Tonawanda News

May 28, 2012

Where skates and art collide

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

— With names like Vile Love It, Day TripHer and Pepper Stix, it’s no wonder the women of the Queen City Roller Girls and their entourages are a creative bunch.

Between clever — and sometimes risque — derby names, lots of glitter and fishnet stockings, and flying loaves of rye bread, a roller derby bout can often be a work of performance art in and of itself. Now the QCRG community is putting paint to canvas, clay to pottery wheel and printing negatives to photo paper as part of an exhibit at the Carnegie Art Center in North Tonawanda.

“All of these people, they’re individuals and they’re creative, so (having an art exhibit) seems like natural thing,” said   Kari Lambright, aka Mama Chops, director of events for QCRG. “Different types of people are interested in the derby and (we’re looking for) any kind of new avenue to reach new people. For artistic, individual people, art is the way to go.”

Lambright — whose daughter, Megan, aka Lamb Chops, is captain of the Nickel City Knockouts and son, Tristan, aka Señior Wiener, is coach of the Suicidal Saucies — said the relationship between the QCRG and the Carnegie has been a long, and somewhat obvious one given the proximity of the two. The roller girls practice and hold bouts at the Rainbow Rink down the street from the   Carnegie, just a stone’s throw away.

When Carnegie Director Mary Simpson saw nearly 1,000 people lined up to watch a QCRG bout down the street a few years ago, she said she knew she had to tap into that resource. “Collide-O-Scope” is the third derby-related exhibit the Carnegie has hosted — last year’s included a series of photographs of the roller girls’ tattoos and the year before featured sketches of   bout posters.

“We want to celebrate the things that North Tonawanda should be proud about and the things that are unique about the area,” Simpson said. “It’s great that we’ve developed this relationship with our neighbors.”

The exhibit, which was open to anyone involved in the roller derby league, from players to coaches, to referees, to spouses — dubbed “derby widows” — features some 40 works of art by about 15 artists. There are paintings, photographs, pieces of sculpture   ... even painted toilet seats.

“It’s kind of nice because it’s a view into another side of a derby person,” said Kathy Lisborg, aka Vile Love It, QCRG public relations chair.

Dessarae Lenz, aka Notorious V., a blocker for the Knockouts, has a few paintings on view as part of the exhibit and said it’s nice to see the different personalities on display in the gallery. Lenz said she mostly paints figures, especially the female form, but doesn’t like to stick to traditional color schemes.

“Some of them are abstract, some of them are very concrete,” she said. “I like to use color in my work, so a lot of my pictures might not use skin tones, but bright colors.”

Mike Dirr — aka Mr. Stix, derby widow of Pepper Stix, who plays for the QCRG travel team Lake Effect Furies — also submitted paintings for the show and says it’s a little harder to label his style.

“I think the technical name for it is expressionism. Just come check it out and call it whatever you want to call it,” he said with a laugh. “Most of my stuff has a darker theme to it.”

Dirr, who does production for QCRG, said “derby widow” is probably an apt description for his life now that his wife has picked up the sport. He estimates anywhere from five to seven days of his week are consumed with the league in one fashion or another ... and it can get a little wild at times.

“It’s become a huge traveling party, circus, family, rock band ... everybody’s so unique,” he said. “It’s just wild ... there’s so much fun. You meet so many great people.”

Speaking of circuses, the exhibit is scheduled to culminate Saturday, which is to be named Queen City Roller Girls Day by Mayor Robert Ortt at a celebration that day. The day will begin with a barbecue at 2 p.m. at the Carnegie featuring family activities and an appearance by the Terror Technologies zombies.

A short parade from the Carnegie to the Rainbow Rink will take place at 5:45 p.m. with Channel 4 weatherman Don Paul serving as grand marshall. Lambright said children in attendance will be allowed to walk along with the parade in their costumes.

Doors open at the Rainbow Rink at 6:30 p.m., with an expo bout at 7 p.m. by the junior derby Ice Ice Babies and the championship bout between the Knockouts and the Devil Dollies to follow. The Dollies won last year’s championship against the Knockouts in a close game that was decided in the waning minutes.

Queen City Roller Girls Day will wrap up with an after-party back at the Carnegie for a final viewing of “Collide-O-Scope.”