It was one of those “lifetime moments” for Catharine Axley when the University of Kentucky Filmmaker-in-Residence switched on the TV and saw her labor of love filling the screen. Independent Lens had selected her work from among hundreds and there it was, airing nationwide on the PBS series.
The story of champion Alaskan dogsled racer George Attla had captured her attention, and…well, now we’re getting ahead of things. Click “Listen” to hear Catharine tell it in her own words in a conversation we taped for this week’s edition of Eastern Standard on WEKU.
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UnderMain invites you to attend Critical Mass III: In The Mid March 15th & 16th. In its third iteration, after being hosted in Lexington and Louisville, the conversation will now move to Northern Kentucky to be held at The Carnegie Center in Covington. The Critical Mass Series is based in a common desire to create a platform for critical thinking in the arts: including artists, art critics, and curators.
CMIII: In The Mid will center on the experience of art professionals living and working outside of the major art centers for contemporary art. The panel-community discussion will also examine the role that written criticism plays in engagement of regional artists and institutions in a national and international dialogue.
Natalia Zuluaga, Featured Panelist and second Critic-in-Residence for the Great Meadows Foundation and INhouse.
UM is partnering with The Great Meadows Foundation and INhouse and their second Critic-in-Residence, Natalia Zuluaga. During her residency she will make studio visits to a number of artists in the region as part of the foundation’s goal to help strengthen and support the critical growth of Kentucky artists.
Matt Distel, the Exhibitions Director at The Carnegie and moderator of the event, has also invited the following panelists to attend: Valentine Umansky, Annie Dell’Aria, and Sarah Rose Sharp. The focus of CMIII: In the Mid is Regionalism. Matt states that the aim is to discuss questions like ‘What is Regionalism and how does it inform opportunities for artists and writers?’ ‘What are the practical concerns for artists that are working outside of major arts centers?’ And ‘What role does art criticism (and critical dialogue in general play) in the careers of “regional” artists?
This event will bring forth ideas and topics relevant to anyone who values cultural critique with a focus on practical outcomes. The format promises interaction and discussion punctuated with artist presentations, accompanied by light bites and brunch cocktails.
UnderMain President, Christine Huskisson, thinks that the event will help build more meaningful and productive connections between people in the arts whether that be artists, curators, critics, or collectors. ‘My hope is that the Critical Mass Series, now in its third year, could become a space where we can discuss critical topics relevant to our growth as artists and develop a collective voice strong enough to be heard on the larger stage of the contemporary art world.’
Matt Distel believes the time is critical, ‘With any event of this nature we are really hoping to increase the level and, frankly, quantity of critical discourse around the arts. It’s such a vital component to the overall health of an arts community to receive and engage in dialogue around art projects and exhibitions. As mainstream news outlets drift further away from that sort of coverage, it feels like a really crucial time for the artists, writers, curators, collectors, galleries and administrators to ask what we want from the art critical conversation in this region.’
CMIII: In The Mid will take place on Saturday, March 16th at The Carnegie in Covington and will run from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM. We hope you will join us the night before on March 15th for gallery opening of Open Source, featuring artist Sky Cubacub.
Sky Cubacub is featured at The Carnegie’s Gallery opening March 15th. Cubacub first dreamed of Rebirth Garments in high school when they didn’t have access to buy a binder. Rebirth Garment’s mission is to create gender non-conforming wearables and accessories for people on the full spectrum of gender, size and ability.
“I am especially interested in Rebirth Garments being accessible to queercrip youth and I’m working on creating a program for making free/reduced priced garments for people in need… In my practice, the intensive handwork makes the process the most important part and gives me inspiration. For me, everyday is a performance where I bring my body as a kinetic sculpture into the consciousness if the people I interact with in passing and on a daily basis. I embody the spirit of Radical Visibility, and Rebirth Garments is my soft armor.”
Lindsey Whittle received a BFA, in painting, from the Art Academy of Cincinnati in 2007. She pursued a master’s degree in fashion at the Scholastic’s of the Art Institute of Chicago from 2012 – 2014, studying under “Soundsuit Artist” Nick Cave, all while maintaining her position as the Master Crafter at Kiki Magazine from 2012-2015. Presently, she co-instigates and co-coordinate unique art experiences at PIQUE art gallery and bed and breakfast.
“I am a fashion/performance artist that makes colorful transformable objects as as starting point to collaboration with others. A single piece of my work often has many applications and the work functions best when those applications are in flux. It can function as an installation, on the wall, as a sculpture or on a body etc. There are elements of exploration, change, transformation, interactivity and possibility in everything I do.”
Social Circle Site specific installation at The University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash. Found objects, enamel paint, screen print. David Wischer, 2018
David Wischer was born in Henderson, Kentucky. He received his B.F.A. in Graphic Design from Northern Kentucky University and his M.F.A. in Printmaking from Purdue University. He has taught courses in Printmaking, Foundations Design, and Digital Art at both Northern Kentucky University and Purdue University and is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital and Print Media at University of Kentucky. Through his use of printmaking, animation, video, and sound, David melds topical humor, nostalgia and social commentary with his work. His prints and video pieces usually function as an inside joke for a generation that grew up absorbing their worldly knowledge through television and the internet. David’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and he has been included in many private and public collections. His work is currently on view in The Carnegie’s Exhibition, ‘Open Source.’
