Friday, November 02, 2012

Jane & Julia

It looks like my Jane Sibbery singing Calling All Angels didn't embed in the post from yesterday.  It's

And below - is her doing something more akin to what I saw last night.


She played this small club in LA, Molly Malone's, with Julia Fordham, who is doing a residency there. They both did their big hits from the early nineties, Julia singing back-up on this, as well as "The Temple" and "Love is Everything".  Gorgeous songs. Hearing Julia Fordham singing "Manhattan Skyline" live was wonderful, and I still know every word twenty years later. Loved that album. Her voice is velvet.

I had seen Jane Siberry live in NY at a Joni Mitchell tribute, and also at the Bottom Line in a songwriter's roundtable with Janis Ian and Cheryl Wheeler. She seems prickly - at one point she stopped playing a song because the audience laughed - she seemed truly annoyed. At the same time, she can't help but be charming. What I love about her is just that.  She's vulnerable, seemingly all feeling and impulse.  I'd say I can't imagine it's an easy way to be, but frankly I have no idea - it could be blissful.  She seems very present. Julia Fordham was, too, as well as Tim Boothe from James, who played some new songs.

I realize what a privilege it is to have people share something like that with you.  You forget (or maybe I do, since I tend to discount when I do it) how vulnerable it is to be up on stage. I've always been able to hide behind a character, and it's only recently in performing a few times as myself, either singing or telling stories, that I see how nerve-wracking it is.  Not like I didn't have stage fright, but when you're trying so desperately to create something else out of yourself to become a character, you forget how naked it is to just be up in front of people.  Especially when you are in front of people performing something you composed.

I'm blathering, but I will say the first time I performed just telling a story about myself and singing, I was so nauseated I thought I was going to throw up. I've been going on stages since I was thirteen and I'm in my mid-forties; I cannot recall ever feeling this sick. I'm a little sick even linking it - ha.

Jane (I'm going to assume a familiarity I don't have), spoke about what she used to think was stage fright was actually excitement, and her body's adrenaline system shifting into a different mode.  I see that I extrapolated earlier from how she was on stage that she was that way in life - truly I don't know. I am grateful as an audience member that she was that open - and to the other two performers as well. It is not easy - reams have been written about it.

Tim Boothe was wearing a t-shirt with Patti Smith on it. Fitting.  She's one of the people I've seen who just is so herself it's breathtaking. I suppose that's what it is.  Part of the performance is probably being vulnerable without letting yourself get hurt - paradoxically it takes a great deal of confidence to be that vulnerable.  I do love all kinds of performance, but there's a special place in my heart for voices and guitar.

And if you don't know Jane Siberry's album "When I Was A Boy", then get it. I think it's about grief, but it's about much and feels revealed almost. That's part of the art of it.  You know it was crafted, but it feels delivered in one piece from somewhere that wants to reveal a secret we all should know. That's art, I guess.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Calling All Angels

I cannot stop thinking about New York (and the rest of the East) and how they are dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane.  I was downtown in NY for September 11th, and I remember being shocked and a little annoyed at the force of feelings the rest of the country had about the event.  We were the ones affected, after all, so what was so disturbing?  I was younger. Probably in shock. And that whole event was wrapped up in nationalism, attack, a known enemy. I understand more now, though, being a continent away and worried for friends and the city itself.

Here the enemy is something we cannot band together and rail against. We can only hope to recover. I feel impotent being unable to do anything as I see the photos of people discovering bodies, standing in endless lines, struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy in the face of such overwhelming disaster. I cannot fathom lower Manhattan underwater. I won't go into my feelings about global warming, but two hurricanes in two years is not a comforting trend.

Anyone who has lived in New York has a relationship to it; it's a city that feels almost like a person.  When we left, my friend Erin and I did a show called "Breaking up with New York" because it felt like the end of a relationship, albeit a one-sided one for the most part. For the country, it's where we keep many of our dreams and stories. It's our history; the birth of the financial district, labor unions, where the draft riots happened, where many of our ancestors first touched down.  It's the Statue of Liberty and her message of hope and sanctuary.  It's Broadway.

