Last night’s triple header started out with a visit to the Phillips Collection, probably the best chamber-sized museum in the country. I’d heard so much talk about the new artwork on view there now, that when I was invited by my friend Kelly Mayfield to see her new choreography being performed there, it seemed like a no-brainer. It was also an opportunity to try out my brand new Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM prime lens in very low light. As part of the Capital Fringe Festival, her fledgling company, Contradiction Dance, comprised of six diverse dancers, staged an hour-long dance piece inspired by the “Paint Made Flesh” exhibit currently running on the top floor of the museum. As I was photographing the performance, I felt a hand tap me on the shoulder. It was my friend and local dance impresario Meera Wolfe, who had just come down from the exhibit. From her whispered description, I knew I needed to see the paintings that inspired the dance that we were watching.
Like the excellent but smallish exhibit upstairs, her work explores a wide range of themes associated with flesh – physical attractiveness, disfigurement, aging, and sensuality, among others. Comprised of duets, solos, spoken words, and group interactions, “In the Flesh,” challenges us to examine our own conception of beauty and to ultimately question the origin of those beliefs. Mayfield and company continued this exchange of ideas in the post-performance Q & A with the audience.
It’s such a small World! Meera was taking in the evening with the internet-based dance critic Carmel Morgan and yoga instructor Amy Dara Stoltz. Carmel says she knows of me via one of my Juilliard classmates Elizabeth McPherson, an esteemed author and dance educator. The four of us take in the artwork together. The 40 paintings that comprise the show are wildly different from one another, yet they all contain the common thread of humanness. The savagery of war, the beauty of the human form, the fleeting nature of love, the inevitability of death, all play out through pigments on canvas, paper, and board. Hyphen, by Jenny Saville has to be seen in person to feel the full effect of the work’s wall-sized brilliance. Hyphen begs one to find beauty in the seemingly grotesque depiction of the artist and her sister. I wanted to touch the canvas – the paint being so thickly applied in some areas. The strongest works for me, by far, were the pieces by Francis Bacon, Eric Fischl, Willem deKooning, and Lucian Freud. California artist Richard Diebenkorn was represented by a minor work of figuration which served to solidify my belief that his “Ocean Park” series is one of the most important collections of abstract paintings of the 20th century. I went to Juilliard with Diebenkorn’s granddaughter Phyllis and she had a miniature painted by him, for her, on the wall of her apartment at the Hotel Narragansett @ 93rd and Broadway. None of our friends realized just how valuable a piece of art it was at the time. But I knew.
All of the photos from the Contradiction Dance after party can be seen at: www.tonypowell.smugmug.com
After viewing the art we met up with the dancers at Darlington House for a cast party/cocktail party before I needed to leave to go over to Smith Point, for Washington Life Magazine, to cover Ashley Taylor‘s fundraiser. The bad weather didn’t dampen the spirits of those who braved the rain to show there support for Once Upon a Prom, a non-profit dedicated to providing prom dresses and scholarships to under served young women in the Nation’s Capitol. Ashley’s new boyfriend Jared Cohen was there, as well as Coventry Burke, Heather Guay, Lindsay Craig, Hadley Gamble, Tate Yost Lett, Gabrielle Malman, Becca Glover, Marybeth Coleman, Sara Lang, and Anna VanMeter. Just before leaving, my friend, the writer Carol Joynt, popped in from the rain with two of her pals and unwound in a back room. I’m very comfortable behind the camera so I got a little nervous when Ashley asked me to be IN a shot with everyone. We all had a great time inside while it poured down heavily outside.
“Once Upon a Prom” photos can be found on the Washington Life Magazine website: www.washingtonlife.smugmug.com