Tom had a solo exhibition titled “Monuments to the Ephemeral” at the Firehouse Art center in Longmont, Colorado. The exhibit opened April 22 and ran through May 25. The exhibit comprised several large ink drawings on transparent plastic that explore ideas related to the effects of climate change on the environment. Tom wrote, “As early as the 19th century, American landscape painters of the Hudson River Valley School realized that the natural resources of the Americas were under assault by industrialization. Their work idealized the pristine landscape of the Americas in order to preserve and glorify its grandeur. My work references these paintings with a renewed alarm at the effect of climate change and the fragility of the environment. Monuments to the Ephemeral speaks to environmental concerns through the futile attempt to immortalize disappearing geological features in images that are even more fragile and ephemeral. Comprised of transparent plastic and ink, these drawings have a fairly short life span. In the gallery, they hang loosely against the wall and sway with any gentle breeze caused by the movement of our human bodies. To personalize the drawings, each piece also includes an excerpt from a love letter. Like the environment, love is ephemeral and can be nurtured or easily destroyed. Both subjects confront issues associated with loss.”
Mark has published The Realism Challenge: Drawing and Painting Secrets from a Modern Master of Hyperrealism. The book is a step-by-step guide that teaches artists to draw and paint exact duplicates of common objects, rendered in the trompe l’oeil, hyper-realistic style of Mark’s popular YouTube video series, “Realism Challenge.” The eponymous book contains 30 lessons demonstrating how to render mirror-like duplicates in the trompe l’oeil tradition of everything from shells, leaves, and candy bars to your very own still life arrangements. Each lesson builds off the previous one in order to master essential artistic techniques like creating drop shadows, adding highlights, and building from light to dark. Mark is the author of Mastering Manga and Mastering Manga 2, as well as several manga novels, including the Akiko series, Miki Falls, the Billy Clikk novels, and Brody’s Ghost. Since being selected for Entertainment Weekly’s “It List” of the 100 most creative people in entertainment in 1998, Mark has published nearly 20 books and developed a massive Internet following for his drawing demonstration videos, earning him a spot as one of the top 25 Most Subscribed to Gurus on YouTube. At K Mark majored in art and studied abroad in Senegal.
Imagine being in the art scene of New York City—and leaving it to return to be an art appraiser in Kalamazoo.
Sound crazy? Not for Kendra Eberts ’07.
“There are hundreds of art appraisers and thousands of galleries in New York,” said Kendra. “But there are more opportunities here in Kalamazoo and southwest Michigan where there are hardly any other art appraisers.”
After graduation, Kendra went to the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York where she obtained a master’s degree in American Fine and Decorative Art (accredited through the University of Manchester in England) and a Certificate in Appraisal Studies in Fine and Decorative Arts from New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
“My first job in an auction house was at the New York location of London’s Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions,” she said. “It was a smaller auction house, which gave me the opportunity to work in most aspects of the business.” That versatility led to new opportunities.
“Last summer, I assisted an appraiser from Florida who was conducting an estate appraisal for her client’s summer home in Northern Michigan. She hired me in part because I could catalogue and research the client’s book collection.”
Working in the arts in New York during the recession was difficult. Many of her grad school classmates moved away and settled for work outside the field. Not Kendra. She worked as a part-time registrar for the contemporary art gallery of Rick Wester, cataloging artwork for the gallery’s inventory. She also pieced together part-time jobs and internships with private art dealers and the International Center of Photography.
How does she explain her fierce persistence?
“When I was 4 years old, I sat down with an assortment of crayons and carefully designed and created a business plan for an art gallery and café,” she said. “‘Art by Eberts’ would exhibit my own artwork and that of my friends, while ‘Kendra’s Kafé’ would feature my grandmother’s homemade pies and my mother’s strong coffee.”
Soon after that crayoned plan Kendra began taking art classes at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA), and her family would visit art museums whenever they traveled. In high school she fell in love with the medium of photography, and came to K knowing she wanted to major in art and art history. She interned at the KIA and at the Water Street Gallery in Douglas, Michigan. Before her study abroad in Clermont-Ferrand in France, she pursued a summer study at Sotheby’s in London in 2005. That experience was important.
