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Friday, March 29, 2013

ARTING About...? Think Theatre, Share Stories, Create Community


Think Theatre, Share Stories, Create Community
What do you do? Short answer, I am a high school theatre teacher. Longer answer, I unite young people in common purpose to create a unified artistic product combining words, actions, and imagination. I am not a failed actor, I am not teaching until something better comes along, and my production program is not a therapy group for a band of misfits and their damaged instructor.  I work with smart, young people, committed to quality productions judged by the standards of good theatre, not merely good high school theatre. The six word title of this article defines my approach.

The brain must be fully engaged to create theatre.  If a school wants a serious cross-curricular activity, they should fund the theatre program like the athletic department.  Actors engage the language, motor, and emotional centers of the brain to create a role.  Designers study history and literature to imagine the world of the play and then apply math and engineering to bring that vision into the day.  A good production program examines a range of human experience, exploring diversity in concrete ways beyond a lecture in a history class.

I choose to work in theatre rather than film because the performers and audience occupy the same space and time. The space between the actor and audience fascinates me.  Any adult worried about the disconnection of young people in a digital age should put them on stage.  I create productions which challenge both actors and audience by blurring the lines between the groups.  Not many high schools mount musicals in the round (Once on This Island, Into the Woods, and Seussical) or tennis courts (Loves Labor’s Lost, Selkie) or choose to move the audience during the show (Medea, Night of the Living Dead, Shakespeare in the Park.) Growtowski and Brooks examined that space, because, in that gap, is where theatre happens.  My students enjoy the effects of proximity and interaction on young people.  During our production of Night of the Living Dead, the student zombie horde roamed the aisles of the theater, amplifying the stakes for the characters.  
I would like to hear from other theatre people about what high school theatre programs should do to create stronger artists, larger audiences, and better human beings. I will save my thoughts sharing stories in my next post because I wanted to tell you, I had a monkey in my house one day….

Brian Bozanich
Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator
MFA Youth Theatre- University of Hawaii, Manoa

Please visit and look for Dr. Robin Scott Peters Ebooks now available.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Art of Life--A Short Story?

A strange week indeed.  Two extended family members passed away.  I was informed of the first passing last Tuesday.  I attended the wake just yesterday.  As I was walking out of the wake I received a text from my mother telling me of the passing of another family member.  How apropos.  During my trip across country I stopped at a cemetery and monuments raised to honor the dead and here I am surrounded by the reality of what awaits each of us.  I tweeted something about the wake and how I would write about the Art of Life.

Art captures life in all forms.  It codifies a specific moment in time.  Whether a still life painting, sculpture or photograph, something captured the artist's attention.  Moved to manifest the internal infestation of this "muse," a creation is born.  Life and death.  Hand in hand.  One does not come without its tethered twin.  Some art examines the idealism of life; some the pessimistic nadir that pommels our hopes and dreams.  All the "isms" of our infinite ability to construct paradigms revealed, manifest throughout the history of humanness.

Morning.  After promising to blog about such lofty ideas as Art and Life, I took to the streets to find art.  Maybe some inspiration out there could help me define these two pillars of existence. As I drove around Falmouth, Cape Cod, MA I didn't find any outward monuments to life.  No symbolic statues reaching toward the heavens.  I contacted my producer.  Lula, help!  She got to our favorite "savior" Google.  "Go to Cotuit Center of the Arts."  Okay, GPS do your thing...bleep, bleep. drive 13.5 miles east.  So with the big eye in the sky assisting me I followed the directions being harped at me and settled into the single lane traffic. I glanced at the Cape Cod homes with the slate grey, deep blues and rustic reds weathered and tested by mother nature.  Look at all the people "ant-ing" about.  Teeming life all around.  People going about doing their thing as if death wasn't even a possibility.  "2.5 miles, your destination will be on your left" the sweet British-voiced GPS guided lady prompted.  I looked to my left and I saw a barn red building -- Cahoon Museum of American Art.  Big American flag waving, banners calling out their "Campaign for the Cahoon."  Yup, just like art, always trying to raise money.  I thought, "we artists always struggle with money."  I passed the Cahoon and arrived at my scheduled destination.  It was a theater complex.  A large theater and a black box.  Not what I was expecting.  Oh wait, there is an art gallery...oh darn, it's closed.  Okay, obviously not in the cards for me today.  My stress level beginning to peak, I have to write about art and life, right?