“I Am The LEAST Racist Person You Have Ever Met” – Harry Sanchez Jr, 2018
Harry Sanchez Jr. was born in El Paso, Texas in 1980. He was spent much of his life on the border with Mexico, bust he also lived in many parts of the country doing menial jobs such as working in construction and the restaurant industry, providing maintenance to a golf course and ushering at a movie theatre. His mobility allowed him to experience and understand life and this society from the perspective of people from different social classes and races. In his earliest works, he used the same tools and techniques he learned as a cake-decorator, but replaced the icing with oil paint. He squeezes oil with a pastry bag over the canvas to explore the relationship between painting, sculpture and abstraction. In his most recent work, Harry gas used installations, prints, and other media to make artistic statements from the position of a racialized minority in the United States. He uses his artwork to comment on global matters such as the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the double-identity of whistleblowers who are hailed as heroes or condemned as traitors, and to denounce the separation of families following the deportation of undocumented migrants.
Rose (for MM), 2015. Wilted rose sprayed with a mist of Balenciaga Rosabotanica.
Joey Versoza was born in Michigan and currently resides in Northern Kentucky. He has been a professor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati since 2013, and received a BFA from the same institution in 2000. He has shown several solo exhibitions at institutions such as the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, and has shown in group exhibitions in Chicago, Baltimore and Louisville- to name a few. Speaking on his work he said, “It kind of exists as both; as a question and then also as an affirmation. His show, This is It at the Contemporary Art Center in 2013, was in part about “challenging the idea of masculinity in the midwest.”
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About UnderMain: UnderMain is a Kentucky 501(c)(3) dedicated to arts and cultural affairs in the region. Our vision is to become a digital meeting space that empowers Kentucky creatives by presenting arts of all kinds, community issues, controversies, contests, events, people, and critical reviews. UM is serious and fun. We love playing in the digital sandbox and presenting vivid content to you, ad-free, as we offer support to some of Kentucky’s most talented writers, artists, and performers.
About the Great Meadows Foundation: The Great Meadows Foundation is a grant giving foundation, launched in 2016 by contemporary art collector and philanthropist Al Shands. Named for the home that Al and his late wife Mary created, the mission of Great Meadows Foundation is to critically strengthen and support visual art in Kentucky by empowering our community’s artists and other visual arts professionals to research, connect, and participate more actively in the broader contemporary art world.
About The Carnegie: The Carnegie is Northern Kentucky’s largest multidisciplinary arts venue providing theatre events, educational programs and art exhibitions to the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati community. The Carnegie facility is home to The Carnegie Galleries, the Otto M. Budig Theatre, and the Eva G. Farris Education Center. More information about The Carnegie is available at www.thecarnegie.com or by calling (859) 491-2030.The Carnegie is supported by the generosity of more than 40,000 contributors to the ArtsWave Community Campaign. The Carnegie receives ongoing operating support from the Cincinnati Wine Festival, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Kenton County Fiscal Courts, the Kentucky Arts Council and the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr. / US Bank Foundation.
About the Featured Critic: Between 2007 and 2012 Natalia Zuluaga was the manager of foundation programs at CIFO (Cisneros Fontanais Art Foundation) where she managed the foundation’s core programs, and from 2016 through 2018 she was Artistic Director of the ArtCenter/South Florida, where she developed exhibitions, residency programs, artist development initiatives, and adult education programs. Since 2014 she has been the co-director of [NAME] Publications, a non-profit press and cultural office, and most recently she launched and is the co-editor of the bilingual online journal Dispatches (www.dispatchesjournal.org).
Savannah Wills is a Chellgren Fellow and senior at the University of Kentucky. Graduating with Bachelor Degrees in Art History and Arts Administration in Fall 2019, she previously coordinated Critical Mass II in 2018, and will be working with Under Main again to help coordinate Critical Mass III.
Standing alongside one of the region’s most distinguished research universities, the University of Kentucky Art Museum is as an educational resource whose exhibitions are more than just presentations of artworks—they are institutional endorsements that can spearhead an artistic career. When an institution like the UK Art Museum, located inside of the Singletary Center for the Arts, selects an artist for a one-person exhibition, particular questions arise regarding its conception: Why this artist? What is it about their practice that is worth investigating? Why now?
Lawrence Tarpey: Figures and Ground, a solo exhibition featuring works made by Lexington-based artist Lawrence Tarpey, answers these questions primarily through the stark presentation of selections from Tarpey’s most recent body of work. With little accompanying wall text, Figures and Ground relies on the ambiguity of the artist’s methods, the peculiarities of Tarpey’s subject matter, and neighboring exhibitions to illustrate Tarpey’s uniqueness amongst his contemporaries and cement his rightful place in broader conversations about current art world trends.
Tarpey is currently represented by Heike Pickett Gallery in Lexington and his paintings and drawings—he refers to them as “etchings” because the aesthetic he achieves evokes modes of printmaking—are typically shown in small numbers as parts of group exhibitions. As Figures and Ground demonstrates, however, his works are best viewed in large collectives and without a thematic umbrella, for Tarpey is a world-builder who uses his art-making to create dense scenes that explore notions of rebirth, apocalyptic anxiety, and dreams, as well as the nature of art-making itself. By surveying a generous selection of Tarpey’s etchings, secondary motifs, such as systematic ordering and the quotidian, also become clear.
