Steel Magnolias: A Wellesley Upstage Production

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On Valentine’s Day, I braved the cold and ice and ventured to Alumnae Hall at Wellesley College, where the school’s student theatre group would be presenting “Steel Magnolias,” a play written by Robert Harling and directed by Em White, class of 2015. 

I must admit, I did not know what to expect when sitting down to watch “Steel Magnolias.” I was unfamiliar with the story; could it be a romance, a comedy? With a paradoxical title like “Steel Magnolias,” it could be anything. And yet, when the girl next to me pulled a large handful of tissues out of her backpack, I became suspicious that I was in for an emotional rollercoaster.

As the lights went up on the show, I found myself (and the rest of the audience) sitting in a beauty parlor. The wonderful cast took me through the story, as if in a trance. A loud-talking beauty parlor owner, a soft-spoken hairstylist, a friendly old lady from the town, a nasty old lady from the town, a blushing bride, and a tough mother-of-the-bride all made up the cast. The play seemed to unpack itself; what started out as lighthearted beauty parlor conversation became heavier and heavier. Time moved quickly, and yet slowly. Quick-witted banter transformed in sad monologues. And yet nothing felt unnatural. I found myself still in a trance as lights went up for intermission. 

How is it possible to fall in love with characters in only a few hours? I am not the only person who felt this way; due to the sheer talent of the cast and intimate setup of the stage, there was not a dry eye in the house by the end of the play. The girl next to me had used up all of her tissues. After the play ended, I hugged her for a little while. 

So what did the paradox of “Steel Magnolias” mean? A magnolia is a delicate flower, and steel is a tough metal. Steel Magnolias may look delicate to the eye, but when life gets difficult, they do not need rescuing. When there are challenges, Steel Magnolias will be the last ones standing. They are stronger than the rest of us, and will weather the storm. 

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A Reaction to Tony Matelli’s “New Gravity”

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After my post about Tony Matelli’s Sleepwalker at Wellesley College, I have received an overwhelming number of responses. Some people strongly supported my stance, as I called Tony Matelli’s work irrelevent to Wellesley College, while others suggested that I rethink my opinion, suggesting a bit of closemindedness.

“Me, close-minded?” I thought, perplexed. “Never!” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was not looking at Matelli’s work with an objective view. Also, why should the ICA get exhibitions like “New Gravity” and the Davis Museum get “safe,” prim, and proper exhibitions? Wellesley students and other visitors of the Davis Museum are just as capable of digesting the work of Tony Matelli as urbanites.

One of my favorite things about the Davis Museum is that its exhibitions take risks. The recent Glass Heart (Bells for Sylvia Plath) exhibition featured a light and sound installation; the Louise Nevelson exhibition was shrouded in darkness. It was cool; it was edgy. They made the Davis Museum special. I have been attending Davis Museum exhibitions for years, and I grew reasonably familiar with the types of exhibitions that went up.

Now, the Tony Matelli exhibition was a risk that threw me off. And my instant reaction was that it simply did not belong. Perhaps it has been so ingrained in my mind what is an “appropriate” exhibition. All of these exhibitions are risks, and “New Gravity” is another one. Why should I immediately shut it down?  Also, who am I to judge what is “relevant” to the Wellesley community?

On Thursday, I attended the Davis Museum’s official opening celebration of its spring exhibitions, which of course included Tony Matelli’s “New Gravity.” It also included a short lecture by Mr. Matelli, as he went through several of his works throughout his career, with some explanation. This provided insight into the ideas behind the works. Matelli described himself as a “romantic type of artist.” He called some of his works an “acceptable social antagonism,” with such titles as Fuck the Rich and (my personal favorite) Fuck the Rich Deluxe. He has an interest in exploring the concept of adolescence, “male anxiety,” and “masculinity in crisis.” Perhaps Sleepwalker is a vision of male vulnerability, baring it all to the world, unknowing, and frightened. Extended, these concepts are relatable to every visitor to the museum; people worry about being strong and “grown up;” no one wants to show that they are vulnerable.

Matelli also explained the process with which he expected people to view his work: people would first “see the thing for what the thing is.” He was exactly right; unknowing Wellesley students thought that the Sleepwalker was a real man lost in the snow at first. Then, as Matelli said, “you understand it as sculpture.” This is also a relatable idea; art has the unique power to play tricks on the mind. Sometimes, as Wellesley students, we like to think we know and understand everything; but occasionally, this is upended. Sometimes, there are just things we cannot possibly understand, and Matelli’s work demonstrates that.

