Saturday, April 25, 2009

@SPACE Gallery's Current Show: Jane Bauman - APOPHENIA

It was perfect timing as I left the VSA opening at MainPlace and realized I was only a block away from @SPACE Gallery, so I dropped in for a peek and not only was its director Julie Perlin Lee there (with her new baby) but so was artist Jane Bauman, whose solo exhibit, "Apophenia," adorned the walls.

I'm really a fan of abstract art, and while not solely devoted to it, @SPACE Gallery seems to have a penchant for selecting some very buoyant non-representational works for display. Jane's was yet another example of this.
She shared with me the fact she was first moved some time ago by the "rorschach ink blot" works of the late Bruce Conner, which were in black and white. Jane told me "anyone who knows me, knows I like a lot of color," and so the works she created that appear in this exhibit are indeed quite colorful and unashamedly influenced by rorschach blots.
But if the idea of using the blot as a motif was quite a conscious decision, its ultimate proliferation as free standing enamel on vellum paintings was not. Jane actually enjoys painting on sheets of aluminum, and in one of her latest series of such works, she created the ink blots and then pressed them onto the aluminum plates which she then finished with hand painted images.
That produced her "aha" moment, when she realized the enamel on vellum blots possessed their own independent beauty, worthy of exploration.
Beauty is important to Jane, who is also a longtime professor of art at Coastline College, and while her work is abstract, she talked about how her Jesuit education instilled in her intellectual underpinnings to her artistic concepts. "Apophenia," she explained, is the term for "finding meaning in random data." I commented that the randomness of rorschach blots also embodies formal structure because of the mirror image from folding & blotting.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know."
--John Keats ("Ode on a Grecian Urn")


That's the new definition for the acronym VSA (formerly Very Special Arts of California at Orange County). It was shared with several hundred people who attended its 33rd Annual Very Special Arts Festival at Westfield MainPlace in Santa Ana today. The exhibition continues through May 10 throughout the mall and is part of the Imagination Celebration. The opening ceremonies included comments by William M. Habermehl, Orange County's Superintendent of Schools, and performances by some very special students and adult artists. One of the latter, Gracie Oliver, was especially moving in her rendition of a new, original song, called "Happiness." "Happiness is..." is the theme of this year's VSA Festival, and there was plenty to behold at this event.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare - Now Get Back in the Audition Line!

NPR's Morning Edition today reminded us that it's Shakespeare's birthday with a review of some popular expressions that have come from his plays. It was preceded by a story on unemployment among theatre actors, which you can listen to (or read the transcript) here.

Driving Miss Brown

Watching the first public performance of The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown in the Orange County Performing Arts Center's Samueli Theatre on Tuesday night, I could understand completely why its protagonist was feeling "driver's block."

Her overbearingly perfect parents and over-respectful perfect boyfriend matched perfectly her own over-managed perfect academic performance (she's a high school valedictorian en route to Columbia University). Her only flaw is her habitual failure to pass the driving exam to obtain her license--ironic though it might be for someone as smart as she, it's an apt metaphor, exploited to great effect by a mercurial friend urging her to drive on out of there to freedom.

This is a workshop production of a brand new musical that is as endearing as it is promising. It continues through May 3, and tickets are cheap enough to see it now and to return at the end of the run to see what changes its creators make (they are working daily on re-writes).

And it's the first foray by OCPAC into new works development, a worthy activity and a great first step.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

OC's Pulitzer Connections

Reports in the OC Register that both the music and drama Pulitzer Prize winners this year had OC connections is a reminder that our community is increasingly at the forefront of our nation's artistic accomplishments. Especially worth remembering in times like these.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Visionary Women

I attended two artistic experiences this weekend created by visionary women: When Nature Calls, a theatre piece by Josefina Lopez, at Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble (BOFTA), and The Woeful Maladies of Ennui Manor, choreographed by Jennifer Backhaus to music composed by Alan Terricciano, performed by Backhausdance at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

This was my second visit to BOFTA, and it was opening night for this series of monologues dealing with human nature and the natural world. Author Lopez is the writer of the popular film and stage play Real Women Have Curves, and after the performance, she sat with BOFTA's artistic director Sara Guerrero and co-artistic director Elsa Martinez Phillips, and took questions from the audience. As in many works where multiple characters are presented in solo scenes, I found myself preferring some over others, but there is no question that Lopez is an inspired writer who has mastered her craft. And she is immensely passionate and precise in speaking about her work.

I had not ever seen the work of Backhausdance, the eponymous company of Mission Viejo choreographer Jennifer Backhaus, and I was particularly intrigued by the mysterious photo employed in advertising the title piece in her spring concert. The program credits Edward Gorey as inspiration for The Woeful Maladies of Ennui Manor, and it certainly possessed that Edwardian-period feel in its sepia-toned costumes and in the behavioral customs of the dancers at play in an open field balanced by a broadleaf tree. It was not really macabre in the way of Gorey's work, but that didn't matter--it showed off to fine effect the skills of her company and Backhaus's own theatrical style of staging a narrative piece. Terricciano's music was the perfect accompaniment, particularly as played by the Robin Cox Ensemble.

Friday, April 17, 2009

SparkOC Honored by OC Supervisor John Moorlach

Orange County 2nd District Supervisor John Moorlach, center, with Shelley Hoss, President of the Orange County Community Foundation and "moi"

Dozens of artists, arts educators and arts leaders gathered for a reception in the lobby of South Coast Repertory's Folino Theater Center for a chance to rub elbows with Orange County's 2nd District Supervisor John Moorlach, as he presented a proclamation to Arts Orange County & the Orange County Community Foundation for their successful launch of The gregarious Moorlach, exhibited a theatrical flair well-suited to the venue, and was introduced by SCR's co-founder, Producing Artistic Director David Emmes, whom he's known for many years. Supervisor Moorlach confessed that he leaves his district to visit Laguna Beach art galleries on First Thursday's Art Walks since he's a huge fan of plein air painting and his wife is an artist who paints.

