Nick Schroeder

Nick Schroeder

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Amid Referendum Push, Fair Rent Portland Explains the Difference Between 'Rent Control' and 'Rent Stabilization'

Over the last five years, Portland rents have increased by 40 percent. Meanwhile, income has barely moved.

The Portland Press Herald reported on Fair Rent Portland earlier this week ["Portland citizens group seeks referendum on rent control, other tenant protections," by Randy Billings], blurring the distinction between the "rent control" and "rent stabilization." Fair Rent Portland says the latter more aptly describes their mission, which distinguishes it from failed measures (in New York City and elsewhere) to protect working class citizens that were abused by wealthy long-term tenants.

Among other meaningful distinctions, the group says their proposed referendum would not freeze rents, would not apply to owneroccupied duplexes and triplexes (like many on Munjoy Hill), and not prevent landlords from making a profit.

For some, the difference may be subtle. But it's hard to argue against some type of action. According to a statement from Fair Rent Portland, “(r)ent stabilization will allow renters to feel secure in their homes, begin to build up financial reserves, and make long-term economic plans. It will ensure that the children of renters can remain in a single district, that vulnerable citizens with mental or physical health conditions can heal without having to face eviction, and that local businesses will have the workforce that they need to grow.”

According to the group, "units covered by the rent stabilization part of the ordinance (only non-resident landlords of large properties), the rent will increase at the rate of inflation as set by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). For the past 5 years, the CPI has been between 0.5 percent and 2.5 percent. For a rent of $1000, that means that the landlord can increase the rent $5 to $25." Some progressive cities around the country— like Oakland, CA—have adopted a similar plan, fixing the amount landlords can raise rent to the CPI (except in cases of certain justifications). Fair Rent Portland says they searched the country for cities comparable to Portland with model rent stabilization ordinances, and have settled on West Hollywood, CA.

Why West Hollywood? Why, when there are condo units and other additional housing being built throughout the city, is there a movement toward an ordinance of rent stabilization?

The Phoenix interviewed Jack O'Brien, Portland resident and member of Fair Rent Portland, about the group's plans. Currently a volunteer group with a nine-member steering committee, Fair Rent Portland is interested in all levels of support from community members, "whether you have only one hour a year or one hour a week."

For more information on the group, including how to assist in getting the referendum on the ballot, Fair Rent Portland hosts a "launch party" for its proposed ordinance on Sunday, May 28, at Local Sprouts Cooperative, from 5-7 pm.

Phoenix: Can you explain the appeal of the West Hollywood rent stabilization ordinance over others you found?

Jack O'Brien: There are two main reasons the example of West Hollywood and the solutions it put in place resonate for Portland: First, it's a small city (about 35,000) with a high proportion of renters (about 70 percent) and so comparable to Portland in terms of what tools it can bring to bear in dealing with housing.

Second, it's run this program very successfully for 32 years, and been able to leverage the success in stabilizing its housing into other domains, like public health and eldercare, which seems very relevant to Portland.

Right now, Portland is experiencing rapid gentrification. While we tend to think of the gentrification part as being the component that changes the city most substantially, it's the rapidity that does a lot of the damage in terms of displacing residents from the city. Folks who might be able to afford a $100-per-month rent increase if staggered three years (by finding a little additional work or adding a new roommate, perhaps) are forced to move if it happens over a single year. The key goal of the West Hollywood model is to slowing the rate at which gentrification can occur, precisely to allow regular folks and the city government to adapt rather than just react. West Hollywood's experience suggests that in the long run, this leads to a more vital and diverse community and a more resilient economy than would result otherwise.

The West Hollywood model takes a nuanced approach to slowing gentrification: rather than directly intervening in the market and fixing prices, it instead operates by putting into place a number of different planks that have the effect of slowing the rate of rental increases and improving the bargaining power of tenants. This balances the market dynamics with the long-term needs of the city and its residents. While landlords might not have been enthusiastic about it at the start, there certainly was no collapse in the housing market, much less any of the other, more extreme projections put forth by some property managers and developers. In fact, since the community has retained so much vitality, it's seen as a particularly attractive market to work in.

We're hoping that by taking a similar approach—slowing gentrification, increasing renters' security, promoting development, particularly of affordable housing—will yield the same sort of benefits.

Is there a particular sticking point that you have found this to be a sticking point in getting policy enacted in Portland?

Author Peter Moskovitz (How to Kill a City) writes: "There's a parable told by famous urbanist Jane Jacobs that I believe could easily be applied to Portland: a family loves to picnic on a hillside—it has great views, it's quiet, it's filled with rustic charm. They love it so much they decide one day to build a house on top of it, only to realize once they live in the house that they can no longer see the hill, and that it's rustic charm is gone, thanks to their house." Which is exactly the situation Portland faces, except that we've seen many other hills despoiled before ours and so have the possibility to avoid that result.

A couple of years ago, the City Council, in response to the gentrification of the city, the upward movement on rents, and the increase of eviction of tenants at will across the city, established a Housing Committee to investigate possible solutions. Despite a lot of input from city residents—rent stabilization was a consistent and extremely popular recommendation made by regular folks—the committee appeared to listen largely to suggestions from large property developers and property managment firms. Even the fairly mild rental protections proposed by Mayor Strimling were dismissed more or less out of hand. Some councilors would regularly question if there even was a housing crisis. Needless to say, solutions that were going to make any substantial dent in the problem were not discussed.

Housing committee work aside, as gentrification has occurred, developers and property managements firms—those directly profiting from the process—have appeared to have increasing amounts of influence over both the city council and the planning board. Which is exactly the opposite how this is supposed to work: the council and the board should be operating on behalf of residents, not developers. This is not unexpected: a very small number of people are making a lot of money off everyone else's housing. As long as the boom goes on, they have the money and the time to make sure their perspective predominates (this is what has also happened in a lot of other gentrifying cities: those profiting reinvest that capital to ensure the boom goes on as long as it can, indifferent to the fact that at the end the city won't really be a city anymore.) This means that we've reached a point where the only effective check on rapid gentrification is a popular groundswell, which is why we're pushing a referendum.

Can you explain the material difference between rent control and rent stabilization?

This distinction is a pretty clear one: rent control fixes rents; rent stabilization slows the rate of rental increases.

Though it varies a bit in usage around the country, rent control usually refers to controls on the rent implemented to prevent price gouging. The standard example is in New York after World War I: the city directly intervenes in the markets and says 'this is the rental price for this unit.' Economists have long known that this causes all sorts of market asymmetries, which sometimes can be worse than the problem they were attempting to solve. Because of this few cities since have used strict rent control, preferring rent stabilization as achieving the same ends without many of the downsides.

Rent stabilization refers to programs where rental increases are controlled, usually indexed to inflation or capped at particular percentage per year, not the rent itself. Our version of rent stabilization—where landlords can set the rent as they'd like once a unit is vacated but have managed increases once a tenant is resident—allows for the most market flexibility while providing renters a great deal of additional protection. The experience in West Hollywood has been that, while a small number of units are occupied long-term, most turn over in about five years. This means rents can rise according to the market, just much more slowly than they would if renters had no protections.

As housing becomes a crisis situation across the country, rent stabilization is having quite a moment: it was passed last year in three cities in California: Richmond, Mountain View, and Santa Rosa.

"Fair Rent Portland Referendum Launch Party" | May 28, 5-7 pm | Local Sprouts Cooperative, 653 Congress St., Portland |

Nick Schroeder can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[Ed: An earlier version of this report misstated the population of West Hollywood. It is 35,000, not 45,000.


Quite Psyched: SeepeopleS Drop the 'Hate'

In another world not far off from our own, teenagers in Nebraska are skipping school to make out to SeepeopleS songs behind the faculty parking lots. In this one, the 20-year-running pop-confection project of Will Bradford and Brooke Binion has released another meticulous, painstakingly crafted release of psychedelic pop songs, while the Flaming Lips sell hundreds of records a day by name recognition alone.

The last we heard from the Portland quartet was their massive double-album Dead Souls Sessions in 2015, a release as impressive in its execution as it was undigestible by its size. SeepeopleS tracks aren't necessary difficult, but they're often complex. On Dead Souls they could be both, but listeners will find that Hate, an EP with a compact five-song helping (and the first in a three-EP set), is an excellent avenue into the band's weird, cerebral art-pop.

Not halfway into opener "Burning Bridge" and Bradford has already pulled the lines of two equally infectious arrangements against each other, deftly spinning the song's verse and refrain as ambient eletronic hums, boops, and whirs float in the background. The sugary beach-pop throwback "Just Like the Animals" packs tension and unease into its content ("40 minutes in the parking lot, just waiting for a pill to drop / Somebody's looking out for cops, sometimes it seems so impossible."), juxtaposing oneiric, psych-mess verses with a driving power-pop chorus.

While surely cathartic to play, the decision to re-work "New American Dream" from the band's back catalogue and its cynical fantasies about "being the president" and "killing everyone" seems a questionable one. A straightforward pop-punk blazer, it's the least enjoyable of the bunch and far more on-the-nose than their newer work, but it's timely, and paired with an impressive and overtly political new video (designed by animator Pete List of Celebrity Death Match/MTV), it's an understandable outreach decision. Nonetheless, the band's new material shines. The lilting, lovely ballad "Scapegoat" echoes the versatility of iconic bands like Shudder to Think, Beauty Pill, and Blonde Redhead. And the instrumentation, in that and wistful closer "Maybe It's Your Fault," is some of the most nuanced and balanced of any Portland album I've heard in recent memory. 

