American opera is not generally the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of classical music, and yet, it has been an ever-expanding genre since before the turn of the 20th century. Opera Santa Barbara is excited to showcase one of the most celebrated American composers with its final opera of the season: Gian Carlo Menotti’s, The Consul. This poignant drama showcases the English language in a creative musical fashion that makes sense to the ear, while still giving the audience climactic musical lines in both solo and ensemble pieces. The depth of emotional range required by the singers in this opera is just as important as their technical ability to deliver all the elements of the piece.
Opera Santa Barbara is also delighted to showcase soprano Julie Adams in a concert of American composers to pay tribute to American artist Michelle Stuart in a Pop-Up Opera at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art on April 24. In keeping with the theme of SBMA’s exhibition, Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature, as well as celebrating American works, this program seemed a natural pairing.
Adams was recently announced a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition Competition. This is one of the highest honors a young singer can achieve, and it is a pivotal moment in her career. Whenever congratulated on her achievements, Adams remains admirably humble and grateful for the honor. The competition coincidentally took place during the first week of rehearsals for The Consul here in Santa Barbara, and as she advanced to the final round in New York City, her home state of California showed its support.
The selections for Pop-Up Opera will showcase the broad spectrum of composers from the last 100 years in American classical music and how their compositions are often inspired by life’s natural surroundings. Six different composers will be represented in total―a familiar tune from George Gershwin, along with the lesser known songs of Charles Geffes―delivering styles as diverse as the composers themselves. The program will also include two celebrated American operas: A Streetcar Named Desire, and Susannah.
It has been a true pleasure to curate this concert series during the 2013–2014 season, and we at Opera Santa Barbara look forward to future Pop-Up Operas for 2014–2015!
Thursday, April 24, 6 pm
Opera Santa Barbara returns to present another pop-up opera performance in the Museum’s galleries. This concert pays tribute to SBMA’s exhibition Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature and connects to contemporary American music.
In the 44th year of the internationally celebrated Earth Day, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art welcomes visitors to take part in an appreciation, celebration, and awareness of our natural world through the exhibitions Heavenly Bodies and Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature.
In 1970 Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson witnessed a tragic oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara. Horrified by the lack of response to the devastating events, Nelson spearheaded an impassioned and determined movement of environmental protection and awareness. Nelson’s vision of a greater harmony between man and nature ignited global change.
At SBMA the harmonious relationship between humans and earth is brilliantly imagined in Heavenly Bodies (on view through May 25). Here photography becomes a tool to encourage symbiosis and greater environmental appreciation through the grandeur and impressiveness of our surrounding natural environments. Included in the exhibition is Walter Chappell’s Bracken Fern (1974) from his series Metaflora. The organic form becomes a magnetic starlit cosmos through Chappell’s keen eye. His unique sense of world existence and natural philosophies illuminate the ordinary of a fern. Chappell re-presents plant life in a manner that expands our perceptions and understanding of nature by using an experimental method of high voltage and high frequency processes with organic materials.
Earth Day is not only a celebration but also a challenge to society. It is one day to highlight a daily effort altering perspectives of nature and reforming negative impacts on the environment through a more meaningful connection with Earth. Well before his time, Chappell understood and embraced this connection through his photographic creations of plant life, the natural landscape, phenomena of nature, and the human figure. The sense of natural wonderment in Bracken Fern is complemented by numerous images in Heavenly Bodies—artwork enlivened by the bond between Earth and man.
After wandering through the splendor of our planet and space, visitors may then continue an artistic exploration of Earth in Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature (on view through May 14). Stuart has worked for more than 40 years in various mediums and is one of the few women associated with the Land Art Movement of the late 1960s. Many of the movement’s proponents, Stuart included, engaged in large-scale outdoor projects that created a direct dialogue with the earth—taking art out of the museum and galleries and into the natural world.
Stuart has asked,“How better to know a place than to know the earth of a place?” This exhibition addresses just this question, bringing actual artifacts and “specimens,” as she calls them, of the earth into the galleries. Two of the artist’s well-known colossal scrolls, #1 Woodstock, NY (1973) and #5 Moray Hill, NY (1973) are the product of unfurling wide scrolls of paper down rocky hillsides and creating graphite rubbings, essentially taking an imprint of the earth’s unique surface. Also on view are a selection of the artist’s “Seed Calendars” (1992-95), grid-like works on paper with pockets for seeds at different stages of maturation Stuart collected from locations near and far, from New York to Mexico and Italy. Much of Stuart’s work is a commentary on consumption, conservation, and the many wonders we sometimes take for granted.