In Figures and Ground, some eighteen of Tarpey’s etchings taken from the artist’s studio, Heike Pickett Gallery, and local private collections are hung in a row at eye level in one of the museum’s most conventional gallery spaces. This string of images keeps one’s attention with all-over compositions, human and animal subjects, as well as bulbous—almost venereal—shapes and forms. Moreover, Tarpey’s miniature objects distinguish themselves from many other works in the museum based on size alone: The average dimensions for all works in the exhibition measures at 9.5 x 12.6”–Tarpey’s figures and shapes from his body of work are consistently scaled across pieces. Although specific narratives in Figures and Ground are altogether missing from the works on display, the exhibition’s design helps articulate a connection between each image.
Yet there is one break in the otherwise continuous line of works, which almost serves as a modest suggestion from the curatorial team as an entry- and exit-way into the exhibition’s scope. On the wall to the left of the gallery’s entrance, Back to School (2013) floats above Another Fly By (2010-2013), wherein the exhibition’s standard for eyelevel is found within the few inches of exposed wall between the two similarly dimensioned images. But this break goes unnoticed until one is fully inside the gallery and does not function as a visual rupture from the exhibition’s evenness. Rather, by taking two etchings with comparable blue-tones and stacking them without interfering with the show’s design, this unquestionably emerges as one of the exhibition’s more successful moments. This covert pairing is a checkpoint for the viewer’s trajectory.
Once inside Tarpey’s world, a viewer will encounter Creation Demonstration (2015), a monochromatic scene filled with humanoids cohabiting within the same atmospheric space. But without a definitive foreground or background for the multitude of its figures to recede into, Creation Demonstration fails to privilege any one figure over another. Instead, the etching’s lack of depth combined with the horde of faces—all of which seem to stare in different directions but never at each other—insinuates a kind of spatial and temporal disorientation. Indeed, Creation Demonstration, with detailed inclusions of UFOs and floating heads, maintains an uneasiness that prompts notions of physical embodiment and unfamiliarity.
Like Creation Demonstration, another etching by Tarpey, Rush Hour (2009), features an asymmetrical, all-over composition. But whereas the former is crowded with discernable faces and bodies, Rush Hour is a staging of abstract forms that leads to an uncertainty of the scene at hand. This work stops short of affirming a decisive foreground or background, ground or sky, and some of the forms depicted will surely inspire anthropomorphic readings (this could very well be what Tarpey intended). But without an accompanying label to guide one’s viewing or an apparent focus point, it is impossible to know for sure if these are more than just shapes floating in an unspecified space. Here, Tarpey allows the visitor to determine what exactly is going on. Rush Hour, with its heightened sense of ambiguity, can be framed as a test of perception—our viewing habits inform our ability to generate meaning. Artworks that challenge traditional conventions of looking undoubtedly belong to creative trends developed in the 20th and 21st centuries, and Rush Hour is yet another example that does just that.
Tarpey’s world also includes nods to popular culture. Tex Mex (2016) contains a highly stylized map partially blocked by figures in the foreground, one of whose forehead is labeled with the latter of the work’s title. Tex Mex personifies the relations between the United States and Mexico but—in a manner similar to Creation Demonstration—Tarpey only provides the beginning of a story. He allows the viewer to complete the narrative based on how they interpret what is presented. In a less representational setting, the meaning implied in The Weather Channel (2016) hinges on the obsessive use of blues. It could be that Tarpey means for feelings associated with rain—gloominess, melancholy, and cleansing—to be appropriate implications upon seeing the etching. But as the figures in The Weather Channel interact with the content from other works in the exhibition, it becomes just as plausible that Tarpey’s titling methods are only gimmicks that further the sense of ambiguity linked with the world the artist creates.
The objects in Figures and Ground were made by drawing, painting, and scraping on panels, making for both additive and reductive techniques—a true push-and-pull process. Tarpey is constantly taking and giving, destroying so that he can create again. By allowing a substantial amount of Tarpey’s objects to occupy the same space, Figures and Ground highlights the degrees in which Tarpey’s renderings allude to more than their depicted scenes. With the endorsement of a solo exhibition, the subtleties of Tarpey’s art are able to reveal themselves in ways they could not had only a few of his works been included in a group exhibition.
Lawrence Tarpey: Figures and Ground is positioned alongside an exhibition featuring works made by Natalie Frank, a notable contemporary artist who also incorporates fantastical elements and figurative subjects into her art-making, as well as a two-person show that pairs the staged photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard and Duane Michals. Tarpey’s validation as a noteworthy artist is enhanced by the accompanying presence of these three artists whose careers are marked by exhibits at major museums and galleries. While Figures and Ground serves as an endorsement of a cherished local artist, it is also a means of situating Tarpey amongst the broader art community.
Lawrence Tarpey: Figures and Ground runs from May 6th to July 31st, 2016 at the University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington, KY.
Whether you’re into musicals or not, Rodgers and Hammerstein is pretty hard to beat. South Pacific, which first appeared on Broadway in 1949, represents a definite high point in the duo’s efforts, with many well-known numbers and sets.