SeepeopleS' story is long and their back catalogue, much of it nearing 20 years old, is barely relevant to the band's sound today. Whether Bradford's in the discussion for one of the best songwriters in Maine rock music is a matter of personal taste, but he's certainly among those taking the form most seriously, and willing to grow with it as far as it'll take him.

Will Bradford of SeepeopleS, "Hate" EP release party | With Vapors of Morphine and Pretty Sad | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | 

MFA Thesis Exhibition Shines a Light in Dark, Dumb Times

If we can’t count on art students to liberate us from mass political confusion, then we’re in trouble.

Luckily, the Maine College of Art’s annual MFA Thesis Exhibition—first of the Trump era—finds the state's most supple art minds up to the task. With video, installation, performance and multimedia work, these nine MFA students not only confront the stultifying, oppressive, and boring-ass norms of American cultural life, they also embrace the avenues by which identity and physicality is developing political bite.

Queerer and more boldly physical than years past, the collection shows that for all the stupidity and nonsense in American political life, artists are making personal and discoveries from the repression and the haze, recognizing that body and identity can be powerful tools for political agency.

Exhibit A of this is Shelby Wynne Richardson’s Will You Pet My Pussy?, a handmade mixed-media artist book which fuses the visual vocabulary of illustrated pop-up stories with a queer feminist ethos and the language of consent-based sex education. Drawing, as she states, from the “Instagram-famous, those who wear their ‘plastic-ness’ on their sleeves,” each spread displays a hand-rendered vagina rendered in materially discrete forms. Some are kitschy, some cute; many are indeed fun to pet (which Richardson invites). Alongside each is a dictum of pussyplay the artist spells out in blocky nursery-rhyme verse (“First tickle on my inner thights / With foreplay please be slow not shy”). During my visit, a mid-fifties male security guard approached Will You Pet My Pussy? with what looked to be curiosity and bemusement, wearing a uniform and the thin armor of a smirk. It reminded me of the Instagram phenomenon of viewing a familiar feed (yours or another’s) imagined through the eyes of an interesting friend. What did that person think of that image?

It was Foucault who believed that society was a grid of ideological planes stacked incongruously atop one another, never fitting properly, and artist Dayna Riemlind makes no less vivid a statement. She stitches patterns and embroidered design onto dye-sublimated prints of photographs of distinct places, drawing out historical and personal meaning by contrasting spheres of time, geography, and memory. Her Watcher (2017, hand embroidery on cotton, 34” x 40”), arguably the show’s most vivid image, conjoins two hands in embroidered red fabric pocked with teary blue eyes, a sign that the artistic terrain Riemlind works in expands beyond the physical world and into dream.

A loud piece by Jose Rodriguez, Jr. builds on queer theorist Lee Edelman’s principle insight from the landmark 2004 book No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Edelman’s theory of “reproductive futurism” identifies that the common American political platform of being “pro-children” and “pro-future,” which both party’s figures adopt as unassailable rhetoric during political campaigns, is intrinsically and problematically heteronormative and assumes the supremacy of procreative families above other citizens. (In the book, Edelman cites a GOP operative complaining in the New York Times about a 1997 Bill Clinton photo-op beside wife and daughter: “This is the father picture,” says the Republican media consultant. “This is the daddy bear, this is the head of the political household. Nothing helps him more.”)

Rodriguez wants to fuck with this. With campy humor and nods to Edelman, This Land Is My Land erects a mock political rally—complete with original political branding, a lot of bear imagery and cosplay, and one hypnotically repetitious speech, all of it a satire on the politics of family values and its latent homophobia. As the show’s only piece wiith sound, Rodriguez’s looping audio track (and its recurring fugue of “This Is Our Time”) can dominate the atmosphere. But in a world where prominent right-wing figures formed Gays For Trump coalitions and recast the real estate mogul as “Daddy,” there’s much to explore here beyond Edelman.

I can’t remember a gallery experience as visceral as I had viewing the work of Sarah Emch, an artist whose three video pieces attempt to reconcile past experiences of self-multilation and the methods of confronting personal trauma. In one, a five-minute video titled Recollection, we see the artist’s bared upper chest repeatedly sliced with a small blade (presumably by her own hand). Though the blade cuts at bare surface level, her skin’s response—the slowly forming scars and dotting pockets of blood—effectively conveys a rhythm of pain far deeper than skin. In the disquieting Involuntary, we witness the artist seeming to attempt (and fail) to condition herself to the reflexive physical response to a red-colored fluid periodically dripping onto her forehead. Viewed as she lays supine with eyes closed, it is an agonizing and intimate 17-minute ritual. As challenging as they are to watch, Emch’s artful, vulnerable explorations of the body’s relationship to trauma and abuse are tremendously affecting.

Other standouts include Seed, a stratified woman, in which Louise Coupar-Stamat evokes themes of birth and emergence through the material history of clay, a substance she entombs and cakes around several women over video. Three large material sculptures by Benjamin Spalding, collected here as Bacaloo, fuse discrete, transregional cultural signifiers (like Santeria altars, hockey gloves, and New England flannel) into ecstatic figural representations of the amalgamate identities of the artist’s cultural heritage. They’re kind of glorious. I missed the live performance by Crystal Gale Phelps, said to summon political agency through contemporary dance and circus arts (though viewers can catch her again on June 9 from 1 to 4 pm).

There may never have been a stupider, more cynical time to be alive. But look at these folks. They’ve found a few ideas worth holding on to.

MECA MFA Thesis Exhibition | Through June 9 | ICA at MECA, 522 Congress St., Portland |

Nick Schroeder can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


  • Published in Art

Trump(Don't)Care: How the AHCA Should Reinvigorate the Push For Universal Health Care

It’s a stretch to say the firing of FBI director James Comey and Trump’s declassification of sensitive information to Russia are stratagems meant to distract you from the AHCA. But in case it’s having that effect, let’s gloss over the brutality in store for Americans if TrumpCare passes the Senate.

In simple terms, the American Health Care Act would position Mainers and Americans vulnerable to a health care system that could be so inaccessible that it infringes on a person's basic right to live — which is, lest we forget, constitutionally inalienable. Though Democratic leadership has settled on a weak-sauce position toward the adoption of a universal health care plan (like single-payer), the majority of Americans support it, and there’s no better time to push for it.

If Democrats don’t renew their support for single-payer and away from a market-based, consumer-driven health care, the consequences could be dire. But astonishingly, Democrats have seemed to all but abandon the fight for single-payer, which has been a touchstone of their platform since the Truman Administration.

It’s a long road they’ve taken toward conceding this principle. In 1994, Hillary Clinton herself was reportedly a proponent of single-payer coverage, saying in a statement to the Lehman Brothers Health Corporation that “...I believe that by the year 2000 we will have a single-payer system in this country … I think the momentum for a single-payer system will sweep this country.”

But something caused her to change her tune. It could be political expertise, or it could be that from 2013 to 2015, Clinton pocketed over $2.8 million from 13 paid speeches to the health industry.

Meanwhile, Democrats’ insistence on distancing themselves from universal health care has become commonplace. After the AHCA passed the House last week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had a golden opportunity to pin support for a single-payer system to the Democratic platform after issuing the soundbite that TrumpCare was “Robin Hood in reverse.” But she demurred. Instead, Pelosi stated that the political reality is that Congress “isn’t ready” for a single-payer system.

Whether a Republican-controlled Congress is “ready” is arguably besides the point. Democrats controlled both the House and Senate in 2010, yet President Obama still failed to pass a single-payer system, or even a public option.

Writes Branko Marcetic in a treatise this spring in the lefty journal Jacobin: “The particularly bizarre thing about many of these attacks on single-payer from prominent liberals and Democrats is that they’re fundamentally conservative arguments: single-payer is too radical and farreaching a change; it’s too expensive; it’ll mean raising taxes; it’ll involve giving the federal government too much power.”

Despite these cries, a 2016 Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans support it. Even a recent survey by The Economist, ideologically aligned with market-driven systems, reported that a majority of Americans support “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance for every American.”

Of course, Bernie Sanders hitched his campaign to the hopes of establishing a single-payer system. In an op-ed for the Brookings Institute in January, 2016 Henry J. Aaron wrote that a single-payer system would cost the government 4.1 trillion a year, “or 1.4 trillion more than the federal government now spends on programs Sanders” would have replaced. “New money would come from taxes.” Opponents say that specifics were fuzzy and the proposal too radical.

But radical is what’s happening now. Rep. Bruce Poliquin voted for the AHCA, which passed the House by a 217-213 vote in early May, despite the fact that the majority of his constituency, elderly and low-income Mainers, would be hardest hit. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who voted no, has gone on record as saying she was “disappointed that we did not accomplish single payer health care or a public option” in the Affordable Care Act. Angus King has said the Affordable Care Act was “not ambitious enough” but has not endorsed single-payer. And Susan Collins, ever the political expedient, has made statements on both sides of the fence.


