Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page
An Outing of Conscience
This post is a sequel to Art in the ‘Nati, and covers my continuing adventures in Cincinnati over Easter weekend.
Somehow, through over five years of regular visits to the “Queen City” I failed to get to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. It opened in August ’04, on a very prominent site, clearly visible as you speed down I71, through downtown Cincy. Each time I made that drive I would bookmark the Center for a visit “next time”. Finally, “next time” arrived…and the
Center became the second stop on my
It is billed as part of a new group of “museums of conscience,” along with the Museum of Tolerance, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Civil Rights Museum. The exterior features rough travertine stone from Tivoli, Italy on the east and west faces of the building, and copper panels on the north and south (from Wikipedia). The rough hewn nature of the travertine feels very akin to the stories held inside.
Sadly, because of the debt the museum has accrued, and low attendance, a dark cloud seems to hang over it. None of my Cincinnati family or friends had really said anything unsolicited about it, and certainly didn’t tout it as must-see. Despite that, I was determined to experience it. I headed down with my folks, sis and her children, Annie and Brian. I was interested to also see this history through their younger eyes as well.
It is positioned in the perfect spot, historically and conceptually…on the banks of the Ohio River, on the Ohio side, within plain view of Kentucky (Covington). As you enter the Center, you have the view that former slaves had as they set foot into their newfound freedom. There is a sinuous “river” crafted out of flat slate rocks, which you walk cross while entering the Center, symbolically crossing into freedom yourself. The “river” rocks are a blueish-grey tone, so the color aids in the illusion. The same undulation seen in this “river” is echoed in the walls of the building itself, also illustrating the fields and rivers that were common on the road to freedom.
The audio tour introduces you quickly to the unforgettable story of William and Ellen Craft, a slave couple who escaped to freedom due to his cunning and her daring. Thanks to her light skin, she was able to pass as a male slave owner, also feigning injury by putting her right hand in a sling to avoid having to write or sign anything (since she didn’t have those skills). Their creative hoax paid off. I hadn’t remembered being taught about this in grade school. A “tranny/drag” ex-slave! I should have known cross-dressing was one road to freedom. Here are further details on their story, and other cross-dressing successes.
The giant “The RagGonNon“ quilt by Aminah Robinson is the first featured piece in the collection. It tells the story of the slave trade, from Africa to America. The button and shell eyes on some of the sewn slave faces were haunting…like something out of Coraline.
Slave Pen: A Horrific Reminder
The principal artifact of the museum is a slave pen (built in 1830), which was discovered on a farm in Mason County, Kentucky. A larger tobacco barn had been built around it in the early 20th century, hiding it from plain view and giving it the appearance of any other barn. Thankfully, it protected the pen from the elements for a century. Not, surprisingly, there are apparently hundreds of log (slave) pens like this hidden in tobacco barns all over the country. See this fascinating step-by-step of how it was dismantled and reassembled.
The cramped one-room pen tells the story of a generation of slaves who were kept inside, on Captain John W. Anderson’s farm, waiting to be taken to the auction block.
Approaching the pen, and walking through its belly is a haunting journey. With the help of the audio tour, you not only imagine the horrors that occurred here, but hear stories from both a slaves’ perspective, as well as the slave traders’. It certainly called to mind my visit to l’île de N’gor (“Slave Island”) in Senegal.
“The pen was described by an ex-slave as “worse than a dog hole.” Men were chained to the straw-covered floor of the second story, while the women, charged with taking care of the men and cooking, were free to move about the house. Human waste and garbage would fall to the kitchen from cracks in the upper floor, and the close quarters led to outbreaks of cholera…the men were tethered two-by-two to the central chain by shorter shackles that allowed them only to sit or lie down. The smothering sense of confinement, barely breathable air and lack of privacy drove some mad.” (By Marilyn Bauer, The Cincinnati Enquirer)
Road to Freedom
Fortunately, after experiencing the pen, we experienced some levity and hope in the form of a movie, previewed in the beautiful theatre. It is an artistic vision portraying the road from slavery to freedom, rendered by three different artists. The first was an abstract, mostly pastel rendering of themes of oppression and darkness, moving into soaring freedom and colorful light. The second was a more literal story-telling of a journey to freedom. This artist actually partially erased her drawings to create each animated frame, as well as a sense of almost blurred movement. She used primarily deep browns and blacks, to create a stark palette, but with some warmth and hope. The faces she depicted were rich in character and stories, but exhausted, and seemingly hopeless.