Tess Krieger-Carlisle, Curatorial Intern – Contemporary Art, also contributed to this post.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art and The Knox School of Santa Barbara act as partners throughout the school year. The Knox School of Santa Barbara is a new stand-alone school for gifted children serving kindergarten, elementary school, and middle school grades. Fine Art classes are taught to Knox students twice a week by Museum Senior Teaching Artist Monika Molnar-Metzenthin. Students’ works are inspired by the Knox School’s curriculum and the Museum’s collection, with a focus on tools and techniques used by artists, elements of art, principles of design, art history, cultural context and visual thinking strategies.
SBMA serves as an extension of the classroom and students take several field trips to view the Museum’s collections and work directly with Museum pieces.
Most recently, 3rd–7th graders of the Knox School designed original board games inspired by Alice Aycock’s drawings, currently on exhibition until April 20. The artist herself was inspired by board games in a series of works in the 1980s, for example The Celestial City Game, based on the heavenly city of Jerusalem with snakes and ladders in a central checkerboard surrounded by a city plan derived from an eighth-century illuminated manuscript.
The students were asked to incorporate the theme of their trimester studies―Africa for 3rd and 4th grade, Mayans for 5th–7th grade.
Students developed original ideas, from challenging dice games to strategic chess-like games as well as some that teach about Mayan numbers in engaging ways. The design process was started by studying Aycock’s drawings and a variety of existing board games―from Checkers to Monopoly to Cranium and lesser known games―and researching traditional games from Africa and Ancient Maya.
The children were asked questions and posed creative challenges. After sketching their original ideas, students drew game boards, added illustrations, and colorized with watercolors. They were also asked to design cards, devise clear instructions, sculpt characters, tokens and dice out of modeling clay and construct boxes or sewn bags for the game.
The students’ work will be on view in the Museum elevator through April 20 as part of the Museum’s Going Up! installations. Going Up! is a series of unorthodox installations of student artwork displayed in the non-traditional space of the Museum elevator. The title both refers to the enhanced experience of the passengers as well as the student artists who are on the rise. Going Up! installations connect to special exhibitions or the Museum’s permanent collection and vary in size, subject and medium.
When Patsy Hicks, SBMA’s Director of Education, asked if I would organize a poetry reading (April 10 at 6 pm) based on the Heavenly Bodies exhibition, I immediately said “yes”. After asking a group of poet friends to join in, I went in search of the image that would inspire my own poem.
I write often about photographs and paintings, but I typically focus on the messy realm of humanity, and Heavenly Bodies focuses on more ethereal subject matter, so it took a while to find my photograph. Ultimately, it was a title that hooked me: “Yosemite and Reconnaissance Satellites.” What a strange conjunction of the beautiful and the sinister, and then what a lovely work of art accompanies that title.
Yosemite and Reconnaissance Satellites
–after the photograph by Trevor Paglen
The earth on its axis
like a wounded bird
on its final flight.
against the fading night.
Those who’ve watched
applied science racing
like a shower of meteors
across the dawn—
wonder ever after
about the quality of light.
The constellations have curled
into question marks.
At this early hour,
it’s hard to tell who’s gazing back:
even the stars
look like satellites.
Gudrun Bortman was also looking to make a connection between the celestial and the earthly. Gudrun remarks, “Many of the images drew me in the same way as looking up into the sky from my night patio does. But I also particularly liked the way the exhibition reaches “down” and links the heavenly with the earthly, as in Swarm, Fern, Galaxy Apple, Lobster Larva, Colorado and others.”
Sojourner Kincaid Rolle thought of artist Paul Klee’s notion that art is ideas made visible. She notes, “In this show, the photographers have taken on the universe, attempted to make the invisible visible. It is a synchronous endeavor by the poets—to bring light to dark places, to render the emotions visible.”
