July 23, 2012

kevin pogo curtis

He's probably in that attic as I write this, breathing those fumes through an old bandana, pumping a cloud of color into the air.

It's hotter than hell up there, but he's working anyway.  Maybe some Sebadoh, too, tonight.

He putting down lines at the speed of art.  They will form something in front of your eyes, something you recognize.  Or don't.  Maybe a starry night.  Maybe hands, outstretched to you or a building outstretched to the sky.  Maybe a hill, or is it a breast?

He's an inspired slasher in the night, a dripper of form, a spatterer of blood and grass and sky colors.

He's been doing this since he was a young boy.  I have seen a picture. 

Kevin Pogo Curtis' beautiful work will be appearing at MOTR Pub, beginning this Friday, July 27th.

Kevin on Facebook

July 16, 2012

holly and helen

They dance in starlight on fields of silk.

They float where others fall.

They trust in each other, in themselves. 

They abandon this world. It is written on their faces.

 They are cradled in the curve of the moon.

Holly and Helen will be performing their beautiful aerial silks routine, on Saturday, July 21st, at the Midsummer Masquerade, at the Loveland Castle.  

Midsummer Masquerade

June 13, 2012


photo by stephen metz                                                                                                                                                               make

     I remember long, deep, emerald green streaks to the side, and one of alternating black and gold in the middle.  The grass.  The's surface slick with water.  The tempo of the dashes quickening with the slope of the hill.   I remember the feel of the air rushing into my open mouth and my lungs, as though something was inhaling for me, effortlessly pushing breath in.  The rain rose from the back tire in a perfect series of rapid fire droplets, drenching the back of my shirt with muddy water, my own battle wound.  I looked to the grey, gathering clouds with twelve-year-old eyes and knew that I was alive.  The church bells rang, competing in my ears with the wind.  At the bottom of the hill, as the speed mellowed, I jerked the handlebars, rocked my own weight backwards, and rode the back tire for the final moments.  My kingdom.

photo by stephen metz                                                                                                                                                      don't forget

     When we choose to ride a bike, we are provided with an intrinsic sense of purpose, which is executed in a beautifully organic, unique way.  The purpose is to move ourselves using a machine.  The uniqueness arises in that we are the power to the machine.  Our bodies are the fuel.  Our will is the engine.  Potential energy becomes kinetic, the instant the pedal is pressed, in this perfect transference of energy from organic to mechanical form.

photo by stephen metz                                                                                                                                                          repair

     When we choose to ride a bike, we are getting a little piece of our world back.  Each small decision we make to do this matters.  Each mile of automobile driving we replace with a mile of bike riding is a small reparation, a small bit of the huge debt we owe, paid.  The tiny hum of a bike tire amidst the din of trucks and cars is a ballad to our animal home.  It is a living harmony of technology and nature.  It is an extension of the time our kind will be allowed to inhabit this magical place, which will, inevitably absorb its chief destroyer.  

photo by stephen metz                                                                                                                                                      commune

     When we choose to ride a bike, we are getting a little piece of our bodies back.  Each mile is a detoxification, a partial undoing of cellular damage we have wrought upon our inner homes.  Sugar, fat, tar, nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, anti-depressants, sleep aids, corn syrup, mercury, lead, parabens, fluoride, teflon, salt...we make thousands of automatic, thoughtless decisions to harm ourselves.  Biking is a simple, attainable, understandable remedy.  It's not a cure-all...nothing is, but, a  good choice usually leads to more good choices.  Good air in, bad air out.

photos by stephen metz                                                                                                                                                                tools

    When we choose to ride a bike, we are getting a little piece of our minds back.  That rhythm of breathing, that rhythm of working your body, of working your heart muscle and your sad, adult lungs, it corrects our big animal brains, too.  Details, the white noise of the mind, the chaotic, blowing sands of the intellect, shift away in that perfect cycle of exertion, breathing, sweating, of existing, momentarily, for the simple purpose of arriving.  

