I don’t usually cry in public, but I was on the verge of it Wednesday at the AiR Exit Show reception. In some balled up concoction of whale calls, trains, pebbles, and extension cords, I found myself suddenly turning to those around me and saying, “I think I’m going to cry,” when I knew the four of them were about to sit down and give their final performance, “It’s Not You, It’s Me.” They were going to break up with each other, I knew, and I wasn’t prepared for that.
You see, I moved to Spartanburg just a day or two before Kerri, Ian, Ron, and Corinne to start my job at the Hub City Writers Project. Corinne was one of the first people I met when we had dinner at Betsy’s house, and then I briefly met the others at their Welcome BBQ that first weekend. Little did I know how much they all would help to define and shape my first year in Spartanburg–hikes, barbecue, yoga, collage, and, just last weekend, my first birthday slumber party since I was 13 and my first bonfire since, well, ever. And now they’re leaving? I cringe when I think about the second week of May and all of their little cars driving away.
But their Exit Show was a celebration.
Corinne read beautifully an abbreviated version of her short story, “Rare Miles,” inspired by or a response to something Emily Smith (first writer-in-residence and Corinne’s boss at UNC-W) told her before she moved here: “You will learn the language of trains.” That, she did. She held the crowd with the rhythm of her voice, her story.
And Ian with his “Trough” of paint and objects, his extension cord ball, and more tiny orange caution cones. He’s gone back to childhood a bit this year to play, and I wish he would have included the larger-than-life drawings of Mario and Luigi that he had on his apartment walls. It’s obvious Ian has fun with his art, and Ian is an insanely fun guy.
Kerri and I have spent a lot of our time together this year in nature–on trails in town and in the Blue Ridge. Back when she was doing Twenty Days on the (Cottonwood) Trail in October, I could tell nature and the patterns of nature were a strong influence on her painting. That came through in earnest in her Exit Show paintings. Pebbles. Tides. Grids. Mountains. Dots. I love her paintings, and I’m so excited to take one home with me and say that I have my first real piece of art: a Kerri Ammirata.
Ron’s work is tangible. I mean, he builds mantles and chairs and a chest of drawers that emits whale calls. He works with “the everyday,” recreating and considering those objects that we use or see on a daily basis but don’t take the time to think about. But he shows them from the inside, exposed. I think I’m most drawn to the “Mantle” because it reminds me of the mantle in my parents’ home, the one that so easily collects my family’s histories and oddities. You can read more about Ron’s work in his previous post, “Studio progress and Tallahassee excursions.”
But, yes, to cap off the night and, largely, their year as HUB-BUB artists-in-residence, they performed the conclusion to the piece they performed at their Entry Show, “The Arranged Marriage.” In “It’s Not You, It’s Me,” all of their personalities came out like bright glorious sunflowers. They simply played themselves and enacted how it would go if they each were breaking up with the other. Corinne wrote break-up letters, sealed them, and handed them across the table. Ian sketched. Kerri painted. And Ron cut giant and loud holes in the table, physically deconstructing their foundation. All the while, they brought out each other’s flaws and personalities, using them in their argument to break up. Let’s just say it was perfect and hilarious, exactly as it should have been, and I was too busy laughing and listening to get too emotional until it was all over and they just sat and stared at each other and then got up and walked out. Then there was an absence, a strange and silent absence that I’m dreading.
So, thank you Kerri, Corinne, Ian, and Ron, for an amazing year. We’ll live it up some more before you go. And then you must come back to visit, dear friends.