If Democratic leadership won’t fight for single-payer, then someone has to. This month, the Portland-based Southern Maine Workers’ Center released a lengthy report titled “Enough For All: A People’s Report on Health Care” as part of the organization’s Health Care Is a Human Right campaign. In it, they surveyed 1300 Mainers in 13 Maine counties about their relationship to health care and their difficulties finding adequate, comprehensive, affordable coverage.

Consisting of plentiful data attesting to the hardship of receiving quality, affordable care and a litany of personal testimonies, the report is powerful. According to the SMWC’s findings, 90 percent of respondents believe “that it is the government’s job to protect our human right to health care," and 83 percent like the idea of a universal, publicly-funded health care system.

States the report: “Our understanding of universal human need leads us to the conclusion that health care is a human right for every person.” In one succinctly put testimony, credited to Rachel in York County, “wealth is created from our health needs.”

Elsewhere in the report, they write that “Our current system of coverage, rather than care, deepens racial health disparities and promotes worse health outcomes for people of color and immigrants. Nationally, more than half of the total 32.3 million nonelderly uninsured are people of color [a demographic representing five percent of the population in Maine]. Black people are twice as likely to fall into the coverage gap that exists in the 19 states, including Maine, that have not expanded Medicaid.” This means lower-income people go to emergency rooms, or delay care because of concerns about cost. This, of course, turns into a system of entrenched debt for people who can least afford to take it on, with the benefit of profit for those in the insurance and medical industries.

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center argues for an equity-based system, one where those participating in the health care system put in what they can and take what they need. Focusing on principles of equity, universality, transparency, accountability, and participation, some of the principles they argue for include:

All state residents are enrolled. There are no exceptions, including people who are homeless, do not have employment or income, and immigrants with or without documentation. Everyone benefits, including those enrolled in existing public programs such as Medicare and MaineCare. There is no convoluted enrollment process.

Care is comprehensive. There is a focus on our right to safe, effective, and therapeutic preventative care. Baseline services include dental, vision, hearing, mental health services, reproductive health and family planning services like abortion and contraceptives, as well as gender affirming care.

“A new system must evolve in response to people’s experiences with it,” they write. “To ensure accountability to residents, communities, and Mainers’ human right to health, local community boards, statewide commissions, and annual public hearings will be created. Representatives will reflect the diversity of Maine’s patients and providers.”

How do we get there? They offer three proposals:

“1. A progressive income tax, where higher wage earners pay more than workers who earn less. This is a sliding scale that goes down to zero for people living at a certain level of poverty. 2. A progressive payroll tax, where larger employers with significant wage disparities pay more than smaller employers who pay their workers higher wages. This incentivizes larger employers to fairly compensate workers, while accounting for the benefits small businesses make to local economies. 3. A tax on non-wage wealth. There is a small percentage of the state population who accumulate wealth from stocks, interest, dividends, etc. rather than through working hourly or salaried jobs. This tax ensures that a wealthy minority don’t leave the ordinary, working majority to cover all the costs.”

Other local initatives resisting the AHCA are cropping up too. This week, Maine Public Radio reported that state lawmakers are considering a bill (proposed by Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic) that would enfore greater transparency in drug costs, requiring drug makers to disclose how they arrived at prices for prescription medication.


Opponents of a single-payer system — and there are many — have long held that health care is a commodity, not a right. This is, essentially, an argument conservatives hold dear: People with poor health have brought their health concerns upon themselves with bad choices, and that “individual responsibility” dictates that those in healthy, “low-risk” pools shouldn’t be required to pay for anyone else.

Girding this is a belief that health care is a consumer good, and is thus governed by the innate logic of the market and its system of price determinations. Conservative economist Kevin D. Williamson argues we’re dealing with a scarce good, not a right. “Health care is physical, not metaphyiscal,” he writes in a May 7 article in the right-wing journal The National Review. “It consists of goods, such as penicillin and heart stents, and services, such as oncological attention and radiological expertise.”

“Rich people always get better stuff. That’s what it means to be rich,” Williamson adds.

A fight for universal health care is nothing less than a determination of the immorality of using statements like this to determine health. Of course goods and services cost money, but strict market fundamentalism, as the AHCA is set to prove, is a sort of violence of its own, and those directly affected are soon to be the majority of the population. In another article (titled “Why Shouldn’t Women Pay More For Health Insurance?” on May 5), Williamson argues that “women have radically higher lifetime medical expenses than men do, about one-third higher, on average.” Therefore, they should accept the logic that they should have to pay more.

This argument absolves conservatives of the responsibility of dealing with fundamental injustices in American social life, from wage and lifestyle inequity among women, LGBTQ people, and people of color, to reproductive services, to health and wellbeing affected by domestic abuse and rape.

If there’s a silver lining to TrumpCare — at least in the current proposal existing between the House and Senate — it’s that it’s primed to expose the flawed logic and basic immorality of this thinking more than any time in history.

In our current system, no insurer can make a profit off someone who is sick. But putting an insurer’s right to profit over the health and wellbeing of American citizens is fundamentally immoral. People are catching on.


Some of the people who will suffer the most under the AHCA are the elderly. In Maine, that’s the second highest state demographic in the country. A huge portion of this comes from the $900 billion cut to Medicaid. But don’t be fooled into thinking those who retain coverage have it any easier. Under the ACA, it was forbidden for insurance companies to charge more than three times the rate of a low-risk individual in the same region. Under TrumpCare, they can charge five times that.

Literally being a woman isn’t a pre-existing condition, but it’s close. It’s not that the GOP will admit it has anything against women; they just believe that women need to fend for themselves, with fewer resources than anyone else.

The AHCA would harm women dramatically. For all Obamacare’s entanglements, it drastically improved women’s access to health care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the total rate of women who went without health care coverage fell from 17 percent in 2013 to 11 percent across the board in 2015. (For single mothers, the rate fell from 24 to 16 percent; for Black women, it fell 19 to 14 percent; for Latino women, it fell 31 to 20 percent.)

Of course, the GOP is also going hard after Planned Parenthood, proposing to cut off federal Medicaid payments to the organization entirely. In 2015, Planned Parenthood comprised only six percent of the 10,708 health centers providing family planning and reproductive health care, a group that also includes community health centers and specialized centers. Yet 32 percent of women who sought care at any of these facilities were treated at Planned Parenthood, a testament to its value.

The AHCA would starve off federal payments to Planned Parenthood, for what seem like purely ideological reasons. It’s already federal law that patients cannot use federal money for abortion services (other than cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the woman’s life). The bill would provide additional funds to community health centers (CHCs) — a point for which right-wing advocates are crowing will “give women more options.” There's nothing wrong with CHC's, but  there’s also nothing that states that additional federal dollars given to CHCs under the AHCA would be used for women’s health care, as Planned Parenthood supporters are quick to point out. In a report by the Congressional Budget Office in March, cutting off access to Planned Parenthood would result in the loss of access in lower-income communities. It would also result, health experts estimate, in a significant boost in unintended pregnancies.

In short, those who aren’t wealthy, or who aren’t young, healthy white men, will be hit hard.


If there’s a silver lining to the AHCA, it’s that it’s such a transparent transfer of wealth to the insurance industry that it risks widespread exposure for its failed moral logic. When pundits like Williamson pedantically argue that women cost more to insure, ergo they should pay more, it takes a special kind of person to ignore that women earn 78 percent of what men make for the same work, and are systematically excluded from protections across the board. What the AHCA truly exposes is the immorality inherent in the doctrinal conservative belief in personal responsibility. Dating back to the late 19th century, conservative thought has attempted to stave off the notion that federal government has a responsibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of its people. But if the alternative is a sick and ravaged country, then it it’s clearer than ever who profits off a consumer-driven system.

Said Tim Faust, a Brooklyn writer who studies health care, in a recent lecture at SUNY, “the federal government is the only actor that recognizes the cost of care and the cost of not providing care.” Faust believes that a consumer-driven health care model compels doctors to unwittingly make choices that ultimately harm their patients.

Shades of this are echoed in the Southern Maine Workers’ Center report. Sandra from Westbrook articulates a common issue with citizens receiving appropriate care, and the concerns they have about getting priced out.

“When I went to the doctor to have some standard screenings done, I was told, ‘We don’t think you have cancer, but we want to do one more thing… just to put it to rest.’ No conversation about how much this will cost or contacting my insurance to see if it’s covered. Then I get this bill for almost $3,000! I sure didn’t get peace of mind. When I think about all the things I could do for my health with that $3,000 … Our healthcare system needs to be transparent about the cost of the services prior to receiving services.”

The ideology that health care is a consumer good follows that making patients bear a higher share of medical costs will ultimately bring those costs down. This presumes that a “rational” health care consumer exists and will shop for coverage in the same way we shop for toothpaste or avocados.

In reality, no one does this. The need for health care coverage is often pinned to anxiety, illness, worry, in-the-moment reaction, and so on. As much as the GOP wants to reduce it to an a la carte menu of goods and services, people living in a society are largely dependent on the health and wellbeing of one another. Put another way, if you’re a thirty-something white bro with the resources to eat organic and do CrossFit, you might not need insurance coverage for awhile, but you’re still living in — and beholden to — a system that ensures people who need care, from penicillin to contraceptives to cancer screenings, receive it.

