Sunday, July 31, 2011

Unfortunate Hazards of the Road

The Phantom Coach (Derived from an illustration by Paul Lowe)

Since the theme for the week is bad happenings on the road, we can discuss a related horror trope. Travel is not an easy undertaking in the world of classic ghost stories. When you find yourself in a strange environment, all sorts of weird things might come across your path. And such is the case with our story tonight, Amelia B. Edwards' Phantom Coach, written in 1864.

Our protagonist finds himself lost on the British moors during a snowy night. He is desperate to return to his young wife and, after a sequence of foreshadowing incidents, he encounters a coach. Things are not as they seem. ;-)

Amelia B. Edwards

Here's my favorite part:

There could be no doubt, however, of the fact, for the lamps grew larger and brighter every moment, and I even fancied I could already see the dark outline of the carriage between them. It was coming up very fast, and quite noiselessly, the snow being nearly a foot deep under the wheels.

And now the body of the vehicle became distinctly visible behind the lamps. It looked strangely lofty. A sudden suspicion flashed upon me. Was it possible that I had passed the cross-roads in the dark without observing the sign-post, and could this be the very coach which I had come to meet?


Cavallino Rampante

Ferrari's Prancing Horse

Last week, I had the opportunity to see a Ferrari Club exhibition up in Palos Verde. It was quite a thrill. I'm not a "car person" but I can appreciate fine design and craftsmanship. The autos were awesome!!!

After my "incident" earlier this week, I'm going to be needing a new car. Sadly, these beauties are out of my price range. But I have an active imagination and great proficiency at dreaming. ;-)

Of the various elite luxury brand race car manufacturers, Ferrari is the one that captures my interest. Certainly, there are other fine cars that I admire, such as Bugatti, Jaguar, or Porsche. But the story behind Ferrari makes it stand out. From the origin of the "Prancing Horse" to the "quirkiness" of il Commendatore, Enzo Ferrari, to the thrilling races at Le Mans or on the Formula One circuit, the Ferrari story is a compelling narrative.

Ferrari 308 GTSI

Yeah, as an American, it's appropriate to belittle the "Pride of Italy", but, love them or hate them, you can't deny their fascinating history and their amazing automotive design.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Architecture Strange Yet Familiar

Storm Crown Mechanism (2009) by David Trautrimas

At Bergamot Station, dnj Gallery is holding a group show featuring a number of artists that they represent, including Michael Eastman, Cynthia Grieg, Annie Seaton, and Bill Sosin. I can write at length about these excellent photographers, but today I feel like writing about David Trautrimas' futuristic architectural structures from his Spyfrost Project (2010), a few of which are on display in this show.

Trautrimas' works are based around household appliances imagined as architecture, specifically inspired by a techno-thriller Cold War militaristic aesthetic. Photographing numerous images of these vintage consumer goods and their component parts, Trautrimas reassembles them into fantastic military structures. They look like something out of a wild '50s era espionage comic book. Is the structure above a secret Soviet "Weather Control" facility or a mishmash of refrigerator parts? And how about this image?

Terra Thermal Inducer (2009) by David Trautrimas

Yeah, through the magic of a creative imagination and expert photomanipulation, Trautrimas has created a retro-futuristic Cold War environment out of the detritus of consumerist culture. The metal and chrome from the "House of the Future" has been reworked into military structures that never were. Yet, they feel so authentic. I can imagine a "Thermal Inducer" hidden in the Siberian wilderness.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Flowers: It's Dahlia Season

Yellow Dahlia


They brought me a quilled, yellow dahlia,
Opulent, flaunting.
Round gold
Flung out of a pale green stalk.
Round, ripe gold
Of maturity,
Meticulously frilled and flaming,
A fire-ball of proclamation:
Fecundity decked in staring yellow
For all the world to see.
They brought a quilled, yellow dahlia,
To me who am barren
Shall I send it to you,
You who have taken with you
All I once possessed?