“I felt I had found my place that summer in London,” she said. “I learned how the historical significance of art played a role in its economic market, and that people actually did for a living what I wanted to do. It was through K’s encouragement to go outside my comfort zone that I was able to navigate my major. Professor Billie Fisher helped me a lot.”
The summer study played a role in her Senior Individualized Project, Edward Steichen’s Influence on the Value of Photography.
“In 2006 there was a major sale of photographs through Sotheby’s. Steichen’s photograph ‘The Pond – Moonlight’ sold for $2.9 million, the highest price paid to date for a vintage photograph. For my SIP I assessed Steichen’s biographical and artistic background, the complicated process he used to create the photograph, and the reasons collectors considered it to be ‘museum quality.’ I also drew upon my economics minor to calculate Steichen’s recent market performance through statistical regression models.”
Kendra has since learned that appraisal methodology is complex interplay of multiple factors, only one of which is the overall economic climate of the art market. Her aptitude for combining art and business has roots in her family. Kendra’s mother is a professional singer music teacher. Her father is an economist and president at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Her aunt is an art curator and assistant museum director. She has cousins who are fine artists and performing artists and a grandmother who was an artist and teacher.
In 2012 Kendra took what could be considered an intermediate step in her crayoned business plan. She established Key Art Group. Her duties include establishing the value of fine art, furniture and decorative items for insurance and IRS-related purposes. She also provides collectors market evaluations and collection management services. And she offers artists business services such as managing inventory, marketing and guidance on gallery relationships.
Kendra plans to fulfill her dream to own a gallery, and she hopes to locate it in Kalamazoo. “This community prides itself on supporting the arts and that’s why I love living here,” said Kendra. She expresses that love in action. Last year she helped organize a sale of artwork by students and faculty of the KIA art school. She writes about art in Kalamazoo on her blog, Collective Sightings. And she’s a member of the Art Committee for Bronson Methodist Hospital and facilitates the hospital’s annual employee art show.
“It was great to see a variety of works that people created,” she says. “Showcasing employees’ talents promotes workplace engagement, and employees were excited to see what their colleagues created.”
Let’s hope Kalamazoo sees the “Art by Eberts” gallery and “Kendra’s Kafé” sooner rather than later. Until then, says Kendra: “I’d plan to create more awareness—and more conversation—about the local art scene.”
Ladislav Hanka ’75 has a mind that buzzes with constant activity, always attracted to the sweetness of an idea with a twist. His degree is in biology, and his love of the natural world is evident in his art. His etchings, prints, and drawings illustrate the intricacies and mystery of nature: craggy trees, elegant fish, round-bellied frogs, fierce raptors and delicate song birds, dank mushrooms, the occasional napping old dog.
So the idea of combining living bees and his etchings seemed, well, natural. He saw it as collaboration.
Some five years ago, a friend had given him a box of bees.
“There was a little bit of sugar water in there, something like mosquito netting, and the bees were climbing around inside the box,” Hanka says. “And I thought, so cute! Like having a puppy!” He laughs. “Suddenly, I was a parent. It was on that level of forethought that I became a beekeeper.”
Where the idea came from to place his etchings inside the beehives, among the living bees, Hanka can’t say.
“Who knows where ideas come from,” he shrugs. “You wake up some night, and there it is. It seems such a simple idea, too, but I’d never seen anyone do it. So I put the etching in after soaking the paper in hot beeswax, brushing it on, and the bees seem to like that paper. Typically, they start on the chunks of old, recycled beeswax and avoid the lines of the etching. Perhaps it’s the flavor? Or the waxy aromatic paper? Otherwise they tend to chew up and destroy any foreign substance intruding on their hives. Then again, they may just be critics.” Hanka grins.