When the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre decided on South Pacific for part of its season, it was done with much community and patron support. Dr. Everett McCorvey, who is the Director of UK Opera Theatre and largely responsible for bringing the Department to worldwide attention, shares with us in the following hinterview the reason South Pacific was chosen and the many factors that go into making an outstanding opera theatre company.
CS: South Pacific. Good, strong musical theatre.
EM: We’re starting to highlight “classical” musicals, because the reality is a lot of students are doing crossovers. We’ll have the greatest impact as a young artist training program.
CS: Aside from creating a great evening, that’s really the bottom line, isn’t it? That the students get what they need to be successful.
EM: Absolutely. We have students that are performing on Broadway, on TV.
The goal is to graduate singers who can work. We can’t overlook musical theatre, and just be classical opera, as Broadway is doing is very well. When we did Phantom of the Opera a few years ago, it was a huge success. We broke all the records at the Lexington Opera House. Then we did Les Misérables, then Sweeney Todd, and now South Pacific. We have to apply for the right from the companies to present these shows, so that becomes a factor as well.
CS: Is this a trend for opera companies, blending musicals and operas in their seasons?
EM: If you look at opera companies around the country, they’re doing the same thing.
CS: How are the roles chosen from the student body?
EM: We look in our program to see who’s ready to be featured and be on the big stage. We’re the opera company for the city, not just the university, so we have a big obligation regarding quality assurance. On the one side, we take our patrons very seriously and want to offer the best; we knew we had enough singers to fill South Pacific and it would be an exciting show for the public.
CS: How big is the production?
EM: It’s a great cast of about 40 singers and and orchestra of about 40. We’re using the set that was built for the South Pacific revival, which was used at the Lincoln Center in New York. Young people go to Broadway to see these shows more than they do pure opera these days. Opera companies are trying to engage the young people; we want them to attend the productions, otherwise it’s difficult for the art form to survive.
CS: So this same phenomenon is definitely happening in other places?
EM: In the next 10-12 years I predict opera companies will take over doing musicals and the other stuff. What’s interesting is that most of the shows that come back to Broadway are revivals; there are very few new shows.
South Pacific ran for almost 2000 performances after premiering in 1949. James. A. Michener wrote the book, Tales of the South Pacific, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947 and became the germ of South Pacific, the musical. There have been many revivals and offshoots from the original, including a very successful 2008 Broadway revival.
CS: How long or will this way of mixing musical theatre and opera continue?
EM: The mission of our program is to be the best training program in the country. That being said, it’s important to me that we stay current. We are trending and trying to be a part of this new paradigm that is happening to American Musical Theatre. We will still do traditional opera as students must still be trained in this repertoire.
CS: How many are currently in the program at UK?
EM: About 133 in the Voice Program. 80-90 are undergraduates and 30-40 are graduates. We recruit from all over the world for our people.
CS: So, when it comes time to sit down and roundtable about upcoming shows, what will teach the most and who you have in the student body become hot topics.
EM: Of course. We vote on which shows are done. These include people who are voice teachers and voice coaches. We look at what stock we have and whether or not the show will work. We’re already talking about shows for the next year and the year after.
CS: Tell me more about the cast of South Pacific.
EM: Jenna Day, who was the former Miss Kentucky, plays Nellie Forbush. This was a role originated by Larry Hagman’s mother, Mary Martin, in the late 1940s. André Campelo plays Emile de Becque, a French ex-patriot. He plays it beautifully and has a great accent to go with it. For South Pacific, the challenge is that there is a lot of dialogue, and the singers have to be able to grab the nuances of the language. Typically for operas, they are played by people 35-50 years old, so we also have a decent age range of students between the undergraduate and graduate programs.
“Bali Ha’i,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “There Is Nothing Like a Dame,” “Happy Talk,” “Younger Than Springtime” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy,” are all well-known and oft-performed pieces from South Pacific. Following is a link to a Mary Martin televised London performance from 1952:
CS: It seems that students have to be more and more versatile in today’s world to be able to work; I’m sure competition is as thick or thicker today, yes?
EM: Companies need these all-around arts people. People like Kelly O’Hare, who is making her Metropolitan Opera debut. The reality is the producers need the best performer, it doesn’t matter the particular skill; many skills are preferred. We’re looking at a more joint musical theatre program. Merged costume companies. We’re looking very hard at how we can collaborate, so we can serve the needs of the students. Once again, We want to ensure our graduates work when they get out. Ironically, they sometimes are our best recruiters.
CS: Case in point?
EM: Reginald Smith Jr. Earlier this year he won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. People see these awards and events on Facebook and Youtube and they seep into the public awareness. This includes, of course, potential students watching online and researching the best schools where they can hone their talents to eventually get work in the field they want.
CS: Do you feel recruitment is a big issue at UK?
EM: Alltech offers a big competition that recruits from everywhere and we bring in all kinds of people. They’ll send students to do concerts. Recruitment’s a big concern for any school, but it’s the usual deal: when big decisions have to be made for programs to be cut, the fine arts are always first. Ahead of the sciences, business and especially sports.
CS: It seems that people are not weaned on the arts in the same way as the others you mentioned.
EM: We work towards this with the young people so we develop arts appreciation into something else. Babies leave the hospital in UK basketball jerseys; fans are developed very purposely. We have Bourbon, horses, basketball and opera!
