A lot of what you read in the newspaper and the Beehive is short, punchy and — let’s face it — fairly easy to understand. Sometimes arts stories can’t be those things. For my Sunday Spotlight column, I wrote a piece about Caleb Duarte, one of the six artists featured in the Fresno Art Museum’s terrific “Breakthrough” show. Duarte made an installation for the museum based on a performance-art piece he did in the state of Chiapas, Mexico.
I’d describe the performance piece and the installation in an easy paragraph for you, but I can’t. Hence, the column. Let’s just say Duarte’s work involves getting nearly buried alive. It includes some intriguing ideas about physicality and the corporeal experience we have of being in our own bodies, plus some pretty heady musings about economic and political issues. And it helps to know Duarte’s own back story when considering his art. I feel privileged to have the space when I need it to dive into complex issues, because art sometimes needs to be complex.
So, if you have a few minutes to really get into the meaning and spirit of a work, take the time to read this column. I enjoyed getting the chance to talk at length with Duarte and enriching my own experience at “Breakthrough.”
After the jump, I include some photos that help add to the understanding of Duarte’s work.
Sunday’s Spotlight section puts the spotlight on “Breakthrough,” the terrific new Fresno Art Museum show featuring six vibrant artists with Fresno connections. You can read my centerpiece column about the show here. (Sneak preview: I loved it. My only regret with this column is that I didn’t have enough space to go into as much detail as I would have liked with each of the six individual exhibitions that make up “Breakthrough.” But I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the weeks to come.) Bee photographer Craig Kohlruss and John Alvin collaborated on the image above.
I asked each of the six artists to complete an email interview with me about themselves and their work in the show. We feature interview excerpts in Sunday’s print edition. (Also, don’t forget that we have a nice online photo gallery where you can view examples of each artist’s work.) On the jump you’ll find the extended versions of the interviews.
You know there’s excitement ahead at a Fresno Art Museum opening when you have to drive WAY down the block to find a parking place. I’d never seen so many people at an opening as for last night’s “Breakthrough.” I heard through the grapevine that as many as 600 people (update: final count was more than 750) crowded in for this exhibition devoted to six promising artists with Fresno connections. And many looked to be in their 20s and 30s, exactly the demographic the museum needs to keep the momentum going.
One of the highlights was Caleb Duarte’s installation piece, a work loaded with meaning. For the show, Duarte recreated a performance art piece he originally made in a small village outside Chiapas, Mexico, that involved the villagers burying him and his partner, Mia, up to the head in a shallow, hand-dug hole in the dirt. For the museum version, Duarte created a 12-by-6 foot slab of “dirt” (made of concrete and soil) that seems to float out from the wall. There’s a hole for a person to stand in the middle of that slab.
Besides, as Mike Oz put it in his own picks, hoping that no more local businesses close …
1. EXPERIENCE AN OPERA MARATHON
Everything about Berlioz’s vast “Les Troyens” is epic — including its length. The first installment of the year of the Metropolitan Opera’s popular Live in HD series clocks in at 5 hours, 45 minutes. Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, Bryan Hymel and Dwayne Croft lead the cast, portraying characters from the Trojan War. It screens at 9 a.m. Saturday at Edwards. Here’s the New York Times review of the production.
I still remember the time I saw Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and I swear it must have clocked in at close to six hours including two long intermissions. It’s kind of fun to just settle back and bask in a work of such length. [Details]
1. JOURNEY TO THE KINGDOM OF SWEETS
For many people, it just isn’t Christmas until you’ve seen “The Nutcracker.” The Central California Ballet production features some top-notch professional talent in the leading roles, including Michaela DePrince and Taureen Green, both of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier; Aurora Frey (pictured) and David Beir, who play the Snow Queen and Snow Queen; and Courtney Boyd, who plays the Dewdrop. Don’t forget to check out my story about DePrince — she was an African orphan who became a star ballerina — in Thursday’s Life section. [Details]
Fresno State’s Center for Creativity and the Arts has brought in well-known environmental artist Patrick Dougherty for a short-term residency. He’s in the process of constructing an installation outdoors near the Conley Art Building on campus. The Fresno Art Museum is involved as well, with photographs of the artist’s international work currently on exhibition.
Dougherty will speak in the museum’s Bonner Auditorium 6 p.m. tonight for a discussion about his life and work.
From the museum:
Dougherty’s sculptures are immense constructions that require an orchestrated team of volunteers and professionals to complete. Visitors are encouraged and welcome to observe Dougherty at work on the Fresno State installation during construction between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. until completion of the project on Nov. 28.
You can view some of his completed constructions at Dougherty’s website. Pictured above: the artist’s “Close Ties,” a 2006 installation in Dingwall, Scotland.
