WBEZ | painting http://www.wbez.org/tags/painting Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Poet Sheila Black considers pain, disability, selfhood and ‘the problem of normal’ http://www.wbez.org/story/poet-sheila-black-considers-pain-disability-selfhood-and-%E2%80%98-problem-normal%E2%80%99-97579 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-March/2012-03-23/AP071025036303.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-23/AP071025036303.jpg" style="width: 512px; height: 511px;" title="Kahlo's 1939 painting 'Los Dos Fridas.' (AP/Collection Museo de Arte Moderno)"></p><p>Sheila Black was born with a rare medical condition that gave her crooked legs. Then when she was 13 years old, she underwent a procedure to straighten them -- although the word “procedure” might not adequately describe what she went through.</p><p>“I had my legs radically straightened,” she says. In the first of a number of surgeries Black would have over the course of her life, doctors performed a double osteotomy -- breaking her legs in six places, then re-pinning the bones back together. “I walked a lot better [after the surgery],” Black recalls. “But I had the strange sense of having betrayed the person I was.” Black elaborated: “For me the question of disability was really a problem of normal. The problem was all the normal people out there."</p><p>Black grew into an award-winning poet whose creative interests include what a collaborator has described as “anomalous embodiment,” or what one might more simply describe as physical disability. In one poem she channels that moment of teenage post-surgical self-betrayal, and imagines herself as two people – the person she was before the surgery, and the person she became afterward, as if existing side by side:</p><p style="margin-left: 0.5in;">She<br> was me before I became so fallen. Sneaking<br> Salem cigarettes with the other girls on the fourth<br> floor bathroom. Trying so hard to fit in you could<br> see that desire—a sheen on my skin. The year I<br> learned to walk again—a wheelchair, crutches, crutches<br> discarded, everyone said how it was a miracle, so<br> wonderful, such a great, great thing, as if I could now<br> be welcomed into the club of people. A door closed<br> somewhere, and she was behind it.</p><p>The poem’s title, “Los Dos Fridas or Script for the Erased,” alludes to the title of a 1939 self-portrait by Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, in which Kahlo also depicts two versions of herself side by side: one injured and one healthy, arteries intertwined. Kahlo was in a bus crash at age 18 that left her with a horrifying array of broken bones – pelvis, spine, clavicle, ribs, plus 11 fractures in her leg – as well as permanent damage to her reproductive system. She went through more than 30 surgeries over the course of her life, and was often in so much pain that she had to remain bedridden for weeks at a time.&nbsp;</p><p>Black says that she too experienced extreme pain because of her disability and surgeries, but that Kahlo’s work and legacy proved to be a powerful example of working through the pain. “Frida Kahlo taught me to see [pain] as sort of a forceful, creative thing,” Black explains. “A way of making me pay attention to the world around me.”</p><p>Together with co-editors Jennifer Bartlett and Michael Northen, Black helped assemble the anthology <em>Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability</em> (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011), which collects the work of several differently-abled writers.</p><p>Nine poets from the anthology read in Chicago earlier this month, including Black. You can hear her recite “Los Dos Fridas” in the audio above.</p><p><a href="../../series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range </a><em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from </em>Chicago Amplified’s <em>vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Sheila Black read at an event presented by </em><a href="http://www.accessliving.org/"><em>Access Living</em></a><em> in March. Click </em><a href="../../story/beauty-verb-97306"><em>here </em></a><em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 24 Mar 2012 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/poet-sheila-black-considers-pain-disability-selfhood-and-%E2%80%98-problem-normal%E2%80%99-97579 Field Museum's only artist-in-residence puts wildlife to watercolor http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-31/field-museums-only-artist-residence-puts-wildlife-watercolor-93630 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-31/Field museum.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When people head to <a href="http://fieldmuseum.org/" target="_blank">The Field Museum</a> in Chicago, they probably think more about skeletons and dinosaurs than fine art. But after a closer look at the walls, one will notice nature and wildlife beautifully rendered on canvas. The paintings are the work of <a href="http://www.peggymacnamara.com/" target="_blank">Peggy Macnamara</a>, the only artist-in-residence at the Field Museum. Her journey to that position began in the late 1980s. She spent hours at the exhibitions, simply sketching what she saw. Then, after about a decade of making the museum her studio, the head of the conservation department asked her to stay. WBEZ's Elysabeth Alfano talked with Macnamara about her process and how science and art intersect.