Back in my truck, I moved out the parking lot to the street.  Guess I better head back to Falmouth. I jumped into the thickening traffic and was quickly upon the Cahoon again.  I drove past it thinking "well that's a museum.  Must be art in there."  "American art...boring!  Hmmm what is American art?"  Tap tap tap on my shoulder came my artistic alter-ego.  "Turn around -- NO. I am not interested!  Tap tap tap, turn around!"  No, no, no, but somehow my fire red Nissan Frontier managed to listen to the internal me and not the external me and I found myself parking.

At the entrance was one of those fundraising thermometers.  Showing how well -- or not-- the management campaign for cash was going.  "Did it say $1.5 million raised?  Can't be right. This little community raised that much money for some unknown museum?"  I looked closer.  "What, they are trying to raise $2.5 million?  Lofty dreams for such a seemingly small organization."  As I  reached for the door I saw the sign saying "American Art"  I had this immediate reaction to turn and run, run fast and far.  I rejected and over powered the response, pushed through the entrance, and came upon a nice young lady sitting quietly at a small letter desk.

I looked about.  It was a typical New England styled home built in 1775.  Wainscoting, strong paneled doors, planked flooring, yes, seen this before.  I introduced myself ... blogger, art, California, travelling about, can I photograph, blah, blah, blah.  The young woman disappeared quickly to get the appropriate person to allow me access to...?  I grabbed a postcard on the desk that advertised the current display.  March 26, 2013 -- just opened yesterday.  "ARTIST AND BARTENDER: The Extraordinary Works of Captain Joe Miron." Well that has potential" I quipped to myself.  I walked around the small room thinking, "this will be a quick visit.  Nothing interesting here. Just quaint small town artists happy to see their work on walls other than their own."

From behind me I heard "I understand you have questions regarding our exhibit?"  I turned to find this very tall brunette, big eyed and pretty smile, extending her hand. "I am Stephanie, I run the gift shop.  I will try to answer your questions.  I am new here, but if I don't know the answer, I can certainly find out."  I took out my cell, turned on my tape recorder and peppered her with questions --who, what, where, why, when ... public art?  We wandered into the second room.  I immediately realized the building was much larger than the outside indicates.  Stephanie was a bit nervous at first, but as we chatted her knowledge and love of the arts spilled out and our conversation took on a comfort that allows for a reporter to get some good 411.

"We are really excited about our newest exhibit. Captain Joe Miron.  "Stephanie led me into another room and began to talk about Captain Joe Miron.  "He is from Falmouth originally."  "Really," I interrupted.  "I grew up in Falmouth, I never heard his name?" Stephanie leaned in and said, "he was a bartender at a bar called the Captain Kidd in Woodshole."  "What!  That was my hangout back in the 70's.  I wonder if he ever served me a beer?"  Stephanie moved into a long hallway running behind the rooms we had just occupied.  "I really like this new exhibit, full of life."  Hmmmm, life and art.  Just what I am looking for.

I listened to Stephanie and as I moved to the second and third work, I realized I was rushing through.  Not really looking, more like on auto pilot.  I took a breath.  "Self, you got some chip on your shoulder, give the work its due.  Stop glancing, work the work."   So that's what I did.

I looked at composition and setting first.  I noticed that Captain Joe Miron really liked crowd scenes.  People everywhere in all of his work.  Groups small and large.  I examined what was happening in the crowds.  This is where I fell for the work of Captain Joe Miron.  People, enjoying, partying, stealing, grabbing, drinking, cavorting, carousing, and canoodling!!!  Captain Joe Miron was capturing real life.  He had mastered the art of life.  Slap! Right across my face it all began to make sense.  The colors vibrant, not brash.  Juxtaposed with the subject matter.  Color of life.  The application wasn't flat.  Captain Joe Miron's use of strong line against the simple application created a bold depth that I obviously missed with my first glance. There was immense humor -- a caricature of the living, but one which also revealed.  I could see those wrongly-coined "cartoonish" characters as full living beings.  Occupying the same space.  And all wrapped up in bawdy behavior--living life, making a living, loving friends and sharing the very precious time we get to be on this earth.  Bravo, Captain Joe Miron!

