Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rain postpones today's "Iron Chef" competition

Today's "Iron Chef" competition at Providence's Steel Yard has been postponed to Sept. 19 because of rain. More details here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lydia Stein

From my review of Providence artist Lydia Stein's "Love Songs, Hobos & Other Spirits" at AS220's Project Space and her mural as part of the Smith Hill Community Development Corporation's "HousEARt" project:
Horses break loose from carnival carousels and run free, a horse-headed naked woman cuddles a rabbit as blue birds circle, and an escaped carousel horse visits the grave of a flower in Providence artist Lydia Stein's exhibit "Love Songs, Hobos & Other Spirits" at AS220's Project Space (93 Mathewson Street, Providence, through September 26). The paintings and relief prints seem to be allegories of imprisonment, love, desperation, escape, craving solace, and peace.

Stein has painted murals in her hometown of Worcester, performed with Vermont's Bread and Puppet Theater in the early 2000s, moved to Providence to study at Brown, helped organize the Honk! radical marching band festivals around Boston, and performed in marching bands there and in Providence. She recently worked with the Smith Hill Community Development Corporation's "HousEARt" project, which invites artists to enliven vacant foreclosed Providence housing before it transforms the structures into affordable rentals. Stein rounded up neighbors to help her paint horses breaking free from a carousel and a horse-headed naked lady with a hole in her chest where her heart should be across the front and side of a house at 16 Bernon Street.
Read the rest here.

Lydia Stein, "Love Songs, Hobos & Other Spirits" at AS220's Project Space, 93 Mathewson Street, Providence, through September 26, 2009. An opening party for her "HousEARt" mural is scheduled for Sept. 15, 2009, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at 16 Bernon St., Providence.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Iron Chef" sculpture competition at Steel Yard

Update Sept. 12: The "Iron Chef" competition has been postponed to Sept. 19 because of rain.

Original post: The Steel Yard in Providence offers its second annual “Iron Chef” competition on Saturday featuring four teams of metal artists racing to cook up steel sculptures. The organizers report: “teams are given a design challenge in the form of a phrase and a key secret ingredient that must be used in their creation. Winners of each round are determined by a panel of judges and face off in a final round to decide the 2009 Steel Yard ‘Iron Chef.’ Each sculpture is then auctioned off in this Steel Yard fundraiser.”

Team leaders are David Cole, Monica Shinn, Anna Shapiro and Aidan Petrie. Winners will be judged by WPRI Ch12’s Erin Kennedy, RISD’s Director of Public Engagement Peter Hocking, and artist Ed Rondeau.

“Iron Chef” competition, The Steel Yard, 27 Sims Ave., Providence, 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 12. Raindate is Sept. 19.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

MA Cultural Council awards “Traditional Arts” grants

The Massachusetts Cultural Council has awarded five “traditional artists” grants to support the passing down of skills from master artists to apprentices. The recipients are:
  • John Kristensen (pictured above) of Firefly Press in Brighton, monotype typecasting and letterpress printing master artist, and Jesse Marsolais, apprentice, $4,125.
  • Nancy C. Tunnicliffe of Lanesboro, piobaireachd, highland bagpipe, master artist, and Sean Humphries of Millville, apprentice, $3,750.
  • Pravin Sitaram of Shrewsbury, mridangam, carnatic South Indian drumming, master artist, and Ullas Rao of Westwood, apprentice, $2,625.
  • Samnang Hor of Lowell, Cambodian dance master artist, and Sopaul Hem of Melrose, apprentice, $2,250.
  • Chritstopher Pereji of South Attleboro, tabla, north Indian drumming, master artist, and Nisha Purushotham of Roxbury, apprentice, $2,250.
Photo by state folklorist Maggie Holtzberg of the MCC from her "Keepers of Tradition: Traditional Arts and Folk Heritage Blog."

MCC moves up grant deadlines, cuts size of prizes

The Massachusetts Cultural Council has moved up the deadlines for the upcoming cycle of visual artist grants from December, as it has been scheduled in recent years, to Oct. 13. Eligible categories in this round are drawing, painting and traditional arts. Grants have also been reduced from $10,000 to $7,500 for fellows and from $1,000 to $500 for finalists. Meanwhile the deadlines for choreography, fiction/creative nonfiction, and poetry have been pushed back from that same old December deadline to Jan. 25.

“This new schedule will mean a faster turnaround time between application and award announcements, while preserving the program's focus on a fair and anonymously judged review,” the MCC explains.

