Monday, April 23, 2018

San Diego Comic Fest 2018 Grace Jones: Masquerade Anyone?

Grace Jones is an ongoing topic of conversation and research inquiry for me. On Saturday April 21st, I had the opportunity to talk about her various public stage, film, runway, and interview personas on a panel with performance artist Lady Shadow and international scholar Dr. Anta Merritt at San Diego Comic Fest's 6th annual romp.

Delores Fisher, Dr. Anta Merritt, and Lady Shadow Vampyre Fashionista

Here's my discussion focus:
A multi-genre performance artist whose intriguing visual representations span from late twentieth century to present, Grace Jones continues to embrace innovative "full body masks" as she inhabits spaces with “graphic novel edgy camp” to "alien futuristic cyborg" evoking an essence of Jamaican Junkanoo Festival. We will explore several of Grace Jone’s "Junkanooesque" embodiments.

Dr. Merritt is a colleague from the academic world, a faculty member of the San Diego State Africana Studies Department . Lady Shadow is an artist I have know for many years whose work is at times controversial, at times ribald, at time poignant yet hilarious.   Lady Shadow, Mari Williams, is also Ms Senior San Diego 2018.

We, Lady Shadow, Dr. Merritt, and I, joined together to present a fun assemblage of ideas and images that speak to the artistry of Grace Jones. We decided to blend a scholarly, experiential, web base, and fan based "just folks" approach as a way to talk about Ms. Jones, a favorite global pop culture personality.

Her most impressionable images for me are sometimes not the ones that most people pick out as classic Grace Jones. I have researched blog posts, printed and videos interviews, some of her record label issues, her  autobiography, and latest festival appearances. This summer I hope to  examine her song lyrics, live musical choices and  stage personas.

As for our San Diego Comic Fest 2018 panel, I am hoping to keep "the band"  together to go on a mini- speaking tour this summer. Dr. Merritt is an African Diaspora scholar who presents the history of Junkanoo and island beliefs. Lady Shadow, a Jones impersonator from time to time, speaks to the demands of a productive and ongoing show business career. I'm sort of in the middle. As a performer and a scholar I talk about early Jones influences on my life, as well as her space in my present scholarly projects.

 One early Grace Jones influence on my life is the movie "Vamp". It was so camp!!!  That's a really funky script. I kept thinking, I want to do that. I want to have fun acting. What a cool character Katrina is. (Of course when she went full-on vampire, I almost ran out the room to get away!)

Through the pool gate and into the alley to the Fest, I soaked in the ambiance. Cosplayers, directors, writers, story board artists,  comic book vendors, scholars, fans interacting. To be honest with you . . .I'm not sure how I got into a conversation with a very Mrs Von Sholly, a sweet soft voiced woman. All I remember is that we talked about the film "Vamp" and its influence on my life as an aspiring young performance artist. But I'm glad I did. Her husband Peter Von Sholly created the story boards for the film. She told me to find her husband, that he had unique stories to tell about  "Vamp" and Grace Jones' impact on its production.

                                The Pool Gate

Dr. Merritt, Lady Shadow and I presented on Saturday at 4:00PM in the Garden Salon II.


Our panel talked for a while before we joined other friends or went home.  I attended another panel after which I went searching for Peter Von Sholly . . .didn't find him. However, since I planned to attend a few discussions on Sunday, I made up my mind to arrive early and locate him on Sunday to talk about Grace Jones. I went up to the cafe to get a cup of coffee and to see this year's decor. The cafe is always filled with fun theme decorations. This year was no exception. Frankenstein!!!!

                                                   Frankenstein's Bride

Early Sunday morning,  I revisited the 9th floor cafe, got a cup of coffee and an orange juice, then set out for the first panel. Gender, sex, and sexuality: the queer comix collaborations of Kathy Acker and David Wojnarowicz and the work of Roberta Gregory and Donna Barr  provided lively information on underground and "isolationist" female comic books. Kinda mind teasing for 10:00AM. The panel was moderated by Dr. Yetta Howard who also talked about her newest work in the field.

               Yetta Howard,  Roberta Gregory, and Donna Barr

I was definitely awake, after that stimulating talk, for the 11:00 AM informative film critic analysis of Ajani Brown on the "Black Panther" film recently released in the U.S. It should be picked up by global distributors soon if it hasn't already been distributed for global movie screenings at the writing of this post.  A full room of fans and Fest goers enjoyed Brown's presentation: the Black Panther as Afrofuturism . The popular and much in demand speaker Ajani Brown will present at WAKANDACON in Chicago during the summer.