</p></p> Mon, 31 Oct 2011 14:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-31/field-museums-only-artist-residence-puts-wildlife-watercolor-93630 Where's the reality of Rothko in 'Red'? http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-12/wheres-reality-rothko-red-93077 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-12/Production_17.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Recently, WBEZ producers Kate Dries and Robin Amer took in the Goodman Theatre’s production of John Logan’s acclaimed play, </em><a href="http://www.goodmantheatre.org/">Red</a><em>, based on the real-life commission abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko received in 1958 to create a series of murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York’s Seagram Building. </em></p><p><em>The play centers on two characters, Rothko and a fictional assistant named Ken, and it takes place entirely inside Rothko’s studio. As such, the play offers a rare glimpse of an artist at work inside his studio space. </em></p><p><em>But is it an accurate glimpse? We asked Kate and Robin to take a look at the Goodman’s staging of </em>Red<em>, to see how reality meets fantasy, and how close this production comes to getting “the art part” right.</em></p><p><strong>DRIES:</strong> The studio where all of the action in <em>Red </em>takes place is <a href="http://www.google.com/imgres?q=mark+rothko+studio&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;tbm=isch&amp;prmd=imvnso&amp;tbnid=DeWCD0GQ7LQjzM:&amp;imgrefurl=http://www.artvalue.com/auctionresult--matter-herbert-1907-1984-switz-mark-rothko-in-his-studio-2797168.htm&amp;docid=YI1ggON5-bsbzM&amp;w=500&amp;h=389&amp;e">similar to Rothko’s</a> in that it’s supposed to look like an old gymnasium. But according to our conversation with Set Designer Todd Rosenthal, they wanted to spice it up a little, which means things were added, like the interesting windowed section to the left of the stage that is supposed to resemble an old office. But still, it’s a slightly glorified, very accurate artist's studio.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-12/Production_17.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 333px;" title="(Courtesy of Goodman Theatre)"></p><p><strong>AMER:</strong> I loved the set. I liked that it was highly realistic and very detailed. The walls were grimy, the shelves were cluttered, and there were dirty dishes in the sink. Only the floor was conspicuously clean, especially for a painter’s studio! (Although they did show the assistant mopping up at one point.) The reproductions of the paintings, however...</p><p><strong>DRIES:</strong> I think that you and I both struggled with whether knowing these paintings are fakes distracts from the work, and that’s actually something I’m still thinking about. I’m not sure.</p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><span style="font-size: 11px;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-11/smoke-and-mirrors-red-and-mark-rothko-92789"><strong>Smoke and mirrors: 'Red' and Mark Rothko</strong></a></span></p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-11/smoke-and-mirrors-red-and-mark-rothko-92789"><img src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-11/Production_07.jpg" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left; width: 129px; height: 98px;"></a><p><span style="font-size: 11px; line-height: 80%;">John Logan's acclaimed play 'Red' is essential not just to visual art but to understanding the theater as well. By&nbsp;<em>Jonathan Abarbanel</em></span></p></div></div><p><strong>AMER:</strong> Rosenthal told us that the reproductions used in the show were copies of Rothko’s actual Four Seasons paintings, and were created by the production staff. He acknowledged that it would be very difficult to capture the luminescence of actual Rothko paintings. Rothko used so many translucent layers of paint that his paintings really do glow. To recreate them as theater props would be extremely time consuming. Unfortunately, the paintings used onstage read as static objects, kind of dull and lifeless, not these living, breathing things referred to in the text. The paintings on stage don’t do what the characters are asking of them. I stopped counting the number of times they claimed the paintings “pulsated.” These reproductions did no such thing, nor did they “glow,” “vibrate,” etc.</p><p><strong>DRIES:</strong> Agreed -- The actual glowing painting used at the conclusion was perhaps one of the few transcendent moments in the play.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-12/Production_01.jpg" style="width: 399px; height: 600px;" title="(Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)"></p><p><strong>AMER:</strong> Yes, for me that was the one exception. That final reproduction was front lit with a spotlight covered in a red gel, according to Rosenthal. The painting did literally glow in a way the others had not - and it came to life in a way I realized I had been missing. In this case they used the elements of theater at their disposal to say something about the life of the images/paintings rather than treat them as objects.