Author Archives: caroleditosti

‘The Last Vermeer,’ Telluride/Toronto Film Festivals Review

(L to R): Guy Pearce, Claes Bang in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

The Last Vermeer which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival as Lyrebird was renamed to refocus upon the genius Dutch Baroque Period painter Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) who is one of the national treasures of The Netherlands. Vermeer specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle class life, exemplified in his renowned Girl With the Pearl Earring and The Milkmaid. As the film elucidates Vermeer used unique, expensive pigments and was most concerned about the masterful use of light like the other great painters of the Dutch Golden Age, i.e. Rembrandt, Frans Hals.

Vermeer worked slowly and produced relatively few paintings which brought him moderate success. When confronted with financial difficulties during his country’s two wars, he went into debt, which his wife and children had to recover from after he died. For two centuries Vermeer fell into obscurity until his discovery in the 19th century which grew until his paintings became valuable. His works’ value is what intrigued Hermann Goering enough to purchase a Vermeer from dealer Han van Meergren for the highest price yielded by the Nazis for confiscated and stolen works of art during WW II.

Claes Bang, Vicky Krieps in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

The film starring Guy Pearce, Claes Bang and Vicky Krieps is based on the book The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez. Directed by Dan Friedkin who has numerous producing credits of intriguing films (The Square, Hot Summer Nights, All the Money in the World, {2017} Ben is Back {2018)} to name a few) the film was scripted by James McGee (Jon Orloff), Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby and is about the amazing true story of the recovery of a Vermeer that was counted among Nazi loot after the fall of Hitler.

The film begins in the aftermath of the bombing of Rotterdam and takes place in Amsterdam when allied troops helped restore order to the governments that had been upended by the Nazis. Part of the process of restoring order was to divine the Nazi collaborators and punish them. At the time Canadians were in charge after which the Dutch government would assume control and command. As the film opens we note a Dutch Nazi collaborator is being summarily executed in the public square as a crowd cheers.

Claes Bang in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

In this environment there are friends and foes and it remains unclear the extent to which one should judge another’s way to survive under horrific oppression and slaughter, such as the Nazi occupiers delivered to the Dutch people. In the instance of Nazi looted art, recovery takes take precedence and those caught in the crosshairs of vengeance receive little mercy from others who may have collaborated on a higher, more obscure level in the occupied government who look to hold the reigns of power.

Claes Bang portrays Captain Joseph Piller, a Canadian Jew tasked to locate and return a Vermeer purchased by Hermann Goering and afterward, to seek justice for the original theft of the art work. Along with his wife who compromised her fidelity to gain information, Piller was in the resistance, and if he was caught as a Jew, it would have gone badly for him. Indeed, Piller and his wife courageously negotiated an opaque moral tightrope to overthrow their Nazi enemies, a detail which is inferred and not explored with any depth.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

The Vermeer was one of thousands of Nazi stolen artworks, documents and valuables that were hidden when the allies came through (see the film The Monuments Men {2014}). To this day there are paintings that have been recovered, but they cannot be matched to their former owners. In some instances, museums and art galleries purchased the works on the QT to keep the historic, priceless pieces in the country of origin, rather than work to locate the family of the original owners (see the film Woman in Gold {2015}).

Captain Piller is not the only one looking to recover stolen works from the Nazis, jail or execute collaborators after restoring the works to their original owners. This is a high stakes conflict to exact justice. On the one side are the allies. On the other is the Dutch government has its own processes of dealing with collaborators, including letting some go free depending upon the quid pro quos to be made.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

Piller must discover the truth of a mystery about the Vermeer before the compromised Dutch Ministry of Justice, represented by Alex De Klerks (August Diehl) regains full jurisdiction over the matter. Time is running out for Piller to “get the job done,” before the Dutch can pardon, get payoffs from the collaborators, or look the other way and allow the Nazis and collaborators to depart or go underground until the culture forgets and moves on.

Guy Pearce finely portrays the wild and ostentatious Han van Meergren who Piller discovers was in possession of the Vermeer before it ended up in the hands of Goering. Piller gains the trust of van Meergren and vice-versa. Together they pull apart whether or not as an art dealer van Meergren collaborated with the Nazis and betrayed the Dutch people or was in fact like Piller and his wife, part of the resistance and on the side of the Allies.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer (courtesy of the film)

In the process of revealing this mystery the film goes into the type of paints Vermeer used as well as his technique. It further unveils the flamboyant identity of van Meergren and through him it excoriates the art world for its tenuous and corrupt practices to gain illicit and unconscionable profits off the backs of artists who do the work and beg to be exploited for the sake of recognition and a few coins to help them live.

The ironies abound in The Last Vermeer. The high points occur every time Guy Pearce is onscreen and taking charge of the mysterious which we attempt to understand. When it is revealed in the courtroom when the judge, defense, jury and art expert examine van Meegren’s role in the world of the Nazis, the high jinx are quickly and shockingly revealed in an exuberant twist. That Piller and his staff assist van Meegren in his revelatory exploit is all the more delicious.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

Though the film has slow moving parts related to the exposition and falters in not revealing the backstory of Piller and his wife, when the conflict comes to the fore, it takes off into a fascinating account of a true story. The cinematic elements, costumes, hairstyles, and the recreation of historical setting is excellent.

There is no spoiler alert here. You will just have to see the film which will be released 20 November 2020.

‘A Touch of the Poet’ The Irish Repertory Theatre’s Superb Revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Revelation of Class in America

Robert Cuccioli in Irish Repertory Theatre’s Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

The Irish Repertory Theatre’s activity during the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing short of award-winning. They have remained stalwart in presenting streaming live productions, filmed productions and filmed productions online by actors who have done their work solo from their own homes, which afterward are seamlessly brought together by technicians.

The latter phenomenon is perhaps the finest example of the tremendous effort the Irish Rep is ready to perform keeping in mind their unction to do no harm to actors, technicians and audience members during this incredibly dangerous time, where if you peruse statistics on Worldometer, the death toll in the U.S. marches toward the numbers of dead during four years of our involvement in WWII. Considering that the COVID atrocities have occurred over a 9 month period under the abdicated watch and depraved indifference of Donald J. Trump and the sleepwalking GOP, the death toll is staggering and egregious.

Mary McCann in Irish Repertory Theatre’s Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

Thus, global watchers of Irish Repertory Theatre which hail from Australia to Ireland and all parts of the United States, are so grateful for the opportunities that engaged and talented actors and the Irish Rep’s creative team provide. As they unleash their talent and passion to create wonderful artistic performances, the productions help sustain us through this unprecedented crisis in our lives.

In their latest offering Eugene O’Neill’s A Touch of the Poet, the Irish Rep used the magnificent set they had created that was ready for production when the pandemic hit and New York was put on pause. With painstaking coordination, director Ciarán O’Reilly, the actors, technicians and artistic team configured a maverick presentation that launches the Irish Rep into new territory and reveals to other theater companies a way to deal with the vicissitudes of social distancing in performance. Each of the actors filmed their portrayals solo with attention to the staging of their actor/character counterparts.

Belle Aykroyd in Irish Repertory Theatre’s A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

The result is gobsmacking and actors’ performances are treasures. How they accomplished this feat of interaction keeping it dynamic and vital is beyond entertainment. The production of A Touch of the Poet is a profound recognition that with genius and collaboration, the breathtaking can result. And their collaboration elevates what many consider to be one of O’Neill’s more mediocre plays to one of illustrious depth.

This revival elucidates that in O’Neill’s work there is much that is parallel to our time as we follow the misfortunes and revelations of the humanity of the Melody family. In themes and characterizations we identify with the expose of Con Melody’s self-betrayal. Striking is his wanton self-abuse and the abuse of his wife and daughter as he pursues fantasies that no longer support the vitality of their lives and, in fact, hinder their appreciation of who they are and what they might be.

