Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Art News

The good, the bad and the handsome


Image courtesy of Metro Des Moines Opera

New York, New York? While righteous protesters abandoned expensive tents amid mounds of garbage at an elite university on Broadway, another wasted camp site staked claim to 50,000 square feet of prime real estate on Wall Street. There was nothing to be proud of at either place. 

“October 7th 06:29 – The Moment Music Stood Still,” an exhibition about the Nova music festival in Re’im, Israel, transcended museum status to become a memorial to monstrosity. The giant show remembered the 3,000 concertgoers gathered for an event meant to last two days before veering eternal. At sunrise on that fall day, Hamas terrorists attacked the festival, killing more than 360 people and taking 44 hostages, about one-fourth of the total they murdered and captured that day.

Charred cars, bullet-pocked portable toilets, empty liquor bottles, camping tents, plastic cups, overturned chairs, sneakers and jewelry were transformed into a revelation that evolution can be reversed in that part of the human brain that hates, in this case Jews. There will not be another show any time soon that looses such emotions. 

In that other camp, at 114th and Broadway, students and their teachers wore the terrorists’ headdresses and scribed “We are Hamas” on venerable buildings while demanding “humanitarian relief” that included morning after pills. An irony emerged that is usually enacted near those parts of Broadway between 41st and 54th streets. The Nova exhibition curator told CBS News that “the show was about music, not politics.” If only.

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The return of the handsome baritone

Des Moines Metro Opera hosts another kind of summer camp. Its 250 performers and support staff come to Indianola from all over the globe each summer. They occupy the Simpson campus with creative esprit and rarely spew trash, graffiti or vitriol.  

This year’s featured opera, “The Barber of Seville,” brings a favorite star back. While grand opera usually glorifies sopranos and tenors, this Rossini delight elevates the baritone voice. Alexander Birch Elliott sings Figaro, a character created by Pierre Beaumarchais that inspired five operas including classics by Mozart and this by Rossini.  

Baritones may be supporting voices in opera-mad Germany and Italy, but they are supernova in America. Elvis, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, John Legend, and Drake grad Sherrill Milnes — all baritones. Elliott has enchanted crowds at The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera and Houston Grand Opera. Both the New York Times and Opera Today call him “the handsome baritone.” Since baritones are often villains, the latter publication also wrote that “Elliott exudes sleaze with ease.” 


Iowa’s Kickapoo prophet

A white buffalo calf was born in late April in the southeastern part of Texas’ Llano Estacado, made legendary by Larry MacMurtry’s Lonesome Dove saga. The National Bison Association says the probability of a buffalo calf being born white is one in 10 million. 

The Kickapoo artist Pahponee made the cover of Smithsonian by creating a line of white buffalo pots. That originated in Clarke County, Iowa, while she lived in a teepee, raising buffalo along with young children, without plumbing or electricity, while mining clay for ceramics she fired with her buffaloes’ dung. 

The hotel casino at Meskwaki features one of her white buffalo pots in its lobby. Barbara (her PTA name in Osceola) now lives in Ogallala, another legendary place from Lonesome Dove. She is making more bronzes than clay ceramics these days.


Summer touts

Claude Monet’s stunning paintings of the river Thames are coming to London 119 years after he pulled them out of a show there, thinking they were not good enough. Host Courtauld Gallery is less than a quarter mile from the legendary Savoy Hotel where most of the paintings were created… “Hurricane Season” features 35 works by six artists from across the Caribbean archipelago — Firelei Báez, Lionel Cruet, Teresita Fernández, Tamika Galanis, Deborah Jack and Hew Locke. It plays Des Moines Art Center through September 22… Sarah Grant, who did more than anyone to create the art scene in Des Moines, exhibits at Moberg Gallery beginning June 14… Olson-Larson Gallery’s annual Summer Landscape show begins June 7.



Frank Stella, the father of Cool Minimalism, died last month. His motto was “What you see is what you see.” If only. ♦

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Summer Stir - June 2024