Terralyn, a registered nurse who works in a small emergency room in Millinocket, says in the same report: “I care for patients who often arrive to our facility sicker than they should be. They are from working families afraid to seek care sooner due to concerns about medical bills, or elderly patients already struggling to pay. Regular physician office care treatment would have made ER services unnecessary. These people, however, are fearful of losing their savings, or their homes after a major illness. I have seen patients leave our ER against medical advice and die within a day or two. Their financial situation and lack of affordable health insurance was the deciding factor in their choice. Our healthcare system is broken, and even when you pay for health insurance there is no guarantee that your care will be covered. There needs to be a fair system for everyone.”


There’s also evidence that those who with a precarious relationship to coverage are made sicker by that relationship. Viewed in this light, cost of care can be seen as a “negative side-effect” of an ineffective health care system. Zack Buck, Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, calls this an example “financial toxicity,” or the idea that “individuals experiencing financial distress as a result of the cost of their care experience higher rates of mortality than those who do not.” Essentially, this means that long-term health care-related financial debt is itself deleterious to your health.


Though the AHCA leaves roughly four-fifths of the ACA intact, it cannot be overstated how difficult average people will have it under the proposed changes, particularly the poor and elderly. There’s a lot of details we can’t cover here, but early reports by the Congressional Budget Office estimate that roughly 24 million people will lose coverage. Besides the roughly $900 billion decrease in Medicaid coverage, essentially a tax cut for insurance companies and the already-wealthy, the plan penalizes those who go more than 63 days without insurance, further disincentivizing them from obtaining health care when they’re able to.

In Maine, this will have a pronounced effect on the opioid crisis. Quoted in a recent article in Mother Jones, Richard Frank, Professor of Health Economics at Harvard University, estimates that roughly three million Americans with addiction disorders would lose some or all of their coverage, according to a recent report in Mother Jones as part of the shifting to states’ ability to determine “essential benefits.” Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers were prevented from denying coverage or charging people higher rates based on pre-existing conditions. The ACHA, of course, guts those provisions. Health experts believe that premiums, which were the major talking point behind the push to dismantle Obamaare, would increase dramatically.

Instead of the individual mandate in the ACA, the AHCA introduces continuous enrollment penalties. Insurance companies would now be able to charge new enrollees a 30 percent mark-up on their premiums the next year.

Under the ACA, the elderly could only be charged three times what young people were charged. Now they can be charged five times. Instead of subsidies based on income, recipients of health care under the AHCA would receive subsidies based on age: up to two thousand to four thousand, which is often insufficient.

Additionally, the Affordable Care Act had community ratings, which meant that premiums were the same for a region. Insurers could adjust cost for age but nothing else. Under the AHCA’s McArthur Amendment, states have the option to use waivers to get out of a community rating for people who don’t have continuous coverage. When you re-enroll, your state has a waiver to ask people questions to determine your premium.

In the cases where insurers can’t literally deny coverage, they would be able to theoretically offer an exorbitant, astronomical premium. This would apply for a host of possible preconditions, like if someone had a cancer scare, was assaulted or raped, and so on. 

Writes Matthew Friedler, a fellow for the Center for Health Policy (Schaeffer Initiative) in a report published by the Brookings Institute, “a single state’s decision to weaken or eliminate its essential health benefit standards could weaken or effectively eliminate the ACA’s guarantee of protection against catastrophic costs for people with coverage through large employer plans in every state. The two affected protections are the ACA’s ban on annual and lifetime limits, as well as the ACA’s requirement that insurance plans cap enrollees’ annual out-of-pocket spending. Both of these provisions aim to ensure that seriously ill people can access needed health care services while continuing to meet their other financial needs.”


At the local level, the AHCA has embolded conservatives to put up even more barriers to adequate care. The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a series of rule changes, currently under review. Under those proposals, the new rules would require “able-bodied adults” to meet “community engagement or work requirements” to be eligible for MaineCare, as well as pay monthly premiums as an individual contribution toward health care costs. For a program designed as a social safety net, the fabric is thin. “Members who fail to make timely premium payments will be disenrolled from MaineCare.” It would also institute a number of “asset tests” to determine eligibility, cease to provide retroactive coverage, and eliminate the option for hospitals to make presumptive eligibility determinations. (This means more of those determinations would be made by Mary Mayhew and the DHHS, which has been far more concerned with saving taxpayer money than ensuring Mainers get adequate coverage.)

A public hearing opposing these rule changes will be held at the Cross Insurance Arena on Wednesday, May 17 at 9 am, and at the Augusta Civic Center on Thursday, May 18 at 9 am.

The AHCA is in limbo while the Senate considers it, and many expect its provisions to change mightily. In the meantime, Americans have an opportunity to closely examine the conflicting philosophies behind the health care debate — is it a right or is it a commodity — while the stakes have never been higher.

Nick Schroeder can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Poliquin Takes Heat for AHCA Vote; Kindling Fund Grantees Make Hot Art

On May 4, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act by a vote of 217-213, a significant step in the Trump Administration’s quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the signature achievement of President Obama’s administration. The bill is estimated to kick 24 million Americans off health care, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.


In the week since, citizens have rallied in numbers against U.S. Representative Bruce Poliquin of Maine's second congressional district, whose yes vote came after weeks of hedging about his position — a dance which included, according to multiple reports, the representative hiding out in public bathrooms and re-emerging wearing ear-buds to obscure reporters' questions. The day after the vote, former State Rep. Diane Russell launched a public campaign titled “Anybody But Bruce Poliquin 2017.” By the end of day on May 9, Russell's campaign has raised nearly $9,000 for a mystery candidate to be named to run against Bruce Poliquin in the state’s second district in 2018.

Last week, Poliquin quickly took to the media to defend his vote, citing that AHCA would “only affect seven percent of the population” — about 80,000 Mainers. Other estimates suggest that more than 266,000 Mainers would lose coverage, or face dramatically higher costs, as a result of pre-existing conditions.

But it also would affect plenty of Mainers who would retain coverage. As Amy Fried writes on her blog Pollways (hosted by the Bangor Daily News), the AHCA would restore those providing insurance coverage through employer-based plans the ability to set lifetime caps on insurance coverage, a provision that had been prohibited by Obamacare. This would affect, as Fried writes, 47 percent of Mainers who receive insurance through employers.

As it stands, the AHCA would also eliminate the Medicaid Expansion to low-income healthy adults contained within the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, it could be devastating for those seeking treatment for addiction, a population which has reached crisis levels in Maine, because it penalizes those whose relationship to coverage isn’t stable by charging more for those who haven’t had coverage for two months or more. In some form or another, it also blocks access to health coverage for those with pre-existing conditions (or deregulates insurance companies’ ability to charge them exponentially more, which has the same effect).

It’s possible much of this will be moot, as much of this version of the AHCA could be changed over the next several weeks or months before it gets a vote in the Senate, where it would need 51 votes to pass (the GOP has a 52-48 majority in the Senate). By a Senate vote, one would expect many in Congress to have actually read the bill, which many Representatives in the House had not done upon voting on it on Thursday.

Maine Senator Susan Collins has come out against the current version of the AHCA, saying that "the Senate is going to start from scratch" on the plan. Collins would represent one of the bill’s most pivotal votes. Behind only Rand Paul (R-KY), Senator Collins is thus far the second-least likely Republican Senator to vote in accordance with the Trump administration.



Earlier in 2017, SPACE Gallery announced the recipients of the year’s Kindling Fund, an arts grant awarding more than $65,000 among 14 Maine-based projects.

Artist Vivian Ewing, whose project Wash and Fold Press was launched in accordance with the Fund application, says she’s excited for the opportunity the fund has given her to respond to needs in the arts community. Her project endeavors to help young artists by offering a facility for printing, binding, and publishing their works into books, and plans to publish a collection of women, queer, trans, and non-binary artists with the help of local art collective New Fruit, a previous Kindling Fund winner, in the fall.


“I’ve seen a lot of amazing work come in from the open call,” says Ewing, who adds that the artists’ submissions she’s received have reached her from all over the country. “I’m really excited to be working with a female graphic designer whose work I admire a lot.”

Originally from Martha’s Vineyard, Ewing graduated from the Maine College of Art in 2015. 

Besides Ewing, the full roster of winners includes The Maribor Uprisings: A Live Participatory Documentary by Maple Rasza and Milton Guillen, which places its viewers in a series of real-time decisions in a protest in Maribor, Slovenia, in 2012. Daniel Quintanillia’s A Shared Space: A View Into the Somali Bantu Community explores five short-format virtual reality documentaries made by and with Lewiston’s Somali Bantu population. Leslie Ross plans to launch a Sound Improv Festival at the Cannery in South Penobscot. Artist Derek Jackson received funding for his Hi Tiger project to launch a TRUCK SHOW, incorporating live dance, bodily explorations, and pop music into a mobile installation. Dylan Hausthor’s WILT Press endeavors to collect a gallery’s worth of his and others’ Harmony Korine-influenced art photography into a bound publication. Elizabeth Atterbury is planning “The Number of Inches Between Them,” a site-specific installation and performance with Mainer Meghan Brady and New York artist Gordon Hall. Photographer Sean Alonzo Harris’s “Visual Tensions” is a fascinating photo project that pairs people of color with members of law enforcement. Nick Dalton’s “Project: HESPER” commemorates long-abandoned schooners in Wiscasset’s harbor with a sculptural installation. Galen Koch’s mobile project “The First Coast” collects sounds, stories, and images along Maine’s coast during their offseason. Jennifer Steen Booher courses a photographic exploration along the entirety of Mount Desert Island’s 120-mile coastline with “The Coast Walk.” Shoshannah White’s “CHATTERMARK” is a street art project imagining the melting ice caps within Maine streets. “Surface First Tilts West,” by Jordan Parks, livens up Chebeague Island with low-impact imagery. And Brian Doody pairs with Catie Hannigan for “We Wear The Same Clothes Every Winter,” a bound and gallerized collection of high-concept photography for working class and marginalized Mainers.


