The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Read more: Walter Tunis’ take on Madonna’s halftime show.
Madonna hadn’t even disappeared into the floor of her Super Bowl halftime show stage before haters were piling on the tweets including the annual declaration of “Worst Super Bowl halftime show ever,” along with slags on Madge’s age (53), music, etc.
People, everything doesn’t have to be a best or worst ever.
I’d place it comfortably in the middle.
I was ready to put Madonna at the top of the list if she brought it, and she brought a lot to the Super Bowl including an eye-popping stage that at one point swallowed the football field, Trojan warriors, a bunch of guest stars and several drumlines.
Madonna embraced the Super Bowl stage for the big, overblown spectacle that it is. In doing so, she also fulfilled an oft-relearned lesson: big, overblown spectacles can often end up feeling a little hollow. She picked a good set list of pumped-up, dance-oriented numbers like Vogue, Music and Like a Prayer, along with some other dashes like guest artist LMFAO’s Sexy and I Know It for a set that never slowed down and filled the venue. And she loaded the stage with lots of action, including a tightrope walker who was making men across the globe wince with his every move. Thankfully, she did not use the performance to pound us over the head with her upcoming album, MDNA, or movie, W.E. – whatever happened to words in titles?
It was fun. Did I feel like it was great artistry, like when Prince reminded us why Purple Rain is one of the greatest pop songs ever in 2007? No. Was is incredibly moving, like U2′s post 9/11 performance in 2002? No. But if you like Madonna, it was great to see her out there , if not a bit amusing to think that she is now considered “safe” enough for this stage after she was regarded as so scandalous in the 1980s and ’90s.
In picking Super Bowl halftime acts, the NFL tries to come up with something that will make everyone happy, which will never happen. But it has aimed to pick artists with broad appeal who have had substantial careers. Madonna haters have been around since she first showed off her belly button on MTV in 1983. But the woman has had a ground-breaking, chart-topping career and has remained somewhere in the spotlight for nearly three decades.
And the age comments? Let’s consider many halftime performers of recent vintage such as the Rolling Stones and the Who have been considerably older than Madonna when they played – and I’d say she wears 53 very well. Also consider a lot of the Super Bowl ads are laced with ’80s tunes and the big buzz ad this year was based on a movie that came out just two years after Like a Virgin.
A lot of us have gotten older.
So it was a fun, somewhat memorable if not all together inspiring halftime show. Not the best or worst ever, but then again, few things are.
Photographer Amy Stein is a city girl. Primarily, she has lived in Washington, D.C., and New York, where encounters between humans and wildlife usually involve squirrels.
So when she went to the country to work on a project about women and guns, she was surprised to hear about more serious encounters, including a girl seeing a bear on the other side of the chain-link fence that separated her home from the mountains.
“I just became fascinated with these stories and so I set out to re-create these stories,” Stein said by phone from Parsons The New School of Design in New York, where she teaches photography.
The project is Domesticated, on exhibit at The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky as part of the Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture Series. She will talk about the project at 4 p.m. Friday in a free lecture at the UK Student Center’s Worsham Theatre.
Domesticated started at Dave Clark’s taxidermy shop in Matamoras, Pa., which became the setting for the series.
“He was kind of open-minded to working with an artist like myself,” Stein says. “Through spending time in his store and spending time in the town, I became very interested in the location of the town, which is between the Delaware River and a big mountain park. It’s a small town sort of sandwiched between two natural spaces.
“As I spent more time at Dave Clark’s local taxidermy shop, I was hearing more and more about these human-animal encounters that happened at night.”
She tried to wait out some naturally occurring images. For the most part, though, she quickly came to realize that she needed to stage the shots.
“We set out every weekend to create images related to specific stories,” Stein says of herself and her husband, John, who made regular trips from New York to Matamoras, about 80 miles northwest of the city.
It turned out to be a really good thing to know a taxidermist. Clark or his customers would lend Stein the animals that would be posed in a variety of looks: a wolf howling at a floodlight in a Target parking lot, a deer lounging in a greenhouse, that big black bear startling the little girl at her swimming pool.
“The bear’s face had this ridiculous expression, this open-mouth, aggressive expression,” Stein says of the animal, which eventually was photographed from behind. “It took me a while to realize I need to get behind the bear and show the form of the bear without showing the face because that will have more power and also camouflage this ridiculous expression.”
Stein says she usually had to take some time to talk with the people whom she asked to be in the photos, to help them understand what she was doing and that this wasn’t a “smile for the camera” type of portrait.
“One thing I would always do is bring examples of images that are already made, that are in the style of what I wanted to make,” Stein says. “I was lucky at this point that there were some images in Oprah magazine and some pretty big magazines that had published some of the images. That gives you immediate credibility in a sense.”
Some photographs were spontaneous, including Threat, which shows a little boy in the woods with a deer, and Fast Food, which depicts seagulls swooping in to eat a discarded burger and fries in a parking lot.
“It’s a lot easier for animals to eat our refuse and scraps, because they have calories and protein and they don’t have to hunt it,” Stein says.
Animals eating humans’ discards was one of several themes in the series, along with fences that people build to put up barriers between themselves and the natural world, even though the barriers don’t always hold.
Predator shows a little girl standing in a flowery pink dress at the open gate of her fence as a coyote walks menacingly by. Stein says that sometime later, she heard that the same family had trouble with a bear that wanted to hibernate under their house.
Stein says that despite such annoyances, she found that most of the people knew what they were getting into, living where they live.
“They’re lovely people who want to share the beauty and wonder of their surroundings,” Stein says.
And they have, through her lens.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich