Here are some Don’t Miss Events
During this inter-holiday week, there are many, many, many visitors in the Museum of Art, primarily to see the Ansel Adams exhibition before it closes on January 8. Be part of the fun! On Thursday, December 29, artist-photographer Gina Murtagh will host a drop-in family workshop in the Art Odyssey Gallery from 10 a.m. to noon. If you stop in on Friday, December 29, you can take a 1 p.m. guided tour and stay for the 2 p.m. screening of Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In.
Let me also encourage you to visit the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse very soon. I recently had the pleasure of seeing two interesting shows that are widely different takes on ideas about landscape: From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America and Margie Hughto: A Fired Landscape.
Soth is a young photographer who has captured the lives and places of contemporary Americans from Minnesota to Texas, and lots of other environs, too. The Everson’s show occupies three large galleries of compelling pictures, complemented by some videos and stories that fascinated my friend, Yvonne Buchanan, and me.
Also at the Everson, Margie Hughto created an impressive installation in ceramics that that surprised me out of my expectations of what “ceramics” are. Instead of a gallery of individual objects, I found what can be honestly called a mural. In clay. It’s a fascinating hybrid of genres – craft, sculpture, relief, painting – all in one treatment. The work combines the earthiness of clay with sublimely colored glazes and rich textural impressions that invited Yvonne and me to look in closely and then step back to be embraced by the whole.
Rush to see these two good exhibitions at another good Central New York art venue, the Everson, before they close on January 12.
Here at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, we wish you a good 2012 that is filled with rewarding arts experiences.
Visit the Museum of Art this holiday season to see an enchanting video installation by Jane Edden. She created Colony while she was working at Sculpture Space, an international artists residency program here in Utica. The title derives from another, earlier, Utica, the first colony established by the Phoenicians from Sidon (now Lebanon), ca. 1100 B.C.E., in what is now Tunis, North Africa. By happy coincidence, Utica, N.Y., has a rich and long-standing Lebanese community.
Edden described Sculpture Space as “a creative colony of far-flung artists; my installation used a film I took by the train tracks in Utica of a group of birds flying on and off communication wires, so I thought it fitting.”
Birds in flight, telephone lines and trains all evoke movement and communication, making Colony a meditation on assembly, interaction and exploration. It is captivating to watch, as it moves from cloudy to bright skies.
To make Colony, Edden filmed birds on telephone wires, then manipulated the raw footage digitally into a harmonious choreography of flying and alighting. She projects the imagery onto walls from which real ropes are fixed at the same point the wires connect to the telephone pole; the three-dimensional lines, extending into real space, became a facsimile of those in the film.
Along the wires Edden places small white cards that act like film screens, to catch the birds. In her mind, these elements place the viewer back into the original moment of the birds’ flight. She said:
To film something is to record three dimensions and time but it is so often shown on a two-dimensional screen. I wanted to explore the essence of film as light and time, treating the projected film as light being sent through space and stopped at various distances, allowing the relative positions of the birds to be re-experienced.
Colony is projected in both positive and negative film. The positive film portion looks more two-dimensional, but in the negative the shadows of the wires and card screens in the room disappear, leaving the cards to act as the only landing places for the projected birds.
The Museum of Art thanks donors Richard Blumenthal and Linda Morgan for their generous gift of Colony.
During the holiday season visit the Institute and enjoy a stroll through the Museum of Art’s Enhancing a Legacy exhibition, where you and your out-of-town visitors will enjoy seeing some works of art that have been added to the Museum’s collection only recently.
One such work is the compelling Carrie Mae Weems photograph pictured here. It is from Weems’ portfolio of images known as the Kitchen Table Series, from 1990. With minimal means, she created a rich narrative arc, from the first images to the last, of loving relationships, heartbreak, friendships, the challenges of child-rearing, and self actualization.
Here are some other images from the series (sadly, NOT in the Museum’s collection).
As you can see, the basic setting for the Kitchen Table images remains constant: a table with chairs and an overhead light. There is a changing cast of characters, although one figure, played by Weems herself, is always present. The décor changes from picture to picture as well; there may be posters or a birdcage or nothing at all added to the basic set. On the table there may be drinks, ashtrays, cards, cosmetics, books, a mirror. These accoutrements contribute to the story being played out.
Throughout the Kitchen Table series players reveal aspects of interpersonal relationships. Women congregate in support and friendship. Little girls emulate or argue with their mother. Interactions between the woman and men are loving, tense, or poignant.
In the image that the Museum of Art recently acquired, the woman and a man size each other up and seem to be weighing the risk of betting on or against the other.
About the narratives in her early work Weems states: “I endeavored to intertwine themes as I have found them in life – racial, sexual, and cultural identity and history – and I have presented them with overtones of humor and sadness, loss and redemption.”
The Museum of Art announces the acquisition of Bill Viola’s Transfiguration, a high-definition video from 2007. It’s an arresting art work; museum visitors seem compelled to watch as a shadowy figure emerges into our space through water, then recedes after spending a short time with us.
Bill Viola (American, born 1951)
B + W high-definition video with sound on plasma display mounted on wall
Edition 5 of 7, 2 Artist’s Proofs
Performer: Blake Viola
Bill Viola uses contemporary technology as an art medium but his subject matter is age-old: he examines humankind at important transitional stages—birth or death, or at the threshold of spiritual transcendence—in other words, standing between spiritual and material realms.
To be transfigured, a person undergoes a profound transformation within himself, even though his outward appearance may remain unchanged. In Viola’s Transfiguration, a ghostly presence emerges from a distance and walks through a veil of water in a kind of birth or baptism. The figure, who is the artist’s son, Blake Viola, looks at us, turns away, looks once more, then returns to the obscurity from which he came. What are we to make of this?
Viola was raised Protestant Christian, studied Zen Buddhism and also incorporates Sufi mysticism into his work. He seeks a balance between what he calls “the three great reservoirs of humanity—the Unborn, the Living, and the Dead.” The figure in Transfiguration could represent many different things to us, depending on our personal histories: a lost loved one; an angel or spirit; a memory of one’s youth; an ancestor; or a child from the future.