At the exhibition opening, I had a moment to chat with Lisa Fischman, the museum’s director and exhibition curator, as well as with Tony Matelli. Of the exhibition, I asked, “Why here, and why now?” Mr. Matelli responded with the ever-so-diplomatic answer, “I was invited.” Ms. Fischman explained that Matelli’s work deserved to be seen in the museum setting, with the context of the rest of art history, as the Davis collection displays works ranging from ancient to contemporary art. This is absolutely reasonable, and as I had a chance to walk through the show, I myself became mystified by the illusion of Matelli’s work.

Before I saw the show, I was concerned that it would include some works like this:

TERRIFYING.

Or this…

Good luck sleeping tonight.

But instead, I saw works like this:

Magical!

And this!

How is this even happening?

I suppose my main concern was that the work would have such a high shock value, that viewers would not see through to the underlying message that Matelli was trying to send, about the vulnerability of human nature.

Instead, the works in the exhibition forced me to question reality. I was stunned by their incredible balance. I looked at them with wonder; I wanted to touch them; I wanted to trace my name in the dust on the dirty mirrors in the exhibition. Matelli’s work dances on the line between reality and imagination.

What is my final conclusion? The Davis Museum did something vastly unexpected. And that is not such a bad thing. In the history of art, the most important art movements began with a maelstrom of criticism. Why shouldn’t Wellesley be the host of such work? Wellesley students should be exposed to all types of art, even if it is shocking. Not all art is neat and pretty, and the the most significant, groundbreaking works in the history of art caused a stir that rattled the conception of art.

Tony Matelli’s work threw me off balance, but quite frankly, I am enjoying the ride.

Tony Matelli’s “Sleepwalker” at Wellesley College

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I am absolutely amazed at the amount of press a sculpture on Wellesley College’s campus has received. Tony Matelli, a sculptor, has his first solo US exhibition opening at the Davis Museum tomorrow; I will give my reactions to that exhibition after I see it. As a promotional tactic, one of Tony Matelli’s hyper-realistic sculptures has been posed on Wellesley’s campus, “Sleepwalker.” 

There’s our guy, in all his glory. Image courtesy of boston.com

Since I used to work for the Davis Museum, last semester I became aware that this sculpture was going to be put up. As I predicted, there is a considerable amount of backlash associated with this sculpture, but it is still not exactly what I expected.

Many people are saying that the sculpture needs to be taken down because the presence of a mostly naked man (albeit a lifeless one) could trigger horrific memories in sexual assault victims. Although he is meant to look like he is asleep, a passersby would not know that at first. His outstretched arms appear as if they want to grab you. Admittedly, it does seem like it could be quite triggering.

In my personal opinion, I think that the statue is creepy, antagonistic, and all around very, very impressive. Tony Matelli knows how to make things look very real, and his work can touch a nerve that other work cannot. While I am personally not a fan of antagonistic art, Matelli is certainly a very talented artist and no one can deny that.

However, I do not think that his work is relevant to this campus. Wellesley College is a small, liberal arts women’s college in a wealthy suburban town in Massachusetts. The Davis Museum is an academic museum. Its audience consists of female students, old ladies from the town of Wellesley, and school groups. Is this the appropriate audience for a Tony Matelli exhibition? I don’t think so. Matelli’s work is more suited to an urban setting, perhaps at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, where provocative work of this nature is more well-received and can be pondered by a wider audience. 

My thoughts will be more fully formed after I see this exhibition tomorrow. Perhaps my mind will be changed. But as of now, the Sleepwalker, while provocative, is perhaps provoking the incorrect reaction.

Here are a few links to some of my favorite articles about the statue: 

Buzzfeed article, “Incredibly Life-Like Statue of A Man In Just His Underwear Is Scaring Students at Wellesley College”

Perez Hilton, “Lifelike Statue of Man in Tighty-Whitey Undies Gets Erected At All-Girls College!”

John Brown’s Body @ Paradise Rock Club, 1/25/14

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Last week, my friend and I went to a John Brown’s Body concert at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston.

Image courtesy of capitalalehouse.com

John Brown’s Body is a reggae dub band, consisting of eight men and a variety of instruments. In addition to the typical instruments in a band (the guitar, bass, drums), John Brown’s Body has a brass section. This helps the live performance have a very full sound that is a feast for the ears.

I would say that the only complaint I had about this concert was its considerable length: it started just before 9pm, and it ended at 1am. Strange Machines and Pimps of Joytime opened for John Brown’s Body, and they were fantastic; but I would say that the height of energy in the evening was during the second opener and in the beginning of John Brown’s Body’s set. By the time John Brown’s Body came back for an encore, the crowd was visibly tired. The performances were so excellent though, that I did not mind.