CS: Patrons seem ready and eager to support.
EM: Philanthropy in Lexington is at an all time high. I’m talking about individuals, not companies necessarily. They want to see UK at the top and they’re willing to support.
CS: It seems opera at the University and State level has come so far, particularly since you’ve taken the helm. Many people agree. It’s not hyperbole.
EM: It’s a collective effort, of course. I’m glad we’re growing in the right direction, growing students to their potentials and their employability.
CS: With so many success stories, it seems that growth has been a constant factor over the last 15 years.
EM: Definitely. The Richard Tucker Foundation publishes a list of companies each year that are the top in their field, and we were listed in that recently, which gave me a real thrill. We’re doing the right thing for our growth and our students.
CS: Dr. McCorvey, as ever, it’s been wonderful talking with you.
EM: Yes, thank you.
You can go to the Lexington Opera House website, where you will find info on South Pacific, tickets, and more on the seasons for the UK Opera Theatre and the Lexington Opera House.
UnderMain is again partnering with The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky and The Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning to promote more art criticism in our community. Our partners know that to do this well, we have to commit to quality writing and to achieve this, we have to keep raising the bar. So, on Saturday, September 26th, from 10:30 am – 1:00 pm, Stuart Horodner will conduct a class in writing critical review. Below, he answers a few questions about purpose and process.
UM: What do you hope to accomplish with this class?
SH: I’d like to give an overview of why art criticism ( in the form of reviews of exhibitions) is important, and who are some of the best practitioners today. We will discuss what makes them so good, and how local writers can cultivate their skills to contribute arts-related writing to local and national outlets in print or online formats. We’ll look at a range of short reviews and analyze them, and then do some short writing exercises based on Lexington exhibitions.
UM: How in your opinion can art criticism contribute to a growing arts community such as the one we have in Lexington?
SH: Art criticism is a healthy thing for all arts communities, as it provides feedback for artists about how their work is being understood, and helps those interested in discourse to have a public opinion to discuss (to agree with or argue about).
Thoughtful critical writing helps audiences understand art and can serve to inspire them to visit galleries, museums, art centers, fairs, etc. If local artists and exhibitions are not written about, an important part of the professional development of individuals and institutions cannot mature and succeed. Can you imagine the films, books, plays, restaurants, or sports teams in Lexington or any other vital city, not being written about regularly? I can’t. So who will do this writing, where can it appear, and who will read it?
UM: Will the structure of the class be lecture-style or more of a workshop?
SH: The class will combine lecture, conversation, and workshop aspects. We will address a range of philosophical and practical aspects of art writing, locally and beyond.
UM: How can UnderMain facilitate you in attaining your goals?
SH: UnderMain can invite individuals to attend the class, and continue to serve as a platform for emerging and established voices. One aspect of art criticism locally that we must address is the timeliness of response, and the differences between journalistic coverage and critical assessment.
UM: Any expectations on academic training or experience needed for those who enroll?
SH: The class welcomes people who have an interest in the topic regardless of their training. Most important is that those who enroll are excited about art and writing and want to learn new skills. Something I might ask of those who do enroll is to bring a list of what arts-related writing you currently read, why you read it, and how you use the information/opinions to further your own interests and activities.
The class will take place at The Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning located at 251 West Second Street, Lexington, Kentucky, 40507. The cost is $20. Please sign up today! We look forward to seeing you there.
Six years after their public introduction, Vivian Maier’s photographs still exude mystery and prompt intrigue. Working as a nanny in Chicago during the fifties and sixties, Maier documented her surroundings — and often herself — but ironically we know little about her life. Vivian Maier: On the Street at The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky presents a monographic exhibition of thirty black and white photographs, including abstract self portraits and intimate glimpses into the lives of both Chicago’s working class and elite aristocrats.The scope of the exhibition provides a perspective of Maier’s surroundings, while at the same time offering viewers a deeper connection with the photographer and her Rolleiflex camera.
However socially and aesthetically infatuating, the legal underpinnings of Maier’s photographs remain overarching. In 2007, two years before her death, her negatives were auctioned off along with the rest of the contents of her storage unit as the result of nonpayment. Since then, her work has been reproduced, edited, and resold to private galleries and collectors. An onslaught of intellectual property debates and ethical questions still permeate Chicago courtrooms. In sum, Maier’s oeuvre has been posthumously constructed and aggrandized by those with a market share in her life and work.
While this aspect of Maier’s entrance into the mainstream is a basis for contention (but not entirely unique — this happens all too frequently in the art world), I think there is more at play in our vehement attraction to her photographs than just market controversy. Perhaps this is why On The Street resists a dialogue about ethics and legalities. Although the entrance wall text states that the selected photographs are pulled from the John Maloof Collection (Maloof is just one of the original purchasers of Maier’s defunct storage unit), no details are provided about the legalities of his purchase. Instead, the viewer is presented with another concern: the entrance of unknown “artists of consequence” into the canon of art history.
The works chosen for display for On the Street provide viewers with a multi-faceted view of city life through the lens of Maier’s camera. Each image seems at once familiar and uncanny — we can recognize the ebb and flow of city life, but only though Maier’s abstract angles and intense shadows. While some of Maier’s subjects are aware of their subjectiveness, others are oblivious — they are presented as anonymous, fragmented bodies. Ubiquitous shadows seem to be subjects themselves: Maier frequently makes them the focus of her self portraits. Indeed, there is something dream-like about Maier’s use of light and line, shadow and shape — her Surrealist predecessors applied many of the same techniques to their own photography.
