I realize that today is Ash Wednesday, and I should, perhaps, write a bit more than an excuse not to write, but I’m not. Instead I’m posting the first post of “Music in Lent?” the 2014 edition. I’ve chosen From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee. I don’t usually like the quality of the recording when it’s been recorded in a church or during a service but I found this to be rather good.
I do have a few posts that I’m working on for Lent: one is about musical settings for grace and the other will in some way explain why Uncle Frog. In the mean time may your fast be light.
I’m fond of saying “What’s a Beyoncé?” when some of my co-workers talk about pop music. In turn, I’m used to blank stares when I mention almost anything that interests me. Yesterday there were two welsh references that went right over the heads of the people with whom I was talking. The first was when I mentioned to one of the women that her new hair style reminded me of Shirley Bassey.
Faster than you could say Tiger Bay came the question “Is she black?” which might as well been “Who’s Shirley Bassey?”
I said “She’s Welsh… and black.”
She’s also a Dame!
Later that day another co-worker mentioned that she’d been drinking at the White Horse Tavern. To which I said That’s where Dylan Thomas died. (Knowing full well that he actually died in Saint Vincent’s Hospital, but that he had his last drink at the White Horse.) She, of course said “Who’s Dylan Thomas?” I told her to read my blog today.
Perhaps it was coincidence that the two people mentioned yesterday were welsh; perhaps not. Perhaps it was a foretaste of the day to come; the day that is today: Saint David’s Day. Of course this is not the first time I’ve written about Saint David’s Day: the day on which we celebrate all things Welsh. There was The Only Saint in the Village and Dydd Gwyl Dewi Dedwydd! Both of those posts had mentions of Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones as did I’m Feeling a Bit Like Jonah. Dylan Thomas came up in April one year for National Poetry Month in the post To-Day, This Insect.
And this is my post for Saint David’s Day this year. We’ve had music and poetry from some of the best of what Wales has to offer, but for me, no Saint David’s Day would be complete without a word from my favorite Welsh Vlogger, Adam, and today that word is Green.
For a bit more on welsh pronunciation click here.
Finally as today is also the official kickoff to Carnival I thought we may return to a Carnival of Venice, but this time performed by a Welsh man on an euphonium.
Happy Dewi Sant, and happy carnival!
I’ve written about Gesimatide, Carnival, Shrovetide, Fastnacht; and their celebrations in England, Germany, and Brazil (both Rio and Bahia). I’ve posted simply frivolous posts in celebration of Carnival. However, I’ve avoided looking at Louisiana and Venice. I’m not sure why. Somehow those celebrations never really inspired me. Mardi Gras in New Orleans seemed a bit too common and the Venice Carnevale seemed a bit too superficial; a bit too aesthete; a bit too commercial.
Of course the Venice Carnevale didn’t start out as slick as it is today. The impetus behind it was primarily a religious necessity: fat needed to be used before the fasting of lent began on Ash Wednesday; a messy orgy of spending all this excess, luxurious fatty stuff was actually necessary. In Venice, the party that began at Christmas never ended as the carnival season started on Saint Stephen’s Day. Masks were added to the celebration in the Renaissance. With the advent of mask-wearing there was a true sense of danger as unidentifiable people milled about in a three month season of Carnevale, masking their identities as they visited casinos and brothels and engaged in all sort of nefarious affairs. At the height of the fervor for Carnival, people would be masked for up to six months a year. It was the Austrian conquest of Venice that put a stop to that. And the rise of Mussolini in the 1930s actually outlawed Carnival in Venice, mask wearing, and other traditional carnival costumes like the three cornered hat.
The Carnival that’s known in Venice today is a 1970s recreation of the carnival that was wounded by the Austrians, and then killed off by the Fascists. It seems that much of the underlying danger and anonymity is merely a slick gloss of disco era loucheness lacking the delicious decay of decadence.
Was that German?
…or The Frozen Logger.
Poor Jo having to suffer with that presenter. Poor us having to suffer with what seems to be an exceptionally cold February. I hope I’m not being like the CNN reporter out in front of the Time Warner building reporting that there was snow and winter weather in February, but I did think that the song The Frozen Logger was an appropriate song for the season.
It’s not unusual to not touch the art on display in a museum (although my husband once saw a woman stroking a Dali at the Met). But it is unusual to see an exhibition so tempting to touch as Queer Threads Crafting Identity and Community curated by John Chaich at the Leslie Lohman Museum. One usually thinks of needlepoint pillows on your grandmother’s couch; or plush crocheted toys that one of the church ladies made for you for your christening; perhaps you fondly remember the quilt handed down in your family that you had at the foot of your bed, or the denim shirt your godmother embroidered with a rainbow coloured hot air balloon for you in the ’70s. All of these things are meant to be touched, to be used, but none of the art in Queer threads is meant for use.
This look-but-don’t-touch idea was most evident in the work of my friend, Nathan Vincent. (I’ve written about him before.) Nathan’s installation of a crocheted locker room, titled “Locker Room,” is one of the works that most deeply expresses the frustration of look but don’t touch. It is incredibly inviting. You are encouraged to walk about the locker room; to weave your way past the urinals, through the lockers and under the showers. Constantly you are tempted to touch, even hug these objects that in their proper context are hard even utilitarian, but in this context fulfilling that desire is thwarted. It is an experience perhaps similar to that of a gay man at the gymnasium; surrounded by beautiful naked men. Look but don’t touch.
Similarly tempting is the work of poet Melanie Braverman. Her quilt of vintage and antique fabrics and embroidered panels invites you to curl up under it and read a good book, perhaps Red. Once again: Look but don’t touch. However, in this case the fact that the embroidered panels are covered with slurs (queer, invert, etc.) the temptation to wrap these insults around yourself is also like taking these names, these descriptors as a badge, as something that comforts rather than abuses. Rather than a temptation of desire it is a temptation to empowerment.
Ms. Braverman’s work is of especial interest to me as I also started out as a poet and slowly moved over to visual arts; although it may be argued that poetry is a visual art, especially if we look at the works of William Blake, or Kenneth Patchen.
One of the primary things that an artist does is to try to make a thing of beauty. Sometimes it is beautiful, sometimes sublime, and sometimes grotesque. All of these are attempts at the beautiful, even when they are pointing away from the beautiful they can encourage the viewer to look for the beautiful when he turns away from the work. It’s tempting to layer onto that work meanings through discussing dichotomies of butch/femme, top/bottom, vanilla/kink as in the work “Leather Pansy II” by John Thomas Paradiso.
Even when art is placed in a LGBTQFFA (and what ever other letters you want to add to that alphabet soup. Perhaps in the context of an exhibit of needle arts QUILTBAG would be best.) parerga, it’s still that desire for the beautiful that is primarily on display. No matter what the dichotomies being explored or discussed are, it is the beautiful object that we view and has its effect on us, and it’s refreshing to see the Leslie Lohman Museum transcend the temptation to define gay art as that which is solely about erotic desire and embrace a vision of beauty within the context of a queer aesthetic.
Queer Threads Crafting Identity and Community is showing at the Leslie Lohman Museum at 26 Wooster Street in
New York City until March 16th 2014.