Scotland-based playwright Nicola McCartney’s newest work not only debuts in Columbus this week, it is titled after a local reentry support program for former female prison inmates.
Rachel’s House is located in Franklinton and is an arm of Lower Lights Ministries. In response to the fact that the number of women in Ohio prisons, which is typically higher than national averages, continues to grow, Rachel’s House provides resources for former inmates who choose to enter the program.
Addiction recovery is high on the list of program priorities, as is developing a path for economic and emotional stability.
McCartney, who is a longtime friend of a Rachel’s House staffer, visited the center in 2012 to conduct a creative writing session with the women in the program. She wove together the stories that that and following visits garnered into the play “Rachel’s House.”
The play’s stories come from former prostitutes, drug dealers and perpetrators of violent crimes. The stories are at times shocking, funny and sad. The women they belong to have varying outlooks on their responsibility in the paths they took. They are victims of poverty, of abuse, of themselves. It’s also a revelatory look at the prison system and the community and anti-community that can form under a female prison’s restrictions.
“Rachel’s House” premieres this week in Columbus and includes a private showing at Marysville’s Ohio Reformatory for Women.
“It’s not a very naturalistic play,” said Jessie Glover Boettcher, one of Wild Goose Creative’s co-founders and artistic director for “Rachel’s House.” “Watching it, you experience emotions in waves. I think the audience will have that experience of grieving with the women. There’s something about you that is revealed to you no matter what complex reaction you have to women in prison, women who are addicted or selling their bodies.”
McCartney’s editing of the stories aimed to not exploit nor sanitize the real experience but to also maintain the women’s point of views.
“It’s like the difference between a textbook and a memoir,” Glover Boettcher said comparing this play to if a film documentary were made on the same subject. “There’s subjectivity to it.”
“Rachel’s House” is relatable in a broad sense; its overarching theme is one of “recovery from all kinds of addictions and attachments and relationships,” Glover Boettcher said.
The production is also intriguing because it’s a safe space for stories we don’t typically get to hear–like how one woman’s near humorous resourcefulness got her home after waking up in Cincinnati after spending the night with a trick.
After its Columbus run, “Rachel’s House” will be performed in theaters in Oregon and the UK. Hopefully it brings some attention to the Franklinton program Rachel’s House, which has an impressive success rate of helping women stay out of prison–of the nearly 100 women who have chosen to enter the program only around 14 have been locked up again.
“There’s so much energy right now about Franklinton, and this is a long-standing organization there where these stories have developed,” Glover Boettcher said. “I’m hopeful for a real growing harmony between what was there and what is coming there.”
I love love just as much as, maybe more than, the next heartsick gal, but the trope of red hearts can get tiresome. Also tiresome: the anti-valentine’s shtick (you’re lying to yourself and we all know it!).
Solution: Dark Love, an evening of loving love and admitting the darkness that can often accompany it.
In addition to dark-love themed art (example: Meghan Ralston’s real-life-looking knit heart that has strings you can pull until it falls apart… life! art! imitating!), there will be live music, dance performances, live art making (including that by one of my favorites, W. Ralph Walters) and… fortune telling! Huzzah! That’s a fun date idea. Or perhaps a terrible one?
Regardless, the fortune teller on hand at the Dark Art show will be Meag The Happy Medium, a sweet lady who regularly gives readings at The Magical Druid in Clintonville. Catch up on some of what goes into her work below and get a reading tomorrow. See you then.
What is a medium? How would you define the work you do?
Technically, a medium is a title for someone of the Spiritualist movement, which was a religious movement that flourished between the 1840s through the 1920s, but still carries on to this day. Spiritualists believe in communication with the dead, usually through seances.
That being said, I am neither a Spiritualist, nor do I communicate with peoples’ dead relatives as a part of my profession. I’m a fortune teller and spiritual counselor, in general.
Why designate yourself as the Happy Medium?
The name began as a joke back in college, when my cousin and I were living together. She was the more talented fortune teller in those days, and I teased her that she should call herself the “Happy Medium” as a reference to the idiomatic expression meaning the halfway point between two extremes. Not too hot, not too cold, but rather just right.
When she didn’t choose to use the name, I took it for myself, originally to use as a part of a pen name for a comedy blog. The blog lasted for about a dozen articles before the jokes petered out, and the questions took a decided turn for the serious. People seemed to really accept the answers I was giving them, and I thought it might be time for me to give their questions more weight.
How did you get involved with this line of work?
This time around, I contacted the owner of a local art gallery named “Also Goods” in Clintonville after she advertised needing fortune tellers for a weekend shift. I lived just down the street from them, and throughout 2011 I would do readings among some amazing local art.
Overall though, I started learning to read tarot cards when I was really young. As a kid, it was sort of a parlor trick I could do that amused my Grandma and her friends. I’ve picked up a myriad of fortune telling skills over a lifetime, from reading tea leaves, to the spots on dice, to crystal balls and candles. I enjoy finding patterns throughout the world that help me navigate my way and help others find their path.
What appeals to you about doing this kind of work?
I love being able to give people that confidence boost. I’m a great listener, and I love to hear others tell me about themselves. I enjoy reading for regular clients of course, but reading for total strangers is my favorite. I’ll get done with a reading where I’ve told them all about themselves, and they will say something like, “Aw, but I knew all that already!” at which point I get to reply with my favorite answer, “Yeah, but I didn’t!” I get to be independent confirmation from the Universe.
