Category Archives: Art
For those of you near NYC, the Cloisters Museum is currently having a lovely exhibit of books and jewelry from the 14th Century Jewish community in Colmar, France. It’s all on loan from the Musée de Cluny, Paris and while a small exhibit, definitely worth seeing. I went to a preview a couple of weeks ago (I received a Fellowship in Jewish studies this semester and it was one of the events recommended for us) and I’ll be going at least one more time this semester. (For those of you who, like me, are mobility challenged, please note that the Cloisters is really rough. While there IS an internal elevator, it’s accessible only with the aid of the staff and there are four flights of stone stairs to get to the ticket desk. Good luck).
I was particularly taken by the intimate nature of so many of the pieces. Most of it is women’s jewelry and if i recall correctly what the curator told us during our tour, the ring size at least points to it all belonging to the same woman, or at least the same family. Material culture is so incredibly fascinating. I took quite a few photos while I was there. The piece that impressed me the most was a wedding ring. It was used only for the actual ceremony in medieval Judaism. The every day ring would have been of solid silver or gold (I was told it was to protect the woman from being taken in by unscrupulous fiances: solid metal is easy to measure so you know precisely what you have). Look at the incredible filigree work:
Then there was this piece, a brooch about the size of a silver dollar. It really highlighted how there was so much cross-cultural contamination (in good ways) between the Jewish community in Colmar and the surrounding Christian majority. The styles in clothing, jewels, and so much more reflected that cross-pollination.
And finally there was this MSS that shows three skeletons. Y’all know how I like ossuaries and bone chapels so this immediately appealed to me. They look like they’re having a good time. LOL.
That’s just a taste of the exhibit — there were too many people there for me to take a lot of photos but if you’re interested, check out the website above. That is all.
Mani has been on my mind a great deal the past few days and I’ve been longing, so badly it hurts, to sit in devotional space that is filled with His presence. I ache for a God that I love beyond breath. It brings light and color to my world. It adds a vibrancy to my interior vision. He inspires me but sometimes the hunger hurts. I know that no matter how much I pray or how present He may be, there will always be the distance born of flesh and the cage of corporeality between us and I am Odin’s anyway. Mani’s gentle touch is for me only a moment’s grace, a blessed respite from the roaring raging storm that is my home.
He is ancient. Even among Gods He is ancient for all that He seems lithe and young. He has a cold fury that easily matches Odin, a viciousness and valor that one must look very hard to see. He keeps it well hidden under a graceful, alluring mask, but it is there, a thing of His past, and savage. This adds spice to the longing.
I wanted to do something for Him to day since it’s the new moon. I had intended offerings, instead I found myself moved to paint Him in His warlike glory (not a way in which I usually see Him). I think it came out well and I might turn it into a prayer card. I also cleaned His shrine and I will be making offerings later. One can never do enough for the Gods one loves. I wish it were within my power to give Him the world. That is all.
My Mani shrine
Today’s icon of Mani
Mani and Unn by V. Hardy (soon to be a prayer card).
Today is the anniversary of my most obscure book, comprised of a collection of my artwork.
Numinous Places is a visual record of those places in which, over the past few years, my heart has unfolded. It’s a journey of how I learned to root myself and find joy in the world. It’s how I fell in love with places and their stories and learned to accept the spiritual nourishment such stories bring. It’s how I learned to reverence the spirits of places, animist that I am, and how I came to recognize their sustaining power.
Available on Amazon.
If any of you are in the NY area, and interested in things Bacchic, or if you just have an interest in good theatre, for the love of the Gods go and see The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s current production of “The Bacchae.” It’s phenomenal. We just got back from seeing the production. Here is the letter that I wrote to the theatre company.
“My husband and I attended last night’s performance of the Bacchae and I wanted to reach out to you. It was absolutely fantastic. There is no other way to describe it. I’ve taught the play, read it in the original Greek, written about it, and tried my own hand at translating it (serious kudos to the translator of your version, btw). More to the point, both my husband and I are devotees of Dionysos (He has His worshippers in the modern day), so for us, this is a mystery play, a ritual experience and oh, it was. It really, really was.