Black Artists Forum at the Abyssinian Meeting House

Abyssinian Meeting House May Schedule

May 5:
"Opening Night," with artists Daniel Minter, Keita A. Whitten, Rafael Clariot, Titi de Baccarat, Derek Jackson, Elizabeth A. Jabar, Delaney Tucker, and students of color from Wayeflete and Roots and Fruits Preschool | 5 pm | Musicians Micheal Wingfield, Keita Whitten, Rodney Mashia, Samuel James, and Ahmad Kafari | 5:30 pm | Speech by Mr. Cummings | 6 pm | Theater Ensemble of Color | 6:15 pm | More Music | 7-8 pm
May 6
"Rise and Shine Youth Retreat," open mic with youth performances, performances by Theater Ensemble of Color, Zaya HMobb, and more | 6:30-9 pm 
May 13
Performance workshop with Rene Johnson | 10 am-12:30 pm  
Children's storytelling with Linda Ford | 1-3 pm
Printmaking workshop with Daniel Minter | 1-3 pm
May 17:
"Storytelling and Body Movement Workshop For Adults," with Nicole Mokeme | 6:30-8:30 pm 
May 19:
Reginald Mobly
May 20;
Performances by David Thete and Kesho Wazo | 6-9 pm
May 21: 
"Performance Festival," with Said Anwar Cato-King, Zaya HMobb, Hi Tiger, Patrick Jones, Super Dread, and Eric Simido | noon to 5 pm 
"Malaga Island Play Reading," with Christina W. Richardson and Jason Cunningham of Theater Ensemble of Color | 7-9 pm
May 25
"Bloodletting: A Night of Poetic Realness Dreamed by LaLa Drew" | 7-9 pm
May 28
"Theater Ensemble of Color Showcase," performance by Bridgette Kelly; film by Danie Kayamba 1-4 pm
All events at 75 Newbury St., Portland | Open daily noon-5 pm
  • Published in Arts

The Old Masters at Work: Michael Wilson's Woodsmen at the Press Hotel

Before the advent of the lumbersexual, before the stereotype of the L.L.Bean boyfriend, Maine's first sawmill opened in South Berwick in 1634. By the end of the 17th century, the state added 50 more. Lumbering was one of the first ways Mainers were put to work, and the mystique of the Maine woodsman has endured just as long. 

In an inspired new gallery setting in the lower level of the Old Port's Press Hotel, Maine photographer Michael Wilson captures that present-day Maine woodsman in a series of crisp, clean photographs, in a small, handsome exhibition in conjunction with the Maine College of Art.

 Replanted forest 9933

Shot across various states of action in a snowy lumber yard, Wilson's photographs artfully contrast the grit and thunder of the logging effort against an omnipresent backdrop of pure white snow. Of the roughly half of the set dedicated to portraiture, Wilson captures a softness, almost a gentleness, within his subjects. that both harkens to timeless notions of masculine nobility and belies the Maine lumberjack stereotype.

"Billy" is captured standing next to his truck with his hands in the pockets of his baggy, boot-cut jeans. Smears of black soot line his orange parka, and a slick mohawk splitting an otherwise bald head compliments a smirk. The boyish-looking "Cody Theriault" sits on a felled pile of logs, his eyes looking up at the sky as fresh flakes flutter throughout the frame. Cody's maroon work shirt, bearing the logo of Wiles Brook Logging, Inc. (an operation out of Allagash, Maine), is open at the buttons, suggesting the worker's internal combustion has outpaced the external temperatures of the job site. "Garin Peck" has seemingly exhaled a fresh gust of air, his thick work gloves hovering at the level of the mane of a black dog gazing up at him. He stands in a patch of trodden snow before a wall of axed pines, the billows of his workman's vest resembling a coat of armor.

It's a trope, possibly, drawing out the comparisons of working class men and women with the noblemen captured in old masters paintings, but Wilson's portraits are shot with such precision that they truly do take on some of that weight. We don't get much in the way of context of the job, but "Woodsmen" indeed finds these men lionized, at home with the labors undertaken, at one with the material at the heel of their blade.  

Log ends

For his landscapes and environmental shots, Wilson's eye is no less adept. "Log Ends" offers a vast wall of cut lumber filling the frame, mesmerizingly pointillist. In "Replanted Forest," Wilson deploys environmental fog to lovely effect, creating a textured canvas of forest green fading over multiple horizons. And numerous action shots find his Woodsmen operating live, complicated machinery that Wilson has captured in vibrant detail, as if still-moving in the frame.

At the slick and popular Press Hotel, "Woodsmen" ably transmutes a deep, storied history into accessible, confident photography. The history of Maine logging is rich and complex, and while Wilson's photos draw this history into the light, with crystal clear arrangements and handsome posturing, he takes care not to compromise the complexity of his subjects. His photos clarify, not lighten, the weight of their labors, and his show is worth your time.

"Woodsmen," photography by Michael Wilson | Through May 26 | At the Press Hotel Gallery, 119 Exchange St., Portland |

  • Published in Art

8 Days A Week: Masculinity Studies, Air Sex, and Famous Dudes Who Hate Metal



KILLER PARTY | In the spring, we dance. No arguments there. And those who can't (or won't) dance watch others dance, and that group covers more or less everyone. The young hearts at Bowdoin College are as-we-speak preparing a dance performance for this night, itself exciting news. That their show is headlined by an appearance by Rakiya A. Orange, the Bowdoin grad and now-New Yorker whose dual research in Dance and Anthropology has given her a dynamic quiver of influences from which to shoot, makes it especially noteworthy. A 2015 article penned by Orange and published in Contact Quarterly, titled "Behind Barres, Battlements, and Bids: Masculinity and Dance in Prison," offers a glimpse of the scope here, and we frankly envy anyone who's been able to shape a life that looks like this. A recommended trip from Portland, this one-night-only show will stir what must be stirred.

| FREE | 7:30 pm | Bowdoin College, Memorial Hall, Pickard Theater, Brunswick |




WE'RE SPINNING | Winter is gone, and with it, the snow, the heartache, the weird food, the thinkpieces, the mediocre TV. Tonight marking the first First Friday of the warm stretch, people who like art can now return to doing so publicly. We recommend, of course, the exhibition and corresponding events titled "A Distant Holla" at the Abyssinian Meeting House (75 Newbury St.), covered in our feature interview with artist Daniel Minter (see page 10). But you'd also do well to check out the BFA Thesis Exhibition at Maine College of Art's ICA (522 Congress St.), Laura Dunn's psychedelic "Flower Bomb" at the Mechanics Hall (519 Congress St.), and the SMCC student exhibition at Zero Station (222 Anderson St.). If you're stuck up on the hill, hit the Abyssinian and then the St. Lawrence Arts Center, where you'll find Laura Dombek's lovely and textured oil paintings in a show titled "Sacred Spaces." Find the rest of our First Friday art listings on page 19 and stitch together your own quilt of spring delight. 

LION IN WINTER | If you like haunting, existential, challenging theater, it's opening night for Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play over at Mad Horse in South Portland. First premiered over at the legendary Woolly Mammoth theater company in Washington D.C., this script by Anne Washburn imagines a post-apocalyptic scenario wherein a group of ravaged, terrified Americans cluster together after some unnamed catastrophic event, finding common ground by sharing their favorite episodes of The Simpsons, which, as time goes on, form the basis for a new society. Could happen! Running for three weeks at Mad Horse Theater Company (a theater ensemble which, in full disclosure, this writer is a member.) | $22 (pay-what-you-can Thursday 7:30 pm and Sunday 2 pm) | 7:30 pm | Mad Horse Theater Company, 24 Mosher St., South Portland | 


LION IN WINTER | Since Portland was founded, people have explored ways to get loud rock bands to play One Longfellow Square. It's been tough! And as it's typically a jazz, ffolk, and blues club that attracts a more settled-in clientele, it hasn't always worked. But it's beyond us to proffer a reasonable explanation why, because that place sounds quite good and its vibes are intimate. Tonight may look like a loud rock show, with Dave Gutter's longtime side project Paranoid Social Club headlining along with sets from Dominic Lavoie (of Dominic & the Lucid) and Yes We Kin, the solo folk project of Weakened Friends drummer Cam Jones. But it's a compromised version, where Paranoid is said to play the quieter Axis I, in its entirety, a 2004 album with (let's say) a sort of Sublime-meets-Jack Johnson vibe. Everyone's particular conveyor belt toward senescence runs at a different speed, and some rock fans simply like to thrash on the inside, sitting down, emotionlessly sipping gin and tonics. For longtime fans of these Portland musicians, this looks like candy. | $15 adv, $20 day of | 8 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland |



DANCE SAVES | In Portland rock history, there've been a lot of heretofore unknown rock bands who played memorable, holy shit-level shows before they broke. Of course there was Unwound opening for Fugazi at USM in 1994, but a lot of them have been at SPACE Galllery. Astronautalis made his Portland debut opening for jdwalker in 2005. Larkin Grimm played here in April of 2006, Sara Bareilles in 2007. There was the time an unheard-of Bon Iver opened for Black Mountain in 2008, six days after the release of the ceremonious album For Emma, Forever Ago. And then there was Screaming Females, who've had several coming out parties. Sure, they played Geno's all the way back in 2007, but it was their shows at SPACE Gallery in 2009 and '10 (and that brutal one at the Apohadion in 2011) when they really blew everyone away. Forever led by the arresting Marissa Paternoster, whose ability to front a band seems intuitive and uncanny, Screaming Females is a Portland favorite, and tonight play their 10th show in our city. They're supported here by two local acts, and both could be said to be in the same family. One is Fur, the punked-up garage rock group of ex-Rattlesnakes and current marriage partners Brian and Tara Cohen, who frankly haven't played out in a bit. The other, Weakened Friends, is a soaring melodic rock group "on the up," headed by Sonia Sturino (ex-Box Tiger) and Yes We Kin. All ages here.

| $10 adv, $12 day of | 8:30 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland |


EVERYTHING IS A METAPHOR | I watched the trailer for LUNAFEST, the traveling collection of short films by and for women appearing tonight at the University of Southern Maine, and didn't catch a single glimpse of the protein-y energy bar. And that's a plus, because a lot of discerning audiences are understandably down on product placement. It's always an odd marriage when artists and filmmakers make work under the wing of privately held corporations, though it should be said that Clif Bar, the San Francisco-based, environmentally-conscious energy bar manufacturer that produces this "nutrition bar for women," is about as socially conscious as one gets. Additionally, LUNAFEST is essentially a fundraising model for the Breast Cancer Fund and other women's organizations (in this case the Maine Women's Lobby), so yeah, we can get down with it. The festival comes to Portland in its 175-city tour, featuring nine films "by, for, and about" women. Recommended.

| $15 adv, $18 day of | 1 pm | University of Southern Maine, Luther Bonney Hall, 94 Bedford St., Portland |




OVERACHIEVER | The shine of weirdness never wore off David Lynch, the irrepressible film director (and musician?) who birthed the cult favorite TV show Twin Peaks among numerous feature-length films that have stuck with you if you've seen them. For a deep dive into the early art, films, and inspirations that congealed into this very Los Angeles artist, check out Jon Nguyen's documentary, David Lynch: The Art Life, screening Friday through Sunday (which is today, at 2 pm).

| $8 | 2 pm | Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq., Portland |





STREET MUSIC | Talked with someone earlier this week about the dearth of smaller music rooms in town, and how they're a vital part of any city's musical ecology. Flask is one of the few that remain in the smaller tier (talking size here, not quality), and this Monday night throws a community hip-hop showcase called "Monday of the Minds," where local acts Mike Wing, James EP B, Visitor 10, GVTZ, Rigatony, and Murka converge.

| 9 pm | Flask Lounge, 117 Spring St., Portland |





MANY JEWELS | Ages ago, Mastodon crushed and destroyed. Now, everything having been crushed, they're a good deal more chill. Basic logic there. The Atlanta metal band return to Portland, a city they've slain time and again, with their trade of psychedelic, barrelingly mid-tempo heavy stuff, which somehow doesn't feel weird to hear on the radio? That's no accident. Frontman Brent Hinds stated in an interview a couple years ago that he "fucking hates metal" and "has been trying to get Mastodon to not be such a heavy metal band." Reminds me of the time Jeff Kent, a retired Major League Baseball player of 17 seasons, said in an interview that he hated baseball and would rather be doing NASCAR or something. Kent was notoriously a jerk (just reporting here) and it's unlikely he shares that trait with Hinds. But Mastodon have now been around 17 years themselves, and have battered their way into whatever pantheon of metal lords that would be akin to a Hall of Fame. It's worth considering just what it's like to do something you profess to hate for that long. They play with the Eagles of Death Metal, the sleaze-rock project by former Republican speechwriter Jesse Hughes, a true dark and winding road in human form, and Josh Homme, frontman of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age. You remember Eagles of Death Metal as the band playing the Bataclan Club in Paris in November 2015, when members of ISIL broke in and slaughtered 89 people in a coordinated terrorist attack. Chicago's instrumentalists Russian Circles open.

| $37.50 adv, $42.50 day of | 7:30 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland |  


MANY JEWELS | Depending on your tolerance for crowds, you might have an equal or better time at the Mastodon After-party, a spillover hang at Geno's headed by the New Hampshire metal band KYOTY, and treated with a roughhewn trim by DJ Remy Brecht, he of the mighty noise act Scrotal Tear.

| $2-3 | 10 pm | Geno's Rock Club, 625 Congress St., Portland 


MANY JEWELS | If nothing else, tonight's Air Sex Championship will be a new and singular experience for Portland. Styled as a "comedy show," the event consists of 12 individuals whose stand-up routine consists entirely of pretending to perform the sex act on partners who aren't there, with variable flourish, to music. Discovered, developed, and branded by the comedian Chris Trew in Austin, Texas, in 2008, the Air Sex Championship began using the same model as an Air Guitar Championship. (And props to him for realizing the two are essentially the same thing.) Trew has since toured the show around the country nearly a decade, over which time he's worked hard to keep things as safe and inclusive as they are ridiculous. 21+.

| $14 | 7:30 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland |  




DOING THE WORK | You'll have to leave first thing this morning, but today presents an opportunity to rally with local organizations working for equity, justice, and civil rights for women. Which, as Trump rolls back protections for women in many of their life capacities, has of course been made one of the most vital fights of our era. (For example, he recently rolled back the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order, which affected women in that it actuated paycheck transparency and banned forced arbitration clauses for claims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and discrimination in the workplace.) The Alliance for Maine Women, a new group headed by members of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, have a full day planned at the State House, where from 8 am to 3 pm they'll conduct a briefing on current and proposed legislation, head up a lobby, and hold workshops.

| 8 am-3 pm | Maine State House, 210 State St., Portland |


DYNASTY WORK | Had plenty of great wokka-wokka moments lined up for you here, trust me on that, but now that John Mulaney's show is sold out (twice!) tonight, looks like my work here is done. It also means I can't get into the show. Maybe I'll hang out at Denny's and listen to Tom Jones.

| SOLD OUT | 7 & 10 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland |



MAKE PACTS | Some of the highlights of next week include longtime Portland instrumentalist Stu Mahan joining Andrew Bailie for a set at Blue; theater artist Kevin O'Leary's original play Lascaux, a Parisian thriller, debuts at Mayo Street Arts; and two of Portland's hardest, heaviest bands -- Shabti and Cadaverette -- collide at Geno's.

8 Days A Week: Boss Hogs, Goat-Lions, and Horsemen of the Apocalypse



KILLER PARTY | Film festivals make strange vacations. On the one hand, you got to admit they're low-key national treasures, marrying the best of university and bohemian life into one weekend. I mean, who doesn't love a sanctioned space for challenging ideas in a strange city with a bunch of good bars, intelligent people, and interesting food? On the other, what kind of festival collects a bunch of super-cerebral adults for the sole purpose of sitting motionless in dark rooms six to ten hours a day? Would you rather yell meaningless exhortations with glistening, wealthy co-eds while watching DJ Khaled and Mac DeMarco at Coachella or party head-on with issues like ocean acidification and embedded racism in the military? (Serious life question, actually!) This year's Emerge Film Festival, a Lewiston fixture now in its fourth year, banks on the latter, bringing a studious lineup of Maine-made films, documentaries and narratives, short and feature-length, serious and fanciful. Here's three: Jeffrey Day's A Joyful Day to Behold is a moving portrait of artist and avid motorcyclist John Joslin's last time going out for a ride before the fall hits (a piece exponentially more touching after Joslin's passing last month). Alex Coppola's What're You Scared Of, Kid interviews real Maine children about what lurks in their attics and closets. And Kit Ryan's Property of the State examines an Irish woman struggling with how to love and support her brother after he's been found to be a murderer. There are 49 more, covering a nearly interminable range of topics. Maybe it's your mind that needs a tan.

| $50 (all access), $25 (theater pass), $10 per film | April 27-29 | downtown Lewiston |


HEAR IT | If you read Sultana Khan's story in these pages two weeks ago ("Are Portland Bars Safe For Everyone?" in the April 13 issue), you'd know that April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Well, know it again. One major player to surface in that piece is the Portland nonprofit organization Speak About It, which teaches consent-based sexual education and bystander intervention for public harassment through a holistic, generative blend of performance and storytelling. It is, as they say, the good work. The organization launches their 4th Annual Community Performance at the Portland Public Library tonight, an all-ages event, but with some measure of discretion advised.

| FREE | 5:30 pm | Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Way, Portland |