Although the exhibition of thirty photographs seems small in comparison to the number of negatives available from the Maloof Collection, the time required to absorb Maier’s work is proportionate. Each photograph is remarkably detailed — and one journey through On the Street is not enough to fully immerse oneself in Maier’s world. The exhibition is comprised of single images and groupings of two and four photographs: children, city streets, women, transportation, and leisure, to name a few. Contextualizing these selected photographs provides a comprehensive survey of her subject matter, allowing viewers to connect her daily activities with the people and places she chose to capture on film.
On the Street is located in the back corner of the museum, which seems an odd fit for Maier’s work — the exhibition almost suffocates in its compact space. The intensity of Maier’s photography needs a precise “breathability,” something the back gallery ultimately lacks. Perhaps in attempt to mediate the small space, each photograph is surrounded with a large white mat and delicate silver frame. While this gesture helps aerate the body of work, the lack of space remains a dominant issue.
An observer of the everyday, Maier was able to capture the humanism and humor of daily life. This is evident through On the Street, which treats her work as both a time capsule and an autobiography. It succeeds by presenting her photographs as documents of a time passed, but also through examining the photographer’s importance and artistic resonance. While viewers are asked to question Maier’s undoubtable skill in relation to formally trained photographers of her time, I wish to offer a thematic addendum: should we ignore the fact she may not have wanted her life and work displayed publicly? Who truly owns Maier’s work — and should we be content with others profiting from her anonymity?
Les McCann with Jazz Whatley Cole, the very first scholarship recipient of the Les McCann School For the Arts
This past Saturday night, my husband and I headed down to the Lyric Theater to hear Les McCann again! Les and Javon Jackson rocked the house and occassionally cradled us too. Mike has fond memories of hearing Les play when he was younger; those memories take him back to his early years in Lexington, Kentucky. For your listening pleasure, here is one of his favorites: Every Time I See A Butterfly.
That same night the Les McCann School for the Arts (LMSA) announced their inaugural scholarship recipient and her name is Jazz Whatley Cole. Jazz is an amazing young woman, a theater major in SCAPA since 4th grade where she concentrating much of her time with the extracurricular activities in the costume department.
She is an aspiring fashion designer, starting Jazz Cole Designs during her freshman year at Lafayette High School. Last year as a junior, she was accepted into the prestigious Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles, CA. This scholarship will help her make that transition.
It was a big night for both her and the namesake of this award; that same day Les McCann was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Kentucky. UnderMain would like to thank Chester Grundy, Everett McCorvey and Dave McWhorter for all of their hard work in honoring this jazz great.
Also to Gus Puerdikakis (Les’ mean cowbell brother) whose generosity has made this award possible along with the teaching of music, photography, jewelry making and fashion design to so many in our community.
Overall, I believe creativity doesn’t just occur by it’s self, something has to catch your eye, something has to inspire you to whatever it is that you do and are truly passionate about. Therefore, if you can conceive it, and you believe it, then you can achieve it! – Jazz Cole
For more information on the School for the Arts, contact Denise Brown, artistic director for the LMSA. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each year it is with some reluctance that I transfer my affections from the University of Kentucky football team to its men’s basketball team. Their seasons’ overlap in November is awkward for me, a struggle to adjust from the wide martial arc of football to the dogfights of basketball. This tempo change is aggravated, in the John Calipari era, by the prospect of an entirely new roster of starters each year, fab freshman whose ever subdividing stages of recruitment—unofficial and official visits, verbal commitments, Letters of Intent—I do not happen to follow. Except for Nerlens Noel, who gave proof of his outsized personality and heart when he announced his choice on live TV by swiveling around in his chair to display the UK logo shaved into his nape.
Simply put, it’s hard caring about a brand new team every year. Longtime fans are accustomed to watching players develop over three, four, sometimes five years. I didn’t set foot in this state until my thirties, and without any birthright to the Big Blue Nation, my enthusiasm relies on an interest in the players, their strengths and weaknesses, histories, personalities, and how they compete. In UK basketball, with so few returning starters each year, I was becoming jaded with the one-and-done business, despite Calipari’s laudable “players first” philosophy, which I completely embrace in theory. In 2011–12 I revolted, vowing not to tune in until conference play, and not really watching until February, thereby missing the early-to-mid-season progress of a phenomenal team and the NBA’s brightest young light, Anthony Davis. Lesson learned.
So, after the incredible tournament run of the 2013–14 team and its loss in the national championship, I rejoiced along with the rest of BBN when multiple starters announced their intentions to return. We knew another amazing freshman class was on its way to town, and we wondered, who would start? We trusted Coach Cal to work out the details, and he did, inverting Donald Rumsfeld and going to war with the army he had, which was twice as good as the army he may have wished to have. Calipari invented the system, named the system, and suddenly, the fairly urgent problem of too many star players was transformed into an endlessly fascinating new array of tactics and tempos for everyone involved. With the platoon system, we are watching something entirely new: no division 1 team has ever sustained it, because they haven’t needed to, because it’s a new problem, a now inevitable-seeming outcome of Calipari’s recruiting genius.