Standing in his studio, a building he constructed where the garage once stood at his residence in Kalamazoo, just a few blocks from Kalamazoo College, he leans in close to take a look at his etchings. He has them lined up in a row on a small ledge along the end wall. The etchings closely match what he exhibited in ArtPrize 2014 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
ArtPrize is an annual art competition judged both by popular vote and a jury. This past summer more than 1,500 artists from across the world exhibited their work in and around downtown Grand Rapids. Hanka’s panoramic etching in ArtPrize 2011 won the Curator’s Choice award and was purchased by the Grand Rapids Art Museum for its permanent collection.
Hanka’s 2014 ArtPrize entry, “Great Wall of Bees: Intelligence of the Beehive,” is his third since the competition’s inception. Contained inside a glass case along the length of a wall just inside the entrance of the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art (UICA), live bees buzzed and danced and chewed over three rows of Hanka’s etchings—detailed images of toads, salmon, trees, insects, birds—building honeycomb along the curves of his lines, indeed in surprising collaboration.
Great Wall of Bees was collaborative art and environmental message. In a description of his work on the ArtPrize website, he wrote:
“The additions bees make to the etchings are as inevitably elegant as the gently curving veils of honeycomb you find hanging from the domed ceilings within a bee tree. There is an undeniable intelligence at work in a beehive. You learn to respect that and care about these highly evolved creatures, which brings me inescapably around to bees being in trouble—not just here but worldwide.
“The cause of bee die-offs is hardly a mystery. It’s much like the growth in cancer rates. No single factor causes it. The crisis is due to a summation of assaults on the organism, until it’s all too much. Bees face a gauntlet of toxins, habitat loss, electromagnetic pollution, exotic diseases and imported parasites. …”
Hanka’s living exhibit drew a great deal of attention. He estimates that 80,000 to 100,000 persons viewed the Great Wall of Bees. His work was short-listed in the top 25 in both popular and juried categories for three-dimensional entries.
“For the three weeks of the exhibit, I was the bee-man,” says Hanka. “I heard people talking about the bees in cafes and on the street. People still come to talk to me about the artwork and the bees, even though the show is over.”
It was profoundly gratifying, he says, to interact with the public coming to see his art and to watch the bees build their honeycomb around it. Bees crawled along the glass where children pressed their noses for a closer look. Some expressed concern over dying insects, and it gave Hanka a chance to explain something about the four-week life cycle of a bee and the difference between natural daily die-offs versus the massive losses bees currently suffer in beehives everywhere.
He dips a bare hand into one of his hives, set in a circle beside his house, and the bees emerge, almost lazily, spinning a hum of circles around Hanka’s head and landing on him. They swarm over his bare hands and land in his beard.
“They are not aggressive with me,” Hanka says. “Frame of mind is important. They respond much like any animal would. You have to be sensitive to their mood and show some respect..”
The bees do sting him occasionally, he says, especially when stressed, but Hanka shrugs it off. All a part of the art and all part of the natural order of things. As for the way the insects weave their intricate combs along his drawings, Hanka shrugs about that, too.
“I try to be realistic about that, how much intelligence is in the bee,” he says. “There is a spirit. I have no explanation for some of it.”
Hanka considers ArtPrize carefully, now that the citywide exhibit is done, his wall of bees packed up and brought back to the hive again. During subsequent weeks he contemplated the moment of fame.
“The space is clean and no evidence remains of the effort invested,” he says. “Honey gathering and art are both among the first recorded events in the mists of human history. My work invited people to partake of genuine, unfalsified sacraments. I saw they were truly moved by the beauty they encountered and by their concern for the fate of bees.”
Landing on the competition’s short lists gave him a few seductive moments of contemplating the financial prize (ArtPrize awards two grand prizes worth $400,000, and eight category awards worth $160,000). Those moments quickly evaporated in the final stages of the competition.
“Of course, there was a build-up and then disappointment,” Hanka nods. “Though we may ardently desire the accolades and money these votes confer, it isn’t why we make art.”
What remains, Hanka says, is the message he wanted to deliver: the interaction he had with his audience and his art, the near-mystical experience he had with another tiny life form. He acknowledges the influences that have remained with him from his years at Kalamazoo College, where he studied with Marcia Wood, Johannes Von Gumppenberg, Peter Jogo, and Bernard Palchick (all former professors in the art department). Equally, in biology, he credits Professors Paul Olexia, David Evans, and Fred Cichocki.
