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Written by BILL BOWMAN   
Monday, 22 September 2014

Cumberland County Leadership Turns Chicken

Wow! What a turn-a-round. How disappointing. They say silence is golden. Well, in the case of bringing Sanderson Farms’ $113 million chicken plant and its 1000+ jobs to Cumberland County, the silence (and the advocacy) has been deafening.

Where is the political and economic-development leadership? Where are the advocates and voices for the local poor and unemployed? Where are the voices of the pro economic/industrial development majority? Where is their offensive “ground game?” Where are the pro-chicken plant development yard signs? Where are the pro-economic development sound bites? Where are the pro Sanderson Farms editorials and letters to the editor? 09-24-14-pub-notes.gif

Well, it is the observation and opinion of many well-versed, educated and respected members of the community that these aspects of a fine-tuned and expertly executed offensive campaign in favor of Sanderson Farms has been nonexistent. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.

These are the comments and questions that are coming up far too frequently from local residents who are not in the N.I.M.B.Y. (Not In My Backyard) category.

This vocal majority obviously can be ignored; however, they cannot be easily dismissed. They are residents who want to see our community seize the opportunity to grow inclusively and economically with the potential of lifting thousands of Cumberland County residents out of poverty and into a more enjoyable quality of life.

What’s not to like about that? This is why the question continues to come up: How can a few hundred people affect the lives, future and well being of several thousand county residents? This is extremely confusing, disappointing and puzzling. Unless, that is, you understand the dual concepts of the “haves and have-not’s” and “money talks and bull walks!”

So, where is the leadership? Is it true that the majority of our locally elected public officials and the wannabes are more focused and concerned in securing their future campaign support and donations rather than prioritizing the growth and development of our community along with the well being of their 327,000 constituents?

For many, this is the most talked about theory and suspicion on how and why the majority of our Cumberland County Commissioners have turned their backs on their own initial judgments and the sentiments of the majority of local residents, many of whom would appreciate the opportunity to get off the welfare roles and secure a decent job, with a good company, that pays a fair wage and provides health benefits. Many are already saying “shame on them” for yielding to several hundred loud, wealthy, liberal/conservative and politically connected residents at the expense of the nearly 25 percent of Cumberland County households that are currently living (surviving) at or below the poverty level.

Where is the logic? Shame on the pro-Sanderson Farms contingency for their defensive stance and for lack of aggressively making their case or their findings known. Double shame, on those leaders who have been M.I.A. during the entire process. Believe me, your absence and silence has been conspicuous so the community knows who you are.

Finally, I want to say that as an American, I have no earthly idea when attacks and criticism became so harsh and venomous toward people who are simply exercising their First Amendment right of free speech. Having an opposing or dissenting opinion on any issue seems to come with a wrath that is ugly and personal. Whatever happened to stating your platform, standing by your word and, if need be, having a free spirited open debate on issues? Now, dissenting opinions are met with hostile personal attacks, attacks on your family and business and, in some cases, references to who your daddy was. Unacceptable.

This is local politics at its very worst. Believe it or not, I’m not an advocate of the chicken plant. However, I am an advocate for the 1,000 jobs that can raise countless numbers of Fayetteville and Cumberland County families out of poverty. I advocate due diligence in comparing what is good for 327,000 Cumberland County residents vs. the demands of several hundred privileged residents.

I am an advocate of expecting all our elected officials to do their jobs with honor and integrity and stop acting like a bunch of Weebles. They need to take a stand and make decisions that they can defend and articulate regardless of what side of the issue they are on. That is what the people elected them to do and that is the only way our community will grow and prosper. Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly. Oh, yeah, “Weebles Wobble but They Don’t Fall Down.”

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary Opens at Gallery 208 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by SONI MARTIN   
Monday, 29 September 2014

uac100114001.gif A photographic portrait by Sarah Grusenmeyer isn’t like going to a “glam” studio or any other type of commercial enterprise. Commission Grusenmeyer to do a portrait and it involves you showing up at her Oakridge Avenue garage studio and the next thing you know you’re sticking your tongue out, scrunching up your face with an exaggerated wink or having your face painted in yellow — then she clicks her camera. The end result, after Photoshop editing, is Grusenmeyer making the ordinary extraordinary.

Many of her portraits have a mysterious or Goth overtone; however, the commissions I’m referring to have an upbeat, kitch quality. Highly-polished skin surfaces add to the overall exaggerated antic-mediating a cultural experience somewhere between Vargas, Sas Christian and Norman Rockwell. (Add Andy Warhol to the reading list and you have the stack of reference books on Grusenmeyer book shelf!)

