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Archive for January 21st, 2015

Mr-Turner-1

 © 2015 by James Clark

      We recently bought a visual art piece that we find very absorbing. It consists of a reddish screen of Plexiglas within which there is a very thin chair-like configuration. The plastic/glass is assembled in such a way as to conjure the sunlight impinging on it as setting off delicate fires along the trajectories of the chair design. The artist, who has developed a world-wide market for this kind of work, very fortunately lives in Toronto and we’ve been treated to his observations upon his career. A former Texan and one-time Double-A baseball pro, he can’t stand the company of artists.

It was impossible not to think of him when encountering Mike Leigh’s almost incredibly rich disclosure (from 2014) of the ways of British “Romantic” (pre-Impressionist, pre-Abstractionist) painter and water colorist, William Turner (1775-1851), known as “the painter of light.” Despite a brief initial scene where the protagonist, standing in an expanse of farmland, communes with a Dutch sunset, quickly sketching impressions into a notepad, we’re soon caught up in a tradesman’s preoccupation with manufacturing marketable canvases for Londoners with loads of discretionary assets. The artist, for all his occupying a pedestal back home—addressing his canvas of the moment like a rotund golf legend chipping out of a bunker at the Masters on a sunny day—is most specifically a continuum of his (caddy) father (always referred to as Daddy, who used to sell his juvenilia from the barber shop which he once presided over), functioning now as his conduit for paints, brushes and canvas, and also preparer of pigments and stretchers, not to mention his presiding over the retail outlet on the premises. Early on we see him ushering into the precincts comprising their home and William Jr.’s studio a couple of prospective buyers. (In fact there are three in that party, but Turner Sr. only refers to “Gentlemen.” This touch forms part of a pattern of Turner’s thematically significant repeated underestimation of women. On his return from Holland [where we saw a pair of milk maids in old-fashioned costumes walking by the site of the genius plunged into matters too refined for all but the rare, advanced female], he shares an unintelligible joke with Daddy, something about “cackling females.”) The gentlemen art fans stand in an ante room strikingly murky, but Sr. assures them, “The darkness is to a purpose…” He leads them to a doorway and with the vaguely mountebank flourish, “Behold!” opens the way to a dazzling southern exposure, the better to set the scene for the irresistible magic of those latest works of the painter of light, tableaux markedly leaning toward seascapes with arresting clouds and lighting effects. (Turner himself peeks through a peep-hole to see how things are going. Then his ex drops by, along with their two daughters, one of whom with a new-born baby and needing new finances, and, after they are ushered out of his studio by the housekeeper and come to the living room, Turner kicks a chair across the workspace.) (more…)

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starlight cover

by Sam Juliano

There is a defining moment in Kristy Dempsey and Floyd Cooper’s A Dance Like Starlight that coaxes comparison with Italian neo-realism.  After an aspiring young ballet dancer completes a backstage recital performance she recoils sheepishly, lacking all measure of self-confidence.    A ballet master witnesses both her lovely turn and the embarrassment she is unable to conceal from being watched, and poignantly reassures her:

I turned away when I saw him watching, ashamed how he saw me trying to do their dance./But he took my face in his hands and looked into my eyes./”Brava, ma petite,” he told me.  “Brava.”/That’s when hope picked my dream up from the floor of my heart, just like Mama said,/and it started growing.

starlight 4

The mixed media application (referred to as a “subtractive” process that yields sensory textures) of the girl’s face in close-up is incredibly powerful – her dreams and nightly wishes to the stars that never appear, and the opportunities that are seemingly within the realm of fiction paint a picture of intense yearning and the sadness that results from unrequited hope.  This is the face of someone who has worn herself out, one of innocence and conviction, one of someone who tearfully has seen the implausibility of what she imagines.  This is the face one associates with many other talented African-Americans from that period, many of whom were as gifted as any in their field, but were denied equal opportunity because of their color.  It is a face that would melt the hardest of hearts, and is is one of the most unforgettable single illustrations in any picture book released in 2014. (more…)

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