In a recent article in The Weekly Standard, Joseph Horowitz cited a key failure that has helped marginalize classical music in recent decades:
But over the course of the 20th century, American classical music disappointed expectations and remained a Eurocentric import. Orchestras succumbed to formula. They sacrificed local identity based in community for itinerant star power. They squandered their potential to instill a sense of place.
If one may extrapolate from that to tackle all repertory art, then Neos Dance Theatre continues to push back by reinvigorating a classic ballet in their production A 1940s Nutcracker which I watched at the Renaissance Theater in Mansfield on Saturday, December 9.
Alec Lytton returns from war to greet his daughter Marie (Kassandra Lee) in the Neos Ballet Theatre production of A 1940’s Nutcracker in Mansfield. (Photo by Mark Jordan.)
The Nutcracker is a holiday classic from arguably unexpected sources: The original story, still preserved in Neos’ adaptation, was by the wildly creative and whimsical German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann, whom classical fans will appreciate as the inspiration for Schumann’s Kreisleriana and Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann. In it, a girl’s Christmas gift, a nutcracker, comes to life in her dreams to defend her home from an attack of rodents led by their king.
The small loft gallery at Main Street Books in Mansfield is a perfect place to show off John Thrasher’s art. The eight pieces hang on three walls, nestled between windows, above couches, next to the small upright piano. During the opening reception, friends move about drinking wine, snacking, talking about details in the pictures or about other art events or literature. We read John Thrasher’s poetic titles and suss their definitions out of the pieces on the wall. This gallery is one of a very few carpeted galleries I have visited. It is not large and echoic. It is hometown comfort that allows the viewer to zoom into and out of the complex and riveting sketches, watercolors, monoprints.
Detail of Misguided Articles by John Thrasher
And this feel works perfectly with John Thrasher’s personality and style. I hear his drawl over the crowd, good natured and welcoming, as I look into the weave of cartoons and doodles within Misguided Articles. In this work of ink, gouache and watercolor, there is incredible and confounding motion: A ship tossing; graffiti tags confused in sketched smiley faces or frowning faces; an undulating landscape. And all of this is surrounded by the article “The” in neat calligraphy, twisting its way at all angles around the frame. But even within all of the motion is the stillness of a single watercolor tree, seemingly unmoved by wind, growing out of apparent chaos. There is comfort in minutiae. The cartoons taking me back to childhood doodles, the beautiful watercolor tree a serenity in blue sky background. Though as a whole this piece is complex, somewhat perplexing, that single word ‘the’ reminds me to focus back on the simple articles that make up the entire work. Continue reading →
Standing in the doorway of the Pearl Conard Art Gallery at The Ohio State University, Mansfield, I am not sure whether I am in a barn or a church. An old growth oak beam is canted from floor to ceiling, seemingly supporting the cupola front and center. To the left is a structure reminiscent of a picket fence, then a series of 2by4s on shelves built into the walls. At first, it is a barn, rural and crafted out of wood. But as I walk deeper inside, my feet echoing off of the hard floor, the high ceiling, the dim lighting, I find myself sitting on one of two wooden benches staring at the “stained glass” windows that look out over the backwoods of the campus.Continue reading →
As fine as the local arts scene has been for some time, there was one particular void that was only filled a couple years ago, when Mansfield native Joel Vega returned to town and created Mid Ohio Opera. Opera is one of the most complicated, difficult, and ambitious of art forms, so seeing it in Mansfield seemed an unlikely dream. But with his extensive studies, professional background, and limitless enthusiasm, Vega has the ingredients to make something wonderful. The final key ingredients are the strong support of local businesses and arts-funding organizations, and the local enthusiasm for exposure to a rare but vibrant art form.
Artistic director Joel Vega welcomes the overflow crowd at the Mid Ohio Opera’s concert performance of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at Kingwood Center. (Photo by Mark Jordan.)
Kingwood Center, the elegant estate of Mansfield industrialist Charles Kelly King, made for a fantastic backdrop Sunday evening in the Mid Ohio Opera’s last performance of a touring concert production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball). Other performances included Liberty Park in Mansfield, and dates in Wooster and Worthington. This was a concert performance, without costumes and staging, but it was a wonderful opportunity to hear music not often encountered in these parts, that of the king of operatic drama, Verdi. The performance delivered much moving music in fine performances from high quality vocalists.
“I am innocent of this just man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” With these words the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate turned Jesus of Nazareth over to the religious authorities of the Jewish Sanhedrin for crucifixion. I’m intrigued by Monarch’s decision to title his show “Pilate,” as there’s no explicit Christian iconography amid the clowns, bloodied boxers, and the mythic American cowboys.
In “Pilate” Monarch combines an illustrator’s sense of character development, storytelling, and clean line work with the brooding and atmospheric impasto work of an expressionist painter. The effect is a midwestern folk aesthetic that nods respectfully to Thomas Hart Benton. In keeping with Benton, Monarch’s Boxer and Cowboy compositions appear presented through a fisheye lens, the figures are exaggerated and the environment askew. Monarch’s figures, however, are not overly rendered in the manner of Benton, but are hashed out loosely in a manner I’d describe as George Bellows-meets-Francis Bacon.
This is where I see the biggest improvement in Monarch’s work of late, in his loose and gestural application of paint. There are still moments in the work where the surface falls flat, but overall the surfaces of his paintings are vibrant and compelling. Narrative content aside, I found myself sidling up to his work, nose to canvas, becoming lost in the color and brushstrokes.
What does it mean to be well? For the title character of Eric Sparks’ new film Madelline, the answer might simply be “not lost.”
Audience members gather at the Mansfield Playhouse Thursday, August 9, 2018, for the world premiere of Madelline, a film by Eric Sparks. (Photo by Mark Sebastian Jordan.)
The work was premiered Thursday evening at the Mansfield Playhouse, a venue venerated for its live theater, but one not associated with a project like this. The good-sized crowd was welcomed to the venue by Playhouse board president Doug Wertz who expressed enthusiasm for Sparks’ project and how the Playhouse was glad to support other artistic genres by serving as venue for a premiere. Another showing will take place Saturday evening, at 8 pm.
The evening was idyllic, and I wove through the crowd, beer in hand, feeling quite right about the world. Later this night would be Neos Dance Theatre’s performance of Ballet @ the Brickyard, an annual summer performance outside in Mansfield’s Brickyard performance area. (Read Mark Jordan’s coverage of the event here.) But before that, while the sun still sizzled our shoulders, Mansfielders walked from tent to tent at Art in the Alley.
At many booths, artists were creating work while envious crowds looked on. I saw watercolors coming to life, pastels, and at one booth, paper forming from what seemed to be just a bin of dirty dish water. Ken Arthur stopped me there, and convinced me to set down my beer long enough to make some paper of my own.
Ken — funky hat, old T-shirt, chainmail necklace — helped me fill a framed screen with pulp. He was working at MP Marion’s booth. She is a paper artist who wanted to not only show her art, but to also share the act of creating it with the crowd. Her pieces are vibrant, abstract stories told in paper pulp. Ken, himself, is an artist of found objects and repurposed materials. His pieces are big, dark, heavy, and every one winks at you until you get it or move on. Continue reading →