“I still keep in contact with many of them, and I value their influence in my life,” Hanka says. Ideas, he believes, are born in the buzz of many minds working at their purpose; they are built one upon another.
Hanka walks between the aisles of his beehives in the same way he walks between the tables in his studio. Both are covered with pieces of his work. He leans forward to study a detail, and then he leans back to contemplate the whole.
He is done with this particular project, this artistic collaboration with the bees that carried over years. Now, the bees will return to what they do best: making honey. The artist will let his mind spin and dream and buzz a little, until it lands on his next big idea.
The women who performed at the WOW Café Theatre on the Lower East Side of New York City sometimes called themselves the Uncooperative Cooperative. Holly Hughes ’77 was one of those women. She has also said, more than once, that WOW saved her life.
WOW, or Women’s One World, a feminist theatre space started in the early 1980s, was (and still is) a place where many gay women like Hughes found themselves and their art. WOW became the safe place where women who had long felt themselves on the margins of society could express themselves as rebels even while developing lasting bonds of friendship and support with each other. Their uncooperative selves found cooperation in each other.
Hughes is a contributing editor to Memories of the Revolution: The First Ten Years of the WOW Café Theater (co-edited with Carmelita Tropicana and Jill Dolan). The book, published by University of Michigan Press in 2015, is a collection of memories, play scripts, and photographs of WOW’s first decade. Authors, along with Hughes, include playwright and actor Lisa Kron ’83; Carmelita Tropicana from the theater troupe the Five Lesbian Brothers; and actors and playwrights Peggy Shaw, Lois Weaver, Deb Margolin, and others.
“WOW was so warm and welcoming,” she says. “It was my sorority. They were breaking the rules. I was looking for that kind of sense of community. Particularly a feminist sort of community.”
WOW was different than other theatre groups in that no play was censured, no auditions were required, any play got the stage. Whatever members wrote was performed, no questions asked.
“The idea that was implicit in this was that people get better by doing the work,” Hughes says.
Having that kind of acceptance, Hughes found, fostered a daring creativity. She had expected to work the back stage, but the Café was too small—“I think maybe it was 12 feet across,” Hughes says—to have a back stage. She instead found herself performing and writing plays of her own. And she found she liked it.
“When I say now that WOW saved my life—I came of age in a place where I couldn’t access a feminist and LGBT movement. And while I loved K, and I have fond memories of my time there, it was at a time before we had women’s studies, for example. I was really struggling with trying to figure out who I was in the world, and it wasn’t just personal questions about my sexuality. It was larger questions about identity and a larger political landscape, about feminism and what was then known as the gay liberation movement. WOW helped put my personal struggles into a larger political context. That helped me enormously.
“At WOW, I was able to have conversations with women that didn’t make me feel crazy,” Hughes adds. “Working on this book, I realized a lot of women coming of age at the same time I did, in the 70s and 80s, the way that they experienced their gender, their sexual identity, was with the feeling that they were crazy. Their sense of injustice was made to seem like a psychological problem. Looking back, I realized how adrift we all felt. But here at WOW we found affirmation.”
Hughes found her voice as a performer and as a playwright. Her work has earned her critical praise, including two Obie Awards and a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (one of which was recalled when her art was discovered to have a gay theme), Creative Capital, and others.
Hughes studied visual art at Kalamazoo College. “And I took a lot of English. I loved it. I wasn’t an English major, but I was very interested in writing, but still thinking of myself as a visual artist. This was the world of which I wanted to be a part.”
In art and theatre, too, Hughes says she has seen a huge shift in work by and about women and groups at the margins who have not always found venues for their art.
“In my more than 30 years working in theatre and performance art, I’m seeing incredibly thoughtful, innovative, provocative, confusing work done about gender and sexuality and race. We are moving away from the stereotypes. Things are starting to shift, they are starting to break open. And audiences are asking for it. Audiences want to be challenged.”
