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For the second time this year I stepped into the Monarch theater with anticipation and curiosity. I had only been to the September Showcase so I didn’t really know what to expect this time around, only that one of my favorite local artists would be attending. While there were fewer artists on display, the impact of each artist was felt and it was a more intimate affair. RAW Artists are a collective of creative minds in the art industry spanning art, music, photography, performance, and fashion. Every two months the Monarch theater hosts a showcase from this dynamic collective and brings the art community together. This month titled “Current” showcased photography, fashion, music, dance, and mixed media.

For this event I spent most of my time wandering through the upstairs galleries. When I first walked up my eyes immediately were drawn to the adorable geeky jewelry by Hybrid Moments Designs Their earrings, necklace pendants and bracelets of video game and cartoon characters made me wish I had my ears pierced again. Their Etsy store also features earrings inspired by punk rock and metal and they take custom orders. After drooling over their work for a few moments I was suddenly immersed in a Victorian nightmare as I came across  Sandi McAslan’s menagerie of curios and fairies. Sandi has been an artist for over 25 years and before that worked as a porcelain doll maker. Now, her fairies are sculpted with Prosculpt clay which gives them a haunting appearance. More inspiring and disturbing are her boxes of oddities. Most of the boxes contain actual medical materials from yester-year as well as Victorian literature and science displays. Each box is a stunning display of the bizarre and eclectic.

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Passing through into the other gallery it was hard to ignore the impressive street art of Benjam. This artist plays with the classic Renaissance art and spins it into a modern urban edge. When I asked Benjam what inspired him to use classic European art he cited that his love of art history moved him to merge the two styles using stencils and spray paint. It was a refreshing look to urban art and his passion for both movements shined through every piece.

Maybe it was the mood, or maybe it was just how I felt, but I seemed to gravitate towards the macabre that night. Winding through the main gallery I came across Lindsey Bessanson and her collection of steampunk insects. Lindsey uses high quality insects that are used for scientific displays and turns them into a mechanical wonder. The large tarantula that hung on the back of her display startled everyone as they passed by. Talking with Lindsey I discovered that she actually dislikes bugs that are alive, shuddering emphatically as she said they gave her the heebie jeebies. Even so, I could not imagine working on such delicate things as the insects that she has on display. Her clockwork and attention to detail is mesmerizing.

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Throughout the night there were several performances downstairs and even their infamous fashion show. While the musical acts were top-notch and drew in the crowds, I would have to say my favorite performing artist of the night was Nikki Nerida. OK, I may be a little biased as I have seen her perform throughout the belly dance community, but her fire and sword dance had everyone in awe. After the show I was able to ask her a few questions on the RAW collective and how she came to be a part of this community.

Laurel Way:  How was this RAW event compared to others you have participated in the past?
Nikki Nerida:  It was in a bigger venue and a bigger event over all. Also, the production was set months in advance and extremely well-organized! Truly amazing!
LW:  Are you the only belly dancer part of the Phoenix RAW collective?
NN:  I am not the only belly dancer part of the RAW collective.  My sister’s tribe, Kamalah and a tribe I studied under, Anaya are apart of the Phoenix Performance artists. Ilsa Bird and Mahin are also solo belly dance performance artists apart of the RAW PHX scene! Such incredible and divine dancers come from Phoenix!
LW:  What was your favorite part of the event?
NN:  My favorite part of the event was being able to share and showcase what I’m passionate about with friends, family and the new connections I made with people from being there.
LW:  How often do you perform in these RAW events?
NN:  This was my first ever RAW show, but plan on attending as much as possible in the future!
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The next RAW event, Visionary, held here in the Valley will be on February 5th at the Monarch Theater. For more on the RAW Artists Collective visit www.rawartists.org.