Archive for December, 2010

An intensive brush with watercolor

December 28th, 2010 No comments

Painter, printmaker and public artist Jane Goldman will teach “Watercolor: Spontaneity and Control” January 18-21, one of several January Arts Intensives sponsored by the Office for the Arts. OFA Program Director Cathy McCormick spoke to Goldman about the workshop and her very challenging choice of visual expression.

You work in various media. How do you think of watercolor in your work? In relation to how you work in other media?


Photo courtesy Jane Goldman

Watercolor is central to my creative process. It is my go-to medium, the one I think in; paradoxically, due to my long term practice of watercolor I don’t need to think about the medium as I work. Watercolor is my starting point for prints and public art installations; I also make watercolor paintings as an end in themselves.

What are you currently focusing on in your own work?

I am making abstract watercolors based on a grid that explore color relationships. They vary in size from 12″ x 12″ to 100″ x 60.”

What will be your approach with the Harvard students for the workshop in January?

I’m planning a thorough grounding in the medium for the students. We will examine the tools of the medium (pigment, paper, brushes, water) and explore how to manipulate the unique elements of watercolor (translucency, working with water and gravity, layering). Students familiar with the medium will be given assignments appropriate to their skill level. We will have a creative blast.

"Audubon White Heron" (30"x40", watercolor, 2009), by Jane Goldman

"Augury II" 8.5" x 11", watercolor monotype, 2007, by Jane Goldman

Judy Tarling: The art of delivery

December 22nd, 2010 No comments
Judy Tarling.   PHOTO: Minji Kim

Editor’s note:  Judy Tarling, a violinist focused on Baroque music, presented a master class to Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra on November 15, 2010. The event was co-presented at Memorial Church by HBCO and the Office for the Arts Learning from Performers program.  While at Harvard, Tarling also coached the cast and musicians involved in the Harvard Early Music Society production of “Les Plaisirs de la Paix,” which was performed December 9-11, 2010 at the New College Theatre. Harvard Arts Beat blogger Minji Kim, who has an interest in all things “early,” caught up with Tarling to talk about music, rhetoric and the art of delivery.

Many musicians use the metaphor of “speaking” through music when talking about performance, but Judy Tarling actually dissects, studies and relies on techniques of speech when she plays her violin. Instead of viewing speech and music as analogous comparisons, Tarling, a renowned Baroque violinist, uses her music as a case study for the dramatic effects of the application of rhetoric. Music is a real language for Tarling, and she treats it as such.

In the late ’70s, when early music was not a major field of study, Tarling was one of the few who sought to specialize in Baroque based on her own initiative and her fascination with the teachings of Cicero and Quintilian. It wouldn’t be until the ’80s that historical music would become a serious field of academic scholarship, but Tarling saw a major opportunity to fuse her two passions and create a practical application for rhetoric theory other than speech. Read more…

Harvard hop-along hoedown

December 17th, 2010 No comments

Office for the Arts staff members saddled up and hitched their wagons on December 15, for a holiday hoedown at the New College Theatre that included square dancing (accompanied by a quartet of alums and current undergrads), vittles and games (cowboy, not reindeer). These photos prove that Harvard arts administrators aren’t stuffy city-slickers!

OFA Director of Programs Cathy McCormick gets in touch with her inner Dolly Parton (or is it Loretta Lynn?) with Director Jack Megan (Teresa Lattanzio photo).

OFA Dance Program Associate Marin Orlosky Randow '07-'08 muscles in with Director Liz Bergmann (Teresa Lattanzio photo).

Memorial Hall Program Associate Adam Kassim (left), OFA Assistant to Director Aimee Ricciardone and New College Theatre Production Coordinator Dana Knox show off their cowboy and cowgirl finery (Teresa Lattanzio photo).

Holiday Yard Arts!

December 17th, 2010 No comments

The Ho, Ho, Ho of Holworthy Hall.

The star of Thayer Hall.

