Mid-Shore Arts: The Parts and Labor of Artist Stephen Ford

Like many successful artists, Stephen Ford stumbled on a unique process of carving linocut blocks and collagraph plates by simply enjoying the process of creating the work. It was only later, through his gallery in Philadelphia, that he realized that there was enormous interest in this approach with his patrons which led to a trip to Ireland to develop the technique.

Using Éire’s special landscape of exotic moss and other fauna as a motivator and subject, Ford returned to America was an exceptional collection of examples of this technique, which are now on display at the Academy Art Museum for the next few months.

The Spy caught up with him while he was in town to talk about his work.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Stephen Ford and the Academy Art Museum please go here

Spy Moment: Really Fine Art in Oxford, Really…

The Spy couldn’t resist checking out the Fine Arts @ Oxford show at the Oxford Community Center this weekend. While we love the fact that the event has a history of quality exhibitors, and that the proceeds go to support the OCC, what we like most of all is that many of these artists are based in Talbot County.

Given that pertinent fact, we sent a spy on Saturday morning to document just a small sample of these extraordinary pieces on display to encourage others to celebrate the great depth of our local artists.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information about Fine Arts @ Oxford please go here.

The Birth of the FABRICation at the AAM

The exhibition FABRICation is making its way around the country, and just recently landed at the Academy Art Museum by way of the West Virginia University Art Museum in Morgantown.

Co-curated by Reni Gower, professor in Painting and Printmaking at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Kristy Deetz, Art professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, FABRIcation features seven artists (Erin Castellan, Kristy Deetz, Virginia Derryberry, Reni Gower, Rachel Hayes, Susan Iverson and Natalie Smith) who incorporate a textile sensibility in their artwork through elements of fabric and fabrication.

Gower stated, “The exhibition was inspired by a rich array of historical textiles from drapery to quilt.  As such, the complex, multi-part works contrast our culture’s rampant media consumption with the redemptive nuance of slow work wrought by hand.  Individual works range from delicate illusions to layered constructions to architectural interventions.  Using a variety of materials that range from oil and acrylic paint, yarn, vintage clothing, aluminum screens, wool, silk, plastic, thread, vinyl, burlap, rug-hold, glass, recycled objects, and found fabrics, the artists interweave sensory pleasure with repetitive process to invoke introspection and reflection.”

This video is approximately two  minutes in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum please go here.



The Beauty of Catch and Release with Photographer Todd Forsgren

When you first look at Todd Forsgren’s photography, it is hard not to be slightly unnerved by the images that he captures. Some of the world’s most beautiful birds are photographed at the time they have entered into a ornithologists research net, and it’s difficult not to assume that the animal is under severe duress.

But after you find out that Todd has worked with some of the leading ornithology labs in the world on this project, and that it is part of an international effort to save these bird species, you warm up to this very brief moment of incarceration. In fact, you are left seeing them and their extraordinary grace on their own.

Todd’s photography, which is on display at the Academy Art Museum until the end of the month, is a striking reminder of how phenomenal these creatures are which makes it all the more important that they sometimes temporarily fall victim to a researcher’s net.

The Spy caught up with Todd as he was hanging his show to discuss his passion for his subjects, and the delicacy of his images.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Todd Forsgren’s exhibition at the AAM, please go here.

Todd Forsgren: Birdwatcher And Ecologist
Academy Art Museum 
April 22, 2017 – May 30, 2017



“Harriet Tubman and the Songs of Freedom” at Layton’s Chance Winery

Marcus Shelby (Photo credit: Marcus Shelby)

“Harriet Tubman and the Songs of Freedom” will be performed by the Marcus Shelby Quartet on Saturday, May 20 at 7pm at Layton’s Chance Winery – just a few miles from where Tubman once lived. This soul-stirring show brings Harriet Tubman’s story to life with inspiration from spirituals, freedom songs, and the blues.

The show is happening to celebrate the recent opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in nearby Church Creek.

Tickets are available at the door for $10 per person.

Marcus Shelby has been fascinated by Harriet Tubman since his mother gave him a book about her in grade school. After learning that Harriet Tubman used music in her Underground Railroad missions to freedom, he was inspired to compose music sharing Tubman’s story.

His quartet also performed to rave reviews in Cambridge in 2013 during the Harriet Tubman Centennial. For the 2017 performance, the quartet features Tiffany Austin on vocals, Gaea Schell on piano, Tim Angulo on drums, and Marcus Shelby on bass/speaker.

