Feet to the Fire Commissions by Sam Long ’12 (Mar. 31) & Ethan Cohen ’13 (Apr. 14-22)

Sewon Kang ’14 talks about student commissioned works by Sam Long ’12 (March 31) and Ethan Cohen ’13 (April 14-22).   

The Center for the Arts Creative Campus Initiative is proud to present two student commissioned works that address the ever-growing challenge of environmentalism in exciting new blends of art and science. These student commissions are part of Feet to the Fire programming, a major undertaking on Wesleyan’s campus to examine critical environmental issues through art and science.

At 2pm on Saturday, March 31, 2012 in Memorial Chapel, Sam Long ’12 will perform his senior thesis project, which combines environmental studies and music in a special collaborative performance inspired by the Connecticut River, one of Middletown’s most spectacular local resources. The performers call themselves The Honey and the Sting and will play all original music on a stage powered by students on bicycle energy generators. Celebrating what the earth provides without contributing negatively to the problem, such a performance has never been attempted at Wesleyan before.

Scoreboard is an installation by Ethan Cohen ’13 that brings together the romanticized American image and the aesthetic of energy efficiency. It replicates the “home” score, an isolated section of the standard football scoreboard, first using traditional incandescent light bulbs. This ideal is then contrasted with a version of the same board that utilizes more energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs. The comparison of the two nearly identical boards side by side challenges viewers to decide for themselves whether or not the soul of an object can be retained in energy efficient form. Scoreboard will be installed in the Science Library during Wesleyan’s Earth Week Celebration – Saturday, April 14 through Sunday, April 22, 2012.

Swerved to host ‘Alumni in the Arts’ panel and discussion on March 31

On Saturday, March 31, Swerved will be hosting an “Alumni in the Arts” panel and discussion. Alumni in the panel will include:

Katie Gavriel ’09 – publication

Nathan Rich ’02 – architect

Andy Vernon Jones ’05 – photographer

Jessica Shaefer ’03 – Director of Communications at Creative Time

Ashley May ’07 – multimedia artist

So come to Albritton 311 from 4:30 to 6, this upcoming Saturday!

Swerved Installation in Usdan through April 19

Swerved invites you to a display of Wesleyan student artwork, on display in Usdan until Thursday, April 19, 2012. There will be a selection of 3D and 2D pieces, curated entirely by Wesleyan students. Swerved is an organization that seeks to promote and display all manner of artwork from Wesleyan students. Their website serves as an excellent repository of submissions, displaying the many outlets of Wesleyan creativity. Here is a list of the student artists and their pieces.

Nick Kokkinis ’13

Untitled, Polyester blanket, canvas, wood, and hardboard
Cora Engelbrecht ’12
Ariana Todd ’14
Growth, Digital Photograph
Aaron Forbath ’12
Master Bedroom, Princeton, NJ, Digital Photograph
Harry Hanson ’12
Emily, Digital Photograph
Max Skelton ’12
Untitled, Woodblock Print
Gabe Gordon, ’15
Lost at Sea, Oil on Canvas
Timmy Lee ’12
Amethyst, Oil on Canvas
Alex Chaves ’12
Untitled, Oil Pastel, Watercolor, and Charcoal on Paper
Wyatt Hodgson ’14
It’s Complicated, Technology
DonChristian Jones ’12
Untitled, Oil on Canvas
Brittni Zotos ’12
Untitled, Etching

Swerved also has released a mixtape available on Soundcloud, made up of songs from Wesleyan student musicians. Artists and groups include Sankofa, The Appledaughters, Robert Don ’15, Milo Grey, Faith Harding ’14, Kilbourne, Cybergiga, Khari, Don Jones, and Alaska Chip.

Shira Engel ’14 previews the Middletown Public Schools Art Exhibition (Mar. 10-18)

Shira Engel ’14 contemplates the upcoming Middletown Public Schools Art Exhibition, opening March 10.

Twice a week, I foray off campus to the Woodrow Wilson Middle School as part of the student-run community partnership between Wesleyan and the full-time residents of Middletown. Wesleyan is replete with a plethora of programs that serve as points of connection between neighbors, creating pores in a much-talked-about campus bubble. These programs involve tutoring, among them WesReads/WesMath, Woodrow Wilson, and Traverse Square. They also inherently involve the arts, either implicitly through the tutoring programs, or explicitly through the work students from kindergarten to high school ages do through facilities like Green Street, Buttonwood Tree, and Oddfellows Playhouse.

