Art Commentary: Elizabeth Casqueiro’s ‘Entrances and Exits” by Heather Harvey

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The paintings in Elizabeth Casqueiro’s new exhibition straddle and combine abstraction with realism. Her imagery nearly comes into focus, only to dissolve and shift into various alternate readings. Brightly saturated colors and vivid painterly strokes seem jubilant and humorous in moments, then soften into quiet passages and muted colors, then shift again into dark, brooding, more sinister marks. These divergent painting strategies allow multiple storylines and moods to co-exist on one canvas.

Entrance and Exit

The multilayered, fluctuating quality may grow out of Casqueiro’s biography. She has lived most of her adult life in the United States, but her birth and formative years unfolded in the authoritarian malaise of post-world war Portugal. As a child she was deeply drawn to the promise and excitement of American culture. Imported pulp fiction and comic books offered her a heady mix of hope, heroism, drama, risk, and romance. This gave young Elizabeth what she calls her first “early glimpse of an outside world,” beyond home, neighborhood, country, culture, and the confines of her own mind. Many decades later and a fraught American political landscape have added new layers of complexity to the narratives of her youth.

In some paintings Casqueiro draws mainly from superhero stories. She breaks compositions down into smaller areas loosely suggestive of comic book panels. Unclear dramas unfold with flashes of superheroes, villains, and good (hopefully) conquering evil. Other paintings allude more to theater, drama, and the stage as metaphors for life. Casqueiro is particularly interested in the tension between private, inner life versus social, communal life. She recognizes that many consider private inner life as more ‘authentic’ or ‘true,’ but Casqueiro doesn’t see it quite that way. For her, the social masks and personas we wear are as much a part of our identity as solitary periods spent with oneself.

Come On Batman

In her work Casqueiro mines both the heroic exuberance of childhood and the complex absurdities of adulthood. Childhood becomes more complicated then we typically give it credit for, and adults not so different from their younger counterparts. Superheroes and dramatic personas perhaps reflect our ego’s need for respite and protection from the barrages of reality. They create a barrier between delicate interior experience and pressing external demands.

Elizabeth Casqueiro’s solo exhibition Entrances and Exits is open April 14 through July 15, 2018 at the Academy Art Museum. Reception: April 20th 5:30-7pm and Artist Talk: May 4th at 5:30 pm. For more information on Elizabeth Casqueiro’s work see https://www.elizabethcasqueiro.com

Heather Harvey is an artist living in Easton, MD and Associate Professor and Chair of the Art and Art History Department at Washington College.

Mid-Shore Arts: A Quick View of ‘Beginnings’ at the Massoni

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With fourteen artists making up the Massoni Gallery’s spring show in Chestertown entitled Beginnings, it’s pretty hard for the Spy, or anyone else for the matter, to adequately capture in words the brilliance of the new work these gifted masters on display.

We, therefore, found it helpful to once again use images and video to give our readers just a small sense of the collective magic of the art displayed to encourage visitors to drop by the High Street gallery for their own inspection to see the work of James Tatum, Elizabeth Casqueiro, Deborah Weiss, Heidi Fowler, Joe Karlik, Susan Hostetler, Blake Conroy, Katherine Allen, Marc Castelli, Alessandra Manzotti, Elizabeth DaCosta Ahern, Larry Schroth, Vicco Von Voss, and Katherine Cox.

Beginnings will close on May 4th

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information on Massoni Art please go here

 

Mid-Shore Arts: Listening to the Earth Art of Stewardship at RiverArts by Mary McCoy

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An egret stalks through the dark water of a marsh in Karen Klinedinst’s iPhoneography print “The Scout.” With its painterly touches and eerie glow, it’s strange and dreamlike, and it gets immediately under your skin. As environmental artists and the curators of this year’s annual “The Art of Stewardship” show at RiverArts, Howard and I chose the theme “Listening to the Earth” to encourage artwork and poetry that, like Klinedinst’s, is inspired by paying close attention to the world around us. What we were looking for is the kind of honed awareness that germinates an open, honest understanding of our situation and responsibilities as part of the community of this earth.

Karen Klinedinst’s iPhoneography print “The Scout.

