A fond adieu to 2017

I’ve already told you my Top 20 favorite cultural events for 2017. Now here are a couple of year-ender wrap-up lists that I can’t resist:

My favorite stories of the year

My criteria: It’s completely subjective. I just like how these stories came out. For some, it was the fun in reporting them, and for others the joy in writing them. (Note: Because of my hybrid year — working through May as the Fresno Bee’s arts reporter, and the remainder of the year in my new role at The Munro Review — you’ll find stories from both platforms.) Here they are in chronological order:

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In the moment of totality: my photograph taken from Mary’s Peak in central Oregon on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo / The Munro Review

In Delphi, a mysterious past provokes navel gazing: In this travel piece from Greece, I visit the strangely moody location where the famed oracles changed the ancient world.

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Now streaming: the January episode of ‘The Munro Review’

A special thanks to the cast of Selma Arts Center’s “Spring Awakening” for being my January guests on “The Munro Review,” produced by the Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC). I interview director Dominic Grijalva and actors Kindle Lynn Cowger and Kai DiMino about the production, which opens Jan. 26, and host two musical performances from the entire cast. They sound great. You don’t want to miss it.

Plus, I recap my coverage of Good Company’s “A Christmas Carol,” Fresno State’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” CMT’s “Annie,” Good Company’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” and Audra McDonald’s upcoming concert with the Fresno Philharmonic. And I preview Good Company’s “Sense and Sensibility” and “Annie,” tell you about a quirky little show called “Calculus: The Musical,” discuss the upcoming national tour of “Kinky Boots,” and give a shout-out to the Fresno Art Museum’s winter exhibitions.

You can watch the episode on demand on YouTube (above). And you can see it on broadcast TV on CMAC 1 (Comcast 93, AT&T 99) the following dates:

Monday, January 1 – 8:00 pm
Wednesday, January 3 – 8:00 pm
Friday, January 5 – 2:30 pm
Sunday, January 7 – 12:30 pm


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Joan Schulze breaks new ground with quilting and collage

Fresno Art Museum’s Distinguished Woman Artist of 2017 celebrates 80-plus-1 years in a new exhibition. She’ll speak at the museum on Thursday

Eleven years ago, when the acclaimed quilt and collage artist Joan Schulze turned 70, she wrote a poem. This was not out of character. She considers herself both a visual artist and poet. Often for her the two art forms complement each other, blending into something greater than the sum of the parts. She ended her birthday poem with the lines:

Stay afloat
Who’s the wild one?

People seemed to get a kick out of that.

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“It apparently set everybody off thinking that 70 wasn’t such a bad thing,” she tells me.

I’m sitting with Schulze on a bench in the middle of her Fresno Art Museum exhibition, which she will talk about in an “Art in the Afternoon” lecture 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2. Schulze is the museum’s Council of 100 Distinguished Woman Artist of 2017, a slightly unwieldy title, but an important one. Around us are her artworks: on one wall, the triptych “Opus,” the largest collage she’s ever done; and on another a 15-work collage series titled “Mt. Fuji.” She has worked long and hard on this show, and she’s proud of it.

The title? “Joan Schulze: Celebrating 80.”

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Sept. 21)

Options include new exhibitions at the Fresno Art Museum and Armenian Museum, two chamber music concerts and a closing reception at Corridor 2122

(Note: I’m posting this a day earlier than usual because of a Thursday night option.)

The Fresno Art Museum has a venerable tradition: Each year a museum group called the Council of 100 selects an outstanding woman artist over the age of 60 to celebrate. The artist traditionally lives 100 miles or more away from Fresno. This year’s honor goes to a prominent Bay Area fiber artist who just had her 80th birthday. (What a way to celebrate!) The exhibition “Joan Schulze: Celebrating 80” opens with a reception on Friday, Sept. 22.

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Delicate quilting: Joan Schulze’s “Not So Long Ago.” Photo / Fresno Art Museum

There’s another exhibition opening as well: selections from the famed AIDS Memorial Quilt cared for by the NAMES Project Foundation. The show is a partnership by the museum and the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

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Politics, art and marriage

Prompted by spirited discussions with her husband, Leslie Batty finds her political voice in “Redress” at the Fresno Art Museum

In “Redress,” Leslie Batty’s politically charged new exhibition at the Fresno Art Museum, there are no self-portraits. But you do get to meet the artist’s husband. A work titled “Man Descending Staircase” prominently features a nearly life-size Dustin Batty. He is depicted as a tall, handsome, elegantly dressed figure wearing a vintage dark suit at the top of a luxurious looking staircase. He’s as chiseled and dapper as a character in “Mad Men.”