As a professor today in theatre and drama, at the Stamps School of Art and Design, and of women’s studies at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Hughes strives to teach the upcoming generations to think about the differences in people in a new way. Sharing the manuscript of Memories of the Revolution while still in manuscript with some of her students, she found that the material and the experiences recounted drew interest.
“I’m really interested in uncovering what my students want to say,” Hughes says. “What their desires are, what’s burning and big inside them. I want to help them put that into a larger context.”
While some of the questions with which Hughes grappled in her earlier years on the stage are less demanding today, she finds that some of her students have questions of their own, ones that fit the context of their times and that require a voice that is just as personally defining.
“My students who are not white, who are not male, who are not cisgender, students who come from poverty or other experiences of marginalization—there’s a process of finding a voice that you feel can be heard and respected,” Hughes says. “I can help them find that voice.”
By the end of her freshman year at Kalamazoo College, Susan Schroeder Larson ’63 was 18 years old and preparing to cross the ocean to study in France. It was 1960. Her summer study abroad was under the Light Scholarship Program, a precursor to the K-Plan.
“It was during my sophomore year at K that we all began to hear about this wonderful new program on the horizon,” recalls Larson. When the K-Plan was implemented the following year, I began to imagine exciting possibilities for a senior quarter off campus, what is now called the Senior Individualized Project, or SIP.”
Susan was an English major, minoring in French, but she also had a strong presence in theatre arts, catching the eye of Nelda Balch, theatre professor and namesake for the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse.
Even as the K-Plan was developing, Larson’s years at K followed the guidelines of learning that went deeper and broader, including several on- and off-campus experiential learning experiences and jobs.
Larson worked in alumni relations, where “I learned about fundraising and friend-raising.” She worked in the dean’s office, typing speeches. “That was a good job, working for Dr. Lloyd Averill for two years. Working with him was enlightening and influential later in life. I worked for the Dean of Women, and in the summer, I worked in the financial office. I got to know President Hicks’ secretary, and once when I was too busy to get a paper typed up, she typed it up for me. It pays to have friends in high places!”
Larson laughs, but it’s all part of her K experience, she says: people who care about each other, professors and staff who nurture students in their education and are ready to lend a helping hand.
Nelda Balch was one such nurturing professor for Susan. She saw acting talent in Susan and encouraged the young woman to work on developing it.
“I never considered changing my major to theatre arts,” Susan admits. “But I enjoyed being a part of theatre. I tried out for the part of Anne Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor in my freshman year, and I got the part. I had no idea what I was doing. Not a clue. I didn’t know much about Shakespeare, either, but oh, I had a good time!”
Susan laughs. “I was hooked on theatre from then on. I played an innocent girl—because I was. I didn’t know what cuckolding meant until after the play was done. We trusted Mrs. Balch and just did as we were told.”
Balch encouraged Susan to pursue theatre arts and suggested studying the Theatre of the Absurd in New York for her SIP. Susan went west instead of east and during the winter quarter studied Elizabethan drama at the University of Chicago. While immensely enjoying her time on stage, she wasn’t convinced she had the makings of the great actress Balch seemed to see in her.
“I think she may have been disappointed in my career choices,” Larson says. “I taught English and French in Chicago and earned my master’s in English at the University of Chicago.”
Other fond memories of her years at K return.
“Dr. Richard Stavig was my advisor and also the head of the study abroad program when I went to France in 1960. Not only was he a gifted teacher of American literature, he was also a trusted friend who ‘socialized’ us by inviting a group of about six students for monthly Sunday suppers in his home where after dinner we discussed various topics—some heavy, some light, usually values-laden. That experience of seeing our professors as people was important at K. I remember going to the homes of Dr. Walter Waring, Dr. Lester Start, Dr. Paul Collins, and Dr. Lloyd Averill for similar events. It was an enriching experience.”
In her sophomore year Susan served as the business manager for the yearbook, The Boiling Pot, and the following year was made editor. “Being the editor was a formative experience that helped me develop organizational and leadership skills. I still enjoy all aspects of creating publications, from gathering ideas to writing to editing to graphic design.”