Does art have the power to effect change? It’s hard to forget an image like “The Scout.” It’s achingly beautiful, yet there’s death everywhere. Rotting vegetation and the skeletons of trees are part and parcel of this intricate and delicate environment. A marsh is a fertile place where fish and crabs spawn and egrets find abundant food, yet stay on high alert lest they, in turn, become dinner for an eagle or raccoon. The strength of Klinedinst’s image is that it takes in and reveals the wholeness of this place. The making of a powerful painting or a poem requires a journey into attentive awareness. It’s a fascinating and nourishing process not only for the artist but for viewers as well, if they, too, approach it with similar open, inquisitive mindfulness

Kate McGraw’s poem, “A Boy and his Dandelion,” may seem at first to be chiefly about a child’s sense of wonder at seeing the flower’s seeds fly into the air, but it’s much more. McGraw summons the thrust of the wind and the scents radiating from the boy’s warm body, skillfully pulling us into the physicality of the moment. She uses words to paint the gossamer, glinting fragility of the tufted seeds and the mystery of where they are going, complete with a hint of their procreative objective. The boy himself imagines them as paratroopers, bravely adventuring into unknown places, and with this, a tingle arises in the back of the mind. This is a primitive urge—to ascribe intention to inanimate objects, to think of them as having aspirations and emotions, in short, as having consciousness.

What leaps to mind is the beliefs of indigenous people in tree spirits, water spirits and the like. These are people who live intimately with the land, aware of its every mood and cycle and the intricacy of the relationships of its plants and animals. Like Klinedinst’s egret, they are wholly dependent on their environment. Far from being quaint and naïve, might their superstitions have a certain wisdom? If we think of animals and plants as having consciousness, however different from our own, we might pay more attention to the ways they live and how their interactions and well-being affect our own survival. Such an approach would develop empathy for species besides our own and encourage a developing understanding of the interdependence of all life on earth.

There’s a prickly sensation of taut vitality emanating from the antler forms in William Willis’s large painting. They feel alive and

Who’s Afraid of the Dark by William Willis

sentient. Behind them are half-hidden forms, perhaps an animal hide stretched to dry, a bowl, a doorway, an abstracted tree—layers of activity and history giving witness to Willis’s search to find vital force in his subject matter. There’s something almost scary about this painting which Willis acknowledges with the title “Who’s Afraid of the Dark.”

It’s actually quite unnerving to think that nature is alive and aware of us and that humans are by no means in control. Gary Irby succinctly calls up the creepy feeling of an animal watching from the shadows with the piercing eyes and bristling sticks of his sculpture “Nature’s Watching.” But even more powerfully, this work mischievously prods at the sense of guilt and looming doom that lurks in all of us in these days of runaway fossil fuel extraction, snowballing pollution and escalating climate change.

You might think that art and poetry about earth stewardship would tend to scold our profligate ways—or weep over them, but few of the works in this show could be classified as “protest art.” The closest are Irby’s “Nature’s Watching” and his ceramic pot with two talking heads conspicuously facing in opposite directions with the title “Discussing Selling our Environment.” Also in the running is Rebecca Clark’s “Oblivion” with its beach-goer blandly cocooned behind sunglasses and earbuds, oblivious to the devastations of storm and fire raging behind her.

Most of the show’s works are focused on exploring and celebrating the breadth of the subject: earth and its ecology. There are whales, domestic birds, wild birds, wild animals (deer, lions, elephants), insects, Eastern Shore waterscapes, and Antarctic ice. There is the vastness of huge clouded skies and the intimacy of a ladybug stalking aphids on a fragile flower.

Curiously, with the exception of Anita Kusick’s lush fields of flowers in “Gathering (Pike Farms – Conserved by Peconic Land Trust),” none of the works are about farming. Farmers are the principle stewards of land on the Eastern Shore, and it’s heartening to see more and more of them transitioning their land to organic from “conventional” farming (that is, planting Roundup-ready GMO crops managed with glyphosate and other chemicals). Likewise, it’s cheering to witness the widespread use of cover crops and forested shorelines to keep farm runoff out of waterways and to note the reintroduction of diverse crops and animal husbandry. Supported by a host of government programs, farmers are making a difference, as are hunters and organizations such as Ducks Unlimited that work to reestablish healthy habitats for wildlife.

“Nature’s Watching” by Gary Irby

In the call for submissions, we said “Art should bristle with energy and keep tugging at your thoughts.” It’s only when art has this kind of power to stimulate thought and encourage further investigation that it can trigger change for the better. The sense of childlike wonder that so many of these poems and artworks evoke is crucial in reshaping of our attitudes, and the edgy sense of danger in several of them acts as a much-needed spur to work for sustainable ways to live harmoniously with our earth.