Yeah, that's a bit of a downer poem, considering how excited I am for the beginning of dahlia season. I love these big, bold blooms. They have such great exuberance and rambunctiousness. They are the loud Divas of Queen Flora's Court.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Master of the Ripped Bodice

Fabio Lanzoni promoting Old Spice Komodo

There has recently been an internet ad campaign featuring Fabio Lanzoni, star of countless Romance covers in the 80s and 90s, attempting to become the new Old Spice Guy. This brought him into competition with the current holder of the title, Isaiah Mustafa, the Man Your Man Could Smell Like. After a series of vids in which they threw miscellaneous object at each other, including a dinosaur bone, the Mano a Mano challenge has come to its conclusion.

It's kind of silly. Fabio is a painfully bad actor, but a pretty good buffoon. Back in the day, it seemed like he was the model for every other Romance novel. It was embarrassing to have to face the clerk working the book store register with a novel featuring his cheesy image. Oh, how I loathed Fabio!!! With on-line ordering and e-books, this is a humbling experience that has been lost to a savage past. Thank goodness!!!

Fabio on the cover of Brenda Joyce's Scandalous Love (1992)

Over the years, I've come to view the "Fabio era" of bodice ripping covers with nostalgia. Some of those books were pretty good reads. Since a Fabio cover would generate sales, that was savvy marketing put to good use.

The Spirit Is There in Every Boy

Detail of Rescue Breathing No. 2 (2010) by Abel Baker Gutierrez

Last Saturday, I attended the Luis De Jesus Gallery's opening of "Swimming", a solo show featuring the works of Abel Baker Gutierrez. The images are inspired by '50s era photos and films of Boy Scouts, specifically in regards to water-related survival training. From this source material, Gutierrez has contextualized the imagery within a dark, ambiguous but vaguely menacing setting. The technique and style of these oil paintings evoke a 19th century feel, part Realisim and part late Romanticism.

The overall effect is haunting. There is an incongruity between image and style. We imagine the boy scouts training in a bright, sunny setting, but these paintings are dark and mysterious. The style is associated with nude female bathers and naturalist wooded landscapes, but here we have energetic youths and rowboats. A subtle sense of wrongness pervades these works. Yet, the images are compelling compositions, with hints of narrative inspired by the clash of subject and style.

Above as Below No. 6 (2010) By Abel Baker Gutierrez

Gutierrez's exquisite painterly technique creates a rich surface texture and engaging play of light and shadow. All these elements combine to make this a fascinating show.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Like a Kick to the Back of My Head

Concussion: Cerebral Bruising

Alright. Hopefully this post will be coherent. I got into a really bad car accident yesterday and have a serious concussion as a result. Honestly, I'm content with that being the worst of my injuries. Freeway collisions have high probability for crippling and fatal injuries, especially when a small car is hit by an SUV at high speeds. My car was destroyed, but I made it out relatively unharmed.

But this concussion is somethin' fierce!!! My ability to concentrate is almost non-existent. I've got a headache like a bell-ringing constantly in my head. And although I love my family, if they ask me my name, date, location, etc. another time, I think I'm going to explode. But I'm trying to stay positive on the whole matter.

It easily could have been worse. I got hit totally by surprise, so my body was fairly relaxed, allowing the impact's force to rush through my body in a non-disruptive manner, with the exception of bouncing my brain around the interior of the skull. Moreover, although I got knocked into the next lane, I got lucky in that a secondary collision didn't occur. Yeah, all things considered this grievous concussion ain't so bad.

Concussion: Brain Trauma

But I'm can't say that I'm a fortunate man. I'm just not as unlucky as I might have been. Whenever you receive an impact so hard that you lose consciousness, it is de facto an unlucky situation!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Curiouser and Curiouser

"Golden Afternoon" scene from Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Today we're celebrating Alice in Wonderland. I would have done so on the publication date earlier this month, July 4, but I was on vacation. So the 1951 Disney movie release date is the next best thing. ;-)

To be honest, my first exposure to Alice in Wonderland was through the Disney movie. It caught my imagination and I read the book shortly thereafter. As a child, I was never big on fairy tales like Snow White or Cinderella. But Alice isn't a fairy tale. It's literary nonsense, a weird fantasy adventure. I was enthralled by this bizarre world of insane characters and illogical happenings.

