Category Archives: Art

I will not fear death

Somethings must pass in life. A loved one, a moment, an eternity. We live our lives thinking that the day to day is all we know, not knowing that there are tiny and large moments that become the paragraphs, chapters and novels of our lives.

I was privileged the opportunity to explore the last chapter of a great building in Hamilton, before the new novel is written.

These are her words.

Pull up and have a seat, dear one.
Stay awhile.
Do not trouble yourself, there are paths everywhere.
Make good friends and they will treat you like gold.
I am ugly, but I am also beautiful.
They know not what they don’t see.
But you have eyes and ears, so I will tell you this story.
Even the secret ones. But maybe not all of them.
There is activity going on. We are preparing for a new phase of life.
Be careful.
There are dangers here.
And new to you, but old familiar friends, as well.
Try not to touch the buttons.
And may your travels be safe and filled with light.
Take a souvenir. The exit is by the gift shop.
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Life: A Cautionary Tale


Joshua ReynoldsRecovery from Sickness, an Allegory

On the eve of International Women’s Day, I present you, ladies and gentlemen, a cautionary tale of how to get, and stay, sick.

Look at yourself. Look at your life. Look at the people who surround you. Look at the food that you eat, the drinks that you drink, the smoke that you smoke, the air that you breathe. Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? How much of it can you have? How much is too much? You’d be surprised by how subtle the difference can be and how sick it can make you.

I was sick for so long. Longer than it would even appear. And I am not healthy to this day (I still have a chill in my feet as I write this), but I get closer and closer to the picture of perfect health as I can with each passing day. I may never reach it, but I can always strive.

What I said and what I did when I was sick might have been because I was sick. Does that sound familiar to you? Think of the malice and greed and discontent that you see in the world and the Internet. Is it maybe just because you’re reading or hearing the words or seeing the actions of a sick person? They may not even know they’re sick. The Internet sure as shit doesn’t know it’s sick, but it is. It needs to get better and maybe it will or maybe there will still be cancerous cells floating around in the system, but the only thing we can do is try. Because, dear reader,  you might be surprised to know but, the Internet is us. It is our collective unconscious made form into an interconnected network of digital synapses. We are in each others’ brains every day. And that can be exhausting. I bet you’re exhausted just reading this.

The trick is to know the space between wellness and sickness. How close are you to the one over the latter? Do not fear either because you might not even feel particularly sick if you are. And if you do, I sincerely wish you the speediest and fastest and completest return to wellness. And, please, if you see a sick person say something sick on the internet, feel free to say something about it but, for the love of God, be kind.

Happy International Women’s Day 2017, 2016, 2013, 2010

The Whimsical Photos of Romain Laurent

French-born, NYC-based photographer Romain Laurent has taken some of the neatest photo illusions I’ve ever seen. He loves to skew perspective to create three-dimensional photographs that defy our understanding of gravity and spacial awareness. Romain recently directed the promotional videos for Lacoste’s latest fashion line and tennis racquet, the LT12.

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SAM_01

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TILT

Photos via Romain Laurent

The Ethereal Portraits of Yann Rabanier

Yann Rabanier is a portrait photographer based in France. She creates dreamlike scenes bathed in soft light. She seeks to “become one with the subject” and is “careful not to impose too rigid and unambiguous [of an] interpretation of [the] topic.” She’s photographed celebrities from entertainment to politics.

Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen

Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly

Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly

Rosario Dawson

Rosario Dawson

Juliette Binoche

Juliette Binoche

David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg

Chloe Sevigny

Chloe Sevigny

Marion Cotillard

Marion Cotillard

Antonio Banderas

Antonio Banderas

Ryan Reynolds

Ryan Reynolds

Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling

Via Design Taxi and Ufunk. Images from Yann Rabanier

Rob Ford Doesn’t Like Homosexuals

Well, if he didn’t make it clear when he said he doesn’t want to attend the Gay Pride Parade–the World Gay Pride Parade, which is being held in Toronto this year, he certainly did when he decided he didn’t want the gay flay to fly in Toronto’s city hall.

Perhaps he is that insensitive and he doesn’t really think a gay flag–the international symbol for inclusivity–belongs in Toronto. Perhaps he thinks it’s not Toronto’s business. Obviously a lot of people disagree with him, but that’s neither the point.

