even think about doing. But that was all it took. It came to me on a silver plate, shining and new. From here on out, I had no control over what my daughter chose to do. That part of our life together was over.

“I won’t talk about last night, Mr. Boggs.”

I had two choices: tell him to fuck off, or turn around and go back to work. I turned around and walked away.

“Wait, please.”


I stopped. I waited.


“I grew in a place called La Vega.”


He meant grew up; that was okay.


“We played a lot of baseball. Two years ago, a scout showed up. His name was Moseley. He brought me here.”

“So?”

“Before I got on the airplane, he told me something muy importante.”

Saying the Spanish words was like taunting me. That was okay, too.

“Moseley was black. African American. He told me here in this country you have to go into every situation expecting to be treated bad. But at the same time, you must keep an open mind.”  

“An open mind about what?”

“There might be a situation where the color of your skin don’t matter. If that happens, you take advantage of it. I just want a shot, Mr. Boggs. If they give me a shot, I can make it.”

That was it. All there was to say on both sides. He was behind the wheel of his borrowed car before I was halfway across the lot. Then I had to put up with more of Randy’s foaming nonsense. He had the ICE number up on the screen of his phone. His thumb, the one with a mangled nail thanks to a claw hammer and too many schnapps, was poised, ready to punch it. There was more like that until we finished the shift, lots more. But I had the laughing figured out.

I went to the next Hilltoppers game by myself. Since Carrie had come back from Keysburg, there was not a lot of conversation going on around home. Ginny Elizabeth had already figured out what took me longer to tumble to, that the girl was making her own decisions. But at that point none of us could take on a conversation about what came next.

We were playing the James City Night Hawks. The two teams had been neck and neck all season. This game mattered. If we beat the Night Hawks, we elbowed them out of first place. And there was another reason the game was significant. Scouts.

There were half a dozen of them in the stands behind home plate with their clipboards and velocity guns, their ground-out- to-fly-out ratios, their bequeathed runs scored numbers. I had mixed feelings about those guys. They were an important cog in the wheel of baseball, sure. But they were guessing, just like you and me. They had a certain power of death and life when it came to signing bonuses. Their recommendations to management carried weight. But often as not, they guessed wrong.

The Hilltoppers played a terrible game. By the end of inning four, they were trailing five zip. And Nelson’s game was horrendous. He whiffed every time he stepped to the plate, and behind it on defense he played like a Little Leaguer under psychological pressure from his asshole father yelling at him from the stands.

I felt bad for all concerned, but more for Nelson. Okay, it was not the only game where scouts showed up. And they had his stats. They knew good players had bad games. But if I had been one of those judges in short sleeves, I probably would have put a line through Nelson’s name and moved on to the next prospect.

I toyed with going over to where the scouts were sitting, engaging one of them in conversation, casually talking up the Hilltoppers catcher. But I was a nobody, and nobody was going to give me the time of day.

The game ended worse than it began. A botched double play in the eighth inning brought in three more James City runs, and we were humiliated, as in skunked. The scouts left at the end of the seventh, which I guess was some consolation. They didn’t see that double play disaster. On the other hand, they didn’t have to.

The stands emptied out, but a feeling of gloom kept me sitting there. I was done laughing for now. It turned out I had not been laughing at the situation after all. I was laughing at myself. Why? Because I was a crusty old dude with a bad attitude and no imagination. Because I’d been listening too hard to Randy Bullock for too long. Because I felt a chilly hand squeezing the secret space around my heart and decided the world was coming to an end. Because I didn’t know how to let my daughter go. Who wouldn’t laugh at a guy like that?

Eventually I stood up. I made my way to the parking lot, which had quickly emptied out. There was Carrie’s blue Focus, parked a couple of rows away from my truck. She was standing alongside the car, facing off against Nelson. I couldn’t not go up to them.

When I did, I saw tears in Nelson’s eyes. They were the tears of desolation. He knew exactly how bad he had looked to the scouts.  

