Pierre Fontenot Thursday, November 7, 2013 0

— Let’s all join in a big shout-out for Sulphur resident Brytanni MacNamara. MacNamara has started an organization called Operation Hope, which is designed to help stop human trafficking and slavery.

This would be a newsworthy project regardless of who was doing it. But it becomes especially newsworthy when we learn that MacNamara is 14 and a freshman in high school.

We can’t be sure what sort of impact Operation Hope will have. After all, human trafficking is a mighty big opponent to take on. But even if the impact is less than what MacNamara hopes for, she’s taken that hard first step; gotten in front of cameras and microphones; and put the whole thing in motion. At age 14, she’s already done more than most people do in an entire lifetime. That’s certainly newsworthy.

Let’s also have a shout-out for the American Press, which chose to put this story on the front page with a photo in the top half of the page. It was the No. 2 story — and in the Sunday edition. (That is to say, people read it.) It was an innovative journalistic choice and a good job all over.

— I’ve been wondering for years how long it would take the city or university to get around to hosting a large-scale exhibit of local artist Heather Ryan Kelley’s work. It’ll be here soon; the opening events for the show “Some Thoughts About Perfection” will start Oct. 18 at 5:30 pm. The show will run through Jan. 4 at the Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center.

Sleeping Giant By Heather Ryan Kelley

Sleeping Giant By Heather Ryan Kelley

Kelley is the most talented experimental artist in our area. This exhibit will place a heavy emphasis on things that have been abandoned, artifacts, old paper (such as cards, advertisements), trophies, studio debris and other things that everyday people might consider inconsequential (or even nuisances), but that the artist might notice and find some beauty or visual value in. In the past, Kelley has made art with patterns of commercial tile, numbers used in marketing and labeling, and even garbage.

For this show, Kelley’s emphasizing the everyday objects that are called “vanitas.” Vanitas is, of course, Latin for “vanity,” and the objects shown in the long history of vanitas paintings have symbolized the vanity and brevity of human life. Bubbles and hourglasses are common vanitas objects, as they indicate things that pass out of existence quickly. (They also reflect a lot of light, of course.) Skulls have been common features in vanitas paintings.

For years, Kelly has used the motif of the “midden heap,” or pile of objects people have discarded, in her art. There’s a close link with this motif and the main literary influence on her work, James Joyce’s novel Finnegan’s Wake. Kelley has written that in the novel, “The artist Shem, an ‘alshemist,’ transforms his rubbish into art. Joyce saw the midden heap, or pile of artifacts, as a metaphor for artistic creation.”

In the painting that’s reproduced with this column, The Sleeping Giant, you’ll see Kelley has painted an image of a midden heap right on the canvas. The heap of artifacts and the other heaps in the painting have the same shape as the sleeping giant Finn in Joyce’s novel. They also “coincide nicely” with one of Kelley’s earliest memories: the Sleeping Giant Mountain in Connecticut, which forms the painting’s background. (Kelley runs the Midden Heap Press. Go to heatherryankelley.com and click on Midden Heap Press for loads of imagery and info about Joyce.)

Kelley says she’s “especially interested in developing a personal vocabulary of vanitas imagery.” The themes that are nudging Kelley towards this personal set of images are thoughtful ones: those of “missing the boat or falling short of the mark.” Viewers can judge for themselves how the objects used in this art reflect those very basic, very human experiences. As for the title “Some Thoughts About Perfection,” well, even talented artists may feel they fall pretty far from perfection; again, viewers can make their own judgments.

I’ve always admired artists who can do something new each time around (or even do something new once, for that matter). Kelley is one of those. (Of course, I also admire artists who can do one thing very well over and over. I guess both types are about equally rare.)

The Historic City Hall is open Monday-Friday, 10 am-5pm, and Saturday 10 am-2pm. Admission is free; donations are accepted. If you need to know more, call 491-9147. The security guard at the rear entrance can tell you where you need to go.


On Behalf Of Local Weather

I hesitate to comment on what’s written in the local press for fear I might be seen as criticizing competitors. But I guess I can risk it.

It was written in a local publication about a month ago that “there’s nothing remotely attractive” about fall weather in SWLA and that “there’s … no comparison to the fall season up north.”

Just for the record, I’ll note that the leaves here start to change color and fall in late August and early September. I walk my dog daily, and by mid-September, we’re walking on a carpet of leaves. The colors of the leaves are the same as up north – brown, yellow, red. The temperatures are warmer than up north, of course, but the temperatures never seem (to me, anyway) to have any effect on the colors.

I always felt that changing colors of leaves had more to do with Hallmark Cards and Thomas Kincaid paintings than anything that was of importance to me. But one facet of local nature that is important to me is the live oak, which, with the wild, creepy twists of its branches, looks atmospheric and mysterious — like something out of a Bronte novel or a Lovecraft story. Of course, the leaves of live oaks don’t change colors in the fall.

I moved down here because I was tired of shoveling snow out of my driveway then shoveling it again when the snow plow came by and laid a new pile of snow on the drive. I was tired of falling on ice; tired of scraping snow off my roof and digging ice out of my gutters with my freezing, wet hands.