Even after all these years, I still have to list Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as one of my favorite books. It had a lasting influence in my love for the fantastic and personal aesthetic of the strange. Alice has shaped my own approach to fantasy writing to an even greater degree than such classics of the genre as the Lord of the Rings or the various adventures of Conan the Barbarian.

Alice's Adventure in Wonderland (1866), illustrated by John Tenniel

My enthusiasm for Alice extends to the various remakes, sequels, and parodies that have been made. Alice is even my favorite Disney theme park ride!

Monday, July 25, 2011

We Travel the Space Ways

Detail of Fantastic Garveyite (2011) by Robert Pruitt

Back in May, I discussed my admiration for the music and style of Sun Ra. Well, imagine my enthusiasm when I saw the new exhibit at Koplin Del Rio, "Them from After the End of the World: Works by Robert Pruitt." The show features many of the same concepts of afrofuturism that can be found in Sun Ra's work, but given a contemporary expression in portraiture.

Rather than the glittery Egyptian-like headdresses and paraphernalia of Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Pruitt gives his subjects accouterments of technoscrap, reminiscent of neon signs, old fashion radio/television antennae, and early aerospace detritus. There is both a futurism and an obsolesce to these figures. They have a patient certainty in defiance to their abandoned state. They are not the sleek protagonists of standard Space Adventures, with shiny gadgets capable of conquering the challenges among the stars. No, Pruitt's subjects feel more like the determined survivors of a Post-Apocalyptic world, in which technology is resurrected from the junkyard of a failed civilization.

El Saturn (2011) by Robert Pruitt

There is no triumphalist afrocentrism in Pruitt's work, although there are plenty of African elements such as the various totems, fetishes, and headdresses that the subjects bear. And I think the lack of overt ethnic celebration is intentional. Afrofuturism and afrocentricism have often been used as forms of escapism. Pruitt's subjects are not drifting away into "the Mothership's" dreamspace. They are given a focused presence in the here-and-now, although they express a yearning for that escape into the stars.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Surrounding Gloom

The Empty House

This week we'll look at that old standard of horror, the haunted house.

Algernon Blackwood wrote "The Empty House" in 1906. By this date, spending time within a "domicile of dread" was featured in countless ghost stories. For instance, J. Sheridan LeFanu's "An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street" was published in 1853 and was considered such an exemplar of the type that Bram Stoker used it as direct inspiration for his story, "The Judge's House", in 1891. Even last week's subject, M.R. James, tried his hand at this well-worn trope in "Lost Hearts", written in 1895, albeit with his signature antiquarian twists.

So, what makes "The Empty House" worthy of our consideration? First, it is an excellent read. Second, it is the iconic "It'll be a Thrill" haunted house story, in which the characters who experience the haunting are neither unknowingly residing in the accursed place nor are they conducting a "scientific" study. They are there purely for the thrilling experience. As such, it is the antecedent to many of our contemporary "ghost stories" in which we watch, via night vision cameras, some silly people freak out in a "haunted" location for our entertainment.

Third, in most haunted house stories prior to "The Empty House", the haunting is about a location in which a ghost resides. Consider other monster types and their lairs. In fairy tales, a bridge may have a troll lurking beneath it or a cave may house a dragon. Neither the bridge nor the cave are inherently terrible; it is the monster associated with them that makes the location baneful. And so it is with the haunted house. But "The Empty House" alters the paradigm. Yes, there are ghosts present in the house, but their malevolent and unnatural presence has tainted the essence of the location. Whether or not the ghosts are present, the House itself is a monster.

