Green Giants-The Fruit & Vegetable Sculptures of Jan Kirsh by Jennifer Martella

One of the best ways to escape the winter doldrums is to feast your eyes on Jan Kirsh’s delightful fruits and vegetable sculptures. When I turned onto her studio driveway recently, two sentinels greeted me. One was a tall curvaceous eggplant resplendent in her aubergine gown.

Her admiring companion on the opposite pedestal reminded me at first of one of Henry Moore’s reclining nudes glistening in the sun. The green stalk gave it away as a sunburned chili pepper, without its white blanket of winter snow that was the cover image for Jan’s winter newsletter.

Jan Kirsh with Carrots

Further delights awaited me as I strolled through her garden. Maybe I’ve seem way too many Masterpiece Theater ballroom scenes but as I passed a trio of asparagus they seemed to bow to each other as a prelude to a minuet. Another trio of robust habaneros in different colors and on ascending pedestals spiraled upward to the sky.

Architects have a natural affinity with sculpture since both art forms deal with three dimensional space and light. After my tour of Jan’s garden of earthly delights, I loved visiting her studio and seeing her study models, mock-ups and projects in various stages of completion.

Jan’s interest in making garden sculpture “stemmed” from a childhood interest in hand building three-dimensional objects from clay and she never outgrew her childhood fascination with three-dimensional form.

During my studio visit, Jan also showed me her portfolio of commissioned pieces in their new settings. My favorite photograph was of Jan standing next to two intertwined giant carrots. Another amusing picture that caught my eye was of a giant pear preening over her image reflected in the swimming pool below.

Jan moved to the Eastern Shore in 1978 and quickly made a name for herself as a talented landscape designer. As her garden design practice flourished and evolved, she found that her clients often requested that she help them site existing sculpture and/or art objects in their gardens as part of her landscape design effort.

That facet of her work was fun and challenging and inspired her to begin anew to create her own pieces that could be incorporated into the gardens she designed. The best of both worlds for Jan is to design and then build a garden that includes a custom piece of her sculpture especially suited for the location.

After I reluctantly took one last look at Jan’s garden, I reflected upon my belief that one must have a touch of whimsy in one’s life to make you smile and laugh each day. One of these days I hope to commission Jan to sculpt my favorite vegetable, the artichoke, to enliven my garden.

Known for functional, artful four-season gardens, Jan Kirsh has worked collaboratively with clients for over 30 years to bring her unique hardscape and planting style to homes on the Eastern Shore and beyond. Ever conscious of the existing architecture and surrounding site, Kirsh’s successful garden making experience allows for dramatic results, whether she is providing a quick on site consultation, staging a home for sale or drawing a master plan. She delights in turning her clients dreams into reality.

A portfolio of her landscape work can be seen at her website www.jankirshstudio.com or contact her at 410-745-5252 (o),410-310-1198 (c) or email at.jankirshstudio@gmail.com.


Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

Spy Review: Biloxi Blues at the Church Hill Theatre

Sgt. Merwin J. Toomey (John Haas, left) addresses his boot camp squad in Church Hill Theatre’s “Biloxi Blues” –  Top Bunk – Robbie Spray & James Rank; Middle bunk – Timothy Daly & Troy Strootman,  Bottom Bunk – Anthony Daly & Morgan Jung.  Photo by Steve Atkinson

Biloxi Blues, by Neil Simon, is a semi-autobiographical play about young soldiers undergoing basic training during World War II. Directed by Michael Whitehill, it is currently playing at Church Hill Theatre.

Set almost entirely in an Army training camp near Biloxi, Mississippi, the play focuses on six soldiers in one platoon and their hard-nosed drill sergeant. Like other comedies with a military setting, it gains much of its humor by contrasting the raw recruits — a motley crew with different backgrounds and personalities — with the Army’s demand for discipline and adherence to an apparently irrational set of rules.

Originally produced at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway in 1985, Biloxi Blues ran for 524 performances. It is the middle piece in Simon’s “Eugene trilogy,” featuring a young Brooklyn Jew whose experiences roughly follow Simon’s own early life. The other two segments are Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway BoundBiloxi Blues won Tony awards for best play, best actor (Barry Miller as Arnold Epstein) and best director (Gene Saks); Miller also won a Drama Desk award. Others in the original production were Matthew Broderick as Eugene, Simon’s self-portrait character, and William Sadler as drill sergeant Toomey. 

A 1988 film adaptation, directed by Mike Nichols, brought back Broderick as Eugene and featured Christopher Walken in the role of Sgt. Toomey.

On the train to boot camp in Biloxi! Photo by Steve Atkinson

While there is a great deal of broad, often profane comedy, the play also has at its core a serious story about growing up and learning about the world. The narrator, Eugene, has ambitions of being a writer, and he keeps a journal in which he writes his impressions of his fellow recruits and their experiences. Right at the beginning, Eugene says that he has four goals for the near future – to fall in love, to lose his virginity, (not necessarily in that order), to become a writer and to make it out of the army alive.  Like much comedy, the play draws its materials from events that may seem far from amusing to those caught up in them, but that with time and experience become funny even to those involved.