Since I came here. I haven’t spent one minute shoveling snow. I haven’t fallen on ice once. (Now, I will note in all fairness that the writer who penned the comments I cited above also wrote, “winter and I are not friends,” so she may sympathize with some of these sentiments.)

Anyway, I thought it might be a good idea for someone to put in a good word for local weather. I imagine no climate is perfect. But this one will do for me until the perfect one comes along.


What People Aren’t Talking About

A few weeks ago I got an email from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s official email engineer Jordan Gleason informing me that the governor was inviting President Obama to come down to Louisiana and talk with Jindal about vouchers.

Because I’d seen this email, I wasn’t at all surprised when Obama called me in a couple of hours and conveyed this message to me:

“Brad, could you tell Jindal I’m really, really sorry I haven’t been down to talk with him about the vouchers yet? Believe me, there’s nothing in the world I’ve wanted to do more in the last few months. But there’s been this Syria thing, and the NSA, and everybody’s asking me about the Iran thing. And now the government has shut down, of all things. On top of all that, I’ve got problems with the new manager in the White House supply shop not wanting to sell Maxim and the new White House chef who’s making noise about having to cook with truffles. Man, believe me, if there was any way I could get down to Baton Rouge, I’d be there yesterday. But with things the way they are now, I just don’t see how I can do it. Brad, please — I mean, PLEASE — send my apologies to Bobby. I really mean it, man. I wanted to be there. You know I did.”

That made me feel bad for both Obama and Jindal. So, I tried to find someone else who’d be willing to visit Jindal and talk with him about his vouchers. I tried for a couple of weeks, but I just couldn’t find anybody who wanted to talk about vouchers.

Fortunately, I did find lots of people who are willing to talk to Jindal about other subjects. Here’s the list.

Rob Zombie will go to Jindal and talk to him about horror movies. Jonah Hill will talk with the governor about comedy. Alice Glass will talk about on-stage performance and hair dying. Lemmy will talk about vocal stylings. Meredith Monk will talk about experimental music. Bill Nye will talk with Jindal about dinosaurs. Miley Cyrus will talk about sexuality. Justin Bieber will talk about cage fighting, and several of the Suicide Girls will talk about alternative modeling.

So, get ready, Governor! You’re about to have some company! Sorry, but I guess the vouchers thing just isn’t a big topic of conversation these days. But if you’re still lonely after you entertain all these guests, get in touch with me and I’ll do another search for somebody who wants to talk about vouchers. There’s a guy who sells roasted peanuts in the alley behind Trey Trey’s Mudbogging Emporium who has expressed a little interest in the subject.


Weary Of The News?

So, do you want to read some more stories about the government shutdown, sequestration and budget ceiling? How about a few more stories on the new health care plan?

If you’re ever tired of the news, get your relief by visiting the site for the New York Daily News. One difference between the Daily News and the late, great Weekly World News is that a lot of the stuff in the Daily News probably really happened. Spend 10 minutes on the Daily News site and you’ll get the idea that there’s an alternative world on the same planet we’re on.

All these headlines ran on the site IN ONE DAY:

“Lovesick ghost caught on film.”

“Boss made me stand beside him while he urinated.”

“Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth through the years”

“The women of Simon Cowell”

“Meet the best-dressed dog on Instagram”

“Hooters turns 30”

“Pickled snake comes back to life, bites Chinese woman”

“Elderly woman urinates on Houston businessman”

I know I sort of suggested above that I wouldn’t write anything about the health care act. But the next headline is so hilarious there was no way I could resist it:

“Jimmy Kimmel proves that many Americans don’t understand there’s no difference between Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act”

Sorry about that.


Spoiler Alert!

A few weeks ago, I saw a DVD of a movie called Gatsby. You won’t believe what happens in this thing! I’ll give you a quick run-down.

OK, so it starts out with this crazy guy who’s talking to his shrink who says he should write everything down so he writes about this dude named Gatsby who lived in a pretty big house and got rich by doing some shady stuff and used to live right next door when he lived in a little shack. So one day Gatsby comes over and tells the crazy guy he wants to have tea with his cousin Daisy, so they all have tea. Meantime, Daisy’s husband drives real fast through this raunchy part of town where people are dirty and sweaty and working and dancing and playing saxophone and a big old creepy billboard with two big eyes and a big pair of glasses looks down on it all. Far out.

Soooo … Gatsby tells Daisy she doesn’t love her husband but her husband tells her he loves her and she says she loves him and Gatsby gets mad and drives a bright yellow car really fast through the dirty part of town with the spooky eyes and glasses and a woman runs in front of his car and he runs her down although I don’t think he meant to. So the woman’s husband comes over and shoots him and he falls in the swimming pool. End of story! I don’t have any idea what happened to the crazy guy.

Hose me, Agnes! This all happened in 1922 — in one year! Did people really live that way then? It must have been exhausting! I’d think they would have developed glandular disorders.

Things have sure changed a lot since then. For example, there’s no longer any law that requires you to take off your shirt when you play a saxophone.