Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Theatre: Set designer puts off retirement to work with PURE

by Kelly Rae Smith, Charleston City Paper August 1, 2013

"I feel like Lazarus," says Allen Lyndrup, PURE Theatre's new set designer. "Lazarus died, and Jesus came and brought him back to life. I feel like in some ways this has sort of brought me back to a theatrical life that I was letting come to a close. And how exciting is that?"

Lyndrup has always had two feet in theater. After 18 years at James Madison University as a professor, scene designer, then director, he came to the College of Charleston as a theater department chair, and later as a professor. Although he directs too, Lyndrup has spent most of his 23-year CofC career teaching rather than focusing solely on his first love: design. And with retirement nearing, it seemed as though the theater chapter would soon close altogether. Until PURE came knocking last spring, and the design door opened wide once again.

PURE needed set design inspiration, and got exactly that when Lyndrup presented co-owner and artistic director Sharon Graci with a sketch: his vision for Clybourne Park, a play that needed one home that could be set in two different eras. Graci loved it and wholeheartedly welcomed his collaboration as part of PURE's future.

"He's a consummate professional in all aspects of the word," Graci says. "He's extraordinarily creative, and he's passionate about the art form. He understands the impact that a professional, experienced designer has on the telling of story, and he gives voice to that story in a way that only a designer can. He's also patient with us. We are a company of actors and directors, and there are really no small personalities at PURE. He fits right in."

Lyndrup is also responsible for the set of PURE's current production, Annapurna. A two-person play performed inside a trailer set, he says this arrangement is particularly unique. "I have never seen a set like this. Go see it — you won't ever see a play on a smaller stage."

But that's what he loves about PURE: the scripts they choose with their unusual scenarios, and the creative potential. "I mean, a play about Martin Luther King Jr., and an angel comes to tell him he's gonna die [The Mountaintop]? What an interesting idea. A play about professional wrestling [The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity]? What an interesting idea!"

Lyndrup still thinks about his retirement. But it won't involve globetrotting ("My wife doesn't like to travel," he says), and any master gardener notions were nixed by our 90-degree summers. Besides, solitary days aren't for him. Being around people, he says, is what keeps you young.

So what could be better than retirement in a camper van and the open road? For Lyndrup, it's working with PURE. "They really take some chances, they really try to find new stuff, and they try to keep the way they do things fresh. And that's very exciting. I'm kind of hoping it's going to be my retirement job."

Graci and the rest of the PURE crew seem fine with any arrangement that allows their connection with Lyndrup to grow. "Allen loves theater and he loves people," she says. "He brings an infectious joy to the process, and his vast experience on an array of topics, and on life in general, makes collaborating with him truly inspiring ... Allen has our back as a designer. He takes good care of us as a company. We're better at what we do because of him."

Friday, 26 July 2013

Travel: The World's Largest Peach

I recently wrote a guest post for the super cool travel blog Go Big or Go Home about my all-time fave roadside attraction: The Peachoid. Check it out below...

Where is it and how did you find it?

The Peachoid has been a part of my landscape my whole life. You see, I grew up less than an hour from this peach-shaped water tower. Four-stories tall, it sits on the side of the road on Interstate 85 in Gaffney, South Carolina (Cherokee County) where it captures the attention of every passerby. I’m from Anderson, SC, and so any time I’ve traveled to Spartanburg or Charlotte, or indeed to Gaffney, I have the pleasure of beholding this incoherent piece of fruit.

Why did you go there, exactly?

I finally decided to pull over and get this particular picture in 2010 because my friend edits a newspaper in Scotland, and this was taken for her “Where in the World” section. Scottish readers had to guess where this pic was taken. Surprisingly, many answered the call with exact highway instructions!

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Well, it’s a peach. And it’s a water tower. And it’s enormous. A water tower holding one million gallons of water and standing at 150-feet tall, it’s certainly hard to miss and is a novelty roadside attraction that should not be missed by anyone who loves a little kitsch with their roadtrip.

