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CULTURE KALA MUSIC

The Cedar Shakes • Nov 12 @KALA

Give the Dance Floor What it Needs

Cedar ShakesAfter the tourists depart and the leaves fall from the trees, the music of The Cedar Shakes is the perfect soundtrack for the people who have remained behind, those who call the Oregon coast their home.   It is country music from the woods of Nehalem, the wise and sardonic lyrics delivered by Travis Champ’s rich baritone and driven home by the rhythm and pulse of drummer Jamie Owen Greenan and new member bassist Jon Feder.  They arrive at KALA this month to play a selection of their songs guaranteed to get you moving.

Lately, Travis has consciously been writing songs to do just that. “When we started the band a few years ago, we were playing slower paced songs.  Now we’d like to do some songs that get people moving, not just sitting there and staring at you. I actually like an inattentive audience. They may have come out to check out the music but its more of a social thing, with all these conversations.  The “hey, how’s it going?” when anyone walks through the door. “There is only so much you can do with chords E, G, and D,” Travis laughs.

But the songs of The Cedar Shakes are not your standard country fare. While broken bones, empty cans and an early grave awaits the “foolish boy” in the song Rodeo, out “between the cypress trees and the darkened lemon grove, the sons of men unsheathe their hearts like rusty swords while we listen all night to a neighbor’s radio rising through our bedroom floor.”  In the song Sandy Koufax, drummer Jamie propels the song forward like a Southbound train away from the childhood regrets, Landry McMean’s lap steel the lonesome whistle letting bygones be bygones. “Into the void, my friend, over time may we forget the taste of dollar bets, one eyed jacks and candy cigarettes.”

Travis first started writing songs when he got a guitar at 16 and, while influenced by the music he latched onto while in junior high, bands such as The Germs, Rancid, Black Flag and Green Day, he was always digging deeper to discover other music.  Country music, like punk, was a good fit.  “It was approachable; take 3 chords and write a song. You don’t have to be that great a musician. Even now I am not all that comfortable up there with a guitar but I can play what the song needs.”

His earliest musical influences, however, where the sole 3 tapes his Dad played in the family VW bus: a Dwight Yoakum album, a tape by Kathy Mattea which had some good songs especially 18 Wheels And A Dozen Roses and an album by Joe Ely called Love And Danger.  “My parents had a booth at Portland Saturday Market called Baby Snookums, selling baby clothes, bunny hats and duck ponchos.  For 18 years, we did a lot of traveling and those were the 3 tapes we had in the van.  We played them over and over and over again!”  But when we were living in a rural area of Nehalem, we didn’t have any music for years. It was just our own little world.”

A turning point came 6 years ago when Travis bought a 30 day Amtrak ticket to see the country.  At the tail end, he arrived in Austin, Texas, somewhere he always thought he should check out.  It was there he met Rich Russell and Landry McMeans of the band Lonesome Heroes. On his last night, they took him to the infamous venue A Hole In The Wall, (renowned as the place where Townes Van Zandt crashed his car into the side of the building, only to get out and order himself another drink!). That night, he saw some really great local bands and became hooked on the Austin scene. As drummer Jamie had previously lived in Austin, it became a good anecdote to Manzanita’s rainy winters for The Cedar Shakes to go there often and play and eventually record their 4 song, 10 inch record there last Spring.

The release will be available at their performance at KALA.  Take yourself down and get ready to be moved.

Saturday, November 12, Doors Open 7:30pm (post Second Saturday Art Walk). Poet Sarah Archer opens the show at 8pm. $5 cover. Beer and wine available. KALA is located at 1017 Marine Drive in Astoria.

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ART HAPPENS CULTURE FEATURES KALA

Outsider Artist: The Work of Anne Marie Grgich

Boombox in Sky with Diamonds: a curated exhibition by Kandace Manning and Ian McMartin

The Masquerade
The Masquerade, Mixed Media on Canvas

IN RECENT years, the work of Northwest artist Anne Marie Grgich is more likely to be seen in galleries of New York City, New Orleans, Victoria, Sydney, and in Europe. However, during the next two months, over 20 of her most recent collage works will be featured at Kala in Astoria, along with the paintings, ceramics, and carvings of 7 other artists in the group show, Boombox In the Sky With Diamonds. Joining the skate bowl carvings and photography of Ian McMartin, the ceramics, quilt and paper craft of Portland’s Kandace Manning, the dense phantasmagoric graphics of Seattle’s Paul Gasoi, the comic yet naïve painted boards of Sweden’s Marcus Mårtenson, the photo realism of L. Miscoe’s painted birch panel’s to the intensely vibrant and playful drawings of Soho artist Daniel Belardinelli, the exhibition offers an opportunity to see Anne Marie Grgich’s dense and multi-layered portraits that have made her well known in the international Outsider Art movement, consisting of self taught artists who coexist for the most part outside the realm of the established art world.

Her large portraits are often paradoxical in nature; deceptively simple faces reveal, after closer examination, layer upon layer of images attached to the canvases with water based adhesive, giving them a liquid and mysterious quality. Dark color washes give the paintings a luminescence.