“There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted.”
— Harriet Tubman
In ESCAPE!, an exhibit which needs no real explanation, we learned about the brave abolitionists, and methods to freedom. An Oskar Schindler-like man named Levi Coffin created a wagon with a false bottom, which allowed him to hide multiple slaves under supplies.
We enjoyed multiple marble wall sculptures by Karen Heyl, the same artist that at the beginning of her career created The Wall of Creation, a hundred-plus foot wide sculpture in Good Shepherd Parish, where my folks and grandpa belong. I love work like this that allows light to play along its surfaces, and create the rather subtle definition.
I was very pleasantly surprised that the museum also pays tribute to all efforts to “abolish human enslavement and secure freedom for all people.” So, there are inspiring references to and portraits of Harvey Milk, Gandhi and other heroes of justice and champions of civil rights movements on the top floor of the museum.
Critics of the Center (and there are many) feel that a more affordable, existing building should have been re-fashioned to serve as its location. Also, the public money the Center has received has come under fire, as there are MANY other sites that educate about the Underground Railroad that survive without that aid, and yet are now threatened by the existence of this Center. I hope the qualms will subside over time, and that the Center will not only survive, but come to thrive, as this is a story that NEEDS to be told, and has potential for more impact in this civic setting!
With all the talk of the golden age of Japanese skating, I can’t help but feeling like one skater got lost in the shuffle (or, should I say “twizzles”?).
I recalled being very impressed by this skater back in the 2003-04 season. She had all the qualities I most look for in a ladies skater: elegance, musicality, a gamine quality, and vulnerability. Technically, she had deep knees, great speed, gentle jump landings, and some of the best spiral, spread eagle and ina bauer positions and extension in the biz.
Her name is Yukina Ota. She won every Junior competition she entered in the 2002-03 season. She was the 2003 World Junior Champion and 2004 Four Continents Champion. She entered my radar via her televised Grand Prix and 4CCs efforts.
She was never the jumping wunderkind that Asado or Ando are, but knew how to play off her strengths, as did her choreographer, Tom Dickson. In this ’04 4CCs LP video she skates to some of the same ethereal Debussy music Sarah Hughes did in her Olympic LP.:
Amazingly, although clearly revealing the depth of the Japanese team, she never medaled at the Japanese (Senior) Nationals. She landed in 4th through 12th place in the four years she competed there.
She was on top of the Junior world, ready to take the Senior world by storm, and yet retired five years later at age 22, without ever fulfilling her promise. Just when her mature beauty was emerging, and her artistry reaching the heights, her body seemed to say no (ala Lipinski, but without the intl. medals).
She had to be one of the finest skaters of the current crop to come out of Japan: more beautiful than Asada, more musical than Ando, and more memorable than Suguri. But, consistency wasn’t on her side as a senior. Her last placement at the ’07 Japanese Nationals was in 7th, before she retired from competitive skating in 2008, finally caving to injury. Fortunately her LP there still showed some of what made her special. Here is that Concierto de Aranjuez program.:
In another youtube video from a 2007 exhibition (not shown here), we tragically see her barely able to land even a double, and more often than not popping to singles.
Other skaters who have shared a similar sad fate, include Ann Patrice McDonough, and Naomi Nari Nam. Although, thankfully Nam had a second wind as a pairs skater. And, McDonough seemed to run out of gas, rather than be forced out by injury.
For all her prodigious qualities and successes as a Junior, she deserves a place in the history of this decades’ Japanese skating greats… AT LEAST the B-List!
During a recent image search I stumbled upon The Fool and the Opera, a blog that accompanies a radio show serving up opera for beginners to the Melbourne audience. I have this blogger to thank for inadvertently introducing me to a wonderful operatic artist, one I had never heard of, let alone seen LIVE.
