Wednesday, February 25, 2009

All Dressed Up and...

All Dressed Up and…
By Tom Wachunas

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’ve been grousing for years about The Repository’s refusal to give a voice to local arts critics. So why stop now? The paper’s newly unveiled make-over seems to have only further stoked the fire of my discontent with the publication. We now have before us a garish exercise in visual multi-tasking that is a grand, case-in-point illustration of really awful graphic design. I’m reminded of the ancient story of the emperor’s new clothes. Oops. Guess I’ve gone and done it now – burned some more bridges. But I digress.

There are some truly fine writers on the Repository staff. But their “reporting” on the arts often comes off as re-worked press releases with accompanying cursory- but- pleasant interviews with the artists. In the end, such stories can too easily settle into the realm of gutless fluff, and be downright unhelpful in grasping the art itself.

Does this view brand me as an elitist intellectual snob? I admit to being as much, but only if being a snob means that I long for our local paper to embrace the arts with the same passion and depth it exhibits (or claims to) in covering political, social, and athletic issues. I long for a local paper that enlightens and appeals to the whole person, and we are less than whole if we minimize the rightful, needed place of the arts in our lives. The fact that The Repository doesn’t meet that need is beyond unfortunate. It’s insulting.

Alas, it’s true that the very idea of newspapers is becoming increasingly obsolete, like the proverbial ships that have not only sailed, but are sinking quickly. In the long run, I seriously doubt that changing the look, or re-assessing their target readership, will significantly slow their demise. And so it is that while I will forever savor the look, the feel, even the smell of real paper while I read and write, I surrender more and more to the Web – its availability, its possibilities, and its opportunities – and always with thanks to God for the ability to do so.

Meanwhile, I’ve had another look at Emperor Repository’s new duds today, and I still see nothing…….er, uhm, new.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kimono Viewing 101

Kimono viewing 101: Don’t forget to breathe
By Tom Wachunas

One of the common reactions I’ve heard in praise of Kimono is “breathtaking,” as in, “it took my breath away.” A cliché, to be sure, but nonetheless an apt and interesting one here. Truly sublime sensory experiences often give rise to hyperbole of this sort and, again, in this case, arrested breathing is a very real (hopefully temporary), understandable response. So what, exactly, is really at work in viewing the art of Itchiku Kubota?

Consider this: a sudden rush of astounding visual beauty, compounded with sumptuous tactile data, can have an impact akin to an unexpected blast of wind that knocks us off balance and punches the air right out of us. Yikes. I’m feeling hyperbolic again. Kimono knocked my socks off.

But here is a wind that transcends the air movement so delicately implied in Kubota’s sweeping, elegant landscapes. It’s almost as if they are collectively exhaling their essence in our direction. So it behooves us to inhale.

And what is the substance we are breathing? Far more than air. Here is an artist’s relentless pursuit of a technique that freed him to harness the very spirit of light and color in achingly marvelous harmony with form. When viewing this astonishing revelation of a lifetime pursuit, compose yourself. Don’t touch (even though the works beg for it), but be touched. Breathe with the landscapes. Be careful to contain drooling, as saliva and skin oil can damage the goods.

And put your socks back on.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009