Neither of us had ever had the opportunity to see it in person, only on youtube clips. We were excited but approached the performance with some trepidation. It is such a sacred thing for us, what if y’all messed it up? what if you missed the core of the story? What if you portrayed Dionysos wrongly? What if….but almost from the beginning, we knew we were in for something special. By the time the chorus began singing “Go Bacchus, Go Bacchus, Go. Bring Back Dionysos” I was crying.
I”ve known for years that theatre was sacred to Dionysos. It never hit me how and why (and I was a ballet dancer professionally until my early twenties. It *should* have been ingrained in me). I”d just never seen this particular play done, the whole thing a glorious invocation to Him, and oh it makes so much sense now. He was so present throughout. That theatre became a temple.
Mr. Brown did a truly phenomenal job. I was particularly moved by the interactions between him and Mr. Foster…the moments after the latter dons female garb and shows such fragility ‘Can you make me beautiful?’ and Dionysos embraces him and says ‘you are beautiful’ and presses his forehead to that of Pentheus…and there’s such compassion for this broken man, and a chance there for Pentheus to heal and embrace who he truly is, for a different story and yet Pentheus turns away from it and back to hard headed and cruel impiety. It was so clear that when he spoke of wanting to tear the women apart, it was that fragile, fey part of himself that he wanted to truly destroy. It was heart-breaking but so few productions (of the snippets I”ve seen online) capture that.
The militancy of the Bacchantes was really well done and the music…the songs to Dione, to Eirene (“Queen of Heaven”) were beautiful hymns of praise. I really love the way the chorus was handled throughout — and usually I’m dubious about modernizing things, but this worked beautifully (and I especially liked the references to the Hudson and East Rivers instead of the Dirce and Ismene Rivers). it made it strikingly relevant. Opening it by an announcement honoring the Lenape people, the ancestors of those originally indigenous to the land where the theatre stands, slipping in an ‘Ashe’ during one of Dionysos’ monologues were particular touchstones for us. At the end, where Agave raves that she needs no Gods…it was so ugly, so impious, so stubbornly resistant to seeing her own part in all that had unfolded…she had learned nothing and it became obvious where Pentheus and his cousin Actaeon had acquired their foolishness. It really showed how we’re all just one step, one decision away from the road she chose to walk.
Oh thank you for such a powerful performance. That is all I wanted to say. I made a donation when I was there, but my household donates to various places quarterly and now you will be one of those places. It is a fitting offering to Dionysos.
The production runs through July 28. Bring water. Bring bug spray. And bring tissues.
Now that my thesis is mostly done (and my defense date scheduled), I decided to take the weekend off. A couple of really awesome opportunities arose that I just couldn’t pass up: Royal Danish Ballet dancers doing a Bournonville retrospective at the Joyce theatre, and Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Bacchae (the latter is free, which is lovely). I saw the ballet last night with a couple of friends and it was utterly delightful.
I’ve always loved the Bournonville style. It emphasizes ballon (the ability of dancers to jump with such ease that it almost seems as though they’re floating in the air), and quick footwork. It is elegant, precise, and this particular style never advocates contorting the body to achieve a higher extension. The emphasis is on artistry not acrobatics and it was a breath of fresh air to see a company that hadn’t given itself over to the colorless, broad blandness that so characterizes so much of modern ballet. It really fed the soul.
