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From Cover to Cover: Works from the Gerald Mead Collection at Ashkers

Filed under: Art
Philip Burke's portrait of Henry Kissinger, which appeared on the cover of Artvoice's September 20, 2007 issue.

Philip Burke’s portrait of Henry Kissinger, which appeared on the cover of Artvoice’s September 20, 2007 issue.

Since its founding in 1990, Artvoice has frequently used an artwork by a Western New York artist as the cover image for its publication. Most often, it coincides with the fact that the artwork is on view in a solo or group exhibition that week. For the artist (and venue of the exhibition) there is a special thrill associated with “getting the cover of Artvoice.” Local photographer and photo-muralist Max Collins, whose work has appeared on the cover of five issues of Artvoice in recent years, describes the experience as “high visibility acknowledgement by the press” and mentions that the status of Artvoice as a “cultural staple” of the community makes that experience even more meaningful.

For an art collector who owns (or acquires) the reproduced artwork, there is something surreal about seeing an image of an artwork that they live with everyday on street corners and newspaper racks in businesses and institutions throughout the region. The result is an odd blending of the public and private realms.    

This exhibition consists of ten original artworks in various media that have been featured on the cover of an Artvoice issue dating from 2007 to present. All of the artworks are from the collection of Gerald Mead and the artists included are: painters Philip Burke, Tom Holt, Craig LaRotonda, and James Paulsen; photographer Max Collins; collagist Dylan England; comic cartoonist/illustrator Tom Van Deusen; and ceramic artist and printmaker Ken Price. A small reproduction of the cover each appeared on is below the label and it is interesting to note that in most cases the artwork was cropped to fit the proportions of the publication. Four of the 10 artworks also happen to be self-portraits. 

This is the latest (in the past decade there have been two or three each year at various college and university galleries in Western New York and other venues) thematic exhibition to be drawn from the collection of artist and educator Gerald Mead, who has assembled a collection of over 800 artworks by artists associated with this region by birth or residency.

The exhibition comes down on Friday, April 25, so check it out before then and see how many covers you recall seeing when they were on the stands.


Land Bank Fueling Up With Foreclosure Settlement Funds

Land bank GordonToday New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was in Buffalo to publicly announce he’s putting $2 million of gas in the tank of the joint Erie County/Buffalo land bank, to help get this crucial public policy venture moving on the road to self-sufficiency.  Some of the funding has already been used to hire an executive director for the land bank, formally known as the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation (BENLIC).  Executive Director Jocelyn Gordon, on the job about a month now, was introduced to the community today amid high praise from several of the municipal land bank board members for her background, experience, and hitting the ground running.

Gordon, who will be paid $75,000 per year (in the middle of the range BENLIC’s research found for other land bank executive directors), has a couple of decades of experience in municipal planning.  As she told me in a recent interview, that gives her a familiarity with Western New York communities and municipal officials that she feels will be invaluable in a job that will require her to work closely, cooperatively, and collaboratively with many local jurisdictions.  Gordon also has hands-on experience with property revitalization, having worked on projects in partnership with her architect husband, Charles Gordon.

For its first two years, while the land bank got up and running, it hasn’t ventured far.  With $100,000 authorized by the Erie County Legislature years ago but never spent by then-County Executive Chris Collins, the land bank has been conducting a pilot project with several suburban properties, and working to develop the programmatic structure to be able to operate effectively in an intermunicipal environment.  The goal is to eventually become self-sufficient.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s Community Revitalization Initiative created a $20 million funding pool in 2013 to assist New York land banks with startup funding.  The funding, from settlements reached between the Attorney General and financial institutions involved in the 2008 mortgage crisis, was awarded last October.  Five other land banks received funding, as well.  Applications for an additional round of land bank funding will be taken this year.

In addition to hiring a new Executive Director to increase capacity and implement operations, the Land Bank will be using the funds to carry out several programs, including demolition of 50 properties owned by the City of Buffalo, five owned by Lackawanna, rehabilitation and sale of eight-to-ten properties around Erie County, and a sidelots program.

