Posted at 10:09 AM on August 13, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Events
The Secret School by Rudy Fig
It turns out Friday the 13th is your lucky day! We've got plenty going on to distract you from the heat and humidity...
"The Gallery @ Fox Tax" opens its latest show, "Sticky Sweet," this Friday night. The exhibition features pop surrealist paintings by local artists Rudy Fig and Jeff Warner.
This is the opening weekend for the BFA juried scholarship exhibition at the Nash Gallery on the U of M campus. The exhibition is curated by one of the BFA students who's gained quite a bit of fame this past year - Miles Mendenhall. Mendenhall was a finalist in Bravo's "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist," which came to a conclusion this past week.
The Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Festival is underway in Richmond, Minnesota. In addition to over thirty-five hours of concerts on the Main Stage (including Blue Highway, The Gibson Brothers, Rarely Herd, and others), there are five stage venues that each feature music, dance and other entertainment.
This weekend marks the 32nd annual Irish Fair on Harriet Island in St. Paul. Events include the "Irish Got Talent" competition, a Highland bagpipe contest, and an exhibition on the history of Irish songs.
Finally, turn it up to eleven this weekend with a stop at CO Exhibitions in Minneapolis, where they are paying artistic tribute to the great mockumentary "This is Spinal Tap." In the movie, there's a scene where Fran Drescher's character graphically describes the artwork for Spinal Tap's forthcoming LP "Smell The Glove." The album cover never materializes in the film, but now you can see the cover as envisioned by 30 different artists.
Oh and don't forget, the Minnesota Fringe Festival is on through Sunday...
The voyageurs' canoe hangs precariously in the mist as the six-man crew brace with their paddles, ready for the bow's inevitable plunge. This dramatic scene is portrayed in Robert H. Perrizo's oil painting, Shooting the Rapids. "I wanted to capture the vitality of the crew, the movement of the canoe and the dangers that they faced every day," Perrizo says.
"Shooting the Rapids" by Robert Hughes Perrizo, one of several paintings on display at the Alliance Française until Aug. 30.
Since 2000, Perrizo has dedicated himself to painting the voyageurs--the French fur traders of the 17th and 18th centuries who explored Minnesota and much of Canada, conducting trade with the native people. "I thought that these voyageurs were much more colorful than the later cowboys," Perrizo muses. "They were travelling alone in these canoes, they were reckless and sang songs and enjoyed life so much, despite all the hardships they had. I thought, 'This is an interesting bunch of people.'"
Perrizo's fascination with the voyageurs is inspired by more than swashbuckling tales. It's in his blood.
His surname, Perrizo, is a sort-of-anglicized form of "Parisot"--the name of a village in the Midi-Pyrénées region in southwest France where Perrizo's forebear, Jean Dalpe de Parisot, left to become one of Canada's early settlers. One branch of descendants eventually settled in Clontarf, Minnesota, where Perrizo was born and raised.
"Cabin Fever" by Robert Hughes Perrizo.
In researching his family history, Perrizo learned that he is a cousin of former Quebec Premier (similar to a governor in the U.S.) Jacques Parizeau. The two cousins met ten years ago and have remained in touch ever since, bound by their family ties and their shared fascination with the voyageurs. "He is a very good inspiration for me and a lot of fun," Perrizo says.
Perrizo has a studio on Gull Lake, near Brainerd, Minn. ("It's in voyageur country," he says). His artistic influences include Frederic Remington, Norman Rockwell and N.C. Wyeth. "They didn't consider themselves fine painters," Perrizo says, "but they were illustrators and they told stories."
Accordingly, Perrizo starts with pen or pencil drawings in sketchbooks. When he has a well-formed idea, he puts it to canvas. The result is 44 paintings (so far) depicting the voyageurs--and the First Nations peoples they encountered and traded with.
"The Mapmaker" depicts a Huron man advising two French voyageurs on navigable canoe routes.
Perrizo's studies have acquainted him with the Huron, the Cree, the Pottawatomie, the Mandan and many other indigenous peoples; several of Perrizo's paintings are historical depictions of these ethnic groups. "These are not the horse-riding Indians of the Plains that are popular in movies," Perrizo says. "They were the partners and close friends of the French. It was the only successful amalgamation of the Indians with the Europeans in the history of the New World."
Starting tomorrow, a selection of Perrizo's work will be on display at the Alliance Française in Minneapolis. Because the mission of the Alliance Française is to promote French language and French-speaking cultures around the world, Alliance Française Executive Director Christina Selander Bouzouina says it makes sense to welcome Perrizo and his artwork. "I was fortunate enough to have Bob find me," she says. "He asked if this is something in which the Alliance would be interested. I said of course, yes, definitely--oui, bien sûr, toute de suite!"