I knew about a lot of these programs and venues before my time at Woodrow Wilson, but one of my tutees has enlightened me further with his firsthand account of all they have to offer. The first thing he told me when I said I went to Wesleyan was that he loves going to dance performances in the Center for the Arts. Creativity served as a perfect and much-needed icebreaker for our first session. Creativity is a link between our different lives and age groups.

This week, after talking to my tutee about dance at Wesleyan, I returned my “Wesleyan Tutor” badge to the main office only to see a poster for a Middletown Youth Arts Exhibit, which, come Saturday March 10, will be held at the CFA’s very own Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.

Right when Wesleyan students go on spring break, Middletown kids will take over the CFA with their original art, claiming their rightful place in Wesleyan creative life, which is representative not just of this campus, but of the greater world. It is a true creative collaboration between the schools and Wesleyan University.

So, if you happen to be hanging around campus an extra day and can free up an hour from your thesis work or whatever may have you chilling here, come check out this talent! At 5pm on Saturday, March 10 is a free opening reception for the exhibit, which is sponsored by the Middletown Board of Education, Middletown Public Schools Cultural Council and Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts. Come support your neighbors through the common bond of creativity.

The exhibition will be open from Saturday, March 10 to Sunday, March 18 at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. The gallery is open Monday through Friday, noon to 7pm and Saturday & Sunday, 1pm to 4pm. The opening reception will held from 5pm to 7pm on March 1o. Admission is free.

Jack Chelgren ’15 Visits the Espwesso Poetry Reading

Jack Chelgren ’15 attends a poetry reading held at Espwesso, and reflects on their work.

Last Thursday night, thirty or so people piled into Espwesso for a cozy and thoughtful program of student poetry.  Chairs and tables were cleared from the far corner of the room, where a shiny 1950s-style microphone now stood in their place, hooked up to a Fender guitar amp.  The mic teetered precariously on the end of its stand, and every time someone got up to read and adjusted it, the whole room watched in apprehension, waiting to see if it would fall.  (It did.)

The focus of the evening meandered from social and literary commentary to fantastical misadventures and questions of sexuality, love, and identity, a smorgasbord of topics that somehow seemed all in keeping with one another.  Robby Hardesty ’12, first on the roster, read a poem dedicated to his sister, set in a pitch-perfect tone of mock heroism (“To die!  O!  What?” he exclaimed to a tittering audience).  Alek Barkats ’12 rattled off a handful of quirky haikus before launching into a pair of ribald longer poems, one dedicated to his friend on his twenty-second birthday, the other a hilariously sardonic account of a man who has sex with dolphins.  Claire Dougherty ’13 wove a litany of strange, detached images into elegantly prosodic lines reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, while Betsy Sallee ’13, who teamed up with Dougherty to read a poem they cowrote, favored more violent, corporeal language.  Sallee lashed out graphically with lines like, “It is for you that I shave my prickle p*ssy and commit an ambien homicide.”  In another one of her poems, the speaker walks in on a girl she’d gone to elementary school with filming a porn sequence.

Peter Myers ’13 followed up in completely different vein, prefacing one of his poems: “This is a Wikipedia page: ‘List of fatal wolf attacks.’”  There is indeed such a page, and Myers seemed at first to be reading from it verbatim, bringing to mind the work of conceptual poets like Kenneth Goldsmith.  It soon became clear, however, that he was making at least some of it up—in recounting one supposed incident, he paraphrased the opening lines of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”; in another, he cited the victim as “John Fitzgerald Kennedy.”  Emily Brown ’12 read her set of poems twice, first somewhat timidly, then again with more force, delivering pithy, somatic reflections on sex and relationships.  Josh Krugman ’14, who followed her, read in a strange, theatrical voice like that of a bad Shakespeare actor, but the effect was amusing when coupled with the hallucinatory content of his work, lines like, “Just call me porcupine.”  He interrupted himself to inform us that he had just quoted Tennessee Williams, and took a deep, histrionic bow when he finished.  Leia Zidel ’12 read prose poems from her senior thesis, as well as one she had written just the day before, which seemed addressed or otherwise related to James Joyce.  Whereas Sallee was brutal and Brown almost tender with regards to sex, Zidel spoke of it lushly, in verdurous, organic terms: “I have shut my thighs, and still the terrible sap.”  Last in the lineup was Glenn Stowell ’13, whose work exuded a Whitman-esque regard for nature, evoking both a sense of motion and a kind of terrain or topography (which is fitting given that one of his poems was actually titled “Topography”).

