A veteran photojournalist on the arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.

EDITION #88 - WEEK OF MAY 9-15, 2016

A mother of a play

How Black Mothers Say I Love You (Trey Anthony Productions/Girls in Bow Ties/Factory Theatre)

Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street

Saturday, May 7; 7:30 p.m.

Theatre Review

The West Domestic Scheme, one of the post-World War II employment initiatives established in the 1950s, allowed young eligible West Indian women to work as domestics in homes around North America to create new lives for themselves and their families, sometimes even at a cost of their own familial cohesion over a thirty-year period. How Black Mothers Say I Love You by the playwright of ‘da Kink in My Hair, trey anthony, gives a compelling and tangible insight of these policies as a comedy/drama that aims true to the heart.

Set in present-day Toronto, youth counsellor Claudette Robinson (Robinne Fanfair) comes home from Montréal on a leave of absence to care for her mother Daphne (Ordena Thompson) who is still feisty with her tongue and god-fearing as ever, despite her cancer-stricken state of health. Including her younger yuppie sister Valerie (Allison Edwards-Crewe) whose idealistic marriage is falling apart, Claudette has to cope with her mother’s judgemental mood swings about her life, sexuality, ingratitude and the long periodical stretches of non-contact with her.

As the spectre of long-dead sister Cloe (Jewelle Blackman) flirts about the homestead, old wounds get reopened by Claudette in regard to their upbringing and as to why their mother left them behind in Jamaica with her grandparents to immigrate to Canada for a six-year period as kids which Daphne tries to bury with denial and the scriptures, much as she’s weighted by guilt and remorse over the hard choices she had to make for her and her family.

Handling the reins of directing as well as writing, anthony guides this play with such emotional depth well balanced with boisterous humour and sometimes explosive drama in only the fashion she can put in with her cracking script which never lets up in its exuberant pacing the cast keeps up very well on the simplified, if colourful set/costume designs of Rachel Forbes, Steve Lucas’ lighting design and the excellent tunes by Gavin Bradley of mix of R&B, gospel, reggae and calypso.

Thompson is the true nucleus of the production with her acerbic wit and motherly mannerisms that’s hard not to be won over; Fanfair plays the insecure and semi-resentful Claudette with such steadiness, especially with her own sense of confident pride being a lesbian; Edwards-Crew provides the humour and voice of reason here, as Blackman while mostly playing a mute ghost role – and a accomplished violin player – deftly bridges all these factors in the play.

Anthony does it again in bringing the African-Canadian and -Caribbean experience alive and bountiful for How Black Mothers Say I Love You more as a healing process for those effected by these life choices we make for the better with love, heart and understanding. Already one of this year’s best theatre experiences.

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How Black Mothers Say I Love You runs through May 15; although at a near sold-out capacity as of this writing. For tickets/information, call 416-504-9971 or visit factorytheatre.ca

The gospel according to Chester

Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus: Prostitution and Religious Obedience in the Bible

by Chester Brown

270 pp., Drawn & Quarterly/Raincoast Books

Hardcover, $24.95

Graphic Novels & Comics/Theology

Book Review

Breaking quite a bit of taboos in his last book, the 2011 confessional and critically-acclaimed bestseller Paying For It; where he openly told about his solicitations with prostitutes and stance on sex-workers’ rights, cartoonist Chester Brown explores a bit further on the subject that’s bound to be even more controversial in how the world’s oldest profession is actually portrayed in the scriptures for Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus: Prostitution and Religious Obedience in the Bible.

Picking solely on the stories of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary plus a couple of other well-known bible stories (more on them a little later), Brown adapts these yarns in his clean-line styling and crosshatch renderings on how these women mainly used their intellect and bodies without payment in order to establish their way in religiously-stoic societies of those periods that mainly looked down on their gender and role(s) in a otherwise male-centric world.

This is established in the story “Matthew,” where the disciple in his later years decades after the crucifixion of Christ tries to find a way to include the fact in his gospel without getting censored that the Virgin Mary was a what one called back then a parthenos – an ancient Greek word that often, if not always, refers to a woman who has never had sex – up to her pregnancy with her son (even the bible acknowledges this in Luke 1:27 and by Christ himself in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas) and men who paid prostitutes for sex in those days were considered “virgins,” through using the Old and New Testaments.

Then comes the other stories about loyalty to family and deity worship (“Cain and Abel”, “The Prodigal Son”, “Job”) and parables with twist endings (“The Talents”, “Bathsheba”) telling a lot more than one would expect about the (un)fairness of life and blind faith that brings out the question the father in “Prodigal Son” who rhetorically asks: “Do you think God wants mindless worshippers who can only follow instructions?”

Brown’s research is fully thorough with notes, arguments and counterarguments in the afterword defending Mary Weeps without wanting to debunk the bible and its teachings, including his own theories and hypotheses, building a credible stand on female empowerment against the male hierarchy (“Ruth” is an excellent example) that will be, and should be, by all means read, debated and reread by believers and non-believers alike.

Treated with logic and clarity with just as much level-headedness than any noted theologian could put to print, the book lends itself on the role of prostitution in the bible and the questioning of one’s god’s laid-out rules not to challenge or contradict, but to find out own way, perhaps even more. Highly recommended.

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Chester Brown will make an appearance at this week’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2016 (May 14-15) at the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street), admission is FREE. For information, visit torontocomics.com.

Faux movie posters fun, Lost over Kokomo

CONTACT Photography Festival 2016 Reviews

Part 1 of a 3-part series

The Long Weekend: Coming Attractions

TIFF Lightbox, 350 King Street West, Street-level corners of King West and Widmer Streets

Through May 31; 24/7

The Winnepeg-based art collective The Long Weekend, which includes two noted members and founders Guy Madden and Paul Butler; present Coming Attractions, an satirical orgy of 1970s and ‘80s-styled faux European and art-house film posters of “pet projects” by fictional filmmakers that never realized their cinematic masterpieces in a large inkjet vinyl covering of the film centre’s street corner.

