Artists and Friends Return to Chatham for Alumna’s Art Exhibition

Attendees and VIPs at the Gialamas exhibition. Artist Fran Gialamas is in red; her subject Lesley Wells is in stripes.
Photo: Angela Billanti

Author: Angela Billanti


Artist and alumna Fran Gialamas returned to Chatham University in September to present her art exhibition, “The Chronicles of a Chatham Art Major.”

The collection derives from her 1958 solo exhibition proposed by her art professor Charles Le Clair.  “I took it very seriously and it was considered a professional exhibit at that time, even though I was a student,” Gialamas said.

Contine reading

Off the Beaten Page: “My Name is Lucy Barton” brings all types of love to the table

What happens when a simple procedure suddenly opens up a well of information you never wanted to confront? Just that happens in Elizabeth Strout’s newest novel, “My Name is Lucy Barton,” where a woman enters the hospital for a simple appendectomy and upon the arrival of her mother, must recognize some of the traumatic experiences that occurred in the past. The novel is written in a style similar to Strout’s other pieces, especially “Olive Kitteridge,” in the way that the narrator is likable and relatable, but at the same time is a mythical being of love and compassion.

The narrator and namesake, Lucy Barton, is a kind and gentle woman who essentially loves every person she meets. A married mother of two, she embodies the characteristics of the traditional nurturing role in a novel. She aches for her children after her procedure goes awry and she falls ill. Though she yearns for her husband, she knows he must hold down the fort and work. It is a very believable portrayal of motherhood and Lucy’s connection with her own mother, though more strained, is also a very raw and realistic adaptation of the relationship between mother and daughter.

Lucy appears to be very collected and self-motivated as a mother should be; but her complicated connection with her mother exposes her weaknesses. A victim of her mother’s abuse throughout childhood, an alcoholic father, and rampant poverty, Lucy is forced to confront those issues from her past in order to become a stronger woman in the future. In addition to these shocking revelations that the reader learns about Lucy’s past, we get a glimpse of the heartache and scandal that the people that Lucy grew up with are facing, due to her mother’s tendency to gossip.

Lucy is also a writer, making Strout’s use of flowery, eloquent language especially fitting. Lucy’s tangents and inquiries on the things happening around her are gorgeous despite them being menial.  Her heart is so full of love and compassion for others that it makes it difficult to believe that her mother is unable of producing those feelings for anything in her life. The apparent divide between them just makes Lucy’s desire to become closer to her mother even stronger. What at the start seems like it will be a very lighthearted novel turns out to be a bit grittier than expected, and we finally get to see why Lucy loves as hard as she does.

There has been speculation in the literary community that “My Name is Lucy Barton” is essentially a spinoff of “Olive Kitteridge,” only taking things from an impoverished perspective instead of the bourgeoisie. There are bits of humor throughout that lighten some of the difficult subjects, and the character of Lucy is definitely one that audiences will enjoy getting to know.

Composer creates bridge between the classical world and the modern world of music

Steve Hackman, Creative Director of FUSE at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, patches the gap between audiences of classical and modern music at Heinz Hall. Hackman mixes different music forms to represent who he is as an artist . He is not just any other composer or artist. Hackman is carving a path in classical music as he blends it with popular genres.

“Aaron Copland V. Bon Iver” showcased with special guest and local Pittsburgh band, Beauty Slap, on Wednesday, January 28. With three vocalists, Hackman graced the crowd with a blend of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” with Bon Iver songs.

The reason for this unique mixture of genres is to introduce audiences that only attend the symphony to Bon Iver and Bon Iver fans to Aaron Copland.

“To apply contemporary musical techniques from the popular world (mashing up, remixing) to the classical world and thus create a bridge between the two,” said Hackman.

“I want to share beautiful music and I want to share my journey,” said Hackman when describing his main message through his work. There are people who go against the grain by doing what they want to do, and these are the people that he plays for.

“It is possible that classical music has not evolved enough in the past century, or perhaps has evolved along a track that the majority of the public was unwilling to follow it down.”

Photo Credits: Wade Massie

Photo Credits: Wade Massie

Hackman explains how classical music has become distant from contemporary and popular society. “Man has sought the means to express himself creatively as long as he has been on Earth.”

Art is crucial in society and classical music has never lost relevance in his eyes.

Audience member, Zach Dowdell, enjoyed the concert.

“I thought is was an excellent fuse of two styles,” he said.

Another audience member Emily Pickell commented not only about the music but the composer’s looks.