What stood out most to me about the reading was just how well each of these poets was able to balance personal expression and earnestness with novelty and experimentation.  The poetic community at Wesleyan can often feel divided between the popular, galvanizing fare of WeSLAM and the rarified, hole-and-corner exploits of an unappreciated avant-garde.  But while such a polarity exists, Thursday night’s reading was a testament to the fact that between these two extremes lies a whole spectrum of work that doesn’t conform to either one.  A diversity of tastes doesn’t necessarily imply a division, but can in fact, as I saw on Thursday, be indicative of just the opposite: a community of individuals united by the common purpose of creating good work.

Emily Brown ’12, Claire Dougherty ’13, Josh Krugman ’13, and Glenn Stowell ’13 are this year’s Wesleyan Student Poets; their selected work has been published in a collection which is available around campus.  For information about upcoming events at Espwesso, like their page on Facebook.

Katherine Clifford ’14 interviews choreographer Camille A. Brown (Mar. 10)

An interview with choreographer Camille A. Brown by Katherine Clifford ‘14. Camille will be teaching a master class at 1pm on Saturday March 10 in the CFA Dance Studio. She is the 2012 winner of the Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award, which she will receive that evening. Her company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, will be performing three pieces at the DanceMasters Showcase Performance on Saturday, March 10 at 8pm in the CFA Theater.

"The Evolution of a Secured Feminine", Camille A. Brown

Q: What is your background in dance, and how did you come to be where are you are now?

A: I first started in gymnastics and dance, but I was terrified by the balance beam, so that negated gymnastics. I loved dancing. I also played the clarinet when I was younger. I didn’t love it like I loved dance, but I think it’s one of the reasons why I’m known to be very musical. I got into dance by watching Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson videos, Broadway shows, and musicals. My mom saw that I loved it, and she put me in dance school on the weekends. I didn’t know it was something that I could pursue as a career until I got to high school. I attended LaGuardia H.S. of the Performing Arts and the Alvin Ailey School. Having the opportunity to be around the Ailey dancers helped me to discover that dance could be a career and that I could be paid to do what I love to do. I continued my studies at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. There, I started getting into choreography. At the time, I was heavier than I was now; and when I first got there, wasn’t always chosen to be in the performances. So like any human being, I cried a little, but then I decided I was going to make good use of my time. So I dedicated all my energy into my comp studies, and that’s where I found a love for my choreography.

Q: Can you tell me about the works you will be presenting at the DanceMasters Showcase Performance?

A: City of Rain is about my friend who passed away. He had a debilitating disease that caused him to be paralyzed from the waist down. The piece is his story, his struggles, his obstacles. He was a dancer as well. As dancers, we do this every day because we love it. We never imagine that one day you can’t get out of bed and walk, and do one of the things that you love the most, so I wanted to dedicate the piece to him. It’s not only his struggles and obstacles, but my own too. As a friend, you can be there for him the best that you can, but since you’re not going through it yourself, there’s only so much you can do. So the piece is about the pain on my end, not knowing what to do for my friend.

The Evolution of a Secured Feminine is my signature solo. It’s about a woman evolving into a secured woman, as the title suggests. I don’t want to ruin it.

The Real Cool is from a fairly new solo from a work in development called Mr. TOL E. RAncE. It’s based off a show by two African-American minstrels, Bert Williams and George Walker, called “Two Real Coons.” The solo is talking about the skin underneath the black face, what is really going on with these performers as human beings. They are stepping into these caricatures of themselves, putting on this black face and putting on a role and smiling, but behind that there was a lot of pain, so the solo explores that concept.

"City of Rain", Camille A. Brown & Dancers

Q: How do your supporting dancers contribute to your pieces? 

A: The dancers don’t contribute movement, but they contribute choices about how they approach movement. Most of our work is character-based, so I ask them to play around with their characters and make choices within the work and the structure of the movement.

Q: How do you incorporate theater and other art forms into your choreography?

A: In my work, there’s no separation between dance, music, theater; it’s all combined.

Q:  What can people expect of your DanceMasters Master Class, which will be held on March 10?

A: I love having a class that’s fun, where people are able to release and leave whatever is going on on the outside and either bring it into the space or leave it out. My movement is a fusion of all styles: Modern, Tap, African, Ballet. I structure the class based on who’s in the room, what the vibe is. It’s kind of like structured improvisation.

Camille A. Brown & Dancers will be performing at the DanceMasters Showcase Performance on Saturday, March 10 at 8pm in the CFA Theater. Tickets can be purchased online.

Rebecca Seidel ’15 reviews David Schorr’s “APOTHECARY” (through Mar. 8)

Rebecca Seidel ’15 sits down with Professor of Art David Schorr to discuss his current exhibition in the Davison Art Center, “APOTHECARY (storehouse).” The exhibition will continue through Thursday March 8.