“I hope the audience will feel the power of how music can express the life and history of a great American hero—Harriet Tubman,” said Shelby, who lives in San Francisco, where his music has earned all kinds of awards. “She used the folk form of all American music (the blues) to conduct her escapes, which included field cries, blues hollers, work songs, and spirituals.”

Vocalist Tiffany Austin (Photo credit: Marcus Shelby)

Dana Paterra, manager of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, where the new Tubman Visitor Center is located, sees this concert as a perfect complement to local efforts to share Tubman’s story. “To have Marcus Shelby come here and perform these original songs about Harriet Tubman’s life in the area where she lived—it makes for some powerful music,” she said. “I think people will be blown away by the performance.”

Jennifer Layton, owner and general manager of Layton’s Chance Winery where the concert will take place, is looking forward to the show. “We’re thrilled to help celebrate a national hero from Dorchester County with music and wine,” she said. “We’re also proud to have just released our latest wine called FREEDOM, which is an off-dry red wine made from grapes that were native to the area in Tubman’s era.”

Layton’s Chance Winery is located at 4225 New Bridge Road in Vienna, Maryland.

In case of inclement weather, the concert will be moved to the Dorchester Center for the Arts, 321 High Street in Cambridge. Watch for updates at HarrietTubmanByway.org or the Harriet Tubman Byway Facebook or Twitter page.

The event is sponsored by the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and proceeds benefit the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center.Find out more at HarrietTubmanByway.org.

The Form and Lines of Shelley Robzen at the AAM

Internationally known sculptor Shelley Robzen is one of four major artists that have exhibitions on view at the Academy Art Museum this month, but the Spy wanted to talk to talk to her first.

After looking at her work, we wanted to understand more fully how she creates her stunning marble and bronze sculptures, but also her lifelong quest to find new forms using these two very different materials to celebrate beauty itself.

This drive to capture the pure essence of form led her to leave the United States in 1974 to live and study with the great masters of sculpture and craftsmanship to Pietrasanta, Italy, an international center for sculptors who work in marble and bronze and has never returned to her mother country.

The result of this extraordinary journey can now be seen in the galleries of the AAM which has put a special spotlight on these perfect examples of form, volume, and line. Entitled Luminous Forms: Marble and Bronze Sculpture by Shelley Robzen, the art on display shows what Shelley calls, the “simplicity of line seeking the purity of form is the essence of my sculpture.”

The Spy found time to talk to Shelley a few hours before the opening reception for her show to talk about the nature of her work and the extraordinary labor of love it takes to create these sublime examples of shapes and form.

Shelley Robzen’s work with be on display from April 22, 2017 – July 16, 2017. She is represented by Carla Massoni Gallery in Chestertown. 

This video is approximately two minutes in length. 

The Tred Avon Players: Lend Me a Tenor… from Goldsboro

The Tred Avon Players have lined up a blockbuster collection of comedies for their 2017 season, and starting this weekend, this humor campaign continues with the opening of Lend Me a Tenor at the Oxford Community Center.

The recipient of Tony awards and overcoming critical praise, the play takes place in 1934 in a hotel suite in Cleveland as the local opera company prepares for its season premier with the world famous tenor Tito Merelli appearing. But as TAP’s cast and crew tell it in their interview with the Spy, things don’t always work out the way one plans it, and the characters desperately seek out a last minute replacement

The Spy sat down with producer Leigh Marquess, director Zack Schlag, and actors Nick Grande from Cambridge and young Jared Koenig from Goldsboro, to talk about the plot, the laughs, and Jared’s character Max comes out of nowhere to save the show.

Evening performances of “Lend Me a Tenor” are scheduled for Thursday (“Thrifty Thursday,” featuring two-for-one tickets), April 27; Friday, April 28; and Saturday, April 29, all starting at 7:30 p.m. A Sunday matinee on April 30 begins at 2 p.m. The following weekend, evening shows are set for Thursday through Saturday, May 4-6, at 7:30 p.m., with the run wrapping on Sunday, May 7, at 2 p.m. The Tred Avon Players are funded in part by a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council, with revenues provided by the Maryland State Arts Council.

