Raleigh Rambles

John Dancy-Jones at large!

A Pair of Gems Emerge from Pandemonium


Two friends sent creative responses to Plague Daze, my mail art project of May 1. Mary Hill sent an exquisite collage folder, and Anna Weaver sent an original poem responding to the ideas in my mail art. These pieces arrived the same day, and immediately my gratefulness turned to amazement, because my shared message of thanks introduced them, and each has a strong connection to 309 W. Martin Street in Raleigh, home of The Paper Plant.




Mary, a papermaker and collage/assemblage artist, moved from Artspace to The Paper Plant’s new artist rental space and it was a wonderful experience to share space with her. We became like family after being close neighbors in Oakwood. I love this piece so much.





I met Anna Weaver by attending (and being the week’s winner of!) her open mike in downtown Raleigh, which is called Tongue & Groove. It now takes place in VAE’s space at 309 W. Martin – the site of The Paper Plant! She is a true performance poet, and therefore she and her work are dear to my heart. Enjoy her poem!



Anna is working on a fantastic project – a seasoned emcee, she is working on participating in open mikes in all fifty states. You can find out all about it at Open Mike Tourist.

This mail art gig rocks at present. Showered with beauty. Stay safe!

mail art at Raleigh Rambles

May 22, 2020 Posted by | art, mail art, Raleigh downtown | , , , | 1 Comment

Denis Wood Maps Across the World, Starting with Boylan Heights

Denis Wood is an old friend who played an important role in nurturing The Paper Plant into existence in the early 1980s.  He was an engaging and innovative professor during that tenure of his life, and now has turned his intellectual charms to the theory or philosophy of cartography, writing numerous books and just completing a lecture tour in Germany.  His most recent publication, Everything Sings, is a book of radically different maps, illustrating his unique take on what a map can be and how it effects us.  It is also a wonderfully quirky portrait of Boylan Heights, and the book’s success shows how interesting and important Denis’ work is, as well as how hot Raleigh is, and how treasured is that neighborhood in its history.  The book cover, seen above, displays the location and carving pattern of Boylan Heights pumpkins on a Halloween.  Pecan tree locations, utility services, and lot sizes all became subjects of innovative maps created by graduate students under Wood’s tutelage.

Denis spoke and presented this fall at the Boylan Ave Brewery to celebrate the publication of the book.  It was well attended and Denis entertained quite well with the amazing story of how his book came to be – an interview for background information with Ira Glass for an NPR story on maps, his casual mention of a long term project with NCSU design students, and the subsequent segment of This American Life which brought the project to the attention of book publishers. The actual production of Everything Sings involved many winding turns, but now that it’s finally out, it is not only selling well, but been nominated for  the University of Iowa’s The Essay Prize.

Denis is such a creative thinker and enthusiastic cultural worker.  His talk presented small samples of the ideas in his major books – that maps represent not just a set of places but a representation of the way we think about places, if at all.  Maps can take many forms, and the formats of our maps shape the way we think about the world. Maps can enhance, shift or corrupt our view of the world.   We can also enlarge our sense of the world through creative use and creation of maps, and that is at the core of Denis Wood’s work.

The book that helped promote and elucidate these concepts on the national scene is The Power of Maps, his 1992 book, co-authored with John Fels, that helped literally turn everyone’s concpetions of maps upside down.  Last year, they published the title pictured above, which updates and enlarges their approach.

Denis is continually sharing his ideas.  His recent presentation at a conference called Mapping Maps: What’s New About Neocartography, in Seigen Germany, was part of a media studies program, and involved people working at what seems to this layman to be right at the edge of cartography: Geo-annotation, The Rise of Aerial Photogrammetry, Performative Cartography, Playful Cartography, and explorations of web resources such as OpenStreetMap.   Denis was the main evening speaker and presented his critique entitled The Challenge to Neocartography Posed by Guy Debord and Kevin Lynch His workshops in Frankfort shared his ideas on the nature of maps with graduate students, and in Liepzig he presented to traditional geographers about  “A Place Off the Map: The Case for a Non-Map-based Place Title.”