Dearest MCC, if you plan to change application deadlines in the future please consider moving them back, not forward. The deadline changes were announced Aug. 13, which meant that suddenly applicants had two months to get ready instead of four. Which is a major change if you’re a wicked procrastinator like many artists we know. (The announcement arrived when we were away traveling, which is why we’re just getting around to grumbling about it now.) Thank you.

MA Cultural Council cuts staff, grants

The Massachusetts Cultural Council has announced that it is cutting staff and some of the grants it awards in response to the 23 percent budget cut the state Legislature and Governor Deval Patrick approved for the agency in June.

“The MCC eliminated five full-time staff positions, cut administrative spending, and ended several partnerships and initiatives,” the announcement reported. “Taken together, these decisions allowed the agency to lessen the impact of the budget reduction and ensure that no organization, school, or local cultural council sees its grant cut by more than 23 percent.”

June 29, 2009: 23 percent cut for MA cultural council.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Kathy Bitetti departs Artists Foundation

Kathy Bitetti, the scrappy dynamo executive director of the Artists Foundation since 1992, left the job at the end of August. Her efforts with the Boston-based nonprofit spanned major arts advocacy in Massachusetts – including helping shape the state health care program to better serve artists, and other independent business folks – to organizing exhibitions at the foundation’s offices in the Distillery building in South Boston. Her final project, overseeing the foundation’s “Stand Up and Be Counted” artists census and survey, is expected to conclude with the release of a project report later this month.

“I’m trying to do what I want to do,” she says of her new move, “which is make art.” She has an artist residency in Malta in October, an exhibition at Emmanuel College in Boston (where she oversees the gallery) when she returns, and an art residency in England in the spring.

Bitetti’s work on health care reform seemed to launch her onto a bigger playingfield statewide and nationally. She still has a full slate of art activist work lined up, including work with groups she’s helped found like, Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition, the State House Artists Working Group, and Artists Under the Dome. And any minute now she plans to endorse a candidate in the Boston mayoral race.

How will she continue to fit in art-making? “What is good,” Bitetti says, “is I’m working with groups of people instead of me being the only one.”

Clarification: The photo above is not exactly of "Katy Bitetti," it would be more exact to say it is her sometimes alter ego Princess Sophia with her regal hound Contessa. But it does convey something of Ms. Bitetti's regalness, and mystery.

Felix Candela

From my review of “Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist” at the MIT Museum in Cambridge:
Looking at the wavy roofs of Félix Candela's most iconic structures, like the restaurant Los Manatiales (1958) in Mexico City, I think of pinwheels or the fluttering dress of a spinning dancer. The curves are so graceful, sexy, and gravity-defying that you don't have to recognize the technical marvels built into them to be swept away.

But as "Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist" at the MIT Museum explains, they are engineering feats. Los Manatiales fans four hyperbolic paraboloids — saddle shapes — to span a 106-feet-wide dining area without any support columns. Perhaps what's hardest to believe is that Candela's thin-shell reinforced-concrete roofs are typically just 1.5 inches thick. In comparison, Eero Saarinen's spaceship-like dome for MIT's Kresge Auditorium (1950-'55) in Cambridge — considered the first large-scale concrete-shell building in the US — varies in thickness from 3.5 inches at the apex to 18 inches at the base.

Candela's roofs are so thin that the models here sometimes wind up being three times thicker, by scale, than the actual structures. It seems impossible, and crazy. But after half a century, the structures are still standing.
Read the rest here.

“Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist,” MIT Museum, 265 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, April 2 to Sept. 27, 2009.

Pictured from top to bottom: Félix Candela, High Life Textile Factory (now called Cavalier Industries Factory) soon after construction, Coyoacán, Mexico City, 1955, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, gift of Mrs. Dorothy Candela, Photograph by Erwin Lang; Los Manantiales Restaurant soon after construction, Xochimilco, Mexico City, 1958, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, gift of Mrs. Dorothy Candela; interior view of Church of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Narvarte, Mexico City, 1955, Photograph by Bruce M. White; Cosmic Rays Laboratory soon after construction, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, 1951; and two photos of the MIT exhibit by Judy Daniels.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Bread and Puppet circus in Lawrence tomorrow

The collapse of the economy, which revealed the crackpot scams of the financial industry, followed by massive government bailouts of the folks whose bad behavior wreaked so much havoc has inspired this year’s Bread and Puppet Theater “Dirt Cheap Money Circus.” The subject is right in the theater’s wheelhouse and results in one of its sharpest, funniest and most cohesive circuses of this decade. The central character is Karl Marx as a kind of cultural conscience, spouting gnomic observations (from Marx’s “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844”) that are basically truisms about capitalism.

