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:
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…
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.
I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.
Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations: Most of this is…