The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
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.
Dec27Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Arts administration, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Central Kentucky Arts News, Christmas music, Classical Music, Country music, Downtown Arts Center, Film, Horsemania, Kentucky Theatre, Laura Bell Bundy, LexArts, Lexington Art League, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers, Music, Musicals, Norton Center for the Arts, Opera, Secretariat, Singletary Center for the Arts, UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, UK, Visual arts; Tagged as: Actors Guild of Lexington, Allison Kaiser, Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Alltech Fortnight Festival, Balagula Theatre, Blake Shelton, Debra Hoskins, Eric Seale, Gustavo Dudamel, Haiti, Institute 193, John Lithgow, La Bohème, Laura Bell Bundy, Lexington Art League, Lexington Chamber Chorale, Lexington Children’s Theatre, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Lexington Singers, Marvin Hamlisch, Ouanamithe, Phillip March Jones, ProjectSEE Theartre, Rolling Stones, Scott Terrell, Southeastern Theatre Conference, Spotlight Lexington Festival, Stephanie Pevec, Steven A. Hoffman, The Chieftains, Thoroughbred Community Theatre, Tony Bennett, Trombone Shorty, U2, UK Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Lexington’s 2010 year in arts could not have been weirder if you took the city and plopped it in the middle of Florida. Between some major changes at area arts institutions and the unprecedented wave of local and national arts activity prompted by the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, it was a year unlike any we have had or will probably see again.
■ While we did not get U2 or the Rolling Stones as WEG organizers had originally hoped, the games did fill up theaters, and in many cases, theater seats during the two weeks and three weekends of the games. Topping the bill was the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel at the Norton Center for the Arts. It was a booking that was deemed impossible by New York agents and drew national attention, all made possible by the persistence of for Norton Center assistant managing director Debra Hoskins who smoothed the road with bourbon and chocolate.
The event itself was an unforgettable evening for the audience and a great experience for area musicians and others who got to interact with one of the world’s great orchestras and shining stars.
Other great performances brought in by the Games were an evening with Marvin Hamlisch and the UK Symphony Orchestra, which had a great fortnight playing for the opening ceremonies and a production of La Boheme as well; Blake Shelton, Trombone Shorty and Laura Bell Bundy at the Spotlight Lexington Festival downtown and performances by Tony Bennett, John Lithgow and the Chieftains.
There is talk of extending both the Spotlight and Alltech Fortnight festivals, which presented the bulk of the entertainment, into the future. But we probably won’t see this level of activity again unless the games come back.
The Games also brought a number of high profile art exhibits to the area including a retrospective of the horse in American art at the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky and the Gift from the Desert look at Arabian horses at the International Museum of the Horse.
■ Scott Terrell was hired as the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra’s new music director in 2009, but this is the year we really started to see his vision for the orchestra unfold, and its reverberations in the community. Unveiling the orchestra’s 2010-11 season, he showed he was willing to break traditions and initiate new collaborations. He presented Messiah is a smaller format than years past and brought groups including local school and college choirs into the Philharmonic fold for performances that broke the orchestral concert mold. He also instituted a new style of concert preview with the Kicked Back Classics event at the Downtown Arts Center in November.
The moves have not come without some friction, which change often produces. There was unhappiness over the Lexington Singers not being part of the Messiah this year, as Terrell wanted to go with a smaller chorus and the Singers did not want to downsize. Enter the Lexington Chamber Chorale as a new collaborator and the Singers presenting their own Messiah in a holiday arts season whose calendar was largely rewritten this year. Precipitated by the changes, the Singers are asserting themselves more as an entity in their own right, un-tethered to the Philharmonic calendar.
How all of this will settle remains to be seen. But it is clear this will be a new Philharmonic under Terrell’s baton.
The orchestra also got a new executive director as Allison Kaiser came over from the same post at the Lexington Art League and Stephanie Pevec took over that post.
■ This was the year without Actors Guild of Lexington. Long regarded as Lexington’s flagship theater for adult audiences, financial troubles and management departures in 2009 all but shuttered the company this year except for one production, a concert version of The Who’s Tommy at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom and the new Moondance at Midnight Pass amphitheater. That said, theater thrived in the area with first rate productions by the Lexington Children’s Theatre and area college and community groups and emergence of some new organizations such as ProjectSEE Theartre and productions out of the Thoroughbred Community Theatre in Midway. And there were successes such as Balagula Theatre’s strong showing in the Southeastern Theatre Conference Convention here in Lexington. Actors Guild has announced a lineup of shows for 2011 under the guidance of new artistic director Eric Seale, but the group will be joining an active theater scene.