What are the challenges of being a medium?
Giving bad news. Sometimes, there are indications of what I might call “clouds on the horizon.” I can usually give a fair estimate (give or take) of about when it looks like an event might happen. But it’s never pleasant or easy news to break. I try to frame situations in terms of Opportunities and Challenges as often as I can, but sometimes there are clear indicators that I would be remiss if I ignored or omitted. That’s part of the job though, giving people a heads-up if I have an idea that they need to prepare for something.
I imagine being a medium is like any other craft… you grow with it the longer you are involved with it. Is your work or approach to the work any different than it was five years ago?
My approach hasn’t changed much over the years, except that as I get older the more comfortable I get with having a reputation for being a fortune teller. I do it both as entertainment and as guidance, which is as I’ve always considered it. I’m probably more careful about emphasizing to clients that my advice does not replace the advice of a licensed professional, be they legal, medical, or whatever. I don’t mind being a sounding board, friend, or counselor, but part of my “prescriptions” can absolutely include instructions to get additional help.
Do you yourself go see a medium or ever read your own cards? Is that possible?
That all depends on the reader! I actually have a cute little app on my phone that I use to pull my daily card, and it’s surprisingly apt on most days. If I have a specific question on my mind, or really feel the need for impartial guidance, I sometimes ask friends who also read to pull a card for me, or I go to another reader for a full spread. It’s never so much about what tool is used in fortune telling, but about the perspective that someone else can provide.
Do you have to go into a certain mindset to do the fortune telling or does having this ability interfere with your daily life at all? For example, are you at your day job and see something about someone, clouds on the horizon perhaps, and have to keep it to yourself?
I don’t often bring up my fortune telling at my day job. I find that life is easier if I keep the two separate in general. But the skill of finding patterns and identifying trends isn’t anything that I can “turn off” either. I try not to focus on individual people in those terms if I’m not being asked for help – nobody likes a buttinski – rather I try to focus on patterns that I can identify in a larger business sense, in a way that applies to the job I’m doing.
Kind of on that note, does this ability affect your personal relationships, for better or worse?
I try to use the “soft skills” that I employ with clients with the people in my life as much as possible. Active listening, being emotionally supportive, honest when asked for my opinion, those are all things that I make sure to do when I’m reading for someone. I feel that my personal relationships deserve at least as much effort as I can afford to provide for clients and strangers I meet at events. In that way, I feel like it helps my relationships and informs how I approach conflict within my own life.
As for having those moments of insight about the people in my life, it depends on what sort of inkling I’ve gotten. If someone I love has asked for a reading, of course I give them my best, but it’s not something I try to do often. It’s far more emotionally taxing on both them and I, usually because of our lack of objectivity in a situation. It really can be hard to see the forest for the trees. If you could invite three people, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Sybil Leek, the famous UK witch and goddaughter of Aleister Crowley, Amanda Palmer the artist/musician, and Tim Curry the actor. Because doesn’t that just sound like fun? 😉
Larry Doyle turns 26 today, but he cannot deny the velocity his 25th year took to get him here.
“This has been a great year of super high highs and super low lows,” Larry said during a New Year’s Eve interview at his studio in Tacocat Cooperative in Grandview. “I think you just learn how to keep the table from tipping over.”
At 25, Larry came out to his mom and friends as a gay man.
“I got really freaked out that I’d be 40 and married with kids. I want to be happy,” he said. “I kept it inside for so long because I don’t want to be somebody’s gay friend. I don’t want to be the gay artist.”
It’s fair to say Larry hates labels. Or, more accurately, I think Larry hates the way labels can dismiss everything else not under the umbrella of said label. Labels inherently deny genuineness, the dynamics of a personhood.
For example, Larry has been sober for years. It’s a big part of his art, but recently on vacation to Mexico he took a day to get drunk.
“I’d been wanting to for a while. Nothing changed. I drank for hours. I got drunk. But I didn’t have fun. I was like, I’m done,” he said. “I had to know. Sobriety became bigger than me. People who didn’t know me but wanted to talk to me just about being sober. It became bigger than who I was.”
It’s clear Larry wants to define Larry, I think in part because it’s challenging for him to define himself to himself. When other people’s generalizations get involved, it’s hard to not take that personally.
“I have an addictive personality in general. I found that out coming out, too,” he said. “This summer I started dating a boy and I was not myself. I was addicted to this kid. And it wasn’t anything he did. It was horrible. We were building Tacocat and I couldn’t focus on anything. Dating to me was like ‘Let’s move in!'”
Larry said he’s learning to channel all that addictive tendency into his work. And what’s so great is that you can see this in not just how more prolific he is getting (he admits to making and completing and selling more works than he ever has in the past year) but in what his art expresses. Larry’s quest for self-awareness is coming through in his art and the more he understands himself–or keeps trying to understand himself–the deeper that work will get.
He’s a man with a plan for 26, too.
“I want to go national with my artwork. I don’t how to do that. I don’t know what the fuck i’m doing,” he laughed. “Before I hit 30 I want to be able to happliy do this for a living. I want my creative outlets to flourish. What if this was my office? How fucking sweet would that be?”
Read on to see just how Larry’s subject matter is shifting and what challenges he faces as a young artist.