If we fail in this, it’s serious. Life on earth will likely continue, though predications are that numerous species, including humans, will have disappeared and insects will be dominant. Quilter Christine Kamon chose to accompany her graceful “Dragonflies” with a quote from writer and artist Clive Barker that posits an idyllic future time when all traces of humans and our activities will be long gone and dragonflies and hummingbirds will flit in a golden afternoon. It’s a beautiful scene but one we’d like to postpone as long as possible.

Mary McCoy is an artist and writer who has the good fortune to live beside an old steamboat wharf on the Chester River. She is a former art critic for the Washington Post and several art publications. She enjoys kayaking the river and walking her family farm where she collects ideas and materials for the environmental art she creates, often in collaboration with her husband Howard. They have exhibited their work in the U.S., Ireland, Wales and New Zealand.

Recommended reading:
David Abram’s Becoming Animal
David Hinton’s Hunger Mountain
Andy Goldsworthy’s Time

 

Exhibition Dates: April 4 – 25
RiverArts 
315 High Street, Suite 106
Chestertown, MD 21620 United States

As ‘House Of Cards’ nears End, Maryland Aims to Remain Film Contender

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Eduardo Sanchez is sleeping in his own bed for once.

He’s taking a short break from work, but the majority of his time over the course of the next few months will be spent in Dallas, where the filmmaker best known for “The Blair Witch Project” is able to work on film and TV productions with what he says are better state tax incentives than in his native state of Maryland.

“I have a bunch of projects that I’d love to develop (in Maryland) that are, right now, dead in the water because of the (lack of) incentives,” Sanchez told Capital News Service. “If (a new tax incentive bill) passes, that opens up a lot of new work here, and I don’t think I’m the only one in that position. I think a lot of people are waiting for this to happen.”

Martin O’Malley visits the set of House of Cards at Joppa, Maryland in 2013

A push from local filmmakers like Sanchez for a new film tax credit plan reached the steps of the Maryland State House this year amid production of the shortened sixth and final season of Netflix’s 21-time Emmy nominee “House of Cards” in the Baltimore area.

According to CNS analysis of Maryland Film Office data, over the course of the past five fiscal years, 98 percent of film tax credits and grants — $72.5 million — has been allocated to “House of Cards” and “Veep,” the Julia Louis-Dreyfus political drama that relocated to California in 2015.

A new bill aimed at boosting the Maryland film scene was passed by the Maryland House Monday morning – the last day of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2018 legislative session – after passing in the Senate mid-March. It would increase the current Department of Commerce film budget by $3 million every year until 2023, when the budget would be capped at $20 million. It would also eliminate Maryland Commerce’s current film reserve fund.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1154, sponsored by Sen. Douglas Peters, D-Prince George’s County, goes to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk for his signature. If signed, it will take effect July 1.

“Years ago, we had productions in Baltimore and then the production would end and there would be no new production and we would lose employees – they would move to other states,” Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery County, who sponsored a bill identical to Peters’s in the Maryland House, told CNS. “We want to make sure there’s continuity in the industry.”

To qualify as a film production entity, film and television projects – one season is considered a single project – are currently required to spend at least $500,000 in Maryland. The recently passed bill would reduce that requirement to $250,000.

Baltimore Film Office Director Debbie Dorsey told CNS she was thankful to Maryland lawmakers for “keeping the film industry alive,” noting the Peters bill’s ability to do “a little something for everybody,” big-name production entities and local, indie projects alike.

The Department of Commerce would also set aside 10 percent of its budget exclusively to accommodate small and independent entities, which would primarily help local filmmakers. The bill defines “small productions” as projects that spend $25,000 to $125,000 in-state and requires at least 50 percent of filming to be done in Maryland.

“I know a lot of filmmakers who are making movies for $50,000 at most and they get nothing,” Sanchez added. “That’s going to help a lot of people…but I still wish there was something to help the lower, lower productions.”

Sanchez recalled working on a film in Hagerstown in 2010. He said the state incentive program at the time allocated a small amount of money to the production. But unless explicitly earmarked for a certain project, it’s nearly impossible for low-budget projects to get much assistance.

“Since then, it’s kind of been the ‘House of Cards’ incentive program,” Sanchez said. “And they know it’s an important program and I’m glad they’ve been able to keep it in Maryland for sure, but there wasn’t much room for anybody else.”

Making room for others is the goal for more than a handful of local filmmakers and supporters. At a Maryland House Ways and Means Committee meeting March 7 to discuss Luedtke’s film tax credit bill, several local experts testified that lack of funding is the primary obstacle to building a larger film scene.