photo by stephen metz                                                                                                                                                      information

     Just as the bike exists to support a single concrete function but, in turn, provides a myriad of beneficial byproducts, so too does MoBo, Cincinnati's only bicycle cooperative.  MoBo is a non-profit volunteer-run cooperative dedicated to making cycling accessible and practical to everyone in the greater Cincinnati area.   Founded in 2007, MoBo was formed in honor of bike enthusiast, Justin Morioka.  The shop is located adjacent to the Village Green community garden, in Northside.  The two are a perfect pairing, both advocating healthy, eco-friendly lifestyles, and community building.                

photo by stephen metz                                                                                                                                                   teach learn do

     Here's a rundown of how membership in the cooperative works and the services they provide.  First, you join, by ponying up the twenty dollar annual fee.  That's twenty bucks for an entire year.  If you put in about a hundred miles of biking instead of driving, you've paid for your membership in fuel savings.  With your membership you get access to their amazing shop, on Knowlton Ave.  At the shop, you will find tools, grease, cleaners, and, most importantly, the knowledge and skills of the volunteer mechanics who will teach you how to repair and maintain your bike.  Pretty amazing deal.  If they so choose, each member also gets the opportunity to adopt a bike, which has been donated to the cooperative, at very reasonable prices.   Once they've restored the bike, it's theirs to take home or give to a deserving person.  

photo by stephen metz                                                                                                                                                                 focus

     When we choose to join MoBo, we get an entry point into all of the great things that we get from biking: movement, ecology, healthfulness, inner peace.  We also get the friendship of a community of like souls.  You will meet someone you like very much at MoBo.  It's just a place where that happens.  You know what you'll also get?  You'll get a piece of your twelve-year-old self back..the one who rode happily in a kingdom of rain.  It hasn't disappeared from you at all.  It's just asleep and needs a breath of fresh air and a push to get the tires rolling.  

photo by stephen metz                                                                                                                                                               belong


May 31, 2012

manifest gallery cincinnati

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                         she the lamb

     The oldest known drawing of a human face is over twenty-seven thousand years old.  It's a simple series of marks, in a cave near Angoul√™me in western France.  It's drawn on a rocky abutment, which is shaped like a human skull.  Its age places it before the inception of language.  In other words, we had art before we could even describe it to each other.  Why then, once the grunting and groaning had given way to consonants, vowels, words, and ideas, loquaciously expressed, did we continue to seek out and to refine a visual expression of our lives?  What is this quality which uniquely compels the human animal to gather experiences, and to then reassemble them using our own personal, creative, vision?

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                making special

     The Darwinian impulse would tell us that it is to gain a sexual advantage in natural selection...that we are instinctively compelled to create representations of beauty in the quest for a mate.  In the latter half of the twentieth century, however, this idea was spun in an opposing direction as the definition of art transitioned from the perspective of the intended audience (the sought after mate in the Darwinian school of thought), to that of the artist.  People began to ask, what is the act of art?   If we had a verb, arting, what action would it be describing, and, why are we doing it?  Noted, independent scholar and author, Ellen Dissanayake is credited with providing us with a succinct, sublime answer: we have a biological need for making special.
photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                                 tradition
     Making special: to render the ordinary, unique, with the physical manifestation of your own, distinct perception.  You lift the garage door one night, flip the fluorescent light and walk to the workbench.  You raise your framing hammer, its familiar, smooth, wooden handle turning in your hand.  You are seized with an idea and you spend the next few hours carving and staining the image of a pine tree along the length of the handle.  You are making special.  One day, you awaken early and journey to the river's edge.  With a shovel and a bucket, you unearth mounds of clay and cart it to a nearby clearing in a woods.  With the clay, you mold a bird bath using only your bare hands.  You leave it in the forest, for no one in particular, save the sparrows.  You are making special.     
photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                           being alive

