Arts on the Horizon: September

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By Rodger Skidmore

How to (not) waste your time

America’s, and the world’s, fascination with found objects did not start with the Broadway musical Stomp, that show about such items as broom handles, innertubes and garbage cans: The entire field of archeology is nothing but the sifting through of detritus left by the “us” of eons ago. Whole museums house those gems from our collective past.

However, with the current world view that things aren’t going so well, what with plastics going into the sea, then into fish, and on into us, the packaging of things we buy weighing more than the items bought, and our running out of space for waste dumps, it is not strange that our interests turn to the waste we collectively generate.

All this leads to a collective of waste pickers in Brazil that, on a daily basis, go through the world’s largest waste dump looking for things that can be recycled for cash. And, as with Stomp, the artistic view of this process can be either entertaining or educational. With Stomp it was turning junk into music and with the movie Waste Land it is turning garbage into (very little bits of) gold.

A Brazilian artist from New York, Vic Muniz, spent three years convincing a town’s worth of waste pickers (the catadores of Jardim Gramacho) to assume poses of people in famous paintings by Picasso, Millet and David. As a result of Muniz’s efforts, Waste Land won more than 50 awards, was nominated for an Oscar, received a Golden Tomato as the best-reviewed film of the year from Rotten Tomatoes, and raised thousands of dollars for the catadores’ collective.

Ballet and contemporary dancers generally follow the choreographer’s direction and do the dancing. In Trash Dance, trash collectors drive the trucks but the trucks are the ones that seem to be dancing. Allison Orr is the choreographer, where a dozen or so sanitation workers and their trucks “dance” on an unoccupied airport runway.

Trashy lives? That is what some critics said when Ingrid Bergman appeared in Roberto Rossellini’s Stromboli. It was a pretty good movie, but it was the behind-the-screen activities on that volcanic island that destroyed Ms. Bergman’s career (for a time — her role on Broadway as Joan of Arc restored it).

Separately, on themes of betrayal and redemption, Casablanca (Ms. Bergman again) and The Infiltrators have a lot in common. Heavy-handed government agents against a resistance that does not always win. Both of these films bring you into the action rooting for the good guys.

Closing out this series of films at the historic Asolo Theater is Petra, a film about the closing night of the theatrical production of Las Amargas Lágrimas of Petra von Kant (The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant). The text is by Rainer Werner Fassbinder but is a new creation by Ringling’s artist in residence Randy Valdes.

For dates and times for all of these films is at Ringling.org/events.

Seeing is believing. Really?

Now you see it, now you don’t. What you see is what you get.

All these old sayings are so … old. Old, and out of date.

Go to Historic Spanish Point down south on Tamiami Trail on or after Sept. 25 and view some of its beautiful flowers and plants. Then close your eyes and picture some work of art next to them. Perhaps something by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Denmark’s Jako Steensen, Refix Anadol from Turkey, or French-American artist Sarah Meyohas.

Not too clear or distinct, are they?

Now open your eyes and see them in their full glory — the flowers and the art. Amazing, right?

Not really, not in today’s world where we have gone beyond virtual reality and entered the world of shared reality — augmented reality.

Sort of like animated movies where computer-generated cartoon-like creatures weave around live actors and live actors cavort around newly imagined scenery.

Bring your laptop or smart phone to the Selby, point them at the flowers in front of you, look down at your device, and there it all is. Look up and then down, up and down; now you see it, now you don’t.

There are 12 botanical gardens, scattered around six countries, that will be hosting this show, Seeing the Invisible. The 13 artists and their works of art will be the same in each garden, but the shows themselves will be different because they will be showcased in quite different botanical settings.

In old England, a highwayman was a robber who held you up. In old Florida (1950s) the highwaymen were 25 men and one woman who held up their art along the highway for you to buy. Those tourists, viewing the natural settings that were the rule rather than the exception, bought the paintings because they so beautifully represented what they were seeing all around, not because that art was a good investment. Of course, their children and grandchildren now have, in effect, money hanging on their walls, as well as scenes about which they may comment “My, it certainly was beautiful back then.” Florida is, in many spots, still as beautiful — one simply has to get off of I-75 and U.S. 41, and drive down the back roads in the center of the state to see glimpses of what could have been seen every day, back in the day. Works by the Highwaymen are currently on display at Selby Gardens.

The Glimmerglass ballet festival takes place in Cooperstown, New York, while Glimmer-in-the-Grass is in its fourth year at Selby Gardens. Some of the artists on display at the Duncan McClellan Gallery in St. Petersburg are having their work featured in the tropical conservatory with a backdrop of lush plants and flowers. Info about all of this is at Selby.org.

Thank you, Denise

Remember, a few years back, when the Sarasota Chalk Festival was held here in Sarasota? It was started and run by Denise Kowal, and the giant chalk drawings lined Pineapple Avenue.

Each drawing took many days to complete and one could watch as the artists squatted on their haunches, or knelt on their kneepads, laying down stroke after stroke of colored chalk. While all the walkers and gawkers loved every moment, some drivers resented having to go a block out of their way as they drove the backstreets of Sarasota trying to skip the traffic on Tamiami Trail. Also, some shopkeepers resented the hundreds of potential customers that wandered by their stores (go figure!). The result was the festival moving to a spacious runway down at the Venice airport.

Well, the chalk isn’t back but, thanks to Ms. Kowal, the drawings are. Rather than being in the street for the weekend after they were finished, the sidewalk squares are now the artists’ canvasses for painted portraits of Dolly Jacobs, Fredd “Glossie” Atkins, flamingos, a giant Twistee Treat stand, John and Mable Ringling, Pee Wee Herman, and a circus, in 1926, sponsored by the Ku Klux Klan, as well as close to a hundred others. The paintings will remain on both sides of Pineapple, parallel to Burns Court, through the end of September.

See Chalkfestival.org.

Rodger Skidmore
Author: Rodger Skidmore

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