I looked down this hidden hallway and I spied a well quaffed gentleman with a handful of boxes and the like. He turned and smiled and Stephanie, right on time, made the introduction. "This is our Museum Director, Richard Waterhouse."  I pounced!  "Richard, what do you think of...."  And I began to gush over the dramatic turn within me regarding Captain Joe Miron.  A chorus of  "I almost missed this and that," and "his subject matter..." and "the power of the every day existence."  Yes that 's what Captain Joe Miron captured the seamy everyday deep beautiful side of life in all its forms.

Toulouse Lautrec, came screaming into my head, but it was stuck in there, you know, on the tip of your tongue sort of thing.  I spoke "who is  that French painter who painted the bawdy side of life?  This work so reminds me of that in its style."  Richard was right on it... "oh, yes, Toulouse Lautrec.  Yes, I suppose so."  Stephanie cordially agreed and Richard excused himself.  A director's work is never done, and by the looks of the few works I reviewed, so far so good.

Alas Alack, my guides were gone.  And I was left to explore.  Captain Joe Miron is deep, traveled the world and he captured it magnificently.  Nassau, Italy, Spain, France and more.  Each painting examining life that is right in front of him.  The taste for living and the zest of life he conjured is quite remarkable.  The longer I lingered at each work, there is a plethora, I marveled and chuckled out loud, at the creative mastery Captain Joe Miron conducted by capturing "us" in the stroke of life. 

So you would think that this is the end of the story. And it was.  Until I met Joan Lynch whom dropped some serious knowledge on this PhD fathead.  A bit of back story here: After my conversation with Stephanie and Richard, I was alone.  I, being a jovial extrovert, engaged Joan immediately and we basically--stranger to stranger--viewed the complete exhibit (Art is communal).  We bantered back and forth about everything.  The art makes you think.  Joan was well traveled abroad and she immediately verified the accuracy of the depictions of the locations.  With the Captain Joe Miron  spin.  Joan volunteer's and works with clients afflicted with Alzheimer's   Joan was involved with classes that were held on Cape Cod which trained home health care professionals to use art in the treatment of Alzheimer's.  The classes where headed by none other than MOMA.  This program which Cahoon Museum of American Art participates allows groups to come to view art when the museum is closed allowing the Alzheimer's clients full interaction with the art.  Joan stated, "you would be amazed to see what they notice and remember and comment on" regarding the art they see during the visit.  And as quickly as we had become art partners walking, enjoying together, she put forth a firm hand and flashed her smile  perfectly displayed with her silver head of hair.  And our encounter was over.

I said my goodbye's and walked out of the museum.  I took some pictures of the outside of the building because I wasn't allowed any photographs of the art.  But now it was okay not to have it, again, in the irony of this whole visit, it only seemed right not to have them.  Better to tantalize, makes it all the more sweet when you visit and see America's Toulouse Lautrec.

These last few days I pondered Life and Art. Captain Joe Miron has the answer.  Be in the moment my friends.  MOMA has the answer: art as facilitation for the community.  Cahoon Museum of American Art has the answer: make art accessible to everyone--art renews.  Joan Lynch has the answer: give, love, help--art heals.

A lesson learned?  Join me won't you?

Typical New England 

The Art World's nemesis -- MONEY

Did you find the line about Toulouse Lautrec?  I stumbled upon this poem by the grandson of Captain Joe Miron.  He called his grandfather the "American Toulouse Lautrec."  This is in the last room I visited.  Over an hour after I mentioned the work had T.L. flavor!!!

Cahoon Museum of American Art

Please visit and look for Dr. Robin Scott Peters Ebooks now available.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Public Art -The Figge Museum and Ms.Alison Saar

The fluid is black oil.  The facial features unmistakable. Racial affects defined so simply.
The fluid is black oil.  The facial features unmistakable.  What do you think the artist is saying about public "treatment?" 

Photograph of sculpture of nude female with antlers, suspended upside down.
The first work I saw, I was floored.