Algernon Blackwood

Consider this passage:

Stealthily, walking on tip-toe and shading the candle lest it should betray their presence through the shutterless windows, they went first into the big dining-room. There was not a stick of furniture to be seen. Bare walls, ugly mantel-pieces and empty grates stared at them. Everything, they felt, resented their intrusion, watching them, as it were, with veiled eyes; whispers followed them; shadows flitted noiselessly to right and left; something seemed ever at their back, watching, waiting an opportunity to do them injury. There was the inevitable sense that operations which went on when the room was empty had been temporarily suspended till they were well out of the way again. The whole dark interior of the old building seemed to become a malignant Presence that rose up, warning them to desist and mind their own business; every moment the strain on the nerves increased.

Stile Floreal

Detail of Poetry (1898) by Alphonse Mucha

On this day in 1860, the Art Nouveau master, Alphonse Mucha, was born. If you've been a frequent reader of this blog, then you know that I admire his works. I'll take any excuse to post one of his images on my blog. And his birth date is the perfect excuse!

So, here are my top three Mucha images. (Caveat: they are my top three right now. I might have another top three tomorrow. LOL!)

Number One, is the image above, Poetry. It's the first Mucha that I remember noticing and appreciating. In college, I would often walk by a reproduction of the image on the hallway wall of my dorm. So, she feels like an old friend.

Number Two is:

Reverie (1897) by Alphonse Mucha

Reverie embodies that daydream quality. The composition is gentle and captivating, like a sweet thoughtful pause on a hectic afternoon. I love her.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

July Dance Party!!!

Rick James, Super Freak

It's time for our monthly celebration of popular dance music. Our eight song selection is pretty interesting this time around. In '81, and '91, the dance trends undergo radical changes following the featured songs of this month. Creative trends within the dance subcategories are featured in '86 and '96. Good stuff!

So, let's get to the music.

Jean Knight, Mr Big Stuff

Shivering in Solitude

Trouble Waters by Andrew Hem

My favorite art topics are loneliness and isolation. Therefore, I'm enthralled by Andrew Hem's haunting images in the exhibit "Cold Water" at LeBasse Projects. His child-like figures are wandering through a barren and forlorn terrain. The prevalence of pallid blues give this vision a frozen quality. Even the warm flesh tones are shifted grey, giving the impression that the figures are in some liminal state of being alive and active yet rendered somewhat insensate by the numbing solitude.

And there is a sense of sorrow. It's a vague presence that imbues the entire composition, from the dark landscapes to the troubled faces of the children. It is unclear whether it is the cause of the loneliness or caused by it. But the sadness clings to the children like sodden clothes. It is given form in the manifold images of wetness, be it in the tides of the frigid sea, ethereal streaks that hint of rain, or the cold drifts of snow.

Colder Than a Polar Bear's Toenail by Andrew Hem

It is a relentless and icy realm of pure loneliness. Yet, the figures generally seem to be enduring through it. They trudge up the frosty mountain. They wade through the icy waves. They persist in spite of the darkness.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Flowers: Agapanthus Edition

Agapanthus - Blue Lily

The Plain Sense of Things

After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.

The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies.

Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence

Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as a necessity requires.

Today's flower is the agapanthus. I like that name, which comes from the Greek words for "pure love" and "flower". Isn't that nice. :-)

Those Wacky Whirligigs

Hello, Girls (1964) by Alexander Calder

I'm a bit surprised and amused that Google decided to dedicate their doodle to celebrating the 113th birth date of the sculptor Alexander Calder. He's not exactly a household name nor was he an incredible innovator that decidedly improved the human condition nor was his work accepted into mainstream popular culture. But, if Pac-Man can get a Google nod, then why can't Calder?

Personally. my feelings about Calder have gone from scorn to light-hearted acceptance. When I was in college, I would walk past Calder's Gallows and Lollipops on a nearly daily basis. I freakin' hated it! It was a garish eyesore! However, looking back at my animosity, I realize that my dislike for the work was how it stood out from its surroundings, not any intrinsic quality. It's actually an interesting work of art.

