Welcome to the 2nd year of visual art on the radio! Today, we visit via Zoom with architect Michael J. Crosbie, a University of Hartford architecture professor who has written a children’s primer about architecture. Below are some pages referenced in our conversation:
Can you guess what the ones below are?
We also talked about:
As I wrap up this first year of Open Studio, I want to thank a few people who’ve been instrumental in keeping the show going, especially Leith Johnson for composing the opening and closing theme music as well as the station break music, for his stomping out all manner of technical fires, and for his all-round moral support. Thanks, too, to WESU general manager Ben Michael, program manager Rick Sinkiewicz, and program director Ben Spencer for determinedly making community radio happen during the pandemic. Thanks to Sarah Bank and Mary Ahlstrom for promoting Open Studio on social media. Special thanks to all my brilliant guests – you’re an inspiration — and finally, a big thank you to you, listeners, for tuning in. If you enjoy community radio and shows like mine, I hope you’ll be generous at pledge drive time. I’m Maria Johnson, thanks for listening.
Immediately above and below are images from a graphic novel created by UConn history Prof. Jason O. Chang about a 19th-century mutiny by Chinese slaves on a ship that ultimately wrecked on Japanese shores. Today, we go beyond the Sunday funnies and explore the graphic novel with Prof. Chang and Prof. Charles Baraw, from Southern CT State University’s English dept. Graphic novels, for those unfamiliar with the term, take the comic book into the deep end of the pool. One graphic novel you may have heard of is Art Spiegelman’s Maus, set in Nazi Germany. Another is Alison Bechtel’s Fun Home, which was made into a Broadway musical. As you’ll hear, both of my guests, interviewed via Zoom, have developed creative approaches to reading, analyzing, and even creating graphic novels.
With this episode of Open Studio: Conversations on Art & Why It Matters, we close out our first year of visual art on the radio! I want to thank a few people who’ve been instrumental in keeping the show going, especially Leith Johnson for composing the opening and closing theme music as well as the station break music, for his stomping out all manner of technical fires, and for his all-round moral support.
Thanks, too, to WESU general manager Ben Michael, program manager Rick Sinkiewicz, and program director Ben Spencer for determinedly making community radio happen during the pandemic. Thanks to Sarah Bank and Mary Ahlstrom for promoting Open Studio on social media. Special thanks to all my brilliant guests – you’re an inspiration — and finally, a big thank you to you, listeners, for tuning in.
I invite you to enjoy the first episode of the new season, on Sept. 26th, when I’ll talk to Michael Crosbie, an architect whose books include a primer for children, called From Arches to Zigzags, an Architecture ABC.
Using discarded household plastic, Katharine Owens, an artist and poli sci professor at the University of Hartford, creates life-size wall hangings of sea creatures and birds that are endangered by eating or getting entangled in ocean waste. She hopes to exhibit the series of 46 all together when they’re done.
Connect with Kat on Instagram @katowens2012 and on TT @kathaowens; her website is katowens.com.
Below is one of three whales she’ll complete with the help of schoolchildren from across Connecticut and on Fishers Island, NY. Kat invites them to sign their work.
Below: I helped, too! (“Lotta DNA on this,” says Kat.)
Some finished seabirds below:
Below: “Trash talking” via Zoom:
Below: Kat’s mural of a sealion displayed in Kat’s home office, where she stores bins full of plastic:
Sicily native Franco Liseo, longtime host of WESU-FM’s Italian language news and music program ‘Avanti Tutta’, celebrates all things Italian — the art, the food, the cars, the language, the people — in a lively conversation at a noisy Middletown cafe.
‘Avanti Tutta,’ with co-host Lucilla Caminito contributing commentary from Rome, airs and streams live every Saturday from 1-3 p.m. (EST) at 88.1 FM and wesufm.org.
Listen to an earlier conversation, from 2018, on the occasion of Franco’s 30th anniversary on WESU here.
Abstract painter Power Boothe, a professor at Hartford Art School and its former dean, talks about his early development as a painter, including living hand-to-mouth in NYC, and his continuing development as an artist and teacher. Also: what it’s like to be named Power.
His work has been included in many public collections, including NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art, and, in CT, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and the Florence Griswold Museum.
