Artist Philip Hartigan talks about art, interviews other artists, and more
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On opera singers and acting
My opera-singer reader Faith Puleston replied to my dig at the level of acting in opera as follows:
"There are acting singers and singing actors in opera. Some opera singers can't act at all (and often don't know it), while others, like me, love the dual challenge of being both actor and singer. It was reflected in reviews of my work. I'll look for some and post them to my website. These days much more is expected of opera singers than used to be the case, but I know that for me it was always of paramount importance to get under the skin of my character, sometimes at the expense of purity of vocal line etc. The problem is that there are moments in opera when it is impossible to gamble around and sing, when time stands still. Opera arias are more or less the equivalent of monologues in a play."
In my original post on this subject, I was kidding slightly, but I take Faith's point. There are and have been great dramatic actors and actresses in opera. Maria Callas was one great example - in fact her acting ability was admired enough by Pasolini that he cast her in a film as, I think, Medea. In contemporary opera, Nathalie Dessay has gone so far as to say that acting is at least as important as the singing in opera to her. But ultimately, I agree with Faith that a decent level of acting on the operatic stage is desirable, but when it comes down to it, it's about the singing, and you can't fake it when the moment arrives, the conductor cues you in, you fill your lungs with air, and you have to ride the wave of nerves and adrenalin to make those amazing lines of sound in the air, and, if the composer so wishes, to run from the highest note in your range to the lowest. As an illustration, here is Joan Sutherland singing 'O rendetemi la speme' from 'I Puritani', in possibly one of the greatest ever performances of one of the greatest ever arias:
Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:
Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.
Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.
A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…
I am extremely pleased that poet and author Gerard Woodward agreed to be interviewed for this series. Gerard and my wife, Patty, were colleagues for a short while at the end of 2008, when Patty taught for one semester at Bath Spa University, where Gerard is a faculty member in the Creative Writing program. Gerard spent the spring semester of 2011 in Chicago on a reciprocal visit. Gerard has published poetry, short-stories, and novels. "Householder", his 1991 collection of poetry, won the Somerset Maugham Award in the UK, and his novel "I'll Go to bed at Noon" was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. Of his most recent novel, "Nourishment", The Daily Telegraph reviewer wrote: "It is a novel to be savoured, and Woodward is a novelist to be treasured." It turns out that in addition to his success as a writer, Gerard started his adult life in art college, and still draws and paints when he can. So here, from a writer's point of view…