Dancing on the barricades in HOME: the metamorphosis

The metamorphosis of my immediate downtown neighborhood absorbs my attention daily, so I was glad to see an artist and her collaborators take up the subject. Stephanie LeathersHOME: the metamorphosis, which repeats once more tonight, Nov. 12, begins to look at the new developments and alteration of old buildings that is currently changing Durham overnight, night after night, and how this landscape in flux affects our bodies and the ways we move through the environment.


Ally Lloyd, front, and Myra Weise climb the fence in an earlier, Sunday SITES, dance exploration. Photo: Chris Cherry.

Leathers built this multi-media, multi-location performance work with movement culled from her Sunday SITES series of exploratory dances in places in flux (construction zones) in and near downtown Durham, and from video made during those, along with still photographs she has made around downtown, accompanied by typed poetic fragments by Chris Vitiello. Leathers is joined in her peripetic program by three other female dancers: Alison Lloyd, Kristin Taylor (particularly nice to watch) and Sydney Vigotov, and they are all joined at the final location by musician Jonathan Hunter-Watts Le Sueur.

The program begins at the new Empowerment Dance Studio at 109 W. Parrish (next to Loaf), where you can buy your ticket, and where the photographs are hung. The dancers will appear around 6:30 to lead you outside, for a movement section along the construction fence and the orange and white barricades. This was, to me, the most successful segment of the piece, because it occurs in a disorderly constricted space, with oncoming traffic inches from the dancers, while the roar and light and dirt of the rising 27-story tower continue behind them.

From there, the dance parade makes a couple of stops before reaching its final destination, the old Fishmongers at 806 W. Main, which is currently in a pleasing state of deshabille. Almost everything has been ripped out, the ceiling is down, the back is open to the front–but the black and white tile floor remains to support the building’s next identity.


Kristin Taylor dancing in the old Fishmongers space. Looks different at night. Photo: Stephanie Leathers.

LOADED OBJECTS, at the Carrack Gallery through 10/26

Stencil for Bull Jumping Shark tag that's showing up on the hoardings of various high-dollar developments in Durham. Anonymous.

Stencil for the Bull Jumping Shark tag that’s showing up on the hoardings of various high-dollar developments in Durham, perhaps as a warning. Anonymous.

The Carrack Modern Art Gallery, should you have never ventured the stairs leading up from the bakery at 111 West Parrish Street in downtown Durham, is an unusual place. It’s a zero-commission gallery, which means that if an artwork sells, the artist gets all the money. It also means that the gallery runs on grants, donations and labors of love–and the labor is not inconsequential. Shows at the Carrack turn over every two weeks. The current show, Loaded Objects, up through this weekend only, has been curated by Chris Vitiello as part of his omnivorous love of the arts. Vitiello (who is currently visual art reporter and critic for IndyWeek) has a wide-ranging mind and a sensitive eye, the nerve path of which seems to be routed through his heart.

Plaything, mixed media, by Cody Platt, with a Jim Lee photograph in the background.

Plaything, mixed media, including breakfast cereal, by Cody Platt, with a Jim Lee photograph in the background.

By this I mean he feels what he sees, and makes astute connections between images and ideas, weaving those connecting points together in webs of words. He has chosen objects and images that link for him under the rubric of “utility.” Vitiello is also a poet (and appears frequently as the notorious Poetry Fox, to be found pounding out poems on demand on a classy old manual typewriter in unlikely locations around town), and to follow his logic requires the viewer to open the sluice gates on her own poetic imagination, even though Vitiello has written cogent (and sometimes hortatory) wall texts to accompany the artworks.

All significant artwork could be described as “loaded.” Its power lies in communicating things for which beloved language is inadequate. In this gallery full of extremely different works, Vitiello seems to have put together a kind of free-verse praise song lauding the wondrous variety of things and images that can stop us in our tracks with their bullets of truth. His taste is catholic as to media and subject, but he has a strong bias toward the well-made, which helps the viewer feel the connections as the eye moves among the objects.

There aren’t many paintings in the show, but two paintings by Bonnie Melton could constitute a show in themselves.  A photograph can only suggest the prickly, passionate beauty of her painted surfaces, with their signifying shapes and vibrating color interactions.

Backstitch (Embroidery for Jean), oil on wood, Bonnie Melton.

Backstitch (Embroidery for Jean), oil on wood, Bonnie Melton.

Once you can tear your eyes away from Melton’s work, it is not difficult to hopscotch to the next texture, the next message. You may end up feeling like St. Sebastian, though, shot full of arrows, art arrows.

Curator Vitiello and some of the exhibition artists will talk about the work in the gallery, 7:30 p.m. 10/23. Free.

Gallery shot of the Carrack's LOADED OBJECTS, curated by Chris Vitiello. L to R, works by Andre Leon Gray, Anonymous, Tama Hochbaum.

Gallery shot of the Carrack’s LOADED OBJECTS, curated by Chris Vitiello. L to R, works by Andre Leon Gray, Anonymous, Tama Hochbaum.

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