WE'RE SPINNING | Name a ballet, any ballet. It's Swan Lake! If I'm not right, I'll be right soon, because after Portland Ballet's performance of the Tchaikovsky classic plus the Maine State Ballet's production of the Tchaikovsky classic earlier this month (plus the actual body of water in Waldo County), Mainers won't be able to think of another reason to put on tights. (A shame, there are plenty.) Led by Executive Director Michael Greer, Portland Ballet actually treats us to Act II of Swan, plus an assortment of other pieces they've been working on, in a one-weekend only set of performances starting tonight (and continuing Saturday at 2 pm). | $30 ($20 seniors; $15 students; $10 youth) | 7:30 pm | Westbrook Performing Arts Center, 471 Stroudwater Ave., Westbrook |


LION IN WINTER | Whenever you're in a creative bind, the clearest path out is to pour yourself a hot cup of rooibus tea and consult the annals of Greek mythology, the Western world's inspirational fountain since time began. That's what Portland's Chimera Theatre Collective did during the forming stage of their young drama collective, which they ultimately chose to fashion around the vaguely satanic imagery of a hybrid goat-lion with the snake's tail. (If an actor's goal is to breathe fire, it's a fine goal indeed.) Chimera open a one-weekend-only showing of their first full-length production, a play titled The Secretaries. That's a 1999 script from a playwrighting troupe called Five Lesbian Brothers (known by the government as the New York writers Maureen Angeles, Babs Davy, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey, and Lisa Kron). The play's a satire taking place in an Oregon lumber mill, where a woman's excitement over scoring a dream job winnows once something horrible occurs. Performances for Chimera's debut full-length piece run Thursday through Sunday, where a portion of proceeds benefit Family Crisis Services in Portland. | $20 ($10 for theater people) | 8 pm | Portland Stage Studio Theater, 25A Forest Ave., Portland |

POP-INS | Tucked over at Mayo Street Arts tonight is the latest edition of International Open Mic night, a fine idea steered by local songsmith Jenny Van West, who's a roots-country player in the Emmylou Harris mold. As it goes, we can't say who's on the dance card tonight, but movers, shakers, floutists, singers, and theater artists have shown up in the past. Entry includes a sliding scale for low-income community members. | $10 | 7 pm | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | 



DANCE SAVES | I've lost count of how many consecutive years SPACE Gallery has landed The Dance Cartel, the radical New York-based movement troupe that blurs the space between participatory- and performance-dance, workshop and deep club vibes. It's no coincidence this falls on the last week of April, traditionally the stretch people beat out the dust on all the weird pastel and frilly shit in their closets and walk down the street feeling straight-up human again. There's room for you to watch or dance along in this evening stewarded by Portland DJ Che Ros.

| $10 | 8:30 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland |


EVERYTHING IS A METAPHOR | If you can recall the sound of '90s band Boss Hog, then you're a certain type of animal walking this earth, and it's possible I know you (hey). The punk-blues project of New York's Cristina Martinez and ex-Pussy Galore frontman Jon Spencer, her husband of nearly 30 years, stopped making records in 2000. There was a reunion show in 2008, but that would appear to be that. Especially after the brief, howling, and overall better-than-expected reunion by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion from 2012 to 2015, the most commercially successful of family projects by far, few anticipated a return of Boss Hog, which first began playing its psychotic, carnal rock 'n' roll back in 1989. But last year's Brood X, released after the couple turned 50 and (perhaps uncoincidentally) their son left the nest, suggests they haven't lost a step (and, more importantly, definitely still bone). No less compelling is the opening set by Escape-Ism, another in a long list of James Brown references by D.C. punk icon, writer, performer, and culture critic Ian Svenonius, formerly of Chain and the Gang and the Nation of Ulysses.

| $15 adv, $18 day of | 8:30 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland |


HOW TO GROW | People have been talking about Bayside's transformation for so many years now that it was starting to feel a little kneejerk. Was it actually changing? But with openings by Terlingua, Drifters Wife, Coffee By Design, Baharat, Urban Farm Fermentory, Izakaya Minato, Flying Fox Juice Bar, A&C Grocery, and more over the last 24 months, that Park Slope vibe is truly starting to kick in. Not everything need be a bar or a restaurant, however, so we consider it a good thing that the Fox Field Edible Food Forest, a public landscaping project and neighborhood permaculture site in a small section of nearby Kennedy Park, is near completion after two years of planning. The Food Forest focuses on low-maintenance edible gardening for community benefit, a worthy idea. Projects like these are designed to be accountable to community buy-ins and neighborhood stakeholders, which is something that most high-priced restaurants cannot boast (although sitting down to a nice meal can be wonderful too). The groups behind it (the Resilience Hub and the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization, along with the City of Portland itself) celebrate with a benefit show and party at UFF.

| $5 | 6 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland |





OVERACHIEVER | The unbelievable jazz guitarist Bill Frisell may be one of the most accomplished living American musicians you've never heard of. Once a pioneer in the New York experimental scene of the '80s, where he played with saxophone player and New York underground messiah John Zorn and his ecstatic thrash-jazz project Naked City, Frisell's original compositions have always been more chill, exploring the calm, disciplined intersections where jazz bleeds into country, blues, folk and Americana. A native of the Seattle region since the late '80s, he's here with his trio (including Tony Scherr and Kenny Wolfeson) playing two shows in support of his 36th(!) solo album, When You Wish Upon A Star.

| $38 adv, $45 day of | 6 & 9 pm (two shows) | Blue, 650A Congress St., Portland |


TRUE RELEASE | I'll tell you this, the business of hyping local beer breweries' "release parties" is a tough one. Consider the fatigue, for starters. Beers are "released" all the time. Used to be that "release parties" were reserved for the occasions artists, writers, or musicians, who'd reveal the product of months of creative labor, laying work before a shrewd, grouchy public. These days, when people invite you to a release party, they mean they're ready to pour you a drink with a different quotient of yeast than the last drink they made. If that's art to you, congratulations, you're a happier person than most. We're making an exception with this release by Geary's, because their annual collaboration awarding one MECA artist a scholarship and a summer's worth of exposure on the labels of their Summer Ale (which tastes pretty much as good as anything else to most palates), is a good thing. Unless they've switched it up with the ownership change last winter (also news), Geary's apparently uses some type of mainstream British yeast that true craft beer-lovers tend to psshh at. We appreciate anyone who pays attention to details, there are better things in the world to forge opinions about. This year's winner is Hallie Mitchell, a painter and graphic designer with a broad range of influences (from Gustav Klimt to Bill Patterson's Calvin and Hobbes), a demonstrable set of ethics, and a clean, crisp visual aesthetic. Celebrate the release of these art forms at Geary's Brewery, where you can see more of Mitchell's art, snack on foods from BP's Shuck Shack, and listen to the Dapper Gents.

| FREE | noon-7 pm | Geary's Brewing Company, 38 Evergreen Dr., Portland |




STREET MUSIC | Without fostering a culture of panic, I'd like to think it's been May Day every day since Trump was elected. But today's the one with the Rise Up Immigration Rally, a resistance effort by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement in solidarity with immigrant populations throughout the U.S. Rally location is yet to be announced, but consult the organizers at the Maine People's Alliance for more info.

| 6-8 pm | Portland |



SPOOK'EMS | In the 20th century, we were god-fearing people. In the 21st, it's the mighty Tarot that brings us to our knees. Spend the evening with the "paranormal explorers" of local public access TV series Haunt ME, as they'll conduct one-card tarot readings (you can't handle the Celtic Cross) from 7 to 8 pm in a dark, intimate bar. Haunt ME principals Katie Webb and Ashley Bryan have been investigating the paranormal activity of public and historical Maine landmarks since 2011, and tonight, they celebrate the first episode of Season Four of their show, truly a badass feat. God being dead, remember that the world is a tasteless gruel of incoherent Spaghetti-O's unless you make it otherwise.

| FREE | 7 pm (readings), 8 pm (DJs) | The Bearded Lady's Jewel Box, 644 Congress St., Portland |


APOCALYPSE AGAIN | Providence's B.Dolan has played Portland enough that the city knows him as one of the eminent, engaging indie-rappers of the 21st century. He's here fronting something he's calling the "Four Horsement of the Apocalypse" tour, which also includes his producer DJ Abilities, along with Midwest hip hop duo Cas One and Figure. Diving deeper, Dolan's also the architect behind the anti-corporate website, which he's been working to reestablish after some hiatus. That note's important because B.Dolan's entire thing is politics and social commentary, he sees it everywhere (he's not wrong, it's everywhere). The whole team play with Savannah's Dope KNife (stylized; no typo), a freestyle maestro, and Portland's top biller BRZOWSKI, who's been at this game in some fashion since 1993.

| $17 adv, $20 day of | 7:30 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland |




MANY JEWELS | If music is something you care about, I'm willing to guess you have opinions about genre orthodoxy at concerts. Where is it written that a touring act's openers need to be bands who are trying to sound like them? Certain promoters understand that only rubes listen to music this way, and that the rest of us want diverse, unpredictable evenings. But others seem to think we just stepped off the apple cart, listening-wise. Rest assured, friends, that this amateur aesthetic motif won't befoul you tonight, when the Portland House of Music and Events hosts the Multicultural Music Fest, a lineup that consists of Congolese drumming group Mdondo Africa, Cuban dance group Primo Cubano, ageless Maine acoustic songwriter Don Campbell, and the Sudo Sudo Dancers, an incredible dance group of young Portlanders originally from South Sudan.

