Arts & Culture

Telfair’s “Invented Landscapes” Featured in Biography, Discussion, Exhibit

Professor of Art Tula Telfair stands in her painting studio, located in Lyme, Conn. 

Professor of Art Tula Telfair stands in her painting studio located in Lyme, Conn. Her work will be celebrated with a biography released on Oct. 18, an open discussion on Oct. 19, and solo show in New York, N.Y., opening Nov. 10.

Although Professor of Art Tula Telfair’s hyper-realistic landscape paintings are vividly detailed, the scenes she depicts are not found in nature; they are conjured from memory and imagination. Informed by her experiences growing up on four continents, Telfair produces fantastical visions with delicate brushstrokes and a mastery of color and light. Suggestive of waterfalls in Africa, deserts of the American Southwest, and ice floes in Antarctica, Telfair’s art draws attention to the power and fragility of nature.

telfairbookcoverTelfair’s art, which has been featured in public collections around the world, will be showcased in a new book, Invented Landscapes, released on Oct. 18 by Abrams Books. The book can be pre-ordered online.

Included in the book are more than 120 images of her paintings, works in progress and personal photos. The images are accompanied by essays written by Michael Roth ’78, president of Wesleyan University; J. Michael Fay, biologist, ecologist, conservationist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence; and Henry Adams, the Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment and a professor of art history at Case Western Reserve University. Read more about the essay authors online.

“In the art of Tula Telfair we find … ourselves at once entranced by the beauty of the painted canvas and invited to examine the mystery of the world within it,” Roth says in his essay. “As we probe deeper, we find ourselves returning to the surface as if out of breath. The mysteriousness of the inner world, rendered with such precision, remains intact.”

Telfair was raised in Gabon, located on the west coast of Africa, surrounded by Fang, Pygmy and Bakuta tribes. Her father, Peter Telfair, worked as a geological mining engineer for Bethlehem Steel, the Gabonese government and a French mining company.

“We lived in the jungle and raised orphaned baby lowland gorillas,” she recalls. “Nature was the most powerful force there. I always felt small in the face of such a constant and unpredictable presence.”

Although Telfair’s work looks realistic, she works intuitively and only plans the size and format of each canvas.

Higgins’ Matinee Melodrama Delves into the Genre of Adventure Serials

Scott Higgins author of new book, Matinee Melodrama

ProductImageHandler.ashxScott Higgins, professor of film and chair of the College of Film and the Moving Image, is the author of a new book titled, Matinee Melodrama: Playing with Formula in the Sound Serial, published in February 2016 by Rutgers University Press.

Higgins newest work delves into the genre of adventure serials as a distinct art form, unwrapping its different elements and what makes adventure serials so successful. Intrigued by the active, dedicated fan culture, Higgins suggests that serial’s incoherent plotting and reliance on formula, as well as, the use of other cinematic elements such as, stock characters and cliffhangers, are actually some of the genre’s most appealing attributes, not faults. The earliest forms of this genre, including before Batman, Flash Gordon, or the Lone Ranger had their own TV shows, laid the groundwork for today’s blockbusters like, Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Tomb.

As the first book about the adventure serial, Matinee Melodrama examines the nature of suspense, the aesthetics of action, and the potentials of formulaic narrative, while giving readers the opportunity to analyze everything from Zorro’s Fighting Legion to Daredevils of the Red Circle.     

Award-winning Documentary ‘Dream On,’ by Roger Weisberg ’75 Airs on PBS, Oct. 7

DreamONDream On, the newest documentary by Roger Weisberg ’75, will air on PBS at 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7. (check local listing). The film is the 32nd documentary written, produced and directed by Weisberg, who heads Public Policy Productions. Dream On has already appeared in 19 international film festivals, garnering four top awards. Weisberg’s earlier works have won more than 150 awards, including Emmy and Peabody awards, as well as two Academy Award nominations.

Dream On asks the question: “Is the American Dream still alive and well?” Are we still optimistic that hard work will raise our standard of living—for our generation and for our children? Weisberg explores this question with political comedian John Fugelsang serving as host and commentator throughout this unusual road trip. The journey revisits the cities of Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1831 itinerary, which served as the Frenchman’s research for Democracy in America. In it, Tocqueville described America as a land of equality, opportunity and social mobility. For those interested in viewing the film as part of a community screening event or classroom educational opportunity, PBS offers a viewer’s guide, as well as a trailer and additional resources, including video segments that Weisberg was not able to include in the 90-minute slot for PBS.