My discovery was soprano Paula Almerares. She certainly deserves more attention and awareness in the States. According to her website, she made her debut at the Teatro Colón in ’93, as Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, sharing the stage with Spanish tenor Alfredo Kraus, and conducted by Julius Rudel.
Not surprisingly, she was awarded “The Best Argentine Singer” by the Argentine Association of Musical Critics and was the winner at the Belvedere’s International Competition in Vienna, in ’93.
She was invited by Domingo to perform L’elisir d’amore in Washington, D.C. with him. She has sung Il Barbiere di Siviglia at The Met, conducted by Yves Avel and Bruno Campanela.
If I were to compare her qualities to the greats, I’d say she has some shares some of those of Gencer, Caballé, and de los Angeles. You can clearly hear she was affected by those artists, although not in a copy-cat manner. Since I can’t speak to her art via LIVE experiences, I highlight the qualities I see in her online audio/video excerpts. These don’t give a sense of vocal size, and only offer part of the complete picture, but at least provide a relatively true glimpse.
The below video of Non so le tetre immagini, from Verdi’s rarity Il Corsaro is ravishing. She has a dark, almost mezzo tonal quality, but with gossamer high notes that somehow emerge radiantly. She appears to be a somewhat wispy, delicate performer, with a graceful stage demeanor recalling Moffo. I love that she so savors this aria that she performs much of it with her eyes closed, something perhaps only Dessay would dare to do. It is an appropriately contemplative, inward, and personal approach. It appears to be from 2001, in Lecce, Italy.:
Next we see her as Liú, at Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, singing easily my favorite Puccini aria: Signore, Ascolta! She is a bit wanting in characterization and truly operatic-scaled personality, and as a result I imagine she’s not best suited to higher voltage roles, but possesses the plangent tone I most highly prize, and projects a sincere longing.:
And, finally her Je veux vivre, from R&J. This is a far less soubrettish rendition of this aria than we are used to, but a welcome one! When I compared this to most other contemporary renditions of this aria (on youtube and elsewhere), it comes out the clear winner for its believability and freshness.
I’d love to see/hear her in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Linda di Chamounix, Die Zauberflote (Pamina), Luisa Miller, or I Puritani (these first three noted as current rep on her website).
Shortly after CJ and I met and started dating he gave me a mix tape, YES, that age-old expression of crushing, lust and/or love… take your pick! And, it WAS a tape, NOT a cd. It even had the song ‘Mix Tape’, from Avenue Q on it. Here’s an amusing and relevant excerpt:
A mix tape. He made a mix tape. He was thinking of me, which shows he cares! Sometimes when someone has a crush on you they’ll make you a mix tape to give you a clue.
Anyways, the most prominent artist on that special mix was David Wilcox, featured in the tracks ‘Fearless Love’, ‘Catch Me If I Try’, and ‘All My Life’. I’ve listened to that mix and those songs for years… and now they are a part of me. Well, thankfully, last night we experienced David’s artistry LIVE, in an intimate concert at the Swedish American Hall, on Market Street. I had never set foot in this space. It is right above Café Du Nord (which we were just at last week), has an acoustically resonant wood interior, and is very warm in its typically swedish decor.
Thanks to our friend’s invitation and eagerness (first in line!), we scored front row seats. David sprang out of the rear of the hall, earlier than the start time, and announced that he HAD to start making music. I could immediately see his love for his art brimming forth.
He performed some old fan favorites, and works from past albums:
‘Eye of the Hurricane’, ‘Three Brothers’, ‘Rusty Old American Dream’, ‘Perfect Storm’, ‘Plain View’, ‘Native Tongue’, ‘Start With the Ending’, and ‘Show Me the Way’ (encore).
…As well as songs from his newest album Open Hand:
‘Dream Again’, ‘Red Eye’, ‘Captain Wanker’, ‘Winter at the Shore’, ‘Open Hand’, ‘Modern World’, and ‘How Long’ (with a sing-along refrain).
His voice is a beautiful meld of nurturing, paternal, sage-like, hushed, caressing, but with thrust and gravitas when called for. He uses it as simply as when he speaks, not fussing over “technique” or diction. This video of ‘Eye of the Hurricane’ captures him in a vibrant LIVE setting not unlike ours.