| $15 | 6-9 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | 




DOING THE WORK | For white people, the work of transformative justice presents many questions that are hard to reckon with. In this evening's film, Philadelphia filmmaker Andre Robert Lee suggests that one of them, I'm Not Racist, Am I?, might be better served as an open, public conversation rather than a private recrimination. Lee's the filmmaker behind 2014's The Prep School Negro, a film about his experience of transitioning from, as he puts it, the ghetto where he grew up to an elite prep school by way of a full scholarship. The scope of I'm Not Racist is less narrative and more discursive, following a group of high school students in a year-long effort to "get to the heart of racism." Don't expect a panacea or quick solution, but anything that models the process by which white folks can practice accountability on this issue is a good thing.

| FREE | 7 pm | University of Southern Maine, Luther Bonney Hall, 96 Falmouth St., Portland |


IN THE FOXHOLE | Meanwhile at SPACE Gallery, the third in this season's series of Think & Drink discussions (titled "Policing, Community, Protection, and Trust in the 21st Century") produced by the Maine Humanities Council, explores the precarious systems of policing, justice and security in Portland and nationwide. Previous forums this spring have covered the notions of criminality and "who gets to be a police officer." This one homes in on the issue of surveillance, and the encroachment of police presence and access into the daily lives of Americans. Facilitated by Samaa Abdurraqib, a USM professor and full-time worker with the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, tonight's event encourages breakout sessions and group discussion, and is propelled by a panel consisting of Robert Bryant, chief of police of the Penobscot Indian Nation; Leroy Rowe, assistant professor of African American Studies and History at USM; and Zach Heiden of the ACLU of Maine. The free event -- titled "Who's Watching Whom?" -- begins at 6:30.

| FREE | 6:30 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | 


DYNASTY WORK | If you missed the screening of Peace, Love, and Zoo, Portland filmmaker Reggie Groff's "exuberant, radiant" (according to Megan Grumbling in these pages in the March 27 issue) documentary of Portland art guru Zoo Cain, you've got another shot tonight, when the feature screens once more at the Nickelodeon. Catch Groff as he follows the "dude-like" (in the Lebowski sense) Cain talking about his painting, displaying his youthfulness and vitality, and sharing the arc of his recovery from addiction, depression, and cancer.

| $8 | 7:30 pm | NIckelodeon Cinemas, 1 Temple St., Portland |




MAKE PACTS | Next week, there's a dance-theater show at Bowdoin I'm looking forward to telling you about. In the meantime, you should choose a day (in May) you're first going to go swimming, and stick to it at all costs.

Risk, Bravery, Desire: Derek Jackson's 'Ladyboy' at Border Patrol

Ladyboy is a solo exhibition featuring new works by Derek Jackson.

It's the second exhibition at the new Border Patrol gallery, a studio of three modestly sized rooms in the State Theatre building, whose curator-proprietors (Elizabeth Spavento and Jared Haug) describe its mission as exploring the notions of government agency and the intersections of contemporary art and corporate aesthetics.

Put another way, it's a converted office space on the third floor of an old and stodgy building, and it contains one of the most directly confrontational, ecstatic, and liberatory shows I've seen in Portland in a while.

I want to talk about trans and gender narratives that aren’t featured in the mainstream. I want to talk about cross dressing. I want it to be about genitals, just for one day. And sex work. And faces. Beautiful faces. And gender expression that isn’t about craft or identity, that isn’t an end but a means.

Growing up near Houston, Texas, Jackson has been making art in Portland since moving here in 2003. In my first time writing about him, for an exhibition called “Honey Cling To Me," a show of paintings of male friends’ bodies — specifically bears — that he rendered in fantastical visual vocabulary at Two Point Gallery in 2010, Jackson rendered his subjects on “large fabric canvases dripping with ecstatic paint.” But those subjects were only mostly naked, depicted wearing loin cloths or towels, or their genitals otherwise obscured by painterly fantasia.

In Ladyboy, the stakes are higher. (Yes, that’s a phallic pun.)

These are the stories we aren’t supposed to hear or tell. They subvert our fight to not be murdered just for being who we are. I feel honored to be an artist and to hold these stories. I feel compelled to make them beautiful, to embellish and seduce. To convince you that this is ok. Then I remember, it’s not about pleasing the audience or being ok. It’s about Ladyboy.

Ladyboy is the latest in an ongoing series of Jackson's fascinations with bodies and types, most of them male-identified. Although this one’s different, as it’s noticeably, unapologetically suffused with desire. Adorning the front room of Border Patrol are several paintings of relished bodies of individuals Jackson has graced with some gender-transcendent flourish. Many of them are pictured belly-up and supine, holding healthy, tumescent cocks in the foreground which seem to split the frame into two hemispheres. Their bodies are in positions that seem to emphasize both their taut musculature and vulnerability, as if seen through the lens of a webcam. They're crude, maybe, but they're not exactly vulgar.   

I'm going to draw and paint the fuck out of this painting with an urgent need to engage in pleasure and expression without persecution. I don’t care if it’s the same painting over and over. I don’t care if I’m good at drawing hands. I don’t care if it’s a simple expression of a couple of ideas. I need to do this.

One of the most prominent elements of Ladyboy is indeed its repetition. Jackson draws and paints these images over and over, again and again, with in different colorations and patterns and swells. On different surfaces and mediums. Even different bodies in the same formation. Directly on the white gallery wall. Unlike the earlier series, where he's endeavored to capture the quiet spiritual wisdom of bears, the indeterminate fierceness of "faery cunts," and the taboo and "exploitable" society of twinks, desire is a primary fuel for this work. He speaks about it to me in the same way he seems to paint — with equal parts respect, hunger, and care, and with no time for the tired gesticulations of shame or the social rituals of furtively dancing around the subject. This is about what it is about.

And it reminds me that Jackson's is, to borrow another artist's description of Derek once said to me in a private conversation, an incredibly "anti-Yankee" way to make art, meaning that it has little regard for the ministrations of temperance and privacy that many of us in New England perform. They meant it as a compliment. (And yes, he is good at drawing hands.)

I'm reflecting the desire to dress, to cross dress, as a way to get to a different place. To be different than I was before, than we were, before. Maybe drugs or alcohol makes it easy for you to go there. Maybe it’s a place you return to on occasion or every day. But this isn’t just about totems either. I'm finding humanity and strength in the simple play with things I love. I am handling materials like lumber and sheetrock — stereotypically thought of as masculine — in a way that subverts their intended use, regardless of validation or whether any house was built. Am I holding up a roof caving under the weight of expectations around respectability? Does this show do anything to make it safer for anyone? I so desperately want it to. This world is not safe. I would be kidding you if I believed a painting could change that. But this isn’t about the world. This is about Ladyboy.

In a darkened room softlit by lush purple LEDs in the back of the gallery hang several small woodboards (each of them roughly 12" by 18" inches). Upon them, Jackson has affixed a photographic cutout image of a naked man — "dadbods," he affectionately calls them — each of them femmed up with long, flowing hair Jackson's drawn in the empty space surrounding their figures. The images are gathered from the internet, he tells me, which is supported by their blank, poached-in-space poses and slightly vacantly desirous stares. This back room, Jackson explains, is a tribute to those in pornography who perform on the business end of glory holes, a practice in which, he explains, one man who's generally of a lower status remains largely concealed, "exalting" another from a superlative class, like a fireman or an engineer. This room is in tribute to the one doing the exalting.

This is about life in the shadows and on the fringe. This is about your brother, father, coworker or friend. This is about being a tech geek during the week and letting down your long black hair as an androgynous goth lord on the weekends. This is about transforming pain into a flawless ability to serve contour for days. This is about a big load from daddy all over your face because you’ve been a good girl. This is about violence and beauty living side by side in the perfume of sex for sale. Ladyboy is here and she’s dressed for you.

And it strikes me that, in the present-day art milieu of Portland, Derek is one of the only artists consistently making risky work. We love our digestible art up here, our dappled landscapes and old master paintings whose only permissible expression of sex is some obscure symbolic reference one only picks up if they look through the imperious peephole of the male gaze. Jackson's other full-time project, the music/dance hybrid performance poetry of Hi Tiger, is similarly unabashedly body-positive and intimate. I bring that up here because it's revelatory to witness Derek's work, to read the way he describes it (his exhibit description is included in full in the italicized text here) and at once feel the twin sensations that this work is risky, and this work is positive. Positive in the sense of its goodness and its bravery.

It's a bravery so powerful that I have to say it guides me here, where as a straight cis white man who writes about art and culture, I'm acutely aware of the risks in attempting to "critique" such a show for the broader public, as well as the limitations in the language available to me in describing this exhibition (along with the deficiencies we at this paper and all of Maine media carry in covering the work of marginalized and oppressed artists literally all the time). And while audiences for this sort of thing tend to be self-selecting, it's with a great deal of admiration and awe that I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the work Jackson's doing, here or elsewhere. Even if it's only to take down that inner Yankee a peg.

"Ladyboy," works by Derek Jackson | Through May 12 | Border Patrol, 142 High St., Ste. 309, Portland |

An earlier version of this review misstated the gallery that showed Jackson's "Honey Cling To Me" exhibition in 2010.  

  • Published in Art
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