But Coach Cal isn’t just a recruiting guy, a marketing guy, a carnival barker as one sporstwriter dubbed him: he can also coach. Pre-season, everyone smelled blood, eager to see a clash of personalities as this plethora of star newcomers and veterans would be required to set aside their entirely reasonable expectations for games with 30–35 minutes of playing time and the resulting big statistics. Instead, they’d get 20 minutes and smaller stats through which to pursue their NBA dreams. Yet, these have become in every way salubrious platoons—for the players, the fans, the media, and the sport itself.
Ample make this team.
Make this team with awe.
In it wait till March Madness break
Excellent and Fair
Be its passes straight
Be its foul shots round
Let no rivals’ yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.
(after Emily Dickinson)
The platoon system solves several basketball problems. First, it’s regrettable that such a fun game to play and watch has the smallest roster of any team sport, only 5, versus football’s 11, soccer’s 11, lacrosse’s 10, baseball’s 9, ice hockey’s 6. That basketball is the smallest-roster team sport is a recipe for heartbreak beginning in middle school, in this town where basketball is a religion and so many youth are highly skilled at the game and expect to make their school team. “He’s one of the toughest kids in the school, but when anyone talks about the try-out, he starts tearing up,” reported my 6th grader in illustration of the widespread agony around try-out time for those who didn’t make the team.
Basketball is also the sport most vulnerable to selfish playing styles, such as ball-hogging and offensive showboating. Yet it seems that the founding articles of Calipari’s platoon system are unselfish play and attention to defense. We must credit his leadership for building a team of 10 starters who are off the charts in numbers of assists and blocked shots and opponents’ low shooting percentages. “The best defensive team in the modern era of college basketball” is what the Eastern Kentucky coach declared, having lost 82–49.
Platoons change the game, for players, opponents, and even fans. With so many games in a season, there is the temptation for busy fans to tune in only after halftime. Doing so this year would mean missing the exquisite drama of the Blue Platoon, who start the game, warming up the opponent for 4 minutes, probably with some blocked shots and alley-oops, until around 16:00 when Blue exits en masse to be replaced by the White Platoon, who also block shots and alley-oop, and so forth throughout the game in roughly 4-minute increments. Wonder which team gets tired first?
The White Platoon, which starts the second half, has just one starter from last year, Dakari Johnson, plus three freshman, Tyler Ulis, Trey Lyles and Devin Booker, and last year’s bench warmer Marcus Lee. Lee had one break-out half in the tournament last year, when he scored 10 crucial points vs. Michigan, securing him a spot in BBN’s hearts forever. How terrible it would have been, without this platoon system, to see Marcus Lee only warming that bench again this year! Thank you, Coach Cal, for finding a way to consistently play Marcus Lee. And Dakari Johnson, who stepped into a starting role after Willie Cauley-Stein’s injury last year, has accomplished very good things already, but he would likely be the 6th man again, behind Cauley-Stein and Towns, were it not for these salubrious platoons.
The Blue Platoon is returning starters Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Willie Cauley Stein, Alex Poythress, and the extraordinarily talented, well-spoken, and huge freshman Karl-Anthony Towns, whose name accurately conveys the grandeur of his person and prospects. Now all those amazing buzzer-beaters by Aaron Harrison, the reassuring game management and dribble-drives of Andrew Harrison, the nimble eccentricity of Cauley-Stein, the periodic explosiveness of Poythress: their remembered feats make fond penumbras around the new season.
Much has been written about Alex Poythress and his season-ending ACL tear on December 11. He was a team favorite, a fan favorite, and a coaches’ favorite for his achievements and character on and off the court. There is even a Twitter tribute account worth visiting, @APTheTypeOfDude, affectionately mocking his straight-arrow personality, in which every tweet begins the same, e.g., “Poythress the type of dude to use the clear nights we’ve had lately as a chance to finally test out his new telescope.” Poignantly, its tweet on December 12 was, “Poythress the type of dude to come back from his injury better than ever, whether it’s with UK or the NBA. He’ll be back.”
I asked my friend Whitney if she ever mentally assembles her favorite players into a hypothetical starting 5, say the best players from each platoon. “No,” she said, “because the platoons are so well balanced.” It’s true: scoring and other stats across both platoons bear this out, and that’s no coincidence. Balance is fundamental to sustaining the platoon system. Otherwise, if one platoon significantly outperformed the other, it would be untenable to continue giving equal minutes to both platoons. Time will tell if the balance endures, and certainly Poythress’s vacancy is a challenge to the system. “I’m on a mission to make this work for each of these kids,” said Calipari pre-season, and if the firehose of talent is to continue gushing our way with each new recruiting class, it has to. The platoons have got to be sustainable.
Meanwhile, fans are in a state of ecstasy, not only because we’re 12–0, but because we have twice as many players to love. Coach Cal didn’t invent platoons to enhance the fan experience, but he surely knew that Big Blue Nation and its attendant media could easily absorb a double helping of greatness.
The School of Art and Visual Studies (SA/VS) at the University of Kentucky is going through an exciting, transformational period driven, in part, by its anticipated move to a new home in a completely renovated facility on Bolivar Street. In addition, Stuart Horodner, Artistic Director of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, has just been named as Museum Director of the UK Art Museum after an extensive national search.
