Counting Love At First Sight

I’ve really been trying to stick to an art diet during these hard economic times, but my 12-step program failed me. Yes, this admitted art junkie unwittingly fell in love at first sight, again. It happened last weekend at the Midlands Clay Art Society Holiday Show and Sale at Gallery 80808. My good friend Sonia Neal, a wonderful clay artist herself (whose work also is in my personal collection), directed my gaze to the newest object of my infatuation – a cute little clay sheep sculpture (pictured) by a local artist who is new to me, Mary Lou Wu, owner of Bunny Head Pottery in Columbia.

My new woolly friend, who bears some resemblance to the puppet Lambchop (one of my favorite characters from yesteryear), is standing atop a mound of colorful wildflowers with a blue bird perched on its head.

I tried chewing gum. I waited 20 minutes to see if the craving would subside. I tried to resist, but in the end, I had to have it. For myself. Yes, me me me.

So much for unselfish holiday shopping. Oh, I did purchase several gifts from the sale, but I wasn’t supposed to indulge my own desires. So sue me. I have gifted myself early for Christmas with this lovely lamb. To hell with regret. (I am smiling at my new love as I type this. Hah!)

Now back to Mary Lou Wu. She has a shop on, that wonderful website for creative artists and crafters that I love to get lost in. Wu has produced an array of colorful, whimsical, even poetic pieces. Some are functional (like bowls, vases, and jars), while others are pure sculpture. All are fabulous works of art.

I’m always saying there’s so much artistic talent in Columbia, and it’s true. Every day we have opportunities to discover someone new whose work we can adore. Wu is a member of the City of Columbia Arts Center at 1932 Calhoun Street downtown. And even though the Midlands Clay Arts Society’s holiday sale is over, you can still browse and even purchase pieces from the artists who work out of the Center through its Backman Gallery.

And if you’re so inclined, you can take classes in clay arts - from hand-building to wheel-throwing - at affordable prices. The City Arts Center is enrolling now for its 2012 classes. If you’re interested, or just want more information about Backman Gallery, call Cultural Arts Coordinator Brenda Oliver at 803-545-3093.

Meanwhile, you can view and even purchase other works by Mary Lou Wu online at

So go ahead. Indulge your clay cravings. There’ll be plenty of time for rehab next year.

-- Kristine Hartvigsen

Horizontal Hold

Last month when Jasper Magazine conducted its First Annual Pint and Poem Walk, a few folks asked for a copy of this poem, so here it is for those who asked (and those who didn't.) It's an amusing, odd piece I wrote under the influence of pain medicine after my eardrum ruptured. I was deaf in that ear for nearly a month. Anyway, here goes: horizontal hold

narcotics kill the pain

my mind a barren pool rusty ladder descends into earth and weeds

three lesbians gather wood together they build a Frank Lloyd Wright doghouse

monogamy -- monotony one of them is cheating on her husband

i have weird dreams of my dead father a fire engine Leonard Nimoy and a 19 percent raise

my carpet is the state fair for roaches city pigeons die quietly on my windowsill heads folded neatly into wings

loose audio tape lies in a tangled pile at my feet

i am openly seduced glistening nude in hues of violet by a body without a face

amplified pounding in my head clock ticking blood pumping machine-driven raucous vacuum

find me, bring me down where I can feel again

my antenna flails in the wind please slide on a tennis ball and help ride me of all this static

-- Kristine Hartvigsen


Check Out Handcrafted Aliens And More This Week At Southern Pottery

A few years ago at a ceramics show at Vista Studios Gallery 80808, I fell in love with a colorful little bowl with a wonderfully retro-looking woman’s face on a blue background with a cartoon word bubble that said “Enjoy” and spoons floating around the perimeter. The purple rim had the words “EAT IT UP YUM” carved into the clay. Inside, I was greeted with another lush burst of green glaze. The whole work had this whimsical, imperfect feel to it, almost as if molded by a child, but this clearly was not a child’s work. It was the work of Georgia artist Vanessa Grubbs, the MFA-toting-accomplished-in-her-own-right daughter of celebrated Columbia artists Steve and Mana Hewitt.

I loved that bowl. I bought that bowl. And every time I look at that bowl (pictured), it makes me happy.

