Exploring avenues of local art

The Buffalo Small Press Book Fair exhibited a wide scope of artistic, literary work

The Spectrum

The Karpeles Manuscript Library, a repurposed church, housed a world of literature one might not expect to find in Buffalo. Vendors selling everything from self-published poetry books to posters, T-shirts and felt creatures lined the oval floor while shoppers milled about, reading excerpts and learning about the sellers' crafts.

The eighth annual Buffalo Small Press Book Fair ran from Thursday to Sunday. Poetry and fiction readings were held Thursday and Friday evening at the Western New York Book Arts Center. The fair itself was Saturday and Sunday at Karpeles.

Sponsors included the UB Poetry Collection, the Buffalo State College Art Conservation Department, Talking Leaves Books and the Western New York Book Arts Center. The fair encompassed the key organizations of Buffalo's literary scene while promoting the talents of lesser known artists and authors in the area.

For students in the fine arts and humanities, post-undergraduate life can be daunting as the "Will I get a job?" question lingers in the back of their minds. At fairs like this, however, it is clear that someone with a passion for literary arts can find a niche in Buffalo.

Steve Ardo, a UB alumnus who graduated in 2012 with a degree in graphic design with a concentration in communication design, said that during college, he did not know what he wanted to do after graduation.

While taking a class with John Jennings, a visual studies associate professor, Ardo realized he liked comic book art, one of Jennings' major focuses.

Today, Ardo designs and illustrates fliers and handbills for basement and house shows in what he calls "Buffalo's do-it-yourself music scene." After his friend in a punk band asked Ardo to make a flyer for a show, Ardo ended up designing the fliers for all of the band's shows. Ardo said after that, he began meeting more musicians and started designing fliers for more and more bands.

Although Ardo was uncertain during his undergraduate years about his future, his love of punk, combined with a passion for design, allowed him to "figure it out a year after the fact" and get involved in the do-it-yourself music scene.

Starcherone Books, spear-headed by Ted Pelton, who received his Ph.D. in English from UB, is a slightly more traditional part of Buffalo's arts than Ardo. Not by much though.

Sarah Kinne, an editor at Stacherone, believes the fair is an opportunity to help to get out the names of authors published by Stacherone. Kinne said Stacherone publishes innovative fiction that might not have a place in mainstream fiction. The press supports emerging authors as well as ones who are more established.

Some titles published by the group include A Heaven of Others by Joshua Cohen, Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows by the language poet Leslie Scalapino and four works by the late Raymond Federman, a former SUNY distinguished professor emeritus of English at UB, according to Stacherone's website.

Dr. Dimitri Anastasopolous, an associate English professor, is on the board of directors at Stacherone, which, according to the publishing group's website, "seeks to educate the public in small press publishing and encourage the growth of other small presses."

While Ardo helps the Buffalo punk scene reach out to its audiences, Pelton takes a goofy and slightly cynical approach to the work of Stacherone; the press' business card reads, "Books have ruined my life and now I want to ruin yours."

Prints were abundant at the fair, exhibiting everything from architectural jewels of Buffalo to the story of the Umbrella Man. At the fair, David Huurman, who graduated from Buffalo State College with a degree in printmaking, and Nicholas Dowgwillo, a lecturer at Buffalo State, were selling prints they made as well as ones from other artists.

Huurman joked that he always wanted to call his stands "Books by David and Prints by David," imitating Beats by Dre. Huurman and Dowgwillo recall "falling into" printmaking - Hurrman through courses at Buffalo State and Dowgwillo when he wanted to make T-shirts as an undergraduate student.

Huurman's prints at the fair were of animals, which he says were part of his thesis show at Buffalo State. But he said his current work has totally changed, and he is interested in combining printmaking and animation.

Dowgwillo is intrigued by the history of printmaking as prints are "for a mass audience rather than an elite audience," as paintings historically have been. Dowgwillo recognizes and explores the political nature of prints.

Also present at the fair was the oldest feminist literary and arts periodical, Earth's Daughters, a multi-generational women's collective located in Buffalo. The periodical has been continually published since 1971 and publishes approximately twice a year, according to Kastle Brill, one of the periodical's editors. Earth's Daughters features the submitted work of women and men from inside and outside of Buffalo.

Although the group is not officially connected to UB, Brill said the UB Poetry Collection maintains an archive of Earth's Daughters' issues and has a subscription to the periodical. The founder of Earth's Daughters, Judith Kerman, received her Ph.D. in English from UB, according to Brill.

Earth's Daughters has organized reading series in the past, including the Gray Hair Series that is currently on recess, according to Brill. She said the group noticed there were more readings in Buffalo for students' works than for older writers, so Earth's Daughters organized the series. Members of Earth's Daughters are involved in organizing other poetry series across Buffalo, including the Wordflight series at Pausa Art House in Allentown.

The scope of artistic and literary work being done in and around Buffalo by local artists at the Small Press Book Fair showed that one's passions could turn into viable options for the future.

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