“Vacation” opens November 30 @ The Penthouse Gallery

Elena Johnston curated “Vacation,” a new exhibition opening November 30, Friday from 7-10 p.m at The Penthouse Gallery. Here is a brief Q&A.

1) How important do you think taking a break, seeing new things, and/or travel are to art?

Taking a break to travel, see things, whether it be traveling abroad, going to a museum, just taking a walk, etc, is essential to get perspective on what you want to/ are doing or working on. Not everyone has the opportunity to see other places necessarily but not being just an “artist in the studio” all day is important to art making and growth.There has to be a balance in between the two.

2) How would you define vacation?

The title “Vacation” is not supposed to be taken as literally as it may seem, but just as taking a break or play.

3) Could you explain why you chose the theme play?

It’s been a theme I have explored for a long time in curating and my own illustration and fine art work. I’m attracted to artwork that has a sense of humor about itself or is free from standards of style, concept, or application. It’s really important to keep a sense of humor about life.

4) Where are the artists featured from?

There are a few artists from Baltimore, but also NY, Austin,Philadelphia, and Sweden.

5) How would you describe the space of the penthouse gallery?

The penthouse gallery is a space with great potential and energy. There have been some awesome shows there. I chose it because It has the DIY aesthetic where I can truly fulfill the concept of the show and not be help back by much really. There are no rules to be held back by.

“Vacation” will run from November 30-December 14.

learn more about Johnston’s work here

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Scapescape: Wye Oak

On Friday, I went to see Wye Oak perform at Baltimore’s end-of-the-summer music celebration, ScapeScape. It’s amazing to see the events the amazing people of Baltimore can pull off. The crowd was definitely packed with Wye Oak fans dancing, singing and even mildly moshing! The band played a number of new songs, including “Spiral.”  Also playing hits like “Civilian,” “Dog Eyes,” and “That I Do.”

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Check out OSAYCANYOUSEE at The Windup Space, 9/8

On Saturday, September 8, Post Typography’s OSAYCANYOUSEE: Prints and Objects inspired by the War of 1812 will be on view at The Windup Space. OSAYCANYOUSEE is a solo exhibition by Nolen Strals and Bruce Willen. The reception will be held from 7-9 p.m. and music by Ed Schraders Music Beat, Mickey Free and Pure Junk (ex Double Dagger) will start at 9:30 p.m. Art in the Age will be serving their cocktails.

According to the artists, the artwork “touches on themes of baseball, capitalism, and violence with visual wit, dark humor, and a potent graphic aesthetic, deftly drawing from iconic imagery of pop culture, patriotism, and American history.”

Here is my interview with Post Typography’s Bruce Willen.

1) If you were giving a little history lesson on the war of 1812, what would you find important to mention?

Willen: The War of 1812 was really the first American war, and the first war that we declared as a nation. It really established a lot of themes of expansionism and manifest destiny that would shape the country. One of the most interesting-yet-little-known facts is that at the end of the war, there was a proposal to establish a separate nation for Native American tribes in what is today the Ohio/Indiana/Michigan area. The U.S. rejected this proposal in favor of annexing these lands for ourselves. The Native Americans were the biggest losers of the war.

“Bombs Bursting in Air”

2) As a collaboration, how easy did the work come together?

Willen: We typically work very collaboratively. Having two people contribute ideas helps strengthen the work.

3) You’ve mentioned that the work in OSAYCANYOUSEE has themes of baseball, capitalism, and violence. How much do you think Baltimore audiences can relate to these themes?

Willen: They are definitely very American themes that anyone brought up in this country can relate to. There are definitely some specific nods to Baltimore, especially the title piece “Osaycanyousee” which features a specific reference to the national anthem as sung at Baltimore Orioles games.

4) How were the performers picked for the opening?

Willen: We wanted to have some fun, smart, high-energy music with some variety. We’re big fans of Ed Schrader’s Music Beat and Mickey Free, and know that they will bring it! Pure Junk is Nolen’s brand new band (composed of all-stars from the Baltimore art/design/ illustration community), and this is one of their first shows.

“Through The Perilous Fight”

5) Each piece is named after a lyric in The Star Spangled Banner, what’s your relationship with that song as an American?