I can only imagine how it must feel to thrust one’s hands into cool damp slab of clay and shape it into something worthy of the kiln. I am so intrigued and amazed by the works of the clay artists we have right here in the Midlands, notably Anastasia Chernoff, Jeff Donovan, Sonia Neale, Paul Moore, Rita Ruth Cockrell, Mike Van Houten, Betsy Kaemmerlen, Diane Gilbert, and so many others.

So on a recent visit to Southern Pottery on Devine Street, I picked up a post card announcing the celebration of American Craft Week, which runs October 6-16. I know there are many choices for arts lovers this week. However, if you – like me – love pottery and the clay arts, you must make it out to Southern Pottery some time between today and Saturday, Oct. 16.

Tonight, Oct. 6, the Southern Pottery is hosting a reception from 6-9 p.m. for Cardinal Newman presents “Southern Icons,” hand-built clay works depicting social, religious, and cultural traditions through the eyes of teenagers. I know, it's First Thursday on Main, and there are shows at 80808 and City Art, too. But if you're a time-management wiz, you might be able to hit all of them.

And Friday, Oct. 7, the Southern Pottery will host another reception from 6-9 p.m. to celebrate “We Are Here,” clay and fiber works by Leanne Pizio and Paige Cox depicting aliens, UFOs, and quirky extraterrestrial visitors. Also on Friday, visitors to Southern Pottery are invited to participate in the “Made in China” mug swap. Those who donate their intact Chinese-made mugs (limit 4) will receive 20 percent off an American handcrafted mug.

The following week, on Friday, Oct. 14, Southern Pottery will feature artist demonstrations by Tuula Ihamaki-Widdifield and Susan Tondreau-Dwyer from 6-8 p.m. And on Saturday, Oct. 15, you can enjoy more demonstrations by Diane Gilbert and Paul Moore from 12-2 p.m.

Who knew? I urge you to check out some of this awesome clay-oriented action over the next 10 days. For details, visit or call the gallery at 803-251-3001. And tell them that Jasper sent you.

-- Kristine Hartvigsen

(Kristine Hartvigsen is an associate editor for Jasper Magazine. Read more of Kristine's work at

Catch Shakespeare Under The Stars This Weekend at Saluda Shoals Park

What a delight it was last Saturday at Saluda Shoals Park to catch the SC Shakespeare Company perform a reading of The Most Excellent and Tragical Historie of Arthur, King of Britain, a play within a novel by New York author Arthur Phillips. John Freeman as Mordred plots the overthrow of Arthur.

To hear the robust delivery of Shakespeare’s lines amid the occasional hoot of an owl or hum of crickets is a rare pleasure, providing an example of the outdoor theater experience that can become a regular source of enjoyment for Midlands audiences if fund-raising for a proper outdoor venue is successful.

Before the performance, Phillips gave a talk about his novel, The Tragedy of Arthur, copies of which were available for purchase, with proceeds going to the park’s planned “Nature’s Theater,” a grand outdoor performance venue, the plans for which include a covered stage, seating for 500 with a lawn to accommodate 500 more, and a rooftop event space. I get really excited at the thought of seeing the SC Shakespeare Company and other esteemed performers regularly on a glorious outdoor stage cradled in nature’s womb.

Until that happens, however, you can see the SC Shakespeare Company open its 2011-12 season with one of the Bard’s earliest and funniest plays, The Comedy of Errors, this weekend at Saluda Shoals Park. Directed by Scott Blanks, the production will put a decidedly modern, World War II twist on the play, which gets so many of its laughs from hilarious episodes of mistaken identity and slapstick. Performances run nightly through Saturday, October 1, at 7:30 p.m. at Saluda Shoals Park, in conjunction with unearth: a celebration of naturally inspired art (culminating on Sunday, October 2,  from 1-5  p.m. with performances, poetry readings and art being created outdoors at the park).

Tickets for Comedy of Errors are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. If you can’t make those performances, the Company also will perform The Comedy of Errors at Finlay Park from Wednesday through Saturday, October 12-15, at 8 p.m. nightly. For more information, call 803-787-2273.

Jasper has been busy

Jasper has been busy and we'd like to take a moment to share what we've been up to with you, our loyal readers.

To start with, we released the inaugural issue of Jasper Magazine - The Word on Columbia Arts in print form last Thursday night at a lovely party, hosted by one of our favorite places for imbibing, Speakeasy on Saluda Street in Five Points. It was a grand night, and we were overwhelmed by the kindness and support of the arts community. Thank you all so very much for your kind words and your presence at our birthday party for Jasper. Thanks also to Speakeasy for hosting us and Josh Roberts for entertaining us.