“Several times every month, my office and the Maryland state Film Office receive calls from production companies and producers who want to bring their film projects here,” Dorsey said. “And every July, as soon as we get the ‘open for business’ sign on the door, we have to flip it over and say ‘sorry, we’re closed.’”

In the last year and a half, 20 major films and TV shows have expressed serious interest in filming in Maryland, Dorsey estimated.

Among them: Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominee “The Post,” an Amazon show and a Hulu series, and HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” The latter settled for filming a handful of establishing shots in Baltimore before sending star Oprah Winfrey and the rest of the cast to Georgia.

Each project was turned away because “House of Cards” had consumed nearly all of the state’s annual budget, according to Dorsey.

Dorsey added in March that projects from HBO, Netflix, NBC and Lionsgate were awaiting confirmation of any new bill with a larger pool of funding before they could greenlight production in Maryland.

Even with SB 1154, the Baltimore Film Office may not have updates on those projects until the bill takes effect in July, according to Dorsey. Still, she noted that the bill will “provide consistency” and allow producers and studios to rely on Maryland as a production hub.

Filming in Maryland was always the plan for “The Blair Witch Project.”

Not only were Sanchez, who attended Wheaton High School and later Montgomery College, and co-director Daniel Myick fans of the physical setting – ominous horror movie woods are just one of the many versatile location options Maryland has to offer – but also the two were inclined to work in a place where they knew and trusted the industry professionals.

“There’s enough infrastructure as far as editing places, places to get sound done; there’s already a production base here,” Sanchez said. “There’s a lot of great professionals here. You can get a fairly decent-sized production going without having to import everybody from L.A. or New York.”

Season 5 of “House of Cards” alone supported more than 1,700 Maryland businesses, according to Maryland Film Office data.

Goldsborough Glynn Classic Furnishings was among them. The Kensington-based small business has sold furniture to the “House of Cards” set decorator for the past six years.

Not only has the company benefited from the production’s purchases, as the owners wrote in a testimony letter to the Maryland General Assembly, it further profited from the media attention and word of mouth that comes with being associated with a high-profile television show.

Since introducing the current film tax credit plan in 2012, the Maryland Department of Commerce helped finance 12 productions, nine of them individual seasons of “Veep” or “House of Cards.”

The department estimated that each production hired an average of 1,280 Maryland residents and worked with an average of 1,328 Maryland vendors. The combined projects have had a nearly $775 million dollar impact on the state economy.

If anyone understands the capacity Maryland has to be a filmmaking hub, it’s Sanchez and Myick. The two former college friends created “The Blair Witch Project” on an initial budget of less than $25,000, before the film went on to gross a whopping $249 million worldwide.

Nineteen years after its release, “Blair Witch” is still a local claim to fame as well as an example of small filmmakers’ potential for success.

“I think it’s common sense when you actually think about it,” Sanchez said. “You look at the other states who are actually building it and doing it right and it brings in work and it’s also a cultural thing, too. It brings in artists. It’s beneficial way more beyond the actual work.”

 

by Hannah Yasharoff

 

The Academy Opens the Door for World-Class Photography this Spring

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There are, no doubt, countless numbers of Mid-Shore photography lovers who hoped this day would come. Recently, the Academy Art Museum doubled down on their goal to build up their commitment to the growing world of fine art photography by offering their first national juried show this April.

With prize awards ranging from “Best in Show” at $1,000, and second and third prizes at $500 and $250, this competition yielded the kind of response the Academy was hoping for. Over 1,800 images were submitted and will be judged by one of the best photographers in the country today.

Sarah Stolfa, who leads the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, is a working fine-art photographer and educator herself. She has an MFA in Photography from Yale University School of Art. In addition to teaching at PPAC, Stolfa has taught at the Yale University Art Gallery, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the University of Delaware and Drexel University. She currently teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Spy spoke to Anke Van Wagenberg, the chief curator at the Museum, to talk about this unique competition and found some examples of some of winning entries yesterday before the exhibition opens on April 14 and will close July 15, 2018.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: The 2018 Winners of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition

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One of the great little gems of the classical music scene on the Mid-Shore is the biannual Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition. Since 2004, this program brings some of the best young talents in the world to the Eastern Shore for a weekend of performance to the delight of appreciative audiences but also to receive critical feedback from experts on performance and technique.

That competition took place over the last few days, and the Spy found a way to interview the two winners who tied for the Gold Medalist award this year after they finished brunch at Hanna and Peter Woicke’s lovely home in St. Michaels on Sunday morning.