UnderMain’s Art Shechet asked Robert Jensen, Ph.D., Director of SA/VS to join us in a conversation about what we can expect from the new facility, how programs at UK will be impacted, and the potential benefits of the move for the larger Lexington community. We also wanted to have a look into what we might expect from the changes at the Art Museum. Dr. Jensen discussed with UnderMain other issues of importance to UnderMain’s readers, like the much-suggested idea of a major Lexington art museum.
UM: The search for a new Director for the UK Art Museum just concluded with the hiring of Stuart Horodner, the artistic director of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. What vision for the Art Museum guided the search process? Jensen: I was not on the search committee, so I can’t speak to the “vision” that guided the search. But I’m fairly ecstatic that Stuart was hired for this position. He has broad and deep connections with the international contemporary art world. How this will affect the museum’s programming remains to be seen. But I hope that the UK Art Museum will join institutions like the Lexington Art League to expose audiences for art in Lexington to the many strands of contemporary art. And as someone who finds contemporary art fascinating, entertaining and occasionally transcendent, I’m looking forward to what Stuart can bring to the job. That being said, I’m sure he will be respectful of the many other aspects of the museum’s mission, from serving K-12 children to providing programming for those adult audiences with more conventional tastes in art. I am really looking forward to working with him.
UM: Of course, the new director has not begun his work at the museum, but what are some of the changes we might expect to see take shape in the relationship between the museum and the university community, and between the museum and the larger Lexington community? Jensen: We often speak on campus at UK about the dangers of being siloed, of paying attention only to our individual programs without regard to what’s happening elsewhere in the university. Under our new Provost Christine Riordan and our relatively new President Eli Capilouto, collaboration and interdisciplinary work are the new bywords under which UK hopes to operate. I think that is what we can also expect from Stuart. I think he is going to want to integrate the Art Museum much more thoroughly into the academic mission of the university than his predecessors have, and I think he is going to reach out to the local artist community and arts organizations in a way that the Art Museum has never done. I am very optimistic about the positive impact Stuart and the Art Museum will have on the exhibition and appreciation for the visual arts in the Lexington community.
UM: Since we are on the subject of museums, there has been lots of discussion over the past several years about Lexington needing a significant independent art museum. I am interested in your thoughts as to whether that is a realistic proposition and how the conversation about the merit, or lack of merit of this proposition can be facilitated. Jensen: I don’t think most people really understand how expensive art museums are. They might imagine that just building a building is the principal task of a fundraising campaign. But an art museum is pretty much the same proposition as saying that the city needs to build a new concert hall/theatre. Sure it would be great to have. But even if the money were found to get the building built, who underwrites the labor costs of the technicians and the house administrative expenses involved in every concert, ballet or theatrical production? Local arts organizations don’t have the money generally to meet these costs without raising the ticket price point much higher than the already modest public attendance at these events would bear. Similarly, paying staff salaries, keeping the lights on, these are big ticket and unglamorous line items. Creating exhibitions and hosting traveling exhibitions are very expensive propositions. And we haven’t yet begun to talk about what is to go into such a museum.
Important contemporary art, for example, is unbelievably expensive. Collectors today are often paying more for a Jeff Koons than they are for a Claude Monet. While there are local collectors with interesting collections all these collections combined, were they to be given in one great gift, would hardly suffice to fill out a museum collection of any real significance. Lexingtonians would no doubt love to have a second Speed Museum in town, but I just don’t see this happening. I think the UK Art Museum, which does have an interesting collection, will continue to be the city’s primary museum. Now if we could find an off-campus location for it, and a significant recurring budget to support the new venue, that would be a great thing. But it will take a great deal of money to pull off.
UM: Finally, one of UnderMain’s core missions is to publish critical reviews of the visual arts. What do you think are the most important elements of an outstanding critical review? Jensen: Art critics often remind me of the fashion mavens who comment on the runway dresses at the Academy Awards. Every dress is wonderful until it’s not. These commentators are very good at saying what is possible in the fashion industry at a given moment. In the art industry it is much the same. Most good criticism is able to identify what is possible at a given moment. Art, which obeys its own fashion laws, needs that kind of criticism and it typically comes from writers who are contemporaries or near contemporaries of the artists whose work they’re writing about or who are themselves artists. What is far more rare, in both fashion and art criticism, are those writers who are able to say why something is possible, not only what. I am not saying that such critical writing has the ability to understand individual works of art better than the ordinary art lover. In my view, the contemporary artworks that are internationally celebrated are also extremely accessible to anyone with a decent knowledge of recent art history, an open mind, and a willingness to engage with the art. Art today doesn’t require a priest caste of art aesthetes to interpret the holy creations of artists. But to explain why something is possible requires a broader perspective. It is why I always have loved the art criticism of the philosopher Arthur Danto. He comes to works of art with an open mind, always asking why something is possible as art. And the recently deceased British critic David Sylvester is my favorite interviewer of artists, because Sylvester was always interested in how artists got their ideas, how they worked, and why. It is surprising to me how few interviewers ask artists about their working methods and sources of information in any sort of serious, sustained way. Good criticism does not talk down to the reader nor hide behind the fashionable jargon of the day. If the goal is not to be understood, what is the point of writing? (Hyperlinks added by UnderMain)