Monday, May 9, 2011

A Celebratory Toast To The Expression of the Soul

"Portrait sans nom" by Mathilde Gatinois, 2011.  Personal collection of Elizabeth Hellstern, on display at Simply Delicious, 408 E. Route 66, throughout May.
  In August, I resolved to "attend or participate in a cultural happening once a week throughout the semester, and write about my musings every Monday on this blog."
  Guess what peeps?  It's finals week.  Students are running around with coffees in their hand, in a surreal party/studying all-nighter daze.

  That means it's also the last week of my school year resolution.

  I'm taking the summer off.  Literally.  I won't be in Flagstaff, and I won't be at work.  I'll be outside.  I'll still be attending cultural events, but preferably ones in outdoor amphitheaters (and probably not blogging until September.)

  Maybe it's the end of the year, but I'm feeling reminiscent and nostalgic about marking the end of many projects and stages this year.  I went to a lot of cultural events.  I wrote about half of them.  I'm a better listener and a better see-er, and I know how to calm myself down with music and visuals.  I also know that music, art, film and theatre mean a lot to my sense of self.  By giving me so much breadth of experience, they have helped me recognize my own style. 

  I also enjoy looking at my art friend's progress of their own personal style.  As a case in point, and a nice conjuncture within my own personal life, I'd like to leave you with two paintings by Mathilde Gatinois, a local artist and friend.  (Mathilde has a show at Simply Delicious, 408 E. Route 66, throughout May.)  When I had more time, I used to model for Mathilde.  The painting of me at the bottom of the page was done in 2007.  This year, I bought one of Mathilde's painting that she did with a different model (see above.)  The two paintings have the same style--the dreamy eyes and the ethereal faces, but clearly show different phases.  They are both lovely.  They are both expressions of Mathilde's style.

  I do think, though, that the older one is softer, more internal, and the newer one is a more dramatic expression of emotion.

  Looking at these paintings makes me sentimental about Mathilde's talent.  I love how she expresses herself on canvas.  I also know that it's not always easy for her to do so--when I modeled for her, she would voice her frustration with the process and the product.  And having one of her pieces reminds me of the effort of the creative process, and the beauty that can be achieved by such effort.

   It's a good reminder as a metaphor for life.  Even those that may not be artists have creative endeavors that take a lot of effort to express. Believe me, it's worth it!

  I propose a virtual toast to all the artists, musicians, filmmakers and speakers that I saw and heard this year!  Here's to appreciating the past, appreciating the present, and looking forward to as much and more in the future. The expression of the soul is a continuous process, and one that has no quantitative value, but a very real place that gets embedded in another's heart.  Thanks for enriching my life in so many ways!!

"Blue Belle" by Mathilde Gatinois, 2007. Personal collection of Susan Magaziner.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Magical Instrument Tour

 "The Magical Instrument Tour is dying to take you away!"

Accordion (above) and acoustic guitars at the Musical Instrument Museum.
   If you can't quite imagine how magical musical instruments are on their own, if you think that looking at musical instruments could be boring, then you DEFINITELY haven't visited the Musical Instrument Museum yet.

  I have to admit, I wondered myself how the intensely personal experience of a musical performance could  be properly represented by a static exhibit of the implements.  But MIM doesn't just hang the instruments on the wall and leave it be.  First of all, they gather the finest instruments, symbolic of the finest music of the world, and display them in ways that make us, the observers, realize the inherent beauty and craftsmanship.  Just like a good pen with a smoothly flowing nib helps us write more beautifully, a good instrument can serve as its own muse.  The first exhibit I saw in the museum, contained guitars ranging from traditional Gibsons to plastic molded star-guitars.  (And if a star-guitar doesn't inspire you to rock out, I'm not sure what will.)

  The museum curators totally pull out their inner rock star by enhancing the exhibits with indigenous recordings of live performances, displayed in short vignettes on a video screen.  The performers are often even using the instruments that we're looking at!

   But before we even got to see most of the exhibits, the group I was with watched a short introductory video.  This is where the museum administrators got all philosophical about what they were doing, and claimed that we would "stand in awe to the pageant of human life."  That "If we do not feed the music, some portion of us will starve."  And "Music, its meaning and its instruments are the wellspring of human culture."

  It was good food for thought as we went around and looked at all the implements of culture.  Many governments have tried to suppress music--but it's just not possible.  People's creativity in making instruments is unmatched, and their desire to express themselves through sound is irrepressible.

  One of the best things about the museum, though, was that it didn't exclusively exhibit "serious art."  Yes, classical music was well-represented.  But there were also displays on bluegrass, electronic music, hip hop and salsa.  It's a great way to bring all the forms of music onto the same playing field--and to realize that it serves the same purpose, no matter who is playing it.