Laure-Anne Bosselaar will read a poem by her late husband, Kurt Brown. She loves the poem “for its imagination and ironic tone—and its imaginative space, its fascination and sometimes light-hearted seriousness—something I very much loved seeing in the exhibition at the Museum: how that huge sky, that huge universe out there so fascinates, so mystifies, marvels, baffles and inspires that we sometimes have to bring such enormity to human proportions, human definitions.” Kurt Brown’s poem “imagines a committee that meets yearly to rename the constellations—as if that helped to control what escapes us completely…as if we could control time, the cosmos, the universe and thus be less afraid of ‘the infinite blackness behind the stars.’”
Ron Alexander feels that visitors to the exhibition, step “not so much into the gallery of an art museum, as through a tear in space and time, into the observation deck of a ship through the cosmos, far from Earth and all we are familiar with. Here, we have access to a series of portholes, each view adjusted by a variety of microscopes and telescopes, prisms and filters that alter time, space and our phenomenological perspective, so the universe is seen anew, and what we would have recognized on Earth as a kelp forest, a spill of cherries or the ashes of a loved one, are rendered as new galaxies. Unnamed constellations on the horizon appear as a bracken frond or the weather-stressed metal of a swamp cooler. New suns are black and pitiless.”
Perie Longo adds, “I saw a show on Nova last week that explains the multi-billion year old universe is ever-expanding and that time lies further than we can see where the fumes of the Big Bang still smolder. Earth’s land mass is threatened and its creatures are diminishing. It’s definitely time to listen to the songs of the ‘Celestial Bodies.’”
In addition to the poets quoted above, “We All Shine On” will feature writers as varied as Peg Quinn, Paul Willis, and Christine Penko. If I weren’t organizing the reading, I’m sure I’d want to be sitting in the audience listening.
Thursday, April 10, 6 – 7 pm
Poetry Reading: We All Shine On…
Coordinated by former Poet Laureate and Creative Communities host David Starkey, noted local poets read original poems or select favorite poems responding to all things celestial and the photographs on view in Heavenly Bodies.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s current exhibition, Heavenly Bodies, not only reveals unknown worlds and wonders but also engages visitors with an explanation of these marvels. One can learn the technical aspects of photographic processes, the logistics of space travel, and the science of universe fact and theory. The array of stellar images throughout Heavenly Bodies speaks to an evolution of scientific advancement and artistic ingenuity to a range of viewers.
Guide by Cell recordings, interspersed throughout the exhibition, engage audiences by providing the visitor an opportunity to read or listen to detailed descriptions of the conceptual, the scientific, or the extraordinary of the ordinary ―to learn from this heavenly presentation. Commentary by artists featured in the exhibition, astrophysicists, engineers, poets, scientists, and more can be listened to for free at any point during a walk-through of the gallery.
Listen to a few recordings available in Heavenly Bodies:
Featured Artist Jacqueline Woods-Guide By Cell #10
Santa Barbara poet Laureate Chryss Yost-Guide By Cell #7
Aerospace Engineer Alexandra Langford-Guide By Cell # 9
Featured Artist Jeffrey Becom- Guide By Cell #2
The Guide By Cell tour is free and utilizes your own cell phone. Details are in the Museum galleries.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art covers the micro and macro and everything in between in this evening exploration of mock-logical systems, time, space, the celestial, and the sensory during the next Atelier event―Moons, Mapping, Memory, and Fantastic Machines on Friday, April 4.
Taking the fern bar from funky to fantastic, the Michelle Stuart exhibition-inspired Botany Bar invites guests to scientifically sample three infused vodkas in the midst of moss-covered mixology stations―each one referencing a different map point and coinciding with Stuart’s own geographic markings. Is it an infusion of spice from San Cristobal, or suggestion of maple syrup from Amagansett, New York? The UCSB Middle East Ensemble further enhances the sensory experience as they give this botanic bastion a beat.
Do you want to gain some morals playing your next game of Monopoly? Roll the dice and play the Alice Aycock Drawings-inspired Golden Goose Gallery Game. Rather than gobbling up property as your main goal, score karmic points for leaving the gold on the table. Select your golden animal playing piece, uncover a personalized moral from Aesop’s fables, find your way to the center of the universe, and perhaps you will win the proverbial (chocolate)golden goose egg.