[Columbus-based artist] Dan Gerdeman was my teacher in high school. I showed him my really crappy sketchbook and he assigned me to Drawing 3, which was the hour-long drawing class. I moved into Junctionview and shared a studio there after high school. I did all the events, sold a few paintings here and there. I took a drawing class at Columbus State. I wanted to go to CCAD but it was too much money so we wrote it off. Then I looked at Full Sail University in Florida for a while and a two-year program would leave me thousands of dollars in debt. When I did go to Columbus State I hated all of it and didn’t really do well. i just dropped out of that. Academia is not for me. … There’s a roablock now because I don’t have the training. I just got a trial on my computer for Adobe Illustrator. There’s a lot of marketing I don’t know how to do, and I want to draw other things, I want to draw more Realism, I just don’t have the training. The first time I realized I could sell stuff was this series I did for, like, Agora Six. I made these little guys that had cigarette burns and they were screaming and bleeding. It was very Don Hertzfeldt.
What medium and tools do you prefer?
Pen and paper all the way. I just got Adobe Illustrator two days ago. I’m always digging [Columbus-based artist] Clinton Reno’s stuff, the rock posters. I love the flat design. I want to push myself into making prints.
What has been inspiring your work lately?
I love iconography, icons in art. I’ve been making this little guy, the guy I often draw, into a saint. I don’t know why; I just love the details and all the halos. There’s no name for him. sometimes they’re self portraits, sometimes they’re just… weird. After I quit drinking, I would draw these heads as date markers. I have a tattoo of a bunch of the heads and I keep a print of it above my studio door. I started to put wings on the heads, little halos. … I’ve always been interested in symbols. Being closeted for so long I’ve had to find different ways to express myself. We all attach different meanings to things. Icons, I love the way they look. They play with the symbols of what it means to me and people can put their own meanings into them too.
What in your art career are you most proud of so far?
This piece I made last night [which Larry is holding in the photo that starts this blog post]. I really like it. Like I said, I make these guys, they all have golden halos. Last night I started drawing another one and I put an upside down cross and right side up cross near him. The upside down cross kind of represents blasphemy. He doesn’t have any gold in his halo but there’s a red circle around him that gives the affect of a halo–and also of a target.
These guys are saints and he doesn’t have any gold so he’s not a saint. But he still has a halo. Maybe I’ll keep going with them and put some gold in them, have them be targets but saints as well. … Sometimes when I look back on a piece I can tell if I was feeling lost or sad, and that’s not something I’m thinking about when I’m making them. Days later I’ll be like, “Damn. That was pretty heavy.” I like the heads that count my days of sobriety, but this most recent work is an expression of how I feel, not what I did.
When I came out I was like <snaps finger> “Solved.” That wasn’t the case at all. I’ve been struggling with how to pull that struggle out of myself this past year and put it into art. I always get super pumped when people make paintings that can do that. [Larry’s studio neighbor] Brian [Reaume] makes these amazing abstract pieces and I, of course, am a child and am like “I see a dinosaur!” But seriously, I get to see him make his stuff now which is so awesome. His piece for artist Stephanie Rond‘s Tiny Out Loud project was about creativity and sheltering it and the war on being creative and being yourself. It’s a painting of a house and the outside of the house had the words like fag and die and stuff like that. Finding the way to be vulnerable on the page like that is crazy.
Has working in a studio near an intimate group of artists affected the way you work?
I love it. I’ve learned a lot from Brian. He is so about presentation. I’ve learned a lot being here, surrouding myself with people like Adam Brouillette. I’ve learned a lot by watching them and how they present their artwork and the steps they take. Like, when I take this show to Brioso, I will wrap each piece in paper so they don’t get scratched. I threw away a frame yesterday because it had a scratch. I’m not going to put all this time into a drawing and put it in this frame that is scratched. It’s going to ruin the whole thing. I know I am obsessive, that I have an addictive personality, but I’ve learned to turn it into a positive. This is the first year I’ve actually taken myself seriously. I’d done art before but it was like, my friends are here, your friends are here. Now I have people like Brian right next door telling me to get my ass there and work. I’m incredibly fortunate to be next door to these guys.
What do you do while you work?
I listen to music. Lately I’ve been listening to The Walkmen. Interpol. I like throwing it back a little bit. I’ve been trying to get through the top albums of 2013 lists. I’ve tried to watch movies before. I started watching American Horror Story but then I just shut the lights off and watched the whole thing. I just bought “Prefuse 73 Reads The Books” on iTunes yesterday and I’ve already listened to it, like, seven times. I sometimes draw better, too, when people are in my studio, just hanging out.
Do you ever experience artist’s block? How do you overcome it?
Yes. That’s really frustrating when that happens. I’m fortunate enough to have music and art, so when I’m here and I can’t get through it I go play music for a while. It comes in waves. I’ll be really into writing guitar stuff for like a month and then I will have to be here in the studio all the time. Sometimes the solution is just putting on a CD you haven’t heard in a while or driving to Cincinnati to visit the art museum. Sometimes if I don’t want to draw and know I need to I just scribble. Muscle memory. Even if you just take a canvas and just fuck with it. Sometimes just being here and putting that energy you will have a moment like that it clears out and it’s like fucking finally. Or Brian and I will “go for a walk” and just go to Target and walk around and stare at boys or I go to Giant Eagle and just get a piece of fruit or something. Sometimes just walking away from it is super refreshing.