Gallows and Lollipops (1960) by Alexander Calder

I've seen many other Calder pieces at numerous museums over the years, but my feelings towards him changed relatively recently. I was hanging out in the LACMA sculpture garden with a friend, sitting by Hello, Girls. The day was mild and pleasant. I was in a laid back mood. And I took notice of the complex and enchanting movements of the sculpture, reflecting in the water and framed by palm trees above. It was a surprisingly beautiful moment, kind of transcendent.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Idle Hands Are the Devil's Tools

Witch (Is She Weird?) by COOP

If you're a fellow fan of "Lowbrow" art, then you absolutely can't miss the current show at the Corey Helford Gallery, "Idle Hands: Works by COOP". I've long been a fan of his work, especially that cute devil girl with the Popsicle. There is such a cheeky vibrancy to his images that they always make me happy. Playful, erotic, energetic and silly, they have a gonzo disregard for self-serious aesthetics.

But don't think that they are amateurish. COOP's work is technically exquisite. His color utilization is bold and sophisticated. The line work and compositional design keeps the eyes playing around the canvas. An especially impressive technical feat is how COOP creates a overtly flattened image but, through overlapping text or images, creates the impression of foreground and background. It is a very dynamic style.

American Woman (Jasper's Flag) by COOP

But most of all, it's fun!!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Weekly Wrap: Wednesday Night #2

Captain America Punches Hitler. It's the American way!!!

Here we are, wrapping up yet another week. I'm pretty happy with the ways things went over the past seven days. I've got the monthly post per day average back to a 1:1 ratio, which isn't great but isn't bad either. I met my three goals set last week in offering consistent Art posts, initiating Spooky Sunday, and starting to cover interesting community locations. Moreover, I've started the Paideia Los Angeles Art Guide.

It's been a good week. Hopefully, this upcoming week will be as good or better. ;-)

Cast Into a Rippled Mentality (2011) by Tran Nguyen

So, let's look at the week's features.

Cheese and Profanity

Schubert Dip by EMF

Twenty years ago today, "Unbelievable" by EMF topped the Billboard Hot 100. I wasn't a fan at the time. It had a good beat and fresh vibe, but I didn't feel that it was worthy of the extensive airplay that it received. Seriously, you could hardly put on the car radio without hearing it a couple times before making your destination, even if you were just traveling a couple of miles!!!

I later became a fan when I found out that the chorus is a sampling from the "comedian" Andrew Dice Clay saying "What the f--k was that?" Now, I'm not one to exult in vulgarity, but I absolutely loved the fact that the dreaded "f-bomb" has slipped past the repressive US censors and got played on public airwaves a bajillion-mczillion times.

But to make things even better, in 2005, Kraft decided to use this song to promote their nasty pseudo-cheese substance, Cheese Crumbles. "It's Crumbelievable!!!" I think it was totally appropriate because, once you taste these gruesome orange-yellow globs, you'll want to say "What the f--k was that?!!"

They're Crumbelievable!

Wretched stuff for certain!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blessings for the Beasts

Listening to the Service

A Dog

A little monkey goes like a donkey that means to say that means to say that more sighs last goes. Leave with it. A little monkey goes like a donkey.

I had the good fortune to be able to attend the Blessing of the Animals last weekend at Wayfarers Chapel. Seeing animals participate in peaceful religious ceremonies always charms me. First, I'm amazed that chaos doesn't break out derailing the whole event. Seriously, how do you gather together a group of semi-wild beasts and not have mayhem prevail? Dogs and cats, bunnies and snakes, these creatures can be querulous at any given moment. How is it that they become relatively well-behaved at these types of events?

Second, the compassion that the human participants have for their beastly companions is touching. Bringing their pets to the ceremony is important to the pet owners. The wish to share the spiritual consolations of the faith with their beloved animal "family members" is admirable. It is an obvious expression of love and charity. And that's why I find it so moving.

I'm happy that modern American spirituality has mostly rejected the old Creation hating attitude that has dominated most of the Christian tradition. With a few notable exceptions, such as St. Francis of Assisi, animals have been considered soulless creatures, unworthy of affection. Bah!!! I say good riddance to Medieval human arrogance and meanness of empathy.

