Tag Archives: Portrayal of women

Video: Whitney and Micah Stansell at Whitespace

We don’t know whom to thank for the “Scarlet Air” show at Whitespace. Yes, we know the names of the players. Susan Bridges, owner of Whitespace. Micah and Whitney Stansell, the artists.

That being said, we think this work transcends the players. Therefore, we thank God, and the Buddha, and William Shakespeare, and Goddess Athena, and Pachamama. We thank Ingmar Bergman. We thank the parents of the Stansells. We thank the Muses.

“Scarlet Air” is a film utilizing three full-size screens in the brick enclave of Whitespace’s big room. It’s a film, we wanted it to be a film, and don’t argue that it is not a film and therefore we don’t need a comfortable chair in which to sit and view. In Whitespace we sat on the brick floor. Perhaps we could have sat on the little stool there, or could have stood like gallery rats. But we are old and need to sit.

Two of the three screens in play during projection of "Scarlet Air" at Whitespace.

Two of the three screens in play during projection of “Scarlet Air” at Whitespace.

Also we needed to sit because it was not at all tolerable to watch “Scarlet Air” once or twice through. We needed to watch it several times. It’s a film simultaneously 1. overloaded with images that need three big projections running simultaneously, and two soundtracks, and brand-sweet colors, and sounds that vibrate your back if you lean against the right part of the gallery wall, and 2. shot through with holes, skips in narrative, sonically obscured dialogue, and unexplained imagery.

Still from "Scarlet Air," courtesy of Whitespace.

Still from “Scarlet Air,” courtesy of Whitespace.

Setting aside the artists’ statement for the time being, what is this thing, “Scarlet Air,” about? Most of the attention is given to a young woman having both typical and atypical experiences in romance, work, friendships, and family, and these are portrayed in settings and styles from a few decades ago. The narration is in a woman’s voice, perhaps the voice of that same young woman who is now older. Part of the narration says something like, “This is a memorial; this is a remembrance.”

Each scene in the film is followed by a still shot of a few key objects from the scene. They are laid on a bedspread—the model-500 telephones, powdered doughnuts in cellophane, hammer and gloves, VHS cassettes with Hollywood movie labels. Objects that seem to function as memory triggers, or possibly memory-creators.

Meanwhile the narrator reflects on the repetition in job tasks, the atmosphere of rural outdoor settings, the longing for connection with certain people, the nature of ordinary objects in daily life.

Still from "Scarlet Air," courtesy of Whitespace.

Still from “Scarlet Air,” courtesy of Whitespace.

The musical score (by Blake Williams) sounds very much like a conventional film score, though perhaps a subdued one, pursuing melodic themes, enhancing certain scenes’ emotions or tensions, implying an emotional context that is not obvious in the film’s visual elements, or drama, or narration. Overall, the score harmonizes with the narrator’s attitude and concerns, a voice of reflection, of loss and low-intensity grief, of earnest interpretation of youthful experiences, and of the fragile confidence of a maturing young woman. A young woman whose thoughts are philosophical and seek out the subtleties of life’s threads.

Our culture is awash in movies and supposedly high-quality television series, just as it is awash in novels and lists of the 10 dieting tips that will change you forever. The Stansells and other poets go on making their exhaustively detailed works that sail right over the cultural cloud and address those subtleties of our lives within it.

For that we are eternally grateful.

“Scarlet Air,” by Whitney and Micah Stansell, is on view at Whitespace through May 10, 2014.


“Enlightenments”: Gigino Falconi Paintings at Besharat Gallery

Gigino Falconi is eighty years old this year, with a long life of art behind him. His work demonstrates a vision unique to him, and his powers of drawing from life and nature help him to paint that figurative vision with clarity. In his work from the last decade now on view at the Besharat Gallery, Mr. Falconi’s view of women is the main subject. At the age of eighty, he continues to pursue an obsession around the power of sexual attraction to women.

If there is a unifying scenario in these images, perhaps it is this: I’m in a beautiful place near a natural harbor. It’s a broad harbor protected by low mountains. All sorts of boats come here to dock. As I stroll toward the shore, I notice a woman relaxing near some fishing boat docks. Then I come near enough to see her fully. She is very close to a boat dock, hidden from the dock by some large boulders that line the shore. She lies naked on a bed with sumptuous sheets. Yes, there is a bed there, out in the open. It’s not something a fisherman would have put there. The woman seems to have brought it there. As I come close to her, she looks at me, but she is not startled or concerned to cover herself. No, she welcomes me.

Il Porto, detail, Gigino Falconi, acrylic on canvas, 55.12 x 70.87 in., scan from exhibit catalog

Il Porto, detail, Gigino Falconi, acrylic on canvas, 55.12 x 70.87 in., scan from exhibit catalog

It’s a simple and cliché fantasy. It says far more about the viewer in the scenario than it does about the woman being portrayed. The viewer loves the creases of naked female flesh and the folds of comfortable cloth; loves the availability of silent, vulnerable women; loves to think it’s great to have sex in the open air.

There are no dangers to the viewer’s erotic arousal in that fantasy, especially not coming from the woman being portrayed. However, Falconi the eighty-year-old does see danger in the particular fantasies that these paintings display. Frequently the clouds in the open-air rendezvous are black with imminent violence. Sometimes a bright and mysterious, arced light falls on the woman, as if a giant flashlight were being pointed by God. The Flashlight of Judgment, or the searchlight of predatory fishermen?

Sometimes it’s just the folds of those plush sheets that suggest danger. For the most part the folds of garments and sheets are finely and delicately painted, as if to suggest the presence of contemplation. In some cases, though, Falconi draws the folds as if they had a life of their own and could mold into being certain unwanted, unshapely objects beneath the concealing cover of the cloth.

Sogno Bianco, detail, Gigino Falconi, acrylic on canvas, 78.78 x 37.40 in., scan from exhibit catalog

Sogno Bianco, detail, Gigino Falconi, acrylic on canvas, 78.78 x 37.40 in., scan from exhibit catalog

A similar danger is found in paintings simply portraying the harbor. Those boulders on the shore suggest a threat to the calm, anchored fishing boats. Beneath the silky, smooth skin of the water, one senses that hard, jagged objects lurk and wait to slash the hulls of the boats. In one painting even the sky is violated by a flying sea monster bent on finding prey (perhaps a reference to a legendary monster at Lake Como).

Falconi’s color palette ranging from black to blue to tan and flesh emphasizes the gravity of the erotic question he confronts. His division of some of the paintings with grid lines or wooden dividers suggests an attempt to find more distance on his subject.

The exhibit is called “Enlightenments,” which suggests that there are different types of epiphany. May I suggest the alternate title, Flash-lights?

“Enlightenments” is on view through May 31, 2013, at Besharat Gallery.