Some other big stories of the year that is now almost done were:
■ Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts tapped Steven A. Hoffman as its new director, following the departure of longtime director George Foreman to the University of Georgia. With this month’s departure of assistant managing director Debra Hoskins, there has been a complete turnover in management at the Norton Center. This will be a story to watch in 2011.
■ Alltech launched a project sending University of Kentucky voice students to Ouanamithe, Haiti, to launch a music program and form a children’s choir. The choir came to Central Kentucky and made several appearances during the World Equestrian Games.
■ The Southeastern Theatre Conference, the nation’s largest regional theater convention, came to Lexington for the first time in more than 20 years, and by all accounts, it went wonderfully.
■ Secretariat brought some Hollywood glamour back to the Bluegrass, including a gala premier at the Kentucky Theatre attended by star Diane Lane and many others.
■ Lexington native Laura Bell Bundy launched a country music career with her Mercury Nashville debut Achin’ and Shakin’.
■ Horse Mania returned to the streets of Lexington, 10 years after the original edition in 2000.
■ Michael Tick was named the new dean of the University of Kentucky’s College of Fine Arts.
■ The Pioneer Playhouse in Danville suffered massive flooding during rainstorms in early May, but recovered and went on to a successful season thanks to an army of volunteers.
■ Phillip March Jones’ Institute 193 emerged as a major force in creating and presenting visual arts in Central Kentucky.
■ Among world premiers in Lexington this year were Aleks Merilo’s Blur in the Rear View and Bringing It Home: Voices of Student Veterans, by UK Theatre, Beth Kander’s See Jane Quit by Bluegrass Community and Technical College Theatre, Roger Zare’s Geometries by the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, Frank X Walker’s I Dedicate This Ride at Lexington Children’s Theatre, and the regional premier of Brian Hampton’s The Jungle Fun Room by Studio Players.
Sarah Hoskins, whose photographs of African-American hamlets around the Lexington area were the final exhibit in this year’s Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture Series at The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, is scheduled to be profiled today on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday. The show is heard locally on WEKU-88.9 FM. and WUKY-91.3 FM from 8 to 10 a.m.
Hoskins and subjects of her photos were interviewed by NPR correspondent Jacki Lyden in Lexington last month, when Hoskins was here for the lecture portion of the series. NPR schedules are subject to change, particularly in the event of breaking news. If the report airs, it should be available at www.npr.org later in the day.
The public radio network first became interested in Hoskins and her work for its Picture Show blog.
Mar20Filed under: Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Photography, slide shows, Visual arts; Tagged as: African-American hamlets, Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Jahi Chikwendiu, Jimtown Male Chorus, Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture Series, Sarah Hoskins, Smithsonian Institution
Click the play button to hear Sarah Hoskins talk about her work in Central Kentucky and see a slide show of her images.
Equine photography brought Sarah Hoskins to Lexington. African-American hamlets around the city and in Central Kentucky made the Bluegrass feel like home.
“I was introduced to one woman named Lydia Talbert, and I was introduced to Maddoxtown Church,” Hoskins, left, says of her friend from the New Zion community who has since died. “And from there, what happens is, it gets to be a trust thing. I met one person and they led me to somebody else, and they led me to somebody else. I never thought I would be doing this for 10 years.”
Now, the results of her decade of visiting New Zion, Uttingertown and other communities are on display at The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky. Hoskins will give an address at UK’s Worsham Theatre on Friday as part of the Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture Series.
“I think it’s really important that it is in Kentucky,” says Hoskins, who lives with her family north of Chicago. “I’ve always given lectures, and this work was incorporated with other projects. This is the first time I will give a lecture solely on this project, and it’s an honor to do it in Kentucky.”
She says she talked to residents of the communities where she worked to make sure they were OK with having their pictures displayed at the museum. Many residents plan to come to the lecture. When she has spoken before, Hoskins has ended her lectures with a photo and recording of the Jimtown Male Chorus, and her camera can be heard clicking in the background. The group will sing at Hoskins’ lecture.
Her appearance bookends this year’s Robert C. May series with strong Kentucky themes; the first one, last fall, showcased the photography of The Washington Post’s Jahi Chikwendiu, who grew up in Lexington and started his photography career at the Herald-Leader.