An untrained artist, Grusenmeyer exudes raw talent and a desire to put her own spin on the conventions of portraiture. As a painter, she started taking photographs so she would not have to use images by other people for her subject. The practice has grown into a personal oeuvre.

A skillful painter, one has to wonder how this young artist became the accomplished photographer that she is, a photographer that bridges the tradition of portraiture with 21st century youth culture. For Grusenmeyer it was simple: “As an oil painter, I picked up a camera to have my own references for my paintings. The further I got into the editing process of a photograph for a painting, the more I became interested in perfecting the photograph. I found I could transform a digital image that could rival anything I could paint with a brush on a canvas. I still continue to paint on a large scale canvas, but photography is my preferred outlet of artistic expression.”

Inspired by the style of Sans Christian, anime-like figures with large eyes and pouty mouths, Grusenmeyer prefers her photographs to appear “glassy and plastic.” She cites other artists as inspirational, “artists like Alvarado, Gottfried Helnwein and Loretta Lux.”

Grusenmeyer captures the personality of a subject, but not within the traditional timelessness of an ethereal mood. Instead, the result of her work has a sense of immediacy. In her humorous portraits, her strength as an artist is within the comedic moment captured in the photo shoot — within that moment a truth is captured. To be able to click her camera on the right moment, she orchestrates the setting and individuality of her subject.

Grusenmeyer shared, “I’m at a point where I really want the person’s personality to 10-01-14-galery-208-1.gifcome through in the portrait instead of the person just sitting there trying to look posed and in control.” 

The staged portraits by Grusenmeyer appear candid while at the same time theatrical. Emotionally insightful, Grusenmeyer can make us feel as if we know the person in the photograph, or maybe we know someone like that, or maybe she captures how each of us has felt in a silly moment. Whatever the magic that takes place, it’s easy to feel good or light hearted after viewing many of the portraits.

Grusenmeyer’s skill is more than her ability to capture the subject in a way that we feel like we have connected to a stranger; it’s more than appearance, we feel we know something about the subject’s temperament when she captures a moment of surprise. Each time I revisit a portrait, the surprise continues and I somehow connect to a larger pop-culture reality.

Although many of her portraits are comical, visitors to the gallery will also see another approach to the portrait by the same artist. Included in the exhibit are photographs from a different body of work: the subjects are somewhat listless, yet still caught in a monumental photographic moment, a time element is present.

In the photograph titled “Affliction,” Grusenmeyer presents us with the close up of a young female face. The eyes are large and watery, th10-01-14-gallery-208-2.gife white pancake makeup is wearing off her skin, and painted stripes of a rouge color are cakey and streaked. The individual looks directly at us. We are transfixed between focusing on the eyes and the pattern of the rouge streaks; both demand our attention first.

In “Boy with Cig,” a beautiful male youth looks off to the side of the picture frame, long wavy light brown hair, a cigarette behind his ear, his expression somewhat of a sneer. Wearing a dated green airborne military uniform, we know he is too young to be in the military; yet we are left to question the portraits meaning. Has Grusenmeyer portrayed him to personify innocence in harm’s way? Whatever the meaning, the artist leaves us with our own interpretation of beauty and a state of being.

“Obscure” is probably the most commercial image in the exhibit in that the portrait is a cropped close up of another female face; the features are heightened to point of being similar to an anime image. Oversized brown watery eyes peer out from behind a black, lacy mask. The crescent shape of her nose ring brings our eyes back up to her eyes, the visual weight of the small black heart shaped painted on the lips direct us back to the bottom of the image.

As a photographer, Grusenmeyer has been receiving lots of local attention. Besides her many commissions for portraits, she was featured on the cover of Fayetteville Friction, a local independent newspaper, with a two page interview in the August 2014 edition. Grusenmeyer was invited to participate in the present exhibit at the Fayetteville Arts Council, Mediating Relevance: the Politics of Gender.

To understand what I am trying to describe, visitors will have to see the work for themselves. Making the Ordinary Extraordinary, an exhibit by Sarah Grusenmeyer, opens at Gallery 208 on Oct. 9, between 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. — the public is invited. Making the Ordinary Extraordinary will remain up at Gallery 208, at 208 Rowan Street, until the first week in December.

Photos:  “Boy With Cig” above and “Affliction” to the left are on display at Gallery 208.


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