Kate Forbes in Irish Repertory Theatre’s A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

O’Neill sets his drama in Boston around 1828. The Melody family headed up by the alcoholic, self-destructive fantasist “Con” Melody (exquisitely portrayed by Robert Cuccioli) runs a ramshackle Inn with attached bar. Along with “Con,” are Sara (Belle Aykroyd) the stunning, truth-telling, rebellious foil to her father and Nora ( Kate Forbes) his pliant, subservient, fawning wife. The four live hand to mouth because Con abides in his glory days when he was a fiery and intrepid Major in the Dragoons, serving under the eventually exalted Duke of Wellington.

At the outset of the play, Jamie Cregan (Andy Murray gives a fine performance of Melody’s soldier underling and partner in brawling) provides the backstory of Con’s inner and outer conflict that Con has been unable to confront his entire life. Jamie explains how Con is an erstwhile gentleman with roots from the Irish peasant class that his father struggled to escape from. The father eventually advances himself and carves out an inheritance for Melody who is lifted into the airs of landed gentry and rises to a position of power in the British military.

L to R: Kate Forbes and Belle Aykroyd in A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

When Con’s philandering, drinking ways cause him to be sanctioned and ejected from his position as Major, Melody flees to the United States with Nora where they purchase the Inn and raise Sara. Swindled by a Yankee, who lies about the value and prosperity of the Inn, they barely scrape out an existence which is further impoverished by Con’s alcoholism and his inability to make his way in the United States.

Con’s relationship to Nora and Sara varies from drunken rages when he belittles and demeans both to guilty apologies and attempts to make amends with blandishments. Cuccioli balances the drunken bouts and insults with hasty apology that is both humorous and heartfelt. Through his spot-on portrayal we understand the impossibility of Con’s self-hatred and his attempt to escape both his alcoholism and his menial position in the new world as classism and discrimination drive him deeper into self-loathing. Cuccioli is particularly illuminating when he entertains the magical persona of “The Major.” As he affirms his exalted personage in a conveniently placed mirror, quoting Lord Byron, he imagines his long-lost greatness and gentility are still within.

Robert Cuccioli and Belle Aykroyd in A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

Indeed, Cuccioli’s stance, mien, presence convince us that he was once an individual of great deeds and valor and has fallen on hard times but will remain unbroken and unbowed. Nora adores him for she has “won” this dignitary’s love and that raises her own identity and self-esteem. Kate Forbes is just incredible as she mediates Nora’s self-recriminations, with her subservience to Con as she waits on his every whim. She never reproaches him for his abusiveness, indeed, she accepts his cruelties and disdain as worthy of her low station.

Cuccioli and Forbes relay powerful portrayals of these two individuals as they complete the dance of superior to menial externally which becomes the reverse when we see that Con needs to believe he is genteel and honorable, the stiff-upper-lipped gentleman of quality. However, ultimately, Nora dominates; Nora obliges and encourages him to fulfill her own assumptions about his love, as he lowers himself to rages and miscreant behavior.

Robert Cuccioli in A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

Belle Aykroyd’s Sara who challenges Con’s treatment of Nora adds spark and fire to the dynamic of the family. She is the flint that ignites Con and inflames his drunken rages. She fills out the charged, family interplay with an amazing performance of irony and savagery. An instance of this occurs when Sara mocks Con’s puffery and “superiority” by putting on an Irish brogue and acting the menial. Apparently, Con has attempted to teach both Nora and Sara the finer ways, but Nora is unwittingly inflexible and Sara, who “knows better” enjoys defying her father at every turn.

Sara stirs the cauldron of infamy when she entices the guest of a wealthy land-owner to fall in love while she nurses him to health. Through her pursuit of him we learn of Nora’s own desires of greatness realized through her love of Con which becomes the similar road that Sara travels down. To raise her self-esteem in her own eyes and self-love, she becomes sexually involved with Simon Hartford (a blasphemy at the time) despite the threat of his mother Deborah Hartford’s (Mary McCann) disapproval. Deborah Hartford will make sure their relationship is doomed because of their class and economic differences.

Robert Cuccioli and Belle Aykroyd in Irish Repertory Theatre’s A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

In the climax of the play which skirts the edges of physical confrontation, the actors seamlessly convey the action, considering each filmed his/her performance in their own homes. Thanks to the precise staging, it works when Con slaps Sara, when he caresses his wife at the conclusion with a new-found reverence of her patience and concern for him, and when he is physically bold in his attempts to kiss Deborah Hartford. Mary McCann’s staid and well-born Deborah Hartford is the perfect inducement for Con to entrap himself in one more perfidious and humiliating debasement.

From this juncture onward, we anticipate Con’s complete obliteration and the hope of a renewal. O’Neill satisfies; his ironic twists and Con’s ultimate affirmation of the foundations of his soul is as uplifting as it is cathartic. Now, his wife and daughter will have to adjust to this new day and redefine their expectations of their lives. Sara has already begun but the road she has chosen, like her mother’s is hard and treacherous with only her estimation of love to propel her onward.

Kudos to all the actors who negotiated the new medium of filmed staging on film and made it real. Likewise, kudos to the director who shepherded them through with extraordinary results. Last but not least are Alejo Vietti (costume design) Michael Gottlieb (lighting design) M. Florian Staab (sound design and mix) Ryan Rumery (original music) Sarah Nichols (video editor) April Anne Kline production coordinator.

This sensational collaboration magnifies the themes so you can greater appreciate O’Neill’s play of revelation and redemption through confronting one’s own shibboleths and destroying them. The revival shines a refreshing light on A Touch of the Poet and burnishes it with a new glory.

This is a production you must not miss. After this evening’s performance at 8 pm there are three more performances, two Saturday 31 October, and one performance on 1 November at 3 pm. For tickets to the online performances go to the listed site .https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/32325?_ga=2.134261553.1367444511.160409768

New York Botanical Garden: Haupt Conservatory Open With Limited Capacity

NYBG

NYBG seasonal plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

NYB, Levon Levy Center

NYB, Levon Levy Visitor’s Center-Entrance (Carole Di Tosti)

NYB

NYB, Levon Levy Visitor’s Center (Carole Di Tosti)

In times of trouble, the New York Botanical Garden has been a place of asylum and peace for many.

NYBG

New York Botanical Garden (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

New York Botanical Garden (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG 2020

New York Botanical Garden snapdragons (Carole Di Tosti)

The 250 acres of various gardens, the serene walks, the waterfall, old growth forest, LuEsther T. Mertz Library, greenhouses, Stone Mill, ponds and Zen water designs (the Native Plant Garden, one of my favorites) provide  places to contemplate, restore, clear one’s mind and rejuvenate from the noise and chaos of our culture.

NYBG

NYBG, Thain Family Forest walk (Carole Di Tosti)

NYB

NYBG, Waterfall in the Bronx River (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG Bronx River flowing by the Stone Mill (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Native Plant Garden

New York Botanical Garden, Native Plant Garden and water features (courtesy of the Garden)

In keeping with our steadfast and wise Governor Cuomo’s phased approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NYBG has reopened carefully since July. They’ve accomplished this with timed-entrances, hand sanitizer stations everywhere and close monitoring of members and visitors along one-direction paths to provide 6 feet social distancing.

NYBG

New York Botanical Garden (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

New York Botanical Garden hydrangeas (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

New York Botanical Garden, Dahlia, “Mystic Spirit” (Carole Di Tosti)

The bathrooms are meticulously disinfected as is the cafe which provides drinks and outdoor dining as does the Hudson Garden Grill. There is no indoor dining anywhere and the Hudson Garden Grill provides a few salads, wine, beer, cold drinks and snacks. You can sit at one of the tables under an umbrella and enjoy a light lunch viewing the beautiful pine trees, plantings and the seasonal gardens in the distance without fear of crowds, all tables separated from each other six feet or more.

NYBG

New York Botanical Garden (Carole Di Tosti)

Above all, one must visit the Garden with a mask. If one has symptoms of COVID: temperature, dry cough, body aches, digestive problems, difficulty breathing-94 oxygen level as tested by an oximeter, unusual rashes not typical of characteristic allergies, eczema, etc., in addition to cold-like flu symptoms) stay home, rest and recuperate. COVID requires not infecting others and taking care of oneself. The disease is deadly and social responsibility is an imperative when an infectious disease is easily spread in public. The Garden is a respite, but quarantine, rest, liquids, Elderberry, UMCKA and what the doctor prescribes is the only respite for COVID to avoid getting worse and having to be hospitalized.