As of today, no list of the 50 properties to be demolished in Buffalo was available from either BENLIC or the City of Buffalo.  City officials at the press conference said that the list would be submitted to the Buffalo Preservation Board in April.  The pace of the demolitions was described as “fast strike,” with half to take place in the first half of the year, and the other half by the end of the year.  The properties are all owned by the City of Buffalo.  In the application for funding, the City of Buffalo did not identify specific properties for demolition, but rather geographic areas of the city—apparently, taken together, encompassing most of the city.


Look for an in-depth article about today’s land bank news in our next print edition. See also Artvoice’s 2012 cover story on the formation of the land bank and New York’s land bank legislation.

Allen C. Shelton: “Crazy Maps, Unusual Maps, Not-Quite-Right Maps”

9780226073224When I finally managed to get my hands on Where the North Sea Touches Alabama, the second novel (though I am hesitant to call it that) by Allen Shelton, an associate professor of sociology at the SUNY Buffalo State, the first thing I noticed was the familiar script that adorns the cover.  I recognized it as Allen’s own, which I had seen many times covering from edge to edge the large sheets of graph paper on which Allen composes, often at a table in Caffè Aroma facing the door.  On the title page, Allen had inscribed my copy with a sort of demented compass rose: arrows labeled W and S both point left, a jagged line marked N points right, and E is straight down.

That is as good a guide to this strange, beautiful text as any.  It is a powerful, deeply original, and deftly constructed combination of fiction, readings of the work and lives of everyone from Walter Benjamin to Franza Kafka, and contemplations of artist Patrik Keim’s departure from this world and the violent, beautiful artwork he left in the hands of the book’s narrator.  The universe of Where the North Sea Touches Alabama is an uncanny iteration of our own; as its title implies, the text is born of a world in which familiar landmarks (e.g. the North Sea, Alabama) interact unfamiliarly, according to a subterranean logic that makes a certain kind of unknowable sense.

Patrik Keim was an artist who lived in Georgia with whom the author (and the narrator) enjoyed a friendship that eventually resulted in Shelton collecting a large portion of Patrik’s artwork.  Keim shot himself in the head in 1998.  His suicide generates the text as a whole as well as some of its most beautiful passages: “He stuck the pistol into his mouth and shot himself.  The bullet penetrated through the brain and out the top of the skull.  He fell, however, just off from the open piece of flooring, obscuring various images with his torso and hips, the blood pooling in the slight dip in the floor.  Still, the result was surprising and very reminiscent of his early work.  His body was found two days later, making it irrelevant that he had showered and shaved minutes before his departure.  That Patrik would leave like this I hadkeim for mayor known for years.”

Shelton’s text is certainly successful, but in order to appreciate that, the reader needs to understand that the author’s goals have less in common with commercial fiction than they do with the fictocriticism of Roland Barthes and Joan Didion.  Searching for a term to refer to literature like Shelton’s, Jacques Derrida once said, “We must invent a name for those ‘critical’ inventions which belong to literature while deforming its limits.”  Where the North Sea Touches Alabama certainly deforms the limits of literature with its interdisciplinary scope and difficult, rewarding prose style.

The text tends to ask more questions than it answers (this, for the record, is a really good thing).  I sat down with Shelton—who will give a reading and discussion at Talking Leaves on Wednesday, April 2, at 7pm—to discuss his work, both critical and creative, and how it led to a book as unique as this.

AV: I want to talk about [philosopher Walter] Benjamin.

ACS: Please.

AV: I want you to talk about Benjamin.  Benjamin the person, Benjamin the corpus; Benjamin pervades your work like a sort of wire lattice almost.  I was wondering what sort of role Benjamin has in your text and in your mental life?

ACS: I first found him in a New York Review of Books essay by Susan Sontag.  I maybe was 19, 20 years old.  I read this essay and I was mesmerized.  So I checked out some of his books (and there were very few at the time), and I didn’t understand him but I was still fascinated.  I remember in graduate school trying to talk about Benjamin in a class.  No one knew who I was talking about.  I had no one to speak about him with.  But for me he was this allegory, this great, failed, brilliant figure.  He has always been a kind of saint or a comfort to me in my own, smaller exiles, and I’ve always come back to read him.  Early on I read his essay on Kafka which is just so, so beautiful and smart.  When Benjamin’s at his best I think he resembles Kafka.

