Presentation at the art center

About a week and a half ago an artist friend asked me to do a presentation at her opening. The title of the show was The Performing Body.

One of Sengs Nengudi's pieces

One of Senga Nengudi’s pieces

She had videos along the walls or people doing expected and unexpected things. There were two live presentation. One was a cellist who provided some sweet background music. The other was mine.

One interactive display was about 20 sets of shoes. Senga invited the crowd to “walk a mile in someone else shoes.” In this case a mile equaled 23 laps around the gallery. People actually rushed to the display. If they couldn’t wear the shoes on their feet they would wear them on their heads, around their necks or on their hands.

Trying on someone else shoes

Trying on someone else’s shoes

I met a woman who has made her own shoes for more than 20 years. She tried on a pair of stilettos and actually walked a mile in them. They looked pretty on her feet but she said she would never wear them again.

Well worn vs. cute but painful

Well worn vs. cute but painful

Any way you can

Any way you can

I tried to capture the man above but he was on the move and intent on making it around the gallery. Sometimes when we are on the move with an intention we are just a blur to those standing still.

As for my piece; I titled it For Display Purposes. The reason being that each time I go out in public I am in fact on display and in some ways putting on a show. I asked for a platform since I sometimes feel I am on stage and the center of attention, whether I like it or not.

For my presentation I answered questions that have been asked of me or about me throughout my life. The audience did not hear these questions. They could only listen to my responses and deduce what the questions were. For example: I looked at one invisible person and answered, “Both of my parents are Black. Yes, really. YES. REALLY.” Then I turned to face another invisible person and answered, “No doctor, I am not anemic. Thanks for the iron pill prescription but I don’t really need them.” I went on like this for about 5 to 6 minutes. I ended the presentation by responding to what might be considered a rude comment, then saying, “You have a nice day too. Buh Bye.

The audience responded fairly well. I thought most of my comments were humorous. The audience did chuckle some; but mostly they listened carefully. One good thing: I did have their attention. I was told that there have been times when a performer is doing their thing and people are talking and pretty much ignoring them. That wasn’t the case this time.

Thank you Senga Nengudi and RedLine art center and gallery.

I know famous people

A few weeks ago I was privileged to attend an opening of my friend, Senga.

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Senga giving her talk at MCA Denver

Senga giving her talk at MCA Denver

I met Senga at some art conference and we became fast friends. She was so down to Earth that I thought she was another housewife with a hobby. You know: the kind who likes to scrapbook or do Tole painting. Nothing about her said, “I’m a nationally known artist who has had shows in places like New York.

I couldn’t get to the show in New York or Texas or any of the other places she has shown. But fortunately I got to see her work at the Museum of Contemporary Art here in Denver.

I can identify

I can identify

The work was about the female body and body identity.

Unfortunately, most of my photographs came out blurry. But it’s all good. I got to see my friend’s work and see her.

Another piece by Senga

Another piece by Senga

Disney sings a new song

This morning I was singing my new favorite Disney song and watching it for the 20th time on You Tube. It’s from Frozen. I call it Elsa’s freedom song. The official title is Let It Go. (I think it should have been Bring It On.)

While watching the video and singing along I thought about the other leading lady songs I sang over the years and I realized something. Disney princesses have made a transition.

The first song I remember was Snow White. 1938. She sang in a wishing well about wishing for the one she loves to find her that very day. Lo and behold he came up on his white charger and climbed over the wall singing his love for someone whom he didn’t know existed 45 seconds ago.

Cinderella, 1950, also sings about wishing and dreaming.

Sleeping Beauty, 1959, sings songs about dreaming and wondering about love. “I know you, I met you before upon a dream.” That’s the only song in that movie that didn’t put me to sleep.

The little Mermaid 1989 sings a different tune. She is not actually looking for love: not at first. She wants to be part of a whole different environment. She actually sings about a career and maybe a cause. “Bright young women. Sink or swimin’ Ready to stand …” This is the end of the “marry a man with a good job” era and the beginning of the “find your own life and a man will come along” era. Part of this movie still bothers me a little as she wants to change her very nature to be with someone not even of her species. But that is the lesson of the original cautionary tale. Disney studios are saying this is okay. Yuk.

Remember these are Disney movies so each teenager (they are not all princesses) must find a man whether she is looking for one or not for the movie to have a happy ending.