I also love that this stands in South Carolina despite the fact that Georgia is the Peach State. It was, in fact, erected as a loud-and-clear statement from Cherokee County regarding the fact that, at the time, more peaches came from this county than the whole of Georgia.

Another interesting fact is this: Because a great number of us have known the peach since we were children, many of us even as adults tend to have a juvenile sense of humor when we see what looks like a massive human rump on the horizon, or the “big butt,” if you will. With its remarkable cleft, you can see why it’s also known as the Moon over Gaffney.

How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list): ★★★★★★★★★★

This ain’t no puny roadside attraction.There’s nothing to do there but snap a picture (or go shopping in the neighboring outlet mall), but a great picture that will be, I promise. And there’s usually, if you visit during the steamy Carolina summer, an old fruit stand nearby complete with buckets and buckets of fresh, mouth-watering peaches. I’ll give it an 8 on that 1-10 scale.

A little background info about the place:

It was built in 1981 by the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company. Made entirely of steel and concrete, it took five months to construct and design the Peachoid. A local artist, Peter Freudenberg, used 50 gallons of paint in 20 different colors to perfect the peach. He also applied a 60-foot-long leaf that weighs in at seven tons. It remains a sight to behold on I-85 in Gaffney, between Greenville and Spartanburg.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Travel: 5 Tips on Choosing Your Next Adventure

by Kelly Rae Smith, published in Explore Travel Guide

 Where should I go?

Have you asked yourself this question recently? If you’re like me, making a decision on where to travel, from literally a world of options, can be as stressful as it is exciting – especially when finance has the final say.

However, there are a few rules I’ve learned to stick to when all else fails. Use this method as a narrowing-down tool the next time you find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard-to-pick place.

 1. Write down five places you’ve been wanting to visit, for any reason at all.

Don’t think about any factors apart from your desire to get there at some point. For all intents and purposes, we’ll use my list for the discussion. This year, I would love to go to Prague, Macau, Sydney, Cape Town, or Rio de Janeiro.

 2. What time of year are you able to travel, and what kind of weather are you hoping to encounter?

For example, if you’re like me and can’t get away until January, and you prefer sunscreen to a winter coat, then you can count Prague out.

Macau is also chilly, although clear, that time of year, so you may want to eliminate that option as well. Brazil and Australia are in the middle of summer at the start of the year, as is Cape Town. And so you see? Now we’re down to three.

3. Who do you know?

It’s always better to know someone wherever you go. They can a. show you the local flavor without b. you breaking the bank on tourist traps, while also c. catching up with an old friend.

If you’re like me, with friends all over the map, you’re probably always thinking you should go visit that college friend who moved to Dubai or an old colleague who has a life in New Zealand now. So why not do just that?

Looking back now at the cities that have not been eliminated, I do have friends I want to visit in Macau (but it’s been ruled out), Sydney, and Rio. So since there’s no one I know in Cape Town, I’d really rather forego South Africa, for now, while I have the chance to pay a long overdue visit to some great people who can help me get the most out of my travel experience.

Don’t depend on these friends for lodging or playing tour guides – you’ll want to feel out a lot of it for yourself. But dinner and drinks and laughs as a group one evening will help make some amazing, lasting memories. It looks as if those memories will be made in either Sydney or Rio.

 4. How long can you get away for?

If you’ve only got a week of vacation left to use, like I do, you’ll want to go somewhere that gives you the maximum amount of relaxation as possible. You don’t want to spend your holiday in every mode of transportation imaginable, so we can eliminate the destination that’s the farthest away. Sorry, Sydney, but Brazil is nearly halfway closer to me than Australia. And then there was one.

 5. Rest assured it’s the right decision

Rio wins! I can rest assured that it’s the only option now, given the factors that got me to the final answer.

