After nearly a year of no one in the position, the Fresno Art Museum has a new executive director: Michele Ellis Pracy, who brings 25 years of museum experience to the job. She most recently was director of the Ojai Valley Museum in Ojai, where during a five-year tenure she brought a “small-town” museum up to the level of an accreditation-worthy institution, she said.
I dropped by the Fresno Art Museum late Friday afternoon to catch the opening of the new winter/spring exhibitions — and what a bustling scene it was. Many of the attendees were there for the museum’s big “1915-2015: Tradition, Legacy, Culture” exhibition, which in three galleries helps raise awareness of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. (There were also lots of enthusiastic folks to be found in photographer Matt Black’s gallery talk about his “From Clouds to Dust” exhibition.) One of the high points for me was getting to meet Beverly Hills art collector Joan Quinn, above right, who loaned to the Armenian show several pieces that she and her husband, Jack, own. At the same I met prominent Armenian artist Varujan Boghosian, above left, whose charming and evocative mixed-media pieces are one of the exhibition’s highlights. It turns out that Quinn — who collects more than just Armenian artists — had never met Boghosian before either, and the 88-year-old artist charmed us both with his gentle, scholarly wit and insights. My colleague Ron Orozco gave a great introduction to the Armenian show, including 10 things to do and see, in Friday’s 7 section. The shows run through April 26. Don’t miss them.
In my Sunday Spotlight column, I put the focus on the Fresno Art Museum, which — like most cultural institutions these days — is competing in a tough economic climate for donors and stability. The museum has faced some challenges this past year, most notably having to take out a $160,000 “bridge loan” for operations. And just a couple of weeks ago, the fire/burglar alarm system broke, and it’s costing $60,000 to replace it. Still, board president Joe Sciarrone says the museum is hanging on. (More than that, he says it HAS to hang on.)
I know. Everyone’s busy. You have every intention to get out to see a limited-run play, but things get in the way. Before you know it, it’s gone.
I’m talking about StageWorks Fresno’s “The Normal Heart,” which is in its third and final weekend. I recommend catching it at the Fresno Art Museum before it closes.
Tonight’s performance has a bonus: Curtain has been pushed back to 8:30 p.m. so playgoers can attend the opening reception of the Fresno Art Museum’s series of fall exhibitions, which include “Mildred Howard: Collective Memories.” Howard is the museum’s distinguished artist for 2014. (Here’s my rundown of today’s museum activities, which begin at 4:30 p.m., from today’s 7 section.) It also plays 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Another special museum/”Normal Heart” event: On Saturday, a forum titled “Let’s Talk … HIV/AIDS in the Central Valley” will be held 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
“The Normal Heart” is about the beginning days of AIDS, and playgoers might walk away 30 years later with a false sense of complacency that the disease isn’t something about to worry about anymore. Far from it. There are new cases of HIV/AIDS every day, and education is more important than ever. Kudos to StageWorks and the museum for reminding us of that.
The injustice at the core of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” isn’t as raw today as when the play came out in 1985. Some events depicted in Larry Kramer’s drama, set early in the AIDS crisis, had occurred just a year before. The fear, anger and throat-clutching sadness among the audience members at the New York Public Theater’s original production must have been suffocating.
But decades later, the injustice in this play — which is receiving a local premiere in a sturdy production from StageWorks Fresno — still seethes and provokes. Even with the distance of time, the choices made by media and government gatekeepers — and some in the gay community — to sweep early news about the epidemic under the rug seem perplexing and bizarre. It’s unfathomable today to think that a scare about Tylenol tampering earned a tsunami of coverage in the New York Times but that a new illness killing hundreds of New Yorkers had to fight to get to the front page. But that’s what happened.
The StageWorks production, directed with heartfelt commitment by J. Daniel Herring, immerses us in the autobiographical world of Kramer. His alter ego is Ned Weeks (played with verve and feeling by Terry Lewis), who vows to stir up a fuss when he realizes that many in the gay community are falling to a disease so new and mysterious it doesn’t have a name. Yet the organization he founds, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, is far from unified on the best approach. He continually clashes with Bruce Niles (Bob Creasy), the group’s president, who favors a less confrontational, more “establishment” approach. At the root of this conflict, Bruce — and many other gay men — object to any attempt to discourage sex in an age of newfound sexual permissiveness.