“I cried five times and it was very easy to get into. I won’t lie I came because the composer was so good looking,” she said.

This is not the first time Hackman has composed a mix of genres. He has a history of mixing classical with pop music. From 2009 through 2013, he composed and conducted a concert series, “Happy Hour” with the Indianapolis Symphony strongly showcasing his style of mixing two genres. Hackman also created “Brahms V. Radiohead” in 2013 and “Beethoven V. Coldplay” in 2014.

The next FUSE project Hackman is presenting is March 9th at Heinz Hall. This show is different from “Copland V. Bon Iver.” “As it does not draw upon an existing pop artist and is instead my original songs mixed with Stravinsky,” said Hackman. This show will feature a singer, rapper, drummer, electronics, female choir and orchestra.

Off the Beaten Page: Eric Lindstrom makes his debut with “Not If I See You First”

The thing that sets Parker apart from the traditional, one-dimensional female leads in young adult literature is that she is so obviously human. Lindstrom does not stray from showing off her faults and insecurities to progress the story. He makes her vulnerable and understandable to readers, especially to otherwise-abled individuals. While Parker’s being blind is a major plot element, it is not the entirety of the story. So many novels rely on a character’s disease or disability or flaw as a way to stimulate the story. These tropes need to stop. Parker is an honest character and is showing young girls that being different is okay.

Additionally, while there is a romantic element in Parker’s ex-boyfriend, Scott Kilpatrick, the romance is not the focus of the story as it is in most teen literature. The emergence of the strong-minded young heroine in novels is powerful, and it is very important to acknowledge that it is not the be-all, end-all if the main character does not develop a romantic relationship at the close of the piece. “Not If I See You First” provides a very powerful message for young girls that the first person you must always rely on is yourself.

Lindstrom is currently working on a new untitled piece, and all he has revealed about it is that it will also be young adult fiction. If his first novel is any indicator of how the next one will turn out, it’s going to be a good one.

The winter months always have me desiring fluffy fiction, so I often times veer towards the young adult novel. Nothing is more comforting than a light book to keep your interest on a cold day; but I have grown tired of reading the same pieces over and over again. I took to the internet and found what I was searching for in Lindstrom’s “Not If I See You First.”

This is Lindstrom’s freshman novel, and quite different from his previous work — he was a co-writer for the “Tomb Raider” video game series. Steering away from his traditional work of shock and horror, Lindstrom manages to tug at the heartstrings of his readers with his debut piece, which was just released this past December.

The novel’s main character, Parker, is like any teenage girl, except for the fact that she is blind. In her disability, she has created a list of items she calls “The Rules” so people do not use her or mistreat her just because she is different. She deals with heartache all the same, discussing boy issues with her friends, struggling to come to terms with her father’s death, and taking in the hardship that comes with trying out for the school track team. All of these small facets of her character make a very believable, well-rounded heroine.

Review: “Hunger Games” final installment doesn’t disappoint

Excitement buzzed in the seats of the Cinemark Monroeville as Chatham University students waited impatiently for the final installment of the “Hunger Games” series.

“Mockingjay Part 2” follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) on her journey to overthrow the Capitol. The film included the favorite characters from past films, such as Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin).

The film even included Plutarch Heavensbee, played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Mockingjay Part 2 was the last film Hoffman made before he passed away.

Director Francis Lawrence produced another visually intriguing piece. The film often played with lighting, throwing a character’s face into shadow to increase drama or showing a character in silhouette for a similar effect. Lawrence directed the last three installments of the series.

Jennifer Lawrence did not disappoint with her final portrayal of Katniss. She utilized her acting chops to show a reluctant leader whose life seems to be crumbling around her.

Similarly, Josh Hutcherson characterized Peeta — who is still being rehabilitated after being brainwashed by the Capitol to believe that Katniss is evil — as unsure and vulnerable.

Two surprising standouts were Jena Malone (who played Johanna Mason) and Sam Claflin (who played Finnick Odair). The character of Johanna gave the audience most of the limited moments comic relief, which Malone played carefully, never too over-the-top. Claflin portrayed the role of Finnick with all the grace and kindness that fans adored from the books.

The film overall had nearly everyone in the theater on the edge of their seats. The suspense that we grew to love in the last three movies is certainly not missing in Mockingjay Part 2 — if anything, viewers can expect even more tension and jump-out-and-scare-you moments than any of the films before.