I can save Sydney or Cape Town for next year, when I have more time to travel, and I can always do Prague in the space of a few days if it’s the right season for exploring city streets on foot. Macau will always be there, too, as will my friend who does not plan on moving anytime soon.

Narrowing those destinations down was relatively painless, and I know that I could have otherwise spent too much time dwelling on the possibilities at my disposal rather than logically determining the very best fit for myself at this very moment. Good luck with your decision making, and remember to, whatever you do, keep exploring.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Reflections: On my friend Elizabeth Walker

I met Elizabeth Walker at 82 Queen. I remember when we first hung out beyond the walls of our job. It was on her 21st birthday: February 9, 2000. In between the cocktails consumed that night, she blurted her number out to me, and it was etched in my brain from that point forward. I don’t know why, but those seven digits just stuck. Not the simplest phone number really to recall, but I somehow always did, which we always thought funny.

That night her infectious laughter and mission to make life as fun as possible became part of me forever. I had no idea how meaningful it would be later on, to be able to recall so many details about Elizabeth and our friendship. Little things I remember her doing and saying have become part of my makeup and the solution to keeping her alive in my everyday life despite losing my sweet friend to lymphoma last September.

Take yesterday, for instance. I walked along King Street and smiled remembering her endearing inability to walk a straight line. I shook my head recalling how often we snuck into a fancy downtown Charleston hotel’s swimming pool. I wondered how many chocolate martinis we had together at High Cotton. And I resisted the temptation to go sit on our old Kirkland Lane front porch out of desperation for more memories to bring my friend back to me.

At Whole Foods recently, I passed through the breakfast section and saw that 365 housebrand on a cereal box I distinctly remember Elizabeth keeping in her Manhattan apartment years later. I stood there staring as if it were too much to see her cereal box in this store. I concentrated on the memory so hard, as if doing so would transport me back to living and laughing with her years ago when nothing could touch us.

And then at the gym last night, I was so tired. But I remembered how long she would spend at the gym, and I was resolute to stick it out. She never took for granted that she was alive and healthy. She was always alive as could be. She pushed herself to complete the NYC half marathon a few years ago, and then qualified in 2010 for the 2011 marathon that she never ran because of her diagnosis. So now I run for her, because that is what she would love to be doing if only she were still here.

Her absence is a change I will never get used to, but I hope to cope with it better as she continues to teach me about life and how to enjoy it and prolong it. How to shake off the silly stuff. How to persevere through the unimaginable. How to make life a relentlessly fun adventure.

I remember when she changed her Charleston phone number four years ago. It was surprisingly distressing for many who, like myself, had grown attached to those reliable digits. But she was ready to embrace her life as a New Yorker, never afraid to shake things up a little and teaching me yet another lesson that would (who knew?) help me through these hard days without her: You can disagree with change and fight it tooth and nail, and though it may be absolutely none of your business to ever understand it, there comes a time when you have to trust that this is how it has to be, and that everything will be just fine. Eventually.

Books: Locals will find plenty to love in Karen White's The Time Between


Reading a novel based in your own city can be a cool combination of sweet and strange. Just as you’re swimming in the thoughts of a character, caught up in a scenario far from your own, you hear a name dropped, like Fast and French, and your mind shifts back to the present reality. I even caught myself staring off the page, my mind wandering into the busy Broad Street restaurant as I daydreamed of cold cucumber soup and pâté.

But a Charleston local can also commiserate with 34-year-old Eleanor Murray as she negotiates through downtown traffic, an all-too familiar afternoon downpour clouding her view. We know the summer heat that takes our breath away, and we can taste the same thick, salty air that has defined the childhood of this main character.

Eleanor has spent most of her adult life repressing memories of her Edisto upbringing for the purpose of self-preservation, to separate herself from the memory of losing her father there years ago to a fatal boating accident. Yet she is forced to reopen her wounds when her boss, Finn, asks her to look after his elderly aunt Helena at her home on that very same barrier island.
But one Edisto memory Eleanor will never shake is when she died, and was revived, 14 years ago after she and her sister fell from a tree. Her sister Eve was paralyzed. Eleanor has taken care of her ever since, unable to forgive herself for the tree-climbing dare or her secret affection for Glen, Eve’s husband.

