Art Conversations on Art

A Sunday detour with Jackson Pollock

The sky has been warning it will rain again and this evening the fog is like a warning or a punctuation mark that the space heater will be on tonight. Instead of attending a fabulous potluck with Italian Wedding soup in hand, I was given the gift of several hours of uninterrupted brain space to finish my residency journal for school. Consisting of a 10 page response to lectures or workshops that challenged or encouraged me, I am marinating in my notes.

This evening, I am reconsidering the value of cross-fertilization in the form of friendships bridging artistic mediums. Frank O’Hara spent so much time at the MOMA that he ended up becoming an assistant curator. He befriended painters of the abstract expressionist spirit and even wrote a poem entitled “Why I am not a painter.” What’s brilliant about the poem is that as he describes a befuddlement with how his friend Mike Goldberg composes the painting “Sardines”, he does the same thing poetically that Goldberg does visually. He described his poems as “all-over” poems, just as Pollock described his style as “all-over” paintings. The conversations and collision of ideas permeates his work.

And this leads me to think of Victor. Victor, struggling with all the bravado he can muster to make his dent in the New York opera community, taking the risk to realize his dream. I have often thought how his courage will seep over into my life with its sometimes ambitious goals that seem so unbelievable partly because no one else is pursuing this particular path in quite the same way.

Victor and I spoke over a week ago about the musical “Sweeney Todd.” The gory story features music that enchants and repulses as it draws you in. This night we were talking about the haunting ballad “Johanna”. I commented that I love this song- it always gets drawn out in my mind leaving me to wish that they would sing more of it. Victor begins talking about what’s going on in the musical score to tell the story musically. We agree that we are left wanting more of Johanna just as Sweeney, the judge, and Anthony can never have enough of her.

I remember a conversation with Olga at “Madame Butterfly” late last year where we wondered aloud how spirituality can shape art, how we can allow both to speak to each other as if in dialogue and what the output resembles. We spoke of the sacrifices required to engage our mediums more fully and how life’s paths can take us in very different directions than we intended.

My opera friends and our conversations of craft energize my art. Like Pollock and O’Hara, let the permeation continue unabated.

Art Conversations on Art

Marketing the dead

Is it fair really that painters become cheese, chocolate or liqueur post-humously. Something about this scratches against my conviction that art should mitigate memory not Hickory Farms…

Art Conversations on Art

Spoiled by Mr. Darcy (spoiler alert)

Ladies, ladies. Do you remember the smoldering look he gave Lizzie from across the room? Even atop the piano’s grate, we swooned watching his eyes betray his heart from the cold, proud edifice of his carriage. What the cleverly wrapped up ending does not let onto is that Mr. Darcy did not end up with Lizzie but instead with a woman of convenience.

I must be a glutton for punishment because I saw not one, but two movies in two days about unrequited love. This was quite unintentional I suppose since the primary force driving me to see them lay in:
— my love of historical fiction
— fantastic fashion and decor

“Becoming Jane” begins quite like “Pride + Prejudice”. Then with the omniscience of future-dwellers, we know her life will take a sharp turn. Jane Austen, as depicted in the movie has a capacity for writing and is a woman ahead of her time in an era when women depended on men for their survival. She chooses the high road of selflessness and the risky one of trying to eke out a living by her pen. Jane visits renowned author Mme. Radcliffe and remarks that though her novels are full of vivid detail, her life appears austere. Radcliffe comments and foreshadows that she writes out of what she does not have. Jane ends up taking these words literally. As they become her bread and wine, she writes out of what she knew and yet does not have currently, happy endings to stories of duress marking the way. She becomes this prolific author. Yet once aged as the Jane Austen, she sights her beloved, provoking a crack of betrayal in her carefully crafted composure. They observe each other and that is that. A list of her achievements don the screen and we learn he named his eldest daughter for her. The credits roll and it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.