Perhaps you saw it, too. In the midst of exam week, on the most bitterly cold days of the season, students still cogitated, cooperated and created beauty in Harvard Yard with holiday lights. In the spirit of the work we do at the Office for the Arts and in the spirit of the season, we celebrate these small acts of cooperation and creativity. We wish you an arts-filled season and a New Year filled with imagination and discovery.

What is Art?

December 12th, 2010 No comments
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Harvard’s Department of Visual and Environmental Studies showcased its very own students’ cinematic, photographic, and visual art through its Screenings and following Open Studios on Thursday-Friday, December 9-10 at the Carpenter Center. Viewers, meandering throughout floor after floor of various artistic expressions, reflected upon what the works mean to their respective narratives as well as that of the artist.

Yet—despite these reflections—can they define the greater concept of art? Is art about escaping the difficulties of life, or is it a way of battling such adversities? Check out our newly created video revealing two VES students—Samuel Rashba ’14 and Keoni Correa ’13—showcasing not only their works created during the past term but also their own interpretations of art.

Elizabeth Bergmann: The celebration goes on

December 12th, 2010 No comments

Ricky Kuperman ’11
Liz has been such a supportive and inspirational leader of the Dance Program. She is so genuinely interested in the work of all of her students, and is always working hard to make sure that their artistic efforts are executed at the highest possible level. When I first began choreographing at Harvard, she encouraged me to get outside perspectives on my work, and to include mentors whom I trusted in the choreographic process. I followed her advice, and soon met with her to go over sections of my pieces on video. Taking it one step further, she always made a concerted effort to get inside the rehearsal room with us, even to watch rough, unfinished fragments of choreography. Always honest but never patronizing, Liz’s critiques and advice have really pushed me to grow as an artist, and I’m very grateful for all that she’s done for dance at Harvard. She will be sorely missed!

Megan Murdock ’14
I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to work with Liz, even for one semester, but I guess I’m also one of the unlucky ones: I had just enough time with Liz to realize what I’m going to be missing the next three and a half years. Although I never had the chance to take Liz’s choreography class, I was given the opportunity to perform in her two pieces for the Fall 2010 Harvard-Radcliffe Modern Dance Company show. At first, I must admit, I was very intimidated by her. I mean, she’s the Dance Director of Harvard; she’s got to be incredible. Even though Liz had only been to a couple of the first rehearsals, and then left for six weeks, she always seemed present with the notes she gave based on the videos sent to her after each rehearsal. She also talked to all of the dancers individually, and I was definitely put more at ease. When we got down to business, she spent so much time working with us to make sure that even the little details were correct and that our spacing was right, but especially that the performance quality was exactly how she wanted it.

Liz really cared about the piece as a whole, but also about each of the individual dancers in it. We spent time in rehearsals fixing parts of the dance, but many of the corrections and suggestions were helpful to us as dancers and can be carried over to other dances or classes as well. She really encouraged each of us to reach our fullest potential, and then helped us exceed that potential.

Natalie Cameron ’11
Working with Liz Bergmann over the past year for Dancer’s Viewpointe 10 and the Harvard-Radcliffe Modern Dance Company has been one of the highlights of my Harvard experience. Liz’s dances are more than just steps; they tell profound stories that resonate with her dancers and audience. In rehearsals she focuses on defining the relationships between dancers and motivating their movement. For example, during one rehearsal last year she asked me, “Why did you just move your arm?” It’s a simple question, but I did not have an answer. From then on, she made me think about dance in a different way. She encouraged me to find meaning for my movements from within and bring my dancing to a whole new level. This semester I was honored to dance a solo role in her work Solitary/Solidarity. The piece depicts the internal struggles of a woman searching for both independence and companionship. The choreography pushed both my physical and emotional boundaries, and because of it I have become not only a stronger dancer, but a stronger person. I am grateful to Liz in more ways than I can imagine. I think I can speak for all of the dancers at Harvard when I say that Liz Bergmann will be deeply missed.

