Why do artists do what they do?

Posted: December 6, 2010 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

In class on Monday and Tuesday this week, I switched from my role as teacher to that of ‘visiting’ artist. I chose to speak about the process of collaboratively creating the play Aching to Go Home. If you decide to comment please focus foremost on the question which heads this post. In other words, ask yourself: What motivated this particular artist (me), to spend almost three years traveling, researching, writing, producing, raising money and more — to create an ephemeral work of art? As usual, please be as specific as possible.

Never before have I taken a class to talk about my own work. While I read your comments I do not grade your comments. I’d like you to be as candid as you can be if you choose to write. You shouldn’t feel any obligation to comment if you don’t want to. You earn your final grade based on all the  points you’ve accumulated over the semester, of which only 6% of your grade can be earned on the blog. However, your observations, personal reflections about my work and  your thoughts about connections between my work and that of other artists we’ve gotten to know this semester are welcome. (This list of artists we’ve examined – those we met in person and those we looked at second hand through other media, is long.)

The link accessed in class with information about the play and some of the other work I do is here.


Slumdog Millionaire

Posted: November 30, 2010 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

By now you should have a very good idea on what kinds of questions to pose to yourself or to challenge your classmates with. If you need help, go back and look at the criteria posted on the blog and printed in Handbook. Criteria for the highest level (10 pt.) comment is: Comment significantly advances discussion and introduces new topic or question; critical analysis is illuminating and articulate; exhibits mastery of class vocabulary/concepts; spelling and grammar are near perfect.

I encourage you to make the decision to ‘converse’ with the people who have already commented. There are two good reasons to do this: 1. It will make for a stronger, more interesting conversation about Slumdog Millionaire. 2. If you do a good job replying to what’s already been said – whether you disagree or agree — you will earn more points for your comment. Just be sure to first click “Reply” and add something new and of value to the discussion.

Thursday night: This post will close in the morning. If you are adding your thoughts now, a suggestion: reference something said in class yesterday or today and expand upon that.

George and Ira Gershwin, The Jazz Age and MY ONE AND ONLY

Posted: November 17, 2010 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

KEY, top to bottom, left to right: “Blues, 1929,” by Archibald Motely, (more on this painting here);  temperance poster, 1919; “We Want Beer,”  Labor union members in Newark, N.J., march against prohibition, Oct. 31, 1931; photograph of Prof. Scott Cowan and Company, Professor Scott Cowan with WMU School of Music students Ashley Kimbrough, Nich Mueller, Jordan Richards and Nelson Oliva: guests in DEARTS on November 16, 2010 in the class I Got Rhythm; photograph of Fred Astaire, George Gershwin, and Ira Gershwin; Al Jolson in blackface in the 1920’s; poster for My One and Only at WMU, November, 2010.

This post covers: Nice Work If You Can Get It (with guest director Ken Leigh Rogers); I Got Rhythm (with Scott Cowan and School of Music jazz students); Visit with Cast, Designers, et al., of My One and Only (in Shaw Theatre) AND the performance of My One and Only.

Topics/Questions to reflect on: Ken Leigh Rogers’ (KLR) question, Is there value today in theatre that is escapist? What has the impact on the arts of people who have been considered ‘others’ by ‘mainstream American society’ at different times? KLR’s experience as a man in the dance world. And: Twiggy. The Harlem Renaissance. George and Ira Gershwin. The jazz program @ WMU., including Scott Cowan and Nich, Jordan, Nelson and Ashley. Ragtime. Swanee. Rhapsody in Blue. Porgy and Bess.

Here I Stand: Paul Robeson

Posted: November 10, 2010 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

Key, clockwise beginning upper left corner: Paul Robeson, All-American football player at Rutgers University; Robeson, Phi Beta Kappa laureate, Rutgers, 1919; Robeson as Othello in New York production, 1943; Robeson leading Anit-Lynching Campaign in front of statue of Abraham Lincoln, Washington, D.C., 1946;  Robeson leading Civil Rights protest in front of the White House, Washington, D.C., 1948, and cover of The Undiscovered Paul Robeson, vol I, by Paul Robeson, Jr., published 2001

This class was unlike any  this semester:  I spoke to you (and presented music and visuals) but allowed virtually no time for you to comment or to question me. There was no discussion or debate  which is usually at the heart of our class.  I made this decision because we needed every minute of class to cover the basics of Robeson’s life and work.

Please engage in discussion here about Mr. Robeson – the rarest of individuals – who can accurately be called a Renaissance man. Please make any and all connections to other material we’ve engaged this semester – to the best of your ability. How are you feeling — having been introduced to Robeson, his achievements, concerns and struggles? What aspects of his life stand out to you most vividly –  and why?

