Mesa Center for the Arts: Monica Martinez, Carolyn Lavender, and Mary Shindell

Then Entry to the exhibit Creature, Man, Nature

The entry to the exhibit “Creature, Man, Nature.”

On Friday April 5 Superstition Review editors met with s[r] contributors Monica Martinez, Carolyn Lavender, and Mary Shindell to discuss their collaborative exhibition at Mesa Center for the Arts. The exhibition, entitled “Creature, Man, Nature,” explores the formation of bodies—animal, human, and rock—and the voices inherent in each form. When I walked into the exhibition, I was immediately struck by the size of several of the pieces on display. As Carolyn later told me, there is a certain power that comes from artwork that is as big as or bigger than oneself. This was true of Monica’s work, specifically a pair of massive paintings of the male and female forms, hence the “Man” portion of the exhibition title. Monica explained how her intensive study of human anatomy allowed for highly accurate portrayals of bodily structures, as well as a literal frame through which she could explore male and female energies. She challenges the traditional patriarchal energy by including feminine qualities in her male figure (modeled by her husband).

Monica Aissa Martinez

Monica Aissa Martinez describes her work.

Monica’s pieces, “Body Male” and “Female Body,” draw in the viewer through the visceral anatomic imagery coupled with animal figures. In her painting of a female figure, she includes a snake, which instantly brings to mind ideas of the Christian creationist mythos wherein the snake functions as an antagonistic figure. However, the female faces the snake head-on as an equal, accepting of the snake as symbolic of knowledge, rebirth, and sexual passion. Conversely, the male figure is presented with a cat between his feet, modeled by Monica’s own pet. Her husband trained the cat to walk on a leash; due to this curious skill, the cat connected Monica’s family to the rest of her community, a traditionally feminine quality exhibited in conjunction with the male form. Directly beside Monica’s human subjects, Mary’s digital art piece, “There is a Mountain” is a room-wide print of her backyard view, fashioned on the program Illustrator. 26 layers allowed for the tiny details, such as sage bushes and cacti, to be created on a mountainside of elegant color and texture. Mary had had plenty of experience with her subject, having sketched and painted South Mountain multiple times prior to attempting a digital rendition. As she said, South Mountain dominates the landscape with its sprawling hills, and the size of the print, dominating an entire wall of the exhibition room, communicated the grand scale of the mountainside well.

Mary Shindell

Mary Shindell describes her work.

Mary explained to me the meticulous process of piecing together the different components of “There is a Mountain.” The minor details, like plant life, had to be modified outside of Illustrator in another program, such as Photoshop, so as not to overtax the main image file, and would then be incorporated back into Illustrator as a repeatable symbol. In order to create a soft, rolling effect for the mountain itself, Mary used the gradient feature, which she identified to be her favorite part of the process. As a whole, the intricate and time-consuming details paid off; viewers will be amazed to see the piece both at a distance and up close. The exhibition also benefited from Mary’s input for the lighting. Hanging light sculptures emulate the cacti in Mary’s backyard, functioning as relevant sculptures for the larger mountain view.

I addressed Carolyn’s art last, having finally made my way around the exhibition room. Carolyn’s work focused on the “Creature” aspect of the exhibition title, introducing a variety of animal figures on large panels as well as smaller paper sketches and paintings. She described her love of animals to me as that of childish fascination, a love fostered in her early years and carried firmly into adulthood. Her largest piece, “Preservation Woods,” features animals sketched and painted (acrylic) from photo and taxidermy models onto 10 foam-core panels. Carolyn explained to me how long the piece took to create, requiring 8-10 hours of tracing per panel.

Carolyn Lavendar

Carolyn Lavender describes her work.

With that in mind, the raw, openness of the piece, fully compiled, hardly transmits the idea of “incomplete” or “unfinished” but of intentional invitation, drawing viewers’ eyes from the broad white expanses of the bottom panels to the detailed shadows of each animal figure. While Carolyn told me that there are still bits that she would like to work on (as with any piece of art), she was pleased with the outcome of her efforts and considered “Preservation Woods” to have been a learning experience, having never worked on so large a scale before this exhibition.