Delmarva Review: Dry-Dock Music: Baltimore By David Salner

Dry-Dock Music: Baltimore By David Salner

“It was therefore an act of supreme trust on the part
of a freeman of color thus to put in jeopardy
his liberty that another might be free.”
—from The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

Surprising, most of all,
Stanley himself…. On the way to work that day,
he walked through clouds of cinnamon, an amber fog
enveloping the port, all the way to Fells Point
and the dry docks, where he works—

building a ship with four-pound mallet,
driving cotton-white strands between oak planks,
sealing a sharp-built hull with oakum
from keel to turn of bilge. Dry-dock music
freights the air, saw-scrape and mallet-knock,

chatter of carpenter and caulker,
craftsman and slave, of black and Irish
joined in an uneasy hug of labor. He knew the trades,
sailing and caulking, and others that a free man needs
in this slave port, like how to keep his freedom papers

always in his pocket, for the eagle stamp
protects him from slave catchers, the lowest form
of life, who love the music of another’s chains.
His papers say that he was born right here,
born free, but it was in the port of Charleston,

when he was just 15, that two white sailors
who hated slavery, grabbed him by the arms
and told a port patrolman, “This here’s
the cabin boy of our good ship, the Mother Mary.
His name is Stanley Johnson—he’s had a bit

and captain needs him sober, so let us pass.”
He had the wherewithal to play the drunk,
although he’d never had a sip, not then,
and with their help, he slipped
the chains of bondage, set sail on Mother Mary,

kidnapped into freedom. From that day on,
he’s worked on ships, on shipboard only,
where he feels free. Now that he’s old,
the ships he works on are in dry dock,
his papers always in his pocket.

They describe the bearer by his age,
color, height. . . . But they could just as easily
describe a man named Frederick, on his way
to freedom, with papers in his pocket
in the name of Stanley Johnson.

The Spy is pleased to reprint Mr. Salner’s poetry from The Delmarva Review, Volume 9. The literary journal is published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association with support from private contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. For information, visit: www.delmarvareview.com.

Maryland poet David Salner worked for 25 years as an iron ore miner, steelworker, and general laborer. In addition to the Delmarva Review, his writing has appeared in the Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Threepenny Review, Salmagundi, River Styx, and many other magazines. His third book, Blue Morning Light (2016, Pond Road Press), features poems on the paintings of American artist George Bellows.

Delmarva Review: My Diseased Hope by Michele Whitney

Nearly twenty years ago, after my sister was murdered, I sat across from a counselor and told her that I wanted to kill myself.

The counselor inquired if this was the first time I had those thoughts, and even though I had just experienced the most tragic loss in my life to date, those thoughts were not new, just intensified in that moment. She wanted me to seek psychiatric treatment, but wanting to take my own life was not enough for me to believe that something was medically off. I refused to go. I didn’t want to face the possibility of having to take medicine for an illness that could not come up on an X-ray or lab test.

My belief was that any so-called illness of the mind was not an actual illness; it was a weakness. I was a strong black woman, just like my mom before me and her mom before her. In the African-American community, mental illness in general, and depression specifically, is still taboo. We are expected to be strong and get over things because we have dealt with so much.

My ethnicity, upbringing, and many other theories could be the reason why I didn’t accept depression as an illness, but there was more. Ultimately, I didn’t view “hope” as an actual part of my body, such as brain cells, red blood cells, or my immune system. Hope was not a necessary characteristic of my life to keep me alive. I thought the severe lows that led to sleeping all day, daily thoughts of suicide, self-loathing, and self-hatred were normal.

It’s been more readily accepted as an illness over time, but for some reason, depression remains one of those stigmatized issues. People think you’re just crazy.

Although there may be some truth in the “crazy” label, most of us who are diagnosed with depression are diagnosed based on the symptoms. Feelings of worthlessness, overwhelming guilt, loss of interest, lack of energy and concentration, thoughts of suicide, all of this for more than a few weeks…and I can go on and on. These are obvious symptoms, but what makes it real?

The most eye-opening image I’ve ever seen in my quest to understand depression was a picture I saw on social media. The image was of two brain scans; the one on the left side represented a person with clinical depression, and the one on the right represented a person without it. The left side was dimmed, lacking the presence of light, and engulfed in a shadow of darkness and hopelessness. The right side was bright, enlightened, and glowing, and I imagined that this brain was full of hope.

Given the nature of this visual, I came to my own conclusion that depression, yes, is a real illness. This, of course, is not news. But what happened within me at this moment was that I realized, at a fundamental level, that depression occurs when people are clinically unable to have hope. I’ve come to recognize that, similar to how Alzheimer’s disease attacks brain cells, sickle cell anemia attacks red blood cells, or HIV attacks the entire immune system, major depressive disorder is a disease that attacks hope.