Every once in a while I get a chance to really relish a story topic by spending a significant amount of time reporting and researching it. That was the case with photographer Joel Pickford’s impressive exhibit “Soul Calling: A Photographic Journey Through the Hmong Diaspora.” I was able in my Sunday Spotlight centerpiece column to devote a big chunk of text to this important show at the Fresno Art Museum, which took eight years (and more than 50,000 images) for Pickford to put together. In my column I write:
In Pickford’s remarkable project, which started as an in-depth ethnographic look at recent Hmong arrivals to the Central Valley and later expanded into repeated trips to Laos itself, you get a glimpse of profound generational changes as members of the Hmong Diaspora have settled into their adopted culture. And you get a feel for the fascinating and stalwart country they left behind …
For a year, he focused exclusively on these recent arrivals, who were basically arriving unprepared for a new country years after earlier refugees had already made lives for themselves. He made memorable images: A young boy with no toys scrapes in the dirt in front of a tired, unlandscaped apartment complex. A man sits with his two wives on a couch as a relative watches TV in the background. A young pregnant woman stands in front of a mirror as she struggles into her too-tight Hmong New Year dress.
We were able to use three of Pickford’s photos in the print edition, which I’ve included on the jump. For more, check out this online photo gallery from the project. And make plans to visit the Fresno Art Museum to view the exhibition, along with “Threads of Life: The Art of Houa Vang,” an exhibition of story cloths and decorative clothing from a prominent local Hmong-American artist. The shows run through Jan. 6.
The Fresno area has gotten to know a lot about the World War II internment camp at Manzanar. Credit goes to the Fresno County Library’s “California Reads” series of events revolving around Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s book “Farewell to Manzanar.” In recent weeks, events have included a prominent legal team discussing the presidential executive order that sent Japanese-Americans to the camp, an afternoon devoted to traditional Japanese arts and dance, and a visit to Fresno by the author herself.
One of the most intriguing Manzanar offerings is on display at the Fresno Art Museum through Jan. 7. In “Ansel Adams’ Born Free & Equal: Photographs of the Manzanar Relocation Camp, 1943 to 1944,” we see the famed photographer in a rare journalistic moment. He was given the opportunity by the U.S. War Relocation Authority to photograph in the camps, but there were some strict rules: He couldn’t highlight anything “negative” about the camps.
The cumulative effect is one of tranquility and high spirits. There are no images of guard towers or barbed wire. No downtrodden expressions. No grim depictions of the dust storms that ravaged the Owens Valley, where the camp was located. A cursory glimpse suggests a happy and productive community.
Yet as you can imagine, it was a lot more complicated than that.
1. EXPERIENCE WORLD-CLASS BALLET
I can’t push this dance concert enough: It’s an incredibly big deal to line up eight dancers from the world-renowned San Francisco Ballet to perform. I write about “Ballet Stars of San Francisco,” which will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Saroyan Theatre, in the cover story in Friday’s 7 section. [Details]
The Fresno Arts Council hands out its annual Horizon Awards tonight at 5:30 ceremony at Fresno Art Museum. As is the case each year, the awards honor people who have devoted their time to creating, fostering or promoting art in the Central Valley. The list of honorees is below and one name should look really familiar to you:
Artist: John Kelly (Posthumously)
Educator: Dr. Thomas Loewenheim
Citizen: Richard Cencibaugh
Business: Chris Hays, The Door Gallery
Special /Media: Donald Munro
Special /Environmental Art: Heather Anderson
Youth: Maya Kratzer
With apologies to the other winners, I feel compelled to give Beehiver Donald Munro a pat on the back here. Since I sit very close to him, I’m privy to his comings and goings, knowing when his phone rings and when his keyboard clacks and clacks and clacks.
Let me tell you: He works very hard, and much of it is out of an internal obligation to giving local theater events and art exhibits much-needed attention. It’s not something he’s ordered to do or part of some quota he’s fulfilling. If that were the case, trust me, he would well exceed it. He is committed — as this event justly acknowledges — to giving the Fresno arts scene the thoughtful, critical voice it needs. Bravo, Donald.
I can assure the other honorees are worth gushing about too. So head over the Horizon Awards page and read all about them too.
More of us today than ever consume images digitally — whether it be traditional journalistic outlets putting photo galleries online (here’s a nice selection of shots from Bee photog Gary Kazanjian taken at the Shaver Lake weekend boat parade) — or Facebook friends swapping around the latest annoying Pinterest puppy. I’m not just talking about ‘everyday” images. If you’re interested in fine-art photography, the digital world gives you a chance like never before to see what stellar photographers are up to, with whole portfolios available online.
But … you can lose something looking at an image on a computer screen rather than experiencing a beautifully printed photograph in all its glory. That was one my thoughts walking through Bruce Haley’s powerful exhibition “Esmeralda & Nye” at the Fresno Art Museum.
