Sunday, October 27, 2013

Women to Watch: Ringgold, Niffenegger, Hall, DeBuys

Another full arts day yesterday, courtesy of National Museum of Women in the Arts's current exhibitions (closing November 10) and the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Measure for Measure (closing today - sorry).

At NMWA, the juxtaposition of Faith Ringgold's stark, political work against the tumultuous dreams uncovered by Audrey Niffenegger (best known as the author of The Time Traveler's Wife) was startling and fresh.

detail: Faith Ringgold, American People Series #1: Between Friends, 1963; Collection Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York - See more at: NMWA

The Time Traveler's Wife, original cover art by Audrey Niffenegger, via Tower Books
We see two different female points of view - one outer directed but filtered through an individual's journey into the world. A quote by Ringgold on her early portraits was shaking: She said that, in art school, no one could teach her how to paint black skin, so she had to invent a process of mixing black into colors, creating a rich, graphic style.

In Niffenegger's self-portraits, there are unsettling images and ideas of a woman being defined and controlled by a man, a lover who chops her hair off because it displeases him. It is little wonder that her dreamscapes become intertwined with what look like death wishes, skeletons lurking within and among the female forms.

Audrey Niffenegger, Observation (detail), 2010; Collection of Larry and Laura Gerber, Highland Park, Illinois - See more at: NMWA
Niffenegger's lighter dreamscapes are epitomized in the delightful fantasy book, Raven Girl, which was not available as promised in the museum shop.

Raven Girl, original cover art by Audrey Niffenegger, via
And so on over to STC for Measure for Measure, for a Meetup event with a few of the same folks I got to share Henry V with over at Folger last season.

Just as Ringgold and Niffenegger demonstrate two approaches to art--external, loud, in your face versus internal, solemnly despairing, reflective--we find in Measure two different approaches to being a successful actress on stage in the work.

This Measure gives us, in the lead, Gretchen Hall as Isabella, the strong, wise, moral heroine, and Katie deBuys, melting unrecognizably into a minor part (Juliet, the beloved of Isabella's brother).
Gretchen Hall, via About the Artists

Katie deBuys, via About the Artists
You may notice right away that this Isabella is not the one portrayed in the poster art, nor included in the rehearsal photos on Facebook. Gretchen lists "standby" for this production as her most recent credit. But this 5'10" stunning redhead (a lookalike for a young Rebecca de Mornay), made her mark for me in the recent ReDiscovery Series reading of Rutherford and Son. Her character was the strong, moral woman standing up against dominating, immoral man. Both Gretchen and her characters are memorable in every way.

Katie is different. The fact that our Meetup gang did NOT recognize her in what is a tertiary role is a testament to her craft. Just as astonished as we all were that the same actress could be both the mesmerizing and playful Katherine of France and the young boy, just a soldier under Henry, here again, she astonishes, turning herself inside out to be who she needs to be.

"Meeting" these four women artists at once validates all our points of view, our approaches to life. Some of us speak out, shout, get noticed, seen, heard. Some of us reflect and project, melt meaningfully into our worlds, work with the tools we are given--our spirits, minds, and souls.

Love, hosaa
just juxtaposing

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