As a lover of the books myself, I was completely satisfied with the film. It followed the storyline of the book very closely, and all of the characters were, as usual, very good portrayals of much-loved characters from the book.

To be perfectly honest, I could find very little that I didn’t like about the film. The one exception to this is the final scene in the film. Those familiar with the book series will likely recall the polarizing epilogue; while some felt it was a nice wrap-up to the series, others felt dissatisfied with Suzanne Collins’ choice to tell the reader how the world changed rather than let them make up their own minds.

Regardless of my personal feelings toward the epilogue in the books, I felt the epilogue in the film was heavy-handed — the wonderful characterization we got throughout the film was stripped away in favor of two-dimensional versions of the characters many years later.

4.5/5 stars

Chatham screens documentary on the struggle of masculinity

Be a man. Stop with the emotions. Man up. Suck it up. Don’t be a sissy. Boys don’t cry. These are the things young men and boys often grow up hearing.  But how does that affect them and what kind of world does it create? How much of masculinity is a reaction to societal norms? What are the consequences for boys and men who spend their lives wearing “the mask?”

On November 13, in Eddy Theater Chatham University’s own Psychology of Gender Research Team screened a film that took on those questions.  Although the experiences and backgrounds differed, the answers came to a grave consensus. As Joe Ehrmann frankly said, “The three most destructive words that every man receives when he is a boy is when he’s told to be a man.”

“The Mask You Live In” is a Documentary made by Jennifer Siebel Newsome of The Representation Project. Venturing into classrooms, playgrounds, locker rooms, college campuses, and even prisons, filmmakers explored what a “real man” has been defined as in America and the consequences for boys and men. Gaining perspectives and hearing the experiences of boys and men all ages and backgrounds, the audience in Eddy gained a look inside of what is behind “the mask.”

What exactly is this mask exactly? Not something apparent to the naked eye, but a façade that young men are told they must wear for most of their lives because what’s often behind it: pain, sadness, loss, and emotion are feminine and not acceptable. Something forces young men to grow up, hiding their pain in helmets and locker rooms.

In a not-often-seen way, the men and boys interviewed shared what was behind their personal masks and how they were made. Grown men spoke of abuse they had experienced at the hands of their fathers and sometimes their mothers.  The film explores how once vulnerable and innocent faces can wind up on the news or in prison for unspeakable crimes.  One of many examples was what one psychologist called “The Great Setup” meaning from a young age boys are taught that to be a girl means inferiority and weakness, yet we as a society are surprised when men and boys behave violently towards women and girls.

Through anecdotes and statistics the documentary sheds light on the danger that has come from linking respect and control to violence. It also challenged quite a few common misconceptions American society has about what young boys need. Showing that contrary to popular belief in some cases having relationships with one’s father is more damaging than having an absent father.

Startling and at times heart wrenching facts were revealed: that boys experience depression and suicidal thoughts at a similar rate to girls, but the difference is in how it’s expressed. The inherent danger in a world where the only emotion men are allowed to express is anger. Substance abuse sometimes occurs with boys and men, not to feel good in some cases, but to feel nothing. Girls hurt themselves; boys hurt others and are less likely to get treatment. Boys and men are highly unlikely to report being abused. Additionally, unfortunately the first places men start to explore masculinity and their “masks” is behind bars.

However this is not always the case. There were men in the films who were able to remove their masks before doing permanent damage to themselves or others. Some chose to be different than their fathers and their fathers’ fathers. The documentary also featured coaches and activists and their takes on how to help boys become well adjusted men.

Jason Lucarelli, a student in the Masters of Psychology program, played a key role in putting together the event and he explained that while growing, despite having a supportive family, he occasionally felt pressure to suppress his own interests because they differed from that of his male peers. Because of his area of study and his background, this film was important for him to show because, “While traditional masculinity has and will in many ways continue to cause the oppression of women, we need to examine the effects of traditional masculinity on men. We need to examine the consequences of distancing oneself from one’s true feelings and emotions in order to convey stoicism.”  

Before its release, the documentary was subject to criticism; it and those who made it were accused of trying to “feminize” boys.

“My first response is that it’s ridiculous and heterosexist and is probably coming from individuals who have little to no understanding of the realities and influences of gender inequality,” said Lucarelli, in response to this criticism. “My other response is that it is a perfect demonstration of how problematic the gender binary can be.  Gender is a social construct and sadly many members in society view sex and gender as the same thing and in doing so confine males and females to stereotypical gender roles.” 