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Palms of the World gallery (Carole Di Tosti)

I visited on Friday, September 25th at the last minute and found 10:30 A..M. available to visit Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and then go for a walk on the grounds. With a membership, one has free entrance to the Conservatory and parking passes are given.

NYBG

NYBG Seasonal plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Clematis (Carole Di Tosti

NYBG

NYBG, Seasonal Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Seasonal Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Seasonal Plantings (Carole Di Tosti

NYBG

NYBG, Seasonal Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Seasonal Plantings, hibiscus (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Seasonal Plantings, Hibiscus (Carole Di Tosti)

NYB

NYBG, Seasonal Plantings, Clematis (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Seasonal Plantings, Hibiscus (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Seasonal Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, snapdragons (Carole Di Tosti)

The above pictures are what is happening around the Garden if you just plan to lift your spirits with a walk and not get involved in any other activities or go into the conservatory. The pictures below are the conservatory environs.

NYBG

NYBG, fountain, interior Enid A. Haupt Conservatory (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, interior Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, fountain (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, fountain, flowering spider plant (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, fountain gallery, floral detail (Carole Di Tosti)

If you’ve run out of parking passes as I did, parking for members is discounted at $10.00 and that is well worth it. The visual beauty and healthfulness of the plants and gorgeous landscape with lovely, coordinated plantings is better than a sedative for one’s emotional state.

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, walkway (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, walkway (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, walkway (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, walkway (Carole Di Tosti)

The Garden staff are preparing for the Kiku exhibit which takes place in the fall every year and coincides with fall activities like Pumpkin Weekend which they are already preparing. Both take place in October.

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Kiku Exhibit preparation (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Kiku Exhibit preparation (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, reflecting pool (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, reflecting pool, another perspective (Carole Di Tosti)

The Conservatory is monitored by following the path through all of the galleries in the Conservatory, from the Rainforest plantings, through the Desert plantings and the exhibition galleries.

NYBG

NYBG, outside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the Lotus and Water Lily Pond (Carole Di Tosti)

One can also step outside to visit the Lotus and Water Lily Pond where one will see water plants, Lotus and a variety of Water Lilies.

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conervatory, Lily Pond (Carole Di Tosti)

Swimming amidst the plants are coy of various sizes. One old gentleman looks to be a few decades old and has grown to a renowned size.

NYB

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Courtyard Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

There is also a frog whom I heard on a few visits to the Lotus and Water Lily Ponds hanging out in the vegetation. Two Lily Ponds are in the Courtyard in the center of the environs of the conservatory.

NYBG

NYBG, Lotus and Water Lilly Pond (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Courtyard Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Courtyard Plantings, Lotus and Water Lily Ponds Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Courtyard Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Courtyard Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

And there are frogs in the swampland and wild plants area of the Garden. I have heard them in the area of the Native Plant Garden.

NYBG

NYBG, Native Plant Garden Water features (Carole Di Tosti)

I have also seen hummingbirds and cardinals in that area. The birds are as beautiful as the flowers that line the water features.

NYBG

NYBG, Native Plant Garden (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG

NYBG, Native Plant Garden wildflowers attracting hummingbirds and nesting cardinals (Carole Di Tosti)

You will need a timed ticket to enter the Garden even if you do not go into the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. If you are a NYC resident, your entrance fee is discounted. If you go on Wednesdays, you may visit the Garden for free. Members may enter the grounds and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory for free.

For information and tickets go to the NYBG website. https://www.nybg.org/visit/admission/?keyword=NYCResidentZIPCheck

Sign up for the newsletter to keep apprised of the activities happening in the next weeks and discover whether there will be a Holiday Train Show with limited access and reserved tickets.

New York Botanical Garden is Reopening The Outdoor Gardens and Collections to the General Public July 28

NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

Today, The New York Botanical Garden announced its schedule to reopen the outdoor gardens and collections of its 250-acre site to the general public on Tuesday, 28 July. The process has been a gradual one as New York City achieves New York Forward’s Phase Four which is projected to begin 20 July. The Garden’s reopening plan is mindful of protocols that pertain to businesses and cultural institutions. It follows CDC guidelines regarding protecting visitors from COVID-19 transmission. The Garden’s protocols involve safety measures that encompass State and City requirements and OSHA requirements.

NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Sunflower, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

As a part of Appreciation Week July 21-26 the New York Botanical Garden is welcoming Garden Members and Bronx Healthcare Heroes from the eight public and private hospitals in the borough. Also included are Bronx Neighbors with “first access” and complimentary tickets for free admission. This reopening including “Appreciation Week” is contingent upon Governor Cuomo designating New York City as fulfilling the requirements for the Phase Four opening.

NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

All visitors, including Members, must purchase or reserve timed-entry tickets in advance. All visitors must be wearing masks.

APPRECIATION WEEK REOPENING is from July 21, Tuesday – July 26, Sunday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.  GET TICKETS BY CLICKING HERE

Perennial Garden, NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Perennial Garden, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

Through its Appreciation Week initiative, the Garden acknowledges its gratitude and recognizes the dedication, strength, and resilience of Bronx frontline health care workers and residents. These are the workers that residents remember daily around 7:00 pm with cheers, shouts and a clamor of pots and pans for their great sacrifice to help patients through the terrible journey of overcoming this virus which is still not understood. Complimentary admission for those groups will continue through September 13.

Seasonal Walk, NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Seasonal Walk, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

New Yorkers will be coming from all the boroughs to seek respite and renewal at NYBG. They have gone through a hellacious time (characterized by Governor Cuomo) these past months sacrificing under quarantine. Together, all New Yorkers were united, disciplined, smart, tough and loving as they confronted an unprecedented crises in their lifetimes and brought the highest COVID infection rate in the world to one of the lowest in the nation.

Home Gardening Center, NYBG,New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Home Gardening Center, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

The Garden is the place to be in July. It is one of the most gorgeous, historic and extensive botanical gardens in the world. Not only is it an urban oasis, it is a cultural, living artifact which has become a moral imperative, a haven for every season, and a New York City treasure anchored in the Bronx. Currently the Garden landscape features vibrant daylilies, hydrangeas, water lilies, and lotuses among its one million plants. Walking paths and trails crisscross the Garden providing opportunities for discovery through encounters with nature.

Thain Family Forest, NYBG, NYBG,New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Thain Family Forest, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

FOR YOUR SAFETY

The Garden has a TIMED ENTRY.  FACE COVERINGS ARE REQUIRED.  There is SOCIAL DISTANCING.

There is CONTINUAL CLEANING AND DISINFECTINGThere are DAILY STAFF HEALTH CHECKS.

Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

Know Before You Go

  • Reduced Garden capacity and amenities. For the safety of visitors and staff, NYBG closed indoor spaces and any collections where social distancing is not possible. Water fountains and bottle refill stations are deactivated. Please bring your own water, or purchase water at the Pine Tree Café.
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices. Garden staff are sanitizing surfaces such as tables, handrails, and door handles regularly.
  • Sanitization stations. Hand sanitizer has been placed throughout the Garden. All visitors and staff must practice proper hand washing procedures.
  • 250 acres to explore. Enjoy seasonal highlights in the Chilton Azalea Garden, Native Plant Garden, Perennial Garden, Conservatory Courtyards, Rockefeller Rose Garden, and most other outdoor collections and trails. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoe

Lotus and Water Lilies, NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week, Public Opening 28 July

New York Botanical Garden, Water Lilies and Lotus, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

  • Grab-and-go food service only. Limited food and refreshments are offered for carry-out at the Pine Tree Café. Outdoor seating is available.
  • NYBG Shop is open. The Garden has adjusted shopping and checkout processes to provide the safest possible experience.
  • Mobility considerations. Wheelchair loans and the Tram Tour are suspended. If you require a mobility device, we ask that you bring your own.

 NYBG, Water Lilies and Lotus Pond, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week, Public Opening 28 July

New York Botanical Garden, Water Lilies and Lotus Pond, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

An inherent risk of exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19) exists in any public space where people are present. People visiting The New York Botanical Garden do so at their own risk as to such exposure as well as other risks inherent to outdoor public spaces. We will continue to monitor state and city guidelines to inform the Garden’s operations.