His lyrics are like a Bible of truths, offering the kind of quotable insight and revelation that people like to post on facebook and forward around, because they are so real, and hit so close to home. I am drawn most to the songs that speak to the more overtly spiritual aspects of life, and less so to his whimsical pieces (ie: ‘Captain Wanker’), but I enjoy those as a sort of palette cleanser, because who wants to cry through an ENTIRE concert!? Here’s a trailer for an upcoming documentary that gives a hint of what’s behind his art, and the lives he touches.:
His song ‘Start With the Ending’ is a telling examination of what would happen if we were to start a relationship with the break-up: removing the over-analyzing, perfection-seeking, and fear of loss. In introducing the song, he also used this idea to pose what it might be like to start life with death, thereby removing the fear of it, and being able to life more fully, and actually evolving INTO the simplicity of youth and non-verbal communication. Fascinating!
His facial expressions are of complete gratitude and joy. He is clearly channeling the spirit, without obstruction, and living his bliss! His periodic smile stretches from ear-to-ear, and is very infectious.
Stories & Lyrics
He is a great storyteller, keeping us rapt for long stretches. One of his “stories” was an evolution of seeing things before us that are often considered separate, but really aren’t: his left versus right hand playing his guitar, his hands versus his voice, the performer (him) versus the audience, one’s heart versus another’s, and so on. It was a beautiful and poignant way of seeing the world differently, and all its inter-connectedness. He speaks a lot about listening to his guitar, and which song(s) his guitar is urging him to do next. Coming from another artist this might feel contrived, but not from him.
He spoke of his travels to Sudan, also captured on his website: “The ability to perform solo makes possible appearances such as a recent, last-minute trip to Africa, where Wilcox performed in Sudan at the country’s first national day of prayer. Concern about national and international crises led to songs such as ‘Three Brothers’, a moving, allegory of Middle East turmoil.”
And, on top of all of this, I discovered that he’s from my homeland: Ohio! Wish I had known when I met and thanked him afterwards. You know, we have one of those secret handshakes
I know that compassion is all out of fashion,
and anger is all the rage…
Grow up and give in to that cynical spin
that you see on most every page
We all know what’s wrong with the system
how the people are puppets and fools.
If they’re not strong, it will trick them,
they’ll get used up like factory tools:
The kids just give up in those schools…
…yeah, but what is it, really, that’s keeping me
from living a life that’s true?
When the worries speak louder than wisdom,
it drowns out all the answers I knew,
so I’m tossed on the waves on the surface.
Still, the mystery’s dark and deep,
with a much more frightening stillness…
Hopelessness always comes easy.
But “easy” does not make it right.
Courage can look past that surface,
but fear will still put up a fight.
When I get scared and scattered,
and I don’t know where to begin,
why even care; it doesn’t matter.
Why fight when you know you can’t win?
It’s easier just to give in.
‘Home Within Your Heart’
Too tired to sleep, too angry to pray,
too far down to get back up, too lost to find my way.
Who knows what happened, I’m too confused to say,
and too far gone to turn back now;
it’s too late anyway.
I don’t need a clever confidant to try
to soothe with hollow words,
I’ve heard them all.
What I need is just to know
I have a home within your heart.
Just hold me close. A few words will do.
We don’t have to find the answers now,
it’s enough to be with you.
A trip back to the midwest to visit family and friends over the Easter weekend turned into a veritable feast of art, beauty, and culture. In Cincinnati? Who’d-a-thunk-it?!
First stop: Contemporary Arts Center. I was fortunate to have been in design school at the University of Cincinnati, College of DAAP when the infamous Mapplethorpe exhibit (1990) opened in the old CAC location.That controversy embodied the art vs. obscenity argument. In hindsight, the indictments and trial were a good thing, as they raised consciousness about our First Amendment rights (the ones we clearly can’t assume are always protected), and connected people to their deep, but perhaps latent opinions about art and its role in our society.