Local Gallery Owner Lynn Sky checks out centerfold artist, Michael Krajewski.

The Jasper staff and family has been busy distributing magazines throughout the city. But if we haven't gotten to you yet, not to worry -- we're diligent and we still have more than half of our inventory on hand. That said, we're happy to take your recommendations of spots where you would like to see Jasper distributed. By week's end, we should be all over the Columbia metropolitan area, including Camden, Chapin, Prosperity, and Newberry. And soon, you'll be able to find us in Greenville and Spartanburg, as well.

Lenza Jolley, our web maven, has also been hard at work building our brand new website. If  you haven't had a chance yet, please visit us at We hope to make an extension of the print version of Jasper Magazine. To that end, please find more music by Josh Roberts, more art by David Yaghjian, more poetry by all of our featured poets, well ... more of everything, we hope, at our new cyber home.



As you may know, Jasper comes out in print form once every other month on the 15th of the month. If the 15th falls on a weekend, then look for us on the Thursday prior to that date. Our next issue will release on Tuesday, November 15th, for example, but the following issue will release on Thursday, January 12th -- and yes, we plan to celebrate every single issue that hits the streets! But the reality is that Jasper wants to see his arts buddies more than just six times per year. That's just one of the reasons we will be coming to you on our off-print months with various projects and events.

  • On Wednesday, October 26th at 7 pm, please join us for our first ever Pint and Poem Walk. Look for more information on how to sign up for one of only 25 spaces on this one-of-a-kind walk in the coming week at
  • On Monday, October 31st, Jasper will host our first ever Ghost Story Salon as part of 701 CCA's Halloween Night Costume Bash. We're busy gathering all the great tellers of tales of ghosts and ghouls from around town to entertain you, via candlelight and creepy tunes, upstairs in the Olympia Room at 701 Whaley CCA.
  • The first stage of our first ever Coalescence Project is well underway as photographers throughout the midlands are submitting their work to Jasper Magazine Coalescence Series - Volume 1: Photography and the Word ( October 15th is the deadline for photography and which point local writers will be invited to come try their hands at creating 500 word or less stories to "illustrate" the photographic images. The completed project -- Photography and the Word -- will be unveiled in December.

Finally, we have moved into our studio office downstairs at the Tapp's Arts Center on Main Street and we are in the process of tidying up and making pretty. Please join us for a little open house on Thursday, October 6th as Jasper Magazine happily becomes a part of the First Thursday Arts Crawl community. We'll get back to you before then with more information on the treats we'll have in store as we welcome you to our new creative home.

Until then, thanks for reading Columbia. And thanks for giving us so many good works to write about.





(Photos courtesy of Jasper associate editor Kristine Hartvigsen)

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Hmmm. What to write. You stare at the keyboard. Gaze out the window. Contemplate a snack. Pet the dog at your feet. Finally, you tap out a few words, pause, then backspace over them. Repeat. And … repeat.


I can’t say I’ve experienced serious writer’s block, but I’ve certainly had my share of what I would call creative slumping. These are times when I feel like nothing original or of good quality issues from my cluttered brain. Nothing flows. It’s all crap.

When this happens, I’ve found one of the best remedies is to shut down the computer and head out to a local poetry reading. The Columbia area is full of great talent. There are so many diverse, creative voices here, and fortunately not everyone is slumping at the same time. In fact, many are bursting at the seams with good stuff, and it makes you hopeful that you may be able to write well again. If you pay attention, ideas, themes, and images seem to magically come to mind. It could be a poet’s well-crafted turn of phrase that launches a particular creative thought process for you. I suppose you could call it harvesting − carrying with you the energy that is coming out of that microphone and the people at the reading.

I was in such a slump a few years back when I attended an open mike reading on Café Strudel’s back porch. One of the readers, a regular at the time on the local poetry circuit, would bring his work scribbled on all sorts of crumpled bits of parchment thrown into a repurposed plastic Wonder Bread bag. That alone sparked intrigue in me, and it led to the following poem, which ended up as a SC Poetry Initiative Single Poem Contest Finalist this year:



appalachian poet carries his insides around in a plastic polka-dotted bread bag an elegy whispered through lips moistened by fiddlesong he scribbles on napkins, receipts any medium can become a gum wrapper haiku tall hunching wordsmith the smell of woodsmoke in his hair shuffles feet, shuffles papers reads without accompaniment simple flapjacks on the griddle plucks what he can to season the iron


This turned out to be one of my favorite poems, an unexpected joy. I hope you like it. And don’t forget that a local poetry reading may be just what the doctor ordered if your brain is feeling a bit anemic.