For more information about the NYBG and the 28th JULY PUBLIC OPENING, CLICK HERE.

 

Rosary O’Neill Talks ‘Clark and Carole’

Rosary O'Neill, Clark and Carole

Rosary O’Neill, ‘Clark and Carole,’ New Orleans (DCLarue)

When playwright Rosary O’Neill was living in New York City, she was inspired to write Plane Love based on her own love relationship and the love relationship between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. She mounted a number of successful readings of Plane Love at the National Arts Club, The Player’s Club, The Actor’s Studio and a few other venues. I attended a few of these readings and reviewed Plane Love which is an intriguing and beautifully written love story,

Rosary and I had the opportunity to touch base in emails, texts and phone conversations these past months. It was then she mentioned that she had reworked Plane Love into another version of the play and titled it Clark and Carole. Playwrights and writers who subscribe to my Social sites will be interested to discover Rosary O’Neill’s motivation in reworking an older idea. Arthur Miller said in the biographical film about his life and writing that he felt that he was never “finished” with a work. He believe that there was always something more to discover.
The thrust of this interview with Rosary O’Neill about this play that she refashioned, follows Miller’s conceptualization that writers are not always “finished,” with their works. And indeed, the great writers are always evolving and reshaping what they’ve written. The interview with Rosary was conducted via email.

Rosary O'Neill, Clark and Carole, Degas in New Orleans, Musée d'Orsay, Musee Dorse

Rosary O’Neill, ‘Clark and Carole,’ pictured at Musée d’Orsay in Paris with Degas ballet dancers (Carole Di Tosti)

What if any are the differences between the old version (Plane Love) and this new version (Clark and Carole)?
The new version Clark and Carole is set in 1937-42 rather than today. So we have all the delicious details of pre-World War II Hollywood glamour: the big movie stars, the glorious silver screen, the larger than life seductions. Most importantly are the lure and the sizzle that sparks the real love behind the silver screen.
Why did you decide to change the title from Plane Love to Clark and Carole
The play was always based on the wild, strange, circuitous and surprising love story of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Their relationship took off during the time when Gone with the Wind was shot. It was also a time when Hollywood stars lived on ranches outside Los Angeles and their amorous girl friends were lured by letters, phone calls and surprise visits. Since the play was actually based on Clark and Carole I decided to put their names in the title to make that clearer. I also changed the characters’ names to “Clark” and “Carole.”
I found that using the title Plane Love and changing the names of Clark and Carole to Bill and Jane confused audiences so that they forgot or didn’t get the story was based on the love affair of Gable and Lombard. Because much of the plot—unwanted pregnancies, children put up for adoption, infertility—that was considered “shameful” in the time of Clark and Carole is no longer considered so, I felt I could remove the guise of an update and name change.
In the earlier version of Plane Love, I had the Carole Lombard character live after the plane crash and find herself pregnant, in the search for a happier ending. In the Clark and Carole play I returned to the real and sad ending. The crash that killed Carole Lombard sent Clark into shock, a love shock he never truly recovered from

Rosary O'Neill, Clark and Carole

Rosary O’Neill, ‘Clark and Carole,’ pictured in Paris at Musée d’Orsay, with Degas’ Little Dancer (Carole Di Tosti)

What is Carole and Clark about?
It’s about love, Love, and more LOVE. It’s a madcap love story told through letters and phone calls and secret meetings and wild romance that ends in a fantasy marriage, furious love, infertility, more lavish romance, a plane crash, and FOREVER LOVE.
What is poignant about their relationship? 
What’s heartfelt is how they loved and never stopped loving each other. She was racing home through bad weather on a prop plane to be with him for her birthday. She never made it to his loving arms.
They had both been married unhappily. Clark was married twice, to his acting teacher, and a society maven, both of whom launched his career. Carole was married to the famous actor William Powell in a partnership that strengthened her career.
Both Gable and Lombard were at the height of their careers and had more roller coasters to ride when their love affair ascended. Other actresses embroiled with Clark and Carole who added fuel to the tryst included Loretta Young, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow and Lana Turner. One of these glamorous stars added an illegitimate baby to the mix.

Rosary O'Neill, Clark and Carole, New Orleans

Rosary O’Neill, ‘Clark and Carole,’ New Orleans, (DCLarue)

Why might millennials, the younger generation, be interested in learning about Carole Lombard and Clark Gable and that time in Hollywood?
 It was a GREAT TIME of beauty and intrigue. Stars started young. Bloomed young, died young. Jean Harlow died at 24, Carole Lombard at 33. Jimmy Dean died at 24. This was the time before bodywork and face-lifts, and lip injections happened on the scale that they occur today. The the line up of youth and beauty was awe-inspiring; and of course, women’s careers ended by 40-years -old.

Rosary O'Neill, National Arts Club

Rosary O’Neill at the National Arts Club (Carole Di Tosti)

Actor training for the screen was coming into its own. Gable studied acting (Stanislavsky method) prodigiously. The screen required close ups and psychological verity. The secrets of the stars were kept secret and so their beauty was magnified with supposed virtue. This was the pre-drug pre-decadence pre suicide era. It wasn’t that problems weren’t rampant, they were just hidden, and virtue and good looks were promoted.
Why were you drawn to these personalities particularly and not others during that era of Hollywood or later? 
I have always been attracted to actors from a broken past. Gable and Lombard each, like Marilyn, like Jimmy Dean, like Monty Clift lost a parent at an early age. They grew up in a broken household and looked to the theatre to build their dreams. All the actors I’ve studied worked so hard to be great artists. And they were each successful until—some big blow. For Dean and Gable/Lombard and Clift, it was a big physical crash. For Marilyn it was a body pill crash.

Rosary O'Neill, Actor's Studio, Plane Love, Clark and Carole, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard

Rosary O’Neill, outside the Actor’s Studio, NYC (Carole Di Tosti)

I love Gable because he worked so hard to be a great actor and had such a bucolic but buoyant sense of humor. Carol Lombard bore all kinds of pain and endured betrayal and trickery to work her way into stardom and into the arms of Gable. I also love Clark and Carole because of the tragedy behind their beauty. Carole couldn’t conceive, and Gable couldn’t keep her. Finally, the actors were on a timeline. Pre plastic surgery and pills, pre fertility pills and drugs, pre exercise and life coaches, time ran out.
But in my play, there is no time limit. Glark loves Carole and Carole loves Clark, forever!
You will be able to see Rosary O’Neill’s play Clark and Carole on July 20 at 8 PM in a live streaming format on these links below.
Alan Smason is producer/director of the reading. Kelly Lind and Robert Pavlovich play Carole Lombard and Clark Gable.

 

 

 

‘Journey Through Spring II’ New York Botanical Garden Facebook Watch Party

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest,Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections  (courtesy of NYBG website)

The New York Botanical Garden is conducting its next Facebook Watch Party, “Journey Through Spring II ” this week. The sequel to NYBG’s popular virtual walk through its spectacular Spring highlights takes place on Thursday, May 21, at 12 p.m. Look for the Facebook Watch Party: “Journey Through Spring II ”

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

Dogwoods, New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

For this event Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections narrates the most recent spring footage at the Garden. The video update is gorgeous as Todd chronicles the budding and blossoming throughout NYBG’s spectacular historic landscape from late April through mid-May.

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

Azaleas, New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

The virtual walk features sweeping panoramic and aerial views across NYBG’s 250 acres and intimate close-ups of its magnificent gardens and collections. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in clusters of white and purple lilacs; lush peonies; late-spring perennials, grasses, and bulbs; and many more seasonal sensations during this Facebook Watch Party.

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

Dogwoods, New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

Todd Forrest is particularly suited to discussing the virtual walk. In his position he is responsible for the Horticulture Division’s programs and activities. He oversees the grounds, 50 gardens and living collections, horticultural exhibitions, and a staff of 80 managers, curators, gardeners, and community horticulturists. Forrest also advises on long-term strategy for the Garden’s 250-acre landscape.

