By Greg Stepanich
The Boynton Beach Arts District can be found in a block of repurposed warehouses on Industrial Avenue, a stone’s throw west of Interstate 95 off Boynton Beach Boulevard.
But if Rolando Chang Barrero and his fellow artists have their way, soon you’ll see their work in Boynton’s tiny downtown on Ocean Avenue.
“We want to create some sustainability for the city. Because the city needs something,” Barrero said, pointing to Ocean Avenue’s relative isolation south of Boynton Beach Boulevard. “They built up the marina, but they forgot that it’s real difficult to train people to cross a major road.”
This month, Barrero’s ActivistArtista initiative at 422 W. Industrial Ave. is hosting an exhibit of work by the young Fort Lauderdale-based photographer Valyn Calhoun, whose disparate styles and influences are viewable in a small but fascinating collection of images that range from straight-on rock club coverage to shape-shifting patterns created from parts of his body refracted in mirror image.
There also is a series of photos that look like an outré spread for Vanity Fair, with a very beautiful dark-haired woman posing amid a heavily tagged urban landscape, dressed — or semi-undressed — in a castoff military-style uniform, or topless from behind in a pair of tight-fitting striped pants. As generically provocative as the poses may be, Calhoun knows how to compose an effective image.
Contrasted with that is a set of intimate nature pictures, tight close-ups of birds, dragonflies and plants, simple but pretty, and reflecting an entirely different sensibility; as does a series of figures in silhouette, holding parasols or wearing wings, against multicolored backdrops that give the pictures a highly artificial but nonetheless attractive look.
“I’ve been showing Valyn’s pieces, one by one, over the past two years … I like the way he thinks,” Barrero said. “I like the way he looks at things, and I like the way he looks at himself … It’s edgy, it’s classical, and he has the ability to transcend the medium. He knows how to manipulate his medium, and he uses it as vocabulary.”
This show, available for viewing until Sept. 27 by appointment with a call to Barrero, also evokes Calhoun’s being diagnosed with AIDS and hepatitis B earlier this year. A set of self-portraits shows his face and hands covered with blood as he screams, while in another, photographer Rita Baum has shot Calhoun, naked except for a white mink stole, looking at the camera with the telltale blood still on his hands.
Barrero said Calhoun’s friends stepped up to help after his diagnosis, and today the artist has stabilized on an expensive drug regimen. But he said he doesn’t want Calhoun’s work to be seen solely through the prism of his condition.
“So many people were talking about it that his art and his photography almost took a back seat. Valyn became the product,” Barrero said, which is why he wanted to host the exhibition, bringing Calhoun “back into the art scene and minimizing the whole AIDS thing.”
This exhibit presents the work of a man working through his influences and different styles; it’s promising rather than entirely fulfilling. It strikes the viewer as the efforts of an artist who could go in many different directions, and it will be interesting to see what he could do if he finds a specific métier he wants to pursue.
Meanwhile, Barrero’s artists are filling more spaces in the warehouses. One newcomer is abstract expressionist Diannett Doyle, whose husband, Sonny Doyle, an interior renovator, proudly shows off his wife’s big, colorful canvases. “That’s my favorite,” he said, pointing to the only small work on the walls, in which a thin strand of orange bunches up in the middle of a bright yellow background.
“I want a place where the young, emerging artists get a step up,” Barrero said of the arts district. “I want it to stay community-based, and I want to introduce good artists from outside. But I always want the focus to be that the good artists bring out the emerging artists.”
For an appointment to see the Valyn Calhoun retrospective, call Barrero at (786) 521-1199; for information about the district, visit www.activistartista.blogspot.com.
Literary arts: When the Palm Beach Poetry Festival returns to Delray Beach in January for its 10th incarnation, among the special guests will be Natasha Trethewey, the current poet laureate of the United States.
But before that, the organizers of the festival have planned three special events for this month.
On Sept. 18, the fest hosts a poetry reading by Bards of a Feather, which will gather at 12:30 p.m. at the Green Cay Wetlands Preserve, at 12800 Hagen Ranch Road in Boynton Beach. Participants are asked to bring four or five poems with a nature theme; the poems can be original or favorites readers feel like sharing.
A workshop for poets is offered the following Saturday (Sept. 21) at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts. Titled Exquisite Writing, the workshop begins at 1 p.m. It will be conducted by Miami-based poet and teacher Neil de la Flor, whose most recent book of poetry is An Elephant’s Memory of Blizzards, out this year from Marsh Hawk Press. There is a $10 fee to participate.
Finally, just over the county line from west Boca, poets will assemble at 1 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Bottega Wine Bar at 4455 Lyons Road in Coconut Creek. The event, called 100,000 Poets for Change, will showcase poems that promote social, political and environmental progressivism, particularly in the latter case on the question of sustainability. Local poets are encouraged to read their own short poems.
For information, write Blaise Allen, the festival’s director of community outreach, at DrBlaiseAllen@aol.com.
Music: The Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival opens its first-ever winter concert series this month at the Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University in Boca Raton, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Lake Worth.
The two concerts, set for Sept. 19 at the Wold and Sept. 20 at St. Andrew’s, include a trio for bassoon, violin and cello by the early 19th-century French bassoonist and composer Francois René Gebauer and a trio for flute, violin and piano by the 20th-century Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů. Also on the program is Aaron Copland’s Quiet City, in an arrangement for clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet and piano, and the great Clarinet Quintet (in A, K. 581) of Mozart.
Two other programs are planned in the winter series: Oct. 10 at the Wold and Oct. 11 at St. Andrew’s (music by Françaix, Brahms and two contemporary Americans, Clare Shore and James Stephenson); and Nov. 14 at the Wold and Nov. 15 at St. Andrew’s (pieces by Albinoni, Bernstein, Jolivet and Stravinsky). All concerts start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20, or $45 for a three-concert subscription.
Call (800) 330-6874 for tickets, or visit www.pbcmf.org.
Meanwhile, St. Paul’s Episcopal opens its 26th season at the Delray Beach church at 3 p.m. Sept. 22 with the Trillium Piano Trio of Jupiter. Cellist Susan Bergeron is taking over for Benjamin Salsbury, who has left the group. Bergeron will be joining pianist Yoko Sato Kothari and violinist Ruby Berland for two short works by contemporary composers: William Bolcom’s Haydn Go Seek and Arvo Pärt’s Mozart-Adagio. Those will be paired with two major canonical works, the Piano Trio of Chopin and the Trio No. 1 (in G minor) of Rachmaninov.
September also is a big month for the Cruzan Amphitheatre out west of West Palm Beach. Jason Aldean arrives Sept. 7, followed the next day by John Mayer. On Sept. 14, it’s Maroon 5 (joined by Kelly Clarkson and P.J. Morton), and country songbird Miranda Lambert (with Dierks Bentley) comes to the venue Sept. 21. Tickets are available through LiveNation or Ticketmaster.