Monday, June 23, 2008

Play About Louise Nevelson

"Three Lives Inspire the Portrayal of a Complex Artist"

New York Times Review of “Edward Albee’s Occupant” . Play presented by the Signature Theater Company at the Peter Norton Space on West 42nd Street thru July 13th.

“This was the first place I came,” Mercedes Ruehl says, looking around the small white pentagonal chapel that Louise Nevelson designed for St. Peter’s Church in Midtown Manhattan...

“It has a kind of teeming silence,” she says. She gets up and walks to the relief on the east wall. “This was the piece that fascinated me.” The Frieze of the Apostles. “They were fishermen, so I see some imagery that relates to that. Boats maybe, and I saw shores — it’s like Manhattan and New Jersey — but maybe the Sea of Galilee.”

...In a few hours she will exchange the jeans and top for more exotic fashions, a brightly colored kimono, a large black hat and two pairs of false eyelashes — sable — to portray this legendary sculptor in the Signature Theater’s production, which runs through July 13.

When asked to step into a part that Mr. Albee had originally envisioned for Anne Bancroft before her illness and death, Ms. Ruehl knew little of Nevelson’s bric-a-brac assemblages. So she read biographies, collected art books, tracked down audio and video tapes, and interviewed friends, like Nevelson’s dealer Arnold Glimcher, and Mr. Albee, of course, who was close to the artist for more than 40 years before she died in 1988 at the age of 88.

When Ms. Ruehl infused Nevelson with too much joy or laughter, Mr. Albee told her to be fierce. There is a moment in the play when the interviewer (Larry Bryggman) asks if it was a good life, and she responds, “Some; parts of it; enough; yes: enough.”
Rain Garden II
Ms. Ruehl remembers walking with Mr. Albee to the opening-night party. “He stopped in the street and said, ‘Remember,’ and he did it for me. ‘Tough. Enough; yeah: enough.’ I saw what he was saying: Don’t have a drop of sentiment in there. Every inch earned. That’s Edward too. He’s saying line up with the two of us.”

...The Louise Nevelson that theatergoers witness onstage is a blend of three different biographies, Ms. Ruehl said. First there is the character’s own story, which in the case of Nevelson is a spirited blur of fact and self-invention.

Then there is the biography imagined by the playwright, who is using the Nevelson character to tell his own story, Ms. Ruehl continued, and finally, there is the actor’s own autobiographical reflection.

“One thing all three of us had, poignantly and deeply, is a theme of mothers and sons,” Ms. Ruehl said.

Mr. Albee painfully bared aspects of the tense relationship with his own adoptive mother before in his 1994 Pulitzer-Prize winning play “Three Tall Women.” Nevelson was burdened with having largely deserted her son in the single-minded pursuit of her art.

She was torn between two creative acts, her sculpture and raising a child, Ms. Ruehl said, and “she was ruthlessly honest about having seriously and permanently injured a life.”

...At one point in the play Nevelson says: “With any luck you turn into whoever you want to be. And with even better luck you become who you should be.” Nevelson did, but it came at a steep price.

“She is someone who’s living at a deep and dangerous level,” Ms. Ruehl said. “I could not have lived her life.”

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Berthe Morisot

I got to looking through images of Berthe Morisot's paintings and I came across this one, Mother and Sister of the Artist:

The way the mother in black has such a strong geometric presence reminded me of Whistler's Mother Arrangement in Grey and Black. Actually - I think that Morisot's "arrangement" seems more interesting - partly because it seems more likely to have happened in real life (she makes it look more natural) - and the diagonal of the black creates more of a impression.

Morisot's was painted a year or two before Whistler's:

Whistler knew Morisot and Manet. I expect that it's highly likely that Whistler saw Morisot's painting. It's interesting to consider some of the influences. It's also interesting how highly Whistler is regarded as if he were so influential. He had created paintings such as "The White Girl" previous to this - and undoubtalby there was cross influencing.

The Wikipedia page on Berthe Morisot makes mention of her influence on Manet:

It was Morisot who convinced Manet to attempt plein air painting, which she had been practicing since having been introduced to it by Corot.

She also drew Manet into the circle of painters who soon became known as the Impressionists.

Morisot is one of my favorite artists. The way she painted suggests air and atmosphere - inside a room. She had her own way of bringing a painting to life. It's interesting to know of her influence on other important artists. It's a shame that women's influences too often go unrecognized and/or unmentioned.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mary Cassatt

I recently watched the movie Mary Cassatt: A Brush with Independence.

The movie emphasized the aspect of feminism in her artwork. Her subject matter of women and babies was meant to elevate women and what women do. I think it does have that effect. Seeing her subjects along with paintings of wars, for instance, in musuems - there is that sense that her subjects are just as important as any other.

The movie also compared Manet's "Boating" painting with Cassatt's "Boating Party".



Cassatt's focus on the woman's expression, the addition of the child. In Manet's - the painting seems to be all about the man - and the woman is texture. It's interesting that she created that as a response.

I think that Mary Cassatt's version of boating seems more like Manet's normal style than his does. The emphasis on shapes that are barely modeled - like the black of the man, the sail, the woman's hat.

I've noticed some bios seem to emphasize her "bitterness" in later years. Others that she was involved in woman's suffrage and mentoring women.

She lost most of her sight in her later years and she was unhappy with the direction art was going. But she accomplished a lot. For a woman to become internationally known as an artist is rare. She may be the best known woman artist.

So many women artists figure that they have to choose motherhood or art. Cassatt chose art and made paintings of motherhood. Berthe Morisot, from the same time managed to marry, have a child and paint. But that was considered extremely unusual.

I have touched with a sense of art some people – they felt the love and the life. Can you offer me anything to compare to that joy for an artist?

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)