But so I’m just writing today, trying to write something, and almost inevitably Benjamin is the allegory or the weight that’s pressing on me as I fashion it around his life and try to find meaning in my own life.

AV: Something about Benjamin is almost like a mannequin on which you can drape clothes you’ve made?

ACS: I wouldn’t say “mannequin”—it’s far more animate than that.  I think of him almost like my dead grandmother.

AV: Is she animate?

ACS: Well my dead grandmother’s quite animate: I just dreamt of her last night.  I think with her.  You know, I read [Karl Marx’s] Capitalbig house on my own, and when you read things like that on your own you are walking across terrain without a map or a compass.  But my guide, and this sounds kind of silly, my guide was my grandmother, a librarian.  And my other grandmother and my mother.  These were my guides.  I used their ghosts and their stories to do something to Marx, or to Benjamin.  Benjamin has joined them now—I could’ve added him to that list of dead people that I think with and owe a debt to.  Benjamin would be a part of that, as would Geronimo and Kafka.

AV: I want to ask you about, “great, failed, brilliant,” the words you just used to describe Benjamin.  Now I’m thinking they can be used to describe Patrik Keim.

ACS: The odd thing about Patrik is that a lot of his work I don’t think holds up.  In some ways quite literally—he put it together so shoddily.  It’s coming apart in my house.  But he left this mark on people.  I’ve gotten two or three e-mails from people who have no idea who I am but they’ve run across my book because they’ve looked up Patrik and they’ve just now found out that he’s dead.  While I was in [Athens, GA] I visited one of his professors at his studio which is this renovated barn with maybe a million dollars worth of art just stacked in there, and he’s on an oxygen tank, and he’s all alone and he’s going through his files pulling out things about Patrik, talking about his collaboration with Patrik, how much he misses Patrik, how talented Patrik was, how unique he was.  So there was something about him that was beyond just being an artist.  Though I found out that he may also have been a con man.

AV: Who did he con?

ACS: It turns out that he stole thousands and thousands of dollars from the bar that he worked at, and just before his death he sort of hemmed himself in a corner because he sent out in hundred-dollar increments this money all across the country.  To friends, acquaintances.  And then he killed himself.  And the bar owner still loves Patrik.  I did a reading in his bar (by the way, it’s an incredible bar—it’s called The Globe).

AV: You mentioned when you were describing the people who serve as your guides or compasses, you describe traveling across a vast blank map.  There is some sort of geography but it’s not yet charted.  It occurs to me that that is clearly a preoccupation or focus of yours: cartographies and sort of messing with them.

ACS: I have drawn maps, crazy maps, unusual maps, not-quite-right maps, for a long time, and I never thought of them analytically until I Shelton-map-newread Raymond Roussel.  I started realizing that maps could be divining tools.  Particularly the kind of map I was interested in is this folded or double map that has the natural and the supernatural folded together.  My whole book is constructed like the very landscape I just described.  Hence the endnotes are actually a third of the book and they read as a second book.  The endnotes are actually written in a different voice.  They function as the underground world, and so the book is really a giant concrete poem in which you have the surface and then this underground and these things going back and forth between them.  I have two endings to the book.  I have the ending in the endnotes, which is an ending, and then I have the ending on the surface part of the text.  They’re almost the same but they’re very different.

AV: “Almost the same but very different.”  Let’s talk about the uncanny.

ACS: That was another organizing motif of this book—the whole notion of the underworld and literally having an underworld to the book.  That is the uncanny.  I’m using it as an analytical device, not as a descriptor.  To let things come up.

AV: You describe Patrik’s work as a “view into a different kind of supernatural.”  What has so fixated you on Patrik’s work and Patrik’s work on you?

ACS: It goes back to when I first went to graduate school.  I leave rural Alabama, go to Athens, GA, which is this spectacular place for me.  I see protesters, anti-nuclear protesters, I see the early days of punk, Michael Stipe is there walking around in a blanket and carrying a dead woodpecker on a stick.

AV: What more could you ask for?

