Monday, August 22, 2016

In Which Is Illustrated The Reason Why I Don't Write Reviews

A long time ago....
(A decade, even)...
there was a website of miscellaneous written stuff called I Drank What?, which featured many things written by, among other people, Cindy Sites Wooley (only Sites back then, a decade or more ago), who had worked on and written for Tangents magazine, and Chris DeLisle (two awesome people, both of whom Facebook now helps my slack ass to keep up with; thank you FB!)

BTW, Tangents went away at one point but now is back again - hooray!! Here is the NEW iteration:

Anyway, I also wrote some stuff for IDW: mainly poems, a few articles, a story or two, and the occasional review. Not many reviews, though. For, you see, I am long-winded -- or rather, long-typed?/keyed? Yeah. In college, I *wanted* to be able to write the 8-9 page papers we were assigned, but in my OCD way I'd end up with 14 pages, still only 2/3 of the way finished with what I wanted to say, at 4 am, glaring at my peacefully sleeping roommate who double-spaced her paper to bring it up to 8 pages. So. very. maddening.

Thus, it came as no surprise to me that I could not for the life of me write a paragraph-long review of ANYTHING. My fellow writers (and happily, also the editors), however, were very very surprised nigh unto alarm. This is one of them, although not, I believe, the longest one. (The longest one, a paen to Die Hard, actually made their eyes glaze over and their faces sag a little. But I can't locate it right now.)
This review is from July 2001.

Exhibit Review:  “Mi Barrio/My Neighborhood” at Gallery L

One of the latest things to go cosmopolitan in Charlotte is the Main Library uptown.  In recent months, I’ve noticed a big change there, namely that the big room that used to be the Virtual Library has now become a seriously suave gallery, with the ultra-hip, New York-style name of Gallery L.  So far, I’ve seen two pretty neat things there:  a Warhol exhibit, and the exhibit I’m reviewing here, called “Mi Barrio/My Neighborhood”.  It’s an exhibit of a graphic novel and various other art created by 13 teenagers in a predominantly Hispanic part of Hendersonville.

The novel uses a combination of drawings, some black & white, some color, and photos.  There aren’t many words:  mostly a collage of pictures and images loosely tell a story of gang life, from riding high to dying.  This is then followed by a page that declares women to be “Man’s Best Hope for Peace” and shows some of the girls that were involved in the project.  Some comics and miscellaneous collage-style pages follow, including a really cool one about the “New Girl Order”.  The novel is in Spanish, reading from one side, then when you flip the book over, the words are in English, which is a really good way to do it.  The kids have done an amazing job of integrating the drawings and the photos, and the composition and placement is excellent, like when there’s a line-drawing of a man pasted into a photograph of a rear-view mirror.  I also like the way certain drawings, like the buildings, are repeated throughout the comic so skillfully, with different portions of a larger drawing in different sizes.  Although the gang story is really simple and almost stylized, it works well that way, and artistically it is really well-done.

Various pages from the novel were put up on different walls of the gallery, so it really hits you first with the collective atmosphere of it all, of gang life and teen life in general.  And since the gallery is laid out so that you have to walk around walls and partitions to see it all, the pages were shuffled even more so you therefore had to pay more attention to each frame, which enhances the experience.  Copies of the novel are provided free at the entrance, though, so you can then read it in order and see it the way they put it together.  Besides the novel, the walls of Gallery L held some more collage-type pictures, and a lot more miscellaneous pieces of art by the kids who worked on this project:  such as self-portraits, neighborhood scenes, some drawings of a more religious or mystical/fantastical nature, and even a few comic strips.

Out of the miscellaneous art, most was really good and impressed me with the kids’ talent – and a few drawings actually blew me away with the skill in technique and composition.  But the creativity of all of it, especially the graphic novel and collage pages, really impressed me in and of itself.  This exhibit reminded me of how it was in high school, of the kids who were into art and whose talent I admired and envied.  There is often so much talent in the kids around you, and so it’s really important for teachers, counselors, and society as a whole to not let down kids.  Everyone needs to encourage and listen to kids, to recognize how unique and impressive they are, and how important it is for them to feel pride in accomplishment.  This exhibit reminded me how cool most kids already are, at that age – at any age – as people who matter.

“Mi Barrio/My Neighborhood” runs through July 22nd, and it’s definitely worth a trip up to Gallery L.

- Kat Finger

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