At 4:30 p.m. tomorrow, Sept. 7, at the Bread and Roses Festival on the Lawrence common, the company performs a condensed version of the circus, which it performed outdoors at its Glover, Vermont, headquarters each Sunday in July and August. Bread and Puppet will also perform “little street shows” around the common throughout the day.

Some of the acts (with spoilers) from this summer:
  • A giant head runs in and out, followed by a dance of headless stilters in suits. “Don’t lose your head if the Dow’s in a ditch,” an announcer shouts. “Good old Uncle Sam will keep the headless rich!”
  • A slapstick skit about the dangers of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

  • An overly long performance of the song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” that concludes with something about bombs “in order to keep McDonald’s farms safe from Iran,” which seems, ahem, somewhat untethered from the real world.
  • A bearded (actually a mop) fellow pops out of a coffin to announce: “My name is Karl, as in Marx. And when I was young I was thinking of us and our relationship to money. And I wrote this definition: money is the visible deity.”
  • Superheroes save a baby from the dragons of “climate change,” “peak oil” and total disaster” with the power of community action.
  • The relationship between a sick woman and a doctor gets interrupted by a fellow who runs in to ask, “Do you want a bureaucrat between you and your doctor? Why not let the free market decide.” A whole gaggle of health insurance types march between the patient and doctor. Someone shouts, “Congress, can you do something?” Which leads to a silly can-can dance with lyrics “yes, we can, can, can.” But suits – big business? – get in the way and the patient collapses.
  • Marx rides in on bicycles with Groucho and Harpo Marx to announce: “Money is the universal confusion of things.” Groucho says, “For a lady with a beard, she makes a lot of sense.”
  • A pair of clownish scoundrels knock the top off a mountain to mine its coal, get stopped as they try to make their getaway by giant fists.

  • Two guards come out holding Marx in prison garb. “Money changes stupidity into intelligence and intelligence into stupidity,” he declares. Ben Franklin (a masked performer) rides out on the back of a turkey followed by a gaggle of turkeys. He says, “I’m here to tell you Karl Marx that you are wrong.” Which prompts a man in drag to emerge from under a turkey costume to sing, “If you happen to be rich and the up and down of the market makes you frown … If you just put out your hand to Uncle Sam with a smile, you’ll find he’s kissing your behind. Money makes the world go round … Money makes a beautiful sound.” At the song’s finale Franklin pulls out carving knives and chases off the turkeys. Marx responds, “Money is the highest good and so its possessor is good,” then gets dragged out by the guards.

  • A man knocks on door with a sign “Office of Bernie Madoff. Want a quick buck? Knock here.” Children pour out and dash around with money. He chases them unsuccessfully. They run back behind the door, which shuts, and he’s knocked silly when he crashes into it. A stilter enters saying, “I’m the anarchist fairy of revolutionary intervention.” The fairy waves her wand, and the sign changes to “Office of Karl Marx. Free advice. Knock here.” The fairy cajoles the reluctant man to knock. A gang of little Karl Marxes shuffle out to announce, “All that is solid melts into air.” The fairy adds, “And man is at last forced to confront the real conditions of his life and the fortunes of their kind.” Suddenly the little Marxes turn on the fellow and chase him off stage.

  • Marx returns to the stage on crutches, and asks, “Do I not possess all human abilities through the power of money?” He throws the crutches away and cartwheels off the stage.
  • A Mr. Everything-is-Fine skit in which the borsch-belt character lampoons the Obama administration: “I’m willing to admit that for the last eight years every thing wasn’t fine … but now everything is fine because we have transparency.”

  • The circus ends with a crackerjack slapstick bit about “the great strongman of the world: the U.S. economy.” The fellow struggles to lift a barbell labeled “corporate welfare” and “military spending” and falls over. “The U.S. economy has collapsed” a panicked announcer hollers. A pair of happy aerobics instructors bounce in. “You’re looking a little weak economy.” “We’re going to get you back on track.” They run through an exercise routine, concluding with urging the audience to “spend, spend, spend.” The seemingly rejuvenated economy attempts to lift the barbell again, gets into trouble, and finally gets it lifted with help from the aerobics gals. But once they exit, he looses his strength, eyes hilariously bulging, legs sliding apart. So he dumps the barbell onto an infant (“future generations”) who crawls in.
Other upcoming Bread and Puppet performances across New England:
Sept. 13, 7 p.m.: with Primate Fiasco at the Academy of Music in
Sept. 18, 7 p.m.: cabaret as a benefit for South Amherst Conservation Association at the Amherst Regional High School.
Sept. 20, 1 p.m.: circus at Hampshire College
Amherst, on the lawn behind the Red Barn
Oct. 9 to 11: Honk! Festival in Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research. Support our continuing research by ordering copies of these and others here.