The word phantasmagoria describes Alex Shundi’s paintings. Fiery angel wings ablaze with electric blue eyes, enmeshed hands holding Pinocchio’s nose, lascivious-looking pomegranates, a stork carrying a piece of prociutto, eyeballs with three pupils, knuckles grasping earlobes, nebula connected to beating hearts, flying fish that become swallow-like à la M.C. Escher, pictures that come out of their frames to shake hands and a panoply of hidden symbols abound in work that looks like it was done by a surrealist Harry Potter.
Alex Shundi’s current exhibit, “Antenna” is up until March 27 at the Warner Gallery of the Millbrook School. The word ‘antenna’ refers to the artist’s ability to be receptive to images which speak to him. His memories and imagination dialogue through that interaction to allow other shapes, memories and archtypal stories to unfold.
“Each artist approaches their point of creativity from the center of their own universe,” said Shundi at a lecture for Millbrook School art students on February 26 in the Holbrook Arts Center.
Musically, Oliver Kennan is an outfielder. He’s not a strong-armed pitcher or a quick-footed shortstop. He’s the reserved one who is paying more attention to the game than everyone else on the field, waiting for his chance. The 23-year-old is a full-time musician singing the lead vocals and playing guitar for the band Outfielder, which released its debut EP on Christmas Day.
TMI caught up with Kennan in the same Millbrook house that was used as the band’s creative sanctuary in the summer months.
Kennan attended high school in the city, at York Prep School, where he sang in the school choir, he says. He tried drums and then guitar and started writing his own songs. Kennan’s musical inspiration in high school was any musician at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Music Festival, from Hendrix to Joplin.
Kennan said he was shy in high school, with little interest in anything other than music. He made friends when he started the band Stale Air, which now he is a little embarrassed to mention.
“I wrote my first songs, we couldn’t sing, we couldn’t even keep a beat,” said Kennan. “It was a great learning experience.”
The colorful music of Stravinsky’s Petrushka, played by the American Symphony Orchestra at Bard’s Fisher Center on Saturday, seemed inseparable from the ballet for which the music was composed. Images of the puppet becoming humanlike and then human, dancing with the ballerina that was the puppet’s muse, their love and charm and the enlivening of the other puppets in the puppeteer’s studio danced across memory as if they were on stage. The music is so endowed with memory, even to its creation when the legends of ballet Stravinsky, Michel Fokine, Alexandre Benois, Vaslav Nijinsky, Serge Diaghilev and his Ballet Russes came together in the heady days of 1912, shortly after Firebird, to create another legend that has endured as a classic ballet and a classic piece of orchestral music. All these names floated through the music as it was superbly played by the members of the ASO under the devoted attention of Leon Botstein.
April is the two hundredth anniversary of Richard Wagner’s birth. Under the direction of Leon Botstein, Bard mounted a modest tribute to the lasting influence of Wagner on twentieth-century music. I prefer the lineage of Berlioz, Verdi, and Puccini (and Tchaikovsky, Bartok, and Prokofiev), yet over the last hundred years those lines appear to have withered, while Wagner’s influence marched on through Strauss, Glass, and others. That influence depends on the device (some might say gimmick) of elongating dramatic intensity by withholding a note to resolve a chord. At times this technique may become ponderous and pretentious, yet it may also function as an effective foil to create magnificent and memorable crescendo.
Calder Greenwood was only nine when he gave his parents a cardboard model he made of their house here in Millbrook. His parents still have it, and Greenwood still makes things out of cardboard in his spare time. Now, however, his works are life-size, and lately they have been cropping up in vacant lots and public spaces around Los Angeles.
It all began last May, when Greenwood and a friend (known only as Wild Life) fashioned a family of sunbathers from papier mâché and installed the figures in a pit that has been empty since 2007, when an office building on the site was demolished. The group—consisting of a father sitting beneath an umbrella, a mother reading and a child playing with a sand bucket—is amazingly lifelike.
A few weeks later, a life-size buck, a doe and their fawn appeared on a weed-infested hillside. Soon afterward commuters crossing a bridge over the Los Angeles River one morning noticed a surfer making his way down the dry waterway. Next a stump turned into a tree overnight; most recently a giraffe appeared in another vacant lot.a giraffe in an empty lot is one of the most recent creations by Calder Greenwood and his partner, Wild Life
Friday begins a two-week indulgence in the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921), the subject of this year’s Bard Music Festival. Weekend One is called Paris and the Culture of Cosmopolitanism, a cultural -ism that Leon Botstein calls “the central part of the fabric of life and culture” of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France.
Opening night—when Dr. Botstein, co-artistic director and conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra (and, incidentally, president of Bard College), will give an introductory talk—is devoted to chamber music and voice. The highlights are “Danse macabre,” “Wedding Cake Waltz,” and the fantasy “Africa” (Op. 89).
Saturday and Sunday of Weekend One are filled with lectures, performances and concerts. Christopher H. Gibbs will lead a Saturday-morning panel on the life of the composer with Leon Botstein, Yves Gérard and Jann Pasler. Pasler is a scholar who edited and wrote chapters in the 400-page book Camille Saint-Saëns and His World, published in conjunction with the festival.
Here we repeat highlights from the program notes ably composed by Hugh Macdonald:
—It was the 1870s, the springtime of the belle époque
—a libretto that defies common sense
—The secret of Chabier’s music is its disarming sophistication. … he did not attend the Paris Conservatoire. He was trained as a lawyer, and he worked as a civil servant in the Ministry of the Interior.
—[He had] his own collection of great impressionist paintings.