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Maybe Ice-T knew all along. But it would have been hard for us to predict that the streetwise rap pioneer, who was the mouthpiece of dissent and dissolver of musical boundaries would, at 60, be one of the busiest men in showbiz. In a May phone call with (614), he joked that he has “14 [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Maybe Ice-T knew all along.

But it would have been hard for us to predict that the streetwise rap pioneer, who was the mouthpiece of dissent and dissolver of musical boundaries would, at 60, be one of the busiest men in showbiz.

In a May phone call with (614), he joked that he has “14 jobs outside of being in Body Count.” Between his numerous acting gigs, his reality show, his commercials, and his ever-evolving music career, it’s a wonder he still has time pack up and tour with guitarist Ernie C. and his long-time Body Count confidants. But, Ice finds a way.

Now more than ever, Body Count’s rebellious, anti-racist, anti-authoritarian screed is extremely relevant. Last year’s Bloodlust, the hardcore band’s sixth record, deals in the same vicious rhetoric, on songs like “No Lives Matter” and “Black Hoodie,” that informed “Cop Killer” two decades ago. Ice feels so strongly about Body Count’s place in this new world order that it’s become priority and he’ll bring that rage to the Rock on the Range festival this month. And despite his glowing celebrity, Ice is never one to mince words or worry too much about political correctness, as I found out in a rare conversation with hip-hop’s original gangster and renaissance man.

How do you balance that fury and that voice with your celebrity? Does it still cause controversy? I always just continue to do what I’ve always done. I wear a lot of jackets and the song remains the same, I’m still standing out against what’s wrong in the world.

In your opinion, does today’s hip-hop (or punk or metal for that matter) still have the same vitality? Does it still have the same social influence or rebellion that it did when Slayer and Public Enemy were fighting “fake news?” It’s hard to speak about it because it’s a different era. This new 

age of people deals with things differently. We didn’t have the Internet. We didn’t have the same ways to address issues. I’ve gotten away from making comments about music, because the kids will address things in their way.

That said, have we reached a new low with Trump? And how do we combat that? I’m curious as to what Ice-T thinks? People are spending too much time complaining about Trump and not doing anything about it. The midterms are coming up and we don’t have anyone who will step up to the plate. We can complain about him all we want but we need a candidate, right? The problem is nobody wants to be President. Everyone understands he’s insane, but who’s going to take his place is the question.

“Cop Killer” was a watershed moment in 1992. Now more than 25 years later, do you think that message is still vital, maybe even more so considering the advent of social media and the spotlight on police brutality? Cop Killer” was a protest song.  I think it’s sad that I can sing a song from 25 years ago and it’s still going on. Twenty-five years ago, you didn’t have camera [phones]; you didn’t have the evidence to prove what I was saying. It was easy to call me crazy and someone to call it confusion, but now I’ve been vindicated. What I was talking about 25 years ago was going on and it’s still going on. That’s what’s sad.

In the greatest irony, you ended up playing a cop on TV. Do you ever get flak for this career move? People from my background are always happy when someone becomes successful and stays out of trouble. I’ve never gotten any flak from anyone who I have respected.

I recently read an interview where you said about the current … millennial generation that, “they grew up on Obama. They’re soft today.” Can you expand on that sentiment? Obama made it feel like everything was going to be alright. He was a very mellow, calming, guy. Now we have a new president who makes everyone feel like the world is coming to an end. That’s a wake-up call and in a way, that’s needed. That’s why people say “woke” now. We need to stay woke and keep up with the politics and stay on top of things. That’s the only thing that’s going to change the world we live in.

I’m a high school English teacher—and I always impart a nugget of wisdom you introduced in 1989: “Freedom of speech/just watch what you say.” I feel it’s just as potent as it was on the Iceberg album. Where does the first amendment stand these days? The first amendment is just a concept. You can say all you want, but the question is applying it. We all have the right to say whatever we want, but you have to be prepared to fight for the ramifications of what you say. It doesn’t mean free speech without penalty. It just means it’s legal to say anything; it’s not illegal, but that doesn’t mean someone can’t address you outside the law.

There’s a whole new generation of Body Count fans now who don’t know about 1992 and what that band represented then. What message are you trying to send to that new generation? Courage … have courage to say what you feel about whatever. It’s the same thing that happened when punk rock started—just speak your mind. Don’t be afraid. If you speak your mind, you’ll find out that a lot of people agree with you. A lot of people don’t know that Body Count is very much anti-racism and we are all probably angry at the same shit. Divide and conquer has always been the tactic and it works. Don’t let anyone turn us against each other.

If you were to run for president—which you have to be honest, with Trump, is completely possible—what would the pillar of your campaign be? Anyone with any intelligence would never want to be President of the United States. That’s just the worst job you could have. But if I was magically in control of the country? The pillar of my campaign would be education. Teachers would be the highest paid. They would all make over $100,000 a year easily. They have to be admired. I would make it that, if you wanted to go to college, it would be free. It wouldn’t matter if you wanted to learn a trade or academics, if you want to learn, you need to be able to learn for free. It would affect the way our economy works. It would lower the amount of people in prison because there would be more hope. And it would drastically change the way the United States is set up right now because there wouldn’t be so many dumb f**ks walking around.

