From Jane Cassaday's "Dear Philadelphia"—
“…But you know what, I surrender,
your openhearted narrow streets,
trolley-tracked arterials form one room
of lighting-crack hearts to the next…”
For the Comfort of Automated Phrases is local poet (and CP horoscopist) Jane Cassady's first book, comprising poems written in the last eight years. She explains it as a series of love letters to all types of things — from Zumba to Beyoncé — and a souvenir that “helps me keep my emotional bond to the people and places I’ve visited." She began writing poetry in 2000, when living among other creatives in Laguna Beach. “I felt like I’d finally found someplace I belonged,” she says; she counts the poets of that scene — people like Daniel McGinn and Rachel McKibbens — among her biggest influences.
The collection is playful and light, best suited for sunny days. Cassady's words of affection for Philadelphia, for example, impart a warm feeling of solidarity. If your bus came an hour late, though, it might not be the right time to give this a read.
The collection's release party is 6 p.m. on Sat., July 21 at Cake and the Beanstalk (1112 Locust St.); aspiring poets are invited to join her and read their own work.
Inside Butch Cordora’s Washington Square West studio, the local conceptual artist shows me the large, yet-to-be-framed mugshots that now comprise his latest exhibition, "Hot and Busted."
Cordora searched thousands of photographs (2,219 to be exact) on the websites of correctional facilities across the country until he found subjects meeting his aesthetic specifications: “Piercing eyes, square jaws — that kind of soap-opera beautiful, like 'Oh my God, you’re so hot.'” Oh, and they’re all Caucasian.
“I had wanted white guys on purpose,” Cordora explains. When browsing the different websites, he focused on the areas of the country where there would be a larger selection of light-skinned beauts. It would be “too easy,” he says, to add African-Americans, a race he notes is all too often associated with crime and punishment in the U.S. “For the white, straight, handsome male,” however, “the world is their oyster.” These are the kind of faces that HHo
One of the men resembles a young Brad Pitt, with a firm jaw and a faint smile. Some, however, have a more haggard appearance. One looks up with tourmented eyes from a head angle that’s reminiscent of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode III. With tousled hair and pallid skin, his beauty hovers just beneath the surface of obvious strain.
These photographs seem more mysterious and profound than the pop art-y paintings of Cordora’s last show, “Absolution Lab,” and his popular 2010 calendar “Straight and Butch” in which he posed nude with an assortment of naked heterosexual men.
The inspiration for “Hot and Busted” stems from Cordora’s visits to a friend in jail. Though the man in question will not be featured, Cordora claims his mugshot is equally captivating. “You look at him, you’d think he has the world by the balls,” says the artist. However, after 2 DUIs and a house arrest broken on account of soy-related cooking, Cordora’s friend was locked up for six months. The artist visited him every week, and “I just became fascinated – with jail, with the booking process, with the whole idea of taking your freedoms away.” Each mugshot in the show reflects the emasculation and defeat up to the point at which the photograph is taken, explains the artist. Each portrait is therefore not only a face but also a depiction of the harrowing experience of arrest that recalls the mistakes of his friend. “Hot and Busted” is about this push and pull between an attractive face and a crushing experience.
But who are these Luciferan adonises, the focus of the show?
Cordora refuses to reveal names or origins, and he’d prefer you guess their crimes – the list includes everything from armed robbery to failure to possess a saltwater fishing license. Similarly, these convicts and would-be convicts have no idea that their likenesses are being blown up to two feet by two feet and hung on a gallery wall. Questions of morality and legality tossed to the wayside, Cordora cares only that the viewer share his fascination with prison and the contradiction embodied by its most beautiful.
opening reception Fri., July 6, 6 p.m., through Sept. 2, Ven and Vaida Gallery, 18 S. Third St., 215-592-4099, venandvaida.com.
Saturday, the Norris Square Neighborhood Project (NSNP) held its annual Festival de Bambulaé, a Puerto Rican celebration and fundraiser in the community's vibrant garden space. NSNP supports local Latino youth through areas such as the arts and community involvment. The neighborhood's inspirational effort permeated all aspects of the event, from the paper flowers to the pork roast to the homegrown mint in the mojitos.
To sleep: perchance to read. The Dead Bards of Philadelphia welcome all ye with a penchant for poetry (or an old-fashioned love affair with a rivaling family) to come read your words or those of a favorite author. Join them tonight at their Open Poetry Night as they awaken Shakespeare’s ghost at The Spiral Bookcase (112 Cotton St.) at 8 p.m.
Philly's favorite balls-to-the-wall drag comedy troupe will present their performances through a different medium starting this weekend. The Light Room Gallery (2024 Wallace St.) will host a photographic retrospective of the most memorable performances and antics of the Dumpsta' Players, starting June 3 and running through June 30.
The Players you know and love for their satirical and outrageous acts will be celebrated with the work of five Philadelphia photographers. Gregory Carafelli, Jason Colflesh, John Donges, Tom Sheeder Jr. and Al Wachlin Jr. will all exhibit photos displaying 15 years of the group's standout performances and backstage moments.
For extra credit, check out episodes of their shows on Comcast 66 and Verizon Fios 29/30 on Tue., June 5 at midnight and Fri. - Sat. June-8-9 at 11 p.m.