What is the hardest part about being an artist?
The talking. There’s the business aspect of this stuff I always forget about. If you want to make money, you have to talk. I don’t really want to talk. It feels so cheesy using any kinds of sales tactics. Art’s so personal. I’m going to buy this piece because i want it, not because you’re selling it to me. It’s not a fucking couch.
It’s awesome to do this and be in music. I’ve done a lot of stuff this year. My band [The Weight of Whales] opened for Alt J at the LC. Things like being on stage or doing a show are so much for me, though. Like, when I’m done I’m like just hold me. You have to always be on. Playing a show is a lot of fun and you get to be a rockstar but you have to be on. If you fuck up everyone fucks up. Or being at long shows like Agora that are eight hours long. Afterward I just shut my door and get really depressed. It’s so draining. But it’s totally worth it.
What advice that you’ve found invaluable would you give a new artist?
A whole bunch. One of the things I like a lot is people telling me hard work pays off. It’s true. You just have to do it. It’s not going to be easy. The things that come together easily will fall apart easily. If it’s a strugle it will be worth it. That’s so hard to tell yourself when you’re sitting here and you’re like “I can’t draw anything” and all I draw is penises randomly. That sucks. But you have to be here. I can’t take naps anymore because I feel the need, the drive to be in my studio. If you want it, you’ll do it. Before this last year I didn’t finish a lot of things. It’s the closure. Moving on. Doing the next thing. It’s weird. It’s hard for me.
Three artists, living or dead that you would invite to a dinner party:
We’ll stay away from musicians because that list will just go on and on.
Spiritus Tattoo’s Mike Moses. I don’t know anything about this person but his Instagram posts are awesome. [Follow Mike @TheDrownTown] I’m obsessed with his artwork. I want him to do my next tattoo. I want two whales on my chest. Everything he does is so clean and thought out, and the line work is amazing.
Unfortunately that book title has already been taken, Michael said after I swooned.
“By some housewife.”
It would be a clever title to introduce Michael’s story, though. His heart is sweet but the dark part of his soul used to be thirsty and strong. In his 20s and early 30s, he fed it with alcohol and, eventually for a short period of time, meth.
“You spent your 20s…” I started.
“Wasted!” he said. “Higher than christ!”
Shooting the shit with angels.
When you’re addicted, nearly nothing is sacred. Actually, for most addicts, nothing is sacred. But for Michael, Dolly was. He refused to listen to her when he was drunk. Embarrassed. He knew she, his idol, would be disappointed in his actions… his refusal, inability to take care of himself.
If Michael’s potential book title were more accurate, it’d be that these guys saved his life:
These are Michael’s best friends, Andrew and Christopher, who has been by Michael’s side for 15 years.
One day they showed up at Michael’s door with a few other of his friends.
And his mother.
It was an intervention. Michael remembers the tears. The letters. The cigarettes. The dealer that was sitting in his living room when they walked in. The urge to take one last hit before he went to rehab (“If I’m going down, I’m going down big”). The sickening sea of hurt and fear in his mother’s eyes… a sea in which he had been drowning for more than a decade.
Michael Bishop has been sober since Dec. 27, 2010.
He turns 40 in November and goes to AA three times a week. Some days he hates it and the people who are there, but it has become a necessary part of his routine. AA is as important to his health as sleeping and eating.
Earlier this year Michael studied to become an intervention specialist. He wants to help addicts recover and move on and live happily; one of his awesome ideas is to have a sober tent at Columbus’ Pride festival for attendees who wish to celebrate but are looking for trigger-friendly activities.
Most of all Michael just wishes to do good with the rest of his life. He knows addiction survivors–and to some extent people who have loved/ love addicted people–are connected. They need each other. They can spot each other. They can help each other.
Plus, now he can listen to Dolly whenever he wants.
Following is a Q&A with Michael about the details of his addiction and recovery. (Editor’s note: There are more than 10 questions here so this headline is misleading. Got a problem with that? Get your own blog.)
Do you remember the first time you got drunk?
I don’t know if I remember the FIRST time I got drunk, but I remember sneaking beers when I was in junior high and high school, I started sneaking into bars around the age of 19 and drinking with people I didn’t now as a means to find myself. Growing up gay in the late 80’s/ early 90’s was very different than it is now. Homosexuality was not as accepted as it is today and it seemed, at least to me, to be the only way to be around people that were like me.
Was alcohol immediately an issue for you or did it build up into a problem?
I don’t know that I would classify it as an immediate problem, although I believe that any and all underage drinking is an issue; however, my personal insecurity led to more drinking to try to fit in… with friends, people around me and relationships I was so desperate to form. I achieved the exact opposite, I lost friends, I didn’t fit in, people didn’t want to be around me, and I couldn’t maintain any sort of personal relationship.
Why do you think it became a problem for you?
I honestly believe that alcoholism and drug addiction is hereditary, but I also believe that my surroundings played a VERY large part in my addiction. In my eyes, it was “just what people did,” and I didn’t have the knowledge or experience to practice any sort of moderation or responsibility. That being said, while environment was a key factor, I also take full responsibility for my choices. No one forced me to do the things I did.
What does life feel like for an alcoholic who is living in his addiction?