-- KH

"Collecting" At Its Best?

Last week’s First Thursday exhibition at Tapp’s Arts Center featured artist and writer Alex Smith reading from Matt Bell’s moving chapbook “The Collectors,” a fictionalized true story about reclusive brothers Homer and Langley Collyer, whose deaths in their beyond-cluttered Manhattan brownstone in 1947 became apparent only after the stench of their remains wafted into neighboring spaces.

Though the reading was nearly an hour long, I sat riveted, alternately feeling horrified, mesmerized, enchanted, disgusted, melancholy, and, ultimately, thoughtful. If you didn’t catch Smith’s reading, you really missed out. And if you haven’t before heard the story of the ultra-hoarding Collyer brothers, you should read about it. Plenty has been published on the case. In addition to Bell’s manuscript, there’s Ghostly Men by Franz Lidz, and Homer and Langley: A Novel by E.L. Doctorow.

Able to get into the home only through an upstairs window, police literally had to bail thousands of pounds of debris for two hours before discovering the blind invalid Homer’s body. Although Langley’s decomposing body was only 10 feet away, it was not located until two weeks later due to the vast accumulation of junk, which Langley had navigated through bobby-trapped tunnels that are believed to have inadvertently collapsed on him, leading to his death. The paralyzed Homer, with his dead brother unable to care for him, dies several days later, slowly, of hunger and thirst.

All of New York City watched as officials, gagging from the stink, removed more than 130 tons of refuse stacked floor to ceiling from the filthy dwelling: items such as farm tools, musical instruments, newspapers, books, and magazines, old stacked furniture, weapons and ammunition, dressmaker mannequins, old medical equipment, a sewing machine, baby carriages, skeletons of small animals, and even a nearly intact Ford Model T. Newspapers at the time featured photos of the rubbish being set on the curb outside the notorious home.

Author Bell takes exquisite liberties in telling the Collyers’ sad story, artfully setting the scene and communicating what each of the brothers must have been thinking and feeling as their final hours unfolded:

Homer experiences the lack of guideposts, of landmarks, of bread crumbs. He knows his brother is dead or dying and that finding him will not change this, but even though he wants to turn around he’s not sure how. He tries to remember if he climbed the stairs or if he crawled upwards or if he is still on the first floor of the house, just twisted and turned inside it. He tries to remember the right and the left, the up and the down, the falls and the getting back up, but when he does the memories come all at once or else as just one static image of moving in the dark, like a claustrophobia of neurons. He wants to lie down upon on the floor, wants to stop this incessant, wasted movement.

He closes his eyes and leans against the piles. His breath comes long and ragged, whole rooms of air displaced by the straining bellows of his lungs. He smells the long dormant stench of his sweat and piss and shit, come shamefully alive now that’s he’s on the move again.

Somewhere beyond himself, he smells, if he sniffs hard enough, just a hint of his orange peels, the last of their crushed sweetness.

Homer opens his eyes, useless as they are, and points himself toward the wafting rot of his last thousand meals. He holds his robe closed with his right hand, reaches out into the darkness with his left. He puts one foot in front of the other, then smiles when he finally feels the rinds and tapped ash begin to squish between his toes.

He slips, and falls, and crashes into the tortured leather of his favorite chair. He pulls himself up. He sits himself down. He puts his heavy head into his hands.

Smith’s dark, dramatic reading was complemented by photographic slides from the 1947 excavation along with haunting music from William Christopher on keyboards and sound effects from Lucas Sams.

Tapp’s window displays featured artists who assembled various “collections” for public perusal. Among my favorites were Billy Guess’s Barbie-themed dolls and mannequins, Jorge Holman’s assortment of superhero action figures and iconography, and Jenny Maxwell’s collection of old hand-held fans from funerals. Perhaps best of the best, however, was Lyon Hill’s mind-blowing 3-D sketches arranged into a diorama of the Collyer residence accompanied by a looped animation film using dioramic images to dramatize scenes from the brothers’ desperate lives. These can be found in the inside foyer window at the Main Street-facing entrance to Tapp’s.