Author Eve Ensler, whose Vagina Monologues were a force in making the word "vagina" a slightly more acceptable thing to say in public, is in town tonight to get an award from Women's Way, the Philly-area group celebrating its 35th year of helping people with vaginas via grants and advocacy. She'll be giving a keynote speech at the Sheraton at 17th and Race at 7:45. Ensler's a fantastic speaker; you can check out tons of clips from TED conferences, watch Ensler's own performance of her Monologues (which my mom took me and my best friend see Ensler perform when we were 14) via Netflix, or just hit play on the clip below of her reading the awesomely honest "Over It," a viral piece she wrote for the Huffington Post.
Art-geek extraordinaire Courtney Sexton presents a weekly selection of Philly's must-see gallery exhibits. This week: found asparagus and a dude living in a gallery like it's the apocalypse.
“The Last Days of the Apocalypse of Now” at Pageant Soloveev
According to Jay-Z, Beyonce, the Illuminati, and a lot of high school kids on facebook, 2012 is the year of the apocalypse, and Tyler artist Nick Lenker decided to explore what it might be like during one’s last few days on earth. In his installation/performance piece this weekend, the artist will spend three days (beginning 8 a.m. today and ending at 11:59 p.m. Sunday night) living in the Pageant Soloveev gallery and performing various tasks. Visitors are welcome to come share the space; they may not be privy to all of the events that take place, but they are encouraged to drink, as Lenker will be bartending each night between 9 and 11 p.m.
Lenker’s project is “influenced by ideas about domestic space, rites of passage, masculinity, gay subcultures, and the artist’s own experience as a Jehovah’s Witness.” After this weekend, “remnants” from the project will be on view May 2–5 at Tyler’s Temple Gallery.
April 13–15, Pageant Soloveev, 607 Bainbridge St., 215-925-1535, pageantsoloveev.com
Impressive permanent collections may have put our area museums on the map, but it's the rotating exhibits that keep visitors coming back. Every Thursday, Abigail Minor updates you on the newest and most browse-worthy. This week: Little Saigon, faceless rag dolls, and mountain racers.
“Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon” at the Asian Arts Initiative
“Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon” is a Smithsonian-originated exhibit, brought to Philadelphia by Boat People SOS, celebrating the progression of Vietnamese America from 1975 to the present. Photographs document the Vietnamese journey from black and white cramped refugee camps in the Philippines and Japan to the freely colorful celebrations in Little Saigon – the name of the Vietnamese community in California, as well as a term for any Vietnamese oasis. Expressive photos not only take you through Vietnamese Americans’ tumultuous history of escape from war, but also through their artistic and societal strides through images of movie posters and life-sized cutouts of Vietnamese American icons.
Opening reception, Fri., April 6, 6 p.m., exhibit through June 1, free, Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St., 215-557-0455, asianartsinitiative.org
In the last ten years, Jason Kernevich and Dustin Summers have gone from back-table gigs selling posters at the Church to doing illustrations for the pages of the New York Times. There have been stops along the way — working with Wilco led to working with R.E.M., for instance. They relocated to Brooklyn and Seattle respectively, and finally circled back to Philly two and a half years ago to set up permanent shop. They've been working the lecture series for about five years now, and as they prepare for a hometown talk tonight at 6 p.m., back at the First Unitarian Church, they took some time to speak with CP.
CP: I see your work as simultatneously clean and rustic — clean in the sense that you don't clutter a lot of shit around it, and rustic in the sense that it has a very handmade quality.
Dustin Summers: It's really important to us to keep it as elegant and simple as possible. We like for the finished product to to have a human quality to it.
Jason Kernevich: That's just the way we like our images, with that hand-done element; we definitely feel more connected to work that communicates that aspect.
Can you speak at all to your creative process?
DS: We probably spend about 75% of the time figuring out the concept. We don't really spend a lot time thinking about the image, which probably sounds weird since we're visual artists, but we're much more concerned with the concept.
JK: Basically, we just like to design rectangles. (Laughs.) Seriously, though, rectangles draw your eye in. You kind of need that boundary. When we're in the planning/sketching phase, If I have a big, blank piece of paper, it's difficult for me to begin. I need that confinement. For the most part, my sketchbook is full of words.
Do you prefer making posters or designing book covers, or would you rather just do projects like the Gatsby business cards?
JK: I get restless. If we've been doing illustrations for 18 months then I want to do a Gatsby-type project or typography type thing.
Impressive permanent collections may have put our area museums on the map, but it's the rotating exhibits that keep visitors coming back. Every Thursday, Abigail Minor updates you on the newest and most browse-worthy. This week: bicentennials, earthquakes and mysterious cannonballs.
"The Nature of Discovery" at The Academy of Natural Sciences
The nation’s oldest natural history museum is celebrating its bicentennial this year with The Academy at 200: The Nature of Discovery. Themed rooms figuratively set in a Bahamas coral reef, a tent for bird skinning in the middle of a Southeastern Asian jungle, a Mongolian yurt and a soggy Philadelphian marsh immerse visiting explorers in the Academy’s past and current scientific strides in avian, paleontological and climate studies. Available for touching is a marine reptile fossil cast, meteorite and brain coral fragment. The opening of this exhibit is accompanied by a two day weekend extravaganza of an outdoor light show, a wandering Barbershop Quartet, and the science tune-singing Diggity Dudes.
Sat.-Sun., March 24-25, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., exhibit through March 2013, $10-$12, The Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 215-299-1000, ansp.org.
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