There is no need to choose between Bowie and Bartok, as both are represented in the interplanetary play list―the black hole of background music celebrating the photography of Heavenly Bodies. Create a constellation and make a wish. Sip a glass of Brander wine, sample the Mars Rover Martini, or if you’re especially adventurous, try the Babylonian Devil’s trap―a diabolically delicious blend of mango nectar, rose syrup, and Cutler vodka.
If all this intergalactic exploration makes you hungry, Savoir Faire’s out-of-this-world hors d’ouevres fill the void. Deviled eggs with candied bacon, masa sopes and spicy pork-filled crecent moons are among the offerings.
It’s Friday night, you’re looking for something a little different to do with your friends…check out the alternative atmosphere of Atelier.
Atelier: Moons, Mapping, Memory, and Fantastic Machines
Friday, April 4, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
$25 SBMA Members/$35 Non-Members
Purchase tickets at www.sbma.net/atelier
Gordon Newkirk (1928 – 1985) captures the sun’s unique blaze in his Untitled photograph, now on view in the exhibition Heavenly Bodies. The solar corona, only naturally viewable during a total solar eclipse, is forever frozen in this image of the eclipse from 1967. The brilliance of the tonal contrasts in the gelatin sliver print and the simple composition of our sun and moon create a fine art aesthetic. Newkirk, however, was not a fine art photographer, but rather a dedicated astrophysicist. His lifelong commitment to astronomical research brought forth a luminary photographic process and new views of the solar corona.
The solar corona is the extended outer atmosphere of the sun. Electromagnetic radiation, through highly ionized atoms, causes the corona to reach temperatures in the million degree range resulting in varying activities of the corona: streamers, plumes, loops, and holes. Newkirk worked over 20 years to alter and improve the coronagraph: a device used to capture images of the solar corona’s unique activities. These improvements were made through optics and optical design, the physics of scattering and sky brightness, and adaption for remote operation in space. In 1966, Newkirk deployed his new coronagraph, a white light coronal camera, and began a 19-year career of producing some of the most spectacular and informative images of the white-light corona during an eclipse.
The cascades of light from this corona dazzle even further when emphasized by the deep and rich black of the eclipsing moon. Newkirk’s intersection of light and darkness through the aesthetics of scientific photography is a premier example of the dramatic partnering of science and art. Through the lens of Newkirk’s coronal camera astrophysicists were able to better understand the nature of the solar corona and the public could revel before images of the sun’s scientific dance.
Solar eclipses occur about twice a year but are only visible depending on one’s location on Earth. The last total solar eclipse viewable In the United States was in 2008 and the next won’t be until 2017! Heavenly Bodies, on view through May 25, displays numerous images of eclipsing moons. Don’t miss out on your chance to see such rare wonders!
Spring is in the air, creativity is flowing, and a team of Santa Barbara Museum of Art Teaching Artists have been busy planning Spring ArtVenture Camp. The Museum’s education programs for children are always symbiotically formed―young artists inspired by SBMA Teaching Artists who are inspired by art on view in current exhibtions.
For the upcoming March 24–28 Spring ArtVenture Camp, a variety of engaging and fun projects for students ages 5–13 were developed around the theme of nature and art, and inspired by the work featured in Alice Aycock Drawings: Some Stories Are Worth Repeating and Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature.
Monika Molnar-Metzenthin,Teaching Artist, loves playing board games and is looking forward to facilitating the design of many creative games with her group! Alice Aycock’s series of large scale paintings of games like The New and Favorite Game of the Universe and the Golden Goose Egg (1987) inspired her to create a board game project around her favorite Santa Barbara park. Can you tell which park it is?
Teaching Artist Susan Griffin lives in the countryside and enjoys collecting beautiful rocks, sticks, and other natural objects. Michelle Stuart’s seed calendars inspired her to experiment with seeds, colors, patterns, and textures. She also collaged rocks to create an intimate version of Michelle Stuart’s Stone Alignments/Solstice Cairns (1978–79) displayed with the group land art project below.