Recruits Arnold Epstein, Don Carney, and Eugene Jerome are berated by Sgt. Toomey.     Photo by Jane Jewell

At the center of the play is Arnold Epstein, a gentle misfit who draws the wrath of Sgt. Toomey almost from the minute he arrives in camp. Even though he considers Arnold his closest friend in the army, Eugene can do little more than watch as Epstein is assigned endless KP and latrine duty as a result of his failure to meet the sergeant’s standards. Epstein, for his part, continues to assert his humanity, even as other recruits mock him (and Eugene) for being Jewish.

The plot, on the whole, is episodic. We see the recruits’ first reactions to the demands of Army life and learn their backgrounds and quirks. We follow them through confrontations — one soldier in particular, Wykowski, is especially scornful of the two Jews in the squad — though that attitude softens somewhat throughout the play as the six recruits go from being strangers to being a unit, soldiers together.  We see the six going to visit a prostitute for their first sexual experience. Eventually, all of them — even the sergeant, who has a plate in his head where he was wounded in battle — gain a degree of humanity and sympathy by the end of the play.

Whitehill has assembled a cast dominated by young actors —  — just right, given the age of the characters they are portraying. He said after the opening night performance that the youngest cast member is only 13 while the oldest is in his early 40s,  most are in their teens or early twenties. Almost all have some previous theatrical experience, though this is the Church Hill debut for several of them. While there were a few first-night glitches, the performance was, on the whole, up to the high standards local audiences have come to expect.  Be sure to read the Director’s Notes in the Play Bill as he gives some interesting information on the production and using memoir as a narrative technique.

Whitehill also noted that he broke in the young cast by having them do push-ups as punishment for arriving late to rehearsals — 15 push-ups for each minute late! It was all good-natured, Whitehill said, with the young actors often running in just on time, pointing at their watches and shouting “I’m here! I’m here!” Not only did it improve promptness, it got the recruits in shape to perform push-ups at the sergeant’s command during the show! 

Troy Strootman, who has appeared at the Garfield Center and with Shore Shakespeare, makes his CHT debut as Eugene. He effectively strikes the balance between the character’s youthful naivete and his innate intelligence and insight into his fellow recruits — this is, after all, someone who is going to grow up to become Neil Simon. A good job in an important part.

Robert Spray takes the role of Arnold Epstein, in many ways the focus of the play’s main drama. He brings out the awkward recruit’s genuine distaste for the dehumanizing aspects of military training, and makes his confrontations with the sergeant appropriately comic.

John Haas, a CHT veteran, is well cast as Sgt. Toomey, who turns out to be a more complex and sympathetic character than the stereotypical drill sergeant he appears to be when the soldiers arrive at boot camp. Haas is convincing as the hard-nosed drillmaster, but when the opportunity arises for the character to demonstrate genuine concern for his men, he makes the switch believable – not an easy thing to do!

Daisy and Eugene dance at the USO. (Kendall Davis & Troy Strootman with Carney (Morgan Jung) and hostess Scarlett Chappell dancing in background)    Photo by Jane Jewell

Daisy Hannigan, Eugene’s love interest, is played by Kendall Davis, a 2o16 Washington College graduate who is appearing in her fourth CHT production. She convincingly projects the sweetness and innocence of the Catholic school girl who meets the soldier at a USO dance, winning him over with her knowledge of the literary world he aches to become part of. A very warm performance, given an extra dimension by Davis’s dancing.

Brothers Anthony and Timothy Daly play Roy Seldridge and Joseph Wykowsky, two of the recruits in the squad. The sons of Jeff Daly, who has many CHT credits in his own right, they give solid performances. Timothy’s character, at first a somewhat dim-witted anti-Semite, comes to recognize that he is part of a team, and all the members need to work together if they are to survive the coming ordeal of wartime. Anthony’s character thinks of himself as the comedian of the bunch, though he’s not as witty as he thinks.

Morgan Jung and Jeffrey Rank fill out the boot camp squad with portrayals of Don Carney and James Hennessy. Carney sings — off key! — in his sleep, to the annoyance of his bunk mates. and Hennesey, who is the oldest recruit and who claims to be part African-American, comes across as slightly more attuned to Army life.  Good jobs by both.

The boys are initiated in the mysteries of sex by the local prostitute Rowena , played by Christine Kinlock. Biloxi Blues Photo by Jane Jewell

Christine Kinlock, who has become a regular in the local theater scene, has a meaty if brief part as Rowena, a prostitute. Again, the character, who might have been a stereotype, turns out to have depths that Kinlock nicely brings out.

Scarlett Chapell appears as another USO hostess, dancing with the soldiers. The character is not in the original script, but Chapell, who is in her first show at CHT, makes good use of the opportunity to create a character without speaking a word.  Beautiful dancing in a shadowed background.

