Your eyes and ears on the world of art and culture. We remind you that 17 years of back issues of eMusings can be found on our archives page.
Although we are not traveling as we once did, and surely will again, the internet allows me to bring you excellence from around the world. As Doctor Seuss said, "Oh the places you'll go!"
Imagine visiting this theatre on a visit to China. Steven Chilton Architects has clad the structure in a tattoo-printed exterior, harking back to the city's history as a silk center. If you can't get to Guangzhou, be sure to scroll through the slides, emphasizing the dramatic impact of the building on an industrial cityscape. Another imposing theatre by the same architectural firm was built in Wuxi, near Shanghai. Nicknamed the Bamboo Forest, the theatre is wrapped in steel, carefully angled to interrupt the mass of the building.
Experimenting with the possibilities of A.I., Google brings us its Blob Opera. Four opera singers were recorded for more than 16 hours. You don't actually hear their voices, but you can control vowel sounds and pitch by sliding the blobs up and down and forwards and backwards. It's not Bizet or Wagner but it is definitely 21st century.
At one fine site, you can see the paintings, sculptures, and works on paper of Thornton Dial, who passed away in 2016. Just as fascinating is his personal story, recounted in detail here, and including these words: People in the United States do not hate one another. No. But they be scared of one another. The way life have been taught is to make black peoples and white peoples be against one another in fear. I don’t believe there is any natural hate in people. I believe there is natural love. I find his sculptures particularly intriguing.
If color, flowing line, and exuberance are your interest, you might take a look at portraits done by Martin Sati. You can see more of his energetic compositions on behance.net and, perhaps optimally, at the artist's own website.
Adrian Villa Rojas was born in Argentina in 1980. Critics have noticed the crumbling fragility that exists within his massive public sculptures. As an aficionado of arcane titles myself, I am intrigued not only by his work, but by titles like "The Most Beautiful of All Mothers" and "The Willfulness of Objects". There is much to think about in this work.
I don't often encounter sensuality when I look at ceramics, but this is my first impression when viewing the works of British ceramicist Tamsin van Essen. The artist herself speaks of attraction and repulsion, as she creates alternating spaces of black and white in what one observer has called "biological forms similar to a parasitic virus". There is certainly a seductive quality to these works, an undulation of squiggling shapes that takes the eye on a somewhat tortuous journey. You can see another beautifully crafted body of her work, called "Vanitas Vanitatum".
Another exceptionally talented ceramicist from Israel, Zemer Peled uses thousands of porcelain shards to produce striking large sculptures that appear rather to be made of wafting feathers. These are quite extraordinary works, extroverted and exuberant as well as beautifully crafted. You can visit her studio virtually - her pieces will lift your spirits.
If you are not familiar with the works of Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, here is a good place to start. Kandinsky was interested less in objects than in human responses, and felt that his paintings could evoke musical sounds. He was part of the Blue Rider group that included Franz Marc and August Macke and he taught at the famed Bauhaus.
The issues of prolonged solitary confinement and death by federal execution is under fire from the American Institute of Architects. Finally, after years of pressure, the group has developed an ethics policy that prohibits its members from designing spaces for torture or death. George Floyd's killing was apparently the final straw that impelled the professional organization to make its position known.
Every so often a single image captures my attention and continues to haunt me long after I move away from it. Such is the case with a 17th century portrait of a young girl in a red dress. Offered by Christie's auction house, the sadness of the youngster with her black dog and tiny shoe peeping out from the flowing dress is relieved only by a small patch of blue sky at the top right corner, out of her view and not within her reach. The inexorable downward pull of the portrait takes us ever farther from that bit of blue hope.
You may want to read the acceptance lecture by Louise Gluck for her 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature. Gluck's very personal journey through words and passions, touching on Wiliam Blake and Emily Dickinson, invites us into her vivid imagination and explains her fascination with the intimate and the deeply personal. She mentions two of Dickinson's lines that have ever stayed in my memory: "I'm nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody, too?".
Another literary journey worth your time is titled "The Secret History of T. S. Eliot's Muse". Emily Hale was Eliot's confidante and beloved for seventeen years. At his insistence, his letters to her were kept sealed at Princeton University until fifty years after they both had died and have only recently been released. Eliot called this correspondence "the letters of an hallucinated man". It appears that his refusal to marry her, in spite of his professed love for her, in fact inspired his poetry. He, the shy and gawky Ph. D. student at Harvard, and she, with her voice and graceful presence, went to opera and theater together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He eventually married Vivienne Haigh-Wood, whose mental illness was unknown to him at the time. Fifteen years later he wrote to Hale of how much he loved and adored her. Read the article for more fascinating details.
The relentless seduction of negative spaces fills the sculptures of Jesus Curia, a Spanish artist who leaves us no way to avoid the depersonalization of living in a technological society. Working in bronze, steel, and iron, Curia applies acid and fire to his materials, creating blank faces that appear swamped by the spaces they occupy.
I had put this page to rest with a big red bow when a surprise Christmas gift arrived at my door: "The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton", Winner of the 2013 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. Within minutes of reading I was swept away by the power and courage of Clifton's writing. Consider this: "the dusky girls and brothers have noticed the prevalence of black bark, bird, berry, and raised their feral shadows till they walk like men to the slaughterhouse", or this "miss rosie: when I watch you wrapped up like garbage sitting, surrounded by the smell of too old potato peels,...waiting for your mind, like next week's grocery" . There are hours of relentless beauty here.
c. Corinne Whitaker 2021