Spring Awakening

Posted: November 4, 2010 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

Did it work for you? Did you love it? Hate it? Did you have a . . . catharsis? If you did – when?  Did you recognize yourself, your parents, chapters of your life in parts of Spring Awakening? How did Spring Awakening compare to Take Me Out? (Is it possible to compare them?) Especially in light of how ‘otherness’ emerged as a major theme this semester, who are the ‘others’ in the stories of Spring Awakening? Which individuals or groups did you identify with because of their ‘otherness?’ Did the combination of the anachronistic and the contemporary work? Why? Why not? Did you find yourself, or others laughing at times when laughter may have seemed inappropriate?  Do you have favorite characters and/or actors in S.A?  What about the music?  The set? Lighting? If you’re reading this the ‘day after’ or a few days later: Has Spring Awakening remained on your mind, or have you mostly forgotten it? If you could change one aspect of the production or the story, what would it be?

Cultural Internment/Roger Shimomura

Posted: October 26, 2010 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

Class Monday and Tuesday with guest professor Connie So felt like it might have burst the seams of 2452 Knauss. Above, surrounded by Roger Shimomura’s American Portrait #1, are images from the class Cultural Internment. This post is the place to comment on the class and to record your reactions to Shimomura’s exhibition in the Richmond Center. As usual, please give specifics and try to post replies to comments you find compelling.

Additional advice for commenting on this post. If you feel you don’t have the time or patience to read all previous comments on this post, begin at the bottom with the earliest comments posted. If one of these comments especially engages your interest then REPLY to that person by clicking the red REPLY ‘button.’


Posted: October 14, 2010 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

This week DEARTS was immersed in Richard Greenberg’s play Take Me Out as directed Jay Berkow. We began in the classroom on Monday and Tuesday, with Berkow and actors Cornelius Davidson and Ben Matters. Our exploration of masculinity, homosexuality and race embodied in the world of major league baseball continued in the Williams Theatre on Wednesday and Thursday. There, designers of the production demonstrated and explained their artistry and took questions. Finally –preliminaries completed – we took our seats for the show.

You may approach your comments in many ways: What surprised you? Favorite characters? Design elements? Why? How completely did you find yourself absorbed in the story and the theatrical world that Greenberg, Berkow, the actors and designers collaborated upon? What moral lessons do the key characters learn? What opinions did you have about men, their sexuality, nudity, race – and baseball – before the week began? Between the first class and the start of the show? What about now? Has the experience changed you in any way? Did you have a good time? If you can, make reference as well, to the images above that were shown and discussed in class to provide historical and artistic context.

Updated advice on comments: The first 50 bloggers have covered some topics and questions very well. Those of you weighing in now need to focus on: replying to and expanding upon comments already posted, and/or digging further into questions asked in the paragraph above. Did you experience a catharsis? If you did, what specific development or elements in the production caused the catharsis? (This term was assigned last month. If you aren’t certain of it’s meaning please look it up again in the glossary.) It should be apparent that you’re obligated to read all comments previously posted — before you write your own.

CAUTION: As of Weds. afternoon, Oct. 20 there are almost 150 comments. The M/W class spent a full hour talking about Take Me Out today. I thought the class did an excellent job exploring difficult issues.  The T/R class will have its turn tomorrow. If you are blogging about Take Me Out now —  (whichever class you are in),  your comments must contain new observations. Repeating in the blog what is said in class is not okay (any comments like that will be given 0 credit.) What will be welcome is for you to expand upon issues that were debated in class.

Contextualizing Art and Artists:

Posted: October 8, 2010 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

From the beginning of class: Listen to and watch: In taberna quando sumus” (When we are in the tavern) from Carl Orff’s CARMINA BURANA. Excerpt conducted by Seiji Ojawa

Images from our examination of expectations of religious and secular identity, gender and sexuality  – long before R. Crumb!

KEY: top row: detail of  David, by Donatello, ca. 1440; detail of  David, by Michelangelo, 1501 – 1504; detail of  David, by Bernini, 1623 – 1624. Second row: detail of The Birth of Venus, by Botticelli, ca. 1486; detail of Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (“The Luncheon on the Grass”), by Édouard Manet, 1863; detail of L’Origine du monde, (“The Origin of the World”), by Gustave Courbet, 1866.

KEY:Top: Large self-portrait by R. Crumb, “The Little Guy that lives inside my brain,” 1986; inset: Robert Crumb as seen in the documentary Crumb, directed by Terry Zwigoff, 1994; “Eve and the Serpent” from Crumb’s “The Book of Genesis,” 2009; Second row: cover of “The Book of Genesis,” showing God expelling Adam and Eve from The Garden of Eden; Cover of American Splendor Comic by Harvey Pekar and R. Crumb; 1996.

