Art Beat - Local Reviews


2-18-11 & 2-25-11
Zombie in the Mourning, says, “You can make fun of just about anything,”

It began with an e-mail.
Dave G. Fico, co-creator of Zombie in the Mourning, says, “You can make fun of just about anything,” as he, along with co-creator Solon ‘Stevie’ Tsangaras, took the time to sit down with me last Thursday at the Green Toad Bookstore in Oneonta, New York.  What has grown into a brand that now incorporates a website, facebook page, merchandise, and – the initial purpose of our meeting – a book, began as daily humorous e-mails sent by Fico to his sister.  The e-mails caught the eye of Tsangaras, who suggested Fico take the project a step further.
 “People need to laugh,” says Tsangaras, whose helpful suggestions led to the inception of the duo’s facebook page which, having gained nearly two thousand fans, has introduced Mourning to a considerably larger audience.  It’s “all the news unfit to print,” he continues.  Earning its title from Fico and Tsangaras’ mutual love of the zombie genre, Mourning offers humorous commentary on real-world activity, but with a decidedly undead slant.  It is an absolutely original, undeniably fun and satirical approach to the chaos, and often hilarity, of the world around us.  Its immethodical madness has caught on quickly (or as Fico and Tsangaras would say: “the infection has spread”) and the fan count continues to rise.
Tsangaras offers his opinion on the ever-growing fan response: “If you take something that’s really happening and put a little twist on it, it will make you think.”  It is a method that speaks to the popularity of such satirical programs as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report.  “Everyone’s involved,” says Fico, citing celebrities, politics, and religion as some of their top fodder, with the basic principal behind it all being very simple; “If we can make ourselves laugh,” Fico continues, “let’s see if we can get an audience to  The entries on the constantly updating facebook page have provided Fico and Tsangaras with ample material, enough in fact to start a book series in which the humorous musings are offered, for the first time, in print.  Zombie in the Mourning: Chronicles, Volume 1 is the first in what the duo hopes will become a long running series, but is only one of numerous brand expansion ideas fueled by their seemingly endless inventiveness.
Both men, for now, seem comfortable with where the project has taken them and are happy with the number of people it has reached.  It is certainly fresh, but most importantly fun, a trait that finds its roots in the purpose of Fico’s initial e-mails that set this whole zombie affair into motion.  “I’m enjoying it,” he says, “[Steve’s] teaching me a lot.”  The book’s publication itself has proved a learning curve for the creative partners, each already finding things that they can improve on for Volume 2.  “We’re going to make mistakes,” says Fico, “but we’re going to carry on.”
Zombie in the Mourning has also inspired Fico to write a novel (with some touch-ups by Tsangaras), over two hundred pages of which are already completed.  Even though he’s still hard at work finishing it, he’s already brainstorming ideas for another.  The two men seem completely at ease with each other, sharing a light-hearted rapport that is a little charming, a little grotesque, and always a lot of fun.  It is easy to understand, when watching them converse, how their little idea has exploded into something much bigger.
 Zombie in the Mourning: Chronicles, Volume 1 is now available at The Green Toad Bookstore, located on Main Street, Oneonta or by ordering from the official site,  It will be exciting to see how this unique brand continues to expand.  It seems no one is looking forward to it more than Fico and Tsangaras, who offer, when asked what lies ahead for the project, “There will always be strange things coming out of Zombie in the Mourning.”  Watch out, folks, we may have just stumbled upon the next big thing.

Studio 52 Brings World Of Art, Crafts, Photographs To County’s Door 

A sampling of fair-trade crafts from Studio 52.

Kenya.  Nepal.  Senegal.
    All of these locations seem a far cry away from this little village, but they – and many more – are actually much closer than you might think, 52 Pioneer St.
Serving as both a fair-trade crafts shop and a gallery for local artists, Studio 52, founded by CCS alum Dory Dawson, delivers a vibrant splash of diverse cultural artistry to the village.
While there are varying definitions of fair trade, the most widely accepted was adopted in 2001 by the International Fair Trade movement and describes the process as “a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade.  It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.”
Studio 52 has made its home in a room that – small in size – is brimming with artistry, history and customs that extend from small town New York to the far reaches of the globe.
Upon entering, visitors are immediately greeted with a welcome assault of colorful liveliness that all but leaps from the numerous crafts that populate the small space.
Not only do the various items stem from diverse cultures, they embody a broad range of purposes, ranging from the practical (handmade soaps and cutlery) to the decorative (sculptures, masks, and photographs populate the bright orange walls).
The space bursts with a collective world energy, a cultural uniformity born out of a wide assortment of artisans whose works are as unique as the locales from which they hail.
Tables around the Studio are pleasantly packed with everything from Nepalese woolen hats to colorful South African bracelets crafted from telephone wire.
Visit one table and you will find hats and gloves woven from recycled silk.  Step to another for “high altitude shade grown” organic fair trade coffee from Peru, Brazil, and Ethiopia.
Hanging all around the room are sculptures and ornaments constructed from recycled metal, old Coca-Cola and Fanta cans (among other brands) having been transformed into starfish, lizards, giraffes, and other various shapes.
The work of local photographers is also prominently displayed, with impressive photographs from Dawson and Wesley Bernegger (who helps run the shop) documenting time spent in China.
Also hanging is the work of fellow Cooperstown alum Skyla Pojednic.  Her photographs, taken in Italy, play with depth and perspective while Peter Llewellyn’s capture local environments in an original and unexpected manner that makes them feel exciting and fresh.
Also featured are the ceramics of Mark Eggers, a resident of the Albany area and two books on Latin America from local author Benjamin Dangl.  Dawson creates much of Studio 52’s unique jewelry herself (customers can request and design jewelry to their personal specifications as well) and offers sessions on the craft by appointment.
Dawson’s mission in creating the space, as it appears on the shop’s official site ( is “to provide an interface for up-and-coming artists, both local and global.”  It is a goal for which she should be extremely proud of having reached.
The combination of local and world artisans within Studio 52 establishes its environment as one in tune, not only to the community, but to the globe.  It is a reminder that, as divided as we may be by barriers of language and belief, there remains a universal artistic current that runs through all of us.

Eric Bliss of Middlefield, a CCS and Elmira College grad, is writing Art Beat weekly.  His e-mail is

Eden Brent: A Big Voice In A Small Town
Taken by: Kristin Bergene
Eden Brent sang for three hours at The Otesaga.

‘I love the piano,” Eden Brent whispers with glee as she pauses during a rousing number to listen to the hypnotic reverberation of the instrument’s strings. 
The feeling seems to be mutual.  During Brent’s nearly three-hour performance at The Otesaga, courtesy of the Cooperstown Concert Series Saturday, Jan. 8, her fingers glide so naturally across the keys that the piano ceases to serve merely as an accompaniment and becomes an extension of Brent herself.
The moment she takes the stage her cheerful demeanor shines.  “Thanks for the warm welcome in such cold weather,” she beams during the first act, “Y’all have thawed me right out.” 
Brent immediately establishes herself as both a powerhouse vocalist and virtuoso pianist.  Her low, raspy voice soars powerfully as her entire body pulses with electric musicality, her long brown hair vibrating to the deep, full sound.
Firmly embedded in the blues genre, Brent’s style is a welcome trip to a past era.  That is not to suggest that she does not have anything new to offer. Unquestionably classic, she still manages to throw in an original spin that is thoroughly modern.
It is refreshing to see a performer so utterly infatuated with her profession.  Her animated expressions and frequent laughter reveal that Ms. Brent is as excited to be performing as the audience is to be watching her.  She seems just as content to give herself a good chuckle as she is to entertain the concertgoers.  Like the audience, she is there to have a good time.
Brent’s fun-loving approach results in nearly immediate audience reaction, both vocal – thunderous applause and enthusiastic cheering follow every number – and physical; a few audience members – two young girls and an adult couple – even hop up from their seats during the more upbeat numbers to dance, proving that, while blues may be an old genre, it still has a vibrant pulse in hearts of all ages.
The featured set is a colorful variety of tunes ranging from original music to covers of classic tracks such as Bessie Smith’s “Take Me to the Electric Chair,” Aretha Franklin’s “Think (Freedom),” and the Eagles’ “Take it to the Limit.”  Her original pieces garner strength, not only from her exceptional technique, but also in that they are borne out of personal, often humorous, events that she shares with the audience. 
“She’s about as interesting as a broom handle,” Brent deadpans about her father’s young girlfriend, before going on to croon her brutally honest, but undeniably exuberant “In Love With Your Wallet.”
Although a heavy portion of Brent’s repertoire is energized with a fast-paced, show-stopping frenzy that would put Jerry Lee Lewis to shame, her voice shines just as brightly on slower, melancholic tunes such as “Beyond My Broken Dreams” and “Goodnight Moon.”
As happy as she seems to be belting out crowd-pleaser after crowd-pleaser, Brent appears equally at home whilst giving her big voice a break to let her fingers do the talking. 
As if by muscle memory, she offers impressive musical interludes on the piano.  Also given small moments to shine are Brent’s accompanying bassist and drummer, the latter of which is featured briefly as a vocalist and displays a knack for the “Mississippi Saxophone,” (a harmonica, for those of us unversed in Southern colloquialisms).
Eden Brent is a tremendous talent, a big voice resonating in a small town.  It is a pleasure to see the Cooperstown Concert Series continue to bring such diverse acts to our little village.  A gracious Brent, before singing her final notes, offers humbly, “I believe from now on I’m going to have to call it: ‘Cooperstown, my town.’”  Ms. Brent, you are welcome back any time you like.

Eric Bliss of Middlefield, a CCS and Elmira College grad, has assumed Art Beat duties.