Friday, February 17, 2006

Gopnik on Dada

The WaPo's Chief Art Critic reviews the terrific Dada exhibit at the NGA, and very early on the review he shows his solid neoCon right wing colors by throwing in the now blase reference to Abu Ghraib in an art review, which will surely merit a few thousand words of response from you know who.

And you get to read the review here and now (a day and a half early), as it will be published next Sunday!

The review also includes a really cool "Learn the ABC's of Dada" link. See that here. I don't know if the printed version of the review will carry it, but online it is a brilliant departure from the usual type of review, and yet another marker on the road to the burial of the printed press.

Well done to Gopnik and to the WaPo for this multimediaish review!

O'Sullivan on Bourgeois

Michael O'Sullivan has a really good review of the "Louise Bourgeois: Femme" exhibition at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

Read it here.

Midwives at Round House

Last night I snagged a couple of free tickets and went to see Midwives at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda.

The play is based on the #1 New York Times bestseller and Oprah's Book Club selection novel Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. It was adapted by Dana Yeaton and directed by Mark Ramont.

MaryBeth WiseThe play is set in a small Vermont town (I wish I had known this at the beginning of the play - more on that later), and as the play unfolds, we discover that we're witnessing, and being somewhat part of, the events and memories leading up to the trial of Sibyl Danforth (played by MaryBeth Wise), a lay midwife, who has been charged with manslaughter in a childbirth gone disastrously wrong.

The play starts 15 years after the event, with a very pregnant woman making an entrance into a hospital room from within a very beautiful stage prop that arches over the entire stage. It is sometimes lit, and sometimes translucent, and it is sort of a remarkable cage where stripped tree branches are caged and suspended around and over the stage, looking like a huge Yuriko Yamaguchi sculpture.
Kimberly Parker Green
The pregnant woman, we soon find out is Charlotte Bedford (played superbly by Kimberly Parker Green), and she now lives in the imagination of the retired midwife, who is recovering from cancer.

Stephanie BurdenHer daughter (Connie Danforth, played by Stephanie Burden), is now a medical student in Boston, and is visiting her mother, who has apparently shipped her all of her journals to Connie.

Narrated by a variety of characters, the play moves back and forth in time, slowly decomposing for the audience a set of clues and information about what happened on the night that the childbirth went wrong.

As Connie looks back on her mother's trial, both her and her mother (and silently the ghost of the dead woman) are attempting to understand and figure out what truly happened on that night, and heal the wounds left on their psyches in the years that followed.

The audience is treated to a very horrific re-enactment of the childbirth, which is taking place in the Bedford's home on a wintry and icy New England night. A night when the phone lines are down and the the roads are so slick with ice that no one can even get to their car when the delivery gets complicated.

The midwife, thus unable to get her patient to a hospital, tries courageously to save both the mother and unborn child while her inexperienced apprentice of three months and the woman's terrified husband (who is a minister and is played by Gene Gillette) generally get in the way.

The audience is led to believe that the mother dies but that the baby is saved thanks to an emergency C-section done by Sybil with a kitchen knife.

And this is where the issue becomes complicated, as first the the apprentice and then the husband suggest that maybe the mother wasn't really dead when the midwife cut her open.

And the rest of the play presents the case, showing bits and pieces of the trial, re-enactments of the operation, and the final resolution between mother and daughter, as to what may or may have not happened that night.

For the first twenty minutes or so of the play, the Charlotte Bedford character is completely silent, usually just ghost-stepping around the stage or sitting on the bed. And I was thinking to myself: "This actress has the best role ever in a play: no lines to learn!"

Soon I became fascinated by her silence, and began to realize how her facial and body postures were affecting the audience and I.

Eventually, when she spoke, both in her role as Charlotte Bedford and later as the voice for the judge in the trial of Sybil Danforth, it was clear to me that Kimberly Parker Green had the most difficult role in this play and she stole this show.

Kimberly Parker Green, managed to make her silent parts become integral parts of the discussions and fights going on between mother and daughter. In part thanks to excellent lighting, in repose she (because this actress is very fair skinned and light-haired), became almost like a Vermeer painting, except when her subtle facial expressions added fuel to an argument (Sybil can see Charlotte) or reproachment to an excuse.

One thing that I completely missed: Why were both Bedfords (the preacher and his wife) speaking with heavy Southern accents in a scene set in rural Vermont?

Either they have their geography wrong, or maybe I missed a part where they were Southeners who had moved to Yankee-land. In any event, it was a bit distracting and out of place with everyone else's lack of any noticable accent, as no one attempted a New England accent (caps instead of cops, ps instead of pierced, and yaaad instead of yard, etc.).

The play is powerful and well-directed, and the audience (average age around 65) visibly winced many times at the harshness of the events unfolding in front of them.