I write about the exhibition in my Sunday Spotlight column. Haley, who made his first mark as a photographer in war zones, took these images in two desolate Nevada counties. The first print in the exhibition depicts a wide swath of rugged emptiness without a trace of human habitation. I write in my column:
As the numbers in the series get higher, the human impact increases. By the time we get to the twelfth, it’s hard to find even a square inch of untainted wilderness. This isn’t about people themselves but the marks they make. And those marks aren’t always pretty: beat-up house trailers strewn across the landscape; old cars scattered like a child’s abandoned toys; telephone poles standing in for trees; weathered buildings limping along with tired businesses.
There’s a pervasive sense of places that have been “used up” and then largely abandoned by the people who used to thrive there, with perhaps only a few hardy souls hanging on.
There’s more to the power of the show than just the content of the images, however. They are breathtaking in their clarity and detail. Haley used a whopping 10-inch-wide negative in his large-format camera to make his extreme panoramic black-and-white prints.
1. GET ‘MERRY’ WITH THE WIVES
“The Real Housewives of Windsor” they aren’t (well, maybe just a little), but Amelia Ryan as Mistress Page and Jennifer Hurd-Peterson as Mistress Ford manage to stir up a lot of silly in the first show of the Woodward Shakespeare Festival summer season. “The Merry Wives of Windsor” is anchored by a wonderfully puffed-up performance by Aaron Spjute, whose blustery Falstaff tries to woo the two leading matrons in town, with predictably disastrous results. It plays 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday.
I’m back after a glorious three-week break, most of which I spent in Costa Rica. Amazing country. I dragged my camera, three lenses and tripod all over the country and was in amateur-photographer bliss. (Above, one of many tropical flower pics I took. I’ll post a selected online gallery soon.)
1. GO TO A PARTY FIT FOR ROYALTY The Soulflower Group hosts its popular annual Prince tribute at Audie’s Olympic on Saturday. It features a handful of DJs dipping into their stashes to play Prince gems. A movie will shown and, if I know The Soulflower Group, there’s some more cool stuff planned too. [More]
The Fresno Art Museum hosts filmmaker Michael Wolfe for a talk and screening of his acclaimed film “Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World,” narrated by Susan Sarandon. From the film’s website:
This new ninety-minute film takes audiences on an epic journey across nine countries and over 1,400 years of history. It explores themes such as the Word, Space, Ornament, Color and Water and presents the stories behind many great masterworks of Islamic Art and Architecture. The film explores the richness of Islamic art in objects big and small, from great ornamented palaces and the play of light in monumental mosques to the exquisite beauty of ceramics, carved boxes, paintings and metal work. It revels in the use of color and finds commonalities in a shared artistic heritage with the West and East.
The event is co-sponsored by the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno. The talk and screening is at 6 p.m. at the museum. Tickets are $15.
The Fresno Art Museum did a wonderful job creating an entertaining fundraiser on Saturday with its fashion-meets-recycling concept Trashique. The event really showcases creativity and innovation through fashion. I really loved how the artists interpreted the 13 scenes, each inspired by different art theme. I particularly loved the Van Gogh and pop-art designs.
Above all, I find the use of these “trash” materials inspired. All the designs showed ingenuity. It was fun getting a closer look at the designs after the show and realizing how beautiful odd objects can become when manipulated in a creative way. I’d love to hear what you think of the fashion, so share your critiques in the comments for this edition of You Rate the Look.
I’ll start with one of my favorites, from Adam Mena (modeled by Skylar Devoogd), which used balloon fragments. (Sorry for the soft focus – low light + iPhone = not too sharp).
I feature Trashique, one of Fresno’s most glittering social and artistic events of the year, in my Sunday Spotlight column. (It will be held Saturday, April 21 at the Fresno Art Museum.) In my column you can read about the basics of the event — in which local artists are asked to design garments out of trash or recycled material — along with a glimpse of one of the creations for this year’s event designed by Rhomie Thompson. He constructed a skirt and bustier-style top out of used party hats and California Scratcher tickets, and he tops off the ensemble with a candy-apple-red wig made out of a phone book. We didn’t have enough space in the print edition to use Bee photographer John Walker’s gorgeous photo of the headpiece, so here it is in all its glory:
Fresno Art Museum director Linda Cano welcomes Diego Rivera’s daughter, Guadalupe Rivera Marin, and her grandson, who stopped by the museum Friday to view Rivera’s oil painting “Santa Anita. Writes Cano: “What an honor to speak with her. I will never forget this day!!”
On Friday, the San Joaquin chapter of the American Institute of Architects gives its bi-annual awards for exemplary architectural design by San Joaquin Valley architects and for work built within the San Joaquin Valley. From the group’s website:
Local firms and clients submit their completed works to the awards program and they are judged by and independent judges from partner AIA chapters outside of the San Joaquin Valley. The awards program honors the architects, clients, and consultants who work together to set the bar for design excellence.