The sun was going down over the Blue Ridge in a pale gleam that seemed like a promise, although I could not have said a promise of what.

Nelson said, “It’s over, Mr. Boggs.”

A squad of crows started up from a pine tree and flew across the parking lot in saw-tooth formation. At least I was pretty sure they were crows. As it happened, I had two twenties in the pocket of my jeans. I dug out the money and held it out to him.

“Buy Carrie some dinner.”

That was worth doing if only for the look of amazement on my daughter’s face. She said something that did not quite come out in words. The sound was like gargling with salt water. I was prejudiced, of course, but she was beautiful just then. The pouty look was gone.

Nelson cautiously took the money. “It was the worst game of my life.”

I nodded. No use pretending it wasn’t.

“It’s all over for me.”


But he was wrong about that, and I told him so.

“What you need to see, Nelson, is that it’s only beginning.”

I hoped he understood what I was driving at. Because what I had in mind was, you might say, muy importante. 

 

In addition to Delmarva Review, Mark Jacobs has published 133 stories in magazines, including The Atlantic, Playboy, The Baffler, and  The Iowa Review. His stories are forthcoming in several magazines, including The Hudson Review. He has published five books. Among them are A Handful of Kings (Simon and Shuster) and Stone Cowboy (Soho Press). Website: http://www.markjacobsauthor.com.

Delmarva Review is a literary journal of national scope, with regional roots. The nonprofit review discovers compelling new fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from authors within the region and beyond. It is supported by individual contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Visit the website: DelmarvaReview.org. Obtain print or digital editions at Amazon.com or Mystery Loves Company, in Oxford.

 

RiverArts Minute: Preview of “Visual Storytellers” Exhibition

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A Spy recently tracked done Ronn Akins, RiverArts’ curator, to discuss the May gallery exhibition Visual Storytellers.  Storytelling is vital to making compelling images. Great feats of visual storytelling appear all around us; church windows, works by Norman Rockwell and the published sketchbooks of Leonardo Di Vinci. Visual storytelling tells a story. It uses the power of the visual image to ignite imaginations, evoke emotions and capture universal cultural truths and aspirations. What distinguishes Visual storytelling from other genres is its ability to narrate a story across diverse cultures, preserving it for future generations.

This video is two minutes in length. For more information about RiverArts please go here.

The public is welcome to come to the Gallery talk to hear the Artists tell the stories shown in their Artwork on Thursday, May 9 at  5:30 pm.

Exhibition Dates: May 1 – June 2, 2019
RiverArts 315 High Street, Suite 106 , Chestertown

Spy Poem: Lying by Stan Salett

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Lying Is Fine
(with considerable apology and great appreciation to E.E.Cummings )

lying is fine)but Truth
  
?o
baby
i
  
wouldn’t like
  
Truth if Truth
were
good:for
  
when(instead of stopping to think)you
  
begin to feel of it, lying
‘s miraculous
why?be
  
cause lying is
  
perfectly natural;perfectly
putting
it mildly lively(but
  
Truth
  
is strictly
scientific
& artificial &
  
evil & legal)
  
we thank thee
god
almighty for lying
(forgive us,o life ! the sin of Truth

Stan Salett has been a policy adviser to the Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton administrations and is the author of The Edge of Politics: Stories from the Civil Rights Movement, the War on Poverty, and the Challenges of School Reform and Beyond the Scene He now lives in Kent County, Maryland and has been an advisor to the Spy since 2010. 

 

Where The Wild Things Are — Spy Review by Peter Heck

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The Wild Things sleep in a comfy pile.  –  Photo by Bee Betley

Where the Wild Things Are, based on the iconic children’s picture book, packed the Garfield Center for the Arts last weekend with excited children and proud parents.