All this was and is very interesting but I must confess my favorite stories from Germany were about the European flavors and customs, along with some delicious gossip about European academic politics.  Denis provokes you to consider new ideas, but he doesn’t press them – mainly because he’s quickly on to some other new ideas – plus the ones you’ve made him think of during the conversation!   He is a treasure, he is doing great stuff, and I hope you keep an eye out for him.

Denis Wood signs his new book at the Boylan Ave Brewpub

Siglio Press on Everything Sings:

Denis Wood has created an atlas unlike any other. Surveying Boylan Heights, his small neighborhood in North Carolina, he subverts the traditional notions of mapmaking to discover new ways of seeing both this place in particular and the nature of place itself. Each map attunes the eye to the invisible, the overlooked, and the seemingly insignificant. From radio waves permeating the air to the location of Halloween pumpkins on porches, Wood searches for the revelatory details in what has never been mapped or may not even be mappable. In his pursuit of a “poetics of cartography,” the experience of place is primary, useless knowledge is exalted, and representation strives toward resonance. Our perception of maps and how to read them changes as we regard their beauty, marvel at their poetry, and begin to see the neighborhoods we live in anew. Everything Sings weaves a multi-layered story about one neighborhood as well as about the endeavor of truly knowing the places which we call home.

 That a cartographer could set out on a mission that’s so emotional, so personal, so idiosyncratic, was news to me.   IRA GLASS, host of This American Life, from his introduction to Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas

Ira Glass interview with Denis Wood about Everything Sings:


Denis Wood website:


This book is featured on Places, the online journal of architecture, landscape and urbanism 


March 14, 2011 Posted by | art, Raleigh downtown, Raleigh history, reflection | , , , , | Leave a comment

MUSA – “making” in the US today

Matt’s bird installation at entrance to MUSA show

The MUSA show at Cozart’s Antiques in west downtown Raleigh (just closed October 18th) was varied, intriguing and successful in presenting artistic takes on the issues behind the show’s concept – work and making things in the post-industrial age.  The show was held in a back  space which formerly housed a furniture factory.  I have formerly described my personal connections to the space and its employees.  I went opening night and then back for more pictures.  There were a scattering of very interesting installations within this large show, and these were what I focused on.


One striking installation had some very cool craft history associated with it.  Jon Barlow Hudson’s  “Felt Hat Body” also offered a chapbook called “The Handmade Felt Hat.” I picked one up and found it, as a papermaker, a wonderful history of the craft and the culture surrounding it.  There was also a beautiful accordion book by Kathleen Loeven on display, seen below.

The show was incorporated into its space in a unique way.  Many trappings of the former furniture works were still in place – from commercial tin decoration samples to the old paint shop.  One of the installations used spray paint and objects to evoke the history of the place’s paints. The large back room featured a working silk screen process as well as the installation of “Invisible,” the music group that played at the opening and other project events.  Below, an Invisible member sets the pegs on the player piano wheel that provided some of the random sounds.

The artwork was extremely variable in style and quality.  My favorite piece by far was a large contraption that hung clay “icicles” over a pan of water.  As visitors pushed the lever that lowered them into the water, the blobs of clay were soaked and softened.  Gradually they would slip off their strings and fall into the water creating an evolving pattern in the water.  Below is a picture I snapped just after a young woman had been splashed by a sudden plop.


Another very fun piece was the shrine to highway US 1  by Dave Alsobrooks that was installed in a small side room.  There was a church pew, a slide show of the artist’s road trip (whose imagery was “desaturated” for effect), and -best of all- a US1 bumper sticker which I have proudly displayed on my car!  I liked the artist’s attempt to “find beauty in the mundane” and really like his description of the piece recording “the constant plodding of our human race towards an unknown future…”

Highway US 1 shrine

Highway US 1 shrine

The show was a lot of fun and thought-provoking as well.  The gritty, down-n-dirty atmosphere provided an excellent setting for much of the art work.  Carter Hubbard and Sarah Botwick are to be commended for finding a way to enlarge the possibilities for art events in downtown Raleigh.

art house at the MUSA show

art house at the MUSA show

photo album of MUSA show

October 24, 2009 Posted by | art, Raleigh downtown, Raleigh history | , , | Leave a comment