I still have etched in my psyche particular pieces from that exhibit. The image of the black and albino man (Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, ’84) is practically an icon for a generation. And, I will never forget the sexual charge, and accompanying social implications of Man in a Polyester Suit, an image of a black man with his ample willy freed. I had never seen such potent imagery in a museum context. Thanks to conserv- atives labeling his work “dirty pictures”, it was able to find a much larger audience.
I recall when CAC’s new building was announced with much fanfare, and then completed in 2003. The selected architect, Iraqi Zaha Hadid was a somewhat controversial choice. This would be her first American work. Its raw concrete and desconstructivist forms offer a much needed freshness to the downtown civic landscape. Once inside, the criss-crossing black stair ramps, which can be followed all the way to the top floor, cut across each open atrium like shafts of night sky, and offer precarious and exciting vistas on all sides to the floors below.
CAC has no permanent collections, only rotating ones. The current gem of their collections is the work of Tara Donovan (open til May 3rd). She was born just a year before me (’69), and is clearly capitalizing on the hot botton issue of all the trash we create as a society, and our need for a greater consciousness around sustainability and refuse reuse. In this she also elevates the ordinary to art. However, unlike any work I’ve seen before using such materials, it stands on its own, even apart from its meaning, as visually impactful and singularly beautiful.
Since I have young nieces and nephews in Cincinnati, I was sharing with my sibs that this exhibit has easy appeal to all ages, and would provide a great opportunity for a young person to be really provoked and fascinated by contemporary art. I really believe that about Tara’s work. (Not to mention the UnMuseum which occupies the entire top floor, and was created for children.) Even more than most artwork, her work must been experienced in person to really be absorbed, and believed! The subtlety of it relies so heavily on the contextual lighting, and subtle spatial and tonal shifts. The scale of some pieces is so grand that photographs just can’t do them justice.
This is especially true with the wall of drinking straws, which in person looks like a portal to another dimension, a wall of haze and smoke, a suspended cloud, but upon further inspection reveals the true media.
Each of the pieces seems to call to mind something familiar in nature: a coral reef, a bacteria colony on an agar dish (that was one of my mom’s fabulously memorable interpretations!), an animal egg colony, or natural terrain or topography. And, all of this conjured up with scotch tape, styrofoam cups, adding machine tape, mylar, and other odd industrial materials. The monolithic cubes of silver pins, wooden toothpicks, and green sheets of glass were held together by gravity alone, NOT any internal filler or binding, as you might suspect. Amazing!
Donald Sultan’s “The First Decade” was notable for the use of the linoleum floor tiles that I remember so well from my grade school floors. Yes, that mundane, ordinary, industrial material has been turned into something truly beautiful in his work.
He employs the “less is more” approach, creating workers in a field (in Cantaloupe Pickers), a single Streetlight (at left), or smoke stacks out of a few simple forms, and often using gestalt concepts. The inherent patterns in the media become a part of the visual story (ie: ripples of water, or clouds). He also uses black tar in his work, creating rich matte black voids, often to contrast the colorful linoleum, or the smooth purity of white plaster.
Carlos Amorales’ “Discarded Spider” hit closest to home for me, as a graphic designer. He uses overlapping digital silhouettes (ie: black lines, and connective vector anchor points), so familiar from Adobe Illustrator, as the art itself, creating essentially simple forms of spider webs, skulls, birds, and nudes. He draws from inspiration in the urban environment of his Mexico City home and studio. From stark black prints to giant physical structures that reached from floor to ceiling, this is the sort of art that triggers the familiar “why didn’t I think of that?” reaction. Each piece, although based on the same elements, feels as if it’s a unique and custom expression all its own.
Next stop, I’ll blog about the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center…
Don’t miss out on this fabulous fundraiser for the Harvey Milk Academy, hosted by Precious Moments and Ivy Drip! Precious’ performances at a recent Snapalicious at the Deco Lounge were off the hook, so she will surely not disappoint. And, it’s all “for the children”… which is just too Celine to miss. Be there!
How fortunate I felt when Fernando Reyes accepted my request for a visit to his Oakland East Bay art studio, to experience more of his work, and see his creative setting. What a great opportunity to see the technique and true color of some of the pieces I had admired on his website. Particularly his Scape Above series (including Dusk, and Blue Skies), as well as Red Pair D’anjou. Jeff, my friend who was my portal to Fernando’s work plans to join me for the adventure.