Roger Weisberg ’75, founder of Public Policy Productions, introduces his latest documentary exploring the American dream in a roadtrip following the 1931 journey of Alexis de Toqueville and featuring political comedian John Fugelsang.

Roger Weisberg ’75, founder of Public Policy Productions, introduces his latest documentary, an epic road trip exploring the endangered American dream. The film retraces the journey of Alexis de Tocqueville and features political comedian John Fugelsang.

Weisberg also spoke to The Wesleyan Connection about the process of creating his newest work and his hopes for it: 

Connection: What was the inspiration for Dream On?

Roger Weisberg: I wanted to make a contribution to PBS programming surrounding the election, but I wanted to do it in a way that was different from some of my more conventional reporting on poverty, social mobility and economic inequality. The road trip infused this project with a degree of exuberance and levity, while also permitting us to examine some urgent social issues and meet some really powerful subjects along the way.

Connection: How did John Fugelsang come to join you?

RW: We were pretty lucky to have been referred to him by colleagues who worked with Bill Moyers. It turned out that for John, the timing was perfect: He’d just lost his job as a talk show host, because the cable network that had hired him was sold to a foreign buyer. Because of John’s new feeling of economic insecurity, he was able to put himself in the shoes of many of the people he met on our Tocqueville odyssey.

Connection: What kind of time frame were you working in?

RW: In the early part of 2013, I did the whole road trip on my own, without a crew, to meet prospective participants and scout locations. In the fall of 2013, we filmed this journey in two stints of about 25 days each.

Photographs by Albert MALS ’94 Exhibited in Olin Library

Hillcrest Orchards © 2016 Nancy Ottmann Albert

Hillcrest Orchards © 2016 Nancy Ottmann AlbertNancy Ottmann Albert’s (MALS ’94) evocative photographs of vanishing New England structures and landscapes will be featured in “Documents in Black and White,” a new exhibition opening in Olin Library on Oct. 5, 2016. The show is being presented in conjunction with the formal announcement of Albert’s gift of her papers to the library’s Special Collections & Archives (SC&A).

Nancy Ottmann Albert’s (MALS ’94) evocative photographs of vanishing New England structures and landscapes will be featured in “Documents in Black and White,” a new exhibition opening in Olin Library on Oct. 5, 2016. The show is being presented in conjunction with the formal announcement of Albert’s gift of her papers to the library’s Special Collections & Archives (SC&A).

Albert will speak about her work at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 in the library’s Develin Room.

Selected by the artist, the works span the 30 years she spent documenting New England’s built environment. Inspired by Walker Evans and the 1930s Farm Security Administration photographers, she began to photograph textile mills and industrial sites throughout New England in 1981. Shooting black and white film in a medium format camera, she returned over the years to record the buildings’ decline and disappearance.

Further exploration led her to seek out other endangered structures and landscapes. These include mental institutions emptied by changing philosophies of treatment and a commissioned study of Long River Village, Middletown’s oldest housing project, prior to its demolition.
The exhibition also contains images of roadside and urban vernacular architecture, barns and abandoned homesteads, filling stations, and drive-in theaters. All of the work, which includes gelatin silver photographs, was printed by the artist.

In 2014, Albert donated her papers to SC&A. Her papers include images taken in New England, France, Cuba, Portugal, Spain, London, Italy, Eastern Europe, Vienna, Barcelona, Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia and Berlin, along with her research notes. The papers are now freely available for research and are described in an online finding aid. The gift will be formally acknowledged prior to her Oct 28. talk.

“Documents in Black and White” will be on view from Oct. 5 through Dec. 16, 2016, in the SC&A exhibition cases on the first floor of Olin Library during normal library hours. For more information, call 860-685-3863 or e-mail sca@wesleyan.edu.

Johnston, Eiko Exhibit A Body in Fukushima in Manhattan

From The Fukushima Project, by Eiko Otake and William Johnston: Hattachi Benten 7 August 2016 No. 0457; Photo by William Johnston.

From The Fukushima Project, by Eiko Otake and William Johnston: Hattachi Benten 7 August 2016 No. 0457; Photo by William Johnston.