      We all have this inside, this need to express without words, this need to make special, but for many of us it becomes obscured, wrapped in layers of the world, in the epic tragedies and mundane details of our lives.  Eventually it may seem as though it never existed in us at all, that making art is for someone else, for some, other, more qualified group of people who were born with something which we lack.  But, that is shit.  For every person, there is a relationship between creativity and well-being, between the conceiving of an idea, the physical manifestation of it, and health.  This process of arting is how we unburden ourselves, it is how we tell ourselves that we exist and matter, that we belong, that we have something worthwhile to impart to the world.  There are a lot of hurdles to keeping this channel from ourselves open.  Thankfully, we have wonderful places, such as Manifest, to help.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                 miracles are here
     Manifest is a trinity dedicated to visual art.  Founded in 2004, by Jason Franz,  Elizabeth Kauffman, and Brigid O'Kane, its purpose is to present and document highly skilled, professional art from around the world, while simultaneously engendering a spirit of education and creativity at a local level.  It's a world class gallery and a local art studio, all at once.  Manifest maintains this dichotomy by operating as several distinct, but interconnected entities.  The gallery, in East Walnut Hills, serves as the hub, offering regular displays of thought provoking art, from local, national, and international artists.  The drawing studio, in Madisonville, explores the art of drawing through educational activities and open drawing sessions.  Lastly, Manifest Press collaborates with artists and students to make available, well designed publications, featuring art from Manifest events, such as international, juried competitions in drawing, painting, and photography, held annually.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                                 energy

     Tim Parsley is Assistant Director at Manifest and serves as coordinator for the drawing center.  As are all of the instructors at the drawing center, Tim is, himself, an accomplished professional artist.  I recently had a chance to visit the studio for a figure drawing session and to talk to Tim.  There is a collaborative sense of intention and empathy here, is how he began to describe the studio drawing experience.  It's a collective, relaxed battle of pursuit.  The drawing center exists for anyone who is serious about elevating his or her level of skill.  Your current abilities don't really matter.  What counts is your intent...your seriousness and dedication to improvement.  You have to have a passion and a love for what you are doing, Tim told me.  We know that everyone goes through a lot of bad drawings just to get one good one, but what we have found is that there is a contagious energy here which really inspires people and it shows in their work.           
photo by steve metz                                                              anatomy of a drawing

     As the model struck her first pose, on this particular evening, a determined calm enveloped the room.  This was a communion.   I roamed the room with my camera and I thought about what I was seeing with my eyes, my lens, my heartbeat, my own self.  There's an intrinsic strength in a circle, an unbroken unified, simple purpose: roundness, every point equal.  Lose one point, lose the circle.  That's how they draw at the round, each artist closely bound to the next, each giving strength and being given strength, each teaching and being taught, through the simple act of participation.  They reverentially face the center.  The model is the muse, she, naked, vulnerable, willing in servitude, the lamb, the alter.  The artists too are unclothed in their own way, unborn, a blank sheet before them. An undefinition waiting to be defined, an unwriting waiting to be written.  She the lamb relaxes, supine, her secrets now whispered to the congregants.  They, weapons now drawn, strike the page and imagine their way into being.          
photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                               ceremony

     We people, we fail collectively at a lot of important things.  We can't keep each other fed.  We can't figure out a way to do something as basic as not massacring each other.  We can't protect cherished species of animals before they perish forever.   We can't find a way to place the common good of all people above the obscene greed of a few.  We break these fundamental commandments of brotherhood. The world starts to seem insane.  Being human starts to seem untenable.  But then there is art.  When I look at a Michael Wilson photograph or a Casey Riordan Millard painting, and I realize that it wasn't some otherworldly, specially ordained being who made them, but rather a neighbor, a mother, a son, a teacher, or a child...a person just like gives me a sense of hope that I can't find elsewhere.  Art is all of ours, just like Jason, Tim, and all of the other artists, students, and publishers from Manifest, are demonstrating.  It is a personal journey, yet each time we take it, we make a link: from our household to our street, our street to our neighborhood, our neighborhood to our city, extending out into the world, a tide of calm on a throbbing sea. Together, we made an El Greco, a Rodin, a Mapplethorpe.  It began in an ancestral cave.  It will end with the last breath of humanity, and each and every time any one of us makes something special, we are tipping the scales a little, in favor of sanity.  

