Cathy Breslaw's Installation

Cathy Breslaw's Installation
Cathy Breslaw's Installation:Dreamscape

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Many Faces of Humanity Revealed - A Thousand Splendid Suns at the Old Globe Theater

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Old Globe Theater, San Diego
Through June  17th

Article by  Cathy Breslaw

The cast and musician and composer David Coulter              Photo by Jim Cox

Clamorous cheers and clapping erupted from the audience, when Rasheed, the shoemaker husband was killed by his first wife Mariam.  And, for good reason - Rasheed had been beating and often starving both Mariam and Laila, his second wife for years.  This poignant drama, highlighting the complex conditions of their untenable lives mostly takes place within the tight confines of their modest home and is what brought main characters Mariam(Denmo Ibrahim) and Laila(Nadine Malouf) together. It is also where their unlikely friendship grew into respect, love and loyalty to one another and from where the center of the story of A Thousand Splendid Suns unfolds.

The play is mostly set in Kabul Afghanistan during the Afghan Civil War(1989-1996) . After the Soviets left the country, militant groups turned against each other - while one group shelled Kabul from the surrounding hills, others fought to control neighborhoods.  Deadly roadblocks, disappearing neighbors and decaying bodies on the streets were common and it’s where the Taliban emerged to take control of most of the county. The Taliban issued edicts banning women from working, attending school and leaving home without male escort. Their bodies had to be covered head to toe or they would be brutally treated – public arenas became places of stoning, amputations, murders, and beheadings. This is the backdrop from which this play, directed by Carey Perloff, adapted by playwright Ursula Rani Sarma (originating from the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini ) evolved.

(from left) Nadine Malouf as Laila, Denmo Ibrahim as Mariam, and Nikita Tewani as Aziza
Photo by Jim Cox
Set against three generations of Afghan women in war torn Afghanistan , the themes of friendship, marriage, family, death, destruction, violence, loyalty, survival and hope are explored.  This is a play that can be difficult to digest due to its strong emotional and violent content. Expressing the many faces of humanity, it can also educate and inspire us.  The cast gave compelling and evocative performances. Equally important are the Set Designer (Ken Macdonald) , Lighting Designer(Robert Wierzel), Sound Designer(Jake Rodriguez) and Musical Composer (David Coulter), who performed his original music live, as they created a beautiful, enchanting and stimulating visual and sound space for audiences to experience a sometimes heartrending, haunting and horrific tale that we all realize has played out in ‘real life’  in many Afghan lives thousands of miles away.
(from left) Denmo Ibrahim as Mariam, Nadine Malouf as Laila, and Haysam Kadri as Rasheed  
Photo by Jim Cox

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Art and Alchemy Merge in Nancy Lorenz's Exhibition at San Diego Museum of Art

Nancy Lorenz: Moon Gold
San Diego Museum of Art
Thru September 3rd

Article by Cathy Breslaw

Nancy Lorenz     Palladium Relief 2017     Palladium leaf, clay, on burlap    2017

Moon Gold, organized by curator Ariel Plotek,  is a mid-career retrospective and first solo museum show for New York artist Nancy Lorenz. Her mostly large-scale paintings, installations, panel screens, drawings, sculptures and boxes include over 85 works, some of which were inspired by the San Diego Museum of Art Asian collection.  Having spent several years living in Japan as a young teen, Lorenz has been heavily influenced by the Japanese aesthetic. To earn a living, she was trained as a restorer of antique lacquer objects and simultaneously began using some of these same techniques in her art including the creation of large folding screens adorned with water-gilding and mother of pearl inlay, applying the gilding technique using palladium, platinum, yellow gold and silver. Lorenz also draws from her time studying in Italy from the traditional gilt artists and the influence of the 1960s’ Italian arte povera movement. Moon Gold Mountain (2018) for which the title of the exhibition originates, is a large vertical moon gold leaf, clay, cardboard painting on wood panel.  This abstract expressionistic work is typical of the themes and style of most of the works in the exhibition – suggestive gestural landscapes with various combinations of mountains, hills, skies, rain, wind and water elements.  Some of her works combine the use of accessible materials including cardboard, burlap, glass, wood, and jute string. Lorenz makes her own lacquer using shellac and pigment and uses a sculpting resin to transform packing cardboard into a ground for gilding and on these semi-corrugated surfaces, abstract scratches and patterns merge into landscape-like compositions . Her series called Pours is reminiscent of artist Lynda Benglis’s poured latex sculptures. Pours is a group of small works that include a mix of sumptuous, sensual gestures of water gilding gesso and blackened silver and red-gold on glass and cedar wood. One highlight of this exhibition is Rock Garden Room (2004) a twelve wood panel “room” using silver leaf, mother-of-pearl inlay, pigment, gesso and lacquer. Lorenz’s work has a connection to late Medieval and Renaissance gold ground panel painting. The works are part art, part alchemy – while altogether engaging and compelling, and well worth a visit.

