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A great preparator should be a great artist as well.

Swing loves to work on her artworks in her favorite art studio.

Monday morning.

The building is closed.

A dead silence reigns in the deserted rooms.

Now, the only things that are occupying the space are the arts. Paintings hang quietly on the walls.

“BEEEEEEEEEEEP!”

Suddenly, a loud, annoying sound echoes through the air. At the same time, a wall in a back room opens vertically with a loud clunk sound. It is not a wall; it is an elevator door. Inside the elevator, a huge A-frame painting cart sits in the middle with several artworks on it. On the right stands a 50-years-old white woman with curly auburn hair. Her intent looks tell us how much she cares about arts and how much she loves arts. She stands there as if she is a guard of the arts.

Charly Swing is a chief preparator at Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon. Her job, she says, is to handle the arts properly and to let the visitors have an excellent experience.

According to Swing, the basic part of Swing’s job as a preparator is to be invisible. She says that preparators are responsible before and after the exhibition. It’s curators’ job to be in front of visitors and explain about the arts; preparators are hidden backstage.

“If we did something poorly, people will notice our work. If we do our job well, they notice the art.” That is Swing’s policy as a preparator.

“It’s all done well enough that when the visitors come, what they are seeing is the art,” Swing says.

Swing compares her job as a preparator to a mount making. Mounts are the metal parts that support the arts on the displays. She says that the mounts have to do their job without distracting people from the art.

“If the mount is made well, people don’t see the mount, they see the art,” Swing says.

Mount equals preparatory. That is the foundation of her philosophy.

Swing is deeply trusted by her coworkers at the museum. Her assistant preparator, Rachael, thinks it is a great opportunity to work with Swing.

After graduated from Illinois State University with Bachelor of Arts degree on Sculpture and Drawing, Swing has experienced various kinds of jobs before she came to Eugene, Ore. She did a construction job in Houston, Texas, internal design studio work at Santa Fe, N.M., and built out interiors for the ships in Long Beach, Calif. She also earned a teaching degree on Waldorf education in Pasadena and was a Waldorf teacher for eight years. All her creative jobs, including preparator, have been very enjoyable for Swing, she says.

Swing built her art studio in the corner of her home garage and is constantly creating artworks, especially sculptures.

She learned a lot about sculpturing in her college. However, she says that what she was taught in school was mostly conceptual, abstract or contemporary types of works, which she was not that interested in. Swing was more attracted to a human body.

Her first figure sculpture was an 11 height bronze piece called Strength. Swing created an imaginative female figure of a cancer survivor. Despite the signs of hardships on the body that she experienced through cancer, the sculpture’s strong posture and impressive eyes express its braveness and hope in future. Above all, she is beautiful.

A naked female with a shaven head and a single breast kneels on the ground and looking up.

Swing thinks that the idea has come from her cousin and a nephew, who also suffered from cancer.

“Somehow, I thought like she was going to speak for them,” Swing says.

Strength won the Best of Show at 2008 Mayor’s Art Show in Eugene.

Most of the figures that she sculpts do not have a model. First, she cannot afford one. Second, what she really expresses in the figure form is the spiritual essence of a person, not about a particular person. It is when she makes an eye contact with a figure that she knows that a person is there.

 

Throughout her art related career, Swing has experienced a struggle of being a woman.

When she first started working at the construction place, Swing had a hard time finding things to do. Her boss and her coworkers did not give her jobs because they did not believe that females could actually build things. The only thing she was allowed to do was to hold a ladder for her boss and hand him a hammer. So one day, when the boss was gone to do something for a while, she jumped on the ladder and did the job. It was when the boss came back and saw her work that he finally trusted her ability.

When she first worked as a preparator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, she was the only female preparator. Again, Swing was not treated the same way as the male preparators.

“I think, at that time, maybe I got hired because I had all the credentials and because I was a woman,” Swing says.

She thinks that her hiring was a part of them proving that the museum is actually “diverse.”

Fortunately, the time has changed. Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art has a lot of female workers.

Currently, she is working on a public art piece on the southeast corner of 13th and Alder, which is done by a partnership between the City of Eugene’s Public Art Program, UO Duckstore and Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. With a local bronze artist, Steve Reinmuth, Swing is now in a process of brainstorming the idea.

Swing wants to make her living as an artist someday. She always considers herself as an artist first.

“I just love human form, especially the female,” Swing says. “There’s so much about man’s perspectives of women, so I’m interested in the women’s perspective of women, telling our own stories instead of somebody else telling our stories.”

Charly Swing, a female artist expressing the women, is already there.

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Laroux holds up some completed pieces, among some in-progress, in the sewing studio half of her Redoux Parlor.

After the trek up five flights of stairs into the brand new venue for this year’s fashion shows, Laura Lee Laroux is… nowhere to be found. After a search of the bodies milling around the half-finished floor, still covered in construction dust, she finally appears. She’s perched on a folding chair – amid a scattering of them from the previous night’s crowd – watching the makeup artists hone their craft on the volunteer models. If it weren’t for her tight, bright blonde curls, she would be unrecognizable in a brown hoodie and jeans. Her current garb is a sharp contrast to the handmade, whimsical costume she donned two nights ago at Eugene Fashion Week’s opening show.