Leaving the exhibition after interviewing these three artists, I felt encouraged to pursue art myself. Each artist approached her craft in a different fashion, and this collaboration no doubt impacted those approaches. I look forward to seeing the future works of Monica, Mary, and Carolyn, and I hope that the exhibition inspires others.

The Banner

Outside the Mesa Arts Center Museum.

The exhibition “Man, Creature, Nature” is on display at the Mesa Arts Center until April 28.

 

Interview with Cary Holladay

Cary Holladay grew up in Virginia. She is the author of five volumes of fiction, including A Fight in the Doctor’s Office (Miami UP 2008) and The Quick-Change Artist: Stories (Swallow Press / Ohio UP 2006). Her work has appeared in New Stories From the South: The Year’s Best. Her awards include an O. Henry Prize and fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the NEA.

She teaches at the University of Memphis, where she is Director of the River City Writers Series and a First Tennessee Professor.

Interview with Cary Holladay

Superstition Review: In your story, “Land of Lightning,” why did you decide to use Tinsley’s voice for the narrator?

Cary Holladay: Because Tinsley has lost so much—his wife, his marriage, his daughter. All of that grief has tested his strength of character and has brought him to a state of wondering—about being a husband, being a father, and what it means to send your daughter off to war.

SR: Burton Laughinghouse is a name and a character that really sticks out in the story. Why did you decide that the name would be fitting for him? How does it embody his character?

CH: “Laughinghouse” is a name I heard or read somewhere and was captivated by. I have a weakness for unusual names, but using them in a story can be risky, like a joke. The name embodies Burton Laughinghouse’s character in an ironic way; he’s playful but selfish, a disruptive force, a con man. His love of birds is real, but he exploits the people who befriend and assist him.

SR: There is an element of religion in the story when the characters speak of God, praying, and the devil being present in Glenna’s life or when the devil was asked to leave. What do you believe it brought to the story and what importance does religion have for the characters?

CH: It’s such a part of them that they feel the pull of its compass no matter what they do. Glenna, especially, feels the burden of her sin for having injured Ned Page. She feels guilt for being attracted to Burton Laughinghouse. Religion is part of the personal mystery that these characters carry with them.

SR: The incident with Glenna Dancy and Ned Page with the arrow was briefly mentioned in the beginning of the story but is really brought to life at the end. Tell us why you decided that this story would make for a perfect ending. What way did it tie the whole story together?

CH: That incident grew out of the fear I felt in high school archery class. A bow and arrow is a powerful, primitive, effective weapon. To aim and let that arrow fly at a living target is to pronounce a death sentence, or at least pose severe danger. The scene tied the story together because it expressed the contradictions in Glenna’s tormented inner self—her sexuality, her anger, her ego. She’s combative. Like Tinsley’s daughter who died in a helicopter accident in Iraq, Glenna has a warrior’s heart.

SR: What are you writing now? What are you reading?

I’m finishing a collection of stories set in Virginia’s horse country and have begun writing a novel about the pirate Blackbeard. I’m reading buccaneer legends, lore, and history.

 

Forthcoming: Meg Pokrass

How short can a short story be? Meg Pokrass asks – and answers – that question in her fiction, which often takes the form of flash-fiction and micro-stories. Though her stories are short, they pack the same emotional punch that can be found in a lengthy piece of a prose. She delivers her characters and narrative in compact, meticulously chosen details. For example, in her short-short story “The Big Dipper,” about a young girl trying to navigate her adolescence by purchasing a four-foot-deep pool for her backyard, she conveys a great deal of personal information about her main character’s background in a single sentence. Referring to her mother, the narrator divulges that “Now that Dad has his own place and his bi-polar disorder, she had all kinds of new expressions.” Some of her shortest stories are only between 90 and 100 words long. In this compact form she writes of mother-daughter relationships, adolescence, sexuality, insecurity, and identity.