When Eleanor spends more time with Helena to avoid emotional landmines back home in North Charleston, she also gets to know Finn’s daughter, Gigi. By forming new friendships, Eleanor soon realizes others have had their heartaches, too. Gigi, 10 years old and four years cancer-free, is a sage of sorts for the lost Eleanor. And the recent death of Helena’s sister is a heartache that so far only Eleanor’s piano-playing and playful heckling seem to heal. The bond these two women eventually form reveals truths about sisters, loss, and grief. Long-buried secrets unfold as they realize what it is to confide, to forgive, and, possibly, to let go.

With poignant prose, delicate storylines, and an obvious affection for the Lowcountry, author Karen White gives us an incredible, if emotional, place to go and while away the days on the same Carolina beaches she describes so carefully in The Time Between. She has a Tradd Street series (The Strangers on Montagu Street was a New York Times bestseller) too that should keep your summer reading schedule busy once you fly through the salt water-soaked pages of this well-worded reminder that our lives within this landscape really are lovely.

Books: David Sedaris returns to daily life and his eccentric family in his latest book

by Kelly Rae Smith - published in Charleston City Paper July 16, 2013

Language Lessons and Donny Osmond

Self-deprecating writer and humorist David Sedaris never fails to be an absolute hoot. He returns to his mostly-memoir format with another riot of a book, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. His last one, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, dealt with talking animals rather than entries from one of his many meticulously composed diaries.

Though no one can deny the hilarity that comes from giving a squirrel a bit of dialogue, we were pleased this time to get reacquainted with the Sedaris family, his boyfriend, Hugh, and the eccentricity that surrounds them all on a daily basis. His father at the dinner table in naught but underpants? Oh, how we missed him. His foul-mouthed mother? Somebody pour this dear another vodka.

A genius observer to say the least, Sedaris recalls killer scenes and conversations in grocery stores, coffee shops, airplanes, trains. In “Easy, Tiger,” he’s learning another language, this time with hilariously imagined German interpretations. He takes us on reading tours with “Author, Author,” giving out Tylenol and condoms to teenagers. His drunken train ride in “Guy Walks into a Bar Car,” turns surprisingly sentimental. And he acquaints us with his childhood resentment for Donny Osmond in “Memory Laps,” as always turning the bizarre into something both wildly funny as well as quietly reflective.

Sedaris also has a talent for being eloquently crude. Brilliantly inappropriate, he is all too happy to be frank about the shit situation in China, describing in unapologetic detail the gross reality of poop, piss, and phlegm in “#2 to Go.” The phrase, “I’m not sure how long I lay there, blissed out and farting,” comes to mind (from “The Happy Place”) as does this excerpt from the poem, “Dog Days”: “He poops a stool, then, though it’s heinous, bends back down and licks his anus.” Utterly graceful.
Apart from travel, family, and feces, his essays also touch on American politics as seen from his ex-pat perspective. He tells the French to get their own black president in “Obama!!!!!,” while “Health-Care Freedom and Why I Want My Country Back” plus “I Break for Traditional Marriage” are amusing monologues from characters whose values are the obvious punchlines.

Whether he’s insulting himself or the dress code of American travelers, it’s all done with his glorious wit for which he is so loved. Sedaris doesn’t skimp on any dirty details, but he does so with grace and gives the rest of us weirdos, weeping with laughter, a pretty good name, too.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Travel: Get Guaranteed Gadget Power While Traveling (… Without All the Fireworks and Smoke)

by Kelly Rae Smith
Published on popular travel blog, on July 11, 2013

Back when I lived, studied, and worked in Scotland, I bought most of my devices once I got settled in the UK. It was easier, to me, to get things like a pay-as-you-go phone, alarm clock, and a hair dryer upon arriving. But I did take with me one thing I was sure I’d need overseas: my American curling iron.