MUSA exhibit opens, taintradio features, Raleigh’s post-industrial art scene cooks


MUSA is a “post-industrial art exhibit” whose content will relate more or less directly to the venue: a dormant furniture factory across from Humble Pie in downtown Raleigh.  An art show in this space really resonates for me, because I have such fond memories of the crucial employment and quirky stories that arose from my artist friends’ work there in the 1980s.  The owners made annual trips to Asia for antiques and prints, but the majority of the stock was furniture that was “aged” – whipped with chains and other abuse, or modified otherwise – before wholesaling to Neiman Marcus.  Bill and Otho were enlightened and tolerant employers to several good friends, and I’ve always appreciated it.

Now Otho is offering the space, which ceased business in 2002, to Carter Hubbard and Sarah Botwick, two art entrepreneurs who hope

 to produce an interpretive, visual perspective that will allow patrons to reflect on what it means to be “made” in the USA; a question even more poignant in these current economic times.

mentioned this show in July and bemoaned the Flash software used to present the website, which actually looks quite nice, but presents minor navigation issues and major Google search issues, because all of the info appears to be insulated from the web-crawlers.  Now the site has a large amount of info and lots of artwork examples, most of which present some kind of connection to industrial themes.  The work is also integrated into the factory space, including one series that explores the history of the paint in the room in which it is situated.  The dying pastime of pigeon-keeping, the dying art of hat-making, Latino work portraits, and the use of trees all form a part of a broad set of responses to technological change and its implications for work.

Location: 320 South Harrington Street, Raleigh, NC
Web Address: www.musanc.com

Opening Reception: “First Friday”, October 2, 2009 6-9pm
Reg. Hours: Monday – Thursday, 11-5, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 1-7pm
“Invisible Sounds” – site-specific live music prior to the screening of “With These Hands”  Q&A to follow, Oct. 10, 6pm
Exhibition Dates: October 2-18, 2009



taintradio, poised to survive the “post music industry age,” sends word it will present another feature at Marsh Woodwinds.  The internet radio venture has added several new shows to its weekly cycle, including Philadelphia-based Jeff Duperon’s Congo Square.   Feature info below.

taintradio.org & Marsh Woodwinds presents guitarist/composer Eugene Chadbourne concert & live webcast on October 3rd.
Avant-garde multi-instrumentalist and composer Eugene Chadbourne brings his unique anarchic blend of jazz, punk, country, improv and noise to Marsh Woodwinds, 707 N. Person Street in Raleigh, NC on Saturday, October 3rd at 8pm. The concert is a presentation of the taintradio/Marsh Woodwinds concert series, and will be broadcast live on the Web to listeners worldwide at www.taintradio.org. Tickets are $10 at the door, and free refreshments will be served.
It’s been nearly 5 years since the Greensboro-based Chadbourne has performed in Raleigh, and we are delighted to add this date to his fall touring schedule, which includes Berlin, Vienna and Istanbul.
Chadbourne has been a major presence in improv, punk and jazz circles for over 30 years, including work with John Zorn, Charlie Haden, The Violent Femmes, Billy Bragg, Tony Trischka, The Red Clay Ramblers, Marc Ribot, Jimmy Carl Black and many others. Relentlessly eclectic and experimental, Chadbourne writes and plays a wide range of music, from free jazz interpretations of classic honky-tonk country to transcriptions of Bach for banjo and his infamous invention, the electric rake. Chadbourne’s dozens of solo and collaborative albums add up to one of the most consistently challenging and rewarding bodies of work you’ll find in experimental music.
  This is a rare chance to hear this musical legend in an intimate venue on Saturday, October 3rd.



SparkCon expanded and upgraded its arts event this year, taking over Fayetteville Street with 13 different “…sparks” at 24 venues, intensely focused on the 1st two blocks of Fayetteville.  From Raleigh’s emerging status as the East Coast’s gaming industry hub to the latest creation from uliveandyouburn, this street festival helps to brand Raleigh as a city of designers and 21st century entrepreneurs.


And as a final note, we head toward the “post newspaper industry age” in the company of Raleigh Public Record, whose detailed candidate profiles and “Sunshine” public record posts are demonstrating the validity and value of Charles Pardo’s vision of 21st century journalism.

