By Mickey Howley
Mary Lapides has a place in the woods well outside of Coffeeville. Lots of trees, a long dirt road to get to the house, very rural. Not the kind of place you’d expect a New Yorker to have and love. But she does and she comes here as often as she can, bringing her English husband, Jason, and their three children. And they are always here in the summer when most New Yorkers head the other way, up to Maine, to beat the heat.
Not Mary, she comes here when Yalobusha County is the hottest and stickiest and buggiest. And for the last two years and this year also, she brings a New York based artist with her (just to be technical, all are from Brooklyn).
In 2012 Zefrey Throwell was here. Zefery had done some pretty adventurous art prior to coming to the Valley. He did paintings with his father’s ashes and he had people get naked on Wall Street. He is a guy who is very able and willing to push creative limits. Some thought before he arrived he might be a bit “problematic,” Nothing could have been further from that. His project, “The Everyday Awards,” celebrated the folks here who get up everyday and do the extraordinary in ordinary ways. His creation of 16 awards plaques hung in Yalo Studio and he made a lovely movie about people here. His art was locally inspired and genuine in effort and creative in result.
Andrea Ray was here in 2013. Andrea had done work in Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Sweden. Naturally she’d want Water Valley on her resume. Andrea captured the essence of the Valley’s physic residue in her railroad inspired pieces. In three separate but connected pieces she installed a sound piece in Railroad Park that re-constructed the comings and goings of trains.
Then Yalo Studio was converted into a depot room in a piece titled “Waiting” where one could experience the forgotten soulful patience train travel required. And the third was upstairs at the B.T.C. Her “Utopian Dance” light and sound piece was a simple joy for ears and feet.
Susan Cianciolo is here this year. Susan works with fabric. She is a fashion designer and an artist. Piecing her work together on the floor of Yalo Studio, she is combining material. Some she brought with her, some fabric she found here, and some is cloth that others have added. I’ve only seen one piece, but the soft color transitions and use of material texture is figuratively a tactile pleasure to see. So while you’re out this coming Friday night in town, stop by Yalo Studio to see her show and say hi. Stroll Main Street a bit; the other galleries will be open also.
Greg and Tammy Gomersall have paint-speckled skin going along with a pretty good t-shirt tans. They have been working pretty hard on an old house on North Main. The same house that some folks were complaining about one year ago just after the Watermelon Carnival as derelict and embarrassing to the town. Frankly, I did not see it as that. Granted it was in rough shape and the grass was high, but far from something that should be bulldozed as some suggested. And though it took awhile, I’m glad the former owner hung on to it until the right folks like Tammy and Greg came along to buy it and really fix it properly. It is one of the older structures in town and it is looking great and really brings essential historic character back to that residential section of North Main.