Photograph by Robin Peters of a sculptured nude female form with antlers suspended upside down from the ceiling tied at the feet.
I was so wanting to talk to someone about the antlers?  I have a few thoughts on it.  Lets debate.

Photograph by Robin Peters of a Sink filled with a black liquid.  Above the sink, suspended by metal "still-like" tubing is a glass heart and above that a glass head half filled with black liquid.  A bar of white soap and black soap on the old styled sink.
Notice the black soap and the white?  Direct dichotomy of color?  The heart is?

Photograph of the glass boxing gloves, mop, bucket from the front.
A Battle for Life and Respect?

Alison Saar metal sculpture of a woman nude, with antlers carrying another woman curled in the fetal position bound.  Antlers are all around the standing figures feet.  She holds her left breast with her right hand.
I so want to speak to the artist! Carrying self.  Shackled/tied and immobilized.

Photograph close up of glass Boxing Gloves. Blood red liquid inside.
Blood Red -- A fight for life?

Photograph by Robin Peters of Glass Boxing Gloves 3/4 full of red liquid, a mop and a bucket with a metal tube draining the liquid downward.
The blood drips into the cleaning bucket.  This was chilling standing in its aura!

Photograph of the Introduction of the Saar exhibit details.
The amazing artist.  Public art?  Communal accusations?

An Exhibit piece of a horse frame.
The material and color, I didn't do it justice.

Stained Glass Exhibit at the Figge Museum, Davenport, Iowa.
You can see the depth as if it is jumping out at you.  In person, the effect was so wild.  Had to try to capture it. How did I do?

A large wood carving of an African woman adorn.
Much larger then it appears in the photograph.  Scroll down for the  full reveal.

African wood carving by artist Acius Joseph
A Star in the East.  A Child is Born?

African Wood Carving by Artist Acius Joseph.
A  holy Child is born!

Photograph close up of African art wood carving face at the Figge Museum.
There is a sense of contemplation, comfort and resolution/acceptance?

Photograph of small sculpture wood carvings representing the nativity scene.

Photograph of African Art wood carvings with exaggerated extended body and neck.  See my article the Picasso Effect to compare Picasso's fascination with the same use of exaggerated form.
Magnificent.  The artwork in the background is the piece I mentioned above about 4' tall.

Photograph taken by Robin Peters of the interior of Figge Museum. Stairs leading down.
Third floor to second floor.  Blending art and space?  Hey SFMOMA,  Your  Twitterchat on building design opened my eyes.  Before I stepped in to the Figge I stood outside and walked around the complete building.  Inside I focused on lighting and layout.  Thanks for the motivation to look at the "whole."

Photograph by Robin Peters of a series of looped bridges crossing the Mississippi River, Davenport, Iowa.
The Mississippi.  Bridges public art?  

Photograph taken by Robin Peters in a glass walkway which crosses to a casino in Davenport, Iowa near the Figge Museum.
Bridge Walkway to Casino on the Mississipi.  Escher!!!

Photograph from a fourth story walkway of the Mississippi River and the water control system.
The Mighty Mississippi!

Figge Museum, Davenport, Iowa.  You folk's have got it going on!!!  Thank you Ms. Lula, my producer, for all your homework and telling me this place was a must stop.

When I arrived at 225 W. 2nd the first glimpse of the Figge and its glass building portended what was about to occur me.  I walked to the front and stood looking at myself in the glass.  My image altered.  And the short time there affected my internal image.  I was not expecting such mind altering art.  Alison Saar, artist of the African art above, I want to interview you!  I love when I run into unexpected emotional interaction with art.  I mean, that is the point right?  You Figge'n Rock!!!

I took over 100 pictures while at the Figge.  Trying to not put all 100 here was a great struggle.  Ms. Saar, what else do you have for us hungry souls looking for more than flaccid art!  We art lovers looking for art that brings us to that point of personal internal confrontation? Make us struggle, and hurt, feel guilt or pity, exploring emotions untapped or even unknown to us.  We humans that watch American Idol and MTV foolishness.  So afraid of engaging life, we hide among the vapidness of "entertainment."  Not you Ms. Saar.  Your voice ringing loud and clear.  You are engaged and challenge us to do the same.