We talk to members of the Merz Trio and Trio St. Bernard about their performance as well as some of the feedback they received from the judges.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: Chesapeake Music’s Pleasure of Competition with Anne Moran & Bob Burger

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While it is true that the vast majority of program offerings produced by Chesapeake Music every year has been devoted to the pleasure of its Mid-Shore audiences, for many years now it has also offered one of the most prestigious music competitions in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Continuing a tradition that began in in 2004, five world-class ensembles will once again compete this weekend for one of the country’s largest chamber music prizes at the 2018 Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition.

And two of the volunteer leaders that make make this event happen every year couldn’t be more pleased with this remarkable track record.

Volunteer chair Bob Burger, along with assistant chair Anne Moran, talked to the Spy last week about what it means to the talented musicians that travel from around the country to Talbot County. They also discuss the enormous volunteer effort it takes to coordinate the use of five performance venues, supervise the judging, and finally the presentation of awards, all in the span of about 24 hours.

This year promises to be quite remarkable and includes District 5 of Washington, DC; Merz Trio of New York City, NY; Sapphirus Quartet of Ann Arbor, MI; Ajax Quartet of Denver, CO; and Trio St. Bernard of Taos, NM. The average age of an ensemble must be under 31, and some have included members as young as 21. The finalists will compete for the Lerman Gold Prize of $10,000 and the Silver Prize of $5,000. This biennial Competition is sponsored by Chesapeake Music. The audience attending the Competition on April 7 will also have an opportunity to judge each ensemble at the end of each concert. The winner of that judging will receive the Audience Choice Award, announced along with the Gold and Silver Prizes at the end of the evening.

Free public concerts will be held on Sunday, April 8 and will include Ajax Quartet at 1:00 p.m. at Temple B’nai Israel in Easton; Sapphirus Quartet at 2:00 p.m. at Church of the Holy Trinity in Oxford; District 5 at 3 p.m. at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Easton; and Merz Trio at 4 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church in Cambridge.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. 

Tickets to the Chamber Music Competition are $12 per person and free to students. Tickets will be sold at the door at the Avalon Theatre on April 7, 2018, beginning no later than 12:30 p.m. The program starts at 1:00 p.m. For further information, visit here  or call the Chesapeake Music office at 410-819-0380. The Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition is underwritten by the Talbot County Arts Council, the Maryland State Arts Council, and private benefactors.

A Neurosurgeon Treats a New Patient: The Chesapeake Skipjack

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In this new world of redefining what “retirement” means, it probably comes as no surprise that a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon would retire to the Eastern Shore and start an entirely new vocation related to the skipjacks of the Chesapeake Bay.

That’s precisely what Dr. Randolph George did when he eventually retired from the operating room and embarked with his brother in law, Allen Rawl, on the restoration of a skipjack named Martha Lewis.  And as Allen was doing much of the physical work on the boat, Dr. George began to explore and document the boat builder, his family and the many stories that surrounded the Martha Lewis.  It also led him on a journey to discover every remaining skipjack on the Shore.

All of this is now documented in a new book that Randy has authored entitled “Memory of the Skipjack,” published by SaltWater Media.  It not only records the unique history of the Martha Lewis but documents the fifty-two remaining of what was once a fleet of 700 iconic examples of the Chesapeake Bay’s distinctive heritage.

The Spy spent some time with the author at Bullitt House a few weeks ago to chat about the book.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information or purchase “Memoir of a Skipjack” please go here 

A Neurosurgeon Treats a New Patient: The Chesapeake Skipjack

Share

In this new world of redefining what “retirement” means, it probably comes as no surprise that a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon would retire to the Eastern Shore and start an entirely new vocation related to the skipjacks of the Chesapeake Bay.

That’s precisely what Dr. Randolph George did when he eventually retired from the operating room and embarked with his brother in law, Allen Rawl, on the restoration of a skipjack named Martha Lewis.  And as Allen was doing much of the physical work on the boat, Dr. George began to explore and document the boat builder, his family and the many stories that surrounded the Martha Lewis.  It also led him on a journey to discover every remaining skipjack on the Shore.

All of this is now documented in a new book that Randy has authored entitled “Memory of the Skipjack,” published by SaltWater Media.  It not only records the unique history of the Martha Lewis but documents the fifty-two remaining of what was once a fleet of 700 iconic examples of the Chesapeake Bay’s distinctive heritage.

The Spy spent some time with the author at Bullitt House a few weeks ago to chat about the book.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information or purchase “Memoir of a Skipjack” please go here