Amy Querin, artistic director of NOCO (and one of this city’s most impressive creative souls), stood on the now-empty “stage” holding court after her dance company’s performance Sunday night at the Fresno Art Museum. She graciously accepted the compliments pressed upon her by the well-wishers surrounding her for “Summer Soiree,” but in a moment of self-deprecation, she lamented that she didn’t have more time to more effectively transform the performance space into “another world.”
I respectfully disagree. The space that Querin and her hard-working company created in the museum’s lobby/atrium for the production — which paired members of the company with a Fresno Philharmonic string quartet — indeed had an otherworldly ambiance. The audience sat on risers, and the wall behind the performance space was swathed with fabric that echoed the billowing feel of the centerpiece aerial rig. The colors of the beige fabric of the rig and its gold-colored metal support beams seemed perfectly in sync with the nude color of the draperies. Above the audience hung dozens of paper origami birds. The effect was muted and ethereal — a refined, stylish atmosphere.
It was entrancing.
So was getting to watch dance paired with live music. The string quartet gave a stirring version of Kevin Volans’ “White Man Sleeps,” whose “wild meters,” as Querin describes them, meshed well with the robust choreography.
Adding a poignant touch of the evening: Querin’s farewell to Jackie Aldern, the assistant director, and Hannah Cavallaro, the rehearsal director. They’re the company’s last two original company members. A new NOCO generation has begun.
Best of all was the overall world that Querin — helped by gobs of people, including Fresno Phil executive director Stephen Wilson — helped create. For a few hours on a Sunday evening, it was as if the museum were transformed into an elegant oasis — a sophisticated cultural buzz-spot filled with people who want the local arts scene to just keep getting better. That’s a world worth believing in.
Some people race through museums so quickly there should be posted speed limits. Which is fine if that’s the way they want to do it. Experiencing art should be a matter of personal preference. But there’s also something to be said for slowing down and really lingering with a piece. For those who want that encouragement, the Slow Art Day movement was born.
Arte Americas and the Fresno Art Museum are participating Saturday in the national volunteer event, which this year includes more than 220 participating institutions. Organizers explain:
People all over the world visit local museums and galleries to look at art slowly. Participants look at five works of art for 10 minutes each and then meet together over lunch to talk about their experience. That’s it. Simple by design, the goal is to focus on the art and the art of seeing.
At Arte Americas, participants will examine five works by San Francisco artist Viviana Paredes selected by Arte Américas Director Frank Delgado. The installation pieces are part of the exhibition “Navigating The Sacred.” Viewing will be 11 a.m.-noon. An optional lunch discussion is 12:15-1:15 p.m. and will take place in the shade of the outdoor plaza.
Admission to Arte Américas is free, and participants can either bring their own lunch, or order Mexican take-out from a nearby restaurant. “We’ll even put people’s sack lunches in the fridge during the event,” Delgado says.
At the Fresno Art Museum, a ticket is required to the all-day Mini Maker Faire to participate in Slow Art Day. The art viewing is 11 a.m.-noon, and lunch discussion (lots of Mini Maker options) hosted by the museum’s Christina Rea will be noon-12:30 p.m.
Linda Cano is stepping down after four years as executive director of the Fresno Art Museum.
Cano will leave the museum at the end of March to run her own arts consulting firm, AXIS Art Consulting. Among her first clients is the city of Fresno. She will be a consultant on the public art component of the Fulton Mall Reconstruction Project. The mall, which will be reopened to traffic, contains a trove of public art, and Cano will act as liaison between the city and artists as works are deinstalled, moved and reinstalled.
“It’s an interesting project because it’s a little bit of detective work finding some of the artists and their heirs,” she says. She also will be involved in community outreach.
A transitional management team will step in at the museum when Cano departs. The team will include members of the museum’s Board of Trustees and museum staff.