Given that the majority of the cast is in uniform for the entire length of the play, the only real chance for costuming flash is in the three women’s outfits — which nicely distinguish the three characters.  Both USO girls are wearing distinctive 1940s dress styles. Note that the recruits are all wearing realistic, WWII “dogtags” around their necks.

The sets are quite effective, creating a believable 1940s army camp and surrounding scenes. The main set is a surprisingly realistic two-sided unit with the soldier’s three-tiered bunks on one side and a latrine on the other. The set not only swings around to give two different scenes, it rolls offstage when a less specific scene is needed — for example the open floor of the USO dance.  A side portion of the stage is used for a train car, Toomey’s office, and Rowena’s bedroom. While not as spectacular as some of CHT’s past sets, it does an excellent job of creating the atmosphere of the time and place. Kudos to Whitehill and Brian Draper, who designed and built it.

Not surprisingly, given its subject and setting, Biloxi Blues has its share of adult situations and language — and a good number of the characters share the prejudices of the time and express them in the language of the era. Parents might think twice about bringing very young children to the production. But adult audiences, or even teens, will appreciate the larger message of the play — how growing up involves surviving harsh experiences and making something bigger than any one individual’s feelings or abilities. And there is plenty to laugh about, along the way.

Biloxi Blues runs through Feb. 4, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students, with special prices for groups of ten or more. The audience was packed on opening night and there were also  sizable crowds for the Saturday evening and Sunday matinee of the opening week.  For reservations, call the theater at 410-556-6003 or visit the theater website.

Photo Credits: Steve Atkinson and Jane Jewell

Biloxi Blues second side of reversible, rolling set.         Photo credit: Jane Jewell

 

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The Legacy of Fireworks at Washington College Transitions to Sculpture

An artist’s rendering of “Radiant Echo,” the light sculpture to be installed  at Washington College as seen from the green

Former Washington College President Joseph McLain is remembered for many things – but his most enduring legacy may well be the tradition of fireworks displays at the college.

Joseph McLain shares a laugh with students

McLain, a chemistry professor with a lifelong interest in pyrotechnics, attended Washington College as an undergraduate. After college, he served in the World War II chemical corps, working on such projects as an improved hand grenade fuse and underwater cutting torches. After the war, he earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Johns Hopkins, then returned to Washington College to teach. Over the course of his career, he made the college a center for the study of fireworks, both in the academic community and in the commercial fireworks industry. His work focused, among other things, on improving fireworks ignition systems so as to avoid timing errors, which can be dangerous as well as spoiling the artistic effect of a display. He became the 22nd president of the college in 1973 and served until his death in 1981 — the only alumnus ever to fill the position. McLain was also responsible for establishing the annual Fourth of July fireworks show in Chestertown, which he staged on the Washington College campus.

John Conkling

In 1969, McLain hired one of his former students – John Conkling, also a Hopkins Ph.D. – to join the chemistry faculty at the college. McLain steered Conkling toward the study of pyrotechnics, which resulted in the first federal safety standards for fireworks, jointly created by the two and enacted in 1976 by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. In 1985, Conkling resigned his full-time teaching position to become Executive Director of the APA – a position he held until 1998. He continued to teach adjunct courses without taking a salary, and hosted the annual Summer Pyrotechnics Seminars at Washington College.

Largely because of the legacy of McLain and Conkling, fireworks displays have become a tradition at Washington College, welcoming students back to campus in the fall and celebrating graduation and other occasions such as the inauguration of current president Kurt Landgraf. Residents near the college often come out to see the shows, which are visible and audible from a wide area of the town.

Chestertown also had a history of fireworks before McLain, most notably with the Kent Manufacturing plant, which, beginning in 1941, produced defense materiel for World War II and then added fireworks to its line after the war. After his return to Chestertown, McLain became a partner in the business, along with founder Tony Fabrizi, whom he had met during his time in the service. That venture came to an end when a fire and explosion destroyed the plant in 1954. But McLain continued to work with the pyrotechnics industry, with a special interest in safety standards.

Now, to create a more permanent monument to McLain, Conkling and their pyrotechnics work, McLain’s daughter Lynn McLain, is raising funds for “Radiant  Echo,” an innovative art installation planned for the atrium of the Toll Science Center at the college. Intended to serve as an enduring art piece for the college and the town of Chestertown, “Radant Echo,” designed by Flux Studio of Baltimore, will be a three- dimensional grid of LED fixtures suspended in the 3-story atrium. The fixtures, which will hang to within 14 feet of the floor, will flash and flicker in emulation of a fireworks display, with chrome spheres suspended within the field to reflect and amplify the lights. According to a prospectus for the program, “As with fireworks, spectators will know that something will happen, but they won’t know exactly what, or exactly when.”

An artist’s rendering of”Radiant Echo” as seen from inside the atrium

The prospectus adds, “The choreography of the sculpture will draw from both the chemical behavior of fireworks and the phenomenal experience of observing them, contrasting familiar aerial exploding with inward collapsing at the atomic scale.” It will be programmed to operate in two states, depending on the time of day. Its default, resting state will feature short bursts of light at the outer edges of the sculpture, a “momentary flickering at the corner of one’s eye that vanishes almost as soon as it appears.” In its nighttime, or active, state, the tentative flickerings will “crescendo and then explode, piercing the darkness and dissolving into a cascading shower of light. At times the whole sculpture will erupt in a cacophony of explosions, recalling the grand finale of a fireworks show.” The displays will be visible from the campus green outside Toll Science Center and from Washington Avenue.as well as to those inside the building.

