Friday, March 25, 2011

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

100 selected dresses from the late Alexander McQueen will be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The exhibit runs from May 4th to July 31st & will feature garments from his 18 highly acclaimed years as a designer. I may add that I'm not much of a fashionista. The fashion industry changes taste & trends too quickly, that regular people find it too exhausting to keep up. Plus, the industry can often be a very shallow & pretentious.

Still, I'm a huge fan of Alexander McQueen. He took the straight-forward runway & created an event out of it. He often shocked & awed the audience not with just his experimental outfits, but with the set-up of his runway shows. Some shows included ice-skating, a carousel, or models acting as chess pieces. He wasn't afraid to be expressive with technology, also, as he had machines spray paint over a white, linen dress or featured a life-sized hologram of Kate Moss floating, which became a ghostly study in the movement of the garment.

Even though these expositions could of had the potential to overpower the clothing, the shows were extravagant & exciting because the cloths were. McQueen drew inspiration from many cultures & eras. There was everything from Russian royalty, to British Victorian, to 1950's sci-fi. He created elaborate headdress that included paper butterflies, model airplanes, or trash. He also set wearable, everyday clothing trends like the "bumster," which set the trend for low-rise jeans, or the kimono jacket.

Here at the JCBA, we believe that narrative comes in many forms, & McQueen was a master storyteller in his medium. This comes from the combination of his stylized clothes & the performance of his exhibits. He sew stories that were often romantic, futuristic, & terrifying. This exhibit is a well deserved honored for McQueen & I wish I was making a trip to N.Y.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two View Movie Review: Ran

Ran (1985), written & directed by Akira Kurosawa, takes place in Japan during the Warring States Era, which lasted from the 15th to the 17th century. In the film, the warlord Hidetora splits his kingdom into to three parts to give to his three sons. The two eldest sons, Taro & Jiro, honor their father's decision, but the youngest son, Saburo, thinks it's a bad idea. Saburo reminds Hidetora that he gained power through violence & betrayal, & his brothers will do the same. Hidetora banishes Saburo for his words, but soon, Hidetora learns that Saburo was right, as the Taro gets influenced by his treacherous wife, Lady Kaede, to dispose of his father & his brothers.

Ran was Kurosawa's last epic film & was the most expensive Japanese film at the time. Kurosawa was inspired by the story of the warlord, Mori Motanari, who had three faithful & talented sons, but Kurosawa wanted to imagine what would happen if they were terrible. When writing the script, Kurosawa realized that the story was much like Shakespeare's King Lear, & he was inspired further from that text. This wasn't the first time Kurosawa has worked with a Shakespeare play, as Throne of Blood was adapted from Macbeth. It seems like those tragic stories were made for Japanese film, particularly with the acting. While most of the acting in Ran contains conventional method, some characters, like Hidetora & Lady Kaede, follows the Japanese Noh theater method of acting. This included heavy make-up & sudden, violent body language.

Still, Ran strays in the themes of King Lear. In the play, Lear was rather innocent for the pain that he suffered, while Hidetora was a cruel & murderous ruler. This is a definite tale of karma, as well as chaos & warfare. This is most prominent when Taro & Jiro attack the Third Castle, Hidetora's residence. Kurosawa had all sound removed besides the muted & atmospheric score of Toru Takemitsu. It is a jarring & disturbing scene, as is the rest of the film, but it is a great success.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Ides of March (And Happy St. Patrick's Day)

I was walking to my car the last night & I realized something: I didn't write about the Ides of March. How could I have not? I've discussed the Krampus & the Chinese New Year, two non-celebrated holidays to the traditional American, & the Ides of March is my favorite non-traditional holiday of all. So, here you go, you're getting "Happy Ides of March" on St. Patrick's Day.

I guess I like the day mostly because I'm a history buff, & most of all, Ancient Roman history. For those who do not know, the Ides of March is March 15th, & on March 15th, 44 BC, Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times by members of the Senate. The 60 Senators sought to gain back power to the Senate that Caesar had taken. Caesar was popular with the lower & middle class, & Caesar's sole heir, his nephew, Caesar Augustus, was politically skilled. These two factors stopped every civil war that started up & Augustus set himself as the first Emperor of Rome, which I'm sure Caesar's assassins didn't have that as their goal. 

It's an interesting story of murder, treachery, & rebellion. To celebrate it, I suggest watching a particularly stabby movie, like Psycho, or you can tape a paper dagger on someone's back, like what happened this year to JCBA student assistant, Jonas McCaffery. Hopefully, if it happens to you, you'll find it sooner than three hours later.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Looky Lookie: Book 91

Book 91 (The String Book) by Keith A Smith is study of light, shadows, moment & sound. Every page of this wordless book contains a different geometric shape or design, which comes out of the way the strings & the hand-punched holes are placed. But, this book isn't just about each page; it's about the task of turning the pages. With every turn, you hear the rubbing of the linen thread against the pages & some are louder than others, visually & aurally. Shadows create new shapes with the turns as light glides through the holes and slices through the strings. A triangle can appear out of a single string.