These hilarious images resulted out of the outrage that came from some Torontonians.

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Source: Patrick Weir

Source: Patrick Weir

These two gems were derived from this particular piece of pastiche:

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Source: Queerty.com

Which, in turn, was created from Andy Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe:

marylin_250

I love how one begets the next, especially the final images, which are just perfect examples of how one can mock an authority figure with style and panache. They may be crude, but they are spot on.

Mozart Made Modern

Originally published on The Genteel.

Michael Schade (standing) as Tito and Isabel Leonard as Sesto in the COC’s production of La clemenza di Tito, 2013. Photograph by Michael Cooper.

Michael Schade (standing) as Tito and Isabel
Leonard as Sesto in the COC’s production
of La clemenza di Tito, 2013.
Photograph by Michael Cooper.

In the Canadian Opera Company’s (COC) production of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito, costume designer Terese Wadden creates a visual reminder of the universal themes in the Maestro’s penultimate opera: youth, indecision, betrayal and, ultimately, forgiveness. Without Wadden’s rich and colourful costumes, the cast would fade into the background, a fate that would do no service to the music of the great Wolfgang Amadeus – even if it was an opera that was hastily cobbled together in his final year of life.

Having finished the bulk of his composition for The Magic Flute, Mozart was commissioned to write an opera seria for the coronation of Leopold II, King of Hungary and Bohemia. Needing the money, he agreed to write it, using a libretto written more than half a century earlier as its base. La clemenza was performed infrequently after Leopold’s coronation in 1791, but it has recently seen a revival in popularity. According to Operabase, in 2011 and 2012, there have been 93 performances of 15 productions in 11 cities.

In La clemenza, Vitellia (Keri Alkema), daughter of deposed emperor Vitellio, rages against Tito (Michael Schade), the new Roman emperor. She longs to be a part of the royal class and so she plots to have Tito assassinated by Sesto (Isabel Leonard), a man whose conviction falters from one side to the other. When Tito learns of the plot, he struggles with himself to make the right decision – either punish the conspirators, some of whom are close personal friends, or forgive and forget.

When I discovered that the COC was producing La clemenza di Tito, I was curious to see what it would look like. The last great visual I had of the opera was a prone Measha Brueggergosman enrobed in lush red velvet and satin as Vitellia in Toronto’s Opera Atelier. From the production shots, I knew the COC’s La clemenza would be very different, with tradition being turned on its head. What struck me most were the costumes, partly because the staging is so stark: director Christopher Alden has set the tale against a plain, hard wall that could very well be Lincoln Centre rather than an ancient Roman public forum. The wall is the backdrop against which characters plot to kill Tito and where Tito decides what course of action he should take.

“[The costumes were] inspired by Greek and Roman garb in a casual, American sportswear fashion way,” says Wadden, with Halston and Diane Von Furstenberg acting as her muses. Characters are clothed in Roman tunics, armor and helmets but accented with athletic socks and vintage fashions from the seventies.

“I used the Roman stuff as reference points, but I think the seventies were more seductive, especially because it’s a psychological study of the characters in some way. They all have a lot of issues – from lust and depression to political responsibility – but they’re young. They look more like a bunch of teenagers trying to figure out life.”

But why the seventies? Perhaps because it was a generation wrapped up in similar worries. In his book Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan described the decade as one of “decadence, decay, decline, dull inefficiency and apocalypse.” New York was similarly caught up in the grip of terror during the seventies; James Wolcott called it “Mogadishu on the Hudson.” This climate is palpable in La clemenza, which centres around the roiling turmoil of an empire on the verge of collapse. Emperors were commonly deposed and assassination plots festered in the streets. On top of that, Alden added another element that is addressed in the costuming – the pursuit of parental approval.

Wadden’s contribution to the opera is a visual reminder of the characters’ motivations. Tito wanders through the opera in a pair of silk pyjamas, his indecision highlighted by the fact that he can barely get out of bed. Sesto, the conspirator, and his friend Annio wear Roman tunics with trainers and headbands as accessories chosen to show off their youth and naiveté. Now that the age of castrato singers has passed, these “trouser roles” are often played by women.