This class covered a lot of ground: From asking whether comics should be funny, to light and Enlightenment, Goya (and more Goya) – to excerpts from the film Crumb. Have at it:

Graphic Novels and Comics Today

Posted: October 1, 2010 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

KEY: top row, L-R: CCA logo; EC Comic cover, 1954; Comic book censorship czar Charles Murphy, 1954; first issue MAD magazine, 1955; Robert Crumb, Ooga Booga, 1968; Crumb, Joe Blow, ca. 1969; Crumb, Genesis Illustrated, 2009; Art Spielgelman, Maus Vol. II, 1992; Spiegelman,  Maus, Vol. I, 1986; Frank Miller, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, 1986, Superman, Curt Swan & Sheldon, artists, Moldoff/Jerry Siegel, writer1961; Doctor Manhattan from Watchman, Alan Moore, writer/Dave Gibbons, artist, 1986.

Selected other topics and themes to discuss: Cindy The Tattooed Sunday School Teacher see: Mack White; blacklisting by The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA); Underground Comix; RAW magazine; comics and mythology, see Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Now’s your chance to contrast, compare and critique the entire spectrum of the comic book world we explored. What thematic connections can you make between the work presented in the Art in 2010 class and this class, featuring Michael Bonesteel? What are your reactions to one or more of the specific works presented by Bonesteel?

NOTE: DEARTS encourages debate and argument. However the pre-requisite is courtesy and respect for one another. The debate about Mr. Bonesteel’s presentation demands you put forth your point of view thoughtfully – and avoid making personal attacks. You may benefit from re-reading the criteria for our grading of blogging, posted under Key Info. One part of the criteria is under the heading: “Other factors that can increase the number of points awarded a comment”:  The blogger brings up a topic that requires some courage or bravery. For example, the writer disagrees with another writer and does an excellent job debating the point. Second example: the blogger brings up points of view that others might find difficult including aspects of race, gender, sexuality, etc.

In class Mr. Bonesteel and I continuously used the word satire. The word was also posted on the screen. Please do not place any comments to this post unless or until you have a thorough understanding of this word. From the DEARTS glossary: satire (1) The use of ridicule, irony, or sarcasm to hold up to ridicule and contempt vices, follies, abuses, and so forth. (2) A work of literature that uses satire. Also from the glossary is irony: The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. One more, from the glossary:  misogyny: please look it up. Any comments posted that don’t reflect an understanding of these  terms will be graded downwards.

NEW/ SUNDAY AFTERNOON: Unexpectedly I see Mr. Bonesteel added his voice to yours in this post. Prior to making a new comment be certain to read his comments. fyi: If it didn’t get said in both classes: Bonesteel teaches semester long classes about Graphic Novels and Comics. As mentioned, he teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was able to give us a less than 2 hour peek at these complex forms of art and the decades of history behind them. Please feel free to respond to Mr. Bonesteel’s words. Also: don’t forget the links above to relevant topics Bonesteel and I presented to you.

Art in 2010 plus: YINKA SHONIBARE!

Posted: September 28, 2010 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

KEY: L – R; top to bottom: Details from all the following images: The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (Asia), 2008; Yinka Shonibare, MBE (British, b. 1962); The Swing, 1767, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French, Rococo manner; A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery , Joseph Wright of Derby, ca. 1764, (note: learn “chiaroscuro” in glossary), note question: his work reflects what “revolution” of that time?  In what ways does it do this?); Kehinde Wiley, Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005, (American, born 1977), oil on canvas, collection of  Brooklyn Museum, NY; Second Row: Johann Pachelbel, 1653 – 1706; Scott Joplin, born ca. 1867, died 1917; Claude Debussy, 1862 – 1918; Artis Leon Ivey, Jr., better known as Coolio, born 1963.

What were the most salient points covered during this class, keeping in mind all contributions by Thompson, Solomon as well as you and your peers? As always be specific. Caution to some: Be certain you read all comments on the post before you write yours. What I’d like to see is progressive commentary and discussion. Generally speaking we are not in need of quick ‘capsule’ reviews of the content.Discuss colonialism and how colonialism plays a role in all of the works and artists seen here (and/or heard, seen or discussed in class). Do your best to link together diverse concepts and bring in your personal subjective and specific perspective.

BONUS QUESTION: During Class #1, we deconstructed the first few minutes of the film Pulp Fiction. In addition to the reasons you enumerated in class — I spoke of another reason. This additional reason was, as I tried to communicate, the most important rationale for looking at the clip. It had to do with essential components of the Art in 2010 class. What was it? The best 1-3 answers/comments will receive double points for that response. That is, if your comment is evaluated to be worth 6 points – it will actually be given 12, etc.


You are invited to comment on the Yinka Shonibare Exhibition in the Richmond Center. Did you enjoy visiting the RCVA? Think of all aspects of your visit and everything you observed as you worked on your assignment.  What surprised you most? Do you have a different perspective on his work now, than you did after our class with Professor Thompson — but before our visit? Are there any works of art you saw that you would purchase (if money were no object 😉  As always: be specific; explain why; discuss key topics such as colonialism and appropriation. If you mention formal elements be super specific!