The performance opened with an excerpt from La Sylphide. The original version of this ballet was created for Marie Taglioni, a 19thcentury ballerina who pretty much ushered in the era of Romantic ballet ( culminating in ballets like Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty). Bournonville had danced with Taglioni in his youth and wanted to stage the ballet in Denmark. Apparently, he faced so many challenges from the Paris Opera Ballet (where the original had been performed) in doing so that he decided to choreograph his own version and it is this version that survives. It tells the story of James, a man who is engaged to a young woman of his village but who becomes enamored (and obsessed) with a sylph, an otherworldly creature of air and magic. Unfortunately for James, he pissed off the local witch by showing a regrettable lack of hospitality during his engagement party and his obsession with the sylph provides the opportunity for his undoing. He tries to capture this creature, which is rather obscene in and of itself: he’s taking this amazing wild thing and trying to tether it to mundane humanity, and the witch tricks him by providing him with a magic scarf. She tells him that if he wraps it around the sylph’s neck and arms it will enable her to remain with him. What it does is kill her and James is left with nothing, all the more so since his fiancée has long tired of his bullshit and gone off to marry his best friend. Last night’s performance showcased the section of the ballet where James kills the sylph. It is classic Bournonville, but was actually not my favorite part of the evening’s performance.
I much preferred the second half of the show which highlighted excerpts from the ballet Napoli, and other lesser known ballets. It was just delightful and the technique and artistry of the dancers, across the board, was high. It was a satisfying performance, and I particularly loved the rapport between the dancers. This review is correct: they were performing as much for each other, and delightfully, as for the audience. I was particularly impressed with the technique of principal dancer Jon Axel Fransson and soloist Stephanie Chen Gundorph. I have never seen such clean, effortless jumps as Mr. Fransson’s and Gundorph’s footwork was a thing of razor precision and beauty. I could have happily watched them for hours. Truly though, every dancer there was just amazing, including a performer that I can’t believe is in the corps: Tobias Praetorius. He had such a gift for comedy in his performance as a street singer that I found myself laughing out-loud. I also wish they’d done an encore of the Jockeydance, which was a hilarious variation depicting two jockeys competing to show off their skills. Seriously, all the dancers were quite lovely and if I could, I’d go to every remaining performance.
As a former ballet dancer, I was surprised to note that Bournonville style has preparations for turns in a small second position, not fourth. One of the more surprising elements of the choreography also involved a woman on pointe doing a series of bourrees or similar steps while the man holds onto her shoulder promenading in arabesque or attitude…usually it’s the woman doing that! The female dancers also darn the tips of their pointe shoes. I used to do this, though it’s not that common in American companies. It helps the shoe keep its shape and adds stability to the box. I was happy to see it being done (some of the shoes were signed and on sale so I got a good look at them).
I firmly believe art elevates the soul. It also represents the best that our human cultures have to offer. It crosses all boundaries and unifies like nothing else. We need more of it!
Tonight, it’s off to see the Bacchae, which for me is a deeply religious experience. I cannot wait to see what the Classical Theatre of Harlem is going to do with the play. It looks amazing. There is a review here.
(ballet photo couretsy of this site, where you can see more images of the dancers participating in The Bournonville Legacy show at the Joyce).
I am heartbroken about Notre Dame. As we were going into class tonight we learned about the fire. I believe it’s been put out by now, but the damage is horrendous. At least, from what I heard earlier, the relics and statuary were removed days ago because of the renovation being done. This church is a work of art, a treasure, beyond price. How much has been lost of that legacy that we will never recover? It’s just sickening. Apparently the fire was due to the renovation, a potential problem with renovating very, very old structures.
I don’t usually post my own art here on this blog, but I’m making an exception today because I’m really happy with how the first piece came out.
I was recently invited to participate in an Australian show titled “Post-cards from the Hudson Valley.” That will be in March and then later this year, Australian artists will have a show at a gallery in Beacon. The images have to be six by eight inches — much, much smaller than I normally work. Because one poor artist is schlepping all the art over in her luggage, she asked that we work on paper rather than canvas, so I gessoed up two pieces of Arches watercolor paper and got to work (the third, she’s printing for me since it’s a photograph).
The first is titled “Beacon Shaman 2019”, acrylic on paper (it already sold):
The second, a weird little abstract landscape titled “Beacon Lights”, also acrylic on paper (I was coming home late at night and saw the lights of the city twinkling across Fishkill River…it looks better in person — the texture didn’t really come out in the photo):
and finally, the third is a photograph of a military memorial in London titled “Lest We Forget”:
I do take commissions — in fact, I just finished one for an etsy customer so if you’re interested, contact me here.