Mixing surrealism and photo-realism in collage styles, the oddball titles ranging from Space Wars 3D, Cowboy Mansion, Van Heusenhunter, 8 and Seminar, among many; is amusingly imaginative for its nonsensical context. Funny enough, it’s kind of the pity all these films don’t actually exist, although they all look like they could have been made at one point or another.

Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari: Toilet Paper: Toronto Carousel

Corner of King West and John Streets

Through May 31; 24/7

Hyperreal sculptor Maurizio Cattelan with photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari of Italy satirize advertisements bordering on eccentricity, be it snakes all over a drum kit, a woman sensually sprawled atop a table on a bed of french fries or a well-dressed man covered in spaghetti and tomato sauce; shows a warped sense of provocative humour going a long way with this series of thirteen prints showing the absurdity of consumerist media.

Christian Patterson: Bottom of the Lake

CONTACT Gallery, 80 Spadina Street, 2nd Floor

Through June 30; Tuesdays-Fridays 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturdays 12-5 p.m.

A multimedia exhibition of the simplistic life in the Wisconsin hamlet of Fond du Lac, Christian Patterson’s hometown waxes nostalgic with his collages of photos and memorabilia like a light blue rotary dial phone against a snow-speckled backdrop, Nixon impeachment paraphernalia, phonebooks, burnt matchbook covers and seafaring items makes the isolationism and snapshot of the 1970s sounds like paradise compared to today’s much faster-paced world that would seem so alien and disjointed for those born the decades afterward in viewing this.

The 2015 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards Shortlist

CONTACT Gallery Hub, 80 Spadina Street, 2nd Floor

Through May 28; Tuesdays-Fridays 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturdays 12-5 p.m.

Every year about thousands of photographers worldwide compete in the annual Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation’s PhotoBook Awards of a print medium that hasn’t completely faded away in the digital era. The coffee table books on display range from varying subjects ranging from socio-political flashpoints like Noa Ben-Shalom’s Hush camera lens on daily life at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Fire in Cairo by Matthew Connors’ look at the chaotic post-revolutionary Egypt under Sisi’s counterrevolutionary and failing autocratic rule.

First Photobook winner You Haven’t Seen Their Faces is a gutsy countermeasure against the surveillance society during the 2011 England Riots by outing rioters’ faces to the public by the police, where Daniel Mayrit takes CCTV camera shots of the politicians and captains of industry, plus their net worth; responsible for Britain’s current economic woes that created the riots in the first place in flipbook form, rightfully turns the tables.

Others take in bygone eras of New York’s decadent nightlife captured in Tod Papageorge’s Studio 54 of the long-closed famous nightclub to the Special Jurors’ Mention-winning Deadline, an insightful and unique newspaper-styled story of the shrinking newsroom of the Philadelphia Enquirer that author/photographer Will Steacy spent five years working at.

Arnold Zageris: Antarctica

Abbozzo Gallery, 401 Richmond Street West, Suite #128

Through May 28; Tuesdays-Saturdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Based on five trips to the Antarctica, the Peterborough-based photographer Arnold Zageris captures the fragile, if harsh region for all of the polar ice shelf’s wild beauty in all of its four seasons on archival inkjet prints, be it Gentoos penguins roaming about glacial mounds peeking with bits of blue among the greyish and brownish environs on a overcast day remaining in a majestic and ominous setting (“Gentoos at Home”) or traces of oxide red of a dormant volcano against blackened ground and glacier runoff (“Shadows on a Volcanic Rim”).

Gorgeous examples of icebergs float amidst grey surroundings in “Blue Ice” and “Grounded Iceberg,” pink and yellow hues of a sunset’s glow diffuses quite nicely on a light blue sky along a coastal range for “Reflective Sunset” and “Nacreous Sky” shows the change of blue spectrums spreading upwards against the clouds is a interesting piece away from the fauna and ice shown here.

But perhaps its most telling photo is “Stained Hillside, Paulet Island” of a penguin colony scattered among bare shale without any snow, reveals how deep a problem global warming really and truly is in this part of the world and what we must to do protect it. Declaring the continent a protected world park, a idea suggested two decades ago, doesn’t seem so crazy any more now after looking at this shot.

Kotama Bouabane: We’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow

Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, 401 Richmond Street West, Suite #120

Through May 28; Tuesdays-Saturdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Part-photo and part-sculptural, this exhibit is a eclectic one surrounding on the coconut, the symbolism of all things tropically exotic in Kotama Bouabane’s concept of object and image ranging from a coconut-themed bar stand chirping singular notes of the Beach Boys’ 1988 classic hit “Kokomo” – where the show’s title comes from the song’s chorus – on a khene (traditional Laotian reed) to make it unrecognizable; bamboo-imaged and green cellophane tubes to imitate drinking straws; portraits of tourist selfies in Banff, only the coconut replaces the camera on the selfie sticks; fifty shots of coconut-husked images with holes giving it a ghostly touch and a series of white watermarked ridges obscuring a forestry image.

While the artist is looking to spoof the illusion of travel and leisure photography is interesting and ambitious, it could have been fleshed out further by stripping some of the esoterical structure that wouldn’t be seem a bit ordinary from a layperson’s point of view and the point would have gotten more across.

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CONTACT 2016 currently running through May 31. Most venues are FREE. For information, call 416-539-9595 or visit scotiabankcontactphoto.com.