This is an extension of my recent self-guided gallery hops, with the aim of finding an original piece for our prominent family room wall. What is always so wonderful about an artistic quest or creative journey is that it’s often the unexpected that ends up being most meaningful and memorable. That would proove to be true on this day.
We pull off 580 into Fernando’s studio neighborhood, and are immediately immersed in the strong visual character of Jingletown, as it’s called. Rustic, distressed, and still remaining (at least visually) true its industrial roots. It has a bit of the SF Hunter’s Point/Mission bay vibe. Clearly, the area is now largely inhabited by artists, unlike the gentrified live/works in SOMA. We pass multiple mosaics, along the road, liberally applied to the building walls, and then, not surprisingly pass the Mosaic Institute and Studio Supply. I really want to explore this place, but we have somewhere to be, so I table it for later. Thankfully, CJ finishes his East Bay tax meeting in time, and meets us out front.
Fernando buzzes us in, and we enter the grounds of the very interesting multiple studio building he inhabits. There is a garden of potted plants and cacti just outside his entrance. It already feels very welcoming and homey. The moment we set foot in his studio my eyes land on a piece that is sitting on his easel, near the entrance. Is it kismet? I gasp (yes, out loud), as my reaction to it is so visceral. The piece is called Details III.
I first respond to its overall palette and balance. The colors are vastly appealing and very much in “my” palette: mustard, warm greys, dusty blue, dark rust, etc. Slowly, the subject emerges before me, an amazing collage of deconstructed male nudes.
Fernando shares that all the segments are crops from his drawings, and woodblock prints. I immediately recognize the 2 largest pieces, from Les Hommes, which Jeff had recently purchased a print of. They include the back of a head, and a large, expressive hand that tells a world of stories. There are also more sensual parts captured, a beautiful lower back and butt, and muscular arm and chest crop. And, there is the elbow (top row, 3rd segment from right), which makes visual allusions to much more (a nod to Georgia O’Keefe?).
I realize that despite having gone to his studio with a nature or still life in mind, I was really drawn into this piece and its style. He shares with us that he had just created these pieces, mostly for the 14th Annual Erotic Art Fair Weekend in Los Angeles/West Hollywood the following week. It’s a new style and approach for him. He uses the good parts of existing drawings, and prints that are otherwise not ideal, sellable or usable. This particular piece is of all male subjects. But, he also has one which is all women (Details I), and a smaller, square one (Details II). I have to literally fight my preferential instinct towards square formats. My Bauhaus design background haunts me in this way.
Taking a break from this wonderful surprise, we peruse his studio, as he pulls out countless drawers with countless drawings and stories to accompany each. What I thought would be a 20 minute visit, balloons into a wonderful 2 or so hours… and were it not for an afternoon appointment, he would have had to give us the boot. Fernando enjoys talking about his work, and does so eloquently and passionately. Amazingly, he used to be a banker, but left that career to live as an artist. The upside of that is that he has as clear a grasp on the left brain perspective of his industry as the right.
He also has some smaller urban paintings of Jingletown. They are very clean, with minimal paint application visible, and appear almost photographic from a distance. I love them, but they were not of the scale I want for our wall. (They will be my next purchase someday, if they’re still around and I have any dough left.) In the corner we see some pieces that look almost like multi-colored fish scales, which are made up of VERY thick oil strokes. Fernando shares that they are made out of the remaining paint daubs from his actual process. How beautifully random!
Afterwards we grab a bite at Tiki Tom’s. It’s perfectly eccentric. Painted surf boards line the ceiling, and it sits right on the river/inlet. Think edgy Jimmy Buffett. Their BBQ pulled pork and french dip sandwiches are redonculous! GO! Now!
Long story short-er, Fernando allows us to enjoy Details III in our home for 2 days “on approval”, to make sure it works in our intended space, and to “sleep on it”. Since he intends to take it to LA, we know we have to make a quick decision, lest it be purchased by someone there, and lost to us forever. We realize how special it is that both of us love the piece so much, and appreciate how unique it is. So, I make the purchase…my first substantial, original piece of art. It is truly one-of-a-kind, as are all of the drawings included.