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                     made manifest

May 24, 2012

tango del barrio dance studio

press play for maximum enjoyment

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                michael and julie

     Tango of the Neighborhood.  Tango Del Barrio.  If you whisper it to yourself enough, it becomes a lyric, or perhaps even a song, itself. is a song.  It is its own melody...a lilting, fluid whistle from a solitary man strolling through an empty, scarcely lit alley in the heart of the night.  There is a soft rain and the bricks from the roadway are like shiny shapes of glass.  The rain drops seem to pepper them in time with his tune, a dance unto its own.  The man inhales the last of his cigarette, drops it, and opens a door, unmarked.  Violin, piano, and a gentle blue light spill into the canyon of the alleyway.  The dark, looming structures of the night expand, momentarily.  The man exhales, glances quickly back, and steps inside, smoke, now blue, trailing and intertwining with the mist of the rain.  It lingers too long in the still air.  The door closes with a jarring thud.  The sounds, the light, the smoke, they disappear in an instant.  You are left alone, watching, as it does, and the faintest indication of perfume, or is it wine, rises to your nostrils.  

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                    tango del barrio

     You imagine what's next.  The man has removed his hat and his wet overcoat.  A woman in black watches, her lips slightly parted and ruby red, her black hair tied with an azure, silk scarf.  He knifes his way through the crowd to her and using only their eyes and small smiles they enter into an intimate, understood contract.  He holds her and draws her to him, chests stirring, slowly rotating to the music of the room and to the music of their bodies.  The voids of their individual forms are filled with each other; in the curve of his neck and shoulder, her cheek; in the pit of the back of his knee, her calf...the seam of her black stocking shifting as muscles contract and relax...a beating heart.  He lunges forward, collapsing her body backward, gently under his, a perfect hunter.  She acquiesces and hangs in motionless suspension, the small of her back balanced perfectly on his outstretched thigh, now perpendicular to the floor.  Her face looks up at his, his, down to hers. Her arms reach back in sublime submission.  The slit of her dress slithers open, up the length of her thigh, and the garment traces light patterns on the floor below, as they pause in this moment of conquest, in this moment of communion.  

photo by steve metz                                                                        michael and julie

     Argentine Tango grew up in the streets of Buenos Aires, beginning in the late nineteenth century.  A prevailing theme and technique of the dance is the idea of communication through embrace.  The level of intimacy of the dance is the decision of the couple, but they must maintain a strong connection along the length of their embracing arms.  This channel of energy, muscle, and heat is the entry point into the graceful symmetry and unison of tango.     

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                    tango del barrio

     Despite its origins as a social dance, and contrary to other dances of the genre, the tango is not a step by step dance, but rather an improvisation, concocted by the lead and, spontaneously agreed upon by the partner.  In this way, every tango dance can be unique; an expression of a moment in time from two distinct souls.  

     Ingredients (combine to taste)
     caminar walk
     giros turns
     sacadas displacements
     cruce cross
     ochos figure eights
     llevadas de pie moving foot by foot
     ganchos leg hooks
     contragiros reverse turns
     quebradas breaks  

photo by steve metz                                                                         michael and julie

     The seed for our very own, revered Argentine Tango studio, Tango Del Barrio, was planted over twenty years ago, when founder Michael W., still a psychology graduate student at the time, stumbled upon the vintage dance scene in Clifton.  He realized that, despite having been labeled "vintage," Argentine Tango was very much thriving: a living tradition.  Michael's love for tango would necessitate the need for a sort of dual life; psychologist by day, dance student, and later, instructor by night.  This duality would flow from Cincinnati, to Pittsburgh, to New York City, and back to Cincinnati again, where Michael would eventually land, permanently.  Tango Del Barrio, the studio, would evolve over the next several years, finding a permanent home in Northside, where it shares a beautiful and inviting space with Yoga Ah.  Michael's partner in life, as well as dance, Julie, a graphic designer by day, has also become intimately involved in the studio over the past six years.  The operation has grown to such an extent that it has recently been granted not-for-profit status, and it now includes a board of directors.  This move has allowed Michael and Julie to step away from the center of operations, but to continue to contribute deeply through instruction. 

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                   tango del barrio

       I have always had a deep appreciation for the arts and I have my own personal awareness of what makes life good, Michael tells me.  The arts are such an important part of a person having a full and meaningful life.  In those words, we find the connection for Michael...between the mind he studies and the movements he teaches. Expression is well being, even when whispered, or when spoken without words at all.  This is why we dance in dimly lit rooms.  This is why we draw in coffee shops or paint in basements.  This is why we strum stringed instruments when there is no one there to hear.  This is why we sit for hours in the quiet of the morning, waiting for one perfect moment of sunlight combined with chance, to photograph a Kingfisher perched in a tree.  We have a need to articulate something for which we have no words, or, for which words should not exist.  This makes us human.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                michael and julie

     A different aspect of a person is present in tango, Michael and Julie tell me.  You don't have to talk in order to be close to people here.  We living beings, we were communicating before we had words to use.  In your life, you have looked into the eyes of something living and understood something about it.  You have touched the fur of a living animal and felt a truth or an honesty which you couldn't explain.  You have watched as a pair of white swans drifted along the surface of a glass-still pond in absolute silence and symmetry, and you have recognized something of yourself in them.  That part of you...the same part which may have stirred a little as you read this, is a dancer.

Tango Del Barrio offers tango lessons and community dance for all levels.  See the links below for more information.

Tango Del Barrio

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                    tango del barrio

May 18, 2012

a moment to explain, by way of the big pig

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                      melissa s. w/lite brite pig

      From the lobby of the bank, you can hear them and the stench is starting to creep in, too.  You dab cologne on your wrists and place a drop just below your nose.  You inhale deeply, crack the door open, and step out into the warm July sunshine, every beam of which is shot through with dust from the street, now vibrating under your feet.  You look south towards the boats.  You see them coming...hundreds, if not thousands of terrified animals, screaming as they are herded north from the steamy river.  By nightfall their inanimate bodies will be suspended in brine filled barrels, and tomorrow's still-living, shit-covered roar will be floating upriver.  Destination Porkopolis.  Cincinnati, Ohio.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                                melissa s.

     My good friend Melissa is participating in ArtWorks' Big Pig Gig this year.  She's making a giant pig statue which is lit from the inside.  The light radiates outward through thousands of Lite Brite pegs, which Melissa has been diligently gathering at eBay auctions and then painstakingly placing on the pig, one at a time.  I took these photos, intending to do a piece on Melissa, as an artist, but then, I got to thinking about the pig and what it says about our town, our heritage, our way of life, and I realized that this would be an opportune time for me to explain my motivation for making this blog.  Melissa's true art is stained glass, so I'm going to do a feature dedicated to her pursuit of that craft in a future edition of CP, but for now, let's talk about pigs and our city.  After all, this is Citizen Pork and I am a Cincinnatian...a little proud, a little embarrassed, and sated with opinions.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                           lite brite!  makin' things with la-ha-hite!