As the exhibition’s theme says, there is a “Fine Line Between Collecting and Hoarding.” I, too, am a “collector” of numerous odd items, including neckties, blazers, and books. So many books. But the collection I love the most is my art collection, which includes oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings, sculptures, batiks, handmade ceramic platters and vessels, and mosaics by both local and non-local artists. I probably started collecting art because my father collected. I have paintings he purchased while our military family was stationed in Europe. I have a nearly 50-year-old California redwood tree trunk table my dad bought back in the 1970s. So much stuff, and I won’t part with any of it. Does that make me a collector … or a hoarder?

Many of my friends are artists. Some have neat, organized studios. Others work in complete disarray. I’ve found no rhyme or reason in the working spaces of creative people. More and more, found objects are material fodder for art. A great example of that is Kirkland Smith’s amazing portrait assemblages.

Among the many, many books in my personal “collection” is Southern Writers, published by USC Press in 1997. Page 49 presents a black-and-white photograph of the late James Dickey sitting at his desk surrounded by piles of books all around him, on the desk, the floor, the credenza. I could imagine him trying to peer over the great wall of books to greet a visitor. He had to know the photographer was coming to shoot the picture for the book that day. Was the result of his tidying up? It makes me curious. Was Dickey a book hoarder?

Well, anyway, I digress. And I apologize for the length of this blog entry. Writing can be a lot like “collecting.” Sometimes you just don’t know when to stop.

NOTE: The collectors/hoarders window exhibit is still up at Tapp’s for the next couple of weeks, so check it out. If you’d like to read The Collectors, you can download it for free in pdf at

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Shooting Match Coming to Saluda Shoals Park

I admit it. I’m a shutterbug. I’m also just a tad competitive, so it’s like catnip when a photography contest comes around. You may have heard that the always breathtaking unearth celebration of nature and the arts is returning to Saluda Shoals Park at the end of September, and festival organizers are seeking submissions for their unearth Amateur Photography Contest. Do I hear bike trip? My son and I soon will trek to Saluda Shoals in pursuit of that winning photo because, to qualify, photos must be taken at Saluda Shoals Park. The judges will be looking for images that capture the magic and natural beauty of the park. You can take pictures of trees, the river, trails, animals, and even people enjoying the park (but be sure to get photo releases if you submit any pictures with identifiable people in them; the critters, however, probably don’t have legal representation).

While I’m on the subject (and although I’m merely a hobbyist at this point), I would like to offer some tips for shooting your best nature photos. Did you ever notice how most sunset photos tend to look alike? Sure, they’re pretty and all, but boring unless there’s some special, different element to them. And while it’s great to stand back and see the “big picture,” I’ve had some surprising success focusing on tiny, off the beaten path treasures I happen upon. There is so much beauty everywhere you look as long as you just see. Fungi are among nature’s most fascinating ‘sculptures,’ and they come in all sort of shapes and colors. Don’t overlook the lichen on tree bark, insects, small reptiles, even the tiniest of flowers. Focus your lens on them and see what happens.

Earlier this year, I took a hiking trip to Jones Gap State Park in the Upstate. I just happened to bring my camera with me. Here are a few examples of what I found there (and shot on sight) over the course of just a couple of hours.

See. It’s OK to get down and dirty, play a little Pachisi with the beetles. There’s a lot that’s below (or even above eye level). Anyway, I was pleased with these shots.

OK. I know a lot of you will want to join me at the unearth photo contest AWARDS CEREMONY on Thursday, Sept. 29. Photos will be exhibited at the park’s Environmental Education Center throughout the entire unearth weekend, Sept. 30 – Oct. 2. Cash prizes will be awarded in Adult and Junior divisions in each of four categories: General Nature, Human Nature, and Digital Creativity. The deadline for entries is Saturday, September 17, at 5:00 p.m. For a copy of contest rules, go to or call (803) 772-1228.

And if I see you on the trails at Saluda Shoals Park between now and the 17th, well, … bring it!

- K. Hartvigsen


PS -- While we have your attention, see that little box over to the right? Have you had a chance to submit your email address so that "What Jasper Said" can come directly to your mailbox everyday? Why not go ahead and do that now? Just takes a sec -- and then Jasper can visit you everyday and keep you up to date on all the arts happenings in town. Thanks!

Check out the official Jasper website at