By Bob Hicks
I just posted this story, Pander transported: memories of a time of war, on Oregon Arts Watch. It’s a look at Dutch-born Portland artist Henk Pander’s remarkable series of paintings and drawings at the Oregon Jewish Museum based on his childhood memories of World War II in his hometown of Haarlem. An excerpt:
“Even more cadaverous, and ravenous, is the 1999 ink drawing ‘Soup Kitchen,’ in which thin skull-eyed children bend over bowls of thin liquid. This might be Pander’s memory of the winter of 1944-45, the hongerwinter, a time of famine caused by harsh weather and a German blockade, during which those who survived (18,000 did not) did so partly on a diet of tulip bulbs and sugar beets. War is an act of waiting, and people wait in these drawings and paintings. They endure, if that’s the right word, and they anticipate, and they simply – wait. For the next bad thing. For the end of the next bad things.”
And in Friday’s A&E section of The Oregonian, my preview interview with the charming Lola de Avila, stager of Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s new version of Giselle, ran. Besides talking with de Avila, one of those great old-time dancers who wastes no time declaring that today’s dancers are better-trained (well, she’s one of the people doing the training), I spent a couple of hours in rehearsal watching her teach the corps de ballets how to act like perfectly ghastly Wilis. Which, of course, is what they’re supposed to be. You can read the story here.
ILLUSTRATION: Henk Pander, “Resistance Asleep,” oil, 1995. Courtesy Oregon Jewish Museum.
By Bob Hicks
That quotation comes from Claudia Dreifus’s interview in this morning’s New York Times with Ellen Bialystok, a cognitive neuroscientist who’s spent almost 40 years studying the ways that speaking two languages keeps your mind sharp, even possibly delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms. (Does that mean that Europeans and Quebecois are smarter longer than most Americans?)
It strikes Mr. Scatter that what Bialystok has to say about research is equally true for that branch of creativity we like to refer to as artistic. An idea takes hold. You follow it. It leads you somewhere that might utterly astonish you. But once you’ve identified it, you need to trust it to lead you where it will. It’s not blind faith. But it is faith. Which doesn’t mean it won’t sometimes lead you down a dark alley for an artistic mugging. But those are the chances you take.
That’s all, folks: Meanwhile, Mr. Scatter has a story in this morning’s Oregonian about the Oregon Jewish Museum‘s new show That’s All, Folks: The Mel Blanc Story, celebrating the life and times of the Portland kid who grew up to be possibly the greatest Hollywood voice actor of all time, supplying the sounds of cartoon characters ranging from Bugs Bunny to Pepe LePew.
Blanc made a name for himself in Portland radio with shows such as KGW’s Hoot Owls (it was a huge hit in the 1920s and early ’30s, drawing audiences of more than a million a show) before heading for Hollywood and cartoon immortality. Blanc was far more than bilingual: He spoke in about 400 different character voices, which, as Ellen Bialystok might have predicted, kept him alert and peppy until he died at age 81 in 1989.
One story goes that after a string of successes he asked his bosses at Warner Bros for a raise. No can do, they told him: We can’t afford it. So he asked that he be given a nameline in the credits and they said sure. That’s how he became the first voice actor to be featured in a cartoon’s credits, paving the way for the likes of Jack Black, Eddie Murphy and Robby Benson, the onetime teen heartthrob who revealed big-league Broadway chops as the voice of Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
So: No money, but you can have a byline? Sounds like blogging.
- Mel Blanc gives himself a close shave for a KGW radio gig. Photo courtesy of Noel Blanc.
- Logo for the radio hit “Hoot Owls,” which featured Blanc. Courtesy Mark Moore, NW Vintage Radio Society.
Sometimes you write a post purely as an excuse to run a picture you’ve fallen in love with. This is one of those times.
That kid crawling out of the picture frame is from an 1874 trompe l’oiel painting by Pere Borell del Caso, and he lives at the Banco de Espana in Madrid. The title of the painting? Escaping Criticism. Seems Pere Borell had some issues with the nattering nabobs of the press, and he whipped up a pretty foolproof case for himself.
Escaping Criticism is part of the exhibit Genuine Illusions: The Art of Trompe-l’oiel, which opens Feb. 13 at the Bucerius Kunst Forum in Hamburg. Besides fooling the eye, trompe-l’oiel is about wit: It has fun fooling you, and you have fun back. Critics be damned, right, kid?
Read more about it at Art Knowledge News.
A couple of weeks ago the Oregon Jewish Museum reopened in new, much bigger quarters on Northwest Kearney Street in Portland, and I wrote about it in last Friday’s A&E section of The Oregonian. You can read that story, which discusses the new space’s first big show, The Shape of Time, here.
One thing I didn’t mention in that story: The museum shares a parking lot with its neighbor ComedySportz. Culture is all about collaboration these days, so think of the possibilities. Jewish humor is vital to the American comedy scene — it’s almost as if Jews invented American comedy, especially the urban variety. What might the Jewish Museum and the improvimaniacs at ComedySportz cook up besides parking Priuses if they really got their heads together?
Just a thought.