Not too surprisingly Michelle Stuart’s conceptual land art caught the attention of Teaching Artist Jason Summers, who can be found playing at the beach and in the mountains whenever he has a free moment. Jason is the driving force behind a group land art project that will grow in the front of the Museum’s Ridley-Tree Education Center during the course of the week of camp.
Chloe Gray, SBMA’s newest Teaching Artist, loves to draw and doodle. Alice Aycock’s swirly drawings lead her to experiment with a combination of collage and drawing that she can’t wait to share with all the campers!
SBMA ArtVenture Camp
Springtime in the Studio: Art and Nature
Monday–Friday, March 24–28, 9 am–3 pm
Ages 5 – 13
Location: SBMA’s Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House, 1600 Santa Barbara Street
For more information or to register, click here.
This past weekend marked the memorial service celebrating the life and work of Santa Barbara’s beloved Poet Laureate, Barry Spacks. Ever the teacher and ebullient ambassador of poetry, Barry said a resounding “yes” every time he was invited to write poems under the influence of art on our Museum walls. In fact, Barry was someone who said yes to life in all ways large and small. In tribute to him, we offer this poem which he had written and remembered as he looked at the poignant and powerful paintings of Charles Garabedian, himself no longer young, and he also inspired by the intrepid yet aging warrior Ulysses. We are grateful for the strength and simple grace of Barry’s poems, and for the joy his presence brought to the Museum Galleries; it lingers still as a kind of palimpsest.
An Older Ulysses….
Gazing at Garabedian’s incredibly brash painting “Ulysses”―the hero’s
ship floating above the sea which serves also as cosmos―I’m taken by
the youth of the virile figure, his inwardness, the great yellow sail
of his wanderings timelessly fresh. The painting led me back to an
early poem of mine using myth to evoke personal history:
MYTH OF ANTAEUS
I’ve come to live by the Myth of Antaeus,
the giant Hercules couldn’t crush
until he lifted him up from the earth,
his source. These days I’m keeping close
to rooting ground in my partner’s care,
I who have known what it is to sulk
through the Myth of Achilles, unwilling to play;
I who’d connived through the Myth of Odysseus
hanging back nearing home.
Mine is an older Ulysses, settling down, proving his
identity in Ithaca by knowing the secret of his
marriage bed, that one of its post was a living tree.
When Opera Santa Barbara approached the Santa Barbara Museum of Art to once again hold a free concert inside a gallery, there was much excitement surrounding this collaboration. The idea was to find the perfect pairing of opera and art to give the audience an all-encompassing experience for the senses. This is no small feat, as the classical vocal and visual repertoire are vast indeed! Upon hearing about the current exhibition entitled Heavenly Bodies at SBMA, Opera Santa Barbara‘s Community Engagement Manager, Kristen Reed knew exactly how to make this happen.This year marks the bicentennial of the unparalleled composer Giuseppe Verdi, and has many opera companies and symphonies celebrating this monumental birthday with performances of his most celebrated works. Opera Santa Barbara is no exception, as they are deep into the rehearsal period for Verdi’s final opera of Falstaff. Verdi had long retired from composing and continued to live out his days overseeing his previous operas in houses all over Europe. When coaxed out of retirement (at the age of 80 years old) to compose his grand finale of Falstaff, he decided that instead of creating an opera for the people, this would be his final ode to himself. The work was his only successful comedy―much of it due to the attention to detail he put into composing for the text, as if it were an homage to Shakespeare’s meter. Shakepeare’s fat knight will be eating and drinking his way through the production set to take place at the Granada Theatre on March 7th and 9th.
In this opera comes the aria, “Sul fil d’un soffio etesio” where the character of Nannetta invites the fairies of the forest (or rather the townsfolk dressed up as fairies) to come out under the magic of the rising moon. This was the inspiration for the program set to be performed in the Museum’s Heavenly Bodies exhibition on March 6 at 5:30 pm. Studio Artists, Sara Duchovnay and Sergio Gonzalez, will sing a selection of art songs and arias where the text draws inspiration from the sun, moon, and stars. Both Sara and Sergio graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Opera Santa Barbara is delighted to have them as part of the company. From Claude Debussy to Leonard Bernstein, this program will offer a delightful nod to the spectacular surroundings created by Heavenly Bodies.
Thursday, March 6, 5:30 pm
Santa Barbara Museum of Art