Wadden didn’t want to be specific about Sesto’s and Annio’s genders. Youth and classic American sportswear are genderless; one need only look at the popularity of the Lacoste polo shirt. And what other arena does one look for parental approval more than in sports? Perhaps opera. Sesto and Annio go back and forth between their desire to please Tito and Vitellia. The chorus-background cast were given the ultimate background uniforms – that of tourists. These vintage costumes were sourced locally in Toronto over the summer, as well as in New York and Los Angeles. Wadden’s inspiration came from old photographs of tourists at the Acropolis.

Wadden’s costume designs have appeared in opera and theatre houses over the last ten years in America and now in Canada, where she made her debut at the COC last year. To her, “[fashion] is a fantasy.” When asked if she would ever work for a fashion house as opposed to the stage, she said no. “I’m not particularly interested in the marketplace. It’s very difficult [to sell]. If one had an amazing business partner or backing – that would help a lot, but it’s too hard. And to do it year, after year, after year and self-generate, and create a look and material. I think the fun, inspiring part of doing theatre and opera on its own, is the collaboration and that there’s a set project and you have to fulfill the requirements of the project in any number of ways.” Wadden’s next project is with a new American opera of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter at Opera Colorado and a play based on the life of film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

It can be difficult to bring an opera out of its original setting without completely losing the meaning, but Wadden’s costuming in this season’s COC production of La clemenza di Tito succeeds in keeping the familiar Roman setting, while revitalising its connection to the present with the styles and themes of the seventies.

La clemenza di Tito runs from February 3 to February 22. For tickets and information, visit coc.ca.

Interview with Sarah Begin

This week I profiled vocalist and artist Sarah Begin on The Punnery because I found the Carl Sagan portrait she’s currently working on fascinating. She’s working hard on the portrait and updating her progress on her own blog, Jazzy Beginnings. I sent her some questions about the project, which she was gracious enough to answer. Read on for the interview!

Q. Who is Carl Sagan?

A. Carl Sagan was, as is stated in his Wikipedia article, an “American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences”. One of his greatest achievements, in my opinion, was his 1980’s television program, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which helped introduce a wide range of fascinating scientific topics to homes all over the world.

Carl had this incredible ability to engage an audience with his almost childlike sense of awe and wonder. His unique way of delivering information made it easy to grasp complex scientific facts and theories. When I watch his show, which I definitely recommend, I can’t help but feel inspired and enlightened. In his lifetime, he made incredible contributions to science, including work with the Apollo astronauts, the Voyager space probes, and promoted SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Unfortunately, Carl Sagan died in 1996 at the age of 62 from pneumonia, after a battle with cancer.

Q. Why did you decide to paint a portrait of him?

A. My entire life I have been interested in learning about our planet and expanding my understanding of the universe. During my own personal journey to find meaning in life, I have come across many influential people, and one of them being Carl Sagan. His passion for science and understanding is so transparent in his character, that I find myself becoming increasingly excited about life and the universe when I watch his show or read his books. As well, some of my inspiration came from a musical project put together by John D Boswell called Symphony of Science. His project takes clips from classic science programs and puts them to music, making the scientists sing using Auto-Tune. His pieces are incredibly beautiful and a brilliant way of introducing science to younger audiences.

When I discovered a blank canvas in my apartment, it seemed obvious that I would paint Carl. I kept thinking of those classic portraits that you see of important historical figures and I thought that Carl Sagan deserved a place among them. I also thought it would be fantastic to have his contagious smile permanently placed on my wall.

Source: Jazzy Beginnings

Q. You mentioned over Twitter that this isn’t the first thing you’ve painted. Who or what else have you painted?

A. As I recently corrected on my blog, http://www.jazzybeginnings.com, I have done a few paintings before but none of this magnitude. In my adult life I have completed a total of three paintings. One of them is a small abstract piece that was basically me just playing around with colours on a piece of cardboard. The second is a graphic depiction of a flower that I mimicked from my bedspread in order to make my bedroom a little prettier. The third is the only other painting of a human that I have done, and it is of the bass player Esperanza Spalding. I painted in on a whim one weekend so it was a little rushed. Now that I have a little more experience with painting, I might actually revisit that one since there are a few things that I’m not satisfied with.