One cold evening in Edinburgh, I had a hot date so I broke out my curling iron and went to work to try and look my best. Well, it was a hot night all right, and my hair never got curled.

Burned? Yes. Severed? Yes. Curled? No.

In fact, the iron melted apart whilst in my hair. There I was holding the plastic bit in my hand, horrified that the metal wand had melted off and fried itself into my do. I had to cut it out of my hair, but not before I burned the bejesus out of my hand.

I had to learn about how to travel with must-have gadgets the hard way. Lest you repeat my miserable mistake and wind up with fried hair and a frozen bag of peas against the palm of your hand, listen up: all devices are not created equal. Play it safe by knowing your gadgets!

Orange Glow of a Laptop Power Cable
© Matthew Clark Photography

Are You Single?

First, found out if your device is single or dual voltage. This will determine whether you need an adapter or a converter. Cross your fingers that you need only a plug adapter because adapters are lightweight, cheap, and easy to find; as opposed to the chunkier, heavier, and more expensive voltage converters that are mostly useful for people who are relocating overseas.

Single voltage devices need to be properly converted as they aren’t designed to do so by default.
Many personal devices are dual voltage, meaning they can automatically convert to and from differing voltages and only need plug adapters. Think mobile phone chargers, laptops, Mac books, iPads, cameras: things that need to be recharged in general. However, single voltage devices/appliances need to be properly converted as they aren’t designed to do so by default.

Find out which is what by locating the indications label, also known as the power label, on your device. It may be a sticker, but many times it’s a bunch of seemingly nonsensical numbers molded onto the power supply. The standard voltage for the US and its devices is 110-120V, while most other countries use 220V. So if your label says something like 110/220V or 110~220V, it’s a dual voltage device. However, if you see something simpler like just 110V, it’s single voltage. Easy.

random: Power Supply
© semihundido

So You’re Dual Voltage … Now What?

If you’re dual voltage, hurray! All you need is a plug adapter. Simple enough? Kind of. Since foreign electricity is so complicated, you need to get the plug type just right.

If you’re visiting multiple countries, you may need more than one plug adapter since different countries have different outlets. For example, you can’t just hop between London, Paris, and Rome with the same adapter. Find a universal kit that can sort you out for every adventure your heart desires.

You can use a plug type guide to see which one(s) you need, and take it from there. If you’re in the States, try places like RadioShack or Best Buy. Otherwise, the web (Amazon, eBay, et. al.) is full of possibilities. You can always buy an adapter in your destination, but you may want to find the best prices beforehand so you don’t get ripped off at an airport or waste time locating a dealer on foreign streets.

Power on/off
© zigazou76

Watt You Need Is …

Your first step in choosing a converter for your single-voltage device will be to find out the wattage of your device/appliance. Check that power label again, and this time find the W to get the amount of watts your gadget uses. The converter you’ll need should have a wattage that’s at least two or three times – three times to be super safe – higher than the W digit you found on your device. For instance, should you want to take with you a 500-watt TV, buy a 1500 watt converter to be safe.

Can’t find the W? Look for the V and the A (voltage and amps), then multiply those to get the watts. V x A = W. I loathe math, but even I know that’s pretty simple.

Another factor in choosing a converter is knowing if you need a step-up or a step-down converter. Many converters are built to do both, so then you’re covered either way.

But just so you know, a step-up converter will change the voltage from 110-120V to 220-240V. This means you can take an American 110 or 120V device and convert it in a 220 or 240V country, and the step-down converter allows for just the opposite.

If you’re relocating for a short-term stay, you’ll really only need the kind of basic converter with a 90-day or so warranty. However, the heavier-duty converters suited for a more permanent move typically come with at least a 5-year warranty. If you’re going to a country with unstable voltage, make sure your converter has a surge protector, also called a voltage regulator, that will stabilize the voltage during conversion.