Here is a selection of recent paintings from artsy.net/artist/power-boothe. All are oil on canvas except for Ellipsis #121 which is watercolor on paper:
Today, Mari and Maria’s Big Adventure. Two art buddies go to NYC for a press preview of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest blockbuster exhibition, “The Medici: Portraits and Politics, 1512-1570.” It opened to the general public yesterday and will run till Oct. 11. I urge you to take it in if you can, as it really has something for everybody. History buffs will enjoy the high drama – the powerful Medici banking dynasty turned Florence from a Republic to effectively a monarchy, complete with Popes, and used art to cement its power. Art aficionados will be awestruck by the portraits – in paint, in bronze, in marble, on medals, lent from repositories all over the world – works by such heavy hitters as Raphael, Pontormo, Cellini, Bronzino and more.
Not only was it well worth the trip but you know what else?, it just felt good to be in a museum again! I was lucky that my friend Mari Firkatian was available to join me, as she is not only an artist, but teaches history , including the Renaissance, at the University of Hartford’s Hillyer College. Also, she and I have traveled to Italy – specifically Tuscany – on an art trip. So suffice it to say, this exhibit spoke our language. Join us as we travel to the Met for a richly rewarding walk through room after room of The Medici in portraits and politics.
Listen to the audio of co-curator Keith Christiansen’s presentation to the press in a very echo-y room!
Shown in profile like the portrait of Dante — both with prominent noses — to her left in the exhibit.
Be sure to tune in next time, July 11, for a visit with abstract artist Power Boothe!
ART IN THE TIME OF COVID — For Hartford painter Matt Best, shown above in self-portraits highlighting the tattoos he says were prompted by the pandemic, the crisis has had a marked effect on his art He feels freer to follow his instincts and not paint in a reliable style. He also believes society as a whole will benefit, that “everything’s going to be restructured in a better way.”
The tiers of a wedding cake suggest the kind of hierarchies that don’t work anymore. “The rules have been rewritten.”.
Older “structural” works, a depiction of Matt’s anxiety, above;
Newer, featuring Madonna and Marilyn Monroe, below. In a long-ago dream, Marilyn told Matt, “You don’t need me anymore.”
MATT TELLS ABOUT HIS TATTOOS
I waited until I was in my 40s to get my first tattoo.
My tattoos are a physical reminder that I have changed on the inside. Years of therapy and living through a pandemic was liberating. I wanted my first tattoo as literal mark on my skin to remind me that something new has happened. It was meant as a reminder that I am free. I don’t need to hold on to old ideas that don’t work, I’m free of the past. I’m free to recreate myself.
My first tattoo was of a poppy (my favorite flower). In 2019 I went to the Netherlands with my sister and I found a large mound of dirt in the countryside that was covered in hundreds of poppies. I spent time drawing those poppies, filling many pages my sketchbook. I made one drawing in particular that when I looked at it later I thought, “this would be a great tattoo.” But I didn’t do it.
2020, the pandemic. Getting a tattoo fell by the wayside because it wasn’t possible. The idea was still there but like so many other things that year, it went dormant.
Summer 2020, things are opening up a bit. A former student finds me on Instagram and he has become a tattoo artist. This gets me thinking about the tattoo idea again. I still don’t do anything until I mention my tattoo idea to a friend and by coincidence that day my former student posts a photo of a tattoo he did of a flower. I decided screw it and contacted him immediately. I had my first tattoo on my left arm a few weeks later. He executed my drawing beautifully.
As many people warned me, tattoos are addictive. A month later I got two more poppies on the same arm.
In 2021 I added more poppies to my forearm. My idea is to recreate that small mountain of poppies on my arm. My poppy arm reminds me of times before the pandemic when I was lucky enough to travel and see beautiful poppies blowing in the wind. My arm looks like my sketchbook now.
A friend told me my right arm is boring so I added a larger tattoo of three lady slippers to my right arm this year. Every spring my partner Paul and I go on a lady slipper “hunt.” This tattoo is a representation of the two of us (the third flower being our cat). For me this tattoo represents spring, it’s a celebration of my second vaccine dose (I got the tattoo on the two weeks past my second vaccination date), and a reminder that things grow and change.
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Last in a three-part series: a walk downtown to look at what it would take to make way-cool Middletown even cooler by accentuating its considerable positives: its restaurants, classic Main Street, proximity to Wesleyan University, and creative community.