Jan3Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Arts administration, Classical Music, Laura Bell Bundy, LexArts, Lexington Opera House, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, Opera, Rupp Arena, Theater; Tagged as: A Gift From the Desert, Actors Guild of Lexington, Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Brian Isaac Phillips, Buster's Billiards and Backroom, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Distillery District, Eric Seale, Everett McCorvey, George Clooney, Horse Mania, International Museum of the Horse, Johnny Depp, Laura Bell Bundy, Lexington Opera House, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Loretta Lynn, Lyric Theatre, Michael Shannon, Rupp Arena, Scott Terrell, Spotlight Lexington, The Horse in American Art, University of Kentucky Art Museum, WEG
Here we stand, little souls on the precipice of a new year and a whole new decade.
And as we stand here watching the first streams of light break over the horizon, we wonder: “What will happen in Central Kentucky arts this year?”
OK, I’m paid to wonder that, so I might be the only one. But, as the New Year unfolds, I am really looking forward to the answers to these questions:
What will WEG bring, really? For several years, we have hear that the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Sept. 25 to Oct. 10, will bring a bunch of cool, high-level arts events to the area. Some projects, such as the renovation of the Lexington Opera House in 2008, were billed as preparation for the Games.
But very little has been announced.
We know that Everett McCorvey has been named producer of the opening and closing ceremonies. We know that the public art project Horse Mania will ride again, that the University of Kentucky Art Museum will have an exhibit called The Horse in American Art, and that the International Museum of the Horse will have the expansive A Gift From the Desert: The Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse.We know that a downtown street festival, Spotlight Lexington, is planned, and that there will be an exhibit at the Games featuring Kentucky performers.
But are we getting big concerts, big-name artists? What will some of our leading local groups be doing? It should be interesting to see what comes to fruition.
What will happen to Actors Guild? The past year was not good for Actors Guild of Lexington, at one time Lexington’s leading theater for adult audiences. Shortly after it announced plans to move to the Distillery District, sign a small theater contract with Actors Equity, the stage actors union, and launch two new series, LexArts pulled the theater’s general operating funding. In denying the grant, which had been near $70,000 annually, the arts umbrella group said it had concerns about AGL’s financial management and viability.
The theater then lost its artistic and managing director to other opportunities. Under associate artistic director Eric Seale, the theater has put up an abbreviated fall schedule and said there will be more to come in 2010. But what will those offerings be, how much patience will season ticket holders have, and will the theater be expected to carry on with one guy on the payroll?
Speaking of the Distillery District … Last year, we finally started to see significant activity on Manchester Street with the opening of Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, and several big events in the Distillery District. So what will be added in 2010, and what sort of flavor will the arts and entertainment district take on?
What’s Scott Terrell really like? When Terrell was named music director of the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra in April, he immediately announced a debut season that he obviously had to get together quickly. Now that he has had a year to plan for 2010-11, we should start to get a really clear vision of what the Terrell era is going to look like.
Choices in music and soloists will be interesting to see, but what other curveballs might he pitch? Will we see the Phil playing in new, non-traditional venues? Will there be alternative program forms like he launched as resident conductor in Charleston, S.C.?
In 2020 …
Of course, this isn’t just the start of a new year. It’s a new decade. Here are a few things to contemplate as we look 10 years down the road.
Mike Smith was on a Tuesday morning mission to show a friend some peacocks on a farm along East Tennessee’s Holston River.
He also knew he had a photo opportunity.
“I’d been there before and I knew it was gorgeous,” Smith said, less than an hour after the visit. “And I was right. There was fog coming off the river this morning with sunlight poking through.”
It was a moment that showed the East Tennessee State University photography professor’s enduring love for the landscape surrounding him, and a more directed way of working.
“I used to just drive slowly on the back roads around here, when I first came to Tennessee,” said Smith, who moved to Johnson City in 1981. “Now, I usually have a destination in mind.”
As part of the Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture Series, Smith will be in Lexington on Friday to talk about his work in conjunction with an exhibit of his photos in The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky.
Smith’s photos show a distinctly rural landscape, slowly changing with suburban development and businesses.
“You see new development adjacent to old farmlands,” he said. “I parallel familiar, ordinary stuff with things like gas stations and material more corporate in nature.”
I know I am not the only person at the Lexington Herald-Leader who knew Jahi Chikwendiu was a remarkable talent the moment I met him. So his award winning career at The Washington Post comes as no surprise, nor does the decision of the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky to show Jahi’s work as part of the prestigious Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture Series. To preview his exhibit, I caught up with Jahi earlier this week before he started a busy day on the job for the Post.
Click the play button to hear our podcast with Jahi Chikwendiu:
Here are a few more images from the exhibit.
“Black Hawk Down” (2003) — Mourners at the Washington D.C. funeral of a soldier killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Iraq.
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