I am looking, and finding, stories of human triumph.  It is difficult to watch from this side of the country, though, and be powerless to do anything. You can donate to New York Cares or the New York Food Bank.  You can call your friends and let them know you are thinking of them and pray that they are safe. I never thought I'd be grateful for facebook, but it's been so helpful.  You can remember that New Yorkers (I'm including the tri-state area here) are incredibly resilient, and band together in a crisis.  I suppose we all do as Americans.  We're heterogenous in so many ways, but we're scrappy. I like that about us. I love that about us.

My heart is with all my friends there, as are my worries right now. I hope they have power soon. I know there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. I hope this is not a trend.

Do what you can, call who you need, and be grateful to those around you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

9th Circle?

One of the oldest gay bars in New York City was called The Ninth Circle. I don't actually know if it still exists.  I think it may be closed.  I'm also not sure what the Ninth Circle is, except that I expect it's a Dante reference (leave it to the urbane gays of the 60s and 70s). Here.  Let me check.

Did you miss me? Here's an answer. I love that about the internet - you didn't even know I was gone.  Anyhow, looks like it's the worst circle - for the traitors, like Judas, and in the center is Satan. Or, in slang, the place where things can't get worse.  Leave it to the gays to come up with a name like that for a bar.  I love that. In the sixties. That's called gallows humor, folks.

I digress. This post is really just about boring old writer's block. It's not even writer's block as I am obviously stringing words together right now. It's outlining.  Our hero (I'm casting myself in this role, just for today), would rather fling words and stories out into the universe like so many rubber bands than outline, a process that is needed when one is writing a script.  A pilot, to be exact. I've been wondering if pilot-writing has its own circle. Like, 2 1/2. Room 222. In hell.

Now, never having outlined really that much before, I want to skip it. But I can't. I can't because the outline, I'm finding, is where you actually craft what's happening - where you come up with taut, interesting, interconnected stories; and where you wander around in circles feeling a little like you are chasing your tail. Or pushing a boulder uphill only to have it fall back when you get it near the top; like you're waiting for that thirst to be quenched but as soon as you bend down to take a drink the water is lowered.  That might be the sixth circle, actually.

Yes, The sixth circle. I was right. Did I mention that you spend a lot of time looking up fascinating but ultimately useless information on the internet?  And thought I was pretty up on The House of Atreus, but who knew that it all started with Tantalus? I do now, and so do you. I hope it brings you peaceful dreams.  Did I mention the dreams?  There's a fair amount of walking in circles, staring into space, cleaning things that don't need to be cleaned while ignoring the things that really do, fantasizing about reorganizing and possibly moving, but at least repainting, and finally, maybe, sitting down in front of an empty sheet of paper. And being plagued with doubts.

And did I mention writing blog posts?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I've always been interested in the myth of Daphne. It's never made a lot of sense, but I'm fascinated by it.  I wrote this a bit ago. Don't poetize much for fear it's awful (since I don't know poetry), but sharing nonetheless -

Why did Daphne run away?
Easier to root yourself to the ground and ask for help from the heavens -
than give into the god pressuring you,
frightened by his hard desire, his lithe pursuit -
effortlessly endless pursuit -
laughing and reassuring,
while you -  panting, terrified -
would rather become an eternal wooden supplicant
than give into his human need.
Why did you run?

Friday, May 04, 2012

A Curation

Oh, boy it's been a while.

I was in St. Louis this past week, and saw a great photography exhibit at the St. Louis Museum of Art.  The exhibit, an Orchestrated Vision, is a collection of large scale contemporary photography playing with ideas of performance and reality, its subtitle is "The Theater of Contemporary Photography."  If you're in St. Louis, you should check it out.  Except for a notable absence of Cindy Sherman in the section about the artist as subject (that must have been too obvious if I noticed it, and she's currently got a retrospective at MoMA, so probably all tied up there), I thought it was a great exhibit.

Or and?

I just have an issue with curator speak when it comes to contemporary art of any kind. I get it. I've taken performance theory seminars. Like, a lot of them.  And perhaps why it bothers me that there is this intermediary in most contemporary art that evades the informative to err on the side of the pedantic or possibly the condescending.  Most of it I feel is obvious. Some is reaching. Some feels like its justifying its existence. Some feels like its justifying why you should be interested.  Any of these options feel like they don't leave a lot of room for whatever my reaction might be.  It's probably petty.  I'm at a point now where some of it makes me laugh.  It feels like some of the attempts at meaning are so far reaching that anything could be curated. I don't even mean to denigrate criticism - I read it, I enjoy it - it's illuminating.

