I rolled up to Monarch Theatre around 7 or 8 p.m., and I yelled to the cabby, “Yo holmes, smell you later.” My driver was myself, so I decided to deal with the stench and stand in the line stretching just short of a block outside of the venue.
With no more Fresh Prince references to entertain myself with, I twiddled my thumbs for a good 10 minutes, only having moved forward half of the length of the line, huffing and staring off into the crowd. Then I saw our photographer, Shaunte, waltz up toward the door and disappear. I hummed and hawed to myself, stepped out of line, shared a smoke with a pan handler, and proceeded to ditch all these plebeians and follow suit.
After finally getting inside for RAW’s Kaleidoscope exhibit, I was assaulted with a rather large crowd bustling with energy. Everyone seemed either in a hurry to get somewhere or eagerly waiting for something to happen. Footsteps clomped with purpose all around me. It was a bit of a stimulus overload, heady (not heavy, which is a more apt adjective for the upstairs mix) club music was being played, the floor was packed, and tables sporting any manner of physical art abounded. I shy-ed away from the very large, apparently well-stocked bar, and made my way toward the upstairs gallery that the hostess kept hinting at over the microphone.
Up here there was another bar, plenty of seating, another DJ (or two; though they were actually visible, I didn’t catch their names since I didn’t hit up the bar), and lots more settings of jewelry, photographs, drawings, paintings, and lamps. Most of the photographs were still lifes and portraits, which aren’t really my bag, but I do love lamps. Cozy Lamps, apparently, by Jesse Johnson. They were pleasing to the eye, made out of a hodge-podge of colors and materials. Not something I’d spend money on, but I just made store-brand, pre-ground coffee with a paper towel and a plastic funnel. That aside, K’nique Jewerly had a particularly catching set-up of delicate pearls, shells, feathers, and stones matched with brushed metals. Pretty cool stuff, definitely more creative and passionate than the typical, “let’s quit our jobs and make necklaces,” crews I’ve seen around prior. Oh, and they had some bottle cap pins or something, too, so you know they’re clever.
Contrasting the storefront style of K’nique was Ardapony’s tree display in the back. It was either minimalist or rushed, though with the poster board and black marker signs I’d error on the latter. The pendants were fantastic, though. Blending exaggerated curves of wood with rustic metals made for very pleasing results. To the right of the tree was Leah Donell and some random cutie exhibiting the SMASH collection, which was a rustic and elegant use of what appeared to be pressed foil or sheet metal. I’m not really sure, I was drawn in by what looked like under-water scavenge and then became mostly distracted. Anyways, enough about jewelry, things were happening downstairs.
And by things, I mean zombies were on the catwalk. Half-naked pretty-ladies were all dolled up with flesh paint, gore, and stylized undead clothing. Oh, and there was a faery with … tasteful … pasties. This was only a prelude for the eye-candy for the night, though. Many more young ladies would grace the catwalk with their feet. After the unliving cleared out, Sex Johnson came out for some solo acoustic serenading. He made a pretty tactful performance, notwithstanding the not so tactful name. Guitar was a little twangy.. Like brand new strings times 10. His vocals made up the difference, though.But, I was aching for some more electro-trance, so I ducked out a bit early on his set. Back upstairs, I checked out some more booths.
Again, there was a lot of still life and landscape photographs to wade through, but I tried to give them all a fair shake. Philip Carnevale couldn’t carry me through a conversation in light of my clammy hands and quiet demeanor, so I ignored his pictures of prairies and children with bow ties (or something). Wayne Young had some tasty stills. I particularly liked his glinting bronzed-Buddha picture and his use of multiple frames to span out larger photographs. At another setting, there were some portraits of dogs. People definitely found a place for conversation with these, despite the fact that they weren’t cats nor were they on the internet, so props to them and their support for animal adoption.
The mixed-media pieces upstairs really took my heart, though. Jeremy McMurty had assembled clipped art with acrylics and charcoal. Anthropomorphic animals surrounded by darker shadings was painstakingly pleasant to look at. He had the darkest pieces there, for those of you looking for some introspection, check him out on the RAW Artists website. The other big mixed media set belonged to Jesse Miceli with his 3-D creations based around playing cards. A grasping hand breaking out of scattered cards was a particularly noteworthy piece. Perhaps a bit of a one trick pony, but I hope he runs with it somewhere.
On the main floor, fashion, music, and dance continued. Medium Apparel held a near all male model line sporting graphic/text tees. It was a bit jarring to see such a display, but I guess t-shirts and jeans are in. Wu-Tang Clan and Notorious B.I.G. rip-offs were at least well executed. And, in case the night needed some social commentary, Medium Apparel had some “Problem Solver” t-shirts with a rendition of an Uzi.
Later, Chelsea Bruce and Jennifer Lynn exhibited some Victorian-goth and glam-horror makeup on the stage to Lindsey Stirling and Lady Gaga. Ardapony showed off his line of fetching and delicate baubles (and his borderline pompous, Wicca-vampire personal attire). Epik Dance Company showed off some extremely high energy choreography, promoting their upcoming show Common Ground at Tempe Center for the Arts. Kismit flashed some classy, clean dresses and an extremely low-cut vest that caused a gentleman to drop his drink. And, Midnyte Fantasy and S&M Makeup ran a line of super chic, uber-goth girls, but I’m a sucker for that so I won’t elaborate despite my wants.
If all that wasn’t enough stimulus to fill a palette, there was still three other musical performances, more fashion shows, and plenty other artists displaying their work. RAW did an exquisite job compiling tons of quality local talent in such a tight space. If you have any interest in local art, First Fridays, or just want to catch some zombie side-boob, be sure to keep tabs on these guys.
Image Credits: Shaunte Glover