And then there was that other K College student—the junior who worked as a lab assistant in Susan’s freshman zoology class. He took his duties very seriously, never smiling. She wasn’t at all sure she liked him. Probably not. Then again …
Susan says: “The team of lab assistants would prepare an exam with stations in the lab then dramatically unlock the doors and let us in to move from station to station answering questions about each specimen. As a non-scientist, I found this process intimidating. Now David [Larson ’61] jokes that he taught me everything I know about the anatomy of the frog, but I blamed the C I got in that class (my first ever) on the impossible exams he and his team gave.”
The two did not meet again in any meaningful way while at Kalamazoo College, but chance, or destiny, wasn’t letting go that easy. They met again far off campus, at the entrance to a park on Lake Michigan in Chicago. It was a sunny summer day in 1965. David was then in his third year at medical school at the University of Chicago.
Susan smiles. “And the rest is history,” she says. They married in 1967.
Kalamazoo College laid the groundwork for Larson’s life, on professional as well as personal levels. David went on to become a physician, and Susan taught in two Chicago high schools.
“I was initially assigned to a school on the far south side. I was there two years and during that time started a drama club. The students produced a play attended by the whole community.” Then Susan requested a move to Hyde Park, the neighborhood where she lived. “It was a tumultuous time, the mid-‘60s. Gang warfare and the construction of a new high school caused the enrollment to drop precipitously and the few remaining white students to leave. The year 1968 was particularly challenging with the death of Dr. King, announced during a school day. School closed and riots erupted throughout Chicago. That summer David and I witnessed the demonstrations in Grant Park around the Democratic Convention downtown. A year later I left Hyde Park High for the birth of our daughter Jennifer. “
The young family moved to Albuquerque for David to complete his internal medicine residency, while Susan taught English in several Indian pueblos around Albuquerque. Their son Samuel was born in New Mexico. When the residency concluded, the Larsons moved to the mountains of western North Carolina, a rural area where there was a great need for a well-trained internist. Penland School of Crafts was nearby as well, a magnet for Susan to develop her skills.
“David started his practice while I searched for my own identity,” says Susan. “I wanted to be more than Dr. Larson’s wife.”
When her brother-in-law invited her to come along to a local arts council meeting, something stirred in Susan. This was the world of the arts, a world Susan had grown to love in her years at K, and she wanted to be involved again. Before long, she was elected as the first president and then the first executive director of the Toe River Arts Council.
“Theatre came back into my life, as well as all the performing arts,” says Susan. “For 12 years, I ran the nonprofit arts council, raised funds, organized classes, and sponsored performing arts events —from dance to bluegrass to theatre to storytelling. Our main thrust was to bring the arts into schools, and so I started the Mountain Arts Program. It began in two counties and eventually spread over 17 counties.”
Her subsequent community involvements span the arts, education, human services, and health care. Susan sat (and sits) on many boards, and her efforts were noticed and well appreciated. She earned The President’s Award from the North Carolina Association of Arts Councils, the Governor’s Award for Yancey County Volunteer in Education, was a participant in Leadership North Carolina, and earned certificates of appreciation for fundraising from various organizations and academic institutions. She served four terms on the board of the famed Penland School of Crafts and is currently on their development committee.
The Larsons left the mountains for the Piedmont in 1991, where David became a faculty member at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Susan became the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “I was there more than 15 years, raising money for the university. I loved being in academia and even dabbled in the sciences, both as part of my job and in the classes I took to earn a Masters in Liberal Studies. I especially liked the access the university gave me to the arts, the Weatherspoon Art Museum, excellent theatre, and music. I think people see me as a fundraiser, but in my heart, I feel like I am a connector of people, causes, ideas, and the arts.”
Retirement came a little more than five years ago, but keeping up with Susan continues to be a challenge. The Larsons have moved back to Spruce Pine, North Carolina, where they live on 75 wooded acres.
“It’s beautiful, but frankly, I’m not an outdoors person,” Susan laughs. “David wanted to be in the country, but I live in these connections that I make, and in making things happen in the community. If something isn’t happening that I think should happen, well, I try to make it happen. That’s what Kalamazoo College did for me. I am a lifelong learner. I’m still learning. A liberal arts program is so varied. It opens everything up to you.