Body Count plays Rock on the Range Friday May 18. For more information and daily lineups visit rockontherange.com.

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Arts & Culture

Thinking Big: The Amazing Giants bring circus arts to events across town

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If you have been to a local festival, parade, or corporate event where you’ve seen stilt walkers, fire-eaters, hula-hoopers or lyra artists, there’s a good chance you’ve been in the presence of an Amazing Giant. Founded in 2011 by Jessica Minshall, The Amazing Giants was born out of one woman’s love of stilt walking and her friends’ desire to learn the skill. Now a new challenge is looming for the group—a business expansion to Hawaii.

Working in the service industry, Minshall saw a need in Columbus for a different type of entertainment. She taught herself how to walk on stilts for a festival gig out of state. This new hobby intrigued a group of her friends, and they decided to learn, too. From there, The Amazing Giants were born. “My partner and I bought a lot of stilts and just taught people how to do it,” she said. “We all found each other.”

What began as a few friends learning a new skill and having fun together practicing it evolved into a booming business with 40 employees and contract workers, including magicians, face painters and more. They are hired for events to do everything from wearing full bodysuits covered in tiny mirrors and dancing to wearing and serving champagne from large metal skirts to dazzle a crowd.

“We have evolved with different equipment, too,” Minshall said. The Amazing Giants owns the only sway pole in the Midwest. It allows performers to create a large- scale spectacle with an extreme cirque-style pole acrobatic act without the need for a permanent installation. With hundreds of costumes, 20 pairs of stilts, and entertainment offerings of just about every circus art imaginable, The Amazing Giants truly seek to astound.

Having had great success in the Columbus market, Minshall decided to grow her business, and recently brought The Amazing Giants to Honolulu. “I had family out here that I would visit and realized they don’t have anyone doing what we do. There’s not really a group or team of stilt walkers working together,” she said. So Minshall bought six pairs of stilts, and hosts open gyms where interested performers can show off their skills and possibly train on stilts. “They don’t need to send me a resume, necessarily,” she said. “It’s about personality and talent.”

Importantly, Amazing Giants must have an abundance of confidence without an overabundance of ego. “I tell people we have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. As an entertainer you have to get over your shyness and put yourself out there.” The ability to work as a collaborative team player is also key, she said. “Our team often works in tight quarters, and whether or not it is well-received, you have to put on the show as best you can.”

Although Minshall is keeping the headquarters in Columbus, now headed by Chief of Operations Olivia Ranier, she says she is excited about the expansion and her recent move to Honolulu. “It reminds me a lot of Columbus because it has that small-town, big-city feel with a similar {\(metropolitan area) population of around one million people,” Minshall said. And the environment is ripe for her type of business. “In Honolulu, we have events year-round; in Columbus our business slows down after New Year’s Eve,” she said. “There is also a lot more tourism and a convention center that brings in a ton of people.”

Although her business has expanded, don’t for a second go thinking that Minshall is going to forget where she comes from. “A lot of times people ask me where I am from and they say, ‘Wow, I’ve been hearing a lot about Ohio lately.’ I have nothing but good things to say about Columbus and what kind of platform it’s given me. It’s a massive city with a thriving arts and entertainment culture—and it’s extremely underrated. I will be Columbus-promoting forever.”

For more information visit theamazinggiants.com.

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Maker’s Space: Kato Mitchell

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Following an initial disastrous experience with attempting to refurbish a personal pair of sneakers with acrylic paint years ago, a friend noticed Mitchell’s persistence, aiding him to perfect his craft. Though he began with primarily focusing on restoring his friends’ worn-down sneakers, Mitchell’s business, Work The Custom, has expanded to designing apparel in any range.

Just months after being highlighted as cleat designer for Braxton Miller’s Charg1ng summer football camp in Dayton, Mitchell’s clientele has accrued some big names in the sports world, and he has no intention of stopping. (614) caught up with Mitchell to learn more about Work The Custom, and his hope for reconstructing apparel in Columbus and beyond.

(614): When did you decide to transition from football to design?
KM: I’ve always had a passion for drawing and art, [but] I just lost my vision when I took actual art classes and didn’t like what we were doing. After college, I didn’t get any NFL calls, [and] I was trying to figure out what else I would love to do every day, and fell back in love with art.

What was your leap from “this thing I do” to the thing to do? How do you promote your work? After I realized how many people wanted to show who they really are with art, and I was someone who could help do that, that was my ironing point. I promote my work through Instagram and Facebook for the most part, but I do go to sneaker events from time-to-time to pass out business cards.

Is this your primary gig, side gig or hobby? How did it come to be?
It’s my side gig for the moment, but trying to grow and learn to make it my full-time career. I had a pair of shoes that were beat up and didn’t want to buy more so I painted them, but one of my friends taught me the game and how to prosper from it.

What life changes do you feel have propelled your work? How have your customizations evolved? Playing football for a place like Ohio State and doing work for Buckeyes in the NFL and for the OSU football team has helped grow my work faster and further. My customs have evolved just by me growing up and seeing different things, learning different things, practicing everyday, and being able to adapt.