Willen: As an American (especially if you ever watch a baseball/football game), you hear the national banner so frequently that you don’t really dwell on it’s lyrics. But it’s actually a very militaristic song—it was written during an intense war after all. It’s interesting to think of the lyrics as they are interpreted or sung in contemporary life compared to the original intentions of the song.

5b) Do you really think this was the worst performance OF ALL TIME? j.k don’t answer that.

Willen: Actually we watched this while we were working on pieces for the show!

6) Why should people come out for the opening?

Willen: Art In The Age (where the show will be traveling to in Philadelphia this December) will be serving special cocktails with their small batch liquors. And because it will be awesome.

OSAYCANYOUSEE will be on display at The Windup Space through October 27.

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National Geographic’s Photo Camp presents work from refugees at UMBC

On Tuesday, June 19, refugees (ages 11-19) from Burma and Eritrea will be screening their multimedia work at UMBC. The screening marks the completion of National Geographic’s photo camp which started Saturday, June 16 and is running until Tuesday. The refugees have been mentored by National Geographic photographers and staff to help them document their new surroundings. The screening will be held from 5 p.m to 6 p.m.

Here are a few questions with Kursten Pickup the Refugee Youth Project Coordinator.

1) What do you hope the refugees get out of the camp?

I hope the students find ways to explore their new home through a new lens, learn how to tell a story through photography and gain a new skill. I hope they realize that their stories and experiences are sacred, valued and powerful. Their stories can create empathy, a sense of connection and spread awareness of what it feels like to be a newcomer in the Baltimore area.

 2) What should people know about the living environment that the refugees are coming from?

People should know that refugees have very different experiences. Some have lived in refugee camps their entire lives and have been allowed to attend school or work within the camp. Others fled their home country and lived in larger cities before coming to America. Some come from rural environments and others come from urban. No matter where they are coming from, they are seeking refuge due to religious, social, ethnic or racial persecution in their home country.

3) What is the current housing situation for the refugees?

Housing is coordinated by local resettlement agencies, such as the International Rescue Committee. They partner with property management companies to provide relatively low cost apartments that are near public transportation, schools, and grocery stores. Currently most refugees in Baltimore are being resettled in the Catonsville area as well as the Frankford Community in North West Baltimore.

The screening will be held at UMBC’s Information Technology and Engineering Building in the 1st Floor Auditorium.

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Event Review: The Stoop Storytelling Series

As a recent college graduate, you can already accurately assume two things about me: I am unemployed and I am broke. But, if there is one thing I am willing to splurge on (meaning spending more than five bucks) it is great, fun entertainment. I spent $20 to sit in on Postcards from The Stoop: A Live Radio Show about cross-country jaunts, Chevy Chase-style family vacations, and two weeks in paradise (or hell!) –and it was well worth it.

I met up with friend Katie Killon (you know, the chick that writes this blog) at Centerstage and after paying for admission, we entered the auditorium only to see a group of Hawaiian t-shirt-topped, funky-cool musicians rocking on stage. In honor of The Stoop’s theme, the Baltimore-based band, the Egg Babies Orchestra, played some of the greatest vacation songs (“Vacation” by the Go-Go’s is my all-time favorite).

After a couple of tunes, the lights went out. A signal reading ‘ON AIR’, hanging from the catwalk of the stage, suddenly lit up. The stage decorated with beach chairs and beach balls, plastic flamingos, and other vacation-like sorts, transported us to a world of travel.

For a good two hours, we were getting lost on family road trips (always the dad’s fault), taking the train across the country, traveling uphill in the west by tandem bike with our loved ones, sitting on the curb in dismay after missing the school bus for a field trip, and even entering The Stoop ‘Twilight Zone’ only to end up in a pickle and becoming the latest living display in a small town museum.

Filled with live sound effects, mini sketches by The Stoop Radio Players, and personal travel stories from special guests and some audience members, the night was full of laughter and gasps.

So, want to go all out for vacation this summer? Why not try a stay-cation with The Stoop Storytelling Series? Definitely worth the splurge.

I leave you with a few photos from the night’s shenanigans, but first, watch the Go-Go’s perform “Vacation.” You know you want to.