“I find myself organizing events in the way that Mrs. Balch did back at K,” Larson continues. “I modeled programs after some we had at K.”
For example, Larson says, when she wanted to help organize a mentorship program at UNC-Greensboro, she contacted Pam Sotherland, program data manager at K’s Center for Career Development, to help her develop the program on the model used at K to connect alumni mentors with current students.
“It makes a nice circle,” Larson says thoughtfully. “Maybe Mrs. Balch would have been proud of me, after all.”
In Devil Music, the debut novel of Carly Orosz ’07, demons are friendly fellows, hiding their long tails down their pant legs and their stubby horns in masses of messy hair. They munch on the raw flesh of the random pigeon and rat and rock out to hair metal music.
The hero of Carly’s occult urban fantasy, Cain, is one such demon, enslaved by a cruel human master, but on temporary reprieve from his enslavement while completing a mission for said master. He is to retrieve a reluctant girl for his master’s unenticing son, but instead, finds himself falling in love with the girl, Michelle, while becoming the lead singer for a rock band called Pseudomantis. What young rebel girl can resist a rock star who sets her fervent televangelist father on edge? Luckily, she finds his scaly demonic identity sexy.
“The idea for the novel germinated during my senior year at K,” Carly says. “I was looking for something to read while taking a plane trip.”
What caught Carly’s eye during her search for reading material was a book by sociologist Jeffrey S. Victor, Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend. She settled into its pages, during the plane ride and after landing, and was drawn into its world.
“I was surprised to find this bizarre time in recent history, in the 1980s and early 90s, when hundreds of people across the United States—religious leaders, mental health professionals, police—believed in these satanic cults that were supposedly kidnapping and abusing children and doing horrible things, like playing in rock bands. I was fascinated to learn about the psychology of witch hunts, why people come to fear something they don’t understand.”
An English major at Kalamazoo College, and later earning an MFA in poetry at Sarah Lawrence College, Carly’s interests also included anthropology and sociology. Her Senior Individualized Project was a series of poems inspired by anthropology. Researching this time period when people created cults out of rock musicians (and perceived cults where there were none) appealed to Carly’s sociological and anthropological interests to the degree that she found herself working on a manuscript.
“After I read Victor’s book, I watched a lot of old horror movies and I researched the war on demons,” she says. “I found a dictionary of demons in a Chicago bookstore and read about the folklore of demonology. I latched onto this idea in western society about demons doing your bidding and becoming the slaves of humans.”
It was clear to Carly that her fantasy novel would be set in the 1980s. She created Cain as a sympathetic, even soft-hearted, demon, misunderstood by most, treated harshly by some, taken advantage by others, idolized by still others. He finds solace in his rock music (with demonic special effects on stage), and the band that shapes around him is a colorful group of misfits, each with some super power, not always used for good. Cain is accused of turning youth to satanic worship, harassed by a caricature of a televangelist, but in fact he takes on a redeeming key role in solving mysterious murders that draw ever closer to him and his mates. A battle of good versus evil brings the story to a satisfying end.
When the novel was completed, Carly turned to others for first reads and opinions. What was first “a simple love story with an open ending that would allow for a sequel,” would go through a series of rewrites and cuts.
“My dad read the early manuscript and made suggestions,” Carly nods. “I talked to a couple of professors at Sarah Lawrence, and they were very intrigued. I had a connection with a Random House editor who suggested I cut the original manuscript from its 250,000 words to 150,000.”
Carly landed somewhere in between with her cuts, but one idea held. She felt her novel had a market, but she wanted to keep control over its marketing and decided to self-publish. LogSine Labs, LLC, was born and she published her book under its auspices in April 2014. A website corresponded with the novel, and featured on the website is a comic with Cain, his band, and various other characters from the novel.
“I call it a webcomic, because right now it’s only on the web,” she says. “Before I started writing Devil Music, I had visualized it as a graphic novel. I publish one webcomic per week, and it fills the time period between this novel and the coming sequel. I write the script and send it to the artist in California to add the graphic images.”