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

Conifers, New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

As New York State works to align the economy with opening up safely during the 2020 COVID-19 crisis, NYBG will do the same, always keeping in mind the safety of its patrons who, in the past, didn’t mind the crowds. Today, however, it’s all about stemming the outbreak of COVID-19 which took the US by surprise since the Pandemic Office was defunded and closed down in 2018. In addition to that tragedy, the personnel hired to monitor pandemics from the previous administration were fired. And the reports and informative Pandemic Bible that gave guidance on the steps to take if a pandemic ever broke out in China or Africa was shelved

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

Azalea Hill, New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Kusama: Cosmic Nature, Yayoi Kusama,Facebook Watch Party

Yayoi Kusama,’ Cosmic: Cosmic Nature,’ New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

One can only imagine how different things would be for this nation and globally 1) if the Pandemic Office had not be closed; 2)if the monitoring personnel had been kept on; 3) if the informational pandemic Bible not been disregarded. We would be enjoying the crowds at the Garden and relishing the Kusama: Cosmic Nature exhibit which was to run through the summer and now has been postponed until next year if possible.

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

Dogwoods, New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

Cherry Blossoms, New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

New York was left with handling an influx of infected individuals coming from Europe, but it has been doing an excellent job of bending the curve to zero as the rest of the country deals with a rise in COVID-19 positive cases and increase in death rates. Thus, in light of the pandemic, New Yorkers are staying safe and NYBG remains closed. All in-person events, on-site programs and classes, and exhibitions have been suspended. The necessary action complies with public health guidelines issued by federal, state, and local governments and the CDC to support stringent efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and limit the unnecessary deaths exacerbated by a dilatory federal response that continues to this day.

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

Daffodils, NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

Daffodils, New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

However, we look upward and know we will return having learned important lessons to not repeat this unprecedented global crisis again. Looking to experts and science, the NYBG during this period is having essential staff continue to provide expert care for NYBG’s living collections as they maintain the operations of the Garden’s 250-acre landmark landscape.

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

Thankfully, though the Garden’s gates may be closed temporarily, the virtual gates provide all access. The Garden invites all globally and those near and far to check in online to the NYBG site to feel refreshed despite the news that COVID-19 rates nationwide are rising and many of the states are reopening without sufficient testing and contact tracing in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

Fortunately, New York Governor Cuomo is making sure to hit target criteria to open up all aspects of the state but with wisdom and guidance so that New Yorkers will be safe during this challenging time.

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

Dogwoods, New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

Make sure to visit “Journey Through Spring II” to check how the Garden collections are blossoming and burgeoning during this Spring of 2020. The Watch Party is Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 12 p.m. on this link:  https://www.facebook.com/events/703724287108198/ The virtual event will also be available on NYBG’s website nybg.org/nybg-at-home/.

NYBG, Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest COVID-19 closure, Facebook Watch Party

New York Botanical Garden, Facebook Watch Party: ‘Journey Through Spring II, Todd Forrest (courtesy of NYBG website)

Information about NYBG’s other virtual events and additional digital content is at this link.

‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles’ Tribeca Film Festival Review

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

As COVID-19 has prompted the Metropolitan Musuem to close its doors to its thousands of visitors on a slow day and stream daily content, we have a chance to look back at another time. It is a throwback to the past splendors of the Met and its 2018 Versailles exhibit captured in a Tribeca Film Festival offering. Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, streamed online for press, fans and supporters. Tribeca Film Festival curtailed many of its events. However, they screened films in the midst of a global pandemic, the likes of which is perhaps worse than the French Revolution that felled the last of the French Kings (Louis XVI) and left the Palace of Versailles a shell of itself until later restoration.

Though I am a neophyte foodie, I had never heard of world renowned chef Yotam Ottolenghi (cookbooks include Jerusalem, Plenty). Nor had I the time to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York during its “Visitors to Versailles” exhibit:  https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2018/visitors-to-versailles.

The Metropolitan Museum enjoys featuring live events which bring important works to life. They attempt to ground them in the present by combining exhibits with other contemporary forms of expression. “Visitors to Versailles” was one such glorious presentation taking place in the Summer of 2018.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Yotam Ottolenghi, Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Though I missed attending the Versailles exhibit and particularly “The Feast of Versailles,” presented by Ottolenghi and his pastry chef collaborators, “all’s well that end’s well.” Laura Gabbert the documentarian known for city of Gold, No Impact Man and Sunset Story decided to do a quick and dirty film about Yotam Ottolenghi’s commission to create the “Feast of Versailles” giving us an inside look behind the scenes at how the “feast” portion of the exhibit came into being.

From start to finish, Gabbert chronicles the philosopher-foodie Ottolenghi at his home and his restaurant. We witness clips of him with restaurant colleagues tasting and refining desserts. We immediately get a sense of Ottolenghi’s expertise, congeniality and collaborative skills to perfect dishes to will please his clientele.

The filmmaker features brief interview clips o Ottolenghi describing how he works and how he responded to the Met’s commission of his culinary artistry. Then she the chronicles the chef’s visit to New York City from his home base in London and reviews meetings with Met Museum experts who assist him in his research of the culture, opulence and luxury of Versailles as the seat of world culture for over 100 years during the reign of the Sun Kings. Importantly, the Met experts discuss the types of foods that the king and his patrons enjoyed, gleaned from the records and from oil paintings of that time.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

As Ottolenghi visits Versailles, Gabbart includes panoramic views of the glorious gardens and various salons and rooms including the “hall of mirrors” which she films as Ottolenghi comments. This section perhaps could have been added to; there is never enough photography of the incredible palace. However, film clips include the drawings, renderings and other works capturing the style of the palace dating back three hundred-fifty years.

From his readings, his discussions with the experts and his Versailles visit, Ottolenghi decides to review online a myriad of pastry chefs to assess whom he might best collaborate with who will convey his vision. It’s an important selection process. They will help him elucidate the ethos of Versailles though a contemporary lens. After visiting their websites and scrutinizing their “wares” online, he hones in on five visionary dessert chefs: Dinara Kasko, Janice Wong, Bompas & Parr, Ghaya Oliveira, and Dominique Ansel. All of these chefs are as diverse from each other as is the east from the west.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Yotam OttolenghiTribeca Film Festival

Yotam Ottolenghi, Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Ottolenghi’s research of French history and epicurean tradition, meetings, planning and contacts which have taken months are everything. Then Gabbert slows down her time frame and follows the pressure on the five chefs as they arrive at the Met to set up their displays and work their magic two days before the culinary event the “Feast of Versailles.”

These unique and renowned pastry chefs (creator of the “Cronut” Dominique Ansel, among others) have been guided with a light hand by Ottolenghi who has envisioned the evening as an emulation of French decadence that manifests spinning reflections into our own age. Months before the event, each pâtissier works to create a unique dessert inspired by the conceptualization of Versailles’ over-the-top dramatic grandeur. Chocolate sun kings to elaborate jellies, tarts to swans and topiaries — Gabbert reveals the artistry of the dessert chef and the challenges they confront fashioning their presentations in a formidable setting like the Met which is not outfitted as a culinary institute, indeed, far from it.

As the tension rises, the worst possible scenarios occur. The electrical circuit doesn’t work and it is a trial for the electricians to come up with a solution so that the “tornado” effect delivered by the special machine will spin with gusto. In another instance, the cake batter is not the right consistency because the ingredients in the US are different. The pastry chef tries numerous times with the help of an American expert who insists another ingredient should be added. The director wisely leaves the chef unmoored from her art, questioning how to correct the batter. Will she find a solution the day of the Feast?

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Importantly, the “Feast” is a living paean to the court of the monarchy which daily was a staged scene that gave audience to artists, writers, reporters, foreign tourists and subjects who witnessed the rich splendor of the King’s residence, his dominance over his officials and his power as head of state. French cuisine then and now had a great impact on French society which continues into our modern day with cultivars like Julia Child, Eric Ripert, Dominique Ansel and more. One cannot examine a cookbook and not see French words used for process and product: i.e. saute, flambe, mousse, omelet, etc.