History of Israel Seen Through Crafts and Design at the Mingei Museum at Balboa Park San Diego

Israel: 70 Years of Craft and Design
Mingei Museum, San Diego CA
Through September 3rd

Article by Cathy Breslaw
Alon Gill           Garden of Eden            ceramic            2014

Marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel curator Smadar Samson provides viewers with the story of Israel with an exhibition of craft and design objects.  The show includes over 125 objects, with a combination of works on loan from three museums, private collectors and over 80 artists. The exhibit begins and ends with the theme of light, a major element in Israeli culture, from Hannukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights to Haskalah, a 19th century Jewish Enlightenment that focused on secular learning and modern philosophy. Reflecting the diversity of a population heavily influenced by European and Arab cultures and old and new world sensibilities, these objects of everyday use range from the artifacts from the pre-state period with rare religious pieces to Yemenite jewelry, Bedouin textiles, contemporary garments, sustainable and industrial designs, and adornment incorporating ancient materials, furniture and ceramics. As a whole the exhibition highlights the wide range of ethnicities, races and cultural backgrounds that make up the country of Israel and the innovative artists whose works give a glimpse of Israeli life characterized by their collective and personal memory, restlessness, resourcefulness and the influences of globalization. Beginning with The Scroll of Esther, known as the Megillah, Finials(1882), Torah cases(1914), the Bezalel School Rug (1910) from an arts and crafts school created in the early 1900s’and other religious objects, the exhibit opens into a bright and colorful space with secular objects, many of which were created in the last five years. Rich colors exude from garments and textiles, clay and porcelain pieces, wood, 3-D printed objects and those using recycled materials. Some metal and ceramic works are influenced by the simplicity of the Bauhaus school while others include gestural and abstract patterning.  There is no particular Israeli style, rather a celebration of the creativity and skill of contemporary artists working and living in a country constantly challenged politically, socially, and economically and by the precariousness of its very existence.

A Delight to the Senses at the San Diego Museum of Art's "Art Alive 2018"

Art Alive 2018
San Diego Museum of Art
April  27th – 29th

Written by Cathy Breslaw

Central Rotunda, San Diego Museum of Art     Daniel Schultz, Natasha Lisitsa   fresh flowers, aluminum structure   2018

There is nothing more familiar nor more beautiful than a room full of flowers. Broadening that concept
exponentially and placing over 100 fresh floral arrangements in the spaces of the San Diego Museum of Art appeals to our senses. Beginning with the central rotunda of the museum lobby, the husband-wife team of Daniel Schultz and Natasha Lisitsa created a gold-coated aluminum accordion-shaped spiral extending from the second floor top of the central dome down through the center to the floor. An arrayed assortment of bunches  of white, cream, yellow, orange, pink ,and red flowers of many types along with varieties of greens cascaded through the metal structure as it moved slowly in circular motion. Art Alive, an annual fundraising event at SDMA, is a cherished tradition in its 37th year. Floral designers were tasked with selecting a piece of art in the museum’s permanent collection and to then create a floral interpretation of their chosen art objects.

Designers selected from paintings, sculptures, photographs, ancient art objects and furniture that peaked their imagination as viewing audiences in the thousands during the weekend stopped at each one to see and discuss what they thought about these floral arrangements.  Aside from the stimulating sight and scent of fresh flowers, the arrangements by the designers were an attempt to connect with the color, composition, and shapes of the forms in the art pieces.  While the most successful ones also reflected the spirit of the artwork, they each provided an intriguing transformation of what they observed in the art.  Whether visitors were there to support the museum or to view the floral arrangements, Art Alive is truly a unique and fun annual experience and begs the question: What will we see next year?.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Visit to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Georgia O’Keefe Museum
Santa Fe, NM

Written by Cathy Breslaw

Georgia O'Keefe       Black Holyhock Blue Larkspur     oil on canvas      1930

Visiting the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico is an opportunity to experience the work and career of one of the most significant American artists of the twentieth century.  In one of her writings, O’Keefe (1887-1986) stated: “Colors and shapes make a more definite statement than words” and her work consistently expresses this notion whether it be the abstractions of the New York skyscrapers of her early career or on toward the later part of her career and life expressing the exquisite beauty of the mountains, flowers and natural world in New Mexico.  Though she is known for her large scale flower paintings, O’Keefe’s work is much broader and focused on abstractions of the natural world that are a distillation of shapes, forms and colors that evoke a strong sense of place and reveal the impact that her immediate environment had on her and in cultivating her art practice.  O’Keefe’s life is the story of a woman artist driven to create and  forge her own interpretations of the world around her, living life on her own terms, creating abstracted landscapes inspired by nature.  Her prolific works of oil paintings, sculptures, watercolors and drawings are presented in the museum’s intimate galleries, each representing a period of her work, along with a video exploring her life. The museum also includes educational programs, workshops, and  coordinated visits to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, O’Keefe’s home and studio.

Tony Vaccaro    Georgia O'Keefe with "Pelvis Series, Red and Yellow   Chromagenic Print      1960

Georgia O'Keefe    Red Maple    Oil on Canvas    1922

Georgia O'Keefe    Horse's Skull with White Rose   Oil on Canvas   1931