ACS: Right.  I had never seen this.  It was this incredible, stimulating world—movies, my first cappuccino.  And then, art.  I had never seen art like Patrik’s.  I had never seen art that was ugly and yet beautiful.  I found his work to be challenging and stimulating.  He rearranged how I thought, he concretized how I thought.  He gave me a way of expressing the ruins I saw in rural Alabama.  Patrik was the key.

AV: Patrik’s work has built into it a certain kind of impermanence, as if each piece is both itself and a demonstration of entropy.

ACS: In my home is one of my favorite pieces.  It shows him in this black turtleneck with a large pair of scissors and then next to it is a front piece from Otto Rank’s The Doppelganger, in German, and his image is cutting through the page, it’s falling out of its housing and it’s slicing like a very slow guillotine through the piece.  It’s going to cut it in half eventually.  It’s even beautiful like that.  It becomes more beautiful over time.  Unhinged, it’s even more beautiful.  Other pieces are still disturbing—this dirty drinking glass with a pair of dentures in it and this weird straight edge razor that’s nearby is still disturbing to me.

AV: I keep hearing expressions and turns of phrase that I feel like you might also use to describe Patrik.

ACS: I just found—my son sent me a little image for Christmas late that night.  He had collected some of his children’s books and one of them was a Chris Van Allsburg book, The Wreck of the Zephyr.  In the image I’m sitting at a café talking with a friend of mine about his art.  It’s Patrik.  I imagine that I’m about to get my PhD.  I don’t.  And I’m talking to him and I tell him I love him and I hope he will grow to love this book.  But the other part of that was me with Patrik at a café talking about art.  Patrik’s sort of not shown in [Where the North Sea Touches Alabama], but you know the original press that wanted to do this book wanted to bill it as Queer Studies.  My editor was convinced that Patrik and I were lovers and this was a love story.  Which it’s not.  But Laurence Shine was really perceptive.  He said this book is really about why I don’t kill myself.  So it’s not so much about Patrik.  It’s about our relationship, but it’s about why I don’t kill myself after he dies. 


Allen Shelton will give a reading and discussion at Talking Leaves on Wednesday, April 2, at 7pm.

Pridgen Takes the Oath

With his parents as witnesses, Darius Pridgen takes the oath of office as 65th president of Buffalo's Common Council.

With his parents as witnesses, Darius Pridgen takes the oath of office as 65th president of Buffalo’s Common Council.

The political import of yesterday’s swearing-in of Reverend Darius Pridgen as president of Buffalo’s Common Council can be measured by any number of yardsticks. The size of the crowd and the celebratory atmosphere were the most obvious indicators: Never in recent memory has a reorganization filled the Council chambers with so vibrant and adoring a crowd.

And, like any much-anticipated entertainment (and, as one of Pridgen’s parishioners observed, like many Sunday morning services at True Bethel Baptist Church), it started late.

That crowd included number of influential African-American ministers and political figures, as well, and a couple rows full of current and former elected officials: Congressman Brian Higgins, State Senator Tim Kennedy, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, Niagara Falls Councilman Charles Walker, Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs (who arrived late for the swearing-in but in time for the reception afterward), and James Pitts, the former Council president, whom Pridgen honored in his remarks as a pioneer among African-American politicians. (Pridgen is the fourth African-American president of the city’s Common Council; Pitts was the third, and the last to be voted president in a citywide election. Delmar Mitchell was the first, followed by George Arthur.) Pridgen also honored past president David Franczyk, councilman for the Fillmore District, and the outgoing president, Rich Fontana of Lovejoy, who wore a brave face through the proceedings.

In short, there was a lot of political weight in that peanut gallery. But there was a more modest measure of the event’s gravity, too, much easier to miss: Joe Jarzembek, with whom I shared an elevator to the 13th floor.

Jarzembek is a well-liked attorney who works for Erie County Family Court. A Democrat, he ran as an outsider candidate for Family Court judge this past fall. He lost, but not for lack of hard work: All last summer and fall, at any event where a dozen or more voters were likely to gather, you’d find Joe Jarzembek, handing out literature and shaking hands. He lobbied Democratic bosses of all the party’s factions for support; he went door-to-door, as all candidates must. He worked his tail off.

