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Mother Unload

State of the Arts


Published December 21, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

You never know when -- or in what language -- the next issue of 05401 will emerge. "My ambition had been three or four per year," Burlington architect Mannie Lionni says of his "irregularly published" 'zine, which turns 10 this month. Instead, he's averaged one per year over the decade.

The current issue is not just bigger than the previous nine, and with many more local bylines; the subject matter is a radical departure from Lionni's avowed favorite themes of architecture, planning, food and sex. Past volumes have been intriguing, but dense, with articles on topics ranging from utopian planning -- written in Italian -- to illustrated critiques of Burlington building projects.

"I wanted to provoke my colleagues, keep them honest," Lionni says of the magazine, which is distributed to about 800 politicians, architects, planners, activists and friends and is available through Lionni's website at "This is a small town, and professional work is of necessity imperfect. I want it to improve. I want to live in a more beautiful, more therapeutic, more participatory, more interactive city. Like everyone, I want to live in a city that looks like me."

But that's his mother's face on the 11.05 issue, and it's chock-full of poems, memoirs, lyrics and musings on a maternal theme. Lionni started soliciting material from local contributors in August. The resulting anthology is the most ambitious, accessible and engaging collection of writing he's ever curated: With the exception of the poems -- David Huddle and T. Alan Broughton are both represented -- almost every piece is a mother memory, titled with the subject's first name.

In "Ute," Carolyn Yarnell describes the anxiety of placing a phone call to a woman she thinks -- no, desperately hopes -- is her birth mother. With "Beatrice Rosalind," Burlington lawyer Sandy Baird paints a vivid picture of her first female role model -- her diminutive French-Canadian mother endured poverty and regular beatings by her husband and led her daughter Sandy to a better life.

Adultery, alcoholism, disease and death make regular appearances in these recollections, which are refreshingly raw and revelatory. Riki Wagman cuts her dying mother no slack in a stream-of-consciousness rant. Without a trace of pathos, she writes, "My mother and I were an accident of fate, mismatched and not even remotely understanding of the other . . . the two of us were always and forever strangers, stuck with each other for the journey like the person you're sitting next to on a plane."

The Lionni clan is well represented here: Lionni's wife, Barbara Zucker, paints a vivid picture of her once-drop-dead gorgeous but not particularly affectionate mother in "Selma." Zucker's daughter, Gina, weighs in with "Barbara." Lionni's two children from a previous marriage memorialize his ex-wife, "Naomi," who died of cancer. Lionni writes about his own 93-year-old mamma -- "a woman of the left" -- in a story illustrated by three gorgeous photographs, one of which takes up the entire center spread. Lionni's son Pippo is responsible for the magazine's contemporary, mostly black-and-white design.

In "Nora," Lionni traces his better- known preoccupations back to the source. Perhaps a bit too hard, he tries, "If you've wondered what this issue of 05401 has to do with architecture planning food and sex you've never witnessed my mother's audio visual descriptions of her childhood habitations: the precise dimensions and orientations and adjacencies of rooms, their relationships with adjoining apartments, the stairs and elevators and courtyards and carriages and railroads and bicycles and shaded walkways by which they were reached . . ."

Call it "family planning."

Politics with your pizza? This week Burlington's American Flatbread installed a work of art that memorializes American soldiers who have died in Iraq. Entitled "The Second Thousand Faces," Jan Brodeur's large Bread and Puppet-style mask is papier mached with yearbook-style pages that bear the names, photos, ages and hometowns of the fallen. There's also an interactive element: the artist invites viewers to note some loss of their own -- a loved one, a cherished thing or an abstraction -- on a strip of yellow fabric. Attached to the giant head, the first bears the name of murdered Flatbread worker Declan Lyons. "It's a season in which the act of remembering is especially important to us," says co-owner Paul Sayler. Food for thought.

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