These beasties might not have the gift of advanced reason, but they can certainly feel pleasure and devotion towards their human friends. So, why wouldn't a loving and benevolent Divinity extend blessings unto them?

Introducing the Paideia Hall of Shame

Shaquille O'Neal in Kazaam

After writing last night's diatribe concerning the Captain America-Dunkin' Donuts promotion, I started thinking that I ought to create a special list of notable Crimes Against Good Taste. This list would not deal with forgettable crassness or momentary stupidity. It would be limited to those works of popular culture that transcended the quotidian level of banality. These Exemplars of the Awful would have had to stand the test of time as a lasting disgrace.

So, what atrocity would be the first into the Paideia Hall of Shame? I did my normal search in five year increments back from 2001 and soon found out that the abominable cinematic flop, Kazaam, was released fifteen years ago. So mighty is the wretchedness of this movie, that the mere thought of it made me recoil in disgust.

Although I'm a Laker fan, I never really warmed to Shaquille O'Neal even when he was bringing in the Titles for the city. And I believe that it is this monstrosity of a movie that influenced my unfriendly disposition to him.

And I'm far from unique in despising this film. It holds a miserable 4% at Rotten Tomatoes. Therefore, for Crimes Against Good Taste, I consign Shaquille O'Neal and Kazaam to the Paideia Hall of Shame!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fat Americans

Taste the Patriotism!!!

Alright. This is going to be another rant post. Be warned. . .

In my youth, I was an avid reader of superhero comic books. Captain America wasn't my favorite character, but I had a fondness for his style and personality. He was totally square, but honest, hardworking, and responsible. He was a paragon of good ol' American virtue, with very little of the jingoism or provincialism that one might expect in an overt nationalist icon.

Since the days of WWII, the USA has experienced amazing prosperity. This material abundance has led to Americans becoming both figuratively and literally fat. The US is the most obese nation in the history of the world!!! Therefore, I find the Dunkin' Donut ad campaign totally annoying! Our national superhero is shilling the lowest of junk food. Even a McDonald's or Wendy's hamburger has a better nutritional value. Seriously!!!!!

Fat Captain America (2010) by eimrehs

Given our obesity epidemic, I can't see that it would be in character for Captain America to do a promo for Dunkin' Donuts. Yeah, I know he's not a real person, just a fictional figure from the comic books. However, this character embodies certain principles of national virtue. Those of us who care about the integrity of character have a right to complain.

Psychological Impulses Personified

Treading Through an Untrimmed Memory (2011) by Tran Nguyen

Thinkspace Gallery is currently exhibiting "The Synapse Between Here and There", a solo show of new works by Tran Nguyen. These works have a look that blends early 20th century fantasy illustration and Art Nouveau. Yet, there is a compassionate quality that allows the viewer to empathize and identify with the imagery. These are not aesthetic icons, to be kept separate and above the viewer. They are like beautifully designed Rorschach patterns, into which the viewer may engage their own creativity to impart a personal significance to the work.

Perhaps a better analogy than a projective test is to consider these images as "dreamscapes" to which the viewer brings their own distinct interpretation. The art has no "correct" meaning, but instead holds a multiplicity of meanings as determined by the current psychological disposition of the interpreter. That's how I understand the title of this show. It is not about the Object or the Subject but about the Communicative Impulse between them.

Just Another Oscillant Deposition (2011) by Tran Nguyen

Certainly, there is a guiding parameter which is expressed by the title and by the use of colors, shapes, and compositional arrangements. These are not infinitely open abstractions. Nevertheless, these works possess a fertile ambiguity similar to that found in classic Symbolist aesthetics, such as in the works of Gustav Klimt.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quis Est Iste Qui Venit

Illustration by James Bryde (1904)

This is our first Spooky Sunday post. Tonight we'll be featuring one of my favorite ghost stories by one of my favorite ghost story writers, "Oh, Whistle And I'll Come, My Lad" by M. R. James. Written in 1904, this is a story of an amateur antiquarian discovering an "accursed" item that brings the horrific attention of a supernatural entity. This basic plot line has gone on to become a staple of the Horror genre, but I feel that James does it first and best.