     Cincinnati was founded, in 1788, as Losantiville.  It's proximity to water routes and vast farmlands positioned it as the perfect hub for processing livestock, and, by 1835,  Losantiville had not only changed its name to Cincinnati, it had also become the nation's largest meat packing district. Herds of pigs roamed the streets.  A source of embarrassment for most.  A source of pride for a few.  The vestiges of the inspiration for the nickname Porkopolis can still be seen in the form of abandoned or repurposed meat processing warehouses along Spring Grove Avenue.  It was a city at once thriving, but also locked in a turmoil between perception and reality, past and future, and despite the gradual decline of the industry and subsequent release from the moniker, in my opinion, we remain so today.  We're a city torn between two visions: forward and backward.    

 photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                   this one will do

     Walk with me tonight and we'll see both.  There's a man praying before sleep.  We look back.  There's a home with a family watching Wheel of Fortune and another where a couple is arguing at the kitchen table.  Next door is the one in which unspeakable things might happen to a child.  A woman is absently putting a box into a microwave, ensconced in a robe of cigarette smoke.  We shuffle along.  We look forward.  There's one where a man is sanding the leg of a table he's just finishing's built from curly maple using only hand tools.  Next, there's one where a woman is practicing her vocal scales.  We can faintly hear this through the cracked window of her bedroom.  It's b-flat minor and it reminds us of Chopin.  Up a little hill and to the right we go.  Forward.  There's a man in a garage wearing a respirator.  He's spraying something bright to help make an old car beautiful again.  Across the street, there's a young man sitting under a desk lamp.  He's writing numbers on a paper to see if it's yet possible to think about opening that wine and beer shop which will stock local and regional goods.  We turn another corner.  There's a soft yellow glow coming from a cottage on the right.  Through the window, we see a woman in a blue dress.  She has raven black hair and she's sitting on the floor, alone.  She's placing something delicate looking on the glowing statue of a pig.  Forward for Porkopolis.

     So, that brings us to the final road, to the essence of this blog.  It is an homage to the forward lookers, to the quiet struggle of singular vision, to those who keep a light on until deep in the night, in pursuit.  This isn't the easiest place to carve out a unique mind-space.  The mainstream runs deep here and the fruit hangs low.  The writing and photography I make here is simply a tribute to those who are trying to infuse our senses with alternatives to the Bengals, WEBN, and Montgomery Inn ribs.  They are outnumbered but they are armed with ingenuity and tenacity, and they have my eternal gratitude and appreciation.    

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                       we are all made of stars

    Now, we are almost home.  We're on Spring Grove.  We can hear a distant cry from centuries gone.  These are the places we must leave behind without forgetting.  Today, these spaces on this avenue are slowly filling with musicians, artists, and artisans, who are laying claim to a new view of the pig.  It's my hope that we are all looking in the right direction as their thunderous, inevitable stampede of light, color and sound is made.  We don't want anyone getting trampled.

    Thank you Melissa.  We'll talk again soon.    

May 3, 2012

casey riordan millard artist cincinnati

photo by steve metz                                                                                                     casey, with floating shark girl installation

     There is both a delicateness and a strength to everything.  The ant can be swept away by what we perceive as a gentle rain shower, yet, emerges unscathed from beneath the random footfall of a creature thousands of times its size.  The elephant stands unfazed among the flailing, falling branches of a typhoon, but is gently felled by a simple, poison-drenched dart.  Our own human strengths and weaknesses, our particular position within this elaborate schema, our perception of ourselves as either hunter or prey, victor or victim, is that which impregnates us with our fears and our confidences, and, ultimately, our perception of our own mortality is the droning heart of this push and pull.  

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                shark girl sculpture, detail

     Our developing minds make us especially likely to push fear into the realm of the irrational when we are young children.  For me, it was a dream I had at age seven.  I was in a store, alone.  A strange man pulled a syringe from his coat, jabbed it into my arm, and calmly said, you're going to die in nine minutes.  Then he walked away.  I awoke, terrified, believing it real.  It could have ended there, but, as would happen many times throughout my life, that's when my irrational mind took a tiny seed and turned it into a giant weed tree that would flourish within me.  Maybe the man had said "nine hours" or "nine days" or "nine years," it said.  Are you really sure it was the number nine, it taunted.  It's possible it was nineteen, I whispered. Or twenty-nine.  

     It sounds so silly now, but it was so real then.  So real, surreal, so real, surreal, so real...