Got It?

So there you have it. Simple. In less than a thousand words, you’ve not only learned all about my embarrassing Scottish date FAIL, but you’ve also gained all you need to know about converting safely on your next adventure.

Remember: reading the label is where it’s at. And if all else fails, I’m sure there’s a shop near you with plenty of frozen peas to save the day.


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Travel: 5 Steps to a Cheap Vacation

Published in Explore Travel Guide

Traveling would be a cinch if it wasn’t for the cost. If money was no object, I think many of us would be dipping our toes in foreign waters quicker than you can say carpe diem. Fortunately, cheap holidays are not myths, and there’s nothing stopping you from a priceless getaway—provided you’re willing to plan ahead, open your mind, and cut down on luxury. Remember, fun is free—as are these tips to traveling on the cheap.

1. Create a budget, and stick to it

Nothing like getting home from holiday and realizing you carelessly dipped into next month’s rent. Avoiding this is simple, but it does require discipline. Decide in advance how much you can afford to spend in total, and work towards it. Do it today, and your dream vacation will be so much closer than yesterday.

Next, work out how much you can swing on transport and accommodation, and then decide on a spending amount that’s doable during this soon-to-be cheap vacation. Decide on a daily budget by dividing your spending total by the number of days you want to go away for, careful to leave a little extra to spend on things you can’t possibly plan for:  unexpected costs are inevitable. If it’s too little to live on, reduce the days to spend away. Don’t risk running out of money too soon. At the end of the day, take as much as you can without spending next month’s bills, and don’t overspend your daily budget.

2. Book in Advance

Budget airlines are on the rise, and even America is learning fast that the people need cheap holidays. Many airlines do crazy-great deals for small windows of time, so find a few in your area now and subscribe to their newsletters so you’re the first to know of any and all cheap airfare. These deals can either be a few months away from the travel dates or very last minute, so you can stay spontaneous about your holiday if you’re lucky enough to catch one of those—just be financially prepared! Remember, though, that many budget airlines are synonymous with no-frills travel. Think of it this way: is there really such a thing as complimentary snacks? Not really. Getting a cheap, luxury-free flight is worth it as a means to a guilt-free getaway. Always book in advance. Whether you’re traveling by train, plane, bus, or boat, most companies hike prices late in the game, so outsmart them: book weeks, or months if possible, before your vacation. This will doubtlessly put an extra wad of cash in your pocket to be spent on better things later on.

3. Get Not-So-Traditional Accommodations:

Next come the accommodations, and this is where you need that open mind. It’s baffling that many spend unnecessarily high amounts of money on accommodation when it can be done at a much more reasonable rate. I’m not saying you have to stay at a hostel in order to have an open mind. Other options are out there now for those who are still adventurous but want a little more privacy. Despite the misleading website name, there are many quaint and cheap hotels on I’ve booked several cheap,private rooms in both Paris as well as New York by using that site, plus the reservations included free breakfast. But there are other popular choices that are increasingly chic too, like Airbnb hooks you up with hosts who have extra space for you in their humble abodes, which allows you to have a much more meaningful travel experience while saving money, too. From urban apartments to country castles, there are millions of options all over the world. Go here to learn more about how it all works.

 4. Find Cheap Eats

Stretching your budget in terms of food is easier than you may think. If you were able to find a budget hotel with free breakfast, or an actual home with its own kitchen, you’re off to a good start. Many budget hotels have common rooms with refrigerators for their budget travelers to utilize, and so you should. I bought fresh fruits and chorizo for my Barcelona budget, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes for the fridge in Rome, and cheese and baguettes for my place in Paris. If you love experiencing cultures through food, shopping at the local markets is the way to go, and you will save tons of money. If you want to experience other affordable treats, I highly recommend street foods. There’s nothing in the world quite like spending your days in Paris feasting on street vendors’ crepes and croque monsieurs.