“The Flower”
Source: Jazzy Beginnings

When I began the Carl Sagan piece, I decided that I was going to take my time with it. I have a tendency to be a perfectionist, and since I’ve been actively displaying the piece all over the internet, I’m not going to stop until I am 100% happy.

Q. When did you start painting?

A. Oh, jeez, that’s tough. I’ve always been interested in art in one way or another. Since I was little, I have enjoyed drawing and playing with paints. I have never thought of myself as an artist though. In high school I painted elaborate tapestries to hang on my bedroom wall. I’m going to make myself look like an even bigger geek, but they were replicas of tapestries seen in The Lord of the Rings films. I was, and still am a huge fan of the books and movies, so I really enjoyed that project. Other than that, I’ve never really painted much.

I am a huge advocate of always trying something first before immediately declaring defeat. As a vocal teacher, I often hear people saying things such as, “Oh, I can’t sing. I’ve never been able to. One time at karaoke my friend made fun of me and now I just won’t do it.” To me, that’s a defeatist attitude and that just doesn’t fly with me. You never know what you can do until you really try it, and for me, I had no idea if my painting would turn out any good. I went in to the project with no expectations, and now I’ve surpassed my expectations. That feeling alone is what makes it worth it. I see this painting as a learning experience that can only help improve any future works that I complete.

Q. How long do you paint a day?

A. Well, with this piece it’s been a total of eight days of painting. It’s hard to say exactly how much time I spend a day, because once you get me set up in front of the canvas, I just keep going and going. I would say anywhere from 2-4 hours at a time. I thought it would be cool to document each day of painting so I could see the progress. I never imagined others’ would be so interested, but it helps keep me motivated.

I’ve discovered that painting is the one activity that really allows me to relax. I can be a very anxious person and I find it really troublesome to stay in one place for any extended period of time. I’m the type that will get up and start doing something else during a movie; I love multitasking. When painting, I am forced to sit in one place and keep my focus. I find it very therapeutic.

Q. Will there be anything afterward?

A. Definitely! I’ve gained a lot of confidence from this piece and it’s made me want to do more. I am planning on doing a series of influential scientists. I put out a Facebook request asking for suggestions and got a ton of responses. I’ve already determined that my next painting will be of the Evolutionary Biologist, Richard Dawkins. He’s another man who has radically changed my perspective on life.

For a little something extra, I asked Jorge Gavidia (my partner both in music and life), to write a song corresponding to each painting, and he has done a fantastic job so far with the piece for Carl. I have this grand idea of a darkened art gallery, with each painting illuminated and Jorge’s soundtrack playing in the background. Who knows if this will ever come to be, but a girl is allowed to dream, right?

Editor’s Note: On top of the questions about Sarah’s painting, I also asked her if she could comment on the Dali print recently discovered in a Tacoma, WA Goodwill. Here’s her response:

I also came across this article the other day, and to be honest, my thoughts were very similar to your own. It is rather underwhelming. The walls of my apartment are packed with various forms of art, so obviously I am an art lover, but to be honest, I don’t know that much about the subject. As a big time thrift store shopper, I would be extremely excited if I had found this piece, but at that point, I would be hoping that it was still with the $6.99 pieces. I wouldn’t pay big money for it. That said, I can appreciate the significance of the piece and understand why someone else would want to purchase it. I don’t know that much about Salvador Dali, but I do know that he is very important in the art world, and that alone makes the piece a gem.

My choices in art tend to be very personal, and almost all of the pieces I have contain some significant meaning. Some of the pieces have been painted by myself or Jorge, others are photographs or paintings we brought back from trips. I have these great prints of cats eating sushi that I absolutely love and I picked them both up for $1 at a flea market. I also have old musical instruments hanging on my walls.

Art is subjective, so there’s no reason why you should have to find the Dali piece appealing, but in the end, it’s the historical significance that really makes the difference.

Thank you for all of your support. It’s been a pleasure writing this for you. My hope is that my art will inspire people to research these great scientists and learn to appreciate the scientific world that surrounds us.

“Science is the poetry of reality” – Richard Dawkins

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Sarah for answering my questions! You can continue to see her progress with The Sagan Saga on her blog, Jazzy Beginnings.