Walking through Staria Stine's studio is like stepping inside a giant assemblage box. Bowls of seedpods and insect nests share shelf space with Woolworth's-style plastic grapes and neatly catalogued fake fingernails. Though Stine's collection is arranged for ease of use rather than for display, it looks compelling anyway.
Consider four tiny vials standing side by side. The first contains a shock of synthetic blond hair; the second holds fifteen or twenty peacock feather bits; the third, more hair, this time reddish-brown; and the fourth, a Monarch butterfly carcass rolled into something like a butterfly bullet. The green glow of the feathers grabs your attention, and the butterfly vial has a sentimental pull, but each vial is identical, occupying no more or less space than another.
That egalitarian ethos makes its way into Stine's sculpture. In Symbionts: Pollens and Polymers opening at the Cube at Beco (1922 Baltimore, 816-582-8997) on Friday, her focus is on the relationship between the man-made and the organic. Tubes of cheap tablecloth vinyl "grow" like crystals from tusks made out of large, cast-off queen palm leaves. Stine, who considers herself a modern "hunter-gatherer," primarily calls herself a ceramist. She likens the experience of working with items that others might consider worthless to that of working with clay, another essentially valueless material. "Our labor creates value," she says. -- Kelly Sue DeConnick
A Warrensburg author recalls a treacherous path.
Eric Miles Williamson's debut novel, East Bay Grease, follows T-Bird Murphy through a tough time in an even tougher place: adolescence in early '70s Oakland. Using language sparingly to recreate the lyrical yet blunt idiom of blue-collar America, Williamson and T-Bird take readers to the sketchiest parts of the East Bay to get beaten up by delinquent kids, to seek revenge and to relax with a beer after a long day's work. Unfortunately, T-Bird's education in life stops short of the important watch-out-for-the-opposite-sex lesson. Williamson's follow-up novel, Out of Oakland, finds a broken-down, brokenhearted T-Bird recounting the troubled path (multiple divorces included) that led him to his new life in a garage in Warrensburg, Missouri. Williamson has described the new book as "a dirge for disenfranchised men ... and certainly no love story." Out of Oakland doesn't hit the shelves for at least a year, so be there when Williamson reads from it on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Rockhurst University's Greenlease Gallery, 1100 Rockhurst Road. For information, call 816-501-4171. -- Michael Vennard
The Northeast is a delicious neighborhood.
In Kansas City's Historic Northeast neighborhood, you can eat a whole fish -- head included -- served at a hole-in-the-wall Iraqi restaurant. You can shop in an exotic fruit market, stop by a Vietnamese soup joint, then observe Italian sausages being made. In other words, the food vendors alone should be reason enough to attend the Historic Northeast Fall Festival, Friday through Sunday at the JFK Concourse and Park (Benton Boulevard and St. John Avenue) -- an underappreciated local monument if ever there was one. Have you met people who live in the neighborhood who are all too quick to sing its praises and jump to its defense? This is the perfect opportunity to get a sense of why. For information, call 816-483-6964. -- Gina Kaufmann
Accounts of the devastation of an ovarian cancer diagnosis -- which affects one woman in 55 -- may prove inspiring to the participants and supporters of Women, Interrupted: An Evening of Music and Poetry Dedicated to Cancer Survivors and Loved Ones Lost. A tax-deductible donation will cover admission to the Writers Place (3607 Pennsylvania) at 8 p.m. Friday for a benefit featuring folk artists Kelly and Diana Werts and a host of local writers. Call 913-677-5690 for information. -- Steve Walker