(more…)

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As Hasni Mubarak steps down from his presidential position, one local musician never thought he’d see the day when Mubarak left this post. The leave of Mubarak is a source of inspiration for musician Karim Hassenien, but he says relating his songs about these events to the general public is difficult for him, which is a goal he sets when he writes music. His family lives in Cairo and other than being worried about his family he is really excited about what is happening. This is the seed that may lead to personal songwriting.

Hassenien, although born in D.C. has lived in Egypt for a good portion of his life because that is where his parents are from and they moved back to Cairo as Hassenien was entering middle school. Because of this, he says he is identifies more as an Egyptian than an American.

His music is a mix of folksy guitar playing, traditional Egyptian style and hip/hop. The mix of folksy guitar playing is nn his solo song, “Gone Across the Valley” the song is remincent of Simon and Garfunkel, all of sudden in the middle of the song Hassenein starts singing in a style that similar to the rap group Bone Thugs and Harmony where he dubs his own voice and raps in a falsetto style and keeps the acoustic guitar going underneath. Hassenien has recorded to solo albums but last year started a band with Shivangi (Shiva) Ramachandran who is of Indian descent.

Ramachandran and Hassenien officially became a band after playing a show last year for International Women’s Day.  Ramachandran was asked to play a show there and she sought out Hassanein for his help because the two worked as Resident Advisors where they met and started jamming together. This show would form what has become an increasingly popular local band: The Manes.

Hassanein says, “I am not really influenced by band’s styles–more by the rebellious attitude, like the underground hip-hop attitude” Hassenein says that Farside, Common and a Tribe Called Quest are groups that have this attitude.

With the manes, Ramachandran sings and while Hassenien plays guitar and does backup vocals. Their style is, Ramachandran says, “a folsky/indie singer songwriter mix.” Sometimes the group says they’re identified as “indie,” a label Hassenein takes issue with: “I don’t like being labeled an ‘indie’ band because being defined by a genre becomes restricting,” he says and when Hassenien jams he says he likes to mix up styles.. Because Ramachandran can sing and play drums at the same time,  Hassenien says they may eventually add another member to their band and play a fully electric show. Something they have never attempted together. Hassensein says the reason for not adding another member is he likes to switch up styles often and he says it is off-putting to some people when you switch between a folksy melody to a hip/hop groove.

“Musically we come from a lot of places and we meet in the middle,” Hassenien says of the band’s style. Hassanein can sing and plays bass, guitar, and tabla , a traditional Egyptian instrument. He listens to older Egyptian music, not the pop music that has come out of Egypt recently.

While they don’t have any shows scheduled yet, Hassenein says the group is looking for opportunities to perform. The Manes also plan to start recording an album at the end of this term. Hassenein has recorded two solo albums and Ramachandran has her own originals as well.

The Manes have recorded mostly covers but they do have two original numbers. Their song “Pretty Boxes” was featured on The Eugene Weekly’s Next Big Thing, a contest to find the next aspiring musician in Eugene. Listening to pretty boxes underscores Hassenein’s guitar style because of the simple chord progression, but Hassenein can play much more complex riffs, which he could add to the group’s repetioire if they were to switch to electric

It was for that contest that the group picked their name (contest rules required all participants have a title). The duo chose “The Manes” because of their respective huge hairstyles. They do not know where they placed in the contest, but said they were doing well for a while and do not know how where they placed because only the top 16 finalists were announced to the public.

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If I had a time machine, I’d give it to Karl Benedek and tell him to talk to teenage Jody about country music.  I grew up south of the Mason Dixon line where the local law stated that “Thou Shalt Goeth Through A Country Phase”.

I went through my phase around the age of 10, but high school peer pressure forced me to back away from ten-gallon hats and belt buckles, and embrace the more rebellious movement known as alternative rock.  I was allowed to associate with the shock rock kids.  My best friend was a huge Marylin Manson fan.  But wardrobe was the main influencer for high school cliques and my Scooby Snacks t-shirt and super baggy Jnco jeans left me with a musical listening range of Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness to OK Computer.

Benedek would have taught that younger, more naïve Jody to “Please please please please try try try to enjoy your roots, have some fun fun fun fun”  (From Benedek’s Twitter feed).

Benedek hosts a weekly KWVA radio show called Blood on the Saddle.  “ I got into kind of a little bit deeper into college,” Benedek says.  “Like most people I started off with Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, sort of the basic in-roads.”

He mentions the Grateful Dead as a transitional band that helped bridge the distance between his musical tastes.   “I used to hang out with a lot of dead heads and stuff.  The Grateful Dead were known for doing a lot of country tunes,” he says.  Benedek says The Dead’s cover of “Mama Tried” stands out as a good example of their country music attempts.

Certain Blood on the Saddle shows are strictly vinyl.  Benedek is able to accomplish this through his vast record collection.  “I started collecting records in college,” he says.  “I have probably about 15 to 20 linear feet of records.” (more…)

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