London to Lisbon

Last month myself and Ben Vendetta traveled to London for the book launch of “Sunset Trip” which took place at an iconic music store, Rough Trade. It was great to met some members of bands I have always been a fan of, to see old friends, and to see people who came as far away as Newcastle and Birmingham for the event.

I think I packed as much as a could into my days five in London (boy how many co-working spaces do they have in London now, because it was a lot!) and I managed to do east, west, and everything in-between. This was a trip I allowed myself some touristy things; even a trip to Selfridges which was already playing Christmas music in mid October. I hadn’t been to London since 1992 if you can believe it. To me it was always the center of the world over New York City.

While we were planning the trip, we thought we would be going to Tangier after the book event. That didn’t work out for various reasons, so instead we opted for Lisbon. I’m so glad we did.

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Kensington Palace, baby.

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The lifestyle and fashion bloggers in Notting Hill were out in full force, lemme tel ‘ya. It’s so bad now that a lot of the front steps of homes are roped off to prevent girls from posing front all the time. I hear this has become a thing in Palm Springs for homeowners to do as well. A group of girls were posing on the hood of someone’s parked Karmann Ghia and Ben was tempted to yell at them to get off his damn car!

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Ben and Ashley Norris doing a talk and Q&A at Rough Trade East. Get the book here!

Mel Butler came all the way from Middlesbrough to support Ben’s new book!

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Can you believe this is a bowling alley!?

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We did not order champagne but I did have a number of cocktails and the best Beef Wellington of my life at Bob Bob Ricard. Desserts were set on fire, and the ladies room were individual tiny full baths each with its own attendant.

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Behind this door was a private event full of indie rockers that Ben was asked to DJ for. It was great because I got to meet Miki of Lush, and if you had told me 15 year-old self that I’d be in a private basement club in Fitzrovia talking to Miki of Lush about the US midterms and my president being Trump, well… yeah, I’d say you were nuts.

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Then is was off to Lisbon. We stayed in the Santa Catarina area and it did not suck. So many restaurants and we didn’t get to try them all. We were also down the street from one of the film locations from “Night Train to Lisbon” which happens to be next to the Pharmacy Museum. They had a great outdoor restaurant overlooking the bay.

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The Pena Palace in Sintra. So crowded with tourists even on a Wednesday (more in the video below) so I recommend avoiding it on weekends because wow wow wow. Thankfully I booked a private car and guide who got us tickets ahead of time and was on-call so to speak. He wore an incredible blue suit and it probably looked like we had our own security detail the way he walked us around in Sintra. He also took us to the most western spot in all of Europe and on a scenic drive along the coast. Since 2016 tourism has exploded in Portugal and I can see it being both good and bad. Lisbon will begin building a new airport in 2019, that’s how crazy it is getting. There were a number of hostels and AirBnbs on the street we stayed at. By the way this was my first and last time doing an AirBnb. I won’t go into it, but let’s just say the Ibis hotel saved the night we arrived.

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Lisbon has a number of record shops, but our favorite had to be Groovie Records. Funny enough, the proprietor knew and has done business with some friends of ours. He has a record label as well.

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I highly recommend the Military Museum in Lisbon, My God it was gorgeous and there were maybe only 3 other people in it. Did I mention it is free? I mean look at the ceiling!

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Vices in tile.

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I really wish I’d had more than really what was four days in Lisbon. Ah, hoping for another stop in the future. The cocktails, wine, and coffee were amazing.

Photos, oh-so many photos…

Sunset Trip book party at Rough Trade East.

I’m going to London for the first time since 1992. It was Halloween, the first *legal* rave in London I got to dance at for a bit, on top of visiting various house parties. It was a whirlwind 24 hours and forgot all the purchases I made in Piccadilly in my hotel room. I also left my favorite raincoat on a chair in Heathrow. I still think about that raincoat!

This time I don’t plan on any of that happening (ok maybe a house party here or there) as I have a whole five days to spend while my husband launches his third novel at one of the best record stores in the world!

Rough Trade East on Thursday, Oct 18th 7pm to 9pm. Join us for the official launch of “Sunset Trip” presented by Obliterati Press. Q&A with Ashley Norris, and a DJ set by ‘Mojo’ Mills of Shindig Magazine.

Ben and Ashley will be discussing the demise of the record industry, L.A. bands circa Y2k, Cleveland punk, and writing about music. If you’re a fan of bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Beachwood Sparks, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Smallstone, or The Warlocks, you might want to dig it.

 

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The following Saturday Ben will be closing out the Everything Indie Over 40 extravaganza with a DJ set meant to make you dance! This has a lot of special guests — Miki is just one of many — and is something we’ve been excited about.