Directed by Bee Betley, the play follows a young boy, Max, who gets into trouble for being “out of control” after disrupting his family home while wearing his wolf costume. That night, Max is magically transported to a strange jungle where the Wild Things live – large, furry monsters with claws and horns. After they initially threaten to eat Max, the young boy frightens them, and they accept him as their king – a new experience for them. They celebrate with a “wild rumpus,” but as the night wears on, they begin to become unhappy with Max’s reign.

All the monsters engage in a “wild rumpus” with their new King Max. – Photo by Jane Jewell

The book, published in 1963, featured the author’s own illustrations — which he later said were based on caricatures of his aunts and uncles drawn when he was a young boy. It was recognized almost at once as a classic, being voted the prestigious Caldecott Medal as best children’s picture book of the year. And it has retained its appeal; in 2012 it was voted the best children’s picture book of all times by readers of School Library Journal. It has been adapted several times to other media, including an animated short film in 1973, an opera in 1980, and it was even parodied in an episode of “The Simpsons.”

Betley, whose previous directing credits at the Garfield include last year’s The Little Prince, said in her director’s note that she has always wanted to direct Wild Things. She notes how Max’s awareness of his identity develops as he tries to balance his authority as king of the Wild Things with the desire to please everyone and yet be in charge and get to do whatever he wants. And as Max quickly learns, the job is impossible.

Max in a pensive mood  –  Photo by Bee Betley

The role of Max is key to the entire play, and Lydia Sensenig, acting in her first play, filled the role energetically, running around the stage, sometimes shrieking in frustration when Max can’t get the attention of his mother and sister. She effectively varies her tone, expressions, and body language in harmony with the character’s moods. An excellent job for a young actor, especially one who hasn’t previously been on stage.

John Mann as Carol, the wildest of the Wild Things – Photo by Bee Betley

John Mann, most recently seen in the GCA’s production of Mister Roberts, takes the role of Carol, one of the most powerful Wild Things. Max puts him in charge of building a fort, but Carol throws a tantrum when KW, another Wild Thing, wants to bring two owls she has befriended to the fort. Mann does a good job of showing Carol’s energy and quick changes of mood, projecting a sense of danger that echoes Max’s own anger.

Max in his wolf costume talks with KW and the two owls, Bob and Terry. – Photo by Jane Jewell

KW is played by Georgia Rickloff, who has been a frequent performer in local theater since she played Tiny Tim in the GCA’s Christmas Carol in 2008. Her character, a loner who is often at odds with Carol, is in many ways the most sympathetic toward Max of all the monsters. Rickloff conveys KW’s softer side while at the same time remaining a convincing denizen of the monster realm.

Brother and sister Aaron Sensenig and Lydia Sensinig as Alexander, a Wild Thing, and Max – Photo by Bee Betley

The other Wild Things are not as extreme in their emotions and actions as Carol, though each has their moments. Douglas, a Wild Thing with powerful arms who is something of a peace-keeper, is well played by Mike Heffron. Phebe Wood, a student at Gunston School, takes the role of Judith. Judith frequently argues with Carol and acts out when she doesn’t get her way.  She can be loud and sometimes sarcastic but she, too, can show an unsure and insecure side, which may be why the more mild-mannered Wild Thing Ira, played by Zac Ryan,  is her boyfriend.  The two are “in love,” the other Wild Things tell Max.  Aaron Sensenig (Lydia’s brother) plays Alexander, the youngest and smallest of the Wild Things.  Paul Camberdella has two roles, as one of Max’s teachers and as a bull who lurks on the fringes of the Wild Things.  The bull provides nice comic relief as he doesn’t speak but occasionally snorts or makes other funny noises.  All do a good job in conveying a “family” who alternately laugh and play together, then sulk, argue, or run away.   

Sarah Lyle, also acting in her first play, takes the role of Max’s mom. She shows the mother’s conflicting roles as she tries to give both Max and his sister the support and understanding that they each need while still dealing with her own problems of balancing a job and motherhood.  Izzie Southworth is very believable as Max’s older sister, Claire. Claire is annoyed by her little brother who demands attention while she is on the phone or with her friends. 