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Five friends: Leslie Batty’s exhibition “Redress” includes a series of portraits of close friends modeled on Michelangelo’s sibyls from the Sistine Chapel. Photo / Michael Karibian

The painting — which the artist affectionately refers to as “The Dustin” — was first inspired by a photograph that she snapped of him in a Madrid apartment building they were staying at while on a European vacation. She loved the composition and the light.

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Restyling memories

A gorgeous new retrospective of work by Nancy Youdelman at the Fresno Art Museum captures the spectacle and solemnity of one of the Fresno area’s top artists

Near the end of Edith Wharton’s bleakly beautiful 1905 novel “The House of Mirth,” the main character — a financially struggling socialite named Lily Bart — rummages through a trunk of her old clothes. Inside are expensive dresses she wore to various elegant events when she occupied a higher rung on the social ladder. Now they are musty and forlorn.

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Nancy Youdelman’s ‘Speaking in Colors, 2015.’ Photo / Michael Karibian

As Lily looks at the extravagant gowns, Wharton writes, the scenes in which she wore them rise vividly before her. Each one transports her, if only for a moment, somewhere other than the drudgery of the present. These aren’t just clothes; each one is like a sort of personal archaeological artifact. Wharton writes: “An association lurked in every fold: each fall of lace and gleam of embroidery was like a letter in the record of her past.”

Nancy Youdelman, one of the Fresno area’s most important and best known artists, loves that line in “The House of Mirth.” It’s one of her favorites in all literature. The quotation helps explain the way she can take a discarded dress or shoe and with a practiced eye and flash of creativity turn it into a compelling sculptural object.

One of the highlights of her long-awaited and richly deserved new retrospective at the Fresno Art Museum, titled “Fashioning a Feminist Vision,” is seeing how Youdelman’s techniques have evolved over almost 50 years. She encrusts the garments she uses — all of them second-hand, many purchased on eBay or local thrift shops — with a variety of found objects, resulting in meaningful mixed-media creations. Buttons, dried flowers, costume jewelry, broken pieces of glass and anonymous vintage photos figure prominently in her later works. She’s perfected the technique of using encaustic, a natural resin reheated on a pancake griddle, to transform flimsy fabric into works of rigidity and permanence. The pieces feel as if they could hang on museum walls for hundreds of years.

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The stars at night are big and bright

StageWorks Fresno offers a fundraising night of food, drink and musical performances

StageWorks Fresno transformed the Fresno Art Museum’s sculpture garden into a Broadway cabaret Saturday night at “Theatre Under the Stars,” the non-profit company’s big annual fundraiser. I collected digital autographs of StageWorks performers and artistic personnel. For videos of some of the performances, check out my Instagram Story. Find me on Instagram at @donaldmunroarts (and follow me!).


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Donald’s list: weekend choices (May 19)

Cristobal Selamé performs at Bitwise, Bach Children’s Choir offers spring concert, and the Fresno Art Museum opens new exhibitions

On my list for promising cultural weekend options:

Classical guitar

Bitwise Industries is transforming the local technology industry, and it’s becoming a player in the cultural scene as well thanks to its 160-seat John W. Dodson Theater. The venue hosts Chilean classical guitar virtuoso Cristobal Selamé in a Sunday concert.

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Classical guitarist: Cristobal Selamé will play at Bitwise. Photo / cristobalselameguitar.com

The event, which is sponsored by California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics — Central Valley District, benefits the Helena Kennedy Memorial Scholarship for Fresno State dietetic and nutrition students. Selamé is Helena Kennedy’s nephew.

From the organizers:

The 21-year- old Selamé recently completed studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music under legendary Brazilian guitarist and composer Sérgio Assad, a Grammy Award winner who called his pupil an “upcoming new master.” Selamé has won a number of important classical guitar competitions and was recently accepted into the master’s program at the prestigious Academy of Music in Darmstadt, Germany, under the instruction of the world-renowned musician Tilman Hoppstock.

Sounds like a great opportunity for classical guitar fans, and it’s a worthy cause. (And no extra calories.) Details: 2 p.m. Sunday, May 21, Bitwise South Stadium. $15 in advance through Eventbrite and $17 on the day of the event if tickets remain.

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