Thursday, February 4, 2010

Don't even think about sleeping this weekend

Thursday, Feb. 4

Exhibitions take you from the church to the graveyard
Susan Lenz began working on her series “Blues Chapel” in 2006 and “Last Words” in 2008. She wasn’t thinking about it at the time, but it turns out they made good neighbors like a church and a graveyard.
“Blues Chapel,” an homage to women in the blues. and “Last Words,” fabric pieces based on gravestone rubbings, open today at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.
“Blues Chapel” started as a part of a thematic show at the gallery, “The Blues on Lady Street,” to bemoan the never-ending streetscaping in front of the studios. Lenz  admitted that she didn’t quite grasp the idea, but she did start learning about the blues, something she didn’t know much about. A strong feminist Lenz made 24 saint-like images of great women in the blues - Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Alberta Hunter and others.  Many of these women had hard lives – suffering at the hands of the music industry, men, drugs and alcohol. (She pointed out that she was saying this two days after singer Beyonce won six Grammy Awards.)
These individual portraits grew into something bigger and turned into an installation complete with altar and candles in her tiny studio. Not long after, the Sumter Gallery of Art asked her to show the works in a much bigger space.

“Oh, I’m going to have to build a church,” Lenz said she thought at the time.
So she did adding “stained glass” pieces, a bigger altar, more candles and flowers and two church pews.

The genesis for this work was as random as for “Blues Chapel.” While at a residency in Maine in 2008, she was reading a book about quilting and it suggested using rubbings from graves in quilted fabric. 
“I started doing these rubbings, but I thought it the back of my mind, ‘I’ll never use these,’” she said.

She was wrong about that. “Last Words” is made up of 30 grave rubbing quilts, 25 photo transfers with stitching and sheer fabrics embroidered with epitaphs.

 Since stopping by those family plots in Maine, Lenz  has done rubbings from California to Columbia and many places in between as well as England. The rubbings are from graves dating from 1596 to last year.

“I found one that said ‘Never accurate, but never dull,’” she said. Another for an artist couple (not yet dead) read “Actor to Ashes, Dancer to Dust.”
“You get a wonderful sense of these people,” Lenz  said.

The show has a serious side. She wants people to think about how they will be and want to be remembered (not to mentioned disposed of.)
“I hope this opens up a dialogue for that to happen,” she said.

To help with that planning, the “Last Words” has sponsors:  Shive Funeral Home and Fletcher Monuments. Both will have literature at the show. (Flipping open a monument book, Lenz was pleasantly surprised that a headstone could be had for $300.)

The artist had some extra work she wasn’t planning. When “Chapel” was shown in Denton, Texas, starting in November, one of the “stained-glass” pieces was sold. She figured the installation would work fine without that one piece. Then two weeks ago a Greenwood bank purchased the other five. (“Blues Chapel” has been shown several places; “Last Words” piece have been in regional, national and international exhibitions.)

“I've been working like crazy trying to create six new pieces,” Lenz said last weekend. “Same size, same ten-blue hours a piece It has been insane.”
(She finished them with a couple of days to spare.)
An opening reception takes place Friday from 6 to 8.

In conjunction with the show and just down the hallway at the Blue Martini singer Eboniramm performs tunes by many of the singers spotlighted in “Blues Chapel”  at 7 p.m. The performance is free. For the second one at 9 p.m. admission is $5.

The show remains on display through Feb. 16. Because it is tied in to Blue Martini, the gallery will be open unusual hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday Tuesday and Wednesday; noon to 6 Sunday.
The gallery, 808 Lady St., can be reached at 252-6134 and the Blue Martini at 256-2442.

Race and the academy
What do we know about the story “Little Black Sambo”? We know we don’t read it to kids any more. A lot of what is said and not said about race is explored in the play “Spinning Into Butter” (if you recall that’s what happens to the tigers who plan to eat Sambo.) 

The acclaimed and sometimes-condemned play by Rebecca Gilman gets a short run the USC Lab Theatre. It is set at a Vermont college where one of the few black students starts getting racist notes. In its attempt to deal with the situation, the college faculty and administration make things worse. But that’s not all; this one has serious twists to it. Performances are 8 p.m. tonight through 7. The theatre is located on Wheat Street between Bull and Main streets. $5. 777-4288.

 “Chemistry” looks at African-American art
 “The Chemistery of Color” explores work made by African-American artists mostly in the ‘80s and ’90s. The show at the Columbia Museum of Art is from the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts one of the nation’s oldest art institutions and one of the first to admit black students. It opens tonight with a member reception. Admission is free on opening day Friday. (If you want to read a bit more, go to my story published Wednesday in Free Times or look at my posting from last Sunday.)

Sorting out the calamity of creativity
  “Cafematch: Clarity vs. Chaos” by W. Heyward Sims takes the viewer on his sometimes conflicting journey of making art and trying to make a living making art in the commerical world. An opening reception launches the show from 6 to 9 tonight and it runs through Feb. 17 at Frame of Main, 1520 Main St. 988-1065.