Do you have a specific audience that you want to appeal to?
I want my work to be for everyone. My work can range from baby shoes to youth high school players of all sports, to walls of homeowners and businesses, to shoes for pro athletes.

What ingredients come together to make Columbus a fertile ground for makers, designers and creatives? Columbus is a growing market and very friendly. It has new businesses starting every week and everyone is trying to help everyone else.

What’s your six-word creative story?

Work The Custom is coming fast!

To get in contact with Mitchell, or to see more designs, follow him on Instagram at @katowork19.

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Gallery Space: Feeling emotion through Craig Carlisle’s newly-opened exhibit

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When approaching the canvas, the first thing that expressionist painters attempt to draw from their audience is emotion. Whether it stems from Disappointed Love by Francis Darby, where a forlorn lover is cast off into a forest to wallow in grief, or anxiety-riddled painting The Scream by Edvard Munch, painter Craig Carlisle has challenged his work for years to portray similar elements. After 30 years of creating thousands of paintings through the study of expressionism, Carlisle’s focus is generally based upon meditative habits as observed through his signature Big Head series.

“Evoking emotions from the viewer is one of the more important components of what I feel is an effective work of art. Is the artwork immediately drawing me closer or pushing me away and why? Possibly, [when] the colors chosen by the artist stir up my emotions, even in a minimalist painting, I feel that is possible,” says Carlisle, noting Agnes Martin as a ‘master colorist’ with a subtle tug at his viewers’ emotions. “Upon signing the painting and releasing it into the world, I truly believe [that] whatever emotional message the painting is meant to serve will be captured by those who need it. However, as the artist, I deserve to express what I am feeling without limitation. Every painting has its soulmate and eventually it will rest in the perfect hands.”

In his prime, Carlisle was deliberately fixated on creating optimistic paintings, with subjects depicting happiness, but later found that his audience gravitated towards honest interpretations. This also broke Carlisle out of the routine of being bound to artistic recurrence, having the ability to grow beyond his previous limitations. Intentionally leaving his Big Head subjects as genderless, as his subjects usually have oval-shaped heads and doe-like expressions, Carlisle uses the background of the painting to construct where the subject’s real emotion may be analyzed. These paintings often have neutral expressions, but the framework for each one is ever-changing.

“My personal relationship to removing gender in my artwork today is the same as it was with my first Big Head painting in 1992. If I choose to show gender, then the viewer immediately begins down the road of judgement,” Carlisle says. “Everyone deserves a stage to express their freedom, mine happens to be a canvas. For those defining their gender today, I hope they say let me choose, let me learn, let me grow, let me fall, for then I will succeed.”

Raised in Oklahoma in his formative years, Carlisle repetitively drew superheroes and made red clay sculptures, as his mother, also a painter, ensured that her son was always creating. Carlisle also observed his grandfather building furniture and even creating artwork with stones and gems. Building an aptitude for art, especially painting, Carlisle relocated to Columbus at 12 to further his art studies.

After graduating from CCAD in 1989, his original Big Head paintings in 1992 to 1995 were painted above subliminal messages on the canvas, regularly created at the former Buggyworks Studio warehouse. Steadily transitioning to different studios in New York, San Francisco and later, Los Angeles in the early 2000s, where he painted the Pink Monsters series as a response to the 9/11 attacks, Carlisle’s work became redefined as he adapted to each environment. With Nashville, Tennessee as the home for his 19th century farm and studio in the countryside, this month, Carlisle will be returning to Columbus for his first city-based solo exhibition in five years, this time, at the Sarah Gormley Gallery.

“I not only wanted a chance to reconnect with my many collectors in the city, but I knew Sarah’s gallery would give the opportunity for me to showcase my new larger paintings.

These works include hands overlapping the faces of the Big Heads,” Carlisle says. “In the early 2000s, I did a series of red gloves and began to understand more in depth that for me they symbolized protection. The hands, or gloves, were always placed in my paintings during times when I personally needed to feel a stronger sense of protection, especially from God. The paintings in this exhibition are not documented as “the hand of God” but it’s what I tell people when they ask. Think of it also as a guardian angel; maybe it’s there to stop something negative from entering, or it’s protecting me from myself.”

Choosing bright reds and oranges in a majority of paintings showcased at Sarah Gormley Gallery, Carlisle is challenging himself to push the extremes, considering all his work to be self-portraits. As a portrait technician, Carlisle also assumes responsibility as a provision for Columbus art, celebrating the city’s constant growth in tandem with an understanding of his own work.

“I was part of the art scene in Columbus in the 80s and early 90s, so I have seen many changes. One thing that has never changed is the incredible support the city provides for the arts community. Having lived all over the country I can easily say that Columbus is one of the most supportive cities in the country for artists, especially young artists,” Carlisle says. “For people who are just witnessing my work for the first time I wish for them to be able to experience emotions. I don’t need them to analyze what they think I was feeling at the time I created the artwork; rather I ask the viewer to listen to their own reactions or feelings and know that is why I made the painting.”

The Sarah Gormley Gallery is located on 988 N High St. Carlisle’s exhibit opened Nov. 1.

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