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Jazz and Abstract Expressionism Meet Verve with Olga Albizu

Radiante 1967 by Olga Albizu Born: Ponce, Puerto Rico 1924. Died: New York, New York 2005 oil on canvas 68 x 62 in. (172.7 x 157.5 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum
Radiante 1967 by Olga Albizu Born: Ponce, Puerto Rico 1924. Died: New York, New York 2005 oil on canvas 68 x 62 in. (172.7 x 157.5 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum

Stratoz and I went to the fine exhibit Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art at the Allentown Art Museum(through 10/02/16). Walking into the gallery, my eye immediately went to this painting, Radiante,  by Abstract Expressionist artist Olga Albizu(1924-2005).

It looked familiar, and reading the tag, I discovered that her paintings are on several jazz album covers from RCA and Verve Records, including one of our favorites, Getz/Gilberto with Jobim(1964). This made Bossa Nova known in the US, and featured Stan Getz, American Saxophonist, collaborating with Brazilian Guitarist João Gilberto, and composer Antônio Carlos Jobim.  Astrud Gilberto sang the now famous The Girl from Ipanema.

I enjoyed how the music I love paired with art filled with abstract color energy.  Olga Albizu studied art with Esteban Vicente in Puerto Rico, and then won a fellowship to study in New York in 1948.  She was a student of Abstract Expressionist Hans Hoffman.

I wanted to know how Albizu’s work came to be on album covers, and finally found some auction notes through Christie’s, written by Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park.

Albizu’s associations with RCA were also of a practical kind: she supported herself from time to time through secretarial jobs there, and through a remarkable connection – an assistant to the head of the record division, who displayed her work in the office – at least ten of her paintings were chosen for contemporary album covers. Albizu’s financial and professional struggles as a woman artist were, unsurprisingly, of a piece with her time; like peers from Carmen Herrera to Joan Mitchell and Elaine de Kooning, she lacked institutional support and regular exhibition opportunities.

I am fascinated with how many internet articles mentioned that her paintings were on album covers and how buried the actual practical connection was.  The confluence of people and ideas can  be vivid when we are the midst of it, and become obscure as years go on.  American jazz, Brazilian rhythms, Abstract Expressionism, and  Puerto Rican artists, all converging in New York City.

 

 

Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art
Exhibit at The Allentown Art Museum through 10/2/16. Photo by Wayne Stratz.
New Day Mandala by Nutmeg Designs

New Day Mandala and the Grace of the Sunrise

New Day Mandala (Early Bird and the Night Owl) by Nutmeg Designs
New Day Mandala(Early Bird and the Night Owl) by Nutmeg Designs. Glass on wood, 10 inches, $258.

 

I love how Stratoz describes our collaboration on this New Day Mandala(Early Bird and the Night Owl):

Orange and Blue are opposites that complement each other in this mandala to greet a new day. As refreshing as a night of rest this glass mosaic is a circle of hope for being renewed with the rising sun. Designed and started by a blue early bird and detailed by an orange night owl. . . “I like the sunrise ’cause it brings a new day, I like a new day, it brings new hope …”(Duke Ellington/Mitchell Parish)  A sign that announces to the world that gravity will not weigh you down, hope is perched on your soul.

I am not a morning person, but the sunrise brings this Kurt Elling version of the jazz standard into my head and heart. Elling interweaves a Rumi poem in Mitchell Parish‘s lyrics.  Take a moment to read the poem and listen to this beautiful tune.

“Where Everything Is Music” (trans. Coleman Barks)

“Don’t worry about saving this music / or be scared
if the singing ends
or the piano breaks a string / for we have fallen to a place
where everything is music and singing /
everything is recovered and new / ever new and musical
and even if the whole world’s harp should burn up /
there would still be hidden there
the spirit of song there to linger on /
and even if a candle’s blown out by wind
the fire smolders on in an ember and then sparks again /
the singing is a drop / just a drop in oceans of seas /
grace keeps it moving through bodies like these

and the sound of a life sends an echoing out /
the poem sings willingly in each newborn’s crying shout /
but it’s growing slowly / and keeps many secrets /
stop the words and listen / feel the echo of it starting /
open a space in the center of your beating heart
and let spirits fly in and out . . .”

