DOWNEY – All right. 3:22 a.m. Monday morning (1/12/15). I’ve got to get this press release turned in to Eric at The Downey Patriot today before 3 p.m. That is the deadline I have set for myself. But how to begin this one? My assignment this time, from the Publicity Committee of the Downey Symphonic Society, is to focus on the art exhibit “Reflections” that will be in the Downey Theatre on the same night as the Downey Symphony Orchestra’s next concert, Saturday, Jan. 24. The lobby opens at 6:30 p.m. The concert begins at 8 p.m. A pre-concert lecture about the music being performed that night will be given at 7:15 p.m. by Sharon Lavery, music director and conductor.
Great, I just covered the basics. But what comes next? Oy, how I hate writer’s block! Mutter, mutter, grumble, grumble!
I want to say something about the tragic terrorist attack that took place in Paris, France last week. About how artists (political cartoonists) can sometimes enrage people, more so than writers, because their work is visual and transcends language barriers. I’m at the computer here at home looking at the Los Angeles Times newspaper from last Thursday. I’m thinking to myself that we are certainly very fortunate to live in this country of ours where freedom of expression is something we value, accept, encourage and protect. As a sometime artist myself (scenic design/construction and “set” dressing for the “live theatre” stage), I am happy in the knowledge that if you don’t like what I have produced and it enrages you, you’re not likely going to kill me over it. It hasn’t happened yet, anyway.
The front page article of last week’s Los Angeles Times – “Perils of the Pen” – is excellent in explaining this unique situation. We have had artists, in this case they are known as “political cartoonists,” in this country for years who observe the world around them and then produce a piece of art, in this case a political cartoon, that reflects their point of view.
To me, a famous one hopefully familiar to you, comes instantly to mind. Of course I am talking about Thomas Nast, who was associated with the magazine Harper’s Weekly from 1859 to 1886. He was a German-born American caricaturist and editorial (political) cartoonist who has been given the title “Father of the American Cartoon” and was the scourge of Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall political machine (read as “corruption”) that swindled New York City out of millions of dollars. His impact on American public life was formidable enough to profoundly affect the outcome of every presidential election during the period 1864 to 1884 and both Lincoln and Grant acknowledged his effectiveness on their behalf.
Among his notable works were the creation of the modern version of Santa Claus (my personal connection to him) and the political symbol of the elephant for the Republican Party. Contrary to popular belief, Nast did not create Uncle Sam (the male personification of the American people), Columbia (the female personification of American values), or the Democratic donkey, though he did popularize these symbols through his art and added his special touch to them, such as the goatee to Uncle Sam.
He had strong values and points of view. In studying the world around him and then creating art to reflect what he was observing, he could be brutal in his ridicule and opposition. Nast famously said, “When these writers in the press attack a man with their pens it seems, sometimes, as if they are apologizing for the act. In my cartoons I try to hit the enemy squarely between the eyes and knock him down!” An artist passionately doing what an artist does, observing the world around him and then creating pieces of art reflecting his interpretation of that world.
Ah, there it is. I found my connection to the task at hand and the lead-in to this press release. I knew it would eventually find the way to the page. Sometimes finding a new, fresh way into these things can be difficult!
The art exhibit that takes place in the Downey Theatre before and during the next concert of the Downey Symphony Orchestra on Jan. 24 is shaping up to be another “don’t miss” event. The exhibit, entitled “Reflections,” will be showcased in the theatre’s lobby and mezzanine gallery upstairs beginning at 6:30 p.m. More than 20 artists will be displaying artwork that have reflections or include reflective material.
Curated by Eloisa “EJ” Ball and Pat Gil (Downey Symphonic Society board members) in partnership with the Downey Arts Coalition, the exhibit promises to be exciting.
“For this art show I want to treat the audience and supporters of the Downey Symphony Orchestra to unique and thought-provoking artwork. This will be the most unique art show so far,” stated Ball. “In addition to some fine artists that are new to us, we are very honored to have returning artists such as Elsa Van Leuvan, Karen Yee, Roy Shabla and Mike Ferguson who are all delighted to be participating again.”