Years passed after that first preview with my depression destiny. I found myself in a counselor’s office yet again with the counselor making the same suggestion. Psychiatry. Medication. Chemical imbalance. But this time, something began to shift. I had just ended a two-year relationship with a married man and had spent that time surrounded by shame and secrecy. I no longer wanted to hide. I now craved a feeling of normality, if such a feeling existed. So I took my counselor’s suggestion and sought psychiatric help. I was diagnosed in my early twenties with what was then known as clinical depression, and I began a course of drug therapy that took me well into my thirties. But my story of major depression did not end there.

At the end of 2009, I left an abusive work situation, subsequently losing my income and everything I thought defined me. This included my health insurance. With no job, little income, and, more importantly, no health insurance, I made the decision to go off my antidepressants. I had dated a guy who told me I was crazy for taking meds, and my mom kept asking me when I was getting over this thing. I figured if I was ever going to try and “beat this thing,” now would be the time to do it. I “treated” my depression naturally with aromatherapy and vitamins. I was only halfway in denial. Psychotherapy remained a part of my self-made treatment plan. Luckily, by that time, I had retained the services of a therapist who took my case pro bono.

Things were okay for a little while. But leaving a job in the midst of the economic crisis made securing additional work close to impossible. In March of 2010, I ultimately lost my home, my car, and many other possessions. I made the transition from living on my own to living with my mom. I suffered severe culture shock as I went from my spacious one-bedroom apartment, where I lived independently, to a room as big as a box, where my mother treated me like I was twelve. I also took a part-time job that at the time I felt was beneath my value and qualifications. I was extremely unhappy and lonely. I sought out many solutions to cure my condition. I spent a lot of time sleeping, in isolation, irritable, and crying. This went on every single day for an entire year.

And then Christmastime came…

The holidays have always been difficult, but Christmas 2010, I felt like a stranger within my own life. I spent time with a dear friend and her family for Christmas Eve festivities. Her family had always made me feel so welcome and loved, which was something I desperately needed. But after the festivities were done and I left their home, I felt this overwhelming sense of sadness and emptiness. I cried all the way home. I couldn’t understand why, in the midst of all of that love, I felt so unloved. Life wasn’t perfect, but I still had so much to be hopeful for, I told myself. And yet I was unable to feel any hope at all. I hated myself for being surrounded by so much happiness and love and being unable to feel any of it. A person like me did not deserve to live….

I’m no genius, but I consider myself a relatively intelligent person. But life, at this point, had me completely puzzled. I could not figure out what my issues were. I only knew I needed to fix myself in some way because I was broken. I felt this tremendous pain in my heart, and I wanted it to stop. My body radiated with agony. I wanted to feel hopeful, but my brain would not allow me to get there.

It’s one thing to be depressed when everything is going wrong. But it’s another thing to be depressed when you are surrounded by love, encouragement, and positivity. There is so much shame in saying, I’m so blessed, but I’m still depressed, sad, and hopeless. I still can’t get out of the bed. I still can’t stop crying. I still don’t think my life means anything. This is a tricky disease.

When I got home from my friend’s house, I went to my room and closed the door. I kept the lights off and turned on the TV. I cried and cried and cried as I watched It’s a Wonderful Life and thought, I really don’t want to die…. Yes, like George Bailey, I wish I had never been born. But I found myself looking on the Internet for ways that I could end my life. I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. There would be no dramatic letters or good-byes; here in the privacy of my little room, I would just disappear.

I had been prescribed Tylenol with codeine awhile back for back pain, and I hadn’t taken the entire bottle. There were about ten pills left in the bottle. I took about six of them. For some reason, nothing was happening. I wasn’t even able to sleep.

I couldn’t even do this right. This was my rock bottom.

Something was holding on to me. I literally just stopped taking pills to kill myself and began to look up suicide hotlines. I called one. The man on the line told me that he was grateful that I had called him because he got to spend this time with me on Christmas Eve. The guy obviously knew his job well, but if he was bullshitting, I didn’t care. It was something I needed to hear. I hung up the phone and eventually drifted off to sleep.

At the end of January 2011, my condition grew worse.

