Personal picks from the Bay Area arts menu: -more-
Arts & Events
Biographies of explorers and politicians fill us in on background, motivation, and influences we might not otherwise know. But biographies of artists are generally useless. The fact that Flaubert lived reclusively with his doting mother tells us nothing about the source of the cool poetic prose he developed to dissect complacent French provincial life; the dramatic love affair of Chopin and George Sand (for which that much abused woman usually gets a bad rap) gives us no insight into the sources of his music; the wondrous use of color in the paintings of Gauguin came, not because of his self-mythologizing, free-loading pedophilia (the Tahitian maidens were usually about 14) but in spite of his total lack of redeeming qualities. Artistic production is a mystery, emerging from a secret inner core only minimally affected by outside events. There are exceptions. Sometimes world events and the artist’s inner drive combine to feed one another, the history inspiring the artist, and the artist affecting the perception, if rarely the direction, of that history, as in the creation of historical novels.
The photography of Dorothea Lange is an example of this fruitful collision of inner and outer worlds. Author Linda Gordon starts with a disclaimer: she is a historian, not a biographer. Ideally, biographers should all be historians as well, and vice versa. But forced to choose, I would say that, in this case, a historian’s broad knowledge is more needed than details of Lange’s heritage or of photographic technique—because Lange’s life and accomplishment were very much driven by dramatic mid-20th century events. -more-
The “Trader Joe’s” project at the intersection of Martin Luther King and University Ave is almost complete. The building façade is draped with a NOW RENTING banner, and workers are planting trees. In a few months the project’s 148 apartments should be occupied, 22 of them by people who are eligible to pay less than market rents. Some of the new tenants will look out their windows across University Ave to the civic center park and the tower of Old City Hall; some will look over the trees and low bungalows of the pleasant residential areas stretching along Ohlone Park. But for some, in as many as 33 apartments, their only view will be a wall on the other side of a light shaft and less sun than an immigrant in New York’s Lower East Side might have enjoyed 100 years ago. -more-
Last summer, the blockbuster disaster flick, 2012 asked the question: “How would the governments of our planet prepare 6 billion people for the end of the Earth?” Hollywood’s answer? “They Wouldn’t.” -more-
Well, I'm back from Washington D.C., where I had a fabulous time doing the world-premiere run of Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews? It wasn't easy balancing a grueling performance schedule with my frequent late-night meetings with Nancy Pelosi, as I helped the Speaker navigate the health-care bill through a bitterly divided House -- but that's a small price to pay for democracy. I also had a chance to visit the National Portrait Gallery, and let me just say this: If how I feel about Millard Fillmore is wrong, then I guess I don't want to be right. -more-
Berkeley Symphony's season closer on April 1 was a triumph, both for the orchestra and for Joana Carneiro, completing her first season as music director. -more-
The 1960’s quirky musical is by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick who wrote “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Fiorello.” It’s composed of three not-so-connected scenarios taken from three masterfully written short stories. The first act is based on Mark Twain's “The Diary of Adam and Eve”; the second act is based on Frank R. Stockton's “The Lady or the Tiger” and the third act is based on Jules Feiffer's “Passionella,” a Cinderella tale of a charwoman’s transformation into a movie star, “…but just for the hours between Huntley and Brinkley and the Late, Late Show.” Definitely 1960’s. It doesn’t have any songs you come out whistling, but all tunes are pleasing to the ear. -more-
My art show, 30 Yrs of New Work, is now at La Pena. The reception is scheduled for Saturday April 17th, 4 - 6 p.m. I hope that I will see you then, if not, the work will be on exhibit for one month between April 2 and May 1. There will be several just-completed posters as well as several prints from the 60's and 70's that have never been shown. (I guess I should have titled the show 40 Years of New Work.) The viewing hours for the show at the Cafe and Lobby areas are: -more-
Seventy-five years ago Congress was finishing up a landmark piece of legislation, a far-reaching jobs program proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt to combat the enormous unemployment caused by the Great Depression. Notable Federal programs including the Works Progress Administration (WPA) date from that time. Although Berkeley was largely still a Republican town then—locals had twice voted for Herbert Hoover for President—that didn’t prove an obstacle to benefitting from Roosevelt’s New Deal. Local facilities from the North Berkeley Public Library to the Berkeley Rose Garden to street improvements and street tree plantings throughout the city were funded by the New Deal, and often built by workers paid directly through New Deal programs like the WPA.
This Sunday, April 11, 2010 the Berkeley Historical Society opens a new exhibit on the local history of the WPA. A free program, with refreshments, runs from 3-5 in the afternoon. -more-