Archive for the 'Goodman School of Drama' Category


taking notes (something i should have been doing)

“the glass menagerie” rehearsal, spring 1973, moorhead state university, moorhead, minnesota, directed by dr. delmar hansen.

glass menageriethe gentleman caller (was he named jeff? all i know is that he ended up with my girlfriend, diane fossey — not the gorilla diane fossey — after she and i had gotten “this close ” — gestures with palms facing each other about 3″ apart — to having sex one evening in my dorm room after a kegger off-campus) and laura (i am also “this close” to remembering her name) take notes during rehearsal. i was the properties manager for the show–it’s where i learned to upholster furniture–and this precedes my trip to chicago to audition for the goodman school of drama, but not my decision to leave moorhead as soon as i could.

what does that mean to you? nothing, possibly, or everything is also equally possible. it is definitely a photo of people you don’t know, except that now i’ve made it a part of your day–so there is knowing in that too.


driven to abstraction

if i could pinpoint a date when i fell in love with abstract art, i would hazard a guess that it was the spring of 1973 when i was in chicago auditioning for the goodman school of drama.  i’ve written before about that trip & my love for the painter, Clyfford Still, elsewhere in this blog, but to limit my emotional attachment to only one abstract expressionist/color field painter would be unfair when there are so many powerful painters from that period, so i won’t, nor will i mention any other names such as motherwell, rothko, frankenthaler, hoffman, louis, kline, & smith (david, the sculptor whose work brings the concepts, the arguments for abstraction to 3-dimensions.)

what set me on this discussion was the discovery of these photos i took of san clemente island off the coast of southern california in january & which i had forgotten about until a photo contest recently encouraged me to look into my archives for appropriate material to submit.

i think what struck me then about these images & which i may have commented on in other social networks at the time, was how they referenced color field painting, frankenthaler comes to mind immediately, followed by pousette-dart perhaps.  the clear fields of delineated color washed & saturating the substrate, perhaps with a bit more shine than the painters who eschewed gloss & preferred unprimed canvas on which to paint, but with much the same intent.

(please note: i do not consider myself on a par or as an equal of any of the aforementioned artists, i am only using my imagery as a jumping off point for discussion.)

why do we respond to abstract art?  what about it triggers that appreciative button?  it is guttural, gestural, emotive, evocative, & punishingly direct.  it can push you, shove you, force you to face your subconscious, & at the same time be sublimely beautiful, peaceful, playful & brilliantly simple.

it’s said that we humans like landscape paintings more than any other style of painting, particularly landscapes that place the viewer in a vantage point where they may survey their domain (the fight or flee position, as basic to human nature as walking upright.  that defensible vantage point, elevated above the landscape below.)

i believe that may be true too of the work of the abstract expressionists.  they are presenting our primal being from a vantage point of placing the viewer directly in the picture plane, compelling us to explore ourselves, our thoughts, our emotions, our motives as humans much as we would the land before us were we viewing a landscape.

of course, we may not exclude beauty from this discussion.   just pretty may be as compelling as emotive expression, drawing the viewer closer; that personal reflection, a mirror turned toward our own hearts/souls/consciousness as subtle & intriguing & captivating as one can hope to find.

but where landscape may comfort & ease our fears, instilling a sense of calm/peace/joy, i believe that abstract expressionism just may lead us that much deeper into our inner lives (the one we keep from view out of diplomacy & ease of social interaction, because if people really knew…besides our therapists, it would be a fright, wouldn’t it?)

of course, you shake your head “no, not me. i have no inner life that i would not share with you,” but when you allow yourself the freedom to truly look inside the work of many of the artists i mentioned earlier, you may find yourself delving deeper into your psyche than you may have thought possible (or were willing to allow yourself the luxury of that close of an inspection.)  to me that’s the beautiful part of this genre.  the brilliant, subtle way they get inside you & make you feel alive.


rrose sélavy: my heart belongs to dada

Visual epiphanies, those moments when you deeply understand an artist, an ‘aha’ moment, if you will, are, i believe, rare occurrences (unlike the comma splices in this sentence.)  There have been several for me over the years, but the one I want to discuss happened in the spring of 1974.   When you reach a certain point in your life, when the music of the spheres is in harmony with the cycles & synapses of your brain, truly when the stars & planets are aligned, if you let it, it will hit you on the head like a coconut falling from a tree (salesmen, you know whereof I speak.)  You must be open to the possibility of the epiphany & be able to recognize it for what it is–eyes open, ears open, mind open, heart (soul) open because it comes without warning, without preamble, without trumpets.  It can be like the fog, slinking into the room (or landscape or wherever) on little cat’s paws, but unlike the fog it offers clarity where there had been none before.

