Two local artists are nearly finished creating a mural on the side of a shipping container in a Stratford restaurant’s parking lot as part of an initiative by the Stratford City Centre BIA and the regional tourism organization to bring more public art to the city.
When the artist Luciano Garbati made his sculpture of Medusa holding Perseus’ severed head — an inversion of the centuries-old myth — feminism was not what he had in mind.
He wasn’t thinking of the #MeToo movement either: Mr. Garbati had created the work in 2008, nearly a decade before the movement went mainstream.
Mr. Garbati, an Argentine artist with Italian roots, was inspired by a 16th-century bronze: Benvenuto Cellini’s “Perseus With the Head of Medusa.” In that work, a nude Perseus holds up Medusa’s head by her snaky mane. Mr. Garbati conceived of a sculpture that could reverse that story, imagining it from Medusa’s perspective and revealing the woman behind the monster.
On Tuesday, Mr. Garbati’s sculpture — “Medusa With the Head of Perseus” — was reimagined as a symbol of triumph for victims of sexual assault, when it was unveiled in Lower Manhattan, just across the street from the criminal courthouse on Centre Street.
A news release advertised the statue as an “icon of justice,” noting that the towering, nearly 7-foot-tall Medusa stood across from the building where men accused of sexual assault during the #MeToo movement were prosecuted, including Harvey Weinstein, who had been convicted of two felony sex crimes there in February. (The idea for the site predated the trial, but the sentiment remained.)
Standing in the center of Collect Pond Park, Medusa — her gaze low and intense — holds a sword in her left hand and Perseus’ head in her right. The head was designed after the artist himself — a convenient model.
In his application to the city’s Art in the Parks program, which reviews proposals for public art installations like this one, Mr. Garbati noted that Medusa had been raped by Poseidon in the Temple of Athena, according to the myth. As punishment, Athena turned her wrath on Medusa, transforming her hair into snakes. The application stated that the story had “communicated to women for millennia that if they are raped, it is their fault.”
At Tuesday’s unveiling in the park, where the statue will stand until the end of April, Mr. Garbati talked about the thousands of women who had written to him about the sculpture. Many saw the image as cathartic, he said.
But for some online commentators, the sculpture did not quite meet the moment. As news about the sculpture’s planned installation spread, activists and observers on social media wondered why a piece of art meant to honor the #MeToo movement — which was animated, in large part, by an outpouring of personal stories from women — was created by a man.
Others wondered why, if the sculpture was intended to be about sexual violence, Medusa carried the head of Perseus and not Poseidon, her rapist. And some questioned the decision to depict Medusa as a lithe, classically beautiful nude figure when she was described as a monster.
Mr. Garbati said in an interview that, by now, his sculpture had a sort of independence from him, a life of its own created by outsiders’ observations and interpretations.
“I would say I am honored by the fact that the sculpture has been chosen as a symbol,” he said. He noted how the whole project had helped him realize that he was a “product of a patriarchal society” himself.
As for the question of mythological accuracy, Mr. Garbati said his work was a direct response to Cellini’s sculpture, which depicts the story of Perseus slaying Medusa and then using her severed head as a weapon, harnessing her power of turning people to stone with her stare.
Regarding Medusa’s model-esque figure, Mr. Garbati suggests that critics consider the literature from a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that chronicles how artistic depictions of Medusa morphed from beastly to beautiful starting in the fifth century B.C.
Bek Andersen, a photographer who worked with Mr. Garbati to install the sculpture in Lower Manhattan, isn’t bothered by the gender of the artist.
“To me, it’s exciting that the artist is a man,” she said in an interview. “I think men feel left out of the Me-Too conversation, and I think they’re afraid of what it means for them.”
In 2018, a decade after the creation of the original resin sculpture, images of Mr. Garbati’s sculpture began to spread online. It gained meme status after he posted photos of the work on Facebook, and it was used as a symbol of female rage when the #MeToo movement dominated the news.
Ms. Andersen’s involvement began around that time. Scrolling through Instagram in bed, she saw a photo of the work, and was immediately taken with it, particularly because of her interest in mythological characters and the concept of “flipping the script.”
Mr. Garbati’s sculpture was exhibited in a storefront pop-up gallery on the Bowery in 2018. With the help of an anonymous donor, Ms. Andersen and Mr. Garbati founded the Medusa With the Head project and started to generate 12-inch replicas of the piece, which sell for $750 each. (Ten percent of the proceeds are donated to the National Women’s Law Center.)
Last weekend, even after criticism of the new sculpture bubbled up on Twitter, Ms. Andersen said, the miniature replicas sold out on the website.
“Destabilizing the narrative as told through a patriarchal lens is really where the power of the work lies,” Ms. Andersen said. “It causes a person to pause.”
Revival House mural part of local push for more public-art projects in Stratford – The Beacon Herald
Over the past few weeks, those who have passed by the rear parking lot at Revival House in Stratford may have noticed a colourful, new addition to the normally drab space.
At the far east side of the lot, Stratford artists Claire Scott and Amparo Villalobos have been painting a colourful and striking mural on the side of a large shipping container as part of a public-art initiative launched this year by the Stratford City Centre BIA and RTO4, the regional tourism organization for Waterloo and surrounding region.
“For a number of years, we’ve been looking at different walls, speaking with different owners of buildings, and just trying to convince them in general to be able to secure a wall for a mural, which is a little bit more difficult than you would imagine,” said Rebecca Scott, general manager of the Stratford City Centre BIA.
“We’re in this premier art town, and we don’t have a ton of public art going on.”
In January, the BIA partnered with RTO4 to embark on one of these mural projects. Though they had a Toronto artist lined up, the project was pushed to the side as the BIA focused its effort and budget on pandemic responses and recovery efforts.
But the project wasn’t forgotten and, by the time summer began to wind down, Rebecca Scott approached Revival House restaurant owner Rob Wigan about having some local artists paint a mural on a shipping container sitting in the restaurant’s back parking lot.
“We didn’t think we were going to be able to do a mural this year, and then toward the end of the summer we started to look at some of the objectives we had throughout the year and we tried to start the ball rolling again after a big pause,” Rebecca Scott said.
Without the time to secure permission and permits to do a mural on the side of a building, the Revival House shipping container seemed to be the perfect way to bring some colour to the city and start business owners and local artists thinking about where and how additional murals could be painted in the years to come.
For the Revival House Mural, Claire Scott and Villalobos were asked to design something that fit the title, #LoveWins – one that Rebecca Scott and the BIA felt was fitting in a year when every member of the community has come together to support one another through the pandemic.
“The phrase #LoveWins is pretty self-explanatory,” Villalobos said Friday, alongside Claire Scott, as the pair took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to get the mural as close to complete as possible. “We’ve tried to incorporate the idea of freedom and a combination of all the things we feel are attractive about Stratford and things that correspond with the experiences we’ve had over the years in Stratford.”
Though the artists submitted a basic design to the BIA depicting what they intended to paint, they said they were given a lot of freedom to explore their creativity and almost improvise the piece as they worked.
The result of that improvisational art is a symphony of colour and imagery, both recognizable and abstract, that immediately draws the eyes of passersby.
“We’re really just building upon layers and feeling the moment. … It’s kind of this reflection to inspire artists to keep doing what they’re doing and symbolizing the appreciation for the spaces that we do have,” Claire Scott said.
Both the BIA and the artists hope this mural and those to come will help transform more of Stratford’s outdoor spaces into places where locals and visitors can congregate – once it’s safe to do so – to enjoy live events and music.
Claire Scott and Villalobos expect they will complete their mural by the end of this weekend. Those who pass by and like what they see are encouraged to snap a photo of the mural and share it on Instagram with #LoveWins.
Anthony Kiendl sets a new course at the Vancouver Art Gallery – Vancouver Sun
Article content continued
“(Plug In was) definitely internationally known in contemporary art but probably not with everyday people in suburban Winnipeg,” he said.
“They wanted to grow and take that next step.”
Kiendl realized the best way for Plug In to do that was to approach the University of Winnipeg and create a joint venture partnership.
“That’s what gave us the gasoline and critical mass to make the project happen,” he said.
In a four-year capital campaign, Kiendl raised $4 million as Plug In’s share for the $15 million building at 460 Portage Avenue, across from Hudson’s Bay and next to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Plug In’s attendance increased ten-fold.
In Regina, he took over as CEO and executive director of the MacKenzie Art Gallery in 2014. The gallery began to struggle financially when it was hit with major funding cuts, including $100,000 from an annual grant on its $2 million operating budget.
One area he targeted was free admission. When the MacKenzie started charging $10 for adults it was offset by several measures to ensure community access such as free admission for anyone under 17 and free days covered by a corporate donor.
The public voted with their feet: attendance over three years increased by almost 40 per cent. With the addition of a café, earned revenue jumped by 247 per cent.
“It is kind of sad but I did come to believe if something has a value attached to it, people value it,” he said.
“If it’s free, I think at a certain level, people are thinking, ‘Maybe it’s not that good.’”
Bruce Springsteen and the Art of Aging Well – The Atlantic
I recently saw a photo of Lyndon B. Johnson in the first year of his presidency. He looked like a classic old guy—wrinkled, mature, in the late season of life. It was a shock to learn that he was only 55 at the time, roughly the same age as Chris Rock is now. He left the presidency, broken, and beaten, at 60, the same age as, say, Colin Firth is now.
Something has happened to aging. Whether because of better diet or health care or something else, a 73-year-old in 2020 looks like a 53-year-old in 1935. The speaker of the House is 80 and going strong. The presidential candidates are 77 and 74. Even our rock stars are getting up there. Bob Dylan produced a remarkable album this year at 79. Bruce Springsteen released an album today at 71. “Active aging” is now a decades-long phase of life. As the nation becomes a gerontocracy, it’s worth pondering: What do people gain when they age, and what do they lose? What does successful aging look like?
President Donald Trump is a prime example of an unsuccessful older person—one who still lusts for external validation, who doesn’t know who he is, who knows no peace. Nearly two millennia ago, the Roman statesman Cicero offered a more robust vision of what elders should do and be: “It’s not by strength or speed or swiftness of body that great deeds are done,” he wrote, “but by wisdom, character and sober judgment. These qualities are not lacking in old age but in fact grow as time passes.”
Springsteen is the world champion of aging well—physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. His new album and film, Letter to You, are performances about growing older and death, topics that would have seemed unlikely for rock when it was born as a rebellion for anyone over 30. Letter to You is rich in lessons for those who want to know what successful aging looks like. Far from being sad or lachrymose, it’s both youthful—loud and hard-charging—and serene and wise. It’s a step forward from his Broadway show that debuted three years ago and his memoir, released four years ago. Now he’s not only telling the story of his life, but asking, in the face of death, about life’s meaning, and savoring life in the current moment.
It’s the happiest Springsteen album maybe in decades. “When I listen to it, there’s more joy than dread,” Springsteen told me. “Dread is an emotion that all of us have become very familiar with. The record is a little bit of an antidote to that.” The album generates the feeling you get when you meet a certain sort of older person—one who knows the story of her life, who sees herself whole, and who now approaches the world with an earned emotional security and gratitude.
The album, and the film that recorded the making of the album (I recommend watching the film first), was occasioned by a death. From 1965 to 1968, when rock was in its moment of explosive growth and creativity, Springsteen was in a band called the Castiles. Two years ago, Springsteen found himself at the bedside of a member of that band, George Theiss, as he died of cancer. After his passing, Springsteen realized that he is the sole remaining survivor from that band—the “Last Man Standing,” as he puts it in one of the songs on the new album.
The experience created an emotional vortex and the music poured out of him. “The actual mechanics of songwriting is only understandable up to a certain point,” Springsteen told me, “and it’s frustrating because it’s at that point that it begins to matter. Creativity is an act of magic rising up from your subconscious. It feels wonderful every time it happens, and I’ve learned to live with the anxiety of it not happening over long periods of time.”
On the album, Springsteen goes back in time to those mid-’60s years when he, Theiss, and the Castiles would play in the union halls, hullabaloo clubs, and bowling alleys around Freehold, New Jersey. He goes further back, to his childhood, and reminisces about the trains that used to rumble through town; the pennies he’d put on the tracks; and when he first became familiar with death as a boy, going to the funerals of his extended clan, walking up semi-terrified and kneeling before the casket and then walking back home with a sense of trembling accomplishment.
“Memory is many things,” the Benedictine nun Joan Chittister has written. “It is a call to resolve in us what simply will not go away.” Springsteen has made a career, and built a global fan base, out of going back and back, to Freehold and Asbury Park, and digging, digging, digging to understand the people he grew up around and who made him, for good and ill, the man he became. “The artists who hold our attention,” he told me, “have something eating away at them, and they never quite define it, but it’s always there.”
Even in his 70s, Springsteen still has drive. What drives him no longer feels like ambition, he said, that craving for success, recognition, and making your place in the world. It feels more elemental, like the drive for water, food, or sex. He talks about this in the movie: “After all this time, I still feel the burning need to communicate. It’s there when I wake every morning. It walks alongside of me throughout the day … Over the past 50 years, it has never ceased. Is it loneliness, hunger, ego, ambition, desire, a need to be felt and heard, recognized, all of the above? All I know, it is one of the most consistent impulses of my life.”
With the Castiles, he not only learned how to do his job but also found his mode of emotional communication and a spiritual awareness. He found his vocation, and his vehicle for becoming himself. A lot of the music on this album is about music, the making of it and the listening to it, the power that it has. The songs “House of A Thousand Guitars” and “Power of Prayer” are about those moments when music launches you out of normal life and toward transcendence. For a nonreligious guy, Springsteen is the most religious guy on the planet; his religion is musical deliverance.
Like every successful mature person, Springsteen oozes gratitude—especially for relationships. The film is largely about the camaraderie of the E Street Band, men and women who have been playing together off and on for 45 years and who have honed their skills and developed a shorthand for communicating. We watch them discussing and arguing over how to put each song together, then savor the end result. The band sounds fantastic, especially the powerful drumming of Max Weinberg.
The film intersperses clips of Springsteen recording and performing with the same guys four decades ago, when they were young and lithe, and today, when they’re a bit grizzled. “We weren’t immune from the vicissitudes. We had the same ups and downs as most rock bands,” Springsteen told me. “It’s like a marriage. The ups and downs have deepened us. The band is as close now as it’s ever been. We had to suffer.”
Letter to You is a sincere and vulnerable album. It conveys Springsteen’s appreciation for the conversation he’s had with his audience, and his appreciation for the dead and the debts we owe them. The core of the album comprises three songs about how the dead live on in us and in the ensuing generations. “It’s just your ghost / Moving through the night / Your spirit filled with light / I need, need you by my side / Your love and I’m alive,” Springsteen sings in “Ghosts,” the best track on the album.
“When you’re young, you believe the world changes faster than it does. It does change, but it’s slow,” Springsteen told me. “You learn to accept the world on its terms without giving up the belief that you can change the world. That’s a successful adulthood—the maturation of your thought process and very soul to the point where you understand the limits of life, without giving up on its possibilities.”
Attaining that perspective is the core of successful maturity. Carrying the losses gently. Learning to live with the inner conflicts, such as alternating confidence and insecurity. Getting out of your own way, savoring life and not trying to conquer it, shedding the self-righteousness that sometimes accompanies youth, and giving other people a break. The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk, as they used to say.
That perspective is evident in the movie’s “bright sadness,” to use a term from the Franciscan monk Richard Rohr. Directed by Thom Zimny, the film cuts again and again to overhead shots of snow-covered forests—Old Man Winter coming. But inside the studio, everything is warm and full of music. The dreams of Springsteen and his band came true times a thousand; they have good reason to be content in old age. But studies show that most people do get happier as they age. They focus more on life’s pleasures than its threats.
As you watch the film, you may think of not only personal maturity but also national maturity. America has always fancied itself as wild and innocent; youth, Oscar Wilde observed, is the country’s oldest tradition. After the past 20 years, and especially after the presidency of Donald Trump, we’ve become jaded, and look askance at our former presumption of innocence. But, taking a cue from Springsteen, maybe we can achieve a more mature national perspective in the years post-Trump.
“Joe Biden is like one of the fathers in the neighborhood I grew up with as a kid,” Springsteen told me. “They were firemen and policemen, and there was an innate decency to most of them that he carries naturally with him. It’s very American.”
Approaching 80, Biden is pretty old. Seventy-seven is probably not the ideal age to start such a grueling job as president of the United States. But making the most of the not-ideal is what maturity teaches. The urge to give something to future generations rises up in people over 65, and a style of leadership informed by that urge may be exactly what American needs right now. Today, being 77 doesn’t have to be a time of wrapping things up; it’s just the moment you’re in, still moving to something better. Maybe this can be America—not in decline, but moving with maturity to a new strength.
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