One theme that Gabbert explores is this idea that there is little privacy in the world of the Sun Kings who exposed themselves, perhaps too much, for it led to their downfall in the extremes of poverty and wealth. Today, Social Media is used to eliminate our privacy, but the uber wealthy manage to stay away from the public spotlight, where the Sun Kings sought it. The reputed richest in the world are not necessarily so; old wealth that dominates for centuries is unknown and uninvestigated, for good reason.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Yotam Ottolenghi, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Yotam Ottolenghi, Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Another theme that the director alludes to briefly, which should have been elucidated at length, is the idea of excess, crass opulence and decadence. The director includes one shot of Donald Trump’s gold room and makes the analogy that such excess caves in on itself as did the French Monarchy. On a superficial level the “equivalence” seems to make sense. She  needed to extrapolate about the parallels and reveal that past their superficiality, there is no parallel. The Sun Kings were far from frivolous and unlearned. Their culture developed over a century and the accoutrements they surrounded themselves with were priceless. The same does not abide for the dim comparative currently in the White House and the occupants’ crass nouveau riche sensibilities.

What may abide in this romp through Versailles and the lovely feast of extravagant and clever desserts is the theme that the draining wealth and riches it takes to sustain the luxurious materialism chokes off everything. Eventually, the debts pile up and the enemies threaten. Soon the borrowing becomes so great one is entailed with quid pro quos, not a way to remain autonomous. And then the revolution comes when there is not enough food to go around. The film is an interesting view of the days of glory during a time when new elites strive for similitude but fall so short, they don’t recognize their foibles and pretensions.

But Gabbert manages to tie the times vaguely together with the elaborate desserts and concepts of the grand master of the “Feast of Versailles,” Ottolenghi. And she infers gently that the sustainability of such excess is as mortal as its keepers. We recognize the fragility of excess more than ever in this COVID-19 global pandemic.

 

 

‘Banksy Most Wanted’ Directors E-Chat During the Pandemic, Tribeca Film Festival

Banksy Most Wanted, Aurélia Rouvier, Seamus Haley, Tribeca Film Festival,

Banksy’s mural ‘Girl With the Pierced Eardrum,’ featured on city graffiti tours in Bristol, UK in a 2019 photo. From ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (courtesy of Cross Borders Films and Scarlett Production

I screened and reviewed Banksy Most Wanted  as a Tribeca Film Festival offering, which appears on https://blogcritics.org/ and in a longer review: https://caroleditosti.com/2020/04/29/banksy-most-wanted-a-tribeca-film-festival-review/

I enjoyed the film which raised questions about the confluence of Banky’s art and Banksy’ anonymity. Would his art have the power it does if his identity is disclosed? The film, directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley delves into the Banksy myth and reality with a profound and in-depth portrait of a man who performs a great service to humanity which happens to be illegal. I had the opportunity after screening and writing the review to chat with directors via email about the film and how they arrived at their subject.

Girl With Balloon, Banksy Most Wanted, Banksy, Sotheby's, Girl With Balloon Shredded

‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ “Girl With Balloon,” Banksy, ‘Girl With Balloon’ Shredded at Sotheby’s auction (https://www.engadget.com/2018-10-18-banksy-girl-with-balloon-meant-to-be-shredded-completely.html)

What inspired you to do a film about Banksy? 

Aurélia :
First, a deep admiration for his work. Then a fascination for his anonymity maintained for more than 25 years. How can he stay anonymous in the kind of society we are living in nowadays? Probably because a lot of people want him to stay anonymous. His approach is part of a counter-culture, stands on the side of resistance, and most people respect that. They admire his ability to stay invisible, and yet very visible, when we have so few ways to hide.
 
On the other side, some think it is a marketing trick, that Banksy is looking for the world’s attention, that he plays a game. They want to challenge him to his game; they want to unmask him.
 
These two positions are part of Banksy’s history and feed his myth. So we thought it would be interesting to portray the artist by following this thread. Our intention has always been to talk about his work, his irreverence, his political and social commitment, as much as the hysteria that his work and his mystery triggers… So each of the investigations by the journalists who had tried to unmask him has been an entry into revealing a facet of the artist.

Aurélia Rouvier, Seamus Haley, Banksy Most Wanted, Tribeca Film Festival, Banksy

Aurélia Rouvier, Interview of directors Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley Interview, ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ (courtesy Cross Border Films and Scarlett Production)

 

Seamus :
It was Aurélia who had the idea to question anonymity in art through the portrait of the most famous artist, Banksy. I only arrived to the project once the script was written.
 
For this film, I was inspired in part by Marc Singer’s film, Dark Days, released in 2000. It’s a documentary about a homeless community living and dying in the tunnels of the New York City subway and fighting to get out. The atmosphere is very dark and brutal; it perfectly transcribes that of the new millennium 2000s with the advent of hip hop and graffiti.
 
It is also the year that I turned twenty – it is at this time that I began to have a political conscience, to want to make films, especially with my skate-boarding friends. The street was our space. It was during this period that Banksy would have begun to be heard, denouncing certain injustices.
 
Dark Days begins with a subjective view of the railway tracks, lit by the flashlight, gradually discovering this underground world. With Aurélia, we used this technique that puts the spectator in the place of the protagonist.

Seamus Haley Seamus Haley, Banksy Most Wanted, Tribeca Film Festival, Banksy

Seamus Haley, Interview of directors Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley Interview, ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ (courtesy Cross Border Films and Scarlett Production)

 
If you discovered his/her true identity, would you reveal it? Why? Why not?
 
Aurélia :
If you think of a Banksy piece, like the one he did in a bathroom during the lockdown for example. If the minute after you have seen it, you can imagine the man doing the stencil, because you know his face, his name, you know in which town the house is, you know that his wife and his 13-year-old son or daughter is probably behind the door.. it is immediately less fun.
 
In a field like art that involves the imagination and reflection, I think it is good not knowing everything and have space to project onto. So, no I would not reveal who he is. 
 
I think, especially at this present and difficult time, we aspire to fantasy and the fictional world. James Straffon, an artist interviewed in the documentary says that “people like to feel that there is some kind of rescue just around the corner, there is hope somehow.” That is probably why a superhero character like Banky is so popular.

Aurélia Rouvier, Seamus Haley,Seasons Greetings, Banksy, Port Talbot, Wales, UK, John Brandler, Banksy Most Wanted, Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley

Banksy’s mural “Season’s Greetings” in Port Talbot, UK with its buyer John Brandler, who bought the piece for more than 100,000 Euros, in a 2019 photo. ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (Cross Borders Films and Scarlett Production)

 
Seamus :
At the very beginning, I wanted to know, then, while reading the script, I let myself get carried away, forgetting my interest in Banksy’s identity. I was much more interested in what Banksy was bringing to people: to the grandmother of an industrial city who saw from her window “her Banksy” every morning, to journalists who want to be known in history as the person who revealed his/her identity, his alter-ego who travels around England to tear his graffiti off the walls…
 
This story endures because we do not know the identity of the artist. It is exciting and we should not forget that the imagination is always more creative than reality. Like Steeve Lazarides says so well about Banksy’s anonymity : “It is like telling a child that Santa Claus does not exist!”

Banksy, Girl With the Pierced Eardrum, COVID-19

Banksy, “Girl With A Pierced Eardrum ,” COVID-19 update (courtesy of the site)

 
Are there any elements of the subject that you wanted to explore but didn’t have the time or money?  If so, can you discuss?  If not, explain why.
 
Aurélia :
If we had more time, I would have loved to focus more on the Banksy sprayed on the Bataclan door, and investigate its theft. Because of the event to which Banksy paid tribute, and the way he did it, on this emergency exit, with this silhouette that looks like mourners, the stencil was very important for people. More than others, this one was our French Banksy, and I can’t still understand that it has disappeared.
 
Seamus :
We would have loved to have been able to interview Banksy himself, but how to be sure that it is the real Bansky?
 
In our film, Steeve Lazarides explains that when they were working together, they sent a friend to answer TV interviews. By sending an imposter, it made the idea of anonymity even more clear as well as the relationship between the individual and the artist.
 