A Body in Fukushima, the collaborative work of Wesleyan artist-in-residence Eiko Otake P’07, ’10 and Professor of History and East Asian Studies William Johnston, will be on view at the Cathedral of St, John the Divine in Upper Manhattan as part of a larger exhibition The Christa Project: Manifesting Divine Bodies from Oct. 6 through March 12. Otake, who serves as an artist-in-residence at the Cathedral and a co-curator with Wesleyan senior Hannah Eisner ’17 for this project, will offer a short performance for the opening reception, which is open to the public. The exhibition includes works by many notable artists such as Kiki Smith, Kara Walker and Meredith Bergmann ’76.

The project offers a response to and a wider revisiting of the 1984 exhibit of sculptor Edwina Sandys’s Christa, a conceptualizing of the crucified Christ in female form, which sparked considerable outrage at the time. In a statement introducing this re-exhibition of the sculpture, now alongside works of 21 contemporary artists, the project directors note: “Christa’s essential statement …remains vital to our world today: people are hungry to see themselves and each other fully represented in society, especially in its most powerful and iconic institutions.

Otake and Johnston’s collaboration, A Body in Fukushima, explores environmental disaster, human failure, and loss through Johnston’s photographs of Otake’s presence in Fukushima, the site of the 2011 earthquake, tsumanmi and nuclear meltdowns. The large area of Fukushima remains uninhabitable to this day. Prior to this artistic collaboration with their three visits to Fukushima in 2014 and this summer, the two have co-taught courses on the atomic bombings and mountaintop removal mining.

In artists’ statements the two note the importance of a physical presence and bearing witness. Otake says, “By placing my body in these places, I thought of the generations of people who used to live there. Now desolate, only time and wind continue to move.”

Johnston, also, speaks to the historic context of the place: “By witnessing events and places, we actually change them and ourselves in ways that may not always be apparent but are important. Through photographing Eiko in these places in Fukushima, we are witnessing not only her and the places themselves, but the people whose lives crossed with those places.”

Hittachi Benten 7 August 2016 No._0457 Photo by Wm Johnston copyJohnston

From The Fukushima Project, by Eiko Otake and William Johnston: Minami Soma, Shiogama Shrine, 3 August 2016 No. 426. (Photo by William Johnston)

From The Fukushima Project, by Eiko Otake and William Johnston: Tomioka 5 August 2016 No. 0215; Photo by William Johnston

From The Fukushima Project, by Eiko Otake and William Johnston: Tomioka 5 August 2016 No. 0215.(Photo by William Johnston)

 

Actor, Director Schaal ’06 Returns to Campus for Sold-Out Premiere of Go Forth

Kaneza Schaal ’06 (Photo by Randi Plake)

Kaneza Schaal ’06 spoke to Wesleyan theater majors Sept. 15. (Photo by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography)

Actor and director Kaneza Schaal ’06 returned to campus for her New England premiere of GO FORTH (2015), a series of vignettes with projection, sound, and dance inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The four performances took place over the past weekend to a sold-out audience.

At a special lunch surrounded by a group of theater majors, one being GO FORTH ensemble member Cheyanne Williams ’17, Schaal explained how the Book of the Dead inspired her production: “I was drawn to the Book of the Dead after experiencing the loss of my father. I went to Rwanda for the ceremony and experienced a ritualized grieving process that helped me process his death.”

Schaal credits her time studying theater and psychology for preparing her for a creative career. “What I gained at Wesleyan was the opportunity to learn many languages, psychology, and theater, which all came together to how I make my work.” Furthermore, she explained that it was the faculty and staff who really supported her to go out and make what interested her.

After Wesleyan, Schaal came up in the downtown experimental theater community, first working with The Wooster Group, then with companies and artists including Elevator Repair Service, Richard Maxwell/New York City Players, Claude Wampler, Jay Scheib, New York City Opera and National Public Radio. Schaal is an Arts-in-Education advocate and just returned from a new project with the International Children’s Book Library in Munich, Germany working with young Syrian and Eritrean refugees to address migration and storytelling.

Class of 2020 Experiences Different Cultures, Dance Styles at Common Moment

The Center for the Arts hosted the Common Moment Sept. 2 on Andrus Field. As one of the culminating experiences of New Student Orientation, the Common Moment brought the Class of 2020 together as they experienced cultures and dance from around the world. Prometheus, Wesleyan’s fire-spinning group, also performed during the Common Moment.