I had had one a few years earlier, at least one that I recognized as such:  driving through the Black Hills of South Dakota I crested a hill and below lay a valley all green & bathed in an orange light just like in many of the landscape paintings that Cézanne created when he lived in the south of France.   (Read the complete post here.)  That experience left me breathless and a little star-struck, not unlike a celebrity sighting on Hollywood Blvd. (as if,) but I did have to pull over & glory in the beauty that lay before me & contemplate on the vision of the artist–that seeing is being & that I could recognize it when it presented itself.

For me, these visual revelations continued unabated over the next couple of years, & as real today  for me as if I had been presented with the exact same experience minutes ago.    Much of it had to do with the fact that I had moved to Chicago to study at the Goodman School of Drama, at the time housed in a grand theater on Monroe east of Michigan Avenue and part of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sometime between March 23, 1974 and May 5, 1974, the exact date sadly lost to time (but not the experience) Marcel Duchamp decamped at the Art Institute in a major retrospective organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Anne d’Harnoncourt & Kynaston McShine (Duchamp could’ve made up that last name, yes?)  As students at the Goodman, we had back door access (free!) to the Institute & libraries, entering through a intricate series of underground passages, all overhead pipes & institutional green paint, belching us out in a basement gallery from which we emerged into the Institute bathed in the skylights of the main stairwell.

The Duchamp exhibit was set up in the south galleries that I believe have now been demolished, but at the time were a ‘modern’ addition to the Beaux Art pile on Michigan Avenue–a sweeping & floating curved staircase led you to the main entrance of the gallery & there they had installed ephemera from Duchamp’s life (more on that later.)  Slipping past the guard (clad in a maroon jacket with gray slacks & ‘sensible’ black shoes, regardless of sex) with my student pass’ chain cool against my neck, I faced the gallery; my memory tells me it was dark and that the works were starkly, dramatically lit with what I remember to be a single light source (but that could be the result of the effect the work had on me.)

& then, then, there was “Fountain,” “Fresh Widow,” “Bicycle Wheel,” “In Advance of the Broken Arm,” “L.H.O.O.Q.”; all of Duchamp’s Ready-mades with their pun-y titles.  You have to know it turned me on my head.  The sheer audacity of his pissing on the establishment, not only the art establishment but also the cruelest of worlds, with its wars & destructions & its mayhem & murder & madness (this after 10 million dead in WWI,) but for me, for me then, at that point in my life, young, coming out, the thrilling discoveries of power & upsetting the establishment, the revolution of sex–Duchamp sparked that, ignited it, fanned the flame, intellectually, & coolly emotionally & spit at you, daring you to feel or think otherwise.

He made people nervous.  You could sense that in the galleries; oh, there was laughter, coupled with nervous undercurrents, a murmuring stream of conversation, questions, disbelief that this could be art.  To me, though, Duchamp was art, art that was clever & insidious & thrillingly simple & complex & sexual.  It rubbed up against you, slipped under your skin like a needle connecting to a vein, harsh, compelling, thoroughly addictive.

Could an artist be this disruptive, 40, 50 years after the fact?  Could an artist’s work from the 1920s & 30s  speak to a young man as honestly & directly as Duchamp’s did to me?  It was revelatory, it explained unspoken meanings & revealed truths, I felt, meant just for me.   Yes, yes, I know, but what about Duchamp the man, his times, his life, you say.  & I tell you it does not matter, his life is but a clothes hanger on which his art hangs (but more on that later.)

I only recall two paintings/constructions & they are the ones most commonly referred to, parsed, explicated: “Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2” and “The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even,” because, after all, I am describing a feeling, a thought & a motivation not the exhibit as it unfolded.    At the time, I recall thinking to myself (I first saw the exhibit alone, but went back on subsequent visits with friends from school) that Duchamp had done this work solely for my enjoyment.  It was a powerful sensation, & with some sense of entitlement attached to it.  I owned his intent.  But perhaps, now, nearly 40 years later, I believe that he owned me, & my little universe & without meeting we shared something unique to us & us alone.  That to me is an epiphany.

Et maintenant, je voudrais présenter,  Rrose Sélavy!  I mentioned earlier in this post that Duchamp’s life’s ephemera was on display in the antechamber to the exhibit.  This room, although square, seemed round because of the large floating curving staircase that wound its way down from the second floor past floor-to-ceiling windows (facing Michigan Avenue.)

Bathed in the cloudy gray of a Chicago spring day, these artifacts, letters, photographs (most by another favorite of mine, Man Ray) laid out Duchamp’s life — but there, there was Duchamp in drag (the aforementioned Rrose Sélavy, possibly  a pun on the French adage, “Eros, c’est la vie.” )  A fetching flapper from France (couldn’t resist the alliteration, sorry) & that photo, key to lock, the last thing I saw in the exhibit, turned it all around for me.  The door swung open & revealed his subversive, sexually ambiguous (but deeply sexual,) revolutionary thumb in the eye of convention.    Pffft!



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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