Old Nasty Gin
- While Sammy was at a buddy’s birthday party, Stella and I snuck over to the third ward to check out a few galleries for Gallery Day. We didn’t have a LOT of time, so we picked the ‘ol Marshall Building. There's always something worth seeing in there. And there's always something worth eating: we had a scrumptions plate of Beef Lo Mein at Jing’s and checked out the galleries within. Elaine Erickson had some provocative work from Erica Spitzer Rasmussen. Rasmussen is basically a sculptor whose work seems to center on commentary of the female condition, or just the human condition overall. I particularly liked a necklace piece made with hundreds of price tags that represented her consumer spending over the years; it looked heavy and thus seemed to be a literal weight on anybody’s shoulders. Another piece was a corset made with (what looked like) papier mache that was coarse and unpolished, but trimmed with a fringe of smooth, golden human hair. Stella, on the other hand, was drawn to the kimonos made from handmade paper. We ventured upstairs to check out two newer galleries – one featured some (again) provocative work from a sculptor named Darlene Wessenberg Rzezotaurs. Great sense of humor wrapped in a sort of impressionistic style, if not horribly ironic: one piece, titled “My Husband is Turning into a Frog” was a commentary on environmental concerns; another, "AIDS Is Killing The Vampires of Europe" spoke for itself. Next door was a newer gallery with photography that an artist took at a concentration camp in Poland – you can almost see the ghosts. As I just (finally) saw Inglorious Basterds, I pointed out to Stella, who was just wrapping her head around the concept of putting people in ovens – “I know this isn’t pretty, but sometimes movies don’t always really drive home how vile the Nazis are. These pictures do, which is why we need to see them.” They also had some other neat work by an artist named Tori Tasch whose medium was stated as "Gin Transfer on Sculpy Tiles." Gallery owner explained, “Well, the process normally uses rubbing alcohol – she prints out the images onto inkjet paper, then transfers them to the ceramic pieces with alcohol – but she was honest to say she used old gin, which was maybe a step up from pure rubbing alcohol. “ They was she described it made me almost taste it: Old gin. Old nasty gin. Old undrinkable nasty gin from the prohibition era. Art-wise, it was great stuff, and the images themselves – photographed at the Forest Home Cemetery – seemed to belong on these found ceramic tiles.
Then, I decided to pop into Gallery 218. Gallery 218 used to be at 218 S 2nd – where Don Nedobeck’s studio is now -- hence the name. I have a bone to pick with Gallery 218 – an old grudge from many years ago, but it should explain my snarkyness. See, Gallery 218 is an artists’ co-op, and they’re always looking for fundraisers to keep it alive. (Hmmmm, how about actually selling your work? But I’ll get to that.) They’d had a silent auction during their “Elvis” show and I bid on a piece by an artist out East. There was no minimum bid, deadline was supposed to be midnight that night, and I was the only one who bid. You’d think this piece would be mine, then, right? Wrong! The gallery head decided she wanted to wait to see if she got any more bids. For how long?, I’d asked. “Oh, a few days.” Days went by. Weeks went by. Months went by. I called and my calls got blown off. Finally, I went to another event, and there was the piece, up there for sale (for way more than I’d bid, but still, there were no takers). Uh, girlfriend, that’s not how a silent auction works. That’s not how any auction works. Sale goes to the highest bidder even if it’s not what you wanted. I chalked it up to deceptive business practices and left it at that. But here’s my snarky part. Every time I go to Gallery 218, there’s a piece on the wall by the gallery co-op head titled “Winter Rice” that’s been there since the old 2nd Street Days. It’s an abstract piece that’s basically a bunch of white and beige paint layered and layerd and layered. “Mom, I don’t get it,” Stella said. “It looks like it would be really nice wallpaper, though.” I shooed Stella out so I could tell her the story. Best part of the story? According to the gallery tag, artist wants –hold your breath -- $5K. That’s Five THOUSAND for it. Uh, it’s been hanging up there for 9 years like a run down bungalow that should just be taken off the real estate market for awhile so the neighbors can forget that’s nobody’s buying. You’re not going to get 5K for it, especially when it’s hanging there, in the middle of the room, for five thousand dollars every single gallery night since FY2000 -- everybody has seen it and seen it and seen it and they're still not buying. Give it up. And while you’re at it, why don’t you finally give up that Elvis piece, too. I bet that’s still in the back storeroom, waiting for whatever price you wanted for it. I’ve held my piece on this for years, but Stella’s comment popped the zit that was my annoyance about this whole thing, and now I feel better, so, OK, snark mode off.
- Band hiatuses: I’m in denial that these bands may not be on hiatus, but a very long hiatus but I’m still bummed. The Mighty Lumberhorn are “on hiatus.” Bummer. I blew my last chance to see them, and had I known… at least Ted Jorin is keeping busy with the Bikini Beachcombers and he’s (oooooooooohhhh, can’t wait for this) in a surf band being masteredminded by surf aficionado Eric Knitter, so if I have to give up snarky, hilarious bluegrass, at least I have deadly surf to step in and take its place. Oh, and Chief! Chief is officially on “indefinite hiatus.” That’s another band I loved simply because they were true to their genre (ball-breaking cock rock) but were also conscious of just how closely they teetered on the edge between sincere reproduction and unaware parody. I guess Cesar Palace knows where his paycheck is coming from these days.
- Good music news however: Besides the above mentioned surf band coming up, Paul Kneevers’ latest project, Lovanova,is in the studio and if you follow him on Facebook, you know this project is cranking out tracks like crepes. Especially exciting is a post where he mentiones that the Danglers’ Jason Loveall dropped in and laid down some violin that took the song into gypsy wonderland. Waiting to hear the mixdown on that!
- And Les Lokey (now calling herself Lulu Lokey) is coming back to town for a visit. Back when she stomped around Milwaukee (in the late 90s, the Tasting Room’s heyday), she was billed as a “fearless folk singer”, but the tracks I’mhearing now on her pages suggest she’s just approaching her craft on a bigger, more psychedelic scale. Can’t wait to hear what she brings back from out West, where she’s been puttering around.
Coming up? I've got tix for a Bucks game this weekend (when you're unemployed as I have been through 2009, you don't get out to the Bradley Center like the old days, eh?) but I'm looking forward to the United Nations Team of the NBA, even if they blow it. I grew up a Cubs fan, remember? I'm used to the home team sucking like a bottle of old nasty gin.