What's with the disappearing act, Cincinnati? With so many new things to admire, our lasting character fades slowly but surely.
Consider the whitewashing of the rocker hall of fame mural that used to be at the corner of Reading Road and MacGregor — you know, where you buy Nike impostors out of the back of a van a lot over. Stevie Wonder and Dolly Parton are no longer smiling from the wall, which now bears the red hand-blocked insignia "Dollar Value." Cinergy Field and the old Blue Wisp, among others, have been swept aside like nostalgic flotsam.
Suzanna Terrill says it better in the letter she sent as a New Year's greeting: "I have fought it to the end, and the gamble was mine."
Terrill's art gallery on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine closed in January, unable to secure adequate funding from City Council's new arts and culture committee or other sources. It's one less path for emerging local artists to use in order to escape the shadowy depths of post-graduation hysteria. Established artists used to show there, too. Used to.
In addition to lower state funding, Terrill says the OTR area intimidates patrons not used to panhandlers and low security. As it goes, low attendance equals low income.
Terrill's pup, Beatrice, lounges with lethargic woe from the window case where she once greeted patrons with all the slobbery doggieness an old English Springer could muster. As for Terrill, she's remained curiously upbeat, scurrying last week amidst the slush of Main Street with grandchildren Samantha, 4, and Chuckie, 3. They ventured for soup from Kaldi's down the street.
She and Beatrice look forward to working at the local set of The Joy of Cooking, which will soon begin broadcasting on the Food Channel Network. Though she's scouted potential gallery spaces in Brighton and on Ludlow Avenue, Terrill predicts a year in waiting before reopening, hopefully returning to OTR. She needs money to accomplish the task.
As the grandkids finish lunch, Terrill sprinkles sugar on Samantha's lemon. "It covers up the sour," she says.
On the other side of downtown, Joey Versoza completes the levels of Final Fantasy, his solo debut at Linda Schwartz Gallery. He sits on the floor, shaking shrunken, fragrant chunks of Play-Doh from familiar yellow cups. He's linked and lit the cups in the installation "MMM," a reminiscence of glowing golden arches and Play-Doh samplings of childhood.
At 24, he's Schwartz's youngest artist. Although he's shown before at this gallery, the Warsaw Project Space and other places around town, you can still consider Versoza an artist "emerging" with a caveat of enthusiasm — which is present in his fantasy-driven "Episode," video clips from Dragonball-Z cartoons accompanied by his battle cries on a 45-rpm child's record player.
Then there's the performance installation, "The Ballad of Toma," started with Versoza and poet Dana Ward's collaborative transcription of an unknown teen-ager's posted Internet paean "Toma, The Great Explorer." Using a keyboard, lyrics and a guitar, spontaneous melodies relay the viewers' perception of the ballad, a caesura between art and reality.
Flirting with sentiment, the viewer of "Village" is catapulted into an anomalous player/viewer role where his or her own body is physically absent from the player position you might expect of a role-playing game like Zelda. At the same time, the town of Tamarack depends on the owner's participation, God-like, for a continuance completed by new additions and a consequent shift of ownership at season's end.
What seems typical about certain scenarios in the village is in reality quite bizarre. Carolers sing to no one, and abnormally large deer halt behind a button store while a gloveless man guilds a carousel horse in the blinding cold.
The spatial subtleties in the arrangement of Final Fantasy are remarkable. Versoza's anti-clutter sentiment provides spaces for reflection, calling attention to a freshness of ideas free from chutzpah and precociousness.
Versoza's work is complimented by Laura Herman's diaristic Wish You Were Here: The Visual Story of Connie Allbright. The collection includes archives of black-and-white photographs purchased online for Allbright's piecemeal identity, decoupage writings of the serial character at Bible camp and weekly calendars with more chicken salad recipes than you know what to do with. You can visit www.connieallbright.com to track Herman's creation.
Of course, the work in Final Fantasy is sure to incur criticism from those playing the role of traditionalist. Isn't role-playing fun?
Besides, thinking about Linda Schwartz sitting among unremitting primal screams and plinkety renditions of "The Ballad of Toma" makes me laugh.
LIBERTY WAMPLER is a CityBeat intern and art reviewer.