This was my second time seeing John Brown’s Body, and I would certainly go see them again. I also definitely want to keep an ear out for Pimps of Joytime; their energy was practically palpable. It was an evening of never-ending, chill, and at the same time, joyous, music.

Additionally, the Paradise Rock Club is one of my all time favorite venues. I know the best place in the house to stand. Let’s just say that my spot for this concert was so good, that the official concert photographer asked me if I could move over for a moment so he could snap some pictures of the band.

If you are interested, take a listen to John Brown’s Body, and if they come to a town near you, make an effort to go out and see them!

Oscar-Nominated Film Series: Her

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This is the second post in a series on Oscar-nominated films.

her

The film Her touches on some very sensitive points. Through the guise of a touching love story and heartbreak, it makes poignant commentary on society’s ever-growing reliance on technology. In today’s society, we are reliant on technology for everything, from directions to entertainment. In Spike Jonze’s story, humanity is finally dependent upon technology for love. Well, not dependent, but, what can I say — the man fell in love with an operating system, which is frighteningly similar to Siri. The story follows the trials and tribulations of a man trying to understand his feelings and coping with being in love with an OS.

Many people have said that the film is a beautifully made. Shimmery light fills the lens when Samantha (the OS) and Theodore share a magical romantic moment. This story is highly original. In a cinematic landscape in which almost every movie is an adaptation or sequel, it is refreshing to see something so…fresh. Of course this film would be nominated for an Oscar. It wowed the Academy because they have something that they weren’t expecting. Additionally, Joaquin Phoenix carries the heavy burden of this film on his heartbroken shoulders.

My personal preference is for happy movies, and this one is not. It does have its moments of joy and its moments of sadness…much like a real relationship. Although this would not be classified as a happy film, it does have a cathartic ending.

If you want to see a completely original film and don’t mind crying a bit while thinking very deep thoughts, go see Her. It might win an Oscar; it might not. No matter what happens, it still makes a pointed remark on the direction of society’s dependence on technology.

Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP

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Free my mind, ARTPOP

You make my heart stop

Lady Gaga’s most recent contribution to pop music is ARTPOP, a highly synthesized, speaker-busting narrative commentary on today’s culture. On the surface, this album seems like a flashy dance album, but as we listen to the lyrics, we begin to understand how her songs take us on a carefully crafted emotional journey.

The album is rife with references to the things that are seemingly the most important in today’s upper class culture: sex (Sexxx Dreams, G.U.Y.), money (Donatella, MANiCURE, Fashion!), and drugs (Mary Jane Holland, Dope). But is Lady Gaga really advocating for all these things? Her lyrics push the limits, forcing us to realize how ridiculous it is to think that wealth and fashion are the most important things in life. For example, the introduction to “Donatella” (“I am so fab. Check it out, I’m blonde. I’m skinny. I’m rich. And I’m a little bit of a bitch.”) is laughable. We are not laughing at Lady Gaga; rather, we are laughing with her.

When people tell me that they dislike Lady Gaga’s album, I believe it is because they did not take the time to really listen to the album and think about what she is saying. Through the collaborations with DJ White Shadow and Zedd, Lady Gaga says what she has to say, and she says it loudly.

In the end, people are going to either love or hate ARTPOP. It depends on whether or not they have an emotional connection with the music. If the music speaks to you the way it did to me, you will enjoy the album. To show you an example of how the music spoke to me, here’s a link to my favorite song from the album, “Gypsy.” Enjoy!

Oscar-Nominated Film Series: American Hustle

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This is the first post in a series on Oscar-nominated films.

(c) Digital Spy

(c) Digital Spy

Ah, American Hustle. The story of an embezzling couple, a government agent, New Jersey politicians, a slightly unhinged wife, and a complicated scheme. Oh, and lots of cleavage. And interesting hairdos. American Hustle has been nominated for a grand total of ten nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and others.

I think I am going to be the person with the unpopular opinion: I did not think that American Hustle was that great. It unfortunately did not sustain my undivided attention throughout the film. The exposition of the film was compelling, as it introduced the characters, who seemed to be interesting and complex. I also found that the climax and conclusion of the film was engaging, yet  I felt that the main story of the film dragged on. During some of the slower scenes in the film, my mind wandered…did I get any new emails? I found myself caring less about the storyline, and more about seeing how the characters interacted with each other in their own colorful world.

I should give the film some credit, though; the performances by the actors in the film were very good. I found myself anxiously awaiting for Amy Adams or Jennifer Lawrence to appear on screen, as I love me some leading ladies.

Overall, would I give American Hustle the Oscar for Best Picture? Probably not. I wouldn’t have the urge to check Facebook and Twitter for an Oscar-winning Best Picture.