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You can order copies of “Sunset Trip” via Foyles, Amazon, Waterstones, Rough Trade and all the usual places.

The US printing of previous books you can get signed here.

‘Illustrious Decay’ Opening Night

Thank you to everyone who came from near and far and attended the “Illustrious Decay” opening at CWAL and 78th Street Studios. This was my first time since my days at CalArts I had done an installation piece let alone a collaborative one. Jen Omaitz led me through it because I kind of had zero idea where I was going.

The feedback we got from everyone was great and I think our pairing worked very well. There will be a closing party during Third Fridays on Friday, October 19th if you missed it.

 


 

FRONT opening weekend

The scope of the undertaking is ambitious on all levels. The partnerships, installations, artist lectures, films, and beyond have aligned despite the bureaucratic obstacles one can often experience in the world of non-profit entities and arts organizations. Founded by art collector Fred Bidwell (whose Transformer Station I am a big fan of), with the creative direction of Chicago-based artist Michelle Grabner, FRONT Triennial is not about representing artists in the rustbelt region, and it never claimed to be. It is about showcasing the city itself as an arts and culture destination that can attract a wider gaze and international talent. A Republican National Convention and an NBA Championship, sure. Now how about a city-wide arts event? The process of selecting artists was to choose those who have started to ascend, or have already made a splash in other Biennials, Triennials, and various degrees of academe in the art world. The list of international artists is staggering for a first-time arts event in any capacity.

There was a stink about artists in Northeast Ohio not getting fair representation, although six artists from the region were selected: Elizabeth Emery, Dale Goode, Julie Ezelle PattonMichael Oatman, Lauren Yeager and Johnny Coleman. However, much like SXSW or Art Basel Miami, FRONT has inspired rogue exhibitions by 78th Street Studios, Collective Arts Network, Lakeland Community College, Artist Archives of the Western Reserve, and Curated Storefront in Akron to name a handful. All affiliated and complimentary to FRONT. It’s an answer to the question of regional representation of which FRONT gladly included gallery and event listings in their own printed materials.

The marketing of FRONT and its choices of artists was to serve the purpose of bringing people in. In fact, almost all marketing efforts were targeted to those beyond a 250-mile radius of Cleveland. Does a gorgeous spread in Architectural Digest inspire a culture junkie in Seattle or a diehard art collector in Dallas to make a weekend out it? As though we are on a hamster wheel, always something to prove, Cleveland has a hurdle that most other cities with arts events don’t have: the stigma of being Cleveland. Let’s face it, Prospect New Orleans, Art Basel Miami, and the Venice Biennale take place in places people want to visit, anyway.

The theme for FRONT is “An American City” as artists created work that explores their sense of Cleveland, and cities like it. Several pieces in the Triennial speak to our current socio-political climate in America; immigration, racism, police brutality, the declining environment, and Wall Street greed are just some of the topics raised. Although these have always been problems, the spotlight has never been hotter in the wake of the Trump presidency.

 

The Thursday preview attracted visitors from the likes of Colorado, Utah, California, New York, Michigan, and Massachusetts. Still unfinished, the Julian Stanczak mural on Prospect Avenue was a wonderful way to see the process. As a part of Canvas City, 10 murals will stay up beyond this summer and be changed again in the coming years as a revolving outdoor mural gallery, much like Murals at the Market in Detroit.

The Saturday opening schedule was a grueling one; compounded by the fact opening gala was the evening before. If you didn’t have a ticket for up to $5,500 a plate at Public Auditorium, you could catch the wildly colorful and almost primal Asian Dope Boys performance on Instagram Live. In addition to tours and lectures, there is a large amount of programming of films, performances, and musical acts during City Stages. The planning around all locations was based on the assumptions one could walk to various sites, as well as hop on the RTA. Whether you love it or hate it, this is where ridesharing apps came into play for visitors in the summer heat or in a hurry to see as much as they could on opening weekend in a city where public transit is not exactly a strong suit. Shuttle tours that included the stops at the locations Oberlin and Akron aided, and inspired camaraderie. How this will develop over the summer with visitors remains to be seen. Frankly, many of these visitors for the opening weekend who were assigned by institutions and publications, were very annoyed they had to be in Cleveland despite whatever polite comments they offered. Some were open to exploring, while others just wanted to hit a checklist and retreat back to the area closest to their accommodations.