Photos of the event are below and in this Wesleyan Center for the Arts photo gallery. (Photos by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography)

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Public Affairs, Progressive News Coverage New to WESU 88.1 FM’s Fall Programming

WESU 88.1 FM recently kicked off its 2016-2017 season with a new and improved fall program. With a mixture of both new and old radio shows, the fall programming boasts a diverse blend of news and public affairs from NPR, Pacifica, and other independent and local media sources. Changes to their fall programming include, the addition of a much anticipated daily public affairs program from Pacifica called “Rising up with Sonali,” which brings progressive news coverage, rooted in gender and racial justice, to a wide audience. They also will pay tribute to Jim Mascia, a cherished, late co-host of “Best of Living Naturally,” a popular, locally produced radio show that promoted a holistic lifestyle, which aired for 10 years on WESU.

“Overall, the aim of WESU’s fall program is to maintain the eclectic, alternative, and funky mix of music and talk radio that makes WESU so unique,” said Ben Michael, WESU general manager.

Established in 1939 as a community service of Wesleyan, WESU is one of the oldest, non-commercial radio stations in the U.S. While its daytime programming consists of news and public affairs, weeknights and weekends offer a freeform blend of creative music programming, featuring everything from rock and hip-hop, to jazz and electronic dance music. To learn more about WESU, including listen to a live stream, find contact information, see DJ playlists and the program guide, visit www.wesufm.org.

Lerer ’76 Interviewed By Slate Magazine on the Evolution of Children’s Literature

Seth Lerer ’76, literary critic and Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California at San Diego, spoke to Slate.com on the complex history of children’s literature.

“The earliest kids books…were largely designed to teach moral behavior,” he said. “They were about social decorum and a particular way of being a child, especially in relation to parents and teachers. Some children’s books—many of the early medieval romances, for instance—had an adventure quality to them, but always a moral and spiritual quality too.”

He also observed the increasing focus on young women in today’s literature. “When you look at the trajectory of modern books, Harriet the Spy, Judy Blume—books from the ’60s and ’70s—and then at Hermione in Harry Potter, who’s very much a modern YA heroine, and at The Hunger Games, you see children’s literature really moving toward an audience of younger women in particular, who face particular challenges and really develop their heroic lives.”

Lerer, the author of Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter, was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism in 2009 and the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in 2010.

Read the full interview here.

McGill ’16 Screens Short Film at Princeton Film Festival

Adam_McGill

Adam McGill ’16

Film studies major Adam McGill ’16 screened his short film Punked! at the Princeton Student Film Festival this summer. McGill’s comedy is about a punk rock singer and guitarist named Dale, whose allegiance to his music is challenged when a new romance enters his life.

McGill filmed the short in the fall of 2015 as a senior thesis project at Wesleyan. During his time at Wesleyan, McGill was taught by Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, who said, “I’m happy to see his work recognized outside the classroom. He joins a long line of Wesleyan film majors who have gone on to great things after they leave Wesleyan. It’s lots of fun to watch this happen.”

Since graduating in May, McGill worked on small sets in the New York City area and he’s currently interning at Sony Pictures Classics, a film distributor, working with their marketing team.

Punked! also will be playing later this September at the Golden Door International Film Festival in Jersey City, N.J. View his film online here.

Kolcio, Stanton Create, Perform “Steppe Lands” as Freedom Dance Ukraine

Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio, left, and Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton, right, perform with Freedom Dance Ukraine this summer. The project was based on Kolcio's recent work in Ukraine. (Photo by Lucy Guiliano)

Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio, bottom left, and Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton, bottom right, perform with Freedom Dance Ukraine this summer. The project was based on Kolcio’s recent work in Ukraine. Other members of the ensemble: (above, left to right): Elvira Demerdzhy Julian Kytasty, Alina Kuzma.  (Photo by Lucy Guiliano)

A Connecticut dance event offered Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio an additional way to explore her ongoing dance/movement project highlighting the effect of political forces at work in Ukraine.

Last summer, Kolcio invited colleague and Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton to join with two other dancers, both with ties to Ukraine, to create a dance. This event, Dance for Peace, was sponsored by Artists for World Peace, an organization founded and led by Wendy Black-Nasta P’07, with music director Robert Nasta MA ’98, P’07.

Kolcio, who holds a doctorate in somatics, places the dance they created, “Steppe Land,” in the context of her project in Ukraine, where she has familial roots.