What’s ironic is that I think most people drink to forget feelings, or to not feel at all. The crazy thing is, you then open yourself up to an entirely different wave of emotions. I felt lost, sad, ashamed, scared and hopeless for many years. At many points in my life of addiction, I didn’t see a way out, didn’t think I deserved better and began to believe that my life was going to end leaving a very sad and pitiful legacy.
What was the saddest moment for you as an alcoholic?
I don’t honestly think I can pick just one. Many people in recovery speak of their ROCK BOTTOM. I hit that bottom more times than I care to remember, each time thinking that things couldn’t get any worse, only to find out that as long as I chose NOT to heal my life… things could, and did, get much worse. My addiction cost me jobs, friends, homes, belongings, freedom (I was in jail twice) and most importantly my belief in myself. My family and friends tried desperately on several occasions to help, through conversations, ultimatums, and formal interventions. I wanted to stop at several points in my life, but I didn’t have the faith in myself that I truly needed to be sober.
What finally made you get help getting sober and how did you get sober?
There were several defining moments of sobriety for me, and several lengths of sobriety that all unfortunately ended in relapse. My best friend Andrew organized a formal intervention on December 5, 2008, as I was weeks, possibly even days, away from dying as a result of my crystal meth addiction. At that time I truly believed that I wanted the nightmare to be over, but I found myself trying to stay clean for others and therefore relapsed. On December 27, 2010, I ended up in ICU after an overdose and a pretty serious fall. I decided that I was ready to commit to a life a sobriety, and ready to do the difficult work it would take to achieve it I didn’t want my two best friends and my mother watch me die. I have been sober since December 27,2010.
What has been the most rewarding thing about living as a survivor of addiction?
There isn’t one thing that I can say has been the most rewarding as there have been monumental victories and tiny blessings along the way that have motivated and inspired me to continue on the path I am on. Knowing that my mother sleeps at night without worrying is amazing. Knowing that my friends and family respect me, trust me and are proud of me is something I could never put a price tag on. I went to Savannah in January of this year to begin my training and certification process as an interventionist, and THAT is one of my proudest moments. I have done things I never thought I could, and I have accomplished things that I never thought I would, and to be able to say that I am PROUD of myself is probably the greatest gift I could have ever given myself. So many people come up to me to tell me how proud they are, how I inspire them and motivate them, and those words are things that I hold close to my heart every moment of every day.
What is the most difficult part about being a survivor?
I think the most difficult part of being in recovery is learning not to put myself in a dangerous situation, and knowing when to remove myself from a situation that might become dangerous for me and my recovery. No one is responsible for my recovery but me. I think it takes a great amount of strength and determination to maintain sobriety, it doesn’t get ‘easier’ as time goes on, I have just taken the tools given to me and made them part of my behavior. I believe that I have a choice in everything I do… And my choices are what make me stronger… every day!
Is it difficult to meet people but not drink, especially while working in a bar?
Probably the most difficult decision I made was to keep working at my job in a bar atmosphere. Most experts would say that that is a HUGE mistake and a VERY dangerous environment for someone in recovery to be in. In fact, the statistics and odds are DEFINITELY not in my favor, but many of the people I work with and around have been instrumental in my process, so I feel that I am blessed to be surrounded by love and support on a daily basis at work and at home.
The LGBT community does have a large population that gravitates to the nightlife atmosphere, but that is by no means a representation of the entire community. I have friends that don’t ever go out and are still just as active. I think modification is a key factor. I chose not to remove myself from that environment, so it is my responsibility to adapt to it when present.
There is a huge population of sober LGBT people, and I am fortunate enough to have contact with many of them on a regular basis!
I have also learned that complete honestly is my best friend. When out and about, I can say “I don’t drink” because I don’t. If the question as to why arises, I am MORE that open about my life and my history and I find that most people in the LGBT community are extremely supportive.
Is addiction something you battle daily?
Yes, addiction is something that I deal with on a daily basis. That is the key to sobriety: There is no cure and there is no endgame. It’s about constantly maintaining, learning, educating and sharing. Sobriety is a living thing and I have to feed mine every day. At the beginning I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to do it, but I have learned that the gifts I have in my life could never, and would never, be bought with another drink or drug.
How do you find peace now when you crave something?
I find peace in everything around me, and I have learned to not take the little things for granted. A short phone call or text from someone is what brings me peace. Reading and educating myself brings me peace. Reaching out to someone else that is struggling brings me peace. I’m a very spiritual person, and I find that taking the time to give thanks to the power that has allowed me to continue my journey is key! Humility is a wonderful thing. I find strength in words, actions, music and all the sights that enter my life on a daily basis. When I am feeling the weakest, I find that nothing heals me like a good ol’ Dolly Parton song and a hug from someone that I love.
Do you think we as a society should treat addiction differently or do you have any thoughts on how we could better handle or help addicts?
I think we are making some wonderful headway in the field of addiction research and treatment. There is ALWAYS more that can be done… as long as there are still people suffering from this disease, there is work to do. I think that society is really coming along with recognizing that addiction IS a disease and not just a matter of willpower or weakness. I think that there are certain celebrities that have used their platform to raise awareness and I applaud their actions. I could go on and on about the media and “reality shows” and their role, but that’s another conversation. I think addicts need to be treated just like anyone else that is fighting every day to find their way and find their light…. with love, respect and kindness.
What is the most valuable thing you have learned from recovery?