The images hover over each other obscuring and only partially revealing what lies beneath. Akin to the ancient practice of palimpsest where parchment or waxed tablets were scraped to rid them of the previous text and image so that the material could be reused, you can see evidence of the old text behind the whitened area. In Anne’s work, previous layers bubble up thru the paint and the thickly applied adhesive to partially reveal hidden meanings.

Collage Book
Collage Book on display at KALA

Shards of tissue paper rubber stamped and printed with baby heads and doll parts, jellyfish, Victorian garb, hieroglyphics, anatomical drawings, alchemical symbols, third eyes, old bicycles and butterflies. Seahorses used as ears. A wallpaper motif becomes a hat. Bird feathers morph into a dress. Often juxtaposing the modern with the ancient, Anne uses metaphor to play with archetypes, showing “people from the inside out”.

“It just so happens that I started painting faces. I don’t know why. Before that, I was making all these creatures out of found stuff in 1981-82. When I gave birth to my son, I felt I couldn’t have all this trash and junk around a little baby. So I got really into drawing while I was carrying him on my back”. It was Anne’s painted books that first brought her to the attention of the Jamison Thomas Gallery in Portland in 1989, and subsequent shows there catapulted her career. Old library books with each page becoming a canvas encrusted with layers of paint, magic marker, and collage until the book swells up to four times it’s size, with thick textures, fold out pages and bold, defiant faces. “I started doing collage books back when I was a punk rocker, using stuff I found, even cheese whiz! My art developed over time from poetry books to these picture books. I am a kind of visual poet. They are like journals. I could keep everything in my purse, and work wherever I went. Bring some of my books and a box of art supplies and go traveling across the country and to other countries. I’d go to New York and find a piece of wood on the street, then buy some nail polish at Woolworth’s, then find something else. Then I’d make a painting”.

At the Kalas Gallery exhibit, you can see one of her recent books. Like many of her books, it is a work in progress, adding new elements overtime. “I started this book when I had my hysterectomy. So its how I felt at the time. On this page, you can see a uterus and here a womb. I am turning it into this powerful image. I am sort of making my own icons of my feelings. When I feel frustrated or angry, I don’t want to act out how I feel. I am more likely to try to transcend that by working with it. In a way, I am creating an edifice”.

On another page, Anne has collaged the image of a human body, upon which is layered an image of electronic circuitry. On top is applied a tissue with a drawing of the human nervous system. Other layers have images of plants and antlers. “This is all under painting. Later I will re-apply a photo of the body so as to bring it back. Its like I go “In & Out”. I used to organize my collage by color but now I am really into black and white. And then doing color washes on some layers.I am using the images as form, sort of juxtaposition of meaning. Metaphor becomes an element. Like combining the nervous system with the circuitry. As I am building it, a lot of it is intuitive and the rest is just what I am experiencing in life. With my piece “Flight or Fight” which is in the show, it’s about a time in my life, whether to flee or fight it out. Sometimes my work is prophetic. I’ll do a portrait and then eventually meet that person! My art is whimsically put together. There is a lot of irony. But sometimes they have themes. My art has an overall theme”.

Anne Grgich
Anne Grgich in Seattle – profiled as an Outsider Artist in an feature article in Newsweek Magazine-1996, entitled, "Swimming to Seattle—Move There."

At one point, Anne started incorporating baby faces and dolls into her work. “I had a kid and I feel that gave my life a lot of magic, beauty and joy. For me making art is a way for me to experience magic and a way for me to have a 2nd childhood. I had a head injury in 1981 and went into a coma. Afterward, I could only remember some of my previous life. Through art, I was able to remember more and more from the past and it gave me something to do. I would just go into this other world. And create all these drawings”.

Eventually those drawings filled her journals and painted collage books and then grew into the larger canvases. In the show, you can see portraits such as Larissa, Victoria, and Rismone. Their penetrating eyes stare back defiantly but with a sort of innocence. These are eyes that have seen too much, reveal little and stare questioningly at your world. But there are new works exhibited, such as The Masquerade, Whale and The Baby (Underneath It All) that show new metaphors and multi-layer iconic images that point to new themes as well. “Lately, I have become obsessed by trees, as I walk in Forest Park, near my other studio. I have a grasp on how short a human life is compared to a tree that’s 5,000 years old. Meanwhile, art is my life”. And, if you catch her making art while at the Kala Gallery, she’s likely to throw down some Sharpie pens and push a notebook in front of you and say, “Let’s make art!”. She often teaches workshops on her techniques when she is home in Portland and her travels elsewhere.

Next month, Anne packs her typical “on the road” kit of paper, collage books, art supplies and bags of tissue paper printed with various collected images and will be creating art while running workshops and exhibiting at the International Outsider Art Fair, Gallery Bourbon Lally, NYC. And beyond that, a solo exhibit at the Barristers Gallery, in New Orleans followed by a month long artist residency and solo exhibit at the Olaf Gallery in Amsterdam.

Steve Lippincott has an online music magazine at earcandyarchive.com celebrating “music that matters”. He has worked in the publishing industry for 15 years, as well as being a chef. He is currently working on a cookbook called The Harmonious Dish.