Let’s move on to Jasmine from Aladdin. 1992. She doesn’t even have a wishing song. Aladdin starts the song and she joins in. But together they sing about seeing and experiencing new worlds, not falling in love. This demonstrates the changing attitudes of girls who no longer just wish for a rich prince to whisk them away but would rather see the world for themselves. If love comes along then that’s a fringe benefit. Perhaps Jasmine does not sing of love and longing because she actually takes action. She sneaks out of the palace to find her own adventures. Jasmine may have been the first girl (these heroines are only 15 or 16) to not fall in love with the first prince she sees.

Belle from Beauty and the Beast, 1991, is the second person to be approached by a handsome desirable man and say “hell no. You can’t give me what I want.” She rejects the lead male for something bigger.

Then along comes Pocahontas, 1995. The tune is getting a little old now. She sings of adventure, and rejects the handsome man and the life others have planned for her.

The Princess and the Frog, 2009, shows us something much different. Tiana wishes to start a business. At the very beginning of the movie she is approached by several men including a prince. She snubs them all. She does wish upon a star but she is also working toward that wish by working two jobs and saving every penny. I believe she is the first Disney leading woman to actually have a job.

So now let’s come to the present. Elsa, the emerging Ice queen from the movie Frozen, 2013, sings what I think is the most modern song yet. Her song is actually a song of triumph and freedom. This is unlike any other leading woman Disney has ever portrayed. She doesn’t wish for anything. Like the other girls she is held back and is kept a prisoner by those around her. Once she finds herself wandering alone in the wilderness she doesn’t sing of wishing for a prince to come along and free her. She is free, and she has made it to queen. No man needed. It takes her a minute to realize that she is free. Once she does she bursts into joyous song. Imagine Snow White doing that.

Note: I have left out some Disney leading ladies because I wanted to make a point, not provide a list.

Assignment 1

Here is an assignment from my Art appreciation class. The assignment was to comment on what my definition of art is vs. how I think art is defined by the rest of the world. It’s an odd question but I tried to answer it as best I could.

Most everyone chose to discuss visual art but I chose to discuss the written word. Actually I chose novels that had been made into movies.

Assignment 1

For me art and literature must tell a story within a story. Art should have deep meaning or create an emotion. It should make a statement and have a message: about society, politics, race relations, whatever. Yet it does not have to be crude and hit you over the head (but it can and that’s okay). Using this rule I can enjoy the genius in a Robert Crumb cartoon, a centuries old fairy tale or a seemingly harmless children’s book.

The beauty of a story within a story is, one does not have to see all the hidden meanings to appreciate the art. Many people can enjoy the same piece of art yet see very different things.

I am using as an example the book Animal Farm by George Orwell. This is a masterpiece that can be enjoyed and understood by every generation: albeit each generation understands it on a different level. Like any good piece of art it can be experienced several times and one will see something different each time.

Here is a Synopsis. Animal Farm is on the surface a book about how the farm animals wax tired of the mistreatment of the human farmer. They gather at night to sing songs of revolution. One day they overthrow the farmer and kick him off of his land and take over the farm. All goes well and all is good for everyone. But things begin to change. Jealousy and infighting begin to take over. The pigs especially begin to take over the role of the human farmer. At the end of the book it is impossible to tell the pigs from the humans who have been invited back to the farm.

This story is about, among other things, communism, socialism, imperialism, and capitalism. It’s not about animals and it’s not about a farm.

That’s my view of how art should be. How IMHO does much of the rest of the world see art? Actually I thought it was kind of arrogant for me to try and answer that, but as it was the assignment I complied.

Much of the world wants to see pretty things when they look at a work of art. They want to be entertained. They don’t want to be threatened. I watched a play once where the people were divided into the poor immigrants, the rich Whites and the ghettoized Blacks. It was a musical so there was lots of singing and dancing. The second act was more serious. A man was betrayed and used as a scapegoat. Afterwards a woman told me that she enjoyed the singing and dancing, but not the second half of the play. I have found this to be sadly typical.

John Q Public buys “art” to match his couch. It doesn’t matter what the art says as long as it has enough pretty colors in it. The public likes fluff. They don’t want to have to think too much. They want to protect their children from anything bad. This is why most good books are banned.

The only art they like has a “sanitized for your protection” sticker on it. I worked in an art museum once and a woman asked me if I could direct her through the museum in a way that she would not have to look at any nudes. I wanted to say, “Really lady? This is an ART museum.”

Since I used the written word for my first example I shall use the same for my second example. One that comes to mind is the Twilight Saga books. They entertain. They dumb down. They sanitize. They are not literature. The vampires are teenage, lovesick vegetarians that sparkle in the sunlight. They remind me of the old Harlequin romance books: all frosting and no cake.