Alliance Française board member Steve LeBeau, artist Robert Perrizo, and Alliance Française Executive Director Christina Selander Bouzouina, posing with Perrizo's work "Out of the Mist," which the Alliance is presenting as a gift to the City of Minneapolis.
Bouzuina says Perrizo's work highlights Minnesota's often underappreciated French heritage. "Minnesota's always pegged as a Scandinavian state because of the large number of immigrants from those regions," she says. "But the French were here first, and they're still here today."
Bouzouina points out that the Minnesota state seal includes the phrase L'Etoile du Nord--Star of the North, and that the motto on the Minneapolis seal is En Avant--Forward. "People have just disconnected with that piece of our heritage," Bouzouina observes. "Marquette, Nicollet, Hennepin--those aren't just street names, those were people. They founded our city, our state."
Perrizo's portraits of historical figures who had a stake in the voyageurs' exploration and trade in North America.
Gazing at Perrizo's Shooting the Rapids, Bouzouina says the painting symbolizes the two cultures she knows and lives with every day. Bouzouina speaks French like someone born in France, but "I grew up here in the Twin Cities, I spent all my summer vacations between Duluth and Grand Marais," she says. "I know that area, I know the voyageurs and the tribes. You can just see Lake Superior [in this painting]. You can see the shores. Who wouldn't recognize that as Minnesota?"
"Les Voyageurs" opens Saturday, Aug. 14, with a reception from 7 - 10 p.m. at the Alliance Française in Minneapolis, 113 N. First Street. The free event is open to the public and features a presentation by Robert H. Perrizo and live music from Les Canadiens Errants. Perrizo's paintings will remain on display at the Alliance Française until Aug. 30. More information at afmsp.org.
"Work of Art" finalist Miles Mendenhall stands alonside his co-contestants Abdi and Peregrine.
Over the past several weeks Miles Mendenhall has gone from a University of Minnesota student to a nationally known TV star. On Wednesday night, Bravo's reality show "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" came to a close, and Mendenhall came in a surprise 3rd place. Surprise, because many people had him pegged as a favorite.
If you read my blog post "Going for Miles" last week, then you know that Mendenhall has a background in theater, and approached this entire reality TV experience as a sort of experiment.
So when I spoke to him this afternoon by phone, my first question for him was "is the performance over now?"
His answer? "No."
The entire point I was interested in was this notion of a dual existence. I'm a person here in Minneapolis, but now I have this second persona that exists on television and in the world of pop culture.
Mendenhall said he purposely tried to create a character that was ambiguous, and kept both the cameramen and the audience guessing. He played with different character traits, sometimes lovable, sometimes detestable. In the weeks leading up to the show he ate barely anything so that he looked particularly skinny, and then ate obsessively throughout the course of the taping. By the end he'd gained 17 pounds.
So sure, he went into this as an experiment, but wasn't there at least a part of him that wante to win the competition?
I think the idea of winning something like that would be horrific; that comes with a title and level of pressure I didn't want to have. In all honesty - examining this sort of thing - it was more about how much of this [media frenzy, public criticism] I can take. I guess I would have liked to win the money and then give it away - it would have been a way to give the middle finger to the makers of the show.
Some of that criticism involved other artists on the show calling him an "arts pussy" and a "douchebag."
So how does he feel for Abdi, the artist who won the competition?
I'm proud of Abdi - He really wanted this.
As the winner, Abdi gets a check for $100,000 and a solo exhibition of his work at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
As a runner-up, Mendenhall received $5,000 which he spent on testing the limits of screen printing. And he also got himself a show in New York City.
Where? Mendenhall can't tell, because of his contract with Bravo. His exhibition will be up at the same time as Abdi's, and therefor is seen as competition by the network.
Mendenhall says if anything, the show has given him a better pespective on the "game" that surrounds art.
Art is this pure thing that we perceive as a pure act, but in order to survive it needs to interact with commerce, and it's that interaction, that game that this show really dealt with. That, and also how the personality of the artist affects how we see the art. [In "Work of Art"] you were not charged with making good art, you were charged with dramatizing the making of art.
Mendenhall says despite his feelings about the premise of the show, he actually has enjoyed watching it.
I thought the editing was hysterical - people ask me how I watch it. It's just too funny - I wasn't interested in being successful or good, I was more interested in the show's horrendous nature.