This was the fifth and final launch event in each OC Supervisorial district, that began with 5th District Supervisor Pat Bates at Mission San Juan Capistrano; 3rd District Supervisor Bill Campbell at the Irvine Barclay Theatre; 4th District Supervisor Chris Norby at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton; and 1st District Supervisor Janet Nguyen at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana.

A huge thank you to all the "supes" for helping celebrate the importance of our arts community, to ArtsOC Board member Roger Faubel for inviting them to join us, to the host arts venue leaders Mechelle Lawrence-Adams, Doug Rankin, Zoot Velasco, Peter Keller and Paula Tomei, to Dave Cross who gently serenaded us with his expert guitar work, and to Barbara Caruso who was our publicist.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"My Mother's Brief Affair" at South Coast Rep

Jenny O'Hara, right
her sister Jill, left
I was a Jenny O'Hara fan the moment I first saw her on stage, but that wasn't at last Friday night's opening of Richard Greenberg's play, My Mother's Brief Affair at SCR.
It actually took place 39 years ago, when she starred on Broadway as the ingenue Fran Kubelik who sings "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" in the Burt Bacharach/Neil Simon musical, Promises, Promises, based on the Billy Wilder film, The Apartment.
I didn't meet Jenny until the SCR opening, but I do know her sister, Jill, who originated the role in Promises, Promises on Broadway. (I wonder how many sisters in history have succeeded one another in the lead of a Broadway musical! Oh, the talent in THAT family!)
About 25 years ago, I produced two plays in which I cast Jill: The Impromptu of Outremont and Albertine, in Five Times--both by the renowned French Canadian playwright Michel Tremblay, both exquisite, and Jill inhabited the two roles with enormous elan.
So, I couldn't wait to chat with Jenny, who has just reactivated her theatre muscles after a long, successful career in television.
Anyone who saw My Mother's Brief Affair will tell you that Jenny's acting "chops" never atrophied--and, as they say in theatre parlance, "she chewed up the scenery."
As for Jill, Jenny tells me she migrated from the theatre to her first love, music.

State Arts Council Chair Malissa Shriver Visits the OC

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, recently elected Chair of the California Arts Council, the volunteer body that oversees the state's arts agency, was honored by ArtsOC at a reception last week.
Malissa Shriver, center; ArtsOC Board President Darrel Anderson, right; "moi," left.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


An intriguing discussion today in the OC Register's Arts Blog between classical music critic Tim Mangan and a commenter about whether we value new forms more than new work in old forms.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


There is a marvelous new website called ArtBabble that compiles some really outstanding videos about art contributed by art museums around the country, including the site's host, the Indianapolis Museum of art. Had just enough time this morning to catch part of one video, "The Magnificent 11," which I recommend.

Unlike YouTube, you can't post your own videos--that can only be done by participating institutions, which include New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among the handful listed so far. I'm sure the list will grow as more museums and galleries around the world learn about ArtBabble.

Monday, April 6, 2009

"I Sing the Body Electric"

The Ray Bradbury title came to mind this morning as I reflected on Alan Terricciano's concert Saturday night and read in today's New York Times about conductor David Robertson's performance with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
First, Alan's concert featured mostly non-arboreal work--pieces commissioned or conceived for contemporary dance that, while often whimsical and quirky in nature, exhibited the high integrity of formal composition reflecting Alan's Yale & Eastman School of Music training, audibly influenced by modern American masters like Aaron Copland. Regarding "New Music for House Plants," back by popular demand, Alan credited John Cage as an influence but it also made me think of Harry Partch, one of the true iconoclasts in American music. "Plants" was more or less free form playing on cacti, flax, fruits and vegetables, with a few children's toys thrown in for good measure, after which the audience was invited to mount the stage and experiment with these "instruments."
But, you'll really have to read the story about David Robertson's impromptu stand-in performance in the Times.
The upshot of all of this?
There's music everywhere.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Shih Whiz! Beauty, Whimsy & Technology Mix

On my way home from the office yesterday, I swung by the Beall Center for Art+Technology at UC Irvine for the opening reception of the exhibition "EX-I-09" by Shih Chieh Huang, a Taipei-born, American-educated artist.

"Installations" are far from new in contemporary art, where spaces (or sections of rooms) are taken over entirely by a single piece or an entire artistic world, but Shih's works gives new meaning to the word--precisely because they must be plugged-in and they expand and contract, whether placed on the floor or suspended from the ceiling.

The lightheartedness of these sculptural mechanisms, inflating and deflating plastic bags and illuminated by colorful and ever-changing LED, neon and incandescent bulbs is an effective rejoinder to those critical of conceptual art on the basis of not "getting it" as well as to that brand of nihilists within the art "scene" who lack a sense of humor.

Shih's work is at once a beautiful and whimsical melding of the everyday with technological gadgetry, a sort of neo-Rube Goldberg, and while it's not without its irony--it just doesn't wallow in it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Music for House Plants

You've got to admit that's an intriguing title, so when UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts acting Dean Alan Terricciano told me about his composition being performed, I knew it would be a must-see. It takes place this Saturday night, and tickets are still available. Spark-e will be there for certain!

That's Alan performing the piece, which is scored for traditional instruments--and plants!