Harvard and NEC: Conducting expressivity

December 10th, 2010 No comments

Aram Demirjian '08 conducts the NEC Lab Orchestra under the incisive eye of Hugh Wolff '75. Photo: Andrew Hurlbut

Harvard conductors are pioneering the orchestral conducting program at New England Conservatory. With the vision of Maestro Hugh Wolff, NEC’s Director of Orchestras, the orchestral conducting program at NEC has taken on new form and new life with a highly selective, two-year graduate curriculum that is polishing the artistic leadership and musical character of talented young conductor, Aram Demirjian (Harvard ’08, NEC MM ’11). Aram is in the first class of conductors with only one other student, Joshua Weilerstein.

Photo: Andrew Hurlbut

Along with course work in score reading, instrumentation, orchestration, and performance practice, seminars and private lessons, Aram’s conducting skills are being developed to the fullest and will be on display 8:30 p.m. Friday, December 10 (tonight) at NEC’s Brown Hall in a concert free and open to the public, featuring Beethoven’s Overture to Leonore No. 3, Op. 72, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture (1870), and Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major, Op. 38, Spring. See Harvard’s own Aram Demirjian in action on the podium — with his focused expressivity achieved by economy of gesture that I remember even from his days conducting my chamber group in Music 93r in ’07-’08 — conducting the NEC Lab Orchestra in its culminating concert of the semester.

Continuing my series of conversations about music with Hugh Wolff, today’s post presents Maestro Wolff’s views about Harvard composers, John Adams ’69, MA ’72, and John Harbison ’60, who help to shape the future of music as composers, critics, and intellectual American voices.

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Hear Maestro Wolff’s insights into the music scene and orchestral concert audiences in Frankfurt, Germany compared to those in North America. Maestro Wolff propounds that John Adams has worldwide appeal, known to international audiences, and compares this to North American audiences’ reception of new music. Maestro Wolff shares his ethos of programming new music, earning the trust of your orchestra, and feeling that new music should be a part of the mainstream of what an orchestra does — completely integrated into the concert subscription series. Read more…

The Blue Flower: Where art meets art

December 9th, 2010 No comments

As much as I enjoyed my European Modernism art history class last year, I never thought I’d be able to see it come to life on stage. And yet it did. Colorful horses, the ridiculously worded Dada manifesto and photomontages flashed before my eyes earlier this week at the American Repertory Theater where I saw Jim and Ruth Bauer’s The Blue Flower. I was delighted that the musical-play, which runs until January 8 at the Loeb Drama Center, does not strive to be an esoteric piece of Dadaist performance art (though that would have been fascinating to watch as well), but rather integrates the key artistic and political elements of the World War I era into an original, understandable plot.

At once poignant and hilarious, fantastical and true to history, The Blue Flower sets the angst of Germany and France during the 1910s against the backdrop of Dadaism. Using the tragic story of protagonist Max Baumann’s (a reference to artist Max Beckmann) unrequited love and lost friendships as its backbone, The Blue Flower encapsulates the emotional complexity that gripped Europe during this turbulent time.

The central plot of Max’s life is pierced from all directions with art allusions, tongue-in-cheek political humor and ironic gibberish commentary. The four central characters make reference to highly famous historical figures: Maria (Marie Curie), Franz (Franz Marc), Max (Max Beckmann), and Hanna (Hannah Höch). However, because these are not exact biographies, the characters assume the flexibility necessary for poetic drama and creative caricature. Their names just skewed enough to be recognizable but not exact, the characters launch themselves into a flurry of love triangles and war. A “Fantasy Man” narrates their biographies as reminiscences of a time long gone.

This straddling of historical truth and fantasy justifies the back-and-forth nature of the plot as well as the absurdity of the characters’ made-up language. Not to mention, such Dada-ist undertones (or overtones) structure the fictional, artistic elements of The Blue Flower. Franz of the musical dies in combat, just as the artist Franz Marc died in the war. When Max first encounters Hanna, it is in a cabaret theater, and Hanna dances in a paper-and-cardboard outfit nearly identical to that of Hugo Ball.