Mendenhall says since he returned to Minneapolis from the taping, he's been working on ways to put his experience to good use, and to provide some tangible proof of him not actually being an "art pussy" or "douchebag." He's donated prints of his work to the U of M to help raise money for student scholarships, and he's curated their most recent BFA show. Soon he'll head to New Mexico to work on carbon printing, in preparation for a show at Franklin Art Works in April.(11 Comments)
Posted at 1:39 PM on August 13, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Theater
The cast of The Scottsboro Boys, music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, book by David Thompson. Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman. On the McGuire Proscenium Stage of the Guthrie Theater through September 25, 2010.
Photo credit: Paul Kolnik.
Last night I went to see "The Scottsboro Boys" at the Guthrie Theater. It's a vibrant, high energy musical that deals with a tragic story, involving nine black boys unjustly convicted for a crime (to find out more details of the production, check out Euan Kerr's story here).
It was an evening that provoked both a lot of laughter, and a lot of emotion, and it left me thinking. So this morning I took a look at some of the reviews that have popped up in the last week to see what others had written. Here are a few snippets I found interesting - to read the full reviews, just click on the name of the author:
Graydon Royce of the Star Tribune:
The piece is presented as a minstrel show -- a freighted convention intrinsically fit to comment on the cruel whim of racism. Smiles are jagged with irony; winks taunt more than amuse.
The ensemble "Electric Chair" uses frenetic tap dancing to catalyze the panic of electrocution into a bizarre horror.
The singing and dancing, it must be said, are first rate.
...a brilliant invocation of a terribly sad story that nonetheless joyously commemorates nine fellow Americans.
And this from Quinton Skinner of the City Pages (note: his full review won't be out until Wednesday):
In its immediate afterglow, I must say that I found it a surprise. Yes, it comes with a remarkable pedigree, the kind that generally insures at least a decent theater experience. But I wasn't fully prepared for the show's intelligence, ambiguity, and minor-key willingness to let pain and destruction coexist with acerbic asides and bleak humor.
...some of the happiest numbers are delivered by the performers through (intentionally) clenched teeth. And the periodic appearance of minstrel-show conventions does little to put us at ease. It feels as though the show's creators were pushing against the feel-good expectations of the contemporary musical, having picked subject matter that at first glance seems perverse but ultimately evinces a ruthless purpose and logic.
Finally, this from Chris Hewitt: of the Pioneer Press:
...everything in the show is turned upside-down. Start with the format: It's a minstrel show that is performed by black actors, instead of white actors wearing black make-up to depict gross, black stereotypes. And it's the black actors' white characters that are exaggerated buffoons, while the black characters -- the "boys" of the title, ranging from 12 to 20, were unjustly convicted of rape in 1931 and never got a fair trail -- retain their dignity.
"Scottsboro" has abundant humor and one toe-tapping tune after another, although you may stop the tapping to wonder if the actors really just said what you think they said.
...to its credit, "Scottsboro" entertains us, but it does not let us off easy. The fates of the characters are not sugar-coated ("No one knows what happened to me," one of them tells us) and never even mentioned is the lone victory for the "boys": Although their lives were wasted, the trials led to the U.S. law that all defendants are entitled to the competent lawyers the Scottsboro innocents never had.
These are all great and accurate reviews, but still I found something missing - something at the core of my experience, which I think is key to the success of the show.
Yes, as Graydon Royce stated in his review, it was a disturbing show to watch. But why? Where did the discomfort lie?
Here's what I noticed: as a white person watching a show about the cruel treatment of nine young black men, there was a part of me that couldn't help but feel guilty. Not for what happened back in the 1930s, but for what continues to happen everyday. Is the sentencing of young black men to an unfair punishment really that unfamiliar a story?
As the audience rose up at the end of the show to give the cast a standing ovation, I looked around me - the audience was almost entirely white. I thought - how much of our eagerness to applaud this work has to do with the quality of the entertainment, and how much of it has to do with our desire to be seen as the "good guys?"
It was interesting to note that as each actor took their turn bowing before the audience, one received markedly less applause than the others. That was the character of the "Interlocuter" - the one white person on stage - who represents power and authority and the status quo. That part was played by the only local actor in the cast, David Anthony Brinkley. I couldn't help but think as he bowed soberly, that he represented all of us.
For me, the disturbing aspect of this show is not how it allows deep pain and humor to coexist on stage, but how it succeeds in pointing fingers at the audience, just as that same audience is laughing and applauding.