From a big show celebrating the Clovis Rodeo to online gaming performance as art, the Fresno Art Museum offers an eclectic slate of exhibitions opening Friday. Artist/curator conversations in the galleries will begin at 4 p.m., with an opening reception 6-8 p.m. Admission and opening receptions is free for members. General admission is $5 and the opening reception $10 for non-members. The shows:
Traditions of the West: Honoring 100 Years of the Clovis Rodeo showcases historic and contemporary Western landscape paintings (including an Albert Bierstadt) along with Native American traditional art from local and southwestern US regions. The exhibition includes some never-before-exhibited artifacts, including Native American works from private collections and works from the Braun Research Library Collection of the Autry National Center in Los Angeles and The Huntley Western Art Collection at Cal Poly Pomona.
Art of the Word includes illustrations and text from artist books and folios that illuminate poetry, stories, and written thoughts. Works include many familiar artists and authors, including Wayne Thiebaud, Jose Posada, Joey Krebs, Eric Carle, Ynez Johnston, William Saroyan, and Roald Dahl.
The Joseph DeLappe: Social Tactics exhibition is a co-presentation with the Fresno State Center for Creativity and the Arts and showcases social-activist/artist DeLappe’s installations in electronic and new media, online gaming performance, sculpture, and electromechanics.
A Decade of Accessions is a selection of works on paper, paintings, and sculpture from the permanent collection by a number of artists, including Sam Tchakalian, Eva Abou-Ghorra, Michael Garcia, Alfredo Zalce, Alberto Beltran, Roger Bolomey, and Charles Arnoldi.
————————————————— PICTURED: Joseph DeLappe’s “Mouse Mandala”
Corky Normart has spent more than 50 years painting downtown Fresno, and you can see the fascinating results in his new show at the Fresno Art Museum. I put together this video to accompany my 7 cover story about the exhibition, which is accompanied by the museum’s first “crowd-sourced” show, titled “Downtown Visions.”
There are 70 works in the uncurated “Downtown Visions” exhibition, and you can add yours. Upload photos and videos of downtown here, and when you do you can appear in the exhibition’s virtual portion of the exhibition (on a monitor in the gallery and on the museum website). You can also make a submission by Tweeting it or putting it on Instagram with the hashtag #DowntownVisions.
The award for best Tony Awards closing number goes to: Neil Patrick Harris and five-time Tony winner (and Fresnan) Audra McDonald in a reworked version of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” [Audra McDonald's Facebook]
Just a Peach: The much-loved Masumoto family’s peaches take center stage with the release Tuesday of their new book, “The Perfect Peach.”[The Bee]
Not a joke: Fresno pair featured on TLC’s “My Teen is Pregnant & So Am I.” [The Bee]
A rotten ranking: Lots of so-called national surveys that give Fresno low rankings are a little silly. (Remember when we were declared America’s drunkest city?) But a new one from the Trust for Public Land, which lists us as the lowest ranked of the nation’s top 40 cities in terms of citywide parks systems, is just plain sobering. Politicians, are you paying attention? [Atlantic magazine]
Once upon a time: Create your own “Modern Fairytale.” [The Germ]
When I met up last week with Daisy Addicott, the Fresno art collector I profiled in Sunday’s Spotlight section, my first thought upon entering the gallery featuring her impressive collection at the Fresno Art Museum was: Wouldn’t it be cool to see the artwork that usually hangs on my walls featured in a museum?
That thought certainly has occurred to Addicott, 83, who was beaming as I walked through the exhibition with her.
Art collectors occupy a prime position in the food chain of the art world, and I found Addicott’s confidence about what she likes (minimalist and conceptual art) and assurance in her acquisition philosophy (collect local artists, especially up-and-coming ones) to be transfixing. Most of the works in the museum show are usually found on the walls of her Fresno home. I write:
The result in the new exhibition is a unifying aesthetic you notice the moment you enter the gallery. Though from different artists, it’s as if these works seem to make up a cohesive unit — not in a matchy-matchy sort of way, but more with an energized calmness, a domestic tranquility. You can tell that each one was lovingly selected, and, in their own way, adored.
It was also fun with this story getting to know the two men responsible for the show: New York artist Rodney Harder (pictured above, right) and Fresno artist Mark Rodriguez (left), both good friends of Addicott’s. They’re clearly both devoted to her. After getting to meet her, I can see why.
VIDEO: To watch a video interview with Daisy Addicott, click here. PHOTO by The Fresno Bee’s Mark Crosse.
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.