The SpotLight

Story G. E. Light

There I was, Dr. G.E., the Golden Triangle’s very own gadfly critic-about-town, strolling down Columbus’ Main Street, when some bug-eyed, creepy looking black and white fish accosted my peripheral vision. I had to investigate further and soon found myself inside the Rosenzweig Arts Center enjoying Joe MacGowan’s one-man show of pen and ink drawings and colored mixed media art that he himself dubs “neo-Gothic surrealism” or “subconscious meandering.” MacGowan, a research technician/scientific illustrator at the Mississippi Entomological Museum since 1988, melds the precision of correctly enumerating the various phaneres on the carapace of an arachnid in his extremely detailed — if still dream-like — pen and ink drawings and color portraiture with a myriad of outside influences from Sci-Fi pulp magazine cover art in his “March Madness” to Georgia O’Keefe — if she had joined Carlos Castañeda on a peyote-aided journey — in “Ossiforestation.” All in all, a thought-provoking exhibition.

Labor Day brought Tennessee Williams and his entourage to Possum Town … not literally, but figuratively in the form of the annual hometown culture hero festival. Thursday, Sept. 5, the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival presented “Autumn Song” with music by jazz pianist/composer George Maurer and lyrics by Rainer Maria Rilke and Williams. The highlight of this spectacular show was Williams’ own “Covenant,” about why committed relationships are still worth pursuing though they can never fulfill the platonic ideal. Star performer amongst many candidates was reedsman Rich Manik, especially soulful and stirring on the soprano sax. (He’s backed The Temptations, Kenny Rogers and Lou Rawls for a reason.) Kudos to Brenda Carradine for securing this great event for Columbus. Friday’s adventures included a fine performance of the “serious comedy,” 1960s “Period of Adjustment,” very ably directed by Paula Mabry.

The weekend before Labor Day weekend I dropped into the Burgundy Room in Starkville and was lucky to catch local faves Mortar Kit, who fit neatly into the guitar-driven indie rock/alt Americana vein. Frontman and songwriter Ed Dechert, playing a sweet Epiphone Casino, channels the space between Neil Young, Tom Petty, Paul Westerburg, and Jay Farrar/Jeff Tweedy in their Uncle Tupelo days for his fine original compositions. Mortar Kit evolved out of Ed’s earlier band Poacher, when Scott “Scooter” Thomas came out from behind the drum kit and assumed lead noise duties on his various Gibsons like his hero, Crazy Horse’s Frank “Poncho” Sampredo. Sourdough-maker extraordinaire Troy DeRego slid behind a Yamaha kit with his sticks. Ben Hodge, as always, laid down the faithful bass beats on a Fender Precision through his Mesa Boogie cabinet amp. Check out “Someone Else’s Ghost,” the first track on the local “Hodgepodge” benefit CD featured in the Winter 2012 issue of Catfish Alley. The evening’s highlight was probably the crowd sing-along for The Stones’ “Dead Flowers.”

Alison and Mike Beuhler’s Mississippi Modern Homestead Center has become a fascinating venue for both hands-on learning experiences about the modern homesteading and farm-to-table movements as well as a site for art exhibitions. Recently I drove out around Lake Embree to the side opposite the annual Labor Day Chiggerfest’s original locale and attended A Sense of Place Storytelling Festival. The Festival was informed by the modern Southern ideology of the virtue of rootedness in place, which runs back through Wendell Berry’s poetics of “what is remembered or ought to be remembered” at least to the Nashville Agrarians coming out of the Fugitive Poets in the ’20s. Events were divided between workshops split between adults and youth and storytelling presentations featuring Terrence “Da Story Weaver” Roberts and headliner Joan McLemore of Natchez, a historian and former children’s librarian. Roberts led a fun workshop on the five basic elements of storytelling that involved memory games, tableaux vivants and retold stories with similar plots but different details.