 

New Day Mandala at Stratozpheres Etsy Shop

Pianos in Orange for National Piano Month

Chihuly Steinway Piano at the Philadelphia Flower Show
Chihuly-Steinway Concert “D” Piano(2002) at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Photo by Wayne Stratz(2009).

September is National Piano Month.  This piano immediately caught my eye when Stratoz and I went to the Philadelphia Flower Show in 2009.  The theme was jazz, and featured this amazing Steinway with orange keys and an art glass top created by Dale Chihuly. Witnessing glass art was one of the reasons I became an artist.

Chihuly Steinway Piano at the Philadelphia Flower Show
Chihuly-Steinway Concert “D” Piano(2002) at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Photo by Wayne Stratz(2009).

On a whim I searched for “orange piano” and the Orange Piano Tour appeared.  German musician Stefan Aaron takes an orange upright piano to a different country each year, from the Great Wall of China, the Swiss Alps, the Munich airport in Germany, and the top of the Landmark Tower in Yokohama, Japan in 2015.  Check out the Munich Airport Soca and the Magic Carpet.

Related
Stratoz gives a shout out to Piano Educators

An Evening of Jazz with Catherine Marie Charlton

Thank you’s for tonight’s advance ticket purchasers!

A photo posted by Catherine Marie Charlton (@cmcriverdawn) on

Stratoz and I took a Friday night excursion to hear Catherine Marie Charlton‘s Maiden’s Voyage CD Celebration at the Kennett Friends Meetinghouse. We stopped at La Michoacana Ice Cream on the way, a shop founded by some folks who used to be Kennett Square mushroom workers.  Stratoz had guava, and I had the sweet corn ice cream.  Yes, corn.  I love cornbread with honey, so I took the chance, and it was delicious.  I don’t know if I could’ve named what flavor it was, but it was delectable.

Catherine Marie Charlton, Steve Meashey (bass), Jody Janetta (drums), Bob Meashey (flugelhorn)photo by Joe del Tufo

Posted by Catherine Marie Charlton on Saturday, May 30, 2015

Catherine Marie Charlton played one of my favorite jazz standards, Nature Boy.  During intermission she had us write phrases on slips of paper, and she and her trio improvised based on what phrases they drew. And she wore orange shoes, which is awesome.

 

We don’t usually venture out on a Friday, but the music was rejuvenating.  Stratoz suggested we stop at a diner on the way home for coffee and a snack.  The West Chester Diner was open 24 hours, and full of people eating breakfast at 10:00 at night, which is a PA tradition Stratoz cherishes.  Club sandwiches are ok too, and that’s what we ordered as did the table behind us.

Celtic Cross by Margaret Almon

From Moravian Simplicity to Episcopal Exuberance with a Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross by Margaret Almon
Celtic Episcopal Cross by Margaret Almon in orange, azure and cobalt blue, glass, gold smalti, millefiori center, on slate, 6×8 inches.

I grew up in the Moravian Church, which is Protestant and often modest, plain and simple in church buildings.  I suspect my home church, Edmonton Moravian, falls in the category of mid-century modern, which is the descriptor of much of my built world in the 1970’s.

 

Edmonton Moravian Church
Edmonton Moravian Church via Stella Blu on Flickr.

The flat roof puzzles me, since surely it was a resting place for several feet of snow every winter.  The font for the Moravian Church sign is san serif, and simple.  Those 3 entry doors opened into a foyer lined with coat racks for all the winter garments.  As a girl, I loved being surrounded by the friendly people of this church, as I looked for my coat after service.

 

Amber Windows at Edmonton Moravian Church
Amber Windows at Edmonton Moravian Church via PinkMoose on Flickr.

I remember writing a poem, searching for imagery to describe the sanctuary: a bungalow rec room.  Looking at a photo many years later, I see Danish Modern with the blonde wooden pews.