David Schorr (American, born 1947), Remembered Laughter (detail), 2011, gouache and silverpoint on Fabriano paper. © 2011 David Schorr. Courtesy Mary Ryan Gallery, New York City (photo: R. J. Phil).

“For a problem that had been plaguing me, a wise ophthalmologist suggested I try artificial tears. In gratitude I made him a drawing of an apothecary bottle I had salvaged from my father’s medical office, changing the Latin of the original label to the Latin for ‘artificial tears.’ I became interested in drawing more of these bottles and started to collect them on eBay. Because I had long wanted a place to put away cherished values or to hide shameful thoughts, I discovered to my delight that the Greek word ΑΠΟΘΗΚΗ, from which our word ‘apothecary’ derives, means storehouse. This project followed.”

So indeed began Schorr’s work on APOTHECARY (storehouse), his newest exhibition on display at the Davison Art Center.   All of the paintings in this exhibit depict antique apothecary bottles, modeled after actual bottles Schorr has collected from all over the world.  Executed with scrupulous detail, each bottle appears to be suspended mid-canvas, lifelike and gleaming with iridescent color.  But these are no ordinary medicine bottles, and they carry no ordinary remedies. Their labels say things like “Silver Linings,”  “Sleepless Nights,” and “Stardust.”  Plenty of the labels are in different languages, and plenty more allude to literary sources–Shakespeare and Keats among countless others.

The premise of the series (which amounts to more than 75 paintings) seems simple—but the bottles’ vibrant colors and translucent depths, paired with the strange lure of their imaginary contents, give the entire space an aura that is both whimsical and mysterious.

“It really is meant above all to be fun, and, I hope, witty,” said Schorr in an interview about his work. “But I am particularly pleased if the wit and the quality of the drawing seduces some people into taking certain bottles as personal metaphors, bottles they have in their own storehouse. This can be a source of pleasure in something precious or a source of shame or discomfort realizing they have a bottle they keep tightly sealed because its contents are best not thought about, or not sampled.”

Phyllis Rose, Professor of English, Emerita, touches upon ideas like this in her essay entitled “Poetry in Bottles: Schorr’s Storehouse.” You can find this essay, which explores deeper meanings lurking within Schorr’s work, in a catalogue available in the exhibition room.

Schorr created these pieces using gouache and silverpoint on colored Fabriano Roma paper, a rare type of paper that he went to great lengths to secure.  He found the apothecary bottles through searches on eBay.  “Often they came in groups,” he said. “On the whole, once I had a particular style in a particular color that was fine and I didn’t need a duplicate, but I became very tuned in to subtle differences, especially the relation of the sides and neck to the slope of the shoulders.”

David Schorr (American, born 1947), Sleepless Nights (detail), 2011, gouache and silverpoint on Fabriano paper. © David Schorr. Courtesy Mary Ryan Gallery, New York City (photo: R. J. Phil).

He added, “Sometimes there would be a bottle that looked great, but opening the package I found it disappointing, but also the reverse. Some bottles really came to life only when I posed them and started to draw them.”

Schorr now has a vast collection of antique bottles, quite a few of which are assembled on a shelf in the exhibit.  Seeing these bottles in real life, in such a huge array of colors and shapes and sizes, adds to the striking effect of the exhibition as a whole. “I’m not certain what I am going to do with them all now, when the show is over,” he said. “I will probably keep a few treasured favorites and sell the others back on eBay.”

You can tell just by looking at the work in this collection that it took lots of time and attention to detail.  “Some of the best [pieces] were very spontaneous, finished in less than a week, others as long as three weeks,” said Schorr.

Venturing behind the scenes of his artwork, Schorr said, “I love finishing a picture late at night. I typically work until 3 AM, and when I finish a picture, I turn my easel to face the couch where I can stretch out and make myself a glass of juice with chopped ice and light the picture and put on a playlist of twenty or so different recordings of “Vissi d’Arte, Vissi d’Amore” from Tosca by Puccini and sit and look at the picture. About half the time I see tiny things I wish to change and do. But sometimes I just make a list of them and fix them the next day. I always think it’s too bad I don’t smoke, as that would be the perfect time for a cigarette.”

The longer you linger around the exhibit, wandering through this makeshift “storehouse,” the more you’ll appreciate the bottles’ mystique: even though they are right there in front of you, you will never be able to open them and sample their contents for yourself.  It’s up to you, the viewer, to derive meaning out of what you see.  Contemplating what lies within the bottles is not only a compelling experience; it can also be a deeply personal one.

APOTHECARY (storehouse) will remain at the Davison Art Center through Thursday March 8. After that, it will move to the Mary Ryan Gallery in New York City.