So, since I know this is my issue, and I in no way intend to denigrate the hard work of the curator in assembling the show, I offer my own curated show below of photos I took in the lobby. Once again, this is just meant for a laugh, if you find this kind of thing funny. Rarified, probably, but it cracked me up to write it.  I hope you enjoy.

And, if the curator of the show above is reading this, it's nothing personal. I liked the show a lot. .  Critical language just cracks me up.


In this photograph, “Nobles 1”, the artist uses visual metaphor and machine to displace our feelings of the familiar, placing mundane objects otherwise ignored in the center of the frame.  The feeling is further enhanced by a patron walking away from the object at the center of the frame, herself just as easily passed by as the floor polisher.  The rail bisects the image further, asking us to consider the possibility of binaries and divisions. Without question, the play on the term “noble” intends to confuse our sense of the exalted as well. The scaffolding further enhances the sense of isolation.

In “Nobles 2”, the artist changes the point of view to bring the  mundane floor polisher to an almost comical sense of prominence in the frame.  The tension between object and art is further amplified by the sculpture in the far background, making us question our own acceptance of what is considered art.  Were the components of the floor polisher at one time just as sculpted as the two figures that would, in real scale, dwarf it?  The watery reflection mirrors the oceanic gulf between objects, emphasizing the barren field of polished stone and the rail around that field, which further enhance the sense of isolation and ironic distance.

In “White panel/Dressing Screen” the artist whimsically calls into question our acceptance of art and object, a theme in his work.  The white panel, calling to mind the work of Kazimir Malevich, is a refiguring of a wall used for possible future display into a piece of art itself.  The panel next to it, used to hide the construction from the museum-goer, calls to mind elaborate Asian privacy screens, on display in a nearby gallery. The sense of menacing sexuality is palpable. Immediately the viewer begins to question what is being hidden. The off-kilter framing further increases the sense of isolation.

n “UNtitled, V1.6”, the artist explores the seemingly random tourist photo, but displacing our expectation by odd framing and subject choice.  The words “smallest” and “subject” are blown out and large to the point of almost illegibility, heightening the intention of dramatizing the mundane.  Further layering the image are the books of other celebrated photographers, asking us to reĂ«xamine our relation to their work in illuminating the “smallest subject”.  The overhead lighting further enhances the sense of isolation.

In “Scaffold, Grill, Fire Alarm”, the artist obfuscates our expectation of a clear view framed in the arch.  The use of construction material scaffolding is once again an object lesson, frustrating our clear view of what is beyond the immediate. The ordered organization of the duct grill above is mirrored and enlarged by the scaffolding; a stand-in for the multitude of ways clarity is frustrated by everyday objects.  By calling out the fire alarm in the title, the artist further rattles our security, increasing the feeling of isolation and emergency.

In “Better Burger”, the artist continues his interest in gridwork began with “Scaffold, Grill, Fire Alarm”.  The pieces of discarded clothing and to-go cup suggest a recently departed worker, but there is no one in sight. The apparatus in the background is unplugged and unused.  The fine metalwork in the scaffold is mirrored in the floor, bring a sense of infinity, fatigue, and unending labor. The empty cup and discarded paper towel serve to increase our sense of isolation and disconnectedness.

In “Apotheosis of St. Louis”, the artist once again plays with the idea of tourist photo as begun in “UNtitled, V1.6”. In this instance, instead of photographing the Apotheosis of St. Louis, the majestic sculpture which stands outside the museum, the artist has chosen to photograph the small toy for sale in the museum gift shop. The artist suggests the obvious irony that the Apotheosis of St. Louis was not his fairness and ability as a ruler and only canonized King of France, but rather being a toy for sale in a gift shop. Emphasizing the reductive nature of commerce; the horse charging futilely into a styrofoam wall only heightens our sense of weltschmerz and isolation.

In “Corporate Partners Program” the artist whimsically juxtaposes Rodin’s figure of a man against the panel of museum donors. The gaunt figure is asking the viewer to join, while emphasizing the corporate nature of the enterprise. As in other work, the artist is re-contextualizing the work of other artists to reframe the objects themselves.  Both the corporate donor panel and the work by Rodin take on new meaning when viewed from this angle. The marble plinth only increases the sense of isolation.