Still, he lost, largely because he was an outsider: Despite his efforts to win them over, the party bosses hitched their wagons to other horses. Now Jarzembek has his eyes on a vacancy in Buffalo City Court. And he recognized Pridgen’s swearing-in as the kind of event at which a candidate seeking office should be seen.

There were more than 300 people in Council chambers Thursday afternoon, despite arctic cold and lousy roads, to witness, and be witnessed at, Pridgen’s next step up in city politics. Many of those present—probably most—expect him to take another step up soon, to the mayor’s office. How many were there—like Jarzembek, but also like developer David Pawlik, for example—not only to pay their respects but because they have aspirations that they hope Pridgen will help them to achieve?

Frank Goldberg: Still Missing

Filed under: Activism, Allentown, LGBT

goldberg-franknOn the evening of Monday, December 16, Frank Goldberg—a long-time activist in Buffalo’s LGBT community who recently moved to Portland, Oregon—went missing. She’d come home to visit friends and family for the holidays.

Since her disappearance, friends and family, joined by the community she’d served as an activist (and eventually by law enforcement), have mounted a continuing search for Goldberg—pamphleting, walking neighborhoods, reaching out on social media. There has been little in the way of leads.

Artvoice contributor Sarah Bishop spoke with Frank’s sister, Harmony Goldberg, earlier this week, to get an update on those efforts. There will be a gathering for Frank this evening (Friday, December 27, 7-9pm) at the Unitarian Universalist Church
(695 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo), too.

Bishop: Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about when and how Frank went missing.

Goldberg: A number of people have asked for a clearer narrative of what happened the night that Frank disappeared. Frank moved to Portland in late August, and she had returned to Buffalo for a holiday visit. It was a hard-re-entry for her emotionally, and Frank was in a very difficult place personally on Monday night. To our knowledge, she left our brother’s house on the West Side of Buffalo of her volition and without telling anyone. She left a vague note in the apartment. She took her wallet, but she did not take her phone. She was last seen at 5:30pm, and we discovered she was missing around 9pm. We do not believe that Frank was a victim of a hate crime, and we do not think it is likely that there was any kind of foul play. Even though we know Frank to be a survivor and fighter, we are deeply concerned for her safety. We thought she would return home, but—since she hasn’t—we are calling on the community to help find her.

Bishop: What has already been done, and what is being done now?

Goldberg: Frank’s friends and family have engaged in an exhaustive search effort to find Frank. We filed a missing persons report from the police quickly, and we have been calling area hospitals, psychiatric and rehab facilities, and other service institutions since she went missing. She has not used her bank card since she went missing, and there have been no changes made to her itinerary. We have contacted all of her known social networks—in Buffalo, upstate New York, New York City, and Portland—both through social media and through direct communication. We have tried to blanket social media with missing persons notices, messages and videos in order to help find her. Last weekend, we conducted foot searches of the West Side and of Allentown, posting “Missing” flyers in local businesses. After a week of community mobilization and media coverage, two detectives from the Buffalo Police Department looked into the case, and we got a verbal commitment that the police would review the footage from surveillance cameras in the area where she disappeared. The family hired a private investigator on Monday, who will be coordinating his efforts with the police department in order to figure out what happened to our sister.

Bishop: How can the community get involved?

Goldberg: Over the last ten days since Frank disappeared, the search has been driven by community support. It has been deeply moving for Frank’s friends and family to see the outpouring of love and energy from so many different communities. The LGBT community has been the most active, but people who knew Frank growing up, people who had encountered Frank in her work as a service provider and countless strangers have shown up to look for her, sent beautiful messages of support, given us generous donations and helped us to keep breathing and hoping.

At this point, much of the practical work of the search effort is shifting into more professional hands, but we still need the community’s active support and love. You can follow the situation on our Facebook page, “Help Find Frank Goldberg.” We need everyone to keep their eyes open for Frank, and to call us if you see her. Please call both the Buffalo Police Department and our grassroots search effort at 716-863-6906. We are also building a list of volunteers in different neighborhoods who are willing to follow up immediately on sightings, so please let us know (either on our Facebook page or at that same number) if you’d be willing to support us in this way. We will be asking for donations to fund the private investigation soon. We would love for you to come to our community event on Friday evening (details below). And we would deeply appreciate it if you would keep Frank, our family and her community in your throughts and prayers.