The event was Sponsored by Psi Chi, AWP Pittsburgh, SPW Campus Representatives, and The Women’s Institute, in collaboration with a number of student organizations.

Off the Beaten Page: Film adaptation of “The Girl on the Train” in the works

The popularization of turning thrilling suspense novels into films is one that has been on the surface for the last few years. Novels like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Gone Girl,” and “The Martian” have startled their audiences with jarring plot twists and elaborate plot arcs. Now, Paula Hawkins delivers a more domestic thriller that will leave readers on the edge of their seat.

At first, the novel appears to be one that just addresses infidelity, affairs, and polyamorous situations. The peripheral vibe of the novel seems to be one that thrives on jealousy and cheating, but it becomes so much more than that. “The Girl on the Train” is told in the perspective of three different women who are all linked…I refuse to give any spoilers, you just have to read to find out. The book quickly turns from a women’s novel of distress and romantic turmoil to a gripping tale of a mysterious disappearance.

This book covers issues such as misogyny, alcoholism, and nontraditional marriages, which add a psychological layer to the depth of the novel. The novel is also heart-wrenchingly accurate in how the different women are portrayed, each narrative succeeding in the expression of the character. While the convoluted plots may appear to be overzealous at first, they all work well together and balance properly with the very fast pace of the story.

Currently, “The Girl on the Train” is in the works for a film adaptation with Emily Blunt in the lead role. While the film is not set to be released until October 2016, audience are eagerly anticipating the movie. Why? With the success of “Gone Girl,” psychological thrillers have gained a strong appeal with readers and watchers alike. The structure of these novels attack large social issues without even trying.

“The Girl on the Train” observes blatant sexism in the coolest, most nonchalant of ways. It is almost as if we are not supposed to notice it. Women are portrayed as weak to the iron fist of men in this novel, which is intentional on Hawkins’ part. She creates the opposite of a feminist utopia, one where women are devalued to only a spousal pleasure, which makes the reader question their own social standing in relationships.

I encourage readers to pick up this novel before the movie hits theaters in less than a year. It is predicted to be a box-office hit, and after keeping the number one spot on the New York Times Bestseller list for 13 consecutive weeks, I think that is a great possibility.

Off the Beaten Page: Relish in the foodie graphic novel “Relish”

As both a book enthusiast and a foodie, I always look for a good read that combines them both, and I honestly believe I have found a book that tackles food honestly. Lucy Knisley’s “Relish: My Life in the Kitchen” is a graphic novel, a memoir, and a cookbook all in one. It may appear to be everything but the kitchen sink, but it is formed so simply and truthfully that you won’t want to put it down.

Knisley, the daughter of a chef and a gourmet, spent almost the entirety of her childhood around good food. She recalls certain moments of her life and how they formed her relationship with food. She speaks about everything food, from moving from the city to the country and learning to adapt to animal mortality to her favorite recipes illustrated in the cutest animated fashion. She even includes a two-page spread on her time as a cheesemonger and how to categorize cheese down to the most miniscule details, all with ironic smiling cheese rinds adorning the sides of the pages.

A novel like this could usually read as campy in its illustration style and pretentious in the topic of discussion. However, Knisley attacks it in such a tasteful way that it doesn’t come off as either of the two. It reads as an authentic view of growing up around great food. An important thing to note is that Knisley is not trying to condescend with her work, she aims to educate and share her passion of food with readers everywhere.

The popularization of the memoir as a graphic novel has catalyzed over the last few years, with works like Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” and Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home.” “Relish” does not fall short of these well-known works. The tone, though, is much lighter than the aforementioned two, which may make people question its worth compared to more serious pieces. In writing a more comedic piece, Knisley shows that a memoir can be written solely for the purpose of fun. The book is fun to read, the cartoons are fun to look at, and the recipes interspersed throughout are fun to try. Overall, it excels in several genres.

It is a sad truth in literature that we often times do not give less serious pieces the credit they deserve because they are constantly in competition with their dramatic counterparts. I do encourage readers to give “Relish” a try. The story is definitely food for thought, and it gives the reader greater thought for food.  

Book(ish) Boxes — the perfect gift for literature lovers

Bookworm, Bibliophile, Book Lion (for some Youtubers). There are a number nicknames for those who love the written (or typed) word. In a world of changing wardrobes, traditions, and Netflix, it seems that one thing has never changed.  People love stories. And although the platform has changed over the course of a few centuries there have always been people who enjoy books.

