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December 03, 2016
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Everything happens for a reason?

Multi-media artist Ray Fiero considers himself to be a “cross between Picasso, Hemingway and Rasputin.”
TRR photos by Jonathan Fox

That’s what they say, whoever “they” are. Depending on my mood, there are times when even I think it’s true. The past week has been rife with coincidence and synchronicity, yet I can’t for the life of me figure out what it all means. I’d be forcing the issue to call seeing “Grease,” now playing in Forestburgh (www.FBplayhouse.org), a coincidence per se (I was in the national tour a hundred years ago), but seeing it at the playhouse brought back a flood of memories. There are plenty of reasons to experience this show live on stage, but one in particular stood out for me—Cassidy Stoner. As a member of the company this season, Stoner has been doing her part, but in “Grease,” she’s been given an opportunity to shine, portraying Frenchy, the “beauty school dropout” searching for her place in the world. There are a few other performances worth noting and I’m fond of the show, but this particular production was all about Frenchy as far as I’m concerned.

It was not by coincidence that I found myself at an art gallery in Bethel, NY over the weekend, (www.straycatgallery.com) for I had heard that one of my favorite artists, Ray Fiero, would be showing some new work. Along with some visually arresting photos and paintings by Todd C. Anderson (www.toddcanderson.com) and unusual photo-collages by Helen Garber (www.helengarber.com), Fiero’s work stimulates me in ways that linger, and I was most anxious to see his new pieces. All three artists were on hand to mingle with the glitterati, and there were jugglers (www.GrimmyFamilyCircus.com) and musicians (lusterjack@gmail.com) out back, where wood carver extraordinaire Paul Stark (www.oregonstudios.com) was creating yet another masterpiece before our eyes. A chat with Fiero emphasized his wacky view on himself—described in his bio as “practiced and entirely insincere.” Decidedly tongue-in-cheek, the description goes on to say that Fiero is a “cross between Picasso, Hemingway and Rasputin, looking instead like Bela Lugosi, pathetically faking Dracula power for an Ed Wood flick.” If that alone does not intrigue, the other artists’ works were equally interesting, but probably less startling.

I had met Anderson before, but not seen his work, and we discussed photography, his use of wax layered over the images, and that his photos are “studies for the paintings” he creates in conjunction with them. (“They [the photos] are like little haikus.”)

Garber’s name was familiar, as an “American photographer known mostly for her black and white urban landscapes of cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris and Venice” (www.wikipedia.com), but as I turned her card over in my hand (and met her husband, Stu), something else niggled at my feeble brain. “Garber?” I asked. “Do you guys know my BFF Hillary Cohen?” Looking at each other and then again at me, Helen nodded her head, and we hugged like long-lost friends. Synchronicity? Here she was, in White Lake (three thousand miles from home) and although we had never met, we chatted away about our shared experiences on Facebook and mutual friends across the globe. Aside from that, her artwork included shredded pages from a story my uncle wrote decades ago (cue Twilight Zone music), and as our worlds collided, I shook my head, wondering what it all could possibly mean.

Sorry that I had missed Mermer Blakeslee reading from her newest book, “When You Live by a River,” (www.catskillartsociety.org) I chalked it up to being just one man and headed out instead to hear Matthew Horn and Cliff Westfall (The Needmore Bothers) perform their (IMHO) unique, feel-good bluegrass interpretations of country life. “Nope, we have no website, no Facebook page and no business cards,” the fellas reported, “just a couple of T-shirts, which (local artist) William Landau made this morning.” Meanwhile, imagine my surprise to find author Blakeslee in the house (www.theoldnorthbranchinn.com) reading (in between musical sets) from her book, mesmerizing the crowd (and me) with her beautiful prose, wrapping me ‘round her finger, as she entranced the packed house, breathing life into her characters and musing on synchronicity. “I didn’t write this story as an allegory on fracking,” she said, “but it’s amazing [to me] that it could have been… See what you think,” she intoned, as she read part two of the afternoon’s selection. I didn’t have an opportunity to chat with Blakeslee after the reading, but was it really just by chance that I met her at all? If everything happens for a reason, I’m guessing the answer is yet to come.