5. Buy Simple Souvenirs

Sure, it’s nice to be able to splurge on unique items you want to have forever, but you can remember your travels with even the simplest things. Find street markets selling knickknacks like old jewelry; pick fresh flowers and press them into your book or journal; or buy a cheap but frameable postcard from an art museum that will remind you of what you saw that day. One of my favorite pieces of jewelry I still own is a small cameo necklace charm I bought for three Euros from a sweet old lady on the side of the road in Avignon . I quite possibly took a bit of her own personal history home with me while creating some nostalgia of my own.

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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Art: Painter Mia Bergeron explores transition, evolution in her first solo show

by Kelly Rae Smith - Charleston City Paper - July 3, 2013

"She's kind of on fire." That's what Robert Lange of Robert Lange Studios says of artist Mia Bergeron, whose first solo show opens at the gallery on July 5. Though she's new to being completely center stage, her works have won over many artists and enthusiasts alike. "Mia is like a painter's painter. Every artist I know loves Mia Bergeron's work," Lange says. "You have to see it in person because she has this lush, buttery paint, and it has this texture where the closer you get, the more you feel a human being."

Lange and his wife Megan first welcomed Bergeron into their Queen Street gallery in 2010 as part of their Women Painting Women exhibit. Bergeron was one of just over 50 women chosen from 360 applicants to join what was, at the time, their largest show. Her impression on the couple was lasting and the Langes invited her back, this time for a show all her own called Gradual Thaw.

"Gradual Thaw refers to both what happens in spring time, just before plant life blooms, but also to a mental state," Bergeron says. "I had all these rules for being a person, a painter, etc. I think I'm in a transitional stage of my life, as many people are, and some of those previous rules and ideas about myself and my work are melting away to make room for new growth."

Among the works that Bergeron will showcase are "Familiar," which depicts a scene at the front door of her home, and "Elasticity," a painting that shows "how flexible one needs to be to make and view art," she says. Another piece, "Anarchist," generated a massive response on the RLS-Facebook page when it was featured there recently.
"This [painting] pertains to the rebellious nature of change," Bergeron says of "Anarchist." "We see how things are, we decide to revolt. Then, in the midst of walking into the unknown, we also rebel against ourself and go back to wanting to be comfortable. It's a cycle I think a lot of people go through: catalyst, change, fear, then acceptance."

Until the past six months, the Chattanooga-based artist had never painted a coherent series of works — it's a task Bergeron admits was challenging. However, the experience helped inform her painting while she explored her vulnerabilities as a painter. The result is an investigation of mood as well as the evolution of an individual.
"Generally speaking, life circumstances heavily influence my work," Bergeron says. "Walking by someone who is worried, a twist of an eyebrow, the colors of a landscape just before it is totally dark. I also seem to pay attention to conflicting emotions and visual matter. Subtle but sharp, dark and cheery, hopeful and disillusioned, lush but lonely."

According to Lange, Bergeron's works allow for viewers to inject their own story. Though viewers can sense strong emotions like vulnerability in Bergeron's work, her art still possesses an ambiguous nature that allows one to ponder what's really going on. Lange loves this element of mystery she's able to create.

"She's one of those people who breaks the mold," he says. "She's very cool, and she's got a hip vibe about her. She's got a lot of personality. She's also very open and loving and very romantic, and it's great to see that kind of show up. Her personality just shows up on the canvas."

The gallery's excitement for this exhibit is clearly matched by that of the artist. Bergeron looks forward to returning to a place that receives its guests so gladly.

"Above the door at Robert Lange Studios is painted, 'All Are Welcome.' I believe this to my core," she says. "I regard public art as the highest form of art, and in a way, showing at Robert Lange is just that."

Gradual Thaw
 @ Robert Lange Studios

  • Opening reception July 5, 5:30-8:30 p.m. On view through July 30.