Three new artists participating in this exhibit are Ruben Acosta, Monica Wyatt and Dani Dodge.
Acosta is a local artist from Whittier who transforms garbage (found discarded objects) into amazing works of art. In a recent interview, Ruben explained, “Someone once said trash is just a lack of imagination. I am inspired by the things I find that people have thrown away. I am challenged when I see something that is no longer in use and has been discarded. I want to bring some type of beauty back to it and decided to do it through sculpture.”
Acosta’s signature piece of art being showcased is called “THINKER” and he says, “From the manifestation of energy at the top, to the flow of resources confined throughout the water mains below, ‘THINKER’ sits in a space of reflection surrounded inside the elements of an industrial, intellectual and a redeemable world.”
Wyatt’s artwork has Ball excited.
“We have never showcased this type of high quality imaginative artwork before; Monica’s pieces are 3D,” she said. One of Wyatt’s pieces being exhibited, entitled “For Testing Purposes Only,” was created in 2013, is of mixed media including mirror and glass, and is 23.5 X 30.5 X 16 inches.
In a phone interview she explained, “The small everyday things become big things in my work. ‘For Testing Purposes Only’ is about the idea of conception and that something that is seemingly so natural is often this mystifying challenge. It can become more like a science experiment, sometimes successful and sometimes not. This piece represents the beauty, fragility, and unknowns of what it means to be human.”
Ball had this to say about Dani Dodge: “This is a thought-provoking artist. I love her work, especially ‘Sometimes a Lie is the Best Thing.’”
At DaniDodge.com information was plentiful and it was discovered that she is an award-winning Los Angeles installation artist who creates immersive, interactive environments examining the longing for permanence in an impermanent world. A former journalist and war correspondent, her work is inspired by time on the battlefield and explores the wars we wage within ourselves.
In a phone interview, that got into this press release just before deadline, Dodge stated that she is “…thrilled that her piece was chosen to be included in the exhibit. I am a huge supporter of symphonic music. My son plays French horn in the Santiago Philharmonic in Chile.”
About her artwork “Sometimes a Lie is the Best Thing” she went on to say that “…it represents the constraints that people face, sometimes of their own making. People don’t reach out for their dreams because they allow their own thoughts, and the thoughts of others, to prevent them. That is what the heavy rusted iron gate represents. But I included the key because that gate can be opened and people can walk through it and achieve their dreams. They put the closed gate there in the first place and the only thing stopping them from going through it is themselves.”
The symphony concert, entitled “Harp and Soul,” begins at 8 p.m. and features the Downey Symphony Orchestra’s talented string section along with award-winning harpist Alison Bjorkedal as the featured soloist in “Sacred and Profane Dances” by Claude Debussy.
In keeping with the Downey Symphonic Society’s promise to promote young American composers, this concert will also include the world premiere of “Five Variations on Loss and Isolations” by Bryan Kosters. Concluding the concert will be the “Serenade for Strings” by Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
There are a limited number of tickets still available for this exciting evening of art and music that may be obtained through the Downey Theatre Box Office, (562) 861-8211, open Tuesday – Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and at 6 p.m. on the night of the concert.
Tickets and information can also be obtained online at downeytheatre.org or downeysymphony.org. There is free parking around the Downey Theatre.
Well, there it is, finished. If you, dear reader, do happen to attend the event, after the concert please stop by the patio door that leads backstage and ask for me. As the stage supervisor for the Downey Symphony Orchestra, I don’t get a chance to see members of the audience until the concert is all over and done with. At that point I would be happy to say hello to you and welcome discussion, positive comments and constructive criticism with the desire to make the next event even better. This is an ongoing effort of the Downey Symphonic Society’s Board of Directors and especially the Concert Production Committee.
I hope to see you at the theatre!
Published: Jan. 15, 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 40