Friday, Feb. 5
 A little more chemistry
Among the artists in "Chemistry of Color" are Benny Andrews, James Brantley (His "Vanessa's Lips" pictured above), Bettye Saar and Faith Ringgold and the 70 pieces cover a wide variety of styles. The exhibition also looks at the difficulties many of these artists faced in finding and expressing their voices.
Robert Farris Thompson, a professor at Yale University, is one of the leading experts on African-American art and the connections to Africa, speaks today at noon. He has written some amazing books including the seminal Flash of the Spirit. His talke is one of many events during the run of the show through May 9. Admission is free today and every Sunday, and to museum members.
The museum is at Main and Hampton streets. 799-2810.

Dancing on the banks of the Nile
Who, other than the Bangles, really knew how the Egyptian walked let alone danced?
But the Columbia City Ballet is bringing back it’s original 2008 production of “Cleopatra” for a return to the Nile. The big love story is danced in elaborate costumes in front of mammoth sets. The two main characters, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, will again be danced by Regina Willoughby and Mark Krieger. Peter Kozak is portraying Caesar with Marie Claire Miranda coming out of retirement to dance the role of his wife Calpurnia.
Along with the scenery and dancers, the production includes a camel, cat and snakes.
Performances are Friday, February 5 at 7:30 pm, and Saturday, February 6th at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m.  at the Koger Center. 251-2222 and

Some pig
A pig and a spider strike up an unlikely friendship in the E.B. White story “Charlotte’s Web.” The Columbia Children’s Theatre stages the classic this weekend.
Performances are at 7 tonight and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday. The theater is above the food court at Mid-Town at Forest Acres (that’s the old mall of a million names), 3400 Forest Drive. (803) 691-4548.

Sax group makes it back
You missed the Tiptons the saxophone group at the Contemporary Art Center last weekend because they were trapped in the ice on Interstate 81. The all-female group has blown through the storm and is performing at Dianne’s on Devine, 2400 Devine St. at 8 p.m.

Saturday Feb. 6
Trio of poets reading 
 A pretty remarkable lineup of poets - Nikky Finney, Patricia Smith and Frank X. Walker - read tonight at part of the S.C. Poetry Initiative.
South Carolina native Finney, left, is the author The World Is Round, winner of the 2004 Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry, and Heartwood, a collection of stories. Her book Rice won the PEN American Open Book Award.
Patricia Smith is the author of five books of poetry, including Blood Dazzler, a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection. She has received a Pushcart Prize and the Carl Sandburg Award.
 Walker has published four poetry collections and is the winner of the 35th Annual Lillian Smith Book Award. He has served as director of the Bluegrass Black Arts Consortium, executive director of Kentucky’s Governor’s School for the Arts and is editor and publisher of PLUCK!: The New Journal of Affrilachian Arts and Culture.
The readings start at 7 p.m. at USC’s Harper College, located on the Horseshoe, in the Gressette Room.  777-5492.

Death and love in two operas
Two one-acts, one English, the other Italian, should give everyone a nice balanced dose of opera. And it’s free. And both are in English.
Opera at USC is doing “Riders to the Sea” by Ralph Vaughn Williams and “Il Ciarlatano (The Charlatan)” by Giacomo Carissimi tonight and tomorrow.
“Riders,” written in 1927, is about Maurya, a woman who has lost her husband, father-in-law and six sons in the rugged seas of Ireland. The 17th century “Il Ciarlatana,” is set in a marketplace where three women discuss the good and bad points of love. 
Performances are at 7:30 today and 3:30 Sunday at the USC School of Music recital hall.

Pub-crawling and fund-raising
“Pub Night” is the Columbia Music Festival Association’s annual fund-raiser and it also happens to be fun. The event, food, drink, darts, takes place tonight at 7:30 at CMFA, 914 Pulaski St. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. 771-6303.
Monday, Feb. 8
Politicians talking about art 
Want to know where the candidates for Columbia mayor and city council stand on the arts? The Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington County is holding a forum at 7 p.m. at the Columbia Museum of Art, Main and Hampton streets.
If you're interested in the arts you really, really, really need to go. Call the council at 231-3131.

Southern reading
Brian Ray, whose novel “Behind the Pale Door” came out last year, will read at part of the Southern Writers Series at the Richland County Public Library. Ray, 6 p.m., Monday, It’s at 6 p.m. at the main library 1431 Assembly St. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USC. 799-9084.

Wedneday, Feb. 10 
More talk about 'Olympia'
Artists Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet, creators of the "Olympia" exhibition at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art will take questions at 7:30. The duo created a huge installation with everything from replicas of buildings in the area to a book exchange library and those who haven't had experience with this kind of work probably have a lot of questions. One thing is certain: everyone should see this show. The center is at 701 Whaley St. 238-2351

Koger's a Cabaret
A touring company brings the dark musical "Cabaret" to the Koger Center today and tomorrow as part of the Broadway in Columbia series. Tickets are $46 to $56. 251-2222 or

1 comment:

    You've wonderfully related so many wonderful things about my work, my ideas, and me! I am forever in your debt!


Post comments under the anonymous listing if you do not subscribe to one of the services listed.