</p><p>When it came depicting the act of making these paintings on the stage, the Goodman had its work cut out for them. Painting can be toxic, messy, and labor intensive. The process involves grunt work that’s boring to watch. That said, I think they transposed the act of painting to the stage with mixed success. (Although they certainly did it better than the production I saw years ago of <em>Sunday in the Park With George</em>, the dopey Sondheim musical about the creation of Seurat's pointillist masterpiece <a href="http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/27992">on display at the Art Institute</a>, "A Sunday on la Grande Jatte.")</p><p><strong>DRIES: </strong>The curious part of me wants accuracy, but the person who knows "what good theater is" is reminded that this isn't a PBS documentary, and we don’t need to see Rothko painting the way he did back in the day. I keep thinking of an artist like Pollock, who’s physicality while working was so famous, accuracy was required, and definitely delivered, in a movie like&nbsp;<em>Pollock</em>.</p><p><strong>AMER:</strong> Yeah, same for me. As someone who has painted for a long time it was interesting to see what they got right - and what they didn’t. I tried not to be distracted by it but I think you saw me squirm in my seat a few times! I enjoyed watching the depiction of the way they would mix various pigments to achieve the perfect shade of red, but when the assistant is shown stretching a canvas he does it incorrectly, in a way that would result in the canvas puckering and bunching. Also, most of their action is unexplained. At one point they drop an egg into the paint mixture: It’s perhaps an old egg tempera technique, but I wondered what that would look like to the untrained eye.</p><p><strong>DRIES:</strong> One thing I’ll say is that it felt like they could have been more physical with the artwork, and that the standing around and talking sometimes would have felt more natural if they've actually done some of the techniques of his work more extensively.</p><p><strong>AMER:</strong> Yes, they show very little actual painting on stage, and very little action. The exception is the scene where they are shown vigorously applying a base-coat of dark red paint. It was a rare moment of physical action in an otherwise kind of low-action play. It stands out, but it was very exaggerated, very “staged” if you will, and felt more like it was played for comedy.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-12/Production_11.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 341px;" title="(Courtesy of Goodman Theatre)"></p><p><strong>DRIES:</strong>&nbsp;And so, like arguably most modern theater, <em>Red </em>takes liberties with its subject and the representation. But it begs the question: How helpful is it for the viewer? In this case, we do know that Rothko was commissioned by the Seagram Company to create a series of murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. And we know that Rothko did the paintings, but eventually returned the money, apparently after a crisis of consciousness. But there’s actually little historical research into what went through Rothko’s mind while this was happening, and why he had the change of heart. That, however, is the entire basis of Logan’s play. And throughout <em>Red</em>, Logan crafts a wide-ranging philosophical and emotional dialogue between Rothko and the fictional studio assistant named Ken. It’s a neat trick, but is it even Rothko's story once all is said and done? Throughout the play, I wondered why the unsettled feeling I had was similar to the one I get when watching a biopic like <em>The Fighter</em> or <em>Ray</em>, where the intro titles read "based on a true story".</p><p><strong>AMER:</strong> Yeah, I think the reason this “historical fiction” techniq ue worked for me is because it’s used to explore these issues of art and commerce. The play is set in the historical moment when abstract expressionism is about to be overtaken by Pop Art as the dominant visual art culture. Artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein are very consciously and purposely using corporate imagery and mass-production techniques in a fine-art context, blurring the lines between art and commerce, and one main question raised by the play, which is very much debated in real life, is: Is art corrupted when it’s sold, purchased or otherwise monetized? Can money corrupt not just the art, but the artist? In the play Rothko’s character argues, yes, and says that the tragedy of Pollock’s life was his success and the money that came with it (referred to in shorthand by Pollock’s fancy car, in which he ultimately died). The assistant character agrees that money is a corrupting influence, and later argues that Rothko is hypocritical for accepting the Philip Johnson commission. They debate whether hanging the paintings in a ritzy restaurant corrupts or poisons the work in a way that having the paintings on display in a “pure” setting, like a chapel, doesn’t. By the end of the play, Rothko comes to agree with this perspective by rejecting the commission. This theme also ties to the relatively modern notion that artists must sacrifice material wealth and comfort in order to make great work. This wasn’t necessarily the case say, during the Renaissance, when great artists had wealthy patrons or worked out of the court.</p><p><strong>DRIES:</strong>&nbsp;Yes, and above all, it's when Rothko and Ken are debating the politics of the art world that I felt the most deeply immersed in the play - and the production rang the most "true" to me.&nbsp; We've clearly both kept thinking about <em>Red</em> in the days since seeing it and, in the end, that might be the ultimate testament to its artistic power.</p><p><em>Red</em>&nbsp;continues at the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.goodmantheatre.org/" style="color: rgb(0, 104, 150);" target="_blank">Goodman Theatre</a>&nbsp;through Oct. 30.</p></p> Wed, 12 Oct 2011 14:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-12/wheres-reality-rothko-red-93077 Mural restoration heartens Puerto Ricans http://www.wbez.org/story/mural-restoration-heartens-puerto-ricans-92248 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-21/mural-2_WBEZ_Chip-Mitchell.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>One of the country’s oldest outdoor murals covers a storefront on Chicago’s Northwest Side. People who care about the 40-year-old painting are finishing a facelift. The mural restoration is doing more than brightening up a gritty stretch of North Avenue. It’s got Puerto Ricans in the Humboldt Park neighborhood talking about their heritage.</p><p>MITCHELL: A celebration of the restoration included music with roots in Puerto Rican slave plantations.&nbsp;José López of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center recalled the artists who painted the mural in 1971.</p><p>LOPEZ: Young Puerto Ricans from the street — people who were marginalized — decided to give us a legacy for our historical memory.</p><p>MITCHELL: The mural covers the side of 2423 W. North Ave. and includes portraits of nine Puerto Ricans who struggled for abolition and the island’s independence from Spain and, later, the United States. Three of them are on crosses. Those three all served long U.S. prison terms in the mid-20th century. The artists, led by Mario Galán, named the mural “La Crucifixión de Don Pedro Albizu Campos” after a Puerto Rican Nationalist Party founder. They put him on the biggest cross. López said the mural has special meaning in a part of Chicago where many Puerto Ricans can no longer afford to live.</p><p>LOPEZ: Gentrification means, many times, the writing away of people’s history.</p><p>MITCHELL: Restoring the mural took a decade. Neighborhood leader Eduardo Arocho attributes that to a developer who owned a vacant lot in front of the work.</p><p>AROCHO: His plans were to develop a three-story condo unit. We tried negotiating with him for several months, even at one point offering him several lots in exchange. And he refused and he just started to build the wall, covering the mural intentionally. And so that’s when we grabbed our picket signs and started to protest.</p><p>MITCHELL: The city finally won control of the lot and helped turn it into a small park to keep the mural visible.</p><p>PITMAN WEBER: It’s remarkable that this mural has survived.</p><p>MITCHELL: John Pitman Weber is a professor at Elmhurst College in DuPage County. He has studied and created public art for more than four decades. And he provided consulting for this mural’s restoration, carried out by Humboldt Park artist John Vergara.</p><p>PITMAN WEBER: Its content is unique, not only in Chicago but nationally.</p><p>MITCHELL: And aesthetics? Pitman Weber calls the mural formal and stark.</p><p>PITMAN WEBER: Kind of Byzantine, in a way, quasi-naïve -- executed by some very, very young artists. The style possibly even adds clarity.</p><p>MITCHELL: Not all Puerto Ricans appreciate the artwork or the idea of the island breaking from the U.S. But when I ask the ones who walk by, most have strong attachments to the mural.</p><p>WOMAN 1: My mom used to go to St. Aloysius. My parents did and so...</p><p>MITCHELL: That’s a church right here.</p><p>WOMAN 1: It’s a church down the street. I used to go there when I was a little girl. And my mom would drive us to church and that’s how I knew we were getting close is when I’d see the mural almost every Sunday.</p><p>MAN 1: I see Don Pedro on the cross being crucified for what he believed in. Crucified the same way as Jesus!</p><p>WOMAN 2: I used to get up every morning and look at this mural.</p><p>MAN 2: I went to prison. I was 17 years old and I went to prison for 20 years. And, during those 20 years, when I used to think about home and I used to think about Humboldt Park, it was this mural that I used to think about.</p><p>MITCHELL: Why is that?</p><p>MAN 2: I remember when I was first looking at it, I think I was maybe 9 or 10 when I first noticed it, I didn’t know anything about Puerto Rican history. To me it was just a painting that was up there. I didn’t understand who was up there, what it was about. But when I went to prison I learned about my culture, I learned about who I was. I even got this guy on my arm. Two of these guys are on my arm.</p><p>MITCHELL: Tattoos.</p><p>MAN 2: Yeah, Pedro Albizu Campos on my right arm and I got Ramón Emeterio Betances on my left arm. And I think I can attribute that to this mural, man.</p><p>MITCHELL: The mural restoration will be complete with the addition of calligraphy this fall.</p></p> Wed, 21 Sep 2011 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/mural-restoration-heartens-puerto-ricans-92248