“Radiant Echo” will also have an educational function. Glenn Shrum, who designed the sculpture, plans to teach an interdisciplinary workshop while the piece is being installed. Also, college faculty will be able to use the sculpture in their classes on physics, chemistry, psychology, computer programming, and art. And as part of its installation, there will be a symposium on fireworks drawing on many different disciplines. There will also be a public honoring of Dr. Conkling and his wife Sandy.

Lynn McLain said on Jan. 7 that she hopes fundraising for the project will be completed within the year. Installation of the project is expected to take 14 to 16 months, she said. The final contacts for the construction of the project are in process.

To help promote the project, Lynn McLain has written an illustrated coffee-table book, For the Love of Fireworks, published in 2017. Proceeds from the book will help to fund the creation of “Radiant Echo.” The book is full of fascinating detail and would make a great gift. The book explores the history and cultural associations of fireworks, and includes a series of trivia questions such as when fireworks were invented, where the largest fireworks display on record took place, components used in their manufacture, and so forth. For the Love of Fireworks is available online at $56.99 or from Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.  Or buy the book, hard or softcover, directly from author McLain at http://www.loveoffireworks.com .   The price is the same and a direct purchase, McLain said, will result in a larger contribution to the project.

Fundraising is underway to cover the estimated $250,000 cost of building and installing “Raidant Echo.” McLain said on Jan 7 that the campaign had raised just over $100,000. To contribute to the effort, contact Lynn McLain at 410-778-4515 or lmclain@ubalt.edu.  You can also contribute through the Washington College Office of Advancement at 410-778-7801. Checks can be made out to the Washington College Office of Advancement, with “Atrium Sculpture Project” in the memo line. The address is Washington College Office of Advancement,  300 Washington Ave.,  Chestertown MD 21620.

And then look forward to fabulous firework displays on Washington College campus, both real and simulated via Radiant Echo.

 

 

 

Biloxi Blues Opens at Church Hill Theatre on January 19

Nothing chases away the winter doldrums like the heat and hilarity of Biloxi Blues, one of Neil Simon’s funniest comedies.  Based on Simon’s own memories of boot camp in Mississippi during World War II, the play finds humor in the coming of age experiences of young draftees way outside their comfort zones. As members of the Greatest Generation rapidly leave us, it’s good to remember that our fathers and grandfathers probably were once just as rowdy, randy and rambunctious as the guys Simon served with. Michael Whitehill, who directed last season’s most serious drama (Doubt), shows he’s equally adept with the fast paced verbal exchanges and physical humor that make Biloxi Blues so much fun. His cast has obviously enjoyed the chance to inhabit Simon’s memorable characters.

Clockwise from top right: James Rank, Troy Strootman, Morgan Jung, Anthony Daly, Timothy Daly, Robert Spray. Photo by Steve Atkinson.

While our forebears of course never cursed, these soldiers do! They also engage in activities not included in letters home to their mothers. Older teens might learn some useful lessons about the transition to adulthood but this show is not recommended for elementary and middle school students.

John Haas, often a “good guy” in CHT plays, takes on the role of Sgt. Merwin J. Toomey, the drill instructor who finds sadistic pleasure in breaking young men to mold them into his kind of soldier. Troy Strootman plays Eugene Morris Jerome, a bookish youth based loosely on Simon himself. Robbie Spray, last seen at CHT as the murderous Leonard Vole in Witness for the Prosecution, portrays Arnold Epstein, a draftee who is Toomey’s mentally tough nemesis.  The other soldiers in the barracks are Anthony Daly as Roy Selridge, Timothy Daly as Joseph Wykowski, Morgan Jung as Don Carney, and Jeff Rank as James Hennesey.  Since soldiers spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about women, Biloxi Blues gives us a couple of archetypes. Kendell Irene Davis plays Daisy Hannigan, the sweet young woman every soldier dreams of coming home to and Christine Kinlock plays Rowena, a woman with no last name but quite a past.  Interestingly, both actresses played opposite types in the recent production of Witness for the Prosecution.  The cast is rounded out with Scarlett Chappell, playing a Junior Hostess at a USO dance.

Eugene Jerome (Troy Strootman) enjoys a high-spirited dance with the beautiful Daisy Hannigan (Kendell Irene Davis). Photo by Steve Atkinson.

Michael Whitehill has assembled an experienced and creative production team for Biloxi Blues.  Sylvia Maloney pulls together the before-the-show-opens details as Producer and Steve Atkinson wrangles the behind-the-scenes details as Stage Manager. Working with Designer Brian Draper, Whitehill designed and constructed the set. Once again, Douglas Kaufmann, the master of the light booth, put together the lighting plot. Laura Crabtree, Katie Sardo, Wendy Sardo, and Janice Selby complete the back stage team.

