Monday, October 29, 2007

Phantasmagoria



I have been inspired lately to draw and paint seasonal imagery. I had never tried a calaveras, a Day of the Dead skull, though I am attracted to the vibrant colors, and the idea of remembering behind this tradition. This piece is an experiment in combining oil pastel with watercolor. I wanted it to represent my happy memories of a lost friend, so the colors are bright and cheerful and the skull is surrounded by marigolds. There is also a necklace of colored beads around the image, though it didn't fit on the scanner.

Yesterday, on a whim, we drove in to Milwaukee to the Charles Allis Art Museum to see a performance called "Phantasmagoria." The brochure described it as a "19th Century Gothic Variety Show." Since there was no Packer game on television, my husband thought the trip might be fun, and it was, in a retro literary way. The show was a combination of music (Scriabin), dance, reading of literature (Frankenstein, Shelly's "Christabel" and "Prometheus Unbound" and more), and some interesting visual projections. I was very excited at the beginning to see a man actually playing one of those creepy electronic devices used in 1950's science fiction movies, the Theremin. Here's a bit more from the brochure:

"Phantasmagoria first emerged in the 1790s immediately following the French Revolution. New technologies of visual reproduction and new sources of light ushered in an era of visual illusion. These included entertainments of light and shadow that created not a simple image, but rather a total environment. By a variety of projection devices--moving the lantern to creat images of enlarging or shrinking the image, projection of a wavering image on billows of smoke, effects of transformation through mechanical slides or anamorphic lenses-- the projections appeared to come to life. These images could be presented as representation of spirits."

That's what this proogram tried to do, but by also using more modern technology such as the computer. There were small problems, a few stumbled lines, some awkward transitions, and an unintentionally funny shadow puppet sequence. But I enjoyed the idea of a spooky entertainment that emphasized ideas and innovation rather than pure gore and slick showmanship. It was fun stepping back into another century for a couple hours, and driving back home by the light of a harvest moon.

Now I think I'll reread Frankenstein.

4 comments:

demibrix said...

I wish you could be here next week. Every year the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art has an enormous exhibit of Dia de los Muertos shrines, activities for kids and related displays. Your painting is beautiful! - Barbara

Teri C said...

FABULOUS colors!! WOW, I love it!! And now I am inspired.

Dee said...

I love your blog!! So many cool things going on here. All the arts in action, so diverse, wonderful. Great painting, the colors pop. Have a grand day.
Dee Overly

Wendy said...

The colours in this are so vibrant. Just gorgeous.