It's not about gore or thrills that make this story stand out. In fact, these elements that so dominate modern Horror are hardly present at all. Rather, it is the thick atmosphere of dread. Very little gets described or explained, but James suggests and hints at a world of terror, just beyond the reader's ability to fully comprehend. This story leaves an impression of the malevolent dead, waiting to prey upon the hapless and helpless living when the unwritten rules that separate the waking world from the Underworld are accidentally transgressed.

Montague Rhodes James

Here is my favorite part of story:

He blew tentatively and stopped suddenly, startled and yet pleased at the note he had elicited. It had a quality of infinite distance in it, and, soft as it was, he somehow felt it must be audible for miles round. It was a sound, too, that seemed to have the power (which many scents possess) of forming pictures in the brain. He saw quite clearly for a moment a vision of a wide, dark expanse at night, with a fresh wind blowing and in the midst a lonely figure - how employed, he could not tell. Perhaps he would have seen more had not the picture been broken by the sudden surge of a gust of wind against his casement, so sudden that it made him look up, just in time to see the white glint of a sea-bird's wing somewhere outside the dark panes.

I highly recommend reading the whole story yourself.

Voice of Light and Darkness

It is our tradition here at Paideia to wish Happy Birthday to the great classical female vocalists of our age. So, let's offer up best wishes to soprano Dawn Upshaw for her 51st Birthday.

Upshaw has a rich, soulful voice. It would stand out in performance of any work of the standard rep. However, we've been blessed by her championing of 20th century and contemporary pieces. Eschewing the temptation to cover the familiar, Upshaw has become the defining voice for numerous modern works. Championing these new compositions hasn't been the sharpest career decision for the pocketbook, but it has certainly earned the respect and admiration of classical music enthusiasts.

Let's get to the music.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Backwards and in High Heels

Today we celebrate the birth date of Ginger Rogers, born in 1911. Not only was Ginger one of the beauties of the classic silver screen, but she was hands down the best film dancer of her era. Yeah, that includes Fred. ;-P

I'm not a big fan of musicals, but a well choreographed dance number can grab my attention. And whenever Ginger is on stage, she will make even the most uninspired arrangement look like genius. With grace and poise, she sweeps the viewer away in captivating movement.

I can go on and on, but it's Saturday afternoon. And Ginger's moves can defend themselves better than even the most epic blog post that I can offer.

Conjunction of the Organic and the Mechanical

Promotional Image featuring Future Beans III by Celia Gilbert and Bands #10ab by Wally Gilbert

My regular readers know that I can't pass up a good opportunity to write about Dionysian and Apollonian aesthetic contrasts. Fortunately, the Schomburg Gallery at Bergamot Station has an excellent exhibit of Celia and Wally Gilbert's art, entitled "Beans and Bands". Really, comparing Celia Gilbert's expressive anthropomorphized bean paintings with Wally Gilbert's precise geometric C-prints, one couldn't come up with a better starting point for me. ;-)

The "Beans" of Celia Gilbert are odd pieces. On one hand, they are object still life paintings, albeit abstracted. On the other hand, they are narrative abstractions wherein the anthropomorphized beans play the role of subject or protagonist. Some of the works have is notable lean towards one of these directions. For instance, the Future Beans series trends towards still life, while the Death of Saint Bean has a definite narrative focus. But the works that trigger my interest the most are those that stand in the middle, that cause the viewer to keep on flipping perspective upon the aesthetic statement.

The work that best exemplifies this ambiguity is Beans Lost in a Wood.

Beans Lost in a Wood by Celia Gilbert

Without the title, one would assess the work as an abstracted still life. We would appraise color utilization, texture, and compositional structure to experience the subjective "reality" of the represented objects. But, when the title is considered, we suddenly shift mental gears and, using the same elements of painting, we start discerning narrative significances. Within the same painting, there are two paintings.