Max tries to get his mother’s attention while she is on an important phone call. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Alden Swanson and Zuzu Kusmider do a good job as the other children in Max’s life, at school, and as KW’s owl friends.  The owls are especially funny as they answer questions and give advice, speaking at length in totally unintelligible chirps, squeaks, and squawks.

The very atmospheric music for the play was composed and performed on guitar by the director’s brother Seth Betley, who did a good job of matching the on-stage action with the mood of the music.

The set and costumes for the show, designed and constructed by Bee Betley, were imaginative and a lot of fun. The costumes went a long way toward giving the Wild Things – and Max – their distinctive characters. And the set’s open structure was visually effective while allowing the single setting to serve multiple purposes. The lighting, designed by Nic Carter, was a delightful display of chromatic virtuosity.  The stage was washed with a full spectrum of colors; switching from bright orange to soft blue to pale violet,  following the action and changing moods of the play. 

This is a play about identity, family, friendship, and growing up.  The Wild Things reflect the wild emotions we all feel – the anger, the jealousy, the insecurity, the need for acceptance, for attention, for love.  All the things that make us human.

KW (in back) with Judith and Ira, the two lovers (seated) and Douglas of the mighty arms. – Photo by Bee Betley

Only two quibbles about this otherwise excellent production: the high number of minor scene changes, accompanied by blackouts, did slow the pace of the play somewhat.  And occasionally, the dialogue was hard to understand – several other attendees we spoke to had the same observation.  However, these did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the performance.

Where the Wild Things Are was a stimulating challenge for both cast and crew, and they definitely rose to the occasion.  The performance we saw had a good number of younger audience members – all of whom seemed to enjoy the show as much as the adults. And once again, the performances were a reminder of the wealth of talent in the local community — a fact it is too easy to take for granted.

The production was one weekend only.

Ira, Judith, and Max – Photo by Bee Betley

At school, they learn that the sun will die someday far in the future. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Curtain Call for “Where the Wild Things Are” – Photo by Jane Jewell

The Wild Things huddle with Max to make plans. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Max and his mother in a tender moment – Photo by Jane Jewell

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Art Review: Richard Diebenkorn at the Academy Art Museum by Steve Parks

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By the time young Richard Diebenkorn attained stature as an Abstract Expressionist, he was itching to move on—again—to explore new horizons with his painter’s toolbox. “You see, I was trying to demonstrate something to myself,’ he said in an interview for John Gruen’s 1955 book, “The Artist Observed.” “Namely, that I wouldn’t get stuck in any dumb rut.”

While he never totally abandoned his abstract inclinations—producing art as he felt it rather than as seen—Diebenkorn eluded ruts for the rest of his long, prolific career.

“Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942-1955,” a traveling exhibition receiving its only East Coast exposure at Easton’s Academy of Art Museum through July 10, presents 100 paintings and drawings—many never shown before—that reveal the artist’s evolution from student to 33-year-old master of a modern American art form.

Because the show reflects Diebenkorn’s progression from classroom assignments—depicting the folds and shadows of a draped length of patterned fabric—to ever-searching expressions of mind’s-eye creativity—it’s best to view it chronologically. Start at the gallery to your left as you enter the museum and proceed clockwise from the introductory panel outlining Diebenkorn’s formative years, beginning with his 1922 birth in Portland, Ore., and San Francisco childhood. First, you’ll see his student assignment. (It deserves an A.) Other early works from his Stanford University days, before his other calling—World War II active duty—include representational watercolors of residential rooftops and fine-line ink drawings of fellow marines while stationed at Quantico, Va. (Art supplies weren’t allowed.)

Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled, 1952. Oil on canvas, 41 1/2 x 77 in.

His early Berkeley period preceding officer’s training (he flunked) exposed him to faculty disciples of Hans Hoffmann, although one instructor favored Cezanne. Both influences are evident in Diebenkorn’s untitled geometric watercolor-and-graphite pieces and the mortal combat in “Duel at Dawn.” The artist/marine renders loosely recognizable architecture in and around San Diego’s Camp Pendleton, where he was based before his dreaded mission to parachute behind enemy lines in Japan. But the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan’s 1945 surrender. Diebenkorn’s team never deployed.

Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled, 1945. Watercolor and ink on paper, 9 x 11 7/8 in

Married during the war, he and his wife Phyllis were parents of an infant daughter as Diebenkorn resumed art studies at the California School of Fine Arts, where the faculty included Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. Diebenkorn’s abstracts began to reflect a more defined approach epitomized in three untitled paintings displayed as a triptych—two with geometric shapes on a flat plane and another of irregular shapes in a perspective alignment. His 1947 “Untitled (Magician’s Table)” is a deft nod to Surrealism while you might glimpse De Kooning with a darker palette in an untitled gouache from Diebenkorn’s 1948 solo exhibition at San Francisco’s California Palace of the Legion of Honor.

Abstracts with a sense of place, on larger canvases that Diebenkorn could by then afford, dominate the gallery across the lobby: structured but still nonobjective landscapes on beach (Sausalito period) and desert (Albuquerque) from the early ‘50s. His Urbana period at the University of Illinois was inspired by a major Matisse exhibition, leading to abstracts that playfully hint at identifiable figures. You might spot an owl (unintentional?) among these 1952-53 watercolors.

In a small gallery down the hall, there’s no mistaking the objects in Diebenkorn’s first mature figurative painting, “Untitled (Horse and Rider)” from 1954.

Untitled (Horse and Rider), 1954. Oil on canvas, 21 x 24 in

Where his “Beginnings” eventually led—spanning a lifetime up to 1993—are seen in catalogs beneath a huge black-and-white photo of Diebenkorn, the marine. The 1997-98 Whitney exhibition volume includes images from his “Ocean Park” series featured in the 1978 Venice Biennale—sea and sky, maybe both, as viewed from a window. As usual, Diebenkorn keeps you guessing and engaged, avoiding ruts and realism for a half-century.

A display upstairs features works by a few Diebenkorn contemporaries, drawn from the Academy of Art’s collection, among them Baltimore’s Amalie Rothschild (“Reclining Figure” drawing, 1955) and two Thomas Hart Benton lithographs (“Morning Train” and “Night Firing,” 1943).

“Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942-1955”
Daily through July 10, Academy of Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton

Lecture: “My Father, Richard Diebenkorn,” by Gretchen Diebenkorn Grant, 11 a.m. June 1
academyartmuseum.org, 410-822-2787

Steve Parks is a retired journalist, arts critic and editor now living in Easton.

  

 

Three Kent County Artists Receive Maryland Individual Artist Awards

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Julie Wills, Strike List
2014 (matchsticks, hair and thread on paper)

The Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) announced today that $246,000 has been awarded to 105 Maryland artists through the 2019 Individual Artist Awards (IAA). This year’s awardees were chosen from a group of 669 applicants and represent some of the state’s leading authors, visual artists, theater performers and digital/electronic and media artists

Administered in partnership with Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, the 2019 IAAs recognize outstanding artistic achievements of artists from across Maryland.

Awardees will be honored during a ceremony on Saturday, June 8, 2019, at the conclusion of the first Maryland Arts Summit, which will be held at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. In addition to the recognition, Individual Artists receive grants of $1,000, $3,000 or $6,000 in support of their continued artistic growth. The full list of 2019 IAA awardees can be found here.

“As an artist myself, I understand the importance of arts and am proud of our statewide agency, MSAC to recognize the accomplishments of Maryland’s individual artists and support them,” said First Lady Yumi Hogan. “I want to offer my sincere congratulations to all awardees. Their incredible talent and significant contributions are one of the driving forces that flourish our great state of Maryland.”

This year’s awardees represent the fields of Creative Nonfiction/Fiction, Digital/Electronic Arts, Media Arts, Painting, Theater Solo Performance, and Works on Paper. Awardees were chosen, based solely on artistic merit, by an out-of-state jury of discipline-specific experts.

Kent County Recipients:

–          James Allen Hall- Kent County, Creative Nonfiction/Fiction

–          Michael A. Buckley- Kent County, Media

–          Julie Wills- Kent County, Works on Paper

Over the course of the past year, MSAC collected feedback from artists across the state in an effort to update the IAA program. The new Independent Artist Awards (IAA) program will debut in 2020 with a focus on Performing Arts. Applications will be accepted from dancers, musicians, actors and performance artists as well as composers, choreographers and playwrights. Subsequent years will feature awards in Visual Arts (2021) and Literary Arts (2022). Information about the new IAA program will be released in summer 2019, and the application period for 2020 IAAs will open in the fall of 2019.

Spy Review: Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra’s Ode to Humankind

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The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, Delmarva’s professionally accomplished philharmonic, capped its 22nd season with a challenging masterworks program marked by individual distinction and collaborative virtuosity.

It’s hard to imagine a more inspired finale than the textured and rousing performance of Beethoven’s miraculous 9th Symphony, his own symphonic finale, composed in two years beginning in 1822 when he had gone completely deaf. Deploying his genius and mental dexterity to write with a complex aural beauty he could test only with the inner ear of his mind, Beethoven created a masterpiece that is also the first major symphony featuring the human voice—many of them, actually—as a musical instrument.

But first, the audience was treated to a rare, perhaps unprecedented, encore before the scheduled concert. A pre-core, if you will, was graciously gifted by the evening’s piano soloist Michael McHale, after symphony board chair Jeffrey Parker announced that the concert would start a half-hour late due to a Bay Bridge accident that delayed a quarter of the MSO ensemble. McHale played several short pieces, including a Chopin nocturne and Irish traditionals of his own arrangement.

Once the latecomers arrived to applause, music director Julien Benichou abbreviated his usually loquacious opening remarks to lead the orchestra in Sibelius’ “Finlandia,” an emotionally patriotic salute to his native land that has launched an ecumenical array of hymns. Fittingly accompanied by a large choir— two, in fact: the Carter Legacy Singers named for Nathaniel Carter, the late Morgan State University choral director, and the Southern Delaware Chorale—their reverent vocal delivery was muffled at times by the ominous warlike brass and the prayerful swelling of woodwinds and strings.

McHale, an internationally acclaimed piano soloist from Northern Ireland, distinguished himself far beyond his “pre-core” chops by mastering the notoriously difficult keyboard calisthenics of Ravel’s jazzy Piano Concerto in G major. A crack of the whip signals the opening drum-and-piano staccato that wanders from the windchime-y delicacy of a blues dream sequence to a sprinting riff in which McHale all but falls off his bench reaching for the end-of-the-keyboard horizon, punctuated by woodwind bird calls borne by a fluttering string breeze led by concertmaster Jose Cueto.

Following intermission, the audience settled in for the 70-minute 9th. The fourth movement alone is as long as many symphonies. But time flies from the profoundly Beethoven opening notes—robustly delivered as if to awaken Beethoven’s inner ear—to the cello-and-bass overture that rallies with the urgency of a racing heartbeat/drumbeat. The second movement’s uptempo march slows down enough to catch its breath before a pell-mell rush to the finish, standing in stark contrast to the third movement’s soothing pastoral respite.

A pause before the defining 4th movement allowed the solo vocalists to take their places in front of the maestro’s podium: authoritative bass baritone Kevin Short, tempestuous tenor Israel Lozano, with piercing duel phrasing by soprano Allysa Packard and alto Jordan Swett. Sung in German, the familiar “Ode to Joy” refrain, especially when joined in by the let-it-rip voices of the double chorale, delivered a spiritual uplift—much needed these days. “Ode” left much of the audience humming with a smile while exiting after issuing their verdict with an extended standing ovation. Yes, bravo.