Banksy says it very well in his film, Exit Through the Gift Shop. Mr. Brainwash, the “hero” of the film, is the caricature of Bansky; a kind of alter ego.
 

Banksy in lockdown

Banksy in lockdown (courtesy of Banksy on Instagram, courtesy of the site)


When did both of you first learn about Banksy?
 
Aurélia :
My awareness of Banksy came. I think it dates from his documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, as I have strangely no memories of his exhibit in Los Angeles, “Barely Legal”! But the moment when I really loved him was when he set this pop-up stall outside Central Park in NY selling original Banksys for only 60 dollars. I think only two or three people had bought them. Five years before his prank at Sotheby’s, Banksy was already questioning the value we put on art.
 
Seamus :
The first time I heard about Banksy was in 2006. A director friend of mine gave me his book “Wall and Piece.” The message was fresh and politically incorrect and I was hooked.

Seamus Scanlon Interview: Chatting With the Playwright of ‘The McGowan Trilogy’

The McGowan Trilogy, Seamus Scanlon

‘The McGowan Trilogy,’ written by Seamus Scanlon, directed by Kira Simring, part of 1st Origin Irish Theater Festival, Seamus Scanlon Interview (courtesy of Seamus Scanlon)

I had the opportunity to see Th McGowan Trilogy and review it on Blogcritics as an offering of The Origin Company’s 1st Irish Theater Festival 2014.  Since then I have been in touch with Seamus Scanlon on social media and have kept up with his activities from time to time during posts. Finally, I caught up with him during the COVID-19 pandemic when we both had the time for me to interview him online via email.

Seamus, give the readers a bit of backstory about yourself.

My background is in science so I am a late convert to the arts. I am a first generation college goer in my family so gainful employment was the priority not frivolity (i.e. the creative arts). Science did appeal to me because it was definitive;  equations and formulae were a great attraction for me. Also, my hand writing is appalling. I can’t even read it myself. I knew I would never be able to write papers or complete an analysis in college that a teacher could decipher.

Despite this, I recall playing a recording of Dylan Thomas reading Do Not Go Gentle Into That Night and I was immediately affected by it although I did not let on because our school was an artistic black hole. (In 2018, the Japanese production of The McGowan Trilogy played this recording during the performance which was an amazing surprise for me. I felt I had come full circle!) In English class we also read the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh – a self taught genius raised in poverty in rural County Monaghan. This poetry stirred me and remained with me despite my selection of science to pursue for a career

My hometown of Galway is an artistic epicenter with the Tony Award winning Druid Theater Company; the Galway International Arts Festival and The Cúirt International Festival of Literature.  Nora Barnacle (James Joyce’s wife) was born there and Lady Gregory (Yeats’ mentor and co-founder of the Abbey Theater in Dublin) lived about 15 miles from Galway, Ireland. Galway county was the backdrop for Synge and Martin McDonagh. So there was no excuse for me not to be enamored of literature, but I just ignored it all.  I was too timid to explore it.

How long did you work on the McGowan Trilogy?

Not very long. It was kick started by Nancy Manocherian’s Cell Theater Company Ltd (artistic director Kira Simring) who read a short play of mine Dancing at Lunacy and then staged it as part of the The Irish Cell event in March 2012. They then asked for a full play so I developed two other inter related one acts – The Long Wet Grass and Boys Swam Before Me. They were great to work with – two Jewish women interested in all things Irish. This was staged in Oct 2014 as part of the 1st Irish Theater Festival and was well received. The play was also published by Arlen House. Get a free digital copy here.

The McGowan Trilogy, Seamus Scanlon, Kira Simring, 1st Origin Irish Theater Festival

‘The McGowan Trilogy,’ written by Seamus Scanlon, directed by Kira Simmring, Seamus Scanlon Interview (courtesy of Seamus Scanlon)

What experiences helped you frame the story?

I lived in Belfast for five years so I was exposed to the daily life of Army patrols, constantly hovering Army helicopters, riots, shootings, July 12th marches where the deep seated tribal differences are in full flow. Before living in Belfast I had been affected greatly by the Hunger Strike in Belfast where 7 IRA and 3 INLA political prisoners died. Hunger strikes in Ireland have a long tradition. They are doubly significant and symbolic in Ireland because of the Great Famine (1847) which killed 1.5 million and caused forced emigration of 1.5 million to the US. A therapist in Belfast treating ex gunmen (late teens and early twenties) who had killed for the ‘cause’ and were suffering major trauma after killing someone.

Where has it been produced since it premiered in the US?

After The Cell production in 2014, they brought it to Hastings (UK) to the Kino-Teatr owned by a devoted Russian Hibernophile, Olga Manonova. The same Summer it was staged in two venues in Galway, and in Westport’s Townhall.

The major surprise for me came in 2018. The McGowan Trilogy (in Japanese) play was staged in Japan (in Japanese) to full houses (the lead was a rising movie star so that helped!). I traveled to Tokyo to see it and it was an amazing experience. They were selling merchandise in the foyer so I felt like a rock star! Japan has an amazing richness of theater and other art forms.

In Ireland three amateur drama groups have staged parts of the Trilogy and the feed back is usually positive. Amateur drama in Ireland is a long standing cultural phenomenon.

In April 2020 a theater student, Molly Flanagan at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) was to direct The Long Wet Grass. I was very excited to see this but it had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 situation. Our mixed genre presentation Galway: The Good, the Bad, The Ugly at the New York Irish Center for April 23 had to be cancelled as well as an April performance at Lehman College.

Seamus Scanlon, The McGowan Trilogy,

Seamus Scanlon, ‘The McGowan Trilogy,’ Seamus Scanlon Interview (courtesy of Seamus Scanlon)

In addition to The McGowan Trilogy, what are some of your successes over the years of which you are most proud?

Since 2016 I have self produced The Long Wet Grass at a number of locations such as Lehman College, City College Downtown, Art House, An Beal Bocht, Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and The New York Irish Center.

In February 2020 I collaborated on the immersive theater event Echoes of Calling with the Japanese dancer and choreographer Akiko Kitamura. If the COVID-19 restrictions lift in time this may be staged again in the Fall.

I worked on two film projects The Long Wet Grass (Ireland/USA, 2017) and The Butterfly Love Song (Ireland/USA, 2019) which was a new medium for me and challenging. I learned a lot – mainly that I should stick to play writing!

My first art form was fiction so I managed to have seven pieces published in Akashic Books’ Mondays Are Murder slot.

In 2019 I was awarded a special achievement award by the United Federation of Teachers for my work as a librarian at City College Downtown and the international success of The McGowan Trilogy.

What projects do you have in the works?

My next full length play The Blood Flow Game is a sequel to The McGowan Trilogy and is due for publication shortly. The end game for all plays is to have them produced so that is my goal. I have had four table readings of it as part of that process. I thought after The McGowan Trilogy success in Japan I would be a hot prospect but that is not the case!!

The radio play script of The Butterfly Love Song was short listed in Ireland in 2020 and that was a great thrill for me. It was the first radio play I had written. The Cell Theater, where I started off with Dancing at Lunacy, is going to develop it in Fall 2020 as a radio play/podcast.

I have few short films in the works including Three-Nil, Move Baby, Recycle This and The Resurrection Love Song.

Have you been able to get around Covid 19 virtually as other playwrights and artists have done?

The Butterfly Love Song which premiered in NYC in October 2019 and was screened in Dublin in early March 2020 is now being screened offline by various film festivals so that is encouraging. Film lends itself to this more than any other artistic format. Watch the trailer and the full film free at Irish Film London.

What is the first thing you will do, once the medical profession and the government has a handle on Covid 19 and has decided that businesses can reopen along with bars and restaurants?

I am looking forward to getting back to job as a librarian at City College Downtown. It was set up by the Labor Unions in 1981. Many students are first time college goers (like myself), many are from blue collar backgrounds (like myself) so I have a natural affinity with these students. We offer BA, BS and MA programs. Classes run weekday evenings and Saturdays. We specialize in one-on-one advising from day one. Email aboutcwe@ccny.cuny.edu for more info.