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                                figurines

     This week, I found simpatico, a kindred spirit, in visual artist, Casey Riordan Millard.  Through her  art, Casey has found a miraculous and beautiful articulation for a deep-seeded childhood fear of sharks, and, transitively, of death.  I've always known that a shark was coming for me, from a toilet or a pool, she tells me.  I imagine a young girl of four or five standing at the edge of the shallow end.  She is frozen in a place where no one else can join her...trapped in her own spiraling thoughts.  She can't take that step.  She can't stop seeing what she sees.  Her mind can't stop thinking what it thinks.  Others are in there playing, having fun.  Don't they know what's going to happen?    

     People's lives are unbelievable, Casey tells me.  Those inevitable moments we all know are coming...the deaths of our parents or watching a spouse die...we live our entire lives knowing that they're coming, yet, somehow we're able to move through them.  She pauses.  I don't know why I worry so much about it.  Casey understands that as people, uniquely, we are both blessed and cursed in having an awareness of our own mortality.  Blessed, for it helps us live richer lives.  Cursed in our understanding of eternity, of finality.

     My life is just so great, and I get so sad that it all has to go away some day.     

     Yes, but you got to be here.

     I know.  She smiles softly, sadly.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                              shark girl installation, detail

     She's not alone.  What then do we do with these overwhelming feelings, which can cause our chests to heave in the deep of the night, swimming in an airless, wordless sea?  One solution is to do something darkly beautiful.  We could breathe life into the things that haunt us.  We could make them real, living among us, rather than holding them prisoners of ourselves.  We could write, as an Edgar Allen Poe would.  We could paint, as a Vincent Van Gogh would.  We could make music, as a Harry Nilsson would.

     As for Casey Riordan-Millard, for her, a form would emerge from the deep, dark sea waters of childhood.  Her name is Shark Girl, a figure which has emblazoned herself into Casey's work, to the admiration of a growing, national audience of devotees.  Shark Girl is a metamorphic figure combining the innocence and fragility of a young, pastel clad, patent leather shoe wearing, ivory-skinned girl, and, the unsettling, kinetic ferocity of a white-toothed shark, with inanimate seeming eyes.  As I study Casey's art, my emotions evolve from disquietude to empathy.  The more I come to know this creature, the less I see a shark and the more I see an inconsolable soul, trapped in herself, engulfed in the luster and beauty of creation, but afraid to touch it, afraid to be known in it, afraid to breathe so as to awaken something hidden.  The more I come to know this being, the more I want to stand between her and the objects of her fears, the more I want to sit at her small bedside, guarding.  The more I come to know this person, the more I see my own reflection.  

photo by steve metz                                                                                                     casey, with floating shark girl installation

     And so, through this expression of angst through art, has Casey begun to cage her inner shark?  I'm hoping yes.  Anyone who feels so deeply truly deserves a place to put it.  As I imagine her working, I see an image in her mind.  I see a blank canvas and with each stroke of her brush or pencil the mind image emptying tank, and the canvas image timidly breathes its first breath.  We who understand her are left with a vibrant, sad wonder.  We are left with a rich, fairytale-like landscape, imaginary to us...all too real to one of us.  I'm glad that Shark Girl is here, but I hope that she doesn't always need to be.  My new friend Casey has earned the respite.    

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                shark girl, cradled

     As for me, I am sitting on my front porch as I write this.  The feeders are full and the song birds and the scavengers are singing.  There is a brown-headed cowbird perched on a lonesome looking limb in the Japanese maple.  I am imagining tiny Shark Girl sitting there with him.  In the evening heat, she has found a moment of solace in the wordless cry of her compatriot.  In this, the light before dusk, she has convinced herself, for a moment, that she can see everything.  The bird squawks, flaps its wings and disappears into the evening sky.  She looks down and swallows hard.  Night is just around the corner.  

photo by steve metz                                                          shark girl sculpture, detail

     Casey Riordan Millard
     Hi Fructose
     Packer Schopf Gallery Exhibition
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