I have learned hundreds of thousands of valuable lessons since I began this journey, and I hope to learn hundreds of thousands more. I think some of the most important things that I have learned are that I deserve all the good things that come to me, that I can do anything I put my mind to, and that if I use my voice, and my gifts to help someone else find THEIR voice and THEIR gifts… than I am TRULY living my life the way it was meant to be lived.
What do you want to do with what you have learned in your recovery?
I don’t hide that fact that I should have died on several different occasions during my life. What I have learned is that I am STILL here for a reason and that there are lessons for me to learn and lives for me to touch. I hope to take the gifts that I have been given and use those to inspire and motivate people to find their light… life is a journey, and the day I stop learning is the day I die. I believe that I have so much work to do, and so much good to do… and if I leave this earth having helped ONE person change their life for the better, then my life was worth it all. I truly believe that there are MILLIONS of my brothers and sisters out there, some suffering, and some succeeding, and I know that I am connected to all of them on a greater level. I pray for their healing and victory every day.
A Facebook friend had posted the image. I reposted, having never heard of Rond but loving the piece. Total honesty: I did not think she was from Columbus. I had yet to see, in my four or five years of living here, any feminist art by a local. Coming to Columbus by way of the super liberal Kent, Ohio, this fact was something I was keenly aware of. Thus, I just assumed…
Then, by a series of fabulous events–most of which involved getting trash wine wasted, smoking American Spirits and me eating all the fancy cheese she brought for hangtime before she could get any–we became good friends.
Rond’s work has a voice I long to hear. I love a lot of work by artists in town, but her pieces seem made for me. They are challenging but nurturing. They don’t make me feel angry, they make me feel vindicated. They make me remember that abuse–of power, people and/or prerogatives–can be overcome if we stick together and demand better. And they straddle the line between radicalism and understanding that everyone has fucking problems, a quality my favorite outlooks on social struggles share.
Moreover, girl’s innovative. She started curating a couple dollhouse galleries with miniature contemporary art. A dollhouse was always on her list of wants as a little girl, so why not? What has resulted is an exploration of scale, gender, desire, space and collaboration. (Each presenting artist is also in charge of setting up the “house” with tiny decor Rond gives them. It’s really fun to click through and see how each artist accomplished this task.)
Then! By a series of even more fabulous events, I became the proud owner of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”
It is special to me that this is the first piece of art I have ever owned (by disposable income restrictions, not choice). It is special to me that it is the first piece of Rond’s that I ever saw. To me, “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” speaks to the struggle to define one’s own femininity (or masculinity, for that matter) and the unique concerns of female artists. Here’s a rough stream of consciousness of what I see when I look at it:
Woman —> Beautiful —> God, it takes a long time to get ready —> I love getting ready —> I love that women are beautiful and it’s socially acceptable to use all the tools at our disposal to get ready/ beautiful —> I also love women who do nothing to get ready and think they are beautiful. —> Do we feel pressured to use those tools? —> I guess we do as girls —> But as a woman, wearing makeup is more for me than for anyone else —> Why do we hate when men wear makeup? —> Ugh. Well. —> Would I like it if my boyfriend wore makeup or corsets? ————-> NO. —-> Remember when emo kids in college wore eyeliner to macroeconomics class? Because one can not properly assess the GDP without Cover Girl. —> I think that was my least attended class of college. In fact, I think it was called microeconomics. I never took macroeconomics. —> Speaking of kids. —> Am I going to have any? ————> Yes. Eventually. —> Look at these kids. Four of them, like me and my siblings. —> Are these these women’s children? Or do they represent her as a child. —> I think they are her children. —> I think she was an artist. Or wants to be an artist. —> Art is literally what she sees when she looks in the mirror. —> It’s a man painting. —> Her daughter is holding the same painting that she sees in the mirror. The boys are the ones actually painting, though. —> Is she passing on her artist dreams to her children because she wants to or because she has to? —> How do you choose your life? —> At what points is life a choice? —> At what point are we responsible for our own happiness/ unhappiness? —> I like the blindfolded boy. He seems like trouble. —> I like boys who are trouble. —> Are the children painting the way they see their mother? —> How did I paint a picture of my mother while outside as a child getting in trouble? —> What dreams of hers do I have inside me? —> Are they really my dreams? —> The boys are so far apart from one another. —> I wish the boys found it easier to confide in one another like these little girls appear to. —> Maybe the mom is still an artist. —> Maybe this is a hopeful painting of everything a woman’s life can represent. —> Everything my life can represent? —> Choices.
In a belated What’s Up Columbus post (she was our July show’s second guest), here are Rond’s 10 answers to 10 questions for an artist.
What kind of art do you make and why?
I make street art, paintings and miniature worlds.
My goal is to create work that serves as a springboard for meaningful political conversation. I want to challenge the boundaries of stereotypes and provoke the questions: What is art? What is the proper space for art?
How do you make your street art?
For my street art I hand cut stencils and use spray paint. For my temporary “street gifts,” I spray on paper and wheat-paste the images onto walls. For permanent pieces I spray directly onto the wall. All my work is sanctioned. I believe in art karma, so I always ask permission.
What are your thoughts on the Columbus art scene? What are it’s advantages and/ or disadvantages?
In the past decade, the DIY arts culture in Columbus has grown and thrived “underground.” Currently, creatives are exploding everywhere in our city and opportunities abound for beginners to the well known.