I began walking around like a zombie. Uninterested. Indifferent. I went to work and couldn’t remember how I got there. I’d come home and cry myself to sleep. The transforming pain that was with me on Christmas Eve was now here, sitting with me, and I could no longer deny it.

My counselor suggested I see a doctor. I still had no health insurance, but I found a doctor who was willing to prescribe an antidepressant. It wasn’t working. Here was that desperation. I felt like asking my doctor if she knew where I could buy some serotonin. Through hopeless tears, I just asked if she could up the dose of my meds. She said that was as high as she could go and suggested I see a psychiatrist.
I couldn’t afford to see a psychiatrist.

After beginning drug therapy again, and the symptoms not changing, my counselor suggested that I may have something called “treatment-resistant depression.” But I was tired of the labels. I just didn’t want to feel like this anymore. Whatever this was. I wanted to feel something other than nothing again.

An idea popped into my head. Maybe there was a depression research study somewhere that could look at my case? That way I wouldn’t have to pay for treatment; they would pay me for treatment. I put the idea in the back of my mind.

Then it all caught up with me. One morning, I woke up and literally felt nothing. I felt numb. I felt as if nothing in the world would make me happy. I thought about the things I usually enjoyed—reading a book, laughter, snuggling with the cat, watching the fish in the fish tank—and none of it sounded appealing. I couldn’t even feel God with me. I literally felt like I was null and void.
I didn’t have time to feel this. I got up, threw on some clothes, and went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my mom. When I returned home, there was a commercial playing on television about a depression research study. Specifically, the study was geared toward people with treatment-resistant depression.

God was taking care of me.

The research study had an easy number to remember. I immediately called and made an appointment.

Several days later, I went to the research center. I had to answer a bunch of intake questions, and then I met with the doctor who was leading the study. He was very nice. But it turned out that for various reasons, I didn’t meet the criteria for the study. I was devastated. Done. I was never going to feel better. They gave me $20 for my time, and I cried as I slowly walked out of the research office, leaving my hope behind.

I had barely made it to the parking garage when my cell phone rang. It was the intake lady from the research center. She said, “Michele, are you still here? If so, the doctor would like to see you.”

I was thinking I may have forgotten something. I turned around, went back to the office, and sat down with the doctor. He kept looking at me, and looking at his notes. He told me there was just something about me…something about me that he just wanted to help. He told me, “You are too smart of a person to think there is no hope for depression.”

Fresh tears began to flow. He told me that he would treat me for free for three months and then continue to treat me based on whatever I could pay. And then he said something that I will never forget.
“After the three months, we can talk about payment. But your level of treatment will not change based on what you can or cannot pay.”

I squinted my eyes and looked at this doctor in disbelief. Based on everything I had told him about my story and my history with antidepressants, he believed another course of drug therapy in a new class of antidepressants would work for me. But it was more than the drugs. This doctor believed in me. He believed that my hope could be restored.

I began taking the new meds, and I eventually began to notice a difference. I was functional again. Not cured, but functional.

There are still struggles, and feeling better wasn’t just about the medication. There was work on myself I needed to do but had been unable to because my brain was sick.
Over time, I felt the darkness in my brain being replaced with light. My diseased hope is now being healed.

The Spy is pleased to republish Michele Whitney’s personal essay from The Delmarva Review, Volume 9. The literary journal is published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association with support from private contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. For information, visit: www.delmarvareview.com.

Michele L. Whitney is a writer, musician, and teacher from the South Side of Chicago. She holds an MBA as well as a MS in Human Services. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun Times, and her creative nonfiction is published in The Griffin, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, r.kv.r.y, Diverse Arts Project, and Diverse Voices Quarterly. Her website is michelewhitney.net.

Spy Moments: The Harlem Quartet at Inn at Perry Cabin

It’s a bit hard to remember the last time that a Grammy award winner performed in Talbot County in recent memory. Perhaps the Avalon will quickly remind us of award winners that have come to Easton, but one can only agree that nothing is as exciting and as stimulating as when one hears the extraordinary sound of virtuoso performances so close to home.

And that was the case in St. Michaels last weekend when the Harlem Quartet performed at the Inn at Perry Cabin thanks to Chesapeake Music. While the quartet excels at classical music, they are one of the few that add jazz to the mix of music they offer. In fact, they worked closely with jazz legends Chick Corea and Gary Burton on “Mozart Goes Dancing” which won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition in February 2013. 

The Spy was there on Saturday night capture a few moments of their stunning performance.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Chesapeake Music, please go here