 

Edmonton Moravian Sanctuary with Ritchie Trombone Choir
Edmonton Moravian Sanctuary with Ritchie Trombone Choir via their Website

The first Catholic sanctuary I entered surprised me with the sheer quantity of decoration, color and sparkle.  Stratoz attends an Episcopal church, more ornate than my childhood church, but not overwhelming.  I discovered that the Celtic cross form, with the halo, is also referred to as an Episcopal cross, and Stratoz’s church has several of them.

Let Justice Roll Down.
Let Justice Roll Down. Holy Trinity Episcopal, Lansdale. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

I ponder my travels from the plain church into a love of liturgical art with color and iridescence, and my most recent Celtic cross in orange and shades of blue.  The simple is beautiful in its own way, and I responded to that whole-heartedly.  I also was surrounded by beautiful music, as Moravians cherish music, and yes, trombones.

For a musical treat check out Ritchie Trombone Choir’s mp3’s, including the graceful Handel and the swinging Green Dolphin Street.

 

Sarabande
by: Georg Friedrich Händel


Green Dolphin Street
by: Ned Washington

X is for Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, A to Z Challenge 2013

 

X is for the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. Started by some jazz lovers in Rochester, John Nugent and Marc Iacona in 2002, Xerox became the title sponsor in 2009.

Our first visit, Stratoz went to vespers at Christ Church, one of the venues, and after asked if he could photograph the Tiffany mosaic. He got this cool silhouette of the drum kit as well.

Over the years, the Nordic jazz venue at the Reformation Lutheran Church has some of the most innovative music.
I took this photo of Stratoz by the larger than life Festival schedule. The Xerox Auditorium was already one of our favorite places on the schedule, and it was nice to know that Xerox wanted to participate even more by becoming a sponsor. They also started printing the passes with a funky text only visible under UV light, using their Xerox-Superpowers!
I keep last year’s XRIJF pass in my studio, as a reminder of the joy that is jazz.

 

M is for Montgomery County Community College Lively Arts, A to Z Challenge 2013

 

M is for Montgomery County Community College and the Lively Arts Program, Blue Bell, PA.    For more than 25 years, MCCC has brought dance, jazz, and classical music, and theater to Montgomery County.  It is a place of creative expression, and creative energy.

On April 13, 2013, Stratoz and I went to MCCC see the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, Indian Classical Dance, presented in partnership with Sruti: The India Music & Dance Society, Philadelphia.  I had not heard of this dance tradition, and it was a delight to discover.

“I dream of building a community of dancers in a forsaken place amidst nature.
A place where nothing exists, except dance.
A place where you breathe, eat, sleep, dream, talk, imagine – dance.
A place where all the five senses can be refined to perfection.
A place where dancers drop negative qualities such as jealousy, small-mindedness,
greed and malice to embrace their colleagues as sisters
and support each other in their journey towards becoming dancers of merit.”

“A place called Nrityagram.”

– Protima Gauri (October 12,1948 – August 18, 1998)

I am grateful for all the beauty I have witnessed at Montgomery County Community College.
In 2012, I had the opportunity to hear Kurt Elling perform there,
and I leave you with this hopeful and haunting tune.

Music by Duke Ellington
Original Lyric by Mitchell Parrish
Vocalese Lyric by Kurt Elling based on Von Freeman’s improvised melody from
Freeman’s 2001 recording, “The Improvisor”.
The lyric adapts the words of the 13th century poet Jelaluddin Balkhi,
or Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks.

Don’t worry about saving this music / or be scared if the singing ends
or the piano breaks a string / for we have fallen to a place where everything is
music and singing / everything is recovered and new / ever new and musical
and even if the whole world’s harp should burn up / there would still be hidden there
the spirit of song there to linger on / and even if a candle’s blown out by wind
the fire smolders on in an ember and then sparks again / the singing is a drop /
just a drop in oceans of seas / grace keeps it moving through bodies like these. . .