Book 91 challenges the idea of a book. Although the mainstream thinking of a book means to contain words or a narrative, I believe a book only needs a beginning & an end. In Book 91, it feels like there is a string being pulled from the beginning to end, encountering other strings & collaborating with them. You can feel the tension of the stings, almost like building tension during in a plot.

For further reading & pictures, here's a link to Judith Klau's analysis of Book 91 at the JCBA website.

Monday, March 7, 2011

New Exhibit: Dialogue

A new exhibit will be featured at around the Wimberly Library & the JCBA. The exhibit will contain the work of local artist, Helen Salzberg & her pieces will be companioned with an artists' book from the collection, making it a dos-a-dos exhibit. Salzberg's material are paint & collage on canvas. This is an interesting exhibit because Salzberg work is up for sale & the proceeds all go to the Center. The paintings are priced between $350 & $600, so check it out & if there's something you like, you can take it home. The exhibit runs until March 22nd. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Graphic Novel of the Month: Madman-The Oddity Odyssey

Madman is a superhero who doesn't know where he comes from. All he knows is that he was killed & then stitched back together. The resurrection granted him uncontrollable precognitive & empathic powers.  Taking the name Frank Einstein (say it fast) after Frank Sinatra & Albert Einstein, Madman seeks out the help of Dr. Flem & Dr. Boiffard to learn more of his past, but the malicious Mr. Monstadt, who wants the doctors' notes on life & death, interrupts his plans. With his trusty yo-yo & slingshot, Madman must confront zombies, gangsters, & rednecks to figure out who he is.

The Oddity Odyssey collects the first three stories of the Madman series. Mike Allred definitely likes to combine genres, as the narrative contains science fiction, humor & romance, & has the feeling of the underground comix of the 70's while containing the old-school, super-heroic mentality. Allred's artwork is clean & distinctive with blue-grey shading that gives the book a pulp-noir feel. The book presents itself as containing one of the weirdest heroes in comic history, & I don't doubt it. Its weird, its quirky & its fun.

FYI: I don't know if I've ever mentioned, but the graphic novels featured during the "Graphic Novel of the Month" is part of the JCBA & can be viewed anytime.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Shut Up, Paige Turner:" Apples

Apples: they keep the doctor away, much like garlic does to vampires. They make for great ciders & even greater pies, or they can be useful snacks because of their portability & sweetness. They have influenced our culture, more than any other fruit & probably more than any food. They show up in religious stories, fables, myths, & scientific discoveries.

One of the most popular use of the apple is in the story of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. Although the Bible never states that Eve picked an apple off the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, the fruit is always represented in paintings & pictures as being an apple. This gives us the term "Adam's Apple" for the laryngeal prominence mostly seen in men & gave the reputation that the apple is a seductive, forbidden & evil (the Latin term for apple & evil are almost the same.)

Apples pop up in Greek Mythology numerously. The most known story resulted in the Trojan War. The Goddess Eris tossed a golden apple at a wedding party that said "for the most beautiful one." Goddesses Athena, Hera & Aphrodite all claimed the apple. In order to decide who should receive the apple, they asked the Trojan Prince, Paris, to be the judge. Athena & Hera tempted Paris with gifts, but Paris prefered Aphrodite's gift: the most beautiful woman in the world. He gave the apple to Aphrodite & she gave Paris Helen. Afterwards, throwing an apple to someone became a symbol of affection.

Hercules holding the apple
Hesprides; his eleventh task
was to fetch them from the
Tree of Life. 
Apples show up later in story telling. In the Brothers Grimm tale, Snow White, Snow White gets tricked by the Queen three times, but it was the Queen's third ploy, a poisonous apple, that killed the girl. In American folklore, Johnny Appleseed went around Ohio, Illinois & Indiana throwing apple seed as he walked (there was a real Johnny Appleseed, John Chapman, but he didn't wear a pot for a hat & he was a successful business man who grew orchards at new towns.) And let us not forget about Sir Isaac Newton, who came up with the theory of gravity when an apple fell & hit his head.

Now, why is one fruit so important? Why didn't Adam & Eve eat an orange? Why didn't Eris throw a golden pineapple? Why wasn't Snow White tricked into eating a poisonous kumquat? This isn't rhetorical; I'm actually asking why the apple plays such an important role? I also want to know what other tales & stories of apples being used as a plot device there are.