                 Photo op Delores Fisher and author, lecturer Ajani Brown

Oh yea, a quick fact: San Diego Comic Fest was back at the Mission Valley Convention Center. Although a medium sized venue, it has multiple conference rooms and retains much of the intimacy that evades larger conventions. The main Exhibit Hall is surprisingly spacious, full of memorabilia  comic book vendors, and fans looking for that special action figure or comic book.
                                                     The Exhibit Hall
In the exhibit hall, I met Sara Karloff daughter of actor Boris Karloff. Frankenstein film portrayal of Shelly's gentle monster  is unmatchable. In the exhibit hall, I met Sara Karloff.
                                               Sara Karloff

I enjoyed talking to Sara Karloff, Boris Karloff's daughter. At one point, she looked up and the resemblance was startling. Those eyes . . . . .

It took several minutes more to find Peter Von Sholly.

 Here's an exclusive interview short about Grace Jones and the film "Vamp".

This was definitely an interesting and fun San Diego Comic Fest 2018. Look for the event next year. If you're in San Diego, come on over to the Fest , , , San Diego Comic Fest!

Delores Fisher, Lady Shadow, Dr. Anta Merritt  Photo by Yetta Howard

 Delores Fisher
Thinking of Grace . . . .

Friday, April 6, 2018

Delores Fisher's April 2018 Update

Hello everyone. Especially to you new readers in Indonesia. Welcome!

                                    Delores Fisher pianist/blogger/lecturer

I have several summer music engagements  in the works and that means more time at the keyboard when not teaching,  grading papers, lecturing, appearing on panel discussions.

Ah yes . . . It's April already. So much is going on here in the USA that I wanted to write about a few music events.

The Center for World Music is sponsoring several world music concerts. Musicians from all over the world share their artistry with San Diegans and tourists each year as guest performers and as artists in residence.
One major concert is by South African singer Nomsa Burkhardt.  She performed for the Africana Studies Department at SDSU during our Nelson Mandela Memorial.

This January 2018, she also performed during our  annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Luncheon at San Diego State University. She joins the list of performers who have graciously shared their talents with the campus and community audience ( including international vocalist Coral MacFarland -Thuet see video from last year's luncheon    )

 Norma Burkhardt ons stage at Montezuma Hall at SDSU

           Norma Burkhardt and Center for World Music's Monica Emery

 In addition to professional performance concerts, she also teaches local students in the Center For World Music's classroom artist in residence program.

For those of you who enjoy Gospel music, the San Diego based Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir, comprised of diverse vocalists under the direction of Kenneth Anderson, has published their concert schedule.      Anderson also teaches, directs, and often accompanies (on keyboard) the UCSD Gospel Choir.

The San Diego Martin Luther King Jr Community Choir performed at their annual scholarship drive. The funds provide scholarships for young musicians

And, of course one of my favorite spoken word/musical groups is busy recording. Lyrical Groove is on the move. Here's the link that shares the back story behind their newest "hot drop."
The group might be touring in the summer, see them on stage if you can.

Take a listen:

And, that's a wrap--sort of.

Oh yes . . .as the Spring semester ends, I want to give a shout out to students in the Africana Studies 466 Afrofuturism class/community . . .You Rock.  I am composing again and am working on a set of variations for piano and voice,  piano and flue, and solo piano. Thank you for the inspiration!

              Delores Fisher pianist/composer

PS.  Besides preparing for concerts and recitals, planning is going on behind the scenes for a rousingly informative appearance on a panel whose discussion focus is the amazingly always variable Grace Jones at Comic Fest in San Diego this month

Will fill you in later!
Delores Fisher


Friday, March 9, 2018

The Lion Dance at San Diego State University: Celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year

Hello to China,

It's been an interesting new year celebration for me. This is a quick post to share one of my experiences.  Thank you to the Confucius Institute at SDSU
for food, beverages, and literature to start my inquiry into the celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

So far, I 've been researching the fascinating Chinese Lunar New Year for only a couple of weeks

My knowledge journey started with a procession along one of our San Diego State University's campus streets. We are a very diverse campus that appreciates and embraces its complex local, national, and global spectrum of students, staff, and faculty.

As sounds of celebration got closer and closer, I recognized the drumming style; then, I saw the lions.

                          Following one of the Lions at SDSU

Instantly energizing, two lions paraded down the street walking and dancing to the drums. I was talking to professor P. Johnson and Dr. Anta Merritt, two of our Africana Studies professors. The lively, precise, thundering of the drum patterns drew a crowd onto the street. The performers, who had been on the other side of campus, came to a  stop at the ground floor level of the Arts and Letters
Building. I stopped talking and followed.
The lions' rhythmic movements filled the "open stage area." This traditional celebratory dance is exciting!

Happy New Year!
Delores Fisher