The popular Kusama exhibition at The Cleveland Museum of Art serves as an anchor for the Brutalist cinderblock city by Marlon de Azambujaand, the neon pieces developed using software by Agnieszka Kurantand, and works on paper of Kerry James Marshall (who also has an exhibition at The Cleveland Public Library) to name a few. Fred Bidwell referred to the giant hand created by artist Tony Tasset at MOCA as “selfie bait” but the real star of photos and social media platforms seems to be Yinka Shonibare MBE at The Cleveland Public Library. Even if you knew nothing of the context, as many visitors wandering from the nearby hotel conferences didn’t, the beauty of 6,000 colorful bound books on its own combined with the jaw dropping architecture made it hard for anyone to resist. If anyone took part in the interactive component, it didn’t seem to matter.

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You could say labeling anyone a “local” artist is akin to calling them a provincial artist. Perhaps Cleveland Artist, Rustbelt Artist, or even American Artist are labels we can begin to use more often despite not being a metropolis. It might be a long road, but FRONT could be yet another turning point in the perception game when it comes to Cleveland. Magazine features and online listicles can only do so much. Perception, of course, is one of the most minor problems the city faces.

www.FRONTart.org

Fancy in the French Quarter: Turning 40

What seemed most appropriate ahead of my birthday? A trip to my favorite place in the USA: New Orleans! When it was sprung on me, the feeling was that perhaps this trip I’d stay in the French Quarter — which I’ve never done. And, stay on Bourbon Street — which I would normally run away screaming from the idea! Since it is the middle of June and 40 was a big deal for me, I decided I’d find the best hotel with the fanciest pool, and experience the full insanity that is the worst part of Bourbon Street on a Saturday night where you might catch a disease by standing still too long or wearing open toe shoes.

I knew what to expect, so to find a man pissing himself on the front steps of the hotel didn’t really surprise me. Ah, how nice it was to be transported then, to an amazing lobby, with wonderful courtyards and a splurge on room service. I even had a side street balcony room where the 2nd lines go down.

It was so nice to meet up with friends at places new and familiar while not really leaving the Quarter except to go to our usual neighborhood for my tattoo session. Yes, I finally got the James Jean tattoo that Shawn Dubin and I had discussed a few years earlier, and it’s perfect. I didn’t drink nearly as much as I thought I would, and I even pooped out on going to a dance party on the Saturday night (well, I was still sore from the dance party on the Friday put on by DJ Soul Sister). The saddest thing is food is always such a letdown when you leave New Orleans. It just is.

They say that 40 is the new 30, but I find that in my case especially, turning 40 has been like what most men experience when they turn 50. It’s been very hard this past month. I know everyone older than me has been shaking their heads and rolling their eyes about it, but the fact remains I am not handling it well. I didn’t think I’d care at all: then the day actually came.

This might be in part because most of my life I had a strange feeling I wouldn’t live past 31, and that feeling would prove prophetic in a most unexpected way. Due to other medical complications I’ve been forced to age a certain way, very prematurely. I’m still adjusting to that even thought it’s been a few years because I was never given the time and space I needed to fully deal with it (2016 was a horrible year). What then, is one to think when they didn’t die young as expected, but also been forced to age prematurely biologically? This, I am still reconciling.

Sorry to be Captain Bringdown, I suppose I’ll get over it soon enough. It really was a fantastic weekend.

 

Illustrious Decay at Cleveland West Art League

Oh look it’s my next exhibition! This will be opening at the tail end of FRONT

Cleveland West League is proud to present a new body of work from visual artists Jenniffer Omaitz and Arabella Proffer in the exhibition, “Illustrious Decay”.  Cleveland West Art League Gallery (CWAL) is located in 78th Street Studios at 1305 West 80th Street, Suite 110, Cleveland, Ohio 44102.  The opening reception is 5:00 to 9:00 pm on Friday, September 21st, 2018 and the closing reception will be Friday, October 19th, 2018 from 5:00 to 9:00 pm.

“Illustrious Decay”, represents an investigation of form, biology, and environmental decay.  Arabella Proffer’s painting brings together her interests in nature, disease, and the evolution of cells. The paintings explore the roles that organisms, medicine, DNA, and hybrids play in response to our current age of genetic revolution. Flourishes of familiar landscapes as their environment, add to their story.The sculpture of Jenniffer Omaitz reacts to the macro environments in Proffers’ paintings by creating interior spaces and exposing exterior structures that house decaying parts, miniscapes, and combining meta realities as if they were a invented surreal landscape.

Jenniffer and I will also be unveiling a collaboration installation, which I haven’t done in ages and am quite excited about.

The mission of the Cleveland West Art League is to foster an inclusive artist community in Greater Cleveland by providing exhibition and collaborative opportunities, resources and education.