In her review of Meg Pokrass’s recent collection of short stories, Damn Sure Right, Tessa Mellas compares Pokrass’s flash fiction to the “richest morsels of chocolate. You can’t inhale them by the fistful.” This description does Pokrass’s stories justice; her fiction demands that you stop for a moment after reading, that you take in every single detail individually to get the full experience of her micro-narratives.

We asked Meg Pokrass to share her writing process, in particular what inspired the short story that will be appearing in Superstition Review Issue 8, which will launch in December. Click here to view the video that gives us a glance behind the scenes.

Visit her website at http://www.megpokrass.com

Meet the Interns: April Stolarz

Poetry Editor April Stolarz is a senior at ASU pursuing concurrent degrees in Print/Online Journalism and Creative Writing with a focus on Poetry. Along with her Superstition Review internship April also writes for ASU’s Media Relations Office and freelances for a variety of publications. She has studied poetry under Norman Dubie and Terry Hummer and is currently studying under Sally Ball. She maintains a blog about local music, Dose of Rock, and hopes to work for a music publication someday. This is April’s first experience with Superstition Review.

 

1. What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

I am one of the poetry editors for Superstition Review’s Spring 2011 issue. I am responsible for reviewing poetry submissions and voting for certain poems to be published. Once those poems are given the go ahead I contact the authors and send them final proofs to be featured in the magazine.

2. Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?

I’ve always loved words and any form of expression, especially written expression. In high school I was the editor of my literary magazine and absolutely loved being a part of that process. I wanted to expand my knowledge and be a part of the next step in order to gain more professional experience.

3. How do you like to spend your free time?

My life is a balancing act of 18 credits and multiple jobs. Most of my free time is swallowed up by writing; I freelance for various publications. My absolute favorite thing to do is see live music. I try to spend as much time as possible at concerts and music festivals. Other than that I love reading, being outside and doing anything outdoorsy.

4. What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

I’d like to be the non fiction editor, interview editor and web design editor. I think they’d all be a great learning experience and equally as interesting and fun.

5. Describe one of your favorite literary works.

A simple story about a girl with extremely large thumbs that manages to encompass wide-ranging and heart-aching themes such as religion, sexuality, marriage, freedom, traveling, magic and everything in between. This book, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins, is a journey through the human experience with rainbow colored sprinkles, whipped cream, hot fudge and a cherry on top. Tom Robbins is the master of metaphor, and he’s not afraid to show it.

6. What are you currently reading?

Every chance I get (which isn’t as often as I’d like) I reach for one of the books on my shelf. I’m currently thumbing through and trying to digest: Skinny Legs And All by Tom Robbins, Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen and Transformations of Myth Through Time by Joseph Campbell.

7. Creatively, what are you currently working on?

As a poetry senior in the capstone writing class I’m working on a new poem every week and a new revision as much as possible. For one of my jobs I’m writing a feature story about a professor for ASU’s website. I blog about local music a few times a month and am working on updating my personal website.

8. What inspires you?

Inspiration is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Discovering new things, reading a certain word, being outside, spontaneity, vibrancy, color, conversation, cities, people who aren’t afraid to say what they think and do what they want, trees, the sky, free spirits, people who take the different path, who aren’t afraid to travel and explore.

9. What are you most proud of?

This is a weird question for me. While I’ve always prided myself on doing very well in school while simultaneously being involved in other things, what’s given me the most internal pride and satisfaction has been helping my friends realize their dreams.

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I don’t think about the future; it comes soon enough. But I hope I’m living in a beautiful place, maybe an island somewhere, maybe another continent, surrounded by a strong community of friends, music and love. By then I hope I’ll be working in some form of music business whether it be for a music magazine such as Spin or for some other music company. I hope my life is filled with laughter.