performance art

Making Connections Between Music and Visual Art

I had coffee recently with cello-player-extraordinaire Nat Chaitkin. Nat plays cello everywhere in Cincinnati, it seems- with the Cincinnati Symphony, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, and through his music advocacy program, Bach and Boombox, all over the city. Those facts do not begin to do him or his playing justice, though. Nat wants to change the way people experience and perceive classical music, and everything he does is geared towards breaking down the walls between musicians and audience. He tells his students to find the story in the music they are playing, for all music tells some kind of story. Figuring out what the story is requires imagining something that becomes visual. Conjuring up something visual, even if the story is only seen in the mind's eye, is something that visual artists can relate to.

Nat told me about an experience he had had at one of Cincinnati's street festivals with a woman who has synesthesia. Her form of this condition is such that when she hears music, she sees colors that change as the notes change. Nat ended up playing music in different keys, while she drew what she was "seeing" on the pavement with colored chalk. It is just one example of how music and visual art connect.

Here is Nat's full blog post about the encounter:


Most photographers don't consciously think about how the sounds that exist in the environment in which they are photographing might affect what and how they photograph. This is too bad, because of course the sounds (and smells and tactile qualities) that surround us affect our experience of that environment, and thus affect the kind of art we make from it.

Nat's experience is a reminder that visual artists should try to remain aware of all of our senses as we create our work, and not just rely on our eyes or our brains.

The Artist vs. The Creative Entrepreneur

I read a great article in this month's edition of The Atlantic magazine titled "The Death of The Artist and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur", by William Deresiewicz. In it, he states that "the image of the artist has changed radically over the centuries. What if the latest model to emerge means the end of art as we have known it?" He starts his discussion by pointing out that artists were initially seen as artisans. That evolved into the artist as genius, then later the artist as professional. The model that is currently emerging in the early 21st century, according to Deresiewicz, is that of the "creative entrepreneur", someone who acts not only as the creator, but who also markets, bills, advertises, etc., instead of having someone else (ex. an employer) do it for her/him.

Deresiewicsz goes on to suggest how the artwork itself might change as a result of this shift. Having taught a class in fine arts professional practices for many years, and having experienced this shift first hand as an artist, I have to say that I agree with the author's perceptions about the change that is going on for artists today. It is like being on shifting sands all the time, as the way the game is played seems to change constantly, albeit in sometimes subtle ways that are not immediately comprehended.

Artists I Like- Dario Robleto

The best things often happen when you aren't looking for anything to happen at all. On a whim, I turned on the radio to an NPR station the other day, and almost instantly forgot my surroundings because I became so focused on the interview I was hearing. Dario Robleto, a conceptual artist who makes primarily sculptural pieces but does not limit himself by media, was talking with Krista Tippet for On Being, a radio show and blog based on examining the fundamental question: "What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?" What Robleto had to say about memory, art, depression, history, relationships, etc. spoke to me deeply. He values words as much as art objects and it's clear that he thinks a lot about the origins and execution of his work. What else can I say?! Listen to the podcast and prepare to be moved.

The Sun Remembers Your Shadow, 2012


FotoFocus Shows I've Seen- #2 (Sheilah Wilson)

Another show that made a big impression on me during FotoFocus was "Sheilah Wilson: If Becoming This" at the Herndon Gallery at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH. This exhibit contained a variety of work by the Nova Scotia native, who currently teaches at Denison University. She states that her "...photographic, video, social practice and performance work is interested in narrative and how to create ruptures in our understandings of narrative." That perfectly describes the work in this show. To that, I would add that she is interested in how history and memory are intertwined. One example of that is  "The Invisible Inside the Visible". This piece consists of one photograph, a written piece, and a sound recording. The large aerial color photograph  shows a bit of ocean, the shoreline, and a piece of farmland that has meandering white lines (cow paths) through it. The eye is drawn to another white line, this one a large, regular oval that disappears as it gets close to the shore. This is what remains of a racetrack that used to be there. The written wall plaque explains how Wilson found the racetrack, and on the sound recording, you can hear the voices of  the locals who are describing how she could find it. The combination of sound, writing, and visual evidence compels the viewer to think about the shifting nature of memory, and of how the land itself can be a powerful repository of memory.

Another piece, made for the series "You Are My Favorite Photograph", was the result of a performance that Wilson did when the show opened. Viewers wrote down a significant memory on a piece of paper. Wilson then laid down a piece of traditional light-sensitive photographic paper onto a bed she had installed in the gallery, put the written sheet under it, and slept on them overnight. (Multiple prints from this series are seen below.)

The resulting crinkly print, when developed, revealed mysterious shades and streaks of black, gray and white, which suggest the nebulous nature of memory itself.

I could write far more about other works in this show that were entirely different than the ones described above and just as powerful, but suffice it to say that the work of Sheilah Wilson is inventive, thought-provoking, and entirely alive.

The show is up at the Herndon Gallery until November 16. Go if you can!