With the singular exceptions of Parker Green, and Lynn Steinmetz (who superbly plays both a nurse and a doctor in two different roles) I became somewhat annoyed by the rest of the acting performance.

In part this was a cascade effect from the extended arguing scenes between the midwife and her daughter. Both actresses kept the same tone and style of speech throughout all levels of fighting; the daughter very shrill and screechy, and the mother very stoic. Meanwhile I kept thinking: "This isn't how people really argue - at least no one that I know."

Nonetheless this is a very powerful play, and surprisingly eye-opening in the sense that it offers us a window into a nearly extinguished aspect of American life: the lay midwife.

The play runs through Feb. 26, 2006. Read the WaPo review of the play by Lisa Traiger here, and read the Wash Times review here, and the WCP review here. Isn't it nice how every paper in town reviews theatre? When was it the last time that we saw the big three review the same gallery show?

Sibyl Danforth: MaryBeth Wise
Charlotte Bedford: Kimberly Parker Green
Connie Danforth: Stephanie Burden
Bill Tanner: Paul Morella
Louise, Dr. Gerson: Lynn Steinmetz
Lori Pine, Anne Austin, Patty: Rana Kay
Asa Bedford, David Pine: Gene Gillette
Stephen Hastings: John Lescault
Dr. Lang, Barton Hewitt: John Dow

Russian books

This story almost makes me want to cry.

Photo copyright Laurie DeWitt/The Gazette
Read it and weep.

Parsons on Frenn

Adrian Parsons reviews our current Chawky Frenn exhibition at Fraser Bethesda.

Read the review here.

LAT looking for art critic reporter

This was emailed to me (not interested), but we all know someone who is somewhat qualified for this job, and who should apply to it, and who then should be hired by the LAT and then pleeeeease move to LA!

The ad:

Arts writer, Los Angeles Times:

The Los Angeles Times hopes to add an additional arts reporter to its staff. This person would be expected to break news, write a range of features and help analyze the exciting developments in visual and performing arts in the region and the country. This will be an exciting job for a writer with proven reportorial skills and the energy to keep up with the fascinating cultural life of L.A. Expertise in visual arts, architecture, classical music, theater, dance or any combination would be a plus, but curiosity and flair are what's required. Mail resume and clips to Lisa Fung, arts editor, or Bret Israel, Sunday Calendar editor, Los Angeles Times, 202 West First Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. No calls or emails, please.

Opportunities for Artists
Deadline March 3, 2006

Photo Exhibition to Aid New Orleans. Photographs will be sold to benefit displaced New Orleans artists. Photos should include emotional and political statements thematic to New Orleans. Contact:
Denise Berthaiume
LeMieux Galleries
332 Julia St
New Orleans, LA 70130
or call 360-385-2135 or email

Deadline: Mar 15, 2006

Dimensions 2006. Open to all media. May 5 - June 3. Slide or Digital Entry. 1st prize: $1000. Juror: Brooke Anderson, Director of the Contemporary Center, American Folk Art Museum, NY. For prospectus send SASE to:
Associated Artists of Winston-Salem
301 West Fourth Street
Winston-Salem NC 27101
or 336-722-0340 or email

Deadline: March 31, 2006

Direct Art Magazine, Volume 13 Sixth Annual Competition for publication in Volume 13 of Direct Art Magazine, Fall/Winter 2006 issue. Twenty six awards; over $22,000.00 in value, including covers of magazine and feature articles. For prospectus e-mail Direct Art at or download the prospectus here.

Deadline: May 19, 2006

IX Annual International Fine Arts Competition. Open to all 2D artists (except photography) wall-hung sculptures, 18 years and older working in a realistic or representational genre. Enter via slides or digital files. The winner of the Best in Show award shall receive $500 in prize money. First, Second and Third Prize winners will receive $200, $150 and $100 respectively in prize money. Juried by yours truly. Visit this website for more details and an entry form or call 301/718-9651 or send a SASE to:
Fraser Gallery
7700 Wisconsin Avenue
Suite E
Bethesda, MD 20814

Deadline: June 15, 2006

International Juried Digital Art Exhibition. They are seeking entries from 2D artists for exhibition, Jul 5-31, 2006. Open to all styles, techniques, and themes (except racist references, comics, jokes, or caricatures). Submit only one work. Selected entries will be printed in color, A4 format, and framed (55x45cm) for exhibition. Prizes include 3-week solo exhibition, travel and accommodations to Venado Tuerto, Argentina. No entry fee. Please send entries with subject heading of full name and with message of name, DOB, address, title of work, technique, .JPEG attachment (min. 150dpi/in, min. 1MB) in A4 format, and attachment
with artist's photograph to address listed here email Oscar Poliotto.