See you in September, MSO.

Steve Parks is a retired journalist and former feature editor for Newsday. He now lives in Easton. 

“Ode to Humankind, To Country and to Joy!”
Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra concert, Friday, April 26, Chesapeake College, Wye Mills
“Finlandia,” Jean Sibelius, with Carter Legacy Singers and Southern Delaware Chorale
Piano Concerto in G major, Maurice Ravel, with piano soloist Michael McHale
Symphony No. 9, Ludwig Van Beethoven, with soprano Allysa Packard, alto Jordan Swett, tenor Israel Lozano, bass baritone Kevin Short, Carter Legacy Singers, Southern Delaware Chorale
Final performance, 7 p.m. Sunday, April 28, Ocean City Performing Arts Center

 

At the Academy: Brad Ross and the Art of Teaching Art

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Since 2016, Brad Ross has been offering painting and drawing classes at the Academy Art Museum, in Easton, MD. Learning the classical approach to drawing and painting through his studies greatly influenced what he paints today. While at Maryland Institute, where he completed a BFA in 1991, he studied portrait drawing with Abby Sangiamo and figure drawing with Peter Collier. Between 1994 and 1995 he took evening and summer classes at the Schuler School of Fine Art in Baltimore. There he experienced a classical approach to drawing and painting and a taste of the way all artists learned their craft prior to the twentieth century.  The Schuler School is also where he had some of his first experiences painting outdoors with noted watercolorist Fritz Briggs.

Ross states, “Drawing from plaster casts was the most important classical training I had and the concepts learned from them influence everything I do. . .  Most of my fine art training at Maryland Institute College of Art and Montgomery College was modern in philosophy, so my later exposure to the classical approach at the Schuler School broadened, refined and grounded the modern approach from those schools.”

Over the years, Ross has gained priceless drawing and painting knowledge by taking workshops with great artists like Carolyn Anderson, Tim Bell, George Strickland, Abigail McBride and Teresa Oaxaca. From 1995 to the early two-thousands, his professional work focused on still life painting in the classical tradition, maintaining a relationship with La Petite Gallery in Annapolis, MD and Renjeau Gallery in Natick, MA.

He adds, “Throughout this time, plein air painting, portrait and figure drawing remained avenues for skill-building and personal enjoyment.”

In 2012 he registered for his first quick draw competition at Plein Air Easton and has participated in several local plein air events since then, winning prizes in Chestertown’s quick draws three times, and being awarded Best in Show and Artist Choice Awards at Paint Berlin, MD, in 2018.  This year, he was juried into the 15th Plein Air Easton competition and will be competing in that premier event, as well as several others in 2019.

Ross comments about his plein air painting, “For most of my life I’ve been a very hesitant painter, taking a long time to finish work.  Plein air painting is a great antidote for that. Light changes frustratingly fast and forces you to identify important elements quickly and make decisions, then keep that concept in mind as conditions change.”

He adds, “Plein air was important in dispelling the misconception that an artist is recording or copying a scene.  In order to get faster you have to think on an abstract, conceptual level. This has strengthened my painting in general.”   

This spring, Ross is teaching a few classes at the Academy Art Museum, including “Drawing the Human Figure” on Wednesdays, May 1–29, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a Two-Day Workshop: “Oil Painting: Color Crash Course” on June 22 and 23 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day.

Ross says about his portraiture classes, “Getting a likeness is pretty essential to portraiture and because of that it’s more demanding than other genres.  I love the challenge of conveying a personality in a drawing or painting and I love helping people tackle that challenge.”

For further information about classes taught by Bradford Ross at the Academy Art Museum, call 410-822-2787 or visit academyartmuseum.org.

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