See and Hear: A New Art and Music Series at Nightlight

Especially for 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday, it was crowded at Nightlight on April 21. The taco potluck on the Chapel Hill nightclub’s patio probably helped boost attendance, as did the fairly long list of names—each with its own distinct coterie of fans and friends—on the program. But mostly, people seemed excited to check out a brand-new curated event, “See & Hear,” that seeks to put local musicians and visual artists into equal dialogue rather than segregating them in their respective clubs and galleries. An eclectic, atmospheric, and well-paced first event, it left me eagerly anticipating the second installment.

See & Hear is the brainchild of three curators who worked together over the course of months to assemble this first show under the rubric of “Blood & Water.” Charlie Hearon, a co-owner of both Nightlight and All Day Records, is the music partner. For Blood & Water, he selected three musicians. Each of them gave brief performances of 15 to 20 minutes, with commensurate gaps between sets to draw attention, conversation, and perhaps sales to the art on the large easels and walls.
Zeke Gravesbegan the night by playing violin figures through effects like a rustic, wordless Arthur Russell before switching to electric guitar and pedal board to perform some of his shimmering pastoral blues. Cornelius F. Van Stafrin IIIturned in a clear and commanding drone performance for amplified magnetic tape, a bowed one-stringed Indian instrument, and antlers scraped on the floor. He also brought visual art into the music, his face hidden by a white shawl as he dripped and smeared food coloring over a leaf-veined pattern projected on a scrim.
The musical and visual integration continued in a closing set by Mike Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger—a big draw at a time when his new album, Haw, is gaining great national notices—where artist Jina Valentine slide-projected bleached images along with Taylor’s dreamy, delay-flickered instrumentals and intimate, ominous vocal performances.
Leigh Suggs, a UNC-trained artist who works with mixed media and on paper, is See & Hear’s art partner. The artists she selected hooked into the Blood & Water theme from various angles. Valentine, a UNC professor who also showed an interesting-in-theory textual video work where she pronounced individual letters for a long time—it had something to do with Foucault—entered two of the strongest pieces in the show: cut paper scenes of firefighters putting out burning cars (there’s your water) during Parisian riots (and the blood).
Gory reds and watery blacks permeated what were mostly small, coarse paintings by the mysterious “Oleg Lulin,” who—blind item!—may or may not be the alter ego of a certain well-known local artist (keep an eye on the photos). And David Winton’s photographs laid bare the implicit “thicker than” relationship between blood and water with discreetly forlorn images of family and home. One of a houseplant spraying from an absorbing darkness, “Leaves,” was particularly arresting.
Winton is the overseer, set-designer, and originator of the See & Hear idea. A transplant to Chapel Hill from Jackson, Mississippi, he got the idea on a visit home when he encountered a music and art event called Land Vs Ocean.  “I saw the video they made of it,” Winton says, “and I knew I either had to make something like it here or move home.” With a little help, he built easels and designed lighting to display the artworks, including two large, custom-made paper-and-wood lamps onstage.
The goal, Winton says, is to serve up “finger sandwiches of music and art” in an atmosphere that makes them feel special and contiguous, all while capturing the event with an edited video document. Look for that soon to tide you over until the second See & Hear event, currently being planned for October.