Literally, each day I discover something new in it…a texture, image, or color. I also jokingly renamed it 10 Nipples, since that there are! This is all quite ironic, considering I recently shared that I didn’t really care for “nudes” in my home, and yet this piece that we so love just happens to be. Funny how that works. And, there are plenty of squares in the design to keep me happy, even if the overall format is landscape.
Upcoming Open Studio
East Bay OPEN STUDIOS 2009
JINGLETOWN Art Walk
June 6 & 7 – 13 & 14, ’09
11:00am – 6:00pm
Over 25 artists exhibiting
Fernando Reyes Fine Art
Ford Street Studios
2934 Ford Street, Oakland, CA 94601
An Aside: Galleries to Visit
(These recommendations augment those already profiled here.)
Arthaus, @ 411 Brannan St.
Director James Bacchi was very helpful, and gave me a passionate, engaging tour.
Hang Art, @ 556 Sutter St
And, be sure to check out the annex across the street.
Now I know why bloggers do LIVE blogging at events. Because, once you return home, the memories are so vivid, and the experience so rich, the post threatens to be Biblical in length. Since I didn’t take my laptop with me and wanted to balance Worlds with getting out on the town, and exploring nightlife/restaurants with friends, I now attempt to squeeze an elephant through a funnel (so to speak).
An historic moment happened at Staples Center, with the first meeting of jumping clapping man, and Aaron of Axels, Loops & Spins. You could call it the figure skating bloggers’ Convention of the Century (jk). It was great to catch up on favorite moments during our seemingly short break, over my gin and tonic. We enjoyed texting throughout the competitions… as we were also Tweeting to our blogs. I respect his expertise and knowledge greatly. He is a master, and I a mere “grasshopper”.
The most amusing moments progressed after we discovered Richard Callaghan sitting 15 or so rows down from us, in Section 117, at the men’s free skate competition. Sometime around the half-time break some new arrivals walked down to him and flashed their tickets. Apparently sitting in their seats, he and his companion (a very handsome 20-something) stood up and moved back about 10 seats (to about 5 in front of us). Then, about 1 set later the actual owners of those seats also showed up, bumping Callaghan and his companion again, into a completely different section. Wouldn’t you think a world class coach would have his own seats? Apparently not.
The LIVE Difference
My respect for skaters and their sport goes through the roof when I attend a skating event in person. It’s an experience that just can’t be matched by TV or youtube watching. You don’t get the filtered, highlights-only version you do via those media. You come face-to-face with the full range of best and worst moments, and witness skaters both rising brilliantly to the occasion and others dropping the ball miserably. And, you see it up-close and in-person, with all the sweat, tears, and ice. For some it prooved to be their night, and for others, a night with only lessons to take away.
In particular, seeing top skaters Savchenko/Szolkowy, Yu-Na Kim, and Tomas Verner LIVE really drive home what separates the greats from the near-greats. They cast their spell, time seems to stop around you, you are transported, if a pin dropped you’d hear it, every move has intent and connection to the music, and the emotional catharsis as they complete their program is immense… the hoards rising out of their seats, perhaps accompanied by tears, and a long standing-O ensues. Even some skaters I don’t enjoy all that much on TV “read” better LIVE, like Miki Ando, whose dramatic and rapid arm movements always feel busy, but here they had more visual room to fill out, and just felt more natural.
All of the factors that have to align for these skaters to seize the moment is daunting: training conditions, travel factors, sleeping in foreign countries, jet-lag, ice quality, boot fit, blade sharpness, health, personal mood, meals/food, crowd response, skating order, and on and on. The gravity of these factors become even more evident when you yourself travel to a competition and then witness the performances before you.
I’ve heard commentators allude to the concept of “winning the warm-up”, but you only fully grasp the concept when you witness one LIVE. Oda and Voronov had fantastic warm-ups. The crowd followed each swarming movement and applauded each jump landed.