Biloxi Blues will open at Church Hill Theatre on January 19, 2018, and run through February 4, with weekend performances at 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 pm on Sundays.  Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students, with special prices for groups of ten or more. CHT offers 2 for the price of 1 tickets on opening night, Friday, January 19, to those who reserve by phone. Reservations can be made by calling the box office at 410-556-6003 or online at www.churchhilltheatre.org.

Academy Art Museum Opens New Exhibition – The Caprichos: Goya and Lombardo

Emily Lombardo, Emily Lombardo Printer, Plate I from The Caprichos, 2013, Etching and aquatint, AAM 2016.032.

The Academy Art Museum will open The CaprichosGoya and Lombardo –  just in time for the holidaysThe exhibition will be on display from November 21, 2017 through February 25, 2018The Caprichos by Emily Lombardo is a series of etchings which are in direct conversation and homage to Francisco Goya’s Los Caprichos, 1799. Both explore and present a satirical critique of contemporary culture and the forces that influence society along economic, racial, political, religious, and gender lines.

Emily Lombardo states, “Copying has been the defining component of the apprentice-mentor structure since the birth of art production. The relationship was successfully completed when originality became discernible in the hand of the apprentice. My earliest apprenticeship was with a newspaper, pen, and paper. I would tirelessly copy political cartoons depicting Nixon, Reagan, Castro, and countless others, with slight understanding of the historical significance and intent of the author. This method evolved into a personal narrative, born in reaction to a lack of resonance with mainstream conversations.”

Emily Lombardo is an artist who has lived and worked in Boston for over 15 years.  She received her BFA from The Massachusetts College of Art and Design and her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her work has been shown and collected internationally. Lombardo applies her knowledge of sculpture and print across a wide range of conceptual projects. She engages with appropriative art practices as a mode of investigating personal and cultural identity. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

The Academy Art Museum recently acquired Lombardo’s The Caprichos series for the Permanent Collection. The edition was published by Childs Gallery and printed at The Center for Contemporary Printmaking (Norwalk, CT) by printer Paul DeRuvo. The Art Gallery of Ontario loaned the entire set of Goya’s Caprichos so that we can exhibit the two series of prints in parallel. A publication will accompany the exhibition. The exhibition is supported by the Childs Gallery, Boston.

The Museum’s exhibitions are generously supported by the Maryland State Arts Council, the Talbot County Arts Council and the Star-Democrat. For additional information, visit academyartmuseum.org or call the Museum at 410-822-2787.

Academy Art Museum Presents Lecture on Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

On Friday, November 17 at 6 p.m., the Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD is hosting a lecture, “Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello,” by Leslie Greene Bowman, President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation as part of its Kittredge-Wilson Lecture Series. These lectures feature an exciting array of speakers who impart a diversity of perspectives on subjects such as art, architecture, history and literature.

Leslie Greene Bowman is President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates the UNESCO World Heritage site, Monticello — the home of Thomas Jefferson. She has spearheaded the Foundation’s vision to engage a global audience in a dialogue to Jefferson’s world and ideas. She earned her Bachelor of Philosophy in American history and art history at Miami University, and her Master of Arts in Early American Culture as a Winterthur Fellow at the University of Delaware. She has spent her 35-year career in museums, and served at the highest levels – Director of the Winterthur Museum, Assistant Director of Exhibitions and head Curator of Decorative Arts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, accreditation commissioner for the American Alliance of Museums, and board member of the Association of Art Museum Directors. While in Los Angeles, she enjoyed academic appointments with both USC and UCLA, where she taught American decorative arts history.

She is the author of American Arts & Crafts: Virtue in Design, and co-author of American Rococo, 1750-1775: Elegance in Ornament, each amplifying scholarship on important eras in American art history. She is a trustee emerita of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2014 President Obama appointed her to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, on which she previously served under Presidents Clinton and Bush.
Pre-registration is suggested. The cost for individual tickets is $24 for Members and $29 Non-members. Register online at academyartmuseum.org.

Caption: Pictured is Leslie Greene Bowman, President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, who is presenting the lecture, “Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello,” on Friday, November 17 at 6 p.m. at the Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD.

Art Review: WarFront/HomeFront at the Kent County Arts Council Gallery

Silhouetted against a pinkish-red background, several doves perch on a rifle held high by a soldier’s arm. This poignant image is just one of many in “WarFront/HomeFront, Through the Eyes of Our Military” on view through December 3 at Kent County Arts Council. After languishing for years, the former Town Arts Building is open again and hosting a show that vividly celebrates the healing power of art.

Whether the glowing red background connotes blood and fiery violence or the radiant pink blush of sunrise, hope and love is not clear, and the tension behind this riddle tells the terrible truth that while war is waged to bring peace, peace never lasts.

“Birds over Peace,” Patrick Sargent (U. S. Air Force), screen-print on paper made from Walter Reed hospital scrubs, 13 ½ x 6 ½ inches, 2015

Created by Patrick Sargent, an Air Force veteran, at a workshop at Walter Reed National Military Center, “Birds over Peace” was screen-printed on paper made from worn-out scrubs from the hospital. Many of the show’s works were created in similar workshops, and many use handmade paper pulped from military uniforms by recovering soldiers in a powerful metaphor of transformation paralleling the soldiers’ transformative healing through making art.

“WarFront/HomeFront” is a heart-rending, provocative and soulfully beautiful exhibit drawn from the 600 works in the ART/ifacts Collection of The Arts & The Military, a grassroots organization that actively engages wounded veterans in the arts. They are joined by drawings and paintings of wounded soldiers from the Joe Bonham Project by artists from the Society of Illustrators and the International Society of War Artists.

Little boys love to play with toy soldiers, but the melted and mutilated toy soldiers scattered across Malachi Muncy’s “To Play Army” will never be played with again. The words scrawled across the paper pulp painting where they are imbedded blurt out a painful message that recurs throughout this show, “I Didn’t Know What It Meant To Play Army.”

“To Play Army,” Malachi Muncy (U. S. Army), pulp panting and ink with toy Army men embedded in paper made from pulped military uniforms, 11 x 17 inches, 2013

Military service was romanticized when Muncy was growing up as an Army brat, and like many young people with limited prospects, whether white, black, Latino or Native American, he chose the military as a way to obtain training and education. After two deployments to Iraq and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, he has turned to art, as well as other therapies, for healing.

Art engages experience on many levels. The viscous feeling of clay between the fingers and the sweep of an arm brushing color across a piece of paper are strongly physical. The artworks these actions create stimulate both eyes and brain in a process that probes memory and belief, digesting experience and feeling in order to work toward understanding.

Chosen by Guest Curator Tara Tappert, Executive Director of The Arts & The Military, and KCAC Co-Executive Director John Schratwieser, the exhibit includes paintings, drawings, ceramics, poetry, found object art, and many handmade paper works created from old uniforms. It’s a show in which art has a double mission, serving both as a therapeutic process and as a compelling advocacy tool teaching visitors about the inward experiences of individuals in the military.

It’s in some of the Joe Bonham Project drawings that personal stories come to life with intensely affecting strength. Civilian illustrator Jeffery Fisher’s watercolor “A Fitful Sleep” is a powerful image of a wounded soldier, arm bandaged, sheets pulled into sweeping diagonals, grimacing face turned away. The sense of aloneness in his nightmarish physical and mental pain is palpable.

“A Fitful Sleep,” Jeffrey Fisher (Civilian), watercolor and graphite on paper, 27 ½ x 18 inches, 2012

Through the process of creating, these wounded soldiers are able to discover ways to examine and express their wartime experiences in a safe and nourishing atmosphere. In one of the exhibit’s most inspired works, visitors may do the same. Across the gallery’s double windows hang several pairs of combat boots. These regulation boots have obviously been worn—despite the mandatory spit shine, they are scuffed and creased, each by an individual soldier. (No one wears a pair of boots in the same way as anyone else, as Van Gogh’s paintings attest.) Visitors are invited to write wishes, prayers or stories on paper provided and put them into the boots. Just a few days into the show, they were already brimming with handwritten notes which, at the end of the show, will be added to those collected from previous exhibits of the ART/ifacts Collection.

Interaction is crucial to the process of art, as it is to the process of healing. Wounded veterans worked together to pulp old uniforms into paper, to pose for drawings, and to organize workshops. It took great courage for them to open up through art to work on their own healing, and it takes courage to experience this show, but do it. You’ll be richer for the experience.

Mary McCoy is an artist and writer who has the good fortune to live beside an old steamboat wharf on the Chester River. She is a former art critic for the Washington Post and several art publications. She enjoys kayaking the river and walking her family farm where she collects ideas and materials for the environmental art she creates, often in collaboration with her husband Howard. They have exhibited their work in the U.S., Ireland, Wales and New Zealand.

Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra 20th Anniversary Fall Concerts

The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (MSO), the only professional symphony orchestra on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, continues its 20th anniversary season, “Reaching Ever Higher,” with performances at the Easton Church of God in Easton, MD on Thursday, November 2 at 7:30 p.m.; at Mariner’s Bethel in Ocean View, DE on Saturday, November 4 at 3 p.m., with a Pre-Concert Lecture at 2:15 p.m.; and at the Community Church in Ocean Pines, MD on Sunday, November 5 at 3 p.m. with a Pre-Concert Lecture at 2:15 p.m. The fall concert program, “Autumn Legends,” will feature “Symphony No. 45” by Joseph Haydn, “Autumn Legend” by William Alwyn, and “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi,.

Franz Joseph Haydn (Austrian, 1732-1809) was born in poverty, but had the gift of music and a beautiful voice.  These gifts won him a position in the boys’ choir at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, with the additional benefits of room and board, music lessons and general education. He worked as a street musician and was asked to write a comic opera. He experimented endlessly with variations to the classical architecture of music, like the sonata form, and added new instruments to his orchestra as they were developed.  Donald Francis Tovey, in his Essays in Musical Analysis, writes about Haydn’s “…dramatic surprise… (where) almost everything is unexpected…”.  This commentary applies well to Symphony No. 45, the most popular of Haydn’s early symphonies.  Haydn gave young Beethoven music lessons, was very fond of Mozart and distraught by his early death.  Haydn was recognized in his lifetime throughout Europe as a master and a legend.

William Alwyn (British, 1905-1985) entered the Royal Academy of Music in 1920 and studied flute and composition.  He played with the London Symphony Orchestra and was Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy.  Alwyn, a poet, artist and leader of musicians’ organizations, was knighted in 1978.  He wrote several operas and symphonies, concertos, quartets, piano music and more than seventy film scores.  His music is often played by the John Wilson orchestra.  Although he experimented with new tonalities, he never quite abandoned the classical harmonies. Autumn Legend, a short work for English horn and orchestra, was written in 1954.  Alwyn said that he was inspired by his love of pre-Raphaelite paintings and the poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Antonio Vivaldi (Venetian, 1678-1741) became a priest in 1703, but could not say mass because of asthma.  The following year, he was appointed violinist at the Ospedale della Pieta, one of several organizations in the city that took in orphan girls and gave them a musical education.  Vivaldi became Music Director of La Pieta in 1716.  His contract specified writing two concerti a month for the girls’ orchestra; over his lifetime, he wrote more than five hundred!  Undoubtedly, his most famous work is the collection of violin concerti known as The Four Seasons, written in the early 1720’s, and published in Amsterdam in 1725.  This piece is the most overtly programmatic work written to date, in which the music tries to evoke definite items, situations and experiences.  The Four Seasons is consistently one of the favorite works of the general public and regularly played in Venice’s churches by professional groups.

Featured musicians in the concert include violinist Amos Fayette and Carl Oswald on English Horn. Fayette began his studies with his mother at the age of two.  He continued lessons with various teachers and graduated from The Juilliard School of Music’s Pre-College Division as well as the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been guest concertmaster of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and has performed various leadership roles in the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra.

Oswald is a Baltimore native whose performances have spanned the globe.  A graduate of the Yale School of Music, he has appeared as a soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Philharmonia and the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra. He performs regularly in the Baltimore area with the Annapolis Symphony, Mid-Atlantic Symphony and the Concert Artists of Baltimore, and has appeared with Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Princeton Symphony, Hartford Symphony and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra is supported in part by the Maryland State Arts Council, the Talbot County Arts Council, the Worcester County Arts Council, Sussex County, Delaware and the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, Inc.

Tickets are available online at midatlanticsymphony.org, or by telephone (888) 846-8600 or at the door. For further information, visit midatlanticsymphony.org.

The MSO Fall Concert: The Pleasure and Science Behind Listening Live to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons

The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra returns to Easton on November 2 and will be offering up a number of remarkable orchestral work that would stand out any time and in any season. The list for November’s performance includes Autumn Legends by William Alwyn featuring Carl Oswald on Oboe and the Symphony No. 45 by Joseph Haydn, affectionately known as the “Farewell” Symphony, composed to celebrate the annual migration of summer musicians back to their families after performing for Prince Nikolaus Esterház at his summer palace at Eszterháza in Hungary.

All good stuff, but the main attraction at the Easton Church of God on that Thursday night is none other than Antonio Vivaldi’s classic Le Quattro Stagioni (the Four Seasons).

Some in the stratified world of classical music might complain that this old workhorse of a crowd pleaser is hardly adventurous terrain for such a gifted collection of superior musicians, but the fact of the matter is this 1723 composition of Vivaldi serves many purposes beyond its orginal intent.

While it is true that the The Four Seasons might be the most popular classical music only  after the the works of Beethoven, its popularity with both musicians and audiences rests on a number of surprising cofactors that makes it so memorial but also so important to be performed.

The first of which is the simple fact that musicians love playing the Four Seasons. While they may intellectually pine at times for the challenges of far more sophisticated and contemporary work, these gifted artists also understand, as the MSO’s music director, Julien Benichou, notes in our Spy interview, it’s simply “great music.”

There is also some good science that backs up the claim that those that hear a live performance of  The Four Seasons feel significantly more alert while EEGs suggest the music impacted “two distinct cognitive processes by producing “exaggerated effects” on one component of mental activity that is tied with the “emotion-reward systems within the brain,” and increasing cognitive functioning.

One can get lost in the weeds here, but the takeaway, as Jeffrey Parker, the MSO’s board president, suggests, is that Vivaldi’s masterpiece is the auditory equivalent of meeting of dear old friend.

That’s hard to beat.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For ticket information about this performance and others by  Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra please go here

 

 

 

Spy Eye: Fired Up! Academy Art Museum’s Crafts Show Opens on Friday

Your first minutes at this weekend’s vibrant 2017 Academy Craft Show – Fired Up will give you even more proof of the delightful revitalization of the Shore’s own Academy Art Museum.  This regional jewel is becoming a ‘destination museum’ because of its exhibits, its creativity and its first-class events like the prestigious, juried, annual Craft Show happening October 20-22 in Easton.

Half the 70 artists are ‘new to this show’ for 2017. “That keeps us so fresh,” says Holly Fine, Museum Board member, artist, and 2017 Craft Show Chair. “The entire Shore should be proud,” she adds, “that so many nationally recognized artists ask to be invited into our show.”  This year, the applicant pool was twice as large as the show itself.  The large pool results from outreach by Fine and her team to high-caliber artists, aided by the Show’s growing reputation that now – apparently – travels alone and can sometimes get there first: “A number of artists,” Fine says, “are now finding us.”

The Academy Craft Show has grown in significance in its 20 years:  The 2017 show has more total artists than ever, more exhibits than ever, more artists-new-to-the-show than ever and more artists applying than ever and even a larger wait-list than ever.  And the Show’s public Raffle of artworks donated by show artists has more high-end artworks to win, than ever.

A teapot by ceramicist Lucy Dierks.

The 2017 artists hail from 18 states, coast to coast, including Maryland.  “So many,” Holly Fine says, “are at the top of their game, and certainly give us the ‘WOW factor’.”

The word “honored” signals they are talking about internationally celebrated ceramicist Bennett Bean who returns with his wisdom and quick humor to be the 2017 Academy Craft Show Honorary Chair and Visionary

Artist for all three days.  The phrase “real legend” signals that they are talking about the return of Mary Jackson herself, the MacArthur Fellow who preserved the Gullah tradition of weaving exquisite sweet-grass baskets.  And they say “thrilled” rightfully about so many other artists invited again, like J.J. Reichert who imagines and makes one-of-a-kind handbags that other people just, can’t.

And “exciting” is the word for every ‘new-to-show’ artist: Vermont goldsmith Jacob Albee combines gems and slices of meteorite – yes, meteorite – into pins, rings, wearable things men and women will happily attach to themselves.  Geoffrey Roth of Sedona styles ‘statement watches’ for men and women, timepieces of such immaculate precision that his work is deemed “watch engineering.”  Laurie Olefson makes sure you can actually use her “Optical Art,” her playful, pretty, eyeglass frames, through connections with actual Opticians.

Paul Willsea blows swirling colored luminous glass forms that will own the wall on which they will hang.  Designer Andrea Geer’s unique clothing gracefully floats on you while being completely cutting-edge.  Lucy Dierks’ ceramics mimic nature, hoping you’ll hear the clay birds perched on her teapots and vases.  Maryland’s Mea Rhee turns her clay vessels into the sweet bell-shape of Korean traditional dress and also turns an endearing pottery-salute to Asia’s elephants. 

Glass by glass blower Paul Willsea.

And this year, Shore businesses and neighbors set records as more than ever stepped up to sponsor the Craft Show and through it, the Museum; dozens of Shore businesses, starting with Easton Utilities, Ameriprise International and PURE Insurance.  “These businesses do not have to do this,” Fine says, “but they genuinely understand the critical role of art in a community’s overall health.” Fine also says the public should thank them: “We put every one of the sponsor names on the Craft Show website and encourage the public to take a look and learn who the good guys are.” However, she adds, “Support is never a spectator sport: Everyone can support the arts, this time while having real fun with the Craft Show.” “Every purchase of one Party ticket,” says Fine, “and one Show admission ticket, every Raffle ticket, helps the arts and yes, it matters.”

All 70 artists will be at all events on all three days at the Academy Art Museum in Easton.  The Preview Party with the Artists is Friday, October 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. “The party is elegant and fun,” says Fine. “There will be artists, oysters, libation stations, all to the music of Kentavius Jones.”

Raffle items this year are worth more than $75 each; most are worth many times that.  Yet Raffle tickets are only $5 each, and five tickets bundle for $20. They can be bought online at AcademyCraftShow.com.

Check out one more “first-ever,” AcademyCraftShow.com, the new, information-packed website.  Every 2017 artist is there, illustrated, profiled, and linked.  The donated Raffle artworks are there.  So are the names of the business and citizen sponsors who deserve public thanks.  And the links are active for everyone to buy their Admission, Raffle and Preview Party tickets online.

To be there, go here for all information and online ticket sales: AcademyCraftShow.com.BOX

The 2017 Academy Craft Show – Fired Up! The Academy Art Museum, 106 South Street, in Easton, Maryland

Preview Party with the Artists, Friday, October 20, 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets: $100 each and include complimentary show admission ticket and Raffle TicketShow Admission tickets for Saturday, October 21, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, October 22 from 10 a.m.  to 4 p.m.  Tickets: Museum members $10 each; Non-members $12 each. To celebrate the Show’s 20th year: ONE ADMISSION TICKET IS GOOD FOR BOTH DAYS OF THE SHOW! Academy Craft Show Raffle TicketsTickets: $5 per ticket OR Five-ticket bundle for $20. No limit on ticket purchases.