Within the arts community, we have learned that the best way to succeed is to work collectively in order to lift us all up. It makes me proud to be part of a large artist community that values collaboration and mutual success. The Art and Artists of 614on Facebook, founded by Walter Herrmann, is a good place for anyone interested in the local visual scene to get a flavor of what the city has to offer.
Columbus is centrally located between Atlanta, New York, Philly, Indiana, Cleveland, Chicago and many other communities with thriving art scenes. All these cities are a one-day drive, which makes showing broadly possible. This central location gives Columbus artists the ability to build a regional presence. The challenge for artists to move to national recognition, however, is that we have to “compete” for attention with the artists who are actually living in the largest cities where “being discovered” on a national level happens.
What do you do while you make art?
I listen to music and audio books. My favorite music genres to listen to are punk rock, riot grrl, heavy metal, alternative rock, hip hop and music my friends give me as gifts. I love listening to both fiction and non-fiction audio books. I also enjoy This American Life on NPR.
What has been the most interesting thing you’ve learned from the art that has been shown in your miniature dollhouses?
I’ve been pleasantly (un)surprised how serious the artists take their shows. This reinforces my belief that no matter the scale, art is art. It has also been interesting to hear from the artists how challenging, yet rewarding working on a small scale can be.
What attracts you to street art and what do you think is the biggest hurdle facing women who want to make street art?
I’m attracted to street art for several reasons, one because I believe that art should be for all to experience, two it combats advertising and marketing schemes and three it is not a product to be bought or sold.
The biggest hurdle facing women who want to make street art is the same that faces women in most careers; it can be frustrating to play in the “boys club.”
Do you wish to see your art effect feminist change locally? How so?
Of course! I plan to affect change not just locally, but nationally. I want to make visuals that open conversations about the inequalities that are real and exist. When people recognize the reality and discuss it, then change can happen.
How do you balance creating art with all the curatorial work you do?
It’s not easy. Curatorial work is much more than just putting a show together, hanging it and opening the show. It involves lots of meetings with artists and galleries, identifying artists, emails, phone calls, PR, etc. This often cuts into painting, which for my process, often requires days in row of concentration. I’m most successful at it when I schedule that time in advance by blocking my calendar, but the creative process also requires spontaneity and inspiration. I’m still trying to figure out this balance.
Do you have a schedule or system set up that works for you?
I use three things. My phone calendar, a huge chalkboard in my kitchen where I list everything that needs to get done and a small pad of paper on my studio work table so I can empty my head while doing studio work.
What advice would you give to an artist starting out that you’ve found invaluable?
I advise artists to keep working and not worry about what everyone else thinks. Keep striving to refine your technique. Make sure you are critical of yourself and always seek knowledge so you can continue to grow.
Three artists, living or dead, that you would invite to a dinner party.
I would invite contemporaries because I’m interested in their views on current society. The Guerrilla Girls, Henry Rollins and Margaret Atwood. I think Henry can roll with the ladies.
Groah is a member of Backward Slate Productions, a collective of Columbus filmmakers. He is the first guest of the July edition of my show with Justin Golak, What’s Up Columbus, and the director of “Bong of the Living Dead.”
You can guess what the movie is about from the title, but, alas, as with the best drugged-up comedies, bong water runs deep.
Here’s how Groah described the movie:
“The story follows a group of lifelong friends trapped in their house during the zombie apocalypse. Just like any other self-respecting zombie movie, we just have more interesting characters. It’s really a character piece. They are thwarted by internal conflicts just as much if not more than the zombies outside, because those zombies aren’t much of a threat … at first. In this world pot acts almost like a bug spray turning fast vicious sprinting ghouls into slow lumbering, more traditional zombies. So until the pot starts running out, our stoners are not even aware of the fact that everyone else around them, who doesnt smoke, is failing in the zombie apocalypse. That kinda brings in the social allegory. All the people who look down upon smokers, the douchebag boss, or the perverted high school coach, the crabby old man neighbor, or bitchy christian mean girl–they get killed and eaten while the ‘worthless’ stoners thrive. [George A.] Romero used zombies as a metaphor for consumers, we just brought pot into the equation.”
(Backward Slate Productions also produced a popular Sad Kermit vid. If you didn’t love the collective for making a zombie pot movie, then you will after watching the beloved frog smoking cigs and singing Johnny Cash/ NIN’s “Hurt.”)
Groah loves movies and has an acting background. Also, a rare breed, he still rents from an actual movie rental store. His vid rental store of choice: Video Central on Bethel Road. That kind of dedication creates a vast knowledge of movies, so I asked him to pick five movies that are not necessarily his favorites but ones he thinks you should pop into your DVD player soon. Pot Popcorn optional.
“Yeah it’s funny, but there’s a lot more going on here in the second offering from the Coen brothers. It brings a quirky action, drama, coming-of-age and delves into the mental subjective a bit, allowing viewers to use their imagination.”
I’m writing this after having spent 20 minutes falling down the Google-Image-Search-Rabbit-Hole of one of W. Ralph Walters’ favorite artists, fantasy painter and technique all-star Todd Schorr. Then I went down the Glen Barr rabbit hole… Sexual cartoon rabbit holes!
