Scene & Herd - You're either in or out

Fashion, flesh and folk art

Boys who like boys, a few girls who like girls, and several straight-but-not-narrow people have been gathering at Mary's in East Atlanta to watch "Project Runway" on Wednesday nights.

Last week, the festivities were emceed by DJ Yes Sir, who turned down the volume on the bar's TVs during commercials and whipped out a microphone to interview patrons about the contestants and their creations. It's like a gay version of Monday Night Football at a sports bar, complete with drink specials and cheering (and jeering) fans. Fabulous.</
Everyone called for the ousting of the dippy and annoying cast member Vincent, while voicing full support for local boy Michael Knight. In the end, Knight won the round, but Vincent survived to design another day. Instead, blonde, blue-eyed Alison, object of desire for several of Mary's female patrons, got the axe, resulting in a loud round of booing from the bar. The atmosphere is fun and casual, so if you're into fashion, reality TV or just looking for a giggle on a Wednesday night, check it out.</
Flesh roasting over a fire speaks to some deep, possibly pre-human instinct within me, kind of like doing it doggie style, so I continued my quest for the perfect 'cue last week with a trip to Decatur for Maddy's Rib & Blues Joint. The building has served as a barbecue restaurant for half a century or more, but I haven't enjoyed its previous incarnations as much as the current flavor. I opted for the ribs and chopped pork combo. The chopped pork is cooked with sauce in it, a recipe I don't support. You end up tasting nothing but sauce. Maddy's sauce is tangy and light, but I'd rather taste the meat. The ribs, on the other hand, are delicious. They're slightly charred, so you get an extra-smoky taste, and basted on one side with a thin glaze of sauce, just enough to keep them from getting dry but not so much that it overpowers the pork — near perfect. On yet another hand, the beans are so sweet and tart, you may as well order them for dessert. Maddy's has live blues and offers an impressive selection of beer. It's a worthwhile stop on any barbecue pilgrimage around town.

Afterward, I stopped by Theatre Decatur for Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy, an improv group made up of four talented actresses and one keyboardist for accompaniment. They took suggestions from the audience — a familiar setup to anyone who's watched improv or "Whose Line is it Anyway?" — and turned them into skits covering topics from birthday disappointments to a magic beer cooler that summoned a Duffman-like genie. The ladies are confident, fast on their feet and got quite a few laughs from the friends and family who made up the sparse audience. If you're not getting enough comedy in your life, look up GLOC at www.gorgeousladiesofcomedy.com. The theater is set to host some interesting shows in the coming months, including Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest in September.</
While Maddy's ribs are superior to the chopped pork, I found the opposite to be true on Saturday during a trip to Roswell's Swallow at the Hollow. Their baby back ribs are covered with entirely too much sweet, vaguely teriyaki-flavored sauce. I could hardly find the meat under this goop. The Brunswick stew is more like a puree than a stew and not recommended. But all is more than forgiven with the restaurant's chopped pork sandwich. Served sans sauce, packed with smoky flavor and piled on toasted homemade white bread, it's a damn fine sandwich. They offer several sauces on the table — tomato, mustard or vinegar-based, all of which impressed me. The three-bean baked beans are tasty, too, and the strange little sweet/sour/hot pickle salad that comes with the plates is interesting. It's not the easiest place to find, but worth the hunt if you share my passion for the pig.

I have to confess that when it comes to art, I am an "insider" — I have been formally trained in the visual arts and hold a degree in sculpture. But I left my credentials at home to sneak into Folk Fest 2006, an "outsider art" show and sale that filled up the warehouse-like space of the North Atlanta Trade Center way out in Gwinnett. I haven't been much of a fan of works labeled "folk art," but as I wandered through aisle after aisle of the stuff, I began to realize I like about the same percentage of "untrained" artists' works as I do those of my fellow trained artists. I think it's the lack of subtlety or multiple meanings that appeal to patrons of folk art. The whimsical nature of much of the work isn't challenging, and who wants to be challenged by art in their own home after life's day-to-day challenges? Instead of wondering what these artists are trying to say, you can focus on wondering what they were trying to represent, since often the work is so crude that it approaches abstraction.</
That being said, I suspect many of the folks presenting work at Folk Fest 2006 were actually insiders. Some understood perspective, and others knew how to blend colors to create delicate shading in paintings. It makes me wonder if I could pawn off my many artistic failures as "folk art," sort of like writing porn under a pen name. But then I'd probably have to do more work incorporating the holy trinity of folk art — Jesus, Mary and Elvis.</

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