Other references to the Dadaist movement, most prominently the authentic archival German silent film clips by Man Ray and Hans Richter, accompany the narration. Small collages hanging on the worn walls are reminiscent of the feminist photomontages for which Höch garnered much recognition.

 The Blue Flower is a musical meditation that effortlessly oscillates between two worlds, two time periods and two genres of theater. It is neither a tragedy that drips saccharine tears, nor is it a comedy escalated to hilarious nonsense. With knowing gestures to Dadaism and the nuances of the era, it manages to include those allusions for the entertainment of those who recognize them, but the storyline is also wonderfully legible for those who do not. Though its characters are distinctly Dada, striving to highlight the follies and senselessness of modern life, The Blue Flower uses those moments of light-hearted absurdity to craft meaning out of the chaos.

Photos courtey American Repertory Theater.

R&J: Grounds for the Play

December 9th, 2010 No comments

Bill Grace’s production of Romeo and Juliet — running through Dec. 11 at the Loeb Ex — is set in a world where bored teenagers smoke weed on swings and have sex on a jungle gym. In fact, the set is a playground.

To be clear: The set is a playground. It’s not set in a playground. The multiple levels of the set function as they normally would – the upper balcony, the bedroom and the chapel as locations are unaltered. But when Juliet trundles down the steps heady with love, we’re reminded of the fact that, despite her poetic language, she still needs Nurse as her babysitter. Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio are bros drinking on the playground at night. We can just imagine that they’ve stolen that vodka and are going to climb through a window just before curfew.

Then after the deaths, the swings move ever so slightly, and we are reminded of childhood lost and corrupted. This adds up to a series of incredibly nuanced performances. The text has been re-interpreted to give a dark take on the lives of wealthy adolescents of today.

Full disclosure: This play almost made me cry at several moments. And it’s Romeo and Juliet: Everyone knows what happens! I rarely make outright endorsements but this was most definitely one of the best productions I’ve seen in a while.

Wait! Is that a lunch flash mob at Annenberg?

December 9th, 2010 No comments

Lunch Wednesday at Annenberg: vegetable quesadillas, Indian chicken, the usual salad bar, and a spontaneous outbreak of dance.

Annenberg was packed at noon that day with the usual lunch-going crowd going about the usual lunch-going business. There were some visitors, however: A suspicious looking crowd had formed on the balcony where some equally suspicious looking speakers had been set up. There were perhaps a few too many people standing awkwardly next to tables or to the side, but nothing to fret about. And so the freshmen of Annenberg continued with their usual routine.

Until a little after 12:15pm, that is. Then the beat dropped.

Freshman Michael Lai stood alone in the center of Annenberg busting out his best moves as, slowly, more and more of his classmates joined him. Eventually, a cadre of students in Annenberg erupted in spontaneous and joyous dance that was, quite frankly, pretty remarkable. Some video snippets from the event are below.

The 15 freshman in Jessica Berson’s freshman seminar “Movement and Meaning: Dance, Culture and Identity in the Contemporary U.S.” organized the flashmob (see famous examples here and here) as their final project for the class.

Alaina Murphy ‘14, one of the members of the class, told me immediately following the flashmob that they had been working on the project for about three weeks. Each student recruited 10 or more friends to join the project. “The choreography has been disseminated through YouTube, so that as many people as possible could learn it,” said Berson.

Murphy said that working on the project showed her the power of working in a group, and that there is “lots of academic support” for projects like these at Harvard. “I’m not sure this could have happened anywhere else,” she added—“or that the students would have gotten so into it.”

Berson hoped that through this project the class of 2014 would be able to “get a glimpse at the power dance has for creating community.”

Tyler Cusick ’14, one of the many surprised onlookers at the event, said the flashmob was a great diversion from the tons of work students face during reading period.

Morgan Henry ’14, one of the hundreds recruited to the project by a friend in the seminar, called the event “really awesome and really silly.”

Just what we need every now and then!

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