Who would ever have guessed that Jeremy Abbott, a skater who some thought could walk away with the gold, and ’08-’09 season US Nationals and Grand Prix Champion would finish 11th (the worst Worlds’ finish by a current US champion since World War II)? Or, that Carolina Kostner would finish 15th in the LP, after landing 5 singles (“pops”), and not a single triple? Boy did she ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Had her boyfriend just text’d her “It’s not you, it’s me”!?
Personal triumps belonged to Elene Gedevanishvili (now coached by R. Wagner and Elaine Zayak), and Alena Leonova, who both skated very strong LPs. Gedevanishvili was touted as a future champion by Scott Hamilton and Johnny Weir when she hit the scene seasons ago, but was sidelined by lack of training after being forced out of her homeland of Georgia. Glad to see she’s back in the game! And, Leonova was clearly thrilled to perform so well in her first Worlds. She is not a beautiful skater, but like Butyrskaya before her, a fighter and emerging competitor. An honest, thrilled reaction in the kiss-and-cry always has me rooting for a skater, no matter where they are from.
Also, we were deeply moved when, after a terrible fall and crash into the boards, FRA’s Candice Didier was helped off the ice by medics, but returned before her 3 minutes were up to complete her program, securing France’s Olympic berth. She is a slight girl, so how she pulled through to do some very extended spirals while injured was beyond me. The audience rose to it’s feet and showed its true appreciation.
It’s wonderful to connect with skating lovers all around you at competitions. We sat next to a wonderful couple from San Diego. We shared turns spotting skating celebrities seated nearby (Tara L., Boitano, Mukhortova, Lysacek, etc.), memories of past competitions (they had seen Hamilton and Zayak win at the ’81 Nationals), and factoids about skater’s records and top finishes.
Our seats were da bomb. We were in Section 117. Thankfully, for the saturday’s ladies’ LP, Kwan, Costas and Button were parked on a landing a stone’s throw away. That added to the drama and gravitas of the event. Since the event was in LA, I think nearly every skating champion and celeb from the past few decades must have been there. I jokingly swore that the only former US greats that weren’t in the arena were Fleming, Kerrigan, and Harding.
Like in the recent Oscars, where 5 former winners in each main acting category introduced the new nominees, the podiums were flanked by former champions: Angela Nikodinov, Lisa Marie Allen, Tiffany Chin, Debbie Thomas, and so on. I hope they continue this tradition (I presume its new).
Yet again a competition was won without it (aka Lysacek). It seems most skating fans and skaters have a love/hate relationship with it. In many ways it attempts to pull focus from of other equally valuable components. However, when witnessed LIVE, the beauty of the quad is breathtaking. It offers a thrill like no other… well, perhaps like downing a pack of Red-Bull. Ponsero, Oda, and Verner landed textbook quads in the competition, and sold me on their worth.
The Exhibition highlights included Joubert’s performance to Rufus Wainright’s Hallelujah. What an unexpected choice that was. And, it was the first time I’ve seen him really let his guard down and do something vulnerable and moving. When Joubert skates, even aside from his jumping ability, he gives off such a magnetism and confidence it is truly disarming. Verner claims he is “shy”. You wouldn’t believe it when you see his Michael Jackson program. It is so engaging and amusing, one of my easy favorites of the night, including Thriller, Off the Wall, Remember the Time and more. Oh yeah, and Kim’s The Gold by Linda Eder won hearts, as usual.
After Abbott flopped and Mroz skated well but not winningly, it was unclear whether we would secure 3 berths for US men at the Olympics. As Evan’s LP drew nearer and nearer, we knew he had to be on the podium to secure them. Thankfully, he blew any concerns out of the water.
Amazingly, if you look at the final scores for the US ladies, we were just 1 double axel away (Alissa Czisny’s) from securing 3 berths for the ladies in Vancouver.
— “This is the Word of jcm”
This guy’s outrageous delivery (one part Chuch Lady, one part Paul Lynde) and perpective on Worlds had me rolling! He makes me look like as butch as the Marlboro Man, and as comatose as Droopy. (For the weak of heart: beware, it does include vulgarity. For the caddy: DIVE IN!):
And, here’s another knee-slapping and jcm-relevant one from his archive: