Walking out into fresh morning air
I feel the quiet
But, no, a bird sings
And, then I hear a full chorus
Sung by birds I cannot see
I listen and hear
What my heart would love to see.
Terence Blanchard’s ‘Champion: An Opera in Jazz’
A groundbreaking work combining the disciplines of opera and jazz,Terence Blanchard’s Champion: An Opera in Jazz tells the real-life story of world champion boxer Emile Griffith, a man haunted by memories of his past who struggled to reconcile his sexuality in a hyper-macho world. Produced by SFJAZZ in conjunction with San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle,Champion is a visually stunning production features elaborate staging and video elements with a jazz trio, orchestra and chorus, bringing out the full glory of Blanchard’s soulful score as it illuminates a tragic story that remains acutely relevant today. Tormented by the death of opponent Benny Paret following their 1962 bout for the welterweight title, Griffith spent his life questioning himself and a society that would accept his accidental killing of a fellow athlete, but not his sexuality. The opera features a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael Cristofer and features renowned bass Arthur Woodley reprising his role as the title character. Far more than one of jazz’s most prodigious trumpeters, Blanchard has carved out a brilliant career as an A-list composer. He premiered Champion at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June 2013, and has substantially re-worked the piece for this exclusive string of performances on the Miner Auditorium stage, the first since the premiere. (Excerpt taken from a piece written for the SFJSZZ Center.)
The Press takes notes, while the fight goes on.
Willem’s drawing made in December
My photograph made in January
I saw Willem’s drawing on the table at a family celebration before Christmas. We both love to draw. Next week, he’s coming over to the studio to paint. I hope he makes a big painting.
Hunting for the right drawing tool I pick up a stick. Will one end of the stick draw a fine line? Will the other end make a softer line and shape? Dipping the stick into a container of India ink I look and start to draw. Eye, to hand, to paper, I make marks. I draw the shape of my face, feeling tone of my head, the texture of my hair, gesture of my turned head. I draw space, my hair touching the edge of the paper or the two dimensional picture plane. My head is turned; my hair goes back into three dimensional space. I draw until my sketch is done. Awareness of my surroundings clicks back into place. I return to everybody’s world.
Our group was made up of five students and one teacher, Eva Bovenzi. John, Eva’s husband came too. We met 40 miles outside of Venice, in Vittorio Veneto, Treviso. We stayed at Palazzo Galletti. Built in the 14th century, the little palazzo was on a quiet cobblestone street in Serravalle, the ancient part of town. We worked for 8 days in Alma Ortolan’s downstairs studio. Besides restoring frescoes, she gives her own workshops in fresco technique. After breakfast, our group would meet for an image presentation. Then, we went off in different directions to sketch. After lunch we worked in the studio, which was followed by a critique and dinner. My small suitcase on rollers, was filled with art supplies. I packed two 12” x 16” boards which were used as support for presized canvas that wrapped around the board and was tacked with artist’s tape. I took sketchpads, drawing materials, tubes of acrylic paint, brushes, a palette, rags, water container and a backpack to carry my art supplies when I went out sketching. Completed rolled paintings fit diagonally into my suitcase when it was time to pack and go home.
Taking watersoluble crayons and sketchpads, Arina and I walked through the quiet old town to sit in Chiesa di S. Giovanni Battista. Choosing the statue of Madonna del Carmine I sketched for more than an hour while listening to my friend happily humming as she sketched sunlight touching a column.
The next morning, I walked up behind the houses into the trees. While I was sitting on the ground sketching, one of the locals walked into my view. Stooping down he filled his straw basket with raw walnuts. His black and white dog kept running up to me bringing me a stick to throw. Thinking of Cezanne and loving the background color coming from behind the tree I walked back to the studio.
After a few well-intentioned strokes my new painting took on a mind of it’s own.
Cody is an English Cream Golden Retriever who lives in England with my daughter and her family. For three weeks I stayed at their home and babysat this cute puppy. Wondering what I was going to do with myself while I took care of him, I gave myself an assignment: Learn how to draw a dog. Besides sketching, I wrote some prose and a few poems. Maybe there is an Artists’ book in the making. I have the images and the words. The next step is figuring out a structural form for a book. Then, do it!