A place for book lovers. A place where love of all things literary and fashion collide. Founded in June 2012, the appropriately named “Appraising Pages” is a book review website as well as a shop.

Appraising Pages started as a book review blog, to be able to discuss and share the books I love. Eventually, the shop was started as a way to express the emotions that books fueled,” said the shop’s owner Justine Brooks.

On the blog side of things, you can find out into which books it is worth investing five hundred pages of your time. In the shop, you find products that would make any fangirl (or boy) swoon. T-shirts, jewelry, coffee cups, wall art — Appraising Pages has something for everyone in any fandom.

An avid reader, having grown up reading “A Wrinkle In Time” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” Justine Brooks wanted to create a place where people could wear their love of reading on their sleeves.

The products often pay tribute with quotes and sayings from popular works of fiction, from Sarah J. Maas’s “Throne of Glass” series to Cassandra Clare’s numerous works from the “Shadowhunter’s Chronicles.” Since it’s launch products from the shop have become so well-known that authors have even on occasion asked the shops to craft shirts based on their books. Although you can take your pick of items related to “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent,” the shop does not limit itself purely to literary items products. They also have merchandise related to “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” or “Doctor Who” available.

Literary t-shirts are not the shops only attribute. In a world full of emails and text messages, subscription boxes have brought a new twist to the mailing experience. Instead of sweaters from your grandmother that you’ll never wear or sweaters you ordered from Forever 21 that you will actually wear, you get a mystery box of fun depending on what your interests are. From boxes dedicated to sugary surprises to battle supplies needed in the event of a zombie (yes, really) apocalypse, there is a subscription box out there for everyone.

With positive reviews often including capslock, it can be said The Bookish Boxes are well received by their subscribers.

“I wanted literary subscription box, that wasn’t based on books, but instead themes that allowed small shops to create new items.” Brooks said. Themes have been things such as “Things That Go Bump In The Night” and “Deep Reads” inspired by “All The Bright Places.”

The boxes are put together in a collaborative effort and consist of products from different shops. Some are created by guest curators, such as author Jennifer Niven.

Given the chance, Brooks would have coffee with Harry Potter’s Albus Dumbledore, feeling that he would be able to provide a great deal of warmth and wisdom.

In regards to business ownership she had some words of wisdom of her own: “It’s really hard work, and you’ll feel vulnerable when you are trying to achieve your goals, but do it, it’s so worth it.”

Although not easy her business experiences are not without highlights, “My favorite moments are anytime I see someone in public wearing something in public wearing something I designed, or getting a email from someone who loved their order,” she said. “When an author that I love asks me to make them a shirt, that’s a really special moment.”

Appraising Pages and The Bookish Box’s products can be found at

Off the Beaten Page: James Patterson pleases again with “Murder House”

James Patterson is well-known for his provoking thrillers, as well as his embracing of supernatural elements in his literature. With “Murder House,” his newest creation in conjunction with David Ellis, he instills a feeling of looming dread in his readers, something that he so often excels at doing. The plot, from the outside, appears to be a bare-bones interpretation of an old ghost story, but Patterson adds all the necessary garnishes to create a proper plot.

The story focuses on Noah Walker, a young Hollywood mogul with a dark and seedy past. While this archetypal character is bordering on cliché, the way in which Noah is portrayed is as an antiheroic protagonist. The beachfront community where most of the horror unravels is an unlikely setting for a mystery novel, adding a layer of needed depth to set it apart from other books that follow this similar plot progression. Since a majority of Patterson’s stories follow the same essential format, the revamping of scenery and character development is a major factor to keep in place in order to add spice to a novel.

The prologue of “Murder House” is one of disturbing connotation, which sets the tone effortlessly for the eeriness to come later in the book. Patterson posted several excerpts of the novel online for reader to review before purchase, which is a good tactic since the first thing they will see is this prologue. The main character’s detailed language and vague pronoun usage lead readers to believe the story will turn down a certain road before it unexpectedly halts and makes a turn in the opposite direction.

Fans of Patterson’s other works, however, may not feel like they are getting the best work out of the author. Patterson is very well-known for his intricate storylines and tumultuous character development. “Murder House,” however, provides a more straightforward approach to a mystery, leaving the audience with few small questions, but a couple big ones. It is similar to his other pieces in how it is set up; it just progresses at a different pace and in a new way. That does not in any way affect Noah as a character; he is a fully developed, multi-layered individual with a deep secret. The novel keeps the reader guessing until the end and satisfies for horror and mystery fans alike.