Bishop: What else would you like us to know?

Goldberg: We want you to know about Frank as a person. Frank is a loving and strong person, and she is valued deeply by the people in her life. She is both gruff and gentle. She loves taking care of animals, especially cats. She is incredibly caring and sweet, able to hold the hard and rough edges of life with a tender and gentle hand. Frank is proudly gender-queer. She has a masculine gender presentation, but she intentionally and explicitly chooses to use the pronoun “she.” I always say that she is one of the bravest people that I know. She has struggled with many profound challenges in her life, and every time she has summoned the courage to overcome and to keep moving forward.

frank posterShe has been an activist and an advocate in the LGBT community for many years, helping to build a transgender support group at Buffalo’s Pride Center, which has been a valuable space of support and community for dozens of people. She also has a long history of providing support and services for people with addictions and with harm reduction work in particular. Besides her formal role as an activist, Frank was a community-builder, making shy people feel welcome and warmly embracing people who often felt like they were on the outside. And she took care of people. During the search efforts, several people told me things like, “I’m here because—if I were missing—Frank would be leading the search effort to find me.”

Bishop: There will be a gathering for Frank tonight, Friday, December 27. What should the community expect?

Goldberg: We are profoundly grateful for the outpouring of love and support from community members who are dedicated to finding Frank and bringing her home safely. As the search effort shifts into a different stage, we wanted to bring the amazing community that has come together in this search effort together to thank you and to talk about next step moving forward. The details of the event:

Missing: Frank Goldberg

Filed under: Activism

This notice, written by the missing woman’s sister, is circulating on Facebook. Reposting here in hope of helping her family:

Frank Goldberg – much loved sister, daughter, friend and community advocate – has been missing since the evening of Monday, December 16th, 2013, and her family needs your help to find her.

Frank is a loving and strong person, and she is valued deeply by the people in her life. She is both gruff and gentle. She loves 1507839_10202340379766857_209324471_ntaking care of animals, especially cats. She has been an activist and an advocate in the LGBT community for many years, helping to build a transgender support group at Buffalo’s Pride Center, which has been a valuable space of support and community for dozens of people. She also has a long history of providing support and services for people with addictions and with harm reduction work in particular.

Frank was last seen at our brother’s house on the West Side of Buffalo around 6:30 pm. She is about 5’ 5” and 150 pounds. She has a masculine gender presentation, and she has short graying blond hair. She wears black-rimmed glasses. When she disappeared, she was wearing a green canvas coat, and she may have been wearing a black knit hat with a yarn Mohawk along the top. Frank took her wallet that contained her identification and some cash, but she does not have her phone with her. We have filed a missing persons report with the police. Her family has notified her social networks, searched the places where she has tended to spend time, and we have been calling the hospitals and coroners’ offices daily. We now need the community’s support to find her.

If you have any information, please contact us here or at

Mychajliw Declines to Appear on Political Talk Show Together With Gaughan

This morning, the campaign of Kevin Gaughan for Erie County Comptroller issued a press release titled “Mychajliw Ducks Debate With Gaughan.” The press release says that Gaughan’s opponent, the Republican incumbent Stefan Mychajliw, backed out of a scheduled appearance with Gaughan on WBBZ-TV.

The title of Gaughan’s press release is 80 percent correct: Switch out one word—”debate” for “political talk show”—and it’s about right, according to the show’s host, John Di Sciullo, director of production and promotion for the station.

Di Sciullo says he invited both candidates for a “structured discussion,” not so much a debate. Still, he hoped they would appear together. But Mychajliw told Di Sciullo he was declining any appearances with his opponent. So Di Sciullo interviewed each candidate separately. The interviews will air on WBBZ-TV October 31 at 9am and November 3 at 11am.

Buffalo Police Memos Reveal Crime Reporting Schemes

Filed under: Local Politics

Toward the end of today’s print column, we noted the Tolbert campaign’s sharing with AV some memos written for Buffalo police about incident reporting policies that seem intended to reduce the number of crimes the BPD must report to the FBI for the purpose of determining the city’s overall crime rate.

Here are those memos:

BPD:shootingsBPD:new form image (3)



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