However, Walters’ art is deserving of its own rabbit hole and you can find it at 400 West Rich. I first met Walters a month or so ago to interview him about the first show he curated, a robot-themed art show at Gallery 831. Walters’ work, which he makes at the Franklinton space’s studio 228 alongside fellow Art Party group members, struck me in its realistic detail. And also its naked aliens.
Walters is a skeptic fascinated with myth. A Skully to the world’s Mulder. It’s not so much that Walters wants to believe, but he is fascinated with what people DO believe and why. The act of believing is so intimate an experience, yet it is something we all share, just like needing food and water. You believe water is over this way. You believe a god that rides a striped, fire-eating pegasus around the sun put it there. Etc. Belief can say so much about us even when it says nothing at all. You believe in God. Yet, I don’t know if that is just because you were raised that way or because you have looked inside yourself and chosen to believe in God.
Learning one’s basic beliefs is like taking the first step down an individual’s rabbit hole.
I love Walters’ work for how surreal and escapist the scenes are in their content; however, they are meticulously researched and are often loaded with hidden visual messages. Religion, extra terrestrials, mole people–anything human beings believe or have believed is fair game for inspiration. The paintings themselves are like ancient relics beckoning with a graceful undead finger to figure out the puzzle. (If you see Walters around while looking at his work, ask him for the secrets. He’s a super nice sage and listening to him tell the story of his work is almost better than looking at it… almost.)
As far as big projects go, Walters is working on a series of goddess of war paintings that he hopes to have slayed by the end of the year. I can not wait to see it and hear more from this talented Columbus voice. I believe!
What kind of art do you make and why?
I really lacked direction as an artist for a very long time until I got a job doing illustration for Paranoia Magazine, a conspiracy theory magazine previously based in Rhode Island, now San Diego. Being a skeptic, I may not have believed some of the content of the articles I illustrated, but the idea that no matter how farfetched an idea may have seemed, that there were dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people who believed it intrigued me. What people choose to believe fascinates me. I’m also a fan of Byzantine and Renaissance iconography, so the idea that I could relate a belief I found utterly fascinating through my art intrigued me. That’s really the focus of the majority of my work now — illustrating belief.
What medium and tools do you prefer and why?
I use acrylics because I’m a clumsy bastard. I will invariably stick my forearm in a painting, so if it doesn’t dry quickly, I’m going to muck it up. I do a lot of album art for doom metal bands as well, so I’ve got deadlines that oils wouldn’t suit. I started painting on Masonite because I found out Glenn Barr used it, and I love it so much I rarely paint on anything else.
When do you make art and why?
I’m doing this for a living at present, so if I’m awake, there’s a good chance I’m making art. Between commissions and trying to create art for my own satisfaction, I’m always busy.
Where do you make art?
Mostly at the Art Party Columbus Studio at 400 West Rich. Getting a studio there has been the best thing ever for my output, not just because I have a specific place to go that encourages me to work, but it’s also being around so many creative people. I feed off that energy.
What are your thoughts on the art scene in Columbus, both positive and negative? What needs improvement? What are you looking forward to? Anything in particular about Columbus made it difficult to be an artist here?
It’s weird living in a city that has an art school that doesn’t seem to do anything for the local art scene. It’s tragic, really. This has been a town that caters to “art” that one can match with their furniture, despite there being several astounding artists living in the city, like Alan Reeve, Charles Shipley Wince, Chris Tennant, Cyndi Bellerose, Tona Pearson, Roger Kent Grossweiler Jr., just to name a very, very few. I’ve found that the influx of art groups have started building a proper art scene here, because they’re creating their own opportunities. When you have more than 100 art groups doing this, suddenly, as a fan of art, you have multiple opportunities to see work you might not have otherwise. This is a good time to be an artist in Columbus because the old guard no longer has a stranglehold on what art reaches the public.
What has been inspiring your work lately?
I’m a huge research nerd, and I had the opportunity recently to visit a buddy of mine who’s getting his graduate work done in Toronto. He, his friends (all of whom are Medieval studies students), and I went out drinking one night, and we had the best discussion about syncretic religion, ancient texts, historical fallacies, etc. I’m a very armchair level research nerd, so it’s always inspiring and invigorating to talk to folks who specialize in studying such specific subjects and know far more than I do about all of it. Nothing beats drinking with Medieval studies majors.
What advice that you’ve found invaluable would you give a new artist?
Keep working. Someone will always hate your work (and more often than not, that person will be you). Someone will always be better than you. Instead of taking it personally, consider it all constructive criticism, no matter the level of civility that criticism is delivered. If you want to do this for a living, or if you want to put your work out there for all to see, promote yourself. I’m astonished at the number of folks in this town that’ll have a gallery show they don’t promote. What’s the point in having the show in the first place if no one shows up?
What do you do while you work?
I sing. Apparently, much louder than I thought.
Do you ever experience artist’s block?
Good Zeus, yes. Drives me nuts, because I tend to beat myself up if I’m not constantly working. I bury myself in research, go for walks, watch documentaries, anything to jar that productivity loose. Naps work occasionally as well.
Three artists, living or dead that you would invite to a dinner party:
Let’s see… Todd Schorr, because his technique is unparalleled; Frida Kahlo, because she was the first artist whose work astounded and haunted me enough that I decided I needed to be an artist myself (and because I have a mad crush on her); and Joseph Campbell. Research and the collection of knowledge is no less an art to me, and I could have talked to him for days on end.