Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spot on: Local art, artists in the Spotlight

Personally I’d go with another nickname. "Spotty" sounds, well, a bit sketchy. But nobody asked, so ...  it’s nice to see Port people in the mix for this year’s Spottys — a Spotty being a Spotlight Award, the Seacoast equivalent of Grammy. This year, the Spotty's 16th anniversary, there are four contenders in three categories for the regional competition, with two of them, Tiger Saw and Dan Blakeslee, facing each other for Top Album awards — Blakeslee for “Tatnic Tales” and Tiger Saw for “Nightingales.” Blakeslee also nabbed a nomination for Best Single. Also in the mix, locally, are sculptor Joyce Audy Zarins for her "Potential 3x3," pictured, and Ceia chef Billy Brandolini, or Chef Brando for those in the know, as the region’s top chef. 

“Nightingales,” as I’ve written in my usual long-winded fashion, is a lovely album: Sweet, sad and beautiful, a rich, textured, emotionally complex look at a world left behind, a world where certainty becomes clear only in retrospect, that finds regret, hope and, eventually, understanding. It’s a collection of ten tunes about the night, but, ultimately, a rejection of darkness. Blakeslee’s “Tatnic Tales” is a quiet, country-tinged collection recorded over one weekend in an old barn. It doesn’t sparkle, it doesn’t shine. It’s  barebones and real, like an old Neil Young album. They’re up against "Razed & Reconstructed," the solo album by Martin England, who played with regional powerhouse Pondering Judd for nearly two decades; "Don't Stop" by Geoff Useless, best known for his work with punk legends The Queers; and "Welcome to the Breakdown” by Tim McCoy & the Papercuts. Yeah, the one with the steamy video “This Is Lust.”

Zarins’s "Potential 3x3," which was exhibited at Sanctuary Arts' new sculpture garden in Eliot, Maine, last summer, actually made its first appearance a decade ago at Maudslay State Park. She had cut out three eight-foot tall structures with steel, wind-kinetic elements for an artist-organized outdoor sculpture show, but only had time to build one, which she built out of rebar, so it looked like it had been planted there. The next year three different sculpture shows wanted it, so she finished the other two, completing the triptych.

Unfortunately, most Spotty contenders were selected by peer juries earlier this year, but regular folks can shout down the experts in a couple of categories, like outstanding emerging artist and, new this year, local chef, with the People's Choice awards. That’s where you’ll find Brandolini, former sous chef at Ten Center Street, who has helped put Ceia’s on the culinary map with Portuguese specialties, Italian pastas and other Euro fare like Osso Bucco Espagnole, Kobe Burger with Prosciutto de Parma and handmade Gnocchi Amatrician. You can vote here. You can also write in your own nomination, but that's kind of like voting Green or kissing your sister or something. You've got until March 17 to do it. And don't try to stuff the virtual ballot box. Multiple entries from a single IP address will be discarded.
Winners of both juried and People's Choice awards will be announced at the Spotlight Awards Show at 7 p.m. April 14 at The Music Hall in Portsmouth.

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