Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ayesu Lartey. The Right Place. The Right Time.

Writer, composer and performer Ayesu Lartey is in the middle of his five-week, NEA-funded VCCA Fellowship and relishing every moment. From New York City, Ayesu is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Parkside and received his M.A. in 2011 from NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. His one-act musical, "Touch" (Music, Book & Lyrics by Sam Salmond) was produced at Barrington Stages in 2010. "Voices of the Quilt" a musical documentary about the Aids Quilt (Music, Book and Lyrics by Ayesu) is currently in development.

Writing songs since he was eight, Ayesu is clearly no slouch. He says he’s pretty fast, but even he was amazed at how much he’s accomplished while at VCCA. Thus far, he’s completed a Mass for choir and string quartet (they asked for a choral song; Ayesu upped the ante; that’s just how he rolls) and is polishing off a libretto for an opera based on Joan of Arc.

Ayesu spoke movingly of his experience at VCCA. What he says will resonate with our Fellows and with other artists who daily face the challenge of finding the time and space to be creative.    

“Artists have to fight so hard for space to make art. My first couple of days here it was weird because I was realizing I don’t have to fight for space. There’s nothing but space. I cannot put into words how amazing this experience is. The food’s amazing, the environment, nature, the space. There’s a reason why everything’s amazing. It didn’t happen because you guys are nice people, it happened because you know what you’re doing and you did it and you’re doing it. You’re making a home for us, and frankly [providing] better working space than what we have at home.

Ayesu likens his sojourn at VCCA to life, “When you arrive it’s like you’re born and you know when you’re leaving so that’s like knowing your time of death. So you need to maximize your time here. Your output shows you what you’re capable of. At VCCA you’re in the right place at the right time.” But Ayesu believes we have the potential to always be in the right place at the right time, it’s just that “in this life we’re not given the space or the comfort to live up to our potential and VCCA is nothing but living up to your potential. There’s nothing to complain about there’s only life to be lived and art to be made.” And in Ayesu’s case that means a Mass not a song because as he says, “Victory is not in the minimums.”

Nussbaum's "Topology": the Arc of Life

Filmmaker Karl Nussbaum’s latest project is a 15-minute two-channel video performance piece entitled, “Topology”  — which is the mathematical study of shape and space. He is working on two separate videos to be projected side by side onto a 10’ x 15’ overhead screen mounted on a metal framework that resembles a huge cage. The screen, which is made of stretchy material, can he manipulated by the artist using a series of ropes while the videos play to create new topological/curvilinear shapes and make the images merge or interact. This not only underscores the topographical theme of the piece, but also adds a performance element as Karl moves about within the frame, casting his shadow and interrupting the projection beam while he makes adjustments.

In adding performance to the piece, Karl was inspired by Victorian scientists who acted as showmen and spokespeople for their discoveries, often taking their science show on the road. Another inspiration is the French father of animation, Charles-Émile Reynaud, whose projections entailed a kind of hidden performance: in a small room directly behind the theater screen, Reynaud fed his slides through a magic lantern accompanied by live music. By being part of the piece, physically involved in its function, Karl introduces a mechanical element—a refreshing throwback in this digital age. He also employs a tactic of Reynaud’s using mirrors aimed at the projectors to bounce the image into the air with the idea that he can separate and merge the two images by turning the mirrors.

Karl uses such images as a Mobius strip, a highway cloverleaf overpass, a diagram of the movement of air and smoke, knot theory, weather patterns, cells dividing, a radar screen, all of which seem connected. He pairs these with an otherworldly soundtrack that features such interesting sounds as a gong recorded backwards, a shofar, a Buddhist horn and submarine sonar.

According to Karl, “Topologists think of taking shapes and stretching and distorting them in space, but these topological shapes always retain the same properties no matter how they have been transformed. So it’s really the study of connectivity and continuity.”  This continuity and connectivity has a direct relation to family and “the arc of a human life…how we start and end and when we peak and fade out. That’s essentially what the piece is about,” he says.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Zlotsky's “It happened, but not to you” at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts

The title of Deborah Zlotsky’s new show, “It happened, but not to you” at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, comes from Wislawa Szymborska’s poem, Could Have which “emphasizes a fusion between what has happened and imagining what might be.” 

Deborah’s imperfect geometry and striking color choices add warmth and charm to her paintings of jumbled forms, while ensuring they have a distinctly contemporary feel (September 11-October 11).

Thursday, August 7, 2014

In Residence: Tanja Softić

Both delicate and forceful, Tanja Softić’s paintings are like visual poems, offering up lyrical pictorial passages that are richly layered with meaning and technique. Tanja knows how to balance things, pitting geometric forms against lacy filigree, silhouettes against drawn lines, blocks of bold color against washed-out hues. She uses veils of muted green and rose to form a backdrop for her idiosyncratic iconography that brings together glimpses of botany, biology and technology. These complex arrangements of fragments relate to each other visually, but also have a potent relational significance to the artist.

Recently, Tanja has become interested in splats. The kind you see on studio floors or on the street. They’re images of impact, of violence. She employs artificially made ones and ones that naturally occur during the painting process. The very deliberate way she goes about producing the former is interestingly complex. First she spills the ink to make the blots, than she photographs them, then she plays with them in Photoshop, stretching or compressing them. When she’s satisfied, she projects the manipulated image onto the painting’s surface and outlines them. It’s all about process. “A weird circuitous way,” she says, “Going from actual, to digital, to actual, to digital and so forth. It’s funny how we set up these obstacle courses. But you need all these obstacles in order to get the thoughts worked out.”

Tanja Softić: Migrant Universe, a traveling show that explores the fragmented and multilayered experience of the immigrant organized by the Halsey Gallery, Charleston, SC will be on view at the University of Richmond (where Softić is a professor) August 20 - October 6.

Madonia's "Invisible Fault Lines" to Be Published bySimon & Schuster

Kristen-Paige Madonia writes that Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers will be publishing her second novel, Invisible Fault Lines, in the spring of 2016. 

A contemporary novel with a historical twist. “Part mystery, part love story, part historical fiction, and all San Francisco, Invisible Fault Lines is a story of resilience and explores the ways we cope with the seemingly unsolvable mysteries of life.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Del Tredici's "The Last Violin" to Premiere

David Del Tredici will be participating in Bargemusic‘s Labor Day Festival Here and Now performing the world premiere of "The Last Violin."

A floating concert venue moored at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, Bargemusic provides the intimate space of a chamber music hall with the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. August 27–30 at 7:00 pm and August 31 at 4:00 pm.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gagliano’s "Suspended in Paradise"

Michelle Gagliano’s work will be featured in Suspended in Paradise at Chroma Projects in Charlottesville opening September 21. Loosely based on the descriptions from Dante’s Paradiso, the work is the result of Michelle’s experimenting at VCCA with metallic pigments on panels. “I seem to have an Italian love for gold dust, leafing, and all metallic-y things,” she says. “It’s that reflective quality that has drawn me in, and Dante is all about reflection.” Through October 21.