Anyone near the Figge, anyone that has a desire to see powerful work -- get up!  Drive, run, walk, bus, fly whatever...get to the Figge and see this.  Take a friend, share (public art) communicate, express your emotions and dig deep.  And for holy sake turn off the idiot box and walk into a world waiting to give you so much more.  If you can't get to the Figge, then go to a museum near you.  Every place I have stopped along this journey has delivered such surprise.  I am sure, right next to you, is an amazing adventure awaiting.  Ahhhh public art.  I want to devour all of you.

Please visit and look for Dr. Robin Scott Peters Ebooks now available.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Public Art: Monumental?

I spent Tuesday night in North Platte, Nebraska.  I was wrecked, tired, and the Comfort Inn bed was deliciously inviting.  I slipped in to the crisp clean sheets and closed my eyes thinking about the drive. Slumber.  Wednesday seemed to be here well before I was ready.  I awoke, late.  I despise rushing, but I have a schedule.  Have to be in Boston by Saturday morning.  I jumped out of bed, grabbed my workout gear and dashed down to the exercise room.  Mumble, mumble, mumble, to myself.  "Going to have to cut bunches out of my day to stay on target."  After my workout, I stuffed some eggs down and showered, packed, wrote my blog and checked out.  Mumble, mumble, mumble.  My Nissan, Frontier reminded me of her insatiable desire for 89 octane and I drove out of the parking lot to find her fix.  What is it about looking for the best gas price, driving around trying to save a few pennies a gallon?  I filled her up...topped off and ready for another 650 miles on the road.  I headed to the I-80 East entrance, which was back next to the Comfort Inn I stayed at.  The light was red as I got to the freeway entrance and I happened to glance towards the hotel and literally right next door to the hotel was a 20th Century Veterans Memorial.  How the heck could I walk out and not see that!!!  Clean those glasses Robin.

For a brief second I thought, just go.  There will be others.  Really? I argued with myself.  Yes, no,Yes, no.  The light turned green--decision time.  I looked over my right shoulder, pulled out of the lane and headed towards the memorial.  I am so happy I did.  Okay, so let me jump ahead in the story almost six hours later. I now am in Iowa, I had seen a few spectacular art works off the freeway, but the few I saw came up so quickly that I wasn't able to stop as I passed the exit.  In Iowa, it seems, if you pass an exit you have miles to go before the next one to be able to turn around.  And as you all know, I was late and rushing and just couldn't afford the time.  I was again, mumbling to myself about what the heck was I going to write if I didn't see any art.  A short blog indeed.  Fate, acting hilariously, solved that almost immediately.  To my right, among the expansive fields and slow rolling hills standing at the crest was a cemetery.  It looked very old.  I have this fascination with old cemeteries.  My eleven year old daughter, Abigail, died on December 31, 1999.  We buried her in the Hixville Cemetery in Galt, CA.  It's a strange place.  One of the original California settlers burial grounds.  How do I know this?  Well, the dates on the headstones!  Almost half of the deceased were children.  Somehow that very fact was so soothing for us during such a difficult time.

I didn't miss the exit this time.  I quickly made my way up.  I drove into the cemetery, parked and walked up to the peak.  I took pictures.  I walked and looked at the headstones for the dead.  I embraced the sense there and look out across the expanse.  Beautiful Iowa farm lands. Monuments I thought.  The veterans memorial are monuments to the dead, for the living.  I think what I saw there was art?  Now as I looked down at the marker of Eliza Richart 1817-1887, my head was in turmoil.  Are all these headstones art?  Public art?  If sculpted monuments of brave men and women are seen as such, isn't a sculpted piece of granite, with beautiful images and perfect emotional words etched for eternity, art as well?  Help me here folks.  This questioned haunted me for the rest of the 650 miles.  I settled finally, 10:30 pm in Coralville, Iowa.  Another Comfort Inn.  I needed comfort.

It's morning, Thursday.  I got up on time.  Went down to work out.  NO weights...urgh!  Mumbling, I grabbed some eggs and went back to my room to blog.  Here's what I want you to think about.  History, pain, marking the moment, creating a communal experience, making it accessible to everyone--I am confident we all agree those are basic components to public art?

Please visit and look for Dr. Robin Scott Peters Ebooks now available.