Friday, November 11, 2011

A Fresh Look at Howard Pyle at DAM

The Buccaneer Was a
Picturesque Fellow, 1905
Though it may be hard to believe for those of us who've grown up visiting the Delaware Art Museum, Howard Pyle isn't a Rembrandt-level superstar outside of the Delaware Valley. Pyle may no longer be a household name to the rest of the world, but his impact on modern culture extends far beyond the walls of 2301 Kentmere Parkway.

Take pirates, for example -- few images are as iconic in this century as the Pirates of the Carribean-style swashbucklers. The image we have of the pirates of legend doesn't come from actual-time paintings or photographs; real pirates simply weren't captured that way. It was Pyle who created the image (which directly influenced the style of Disney's Captain Jack Sparrow), using research from old books mixed with his own vision based on the text he was illustrating.

This method of taking existing material and turning it into something decidedly his own is at the heart of Howard Pyle: American Masters Rediscovered, the new special exhibition celebrating both the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the Delaware Art Museum and the centenary of Pyle's death.

Away they rode with clashing hoofs
and ringing armor, 1888
If you've spent a lot of time at the Art Museum, you're probably intimately familiar with the paintings in the Pyle collection (I have a "Flying Dutchman" magnet on my refrigerator -- doesn't everyone?). If you think you've seen it all, you may be right -- but you haven't seen it like this. Rediscovered shows Pyle's work in a new way, interspersed with pieces by his contemporaries such as Thomas Eakins, Jean-Leon Gérôme and Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, from whom he took inspiration to create his varying illustrative styles that captured the Middle Ages, Fairy Tales and Fantasy, and historical America. The guest pieces are displayed on gold panels to to set them apart from Pyle's work. Don't skip the descriptions next each painting, especially if you think you know everything about the work -- you don't.

 Howard Pyle: American Masters Rediscovered runs from November 12 to March 4, 2012. Also be sure to tour the newly-redesigned illustration galleries -- with much of the Pyle collection relocated for the retrospective, rarely-seen pieces from the museum's collection are on display.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pick of the November Art Loop

By Owen Napier, Jr.
Owen Napier, Jr.  is not your ordinary photographer and printmaker.  A bookbinder by trade, Napier practices the Japanese art of three dimensional decoupage called papier tole. This gives his photographs a startling layered and textured effect.  Napier was gracious to all the visitors who came to the Christina Cultural Art Center for the November Art Loop,  going out of his way to greet them and explain how he puts the intricate layers together to make his work.  One photograph was on display as a one dimensional work just above its companion papier tole image- showing the viewer the startling difference in texture and realism. (MD)

By Brian Marshall
Robots have invaded Poppycock Tattoo at 8th and Orange... again! Found object artist Brian Marshall's whimsy-cool Adopt-a-Robots surrounded the floor, from tiny shampoo bottle 'bots to large metal cowboys and knights, and everything in between. If you haven't come across Adopt-a-Robots before, they must be seen to be believed. Ordinary household (and sometimes industrial) objects are bound together to create artificial humanoids with amazing personality. In addition to the sculptures, the gallery featured a selection of robot-themed paintings, drawings and photomanipulations by Tina Marabito, Pat Higgins, Baron Von Reign, Dave Mele, Eric Hendrickson and 3EYES, plus tunes spun by DJ Zip. (HQ)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

OperaDelaware opens with Magic Flute

Although they had produced Mozart’s Magic Flute in the recent past, OperaDelaware put a new spin on this latest production. They started in an 18th Century art museum and had Prince Tamino wake up in the 1950s. This made way for some silliness which was fun and still in keeping with the comic intent of the master who created it.

Alok Kumar played Tamino with the same strength and vigor he had given to Alfredo Germont in last year’s La Traviata. His very strong voice and thorough preparation for the role made his character believable in spite of the extremes to which the opera goes to promote the principles of the Masons.

The three ladies of the Queen of the Night (Veronica Chapman-Smith, Melody Wilson and Charlotte Paulsen) stole the show for me with their close harmony, perfectly paced singing and gestures. Their comic romps were hilarious and kept everyone laughing.

The ladies were perfect foils for Papageno, brilliantly played by Sean Anderson. Anderson is not only an excellent singer, but also a great comic. He actually played harmonica rather than letting the orchestra dub his miming, and this bolstered the effect of his comic role. His voice blended seamlessly in his duet with Pamina (Susan Nelson) and his comic verve provided a vector for her to show her comic side, too.

Susan Nelson has a beautiful and well-trained voice and was able to convey a wide gamut of emotion in her singing and her acting. She has control, expression and strength enough to come through strong and clear in her duets with Tamino, the musical culmination of the show.

A fun and polished performance supported by an excellent orchestra was made all the more immediate to me by Stefan Kozinksi and Nicolas Muni’s skillfully wrought English translation of Emanuel Schikander’s original German. The next performances are Friday, November 4 and Saturday, November 5 at 7:30 at the Grand Opera House.