Another unique marketing concept Carly has developed together with her husband, Stephen Robbins ’05, is what they call “traveling books.”
“I intend to bring a few copies along to each book signing I do, where I can then hand them out, free of charge, to people who seem interested in the book but might be reluctant to buy from an unknown author. The traveling books are accompanied by a note encouraging people who read the book to leave their reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, so they would have a dual benefit.”
In writing Devil Music, Carly’s hope has been to look at the mythology surrounding the 1980s hair metal rock bands and offer a different perspective. “It’s a misunderstood culture,” she says. “The message of the novel is to be a little more open-minded – welcome the stranger.”
Carly credits Kalamazoo College writer-in-residence, Diane Seuss, with early encouragement to develop her imagination and writing skills.
“She was very good at teaching me to reign in my creativity,” Carly says. “The first day of creative writing class, teachers usually just tell you to just ‘write a poem.’ But she gave us much more structure and discipline, and I’m grateful for that.”
The late Marcia Wood ’55 served Kalamazoo College as a professor in the art department from 1965 to 1998. She also was a renowned and award winning artist whose works appear throughout the country. Two exhibitions this year (one ongoing and the second to include a silent auction) commemorate her extraordinary career. Proceeds from the silent auction will support the Marcia J. Wood Scholarship Fund at Kalamazoo College.
Wood’s friend and former colleague, David Curl, who served as a visiting professor of Art at Kalamazoo College from 1989-2000, is sponsoring a website—marciawoodartauction.com—that includes the photos of her works, including those that have been donated for auction by the Wood family.
“Marcia touched and inspired many lives through her original work and 40-year career,” said Curl. “She conceived and executed sixteen large-scale public art sculptures that were installed in four states, as well as literally countless paintings and smaller sculptures. Her style was conceptually and symbolically representational, but reflected the abstract expressionism of the times.” One of her large-scale installations, Prospect, was commissioned to celebrate the College’s 1983 sesquicentennial and is located in front of the Light Fine Arts Building. In 1980 Wood received the Florence J. Lucasse Fellowship for Excellence in Scholarship, the highest award bestowed by the College’s faculty honoring contributions in creative work. In 1997 Wood was honored with the Governor’s Art Award from the Concerned Citizens for the Arts in Michigan.
A memorial exhibition of her work, Scaled Up: Sculpture by Marcia Wood, continues through December 31, 2016, at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
A second exhibition, Marcia Wood: Monuments and Miniatures, will occur in the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo EPIC Center Gallery from May 5 through May 26, 2017. Says Curl: “The May exhibition will feature legacy work—smaller sculptures, maquettes, and early paintings—offered only on this Website that have been generously donated by the Wood family for sale by silent auction entirely for benefit of the Marcia J. Wood Scholarship Fund at Kalamazoo College.”
Prices, according to Curl, are not expected to approach “gallery” levels; only to reflect the maximum that each buyer is willing to commit to the scholarship fund. Online bidding will end as of the close of the EPIC Center exhibit on May 26, 2017, but bids entered by the exhibit opening on May 5, 2017 will be posted during the exhibition to encourage further bids from gallery visitors. “This silent auction of some of her lesser known work,” Curl says, “is a rare opportunity to continue Marcia’s legacy through contributing to her scholarship fund, and a last chance to acquire for your own collection a unique artifact of art history.”
This website is sponsored and supported solely by Curl, as agent for the Wood family, and is not connected directly to the College, to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, or to any other entity. All proceeds from online and gallery sales will go entirely to the Marcia J. Wood Scholarship Fund at Kalamazoo College. By bidding, you agree that your contact information will be used only for communication about your bid, to notify you if you submit a winning bid by close of this online auction at midnight Friday, May 26, 2017, and to arrange for payment and for pick-up or shipment of your purchase(s).
“I’m grateful to all who browse these few remaining items from her legacy work,” says Curl, “and to all those who purchase one in her honor, and attend her exhibitions!”