“Moliere” accidentally falls for his insipid patron’s wife. He has been hired to teach his patron Msr. Jourdain how to act. Regretfully Jourdain is without talent and sense. His neglect of his wife and the caressing words Moliere has penned turn her heart toward his. But theirs is a love that is not meant to last. We know this, even as he pleads with her to leave Jourdain and join him and his troupe. It won’t happen. As he desires to involve himself in serious theatre, his aim is to write and play in tragedies. Instead he carves out a name for himself in history through the humorous plays he brings to his willing audiences. And whose advice fueled this direction, none but the now dying Mme. Jourdain. On her deathbed, he laments their final happy moments before parting. She is still goading him to invent a way to marry the tragic with the comic before the curtain closes over her eyes one final time. His eyes, we see looking behind the screen background, words mouthed over the actors reciting them to an audience. But those eyes are haunted, clouded with grief and tears. A rich legacy of drama his to bequeathe.

And so this leaves me with me. Wondering if great writers really do offer themselves up to their art, a sacrifice for the greater good. Wondering what modern day Darcy’s look like and how they are best recognized amidst all the cads roaming the streets like feral cats. I ask these questions and leave them, wandering back to the pen that waits uncapped, ready like a sentinel to the patrol the paper street upon which its lines will cut.

Art Conversations on Art

Guts and all

Some people are content with seeing a highly anticipated movie the weekend of its opening. I, on the other hand, am not. There’s something about the energy of a crowd that has waited hours in line until the clock strikes midnight to build adrenaline and enthusiasm. “Lord of the Rings” definitely had me on a strange routine. I would go home and nap for several hours before we would set out to jump into the fray, flanked by Galadriel-clad fairies and Legolas-legged elves. My sidekick Olga and I met a guy in line for “The Two Towers” who had visited J.R.R. Tolkien’s grave in the motherland and was all geeked out. We waited outside of this beautiful old art-deco movie house in the chilly evening air and scampered to our seats, once they tore our tickets. Gilded reliefs of 1920’s style angels and scrollwork donned the walls above the red velvet curtain separating us from the screen. Collectively, we whooped and hollered as the ents took down traitorous Saruman and left the theater close to 3 a.m. groggy and yet thoroughly energized.

This same art deco theater has been purchased by an old folks agency and cordoned off for several months. I kept having visions of how they would use the space- for meetings or perhaps private showings of Cocoon. My last trip took me away from the city for three weeks. I was suprised to see, driving to the convention center the other day, a gaping hole replacing the once sturdy wall, separating the parking lot from the movie house. Somehow I had hoped and thought they would restore it to its former beauty. Wishful thinking, I see now. From the hole, the building’s vulnerability showed, like a woman with her skirt accidentally tucked into her pantyhose. The guts of the building stirred a sadness of our need to destroy and replace. Today, it was gone, now a socket of space and air. And it occurred to me that perhaps what has happened to this building can happen to us. It takes months of planning and organizing to build a structure and only a little while to destroy. We have to be careful with each other. Our time together is short enough already.

Art Conversations on Art

When two worlds collide

Oh, if only Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling could have met! The stories they could have told…

Art Singing

Oh, the drama! *cue fainting woman*

grace cathedral doors

Our illustrious little San Francisco opera is in the midst of a hot scandal. Three days before “Don Giovanni” opened, the soprano slated to tackle the role of Donna Anna was released (read: fired). Here’s what’s important for us non-opera kids: usually when they “release” a singer, the terminology is oh so genteel. She or he is “taken ill” or needing to step down for personal reasons. In this case, the word was “fired.” People are all abuzz and claiming it’s a racist act. The powers that be claim it was because the soprano was not living up to the potential of what is required of a singer taking on Donna Anna’s role. What bothered the soprano most is that the first she claims she’s heard about it was the day of the dismissal. Hmm on all fronts. And stepping into the soprano’s shoes is a friend of Katy’s from the conservatory whose student performances brought tears to my eyes and chills to my arms. I am so excited that she has this opportunity, but it is mired in so much drama and bad PR. Now, as the good people in PR will tell you, there’s no such thing as bad PR. So as the New York Times and other publications cover this scandal, let’s all say a quick shout-out on behalf of Elza since she’s so in the middle of a nasty situation.

Like any good lover of drama, I will be joining Katy for the Sunday afternoon performance. Oh yes, that will be a ticket I will be glad to hold onto.

For more on the Don Giovanni scandal from the SF Chronicle, click here.

To read an op-ed piece from the New York Times, click here.