My nature column at RPR will return as soon as some of my excess pies get cooked!

September 20, 2009 Posted by | art, music, Raleigh downtown | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grimanesa Amoros centerpieces strong Artspace retrospective

Artspace retrospective 09_1_1

Griminesa Amoros’s dramatic torsos dominate the Gallery One show at Artspace, but are surrounded by equally strong work as the artists -in-residence retrospective show moves toward its closing September 5th.  Artspace has used this series of residencies to raise the bar for out-of-town alternative visual artists’ showings in Raleigh, and has highlighted several highly deserving local talents as well.

Artspace gallery one 09_1_1

Reconsidered brings together myriad artistic styles unified by a passionate and meticulous attention to physicality – to the actual visual textures presented by the artistic artifact.  The mental constructs that inform these explorations each seem amazingly different – the show itself is quite a collage.

Artspace lobby 8-09_1_1

The  media installation by Sherri Lynn Wood,  seen on the right wall above, was interactive in a way that emblemized the reach this program had into the community. Spectators were invited to use small printed forms to share their own slogan in response to the video, which featured repetitive phrases.  The responses slowly filled the wall around the video screen throughout the show. You can see the video yourself at www.mantratrailer.com.

Wood installation at Artspace_1_1

Eileen Doktorski’s bronze landfill castings are in the center rear above.  The use of precious metals to cast the surfaces of human waste gave the pieces a strong aura of future artifact – ironic snapshots of our throw-away culture.

Eileen Doktorski

Eileen Doktorski

The show includes a range of more traditional work.  Anthony Ulinski’s muted oil paintings seem nearly empty at first glance.  Rarely is such really really low-key subject matter treated so thoughtfully.  The strokes and composition radiate the sensibility of this master woodworker and excellent soul.  IlaSahai Prouty’s traditional felts present as shields or medallions, though she calls them sails on the ocean of words, which I also like very much.  I didn’t see her 3-D shapes as wind-pushed but as macroscopic waves of the incredible textures that permeated the show.  Ann Marie Kennedy presents pristine handmade papers with exquisite suspensions of plant materials.  Laura Berman opens the show’s entrance with yet another textural study – the cumulative effect of a huge spread of deceptively un-simple line drawings on paper swatches, carefully applied as a wall installation.  Carrie Scanga’s etchings are accurately described in the show catalog as “enigmatic and uncanny…concerned with…the liminal aspects of memory.”  My favorite print, “baker banana,”  evoked Picasso’s harlequins .

Carrie Scanga

Carrie Scanga

Laura Berman

Laura Berman

Sherri Lynn Wood

Sherri Lynn Wood


The pregnant figures with truncated limbs take some digesting, to say the least.  The astounding visceral physicality of the body casts combines with the amorphous identity of the figures, both personally and sexually, to create a large silence with many voices, muted and stoic, and filled with tension.  All of their bodies are identical and pregnant; each head is a different human, at least to my eye.  There are male and female pairs, clearly coupled but arranged in various states of estrangement and bond.  A lone female figure emanates calm and seems a narrator, or Grimanesa herself, contemplating the profound enigma that dawns on the spectator as one studies the figures and reflects on the title, which is You Cannot Feel It…I Wish You Could.  If you haven’t kept up with the emergence of the male pregnancy concept, this piece is perhaps the perfect introduction.  Grimanesa has blessed Raleigh with another vision from her far-reaching explorations of human identity and artistic media to reflect it.

Grimanesa Amoros

Grimanesa Amoros

Artspace has done an outstanding job with this series.  The artists each had the rather unique opportunity to develop an installation or body of work totally integrated into a large exhibit space they control.  Teaching at Artspace each summer I have seen them work, share with summer students and the public, and find a balance between sharing their semi-public work process and creating the time and space to produce sophisticated and enriching art right before our eyes.  Part of the series’ great success surely lies with Lia Newman, who serves as director of programs and exhibits with great devotion and skill, but also brings the perspective of an active and successful artist who can really make these visitors feel at home and understood.  Yeah, Lia!!

August 22, 2009 Posted by | art, Raleigh downtown | , , | 2 Comments