I’m once again one of the jurors for the competition — I’m the non-architect on the panel — and I’m looking forward to spending a long day tomorrow going through the entries. The awards will be presented Friday night at the Fresno Art Museum. (Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres start at 6 p.m., with the presentation from 7-9.) There’s still space to attend the awards; check out the flyer on the jump.
In addition to the juried awards, there’s a People’s Choice Award sponsored by Creative Fresno. You can vote here. Voting will close at noon Friday.
1. MORE ‘HAIRSPRAY,’ PLEASE
I haven’t yet seen this return engagement from Good Company Players — I’ll be there in the audience tonight at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater — but the original GCP production was a blast. Most of the principal cast members and director Fred Bologna return. The show is in its opening weekend. Here’s my Beehive interview with Ashley Wilkinson, who plays Tracy Turnblad. Pictured: Peter Allwine as Corny Collins.
The Fresno Art Museum opens its new round of winter exhibitions today with an opening reception and a series of conversations with participating artists and curators from several of the new exhibitions. If you’ve never attended one of these events before, I highly recommend it. You get a chance to interact with the artists, plus there’s a nice ambiance at the reception — lots of good food, drink and art lovers. Here’s the schedule:
3 p.m. – Discussion with Sameh El Kharbawy about “The Art of Dissent.” El Kharbawy was inadvertently caught up in last year’s revolution in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, and he photographed the turmoil and subsequent celebration.
4:15 p.m. — Discussion with Kathryn Funk, curator of “Edges.” This group show from the California Contemporary Art Collective includes the art of Donnalee Dunne, Juliana Harris, Linda Koch, Anne Scheid, Trude McDermott, Joan K. Sharma and Robert Weibel. In this exhibit, California Contemporary Art collective artists focus on the concept of how edges define or play into their work. (Below: Dunne’s “Homage: The First.”)
In Sunday’s Spotlight section, I highlight San Francisco photographer Barron Bixler, whose provocative exhibition “A New Pastoral: Views of the San Joaquin Valley” continues at the Fresno Art Museum through Dec. 31. I encourage you to check out his website, which has lots more information on the exhibition and his other projects. Here’s an extended interview:
As a kid in Fresno, do you recall paying attention to the impact of agriculture on the Valley? Or was this an awareness that developed later on?
Before my family moved to Fresno, almost every summer we used to make the trek from where we lived on the coast over to the Sierras. Coming down through the Kettleman Hills into the Valley I didn’t really register the landscape as an agricultural one, but I do remember being stunned by the sublime immensity and brutality of that parched landscape. So that early sense of awe at the scale of the Valley’s geography is something that’s always stuck with me and certainly informs “A New Pastoral.” Later, after we’d moved to Fresno, I began to get a picture of how important agriculture has been to the Valley, and how much the landscape was changing and what that meant. For instance, all of the fig tree orchards were being plowed under to make way for Fresno’s housing boom. And kids I went to school with came from old farming families, many of which seemed to enjoy a bit of affluence and were no longer actively farming but were big land owners. So I wondered about that. Then some time around my last year in high school I started messing around with photography and rock and roll and poetry, and the landscape was seeping into my creative life even then. I wrote this poem called “the garden” that was about Cain and Abel, but it was clearly set in–and maybe in some ways about–the Valley. So I guess you could say the Valley landscape got under my skin pretty early on. It just took a long time to gestate.
For years, the Fresno Art Museum — which traditionally closes during the month of August — hasn’t capitalized on the tens of thousands of people attending the annual Fresno Greek Fest just down the street. Things are different this year. The museum’s executive director, Linda Cano, arranged to open the fall series of exhibitions two weeks early. And she included a show that fits perfectly into the Greek theme: “Icons from the Collection of Peggy Stefanopoulis.” It’s a beautiful collection of religious-theme artworks, most from Greece, including flat-paneled paintings, reliquaries and candelabras.
The Rev. James Pappas (everyone calls him “Rev. Jim”) trained a group of museum docents to give tours this weekend of the icon exhibition. The museum on Saturday is extending its regular hours (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) to 8 p.m. in the hopes that festival goers will drop by. You can also enjoy a museum-festival double bill during regular hours on Sunday.
1. PUT A LITTLE OPERA IN YOUR LIFE
The best opera deal in town returns as California Opera Association’s performance-packed summer festival opens 7 p.m. today with a “Festival Artists Showcase” at the Fresno Art Museum. Admission is free. I have a rundown on the festival, which includes seven smaller-scale performances at the museum and two fully staged operas at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis — all free! — in Friday’s 7 section. You can find a complete schedule on the festival’s website. Below, Zachary Sheely — who will star in this year’s “Lucia de Lamermoor” — is pictured in last year’s “Madama Butterfly.”