Photo Credit: Olivia Obineme

Photo Credit: Olivia Obineme

Photo Credit: Olivia Obineme

When is the next Stoop Storytelling Series? Click here for more information.

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Artist Preview: Glenford Nunez’s “The Coiffure Project”

ImageGlenford Nunez is a portrait and fashion photographer based in Baltimore. Nunez will be showing his latest work in September and is releasing a book of his latest photo series: The Coiffure Project. 

The Coiffure Project started out as simple cell phone photos of my assistant Courtney who wears her hair natural. I noticed that I was accumulating a small body of work. I thought to myself ‘I may have a good thing going’ so I decided make an effort to create a book of natural hair portraits,” said Glenford Nunez.

The opening night of the exhibition will be private and invitation only. It will be held September 15.

Here is a preview of the series:


to see more visit The Coiffure Project

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Blatantly opinion: The Maryland Film Festival is the best weekend to live in Baltimore. I had a really great time, most days were 10+ hours and I managed to see a lot of great films. Sunday, I woke up kind of bummed out about not having a license.. searched my room and car, with no luck and decided to ride dirty (this is just a reference to not having a license, I didn’t have a gun or drugs on me) over to the film festival.

After walking around a bit I decided to see The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best at MICA. I thought it was an interesting perspective. The main character was dealing with a break-up, but that was never annoying or overly-dramatized. I’d describe it as a quirky comedy with a touch of drama!  I want to say it’s a more realistic road trip movie.. but they were creating songs together while they were driving.. literally the driver was playing an instrument.. musicians out there: is this possible? The film also had a cameo by an aged Andrew McCarthy! haven’t seen that guy in awhile. Have I expressed my childhood obsession with “Mannequin?” no? well.. I liked it kind of a lot. Anyway, I enjoyed the performances by both of the males leads Ryan O’Nan (who also directed the film) and Michael Weston and I think if you like indie comedies  you should check it out.

The next film I saw was “Gayby.” This is one of the few films that I had found a trailer for before watching, so I knew it was going to be semi-funny… but it ended up being REALLY funny. The film was about best friends in college who are now in their 30’s and decide to have a baby together despite the fact that they don’t want to “be together” because the character Jenn is straight and Matt is gay. Director Jonathan Lisecki played a smaller role in the film and made up for a lot of the laugh out loud moments. I caught the beginning of the Q&A and it was apparent that Lisecki is naturally hilarious. “Gayby” works because it’s not just a situational comedy, it’s a look at what it’s like to be single in your 30’s.. there’s equal parts of humor and sadness.

The closing night film was “Dark Horse” by Todd Solondz, who was present for an introduction and Q&A. Solondz like his films had a kind of offbeat tone introducing the film. I couldn’t tell if he was in character or if that’s just TODD! He introduced the film by saying it was his saddest film yet. The film followed an overweight man who is in his 40’s, lives at home with his parents, “works” for his dad, likes track suits and women who show no interest in him. The style and look of the film seemed to be a step up from Solondz past work “Welcome to the Dollhouse” or “Happiness.” The supporting cast was pretty A-list with Christopher Walken, Mia Farrow, Selma Blair and Justin Bartha. Solondz makes movies about people who the general population don’t want to watch but could probably relate to more than most Hollywood films. I thought the movie was funny, but mostly sad. One of the main plot points (SPOILER) is that Selma Blair’s character has Hepatitis so she might actually consider marrying someone she has no attraction to because she’s worried she’ll end up alone. Again there’s humor in this but it’s definitely coupled with offbeat sadness. 

After the film, I cut out early to go to Club Charles with the hope that I’d find my license there.. that I did not. So I headed over to the after party in the tent village.

The party kicked off after the Q&A with Todd Solodnz. The beer and wine were a flowing and the disco music was pumping. I think it took a good hour before most people were drunk enough to let loose and dance.. but dance did they ever. There was a serious circle with people dancing in the middle.

Also the good people of Pixalated made a return. I have to say having them there was an awesome idea because it probably cut back on how many people were snapping away with their own cell phones.. instead everyone could just stumble drunkenly in front of a well-lit photo shoot set-up and get some good photos to remember the night. Now when you’re getting your photo taken and you are also drinking 50% of the photos are going to be horrible, but the other half might be fun!

here is a video of the whole night’s worth of photos!

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