I am pretty deaf so I can’t really hear anyone in a noisy café or bar. I write in cafés. My office in Galway – when I am home – is The Secret Garden where I accomplish a lot. I hope it is open by July or I will be in trouble.

I have no writing schedule or format or craft advice or a writing desk or writing techniques. I am probably the worst person to look at for guidance since I do not really know how I write etc. I did an MFA in City College in New York and that was very useful because I had writing deadlines so I had to produce.

You can update Seamus’ activities on his website at www.seamusscanlon.com

 

 

‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ a Tribeca Film Festival Review

The Flower Thrower, Love is in the Air, Banksy, Banksy Most Wanted, Bethlehem, West Bank

“Love is in the Air,” or “The Flower Thrower,” originally in 2005, Ash Salon Street, Bethlehem, West Bank, (courtesy of the site) ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley.

The “romantic” reality of the starving artist exploited by predatory promoters has been turned on its head by the graffiti artist, political activist and filmmaker Banksy. Over the past two decades Banksy has bested art dealers and beat them at their own game. In the process he has hyped up his own notoriety and sweetened his Robin-hood-like credibility by remaining anonymous to all. That is, all except the few sworn to secrecy who are privileged to be his inner circle.

Banksy’s mural ‘Girl With the Pierced Eardrum,’ featured on city graffiti tours in Bristol, UK in a 2019 photo. From ‘Banksy Most Wanted directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (photo from the film)

Banksy Most Wanted, directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley, is a Tribeca Film Festival offering that I screened recently. I enjoy that Banksy thrives on anonymity, travels the world and uses buildings as his canvases. He paints and stencils ironic hieroglyphs, insuring they are accessible to the multitudes who appreciate his stark images and socially important messages. Cleverly, rakishly he tantalizes and exploits art dealers who would traffic his work like vultures.

Banksy Most Wanted, Show Me the Monet, Banksy

“Show Me Monet,” ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (courtesy of the site)

In their straight-shooting documentary Rouvier and Healey visit a multitude of locations. Using a mixture of video news clips and their own cinematography, they investigate the Banksy ethos with depth and humor. First, they chronicle his origins in Bristol, UK. Next, they trace his evolution from the 1990s. For then he painted by hand. Subsequently, he decided upon spray painting. With it he could cover more mileage. Therefore, upping the ante by preparing stencils in his studio beforehand, he left off labor intensity. Most probably, stenciling offered the ease and speed to get in and out of locations without detection.

Banksy Most Wanted, Brexit Dover Mural, Banksy

Brexit mural in Dover by Banksy, ‘Banksy Most Wanted’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley  (courtesy of the film)

More recently, Banksy’s evolution extends to outrageous, live installations. Irreverently, he painted a live elephant in Los Angeles riling animal rights activits. For the sheer cheek of it, he unleashed 200 rats in a London gallery. And with a nod to her sainthood, he embellished a portrait of Mother Teresa with the words “moisturize everyday.”

Identifying his most famous works in Bristol, London, Paris and New York, Rouvier and Healey relate the impact of these Banksys on the surrounding community. In one instance a town litigated a dealer who took “their Banksy” which had great significance to them. They refused to allow him to steal the honor of Banksy selecting Port Talbot, Wales as a site for his art.

Seasons Greetings, Banksy, Port Talbot, Wales, UK, John Brandler, Banksy Most Wanted, Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley

Banksy’s mural “Season’s Greetings” in Port Talbot, UK. John Brandler, who bought the piece for more than 100,000 Euros. ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (courtesy of the site)

To establish ownership the dealer purchased a garage wall with the Banksy located in Port Talbot, Wales. Subsequently, he removed it with cranes to carve the images from the concrete to auction them off. As a result, the town sued him. During the litigation he discovered the art’s value to the community. Indeed, they believed Banksy had chosen their town to bless with his work.

Interestingly, the court found that the town’s freeholder rights as a community superseded the dealer’s free-holder rights. This was a Banksy triumph for the little people and a gut-wrenching blow to the stomachs and wallets of art dealers everywhere.

Seasons Greetings, Port Talbot, Wales, Banksy, John Brandler, Banksy Most Wanted

Banksy’s mural “Season’s Greetings” in Port Talbot, UK with its buyer John Brandler, who bought the piece for more than 100,000 Euros, in a 2019 photo. ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (courtesy of the film)

The filmmakers explore a few of Banksy’s satiric, temporary art installations. For example, they revisit the 2008 Porta-Potty Stonehenge.  With self-demeaning brio, Banksy dubbed it “A Pile Of Crap.” Likewise, the 2015 Dismaland Bemusement Park offered a tortured happy rides with macabre convolution. Dismaland was a “sinister twist” on Disneylands everywhere. Banksy described it as “a family theme park unsuitable for children.”

Dismaland Bemusement Park, Banksy, Banksy Most Wanted

Dismaland Bemusement Park, ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley  (courtesy of the site)

“Dismaland Bemusement Park,” ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley  (courtesy of the site)

Additionally, the directors highlight his adventurous pranks. One of these incurred self-shredding the print “Girl With Balloon” at a Sotheby auction right after the banging gavel closed the purchase.

Girl With Balloon, Banksy Most Wanted, Banksy, Sotheby's, Girl With Balloon Shredded

‘Banksy Most Wanted’, Girl With Balloon, Banksy, Girl With Balloon Shredded directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley  (courtesy of the site)

Throughout, the filmmakers question the Banksy ethos. His stenciled works increasingly find their way into areas of economic repression and cultural upheaval. Some appear in the West Bank. These, include the restored Walled Off Hotel positioned across the street from the Israeli-Palestinian West Bank barrier. All of them raise questions. Indeed, Banksy fans and critics alike interpret them as an addendum to his political activism. And they label him a postulate critic of the dominant powers who would prevent others from securing a viable place at the table of life.

Walled Off Hotel, Banksy Most Wanted, West Bank

“The Walled Off Hotel,” ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (courtesy of the site)

Banksy Most Wanted, Banksy Kitten in Gaza

‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ Banksy Kitten in Gaza (courtesy of the site)

With his works having become ubiquitous, Banksy globally imprints his perspective to sound the underlying truths of our reality. And his searing and irreverent statements against imperialism, capitalism, earth destruction, climate change, consumerism, poverty, corporate fascism, racism empower the viewer.

However, all is not anti-establishment. Occasionally, he counterbalances these themes and subjects with images of love, innocence and endurance. For the documentarians focus on how he makes his guerilla art a velvet weapon to war against killing and uplift peace. Furthermore, they reveal how his dichotomous images heighten the culture’s oblivion to their being accessories to enslaving and harming Third World Countries. With singularity and precision the directors emphasize how he employs juxtaposition in his creations. And they do justice to Banksy’s indictment of the West’s contributions to crimes against humanity in its greedy value of money over people.

Banksy's, Rodin, West Bank

Banksy’s Take-off on Rodin in Gaza West Bank (courtesy of the site)

Throughout the visual explication of Banksy’s subject matter and themes, the filmmakers delve into his message to the art world. Another lucid indictment emerges. For Banksy, great artistry moves beyond boundaries and walls of brick and mortar. It remains exclusive of hyped-up, artificiality and “Tulip mania” trends.

For this reason he has left the art world spinning in circles. As they chop up walls to obtain his works in the hope of making a bundle, he intentionally dislocates their obsession. Most recently, to thwart the rapacity of dealers, owners of buildings have become Banksy fans. They refuse to sell. Instead, they plexiglass their Banksys to protect them. With an irony of their own, they reinforce Banksy’s overarching instruction to street people. Art exists everywhere

Banksy, Bristol, UK, Phone Lovers

Banksy’s Phone Lovers, Bristol, UK (courtesy of the site)

Over the years Banksy has garnered himself and a beleaguered art world a delicious, capitalistic profit. Reputedly his worth totals up to a rumored $50 million. So, for those who admire his anti-capitalistic, anti-consumer spirit, think again. Perhaps, this anonymous rogue doth protest too much. However, the vital question remains.

Who is Banksy? For me peaking behind the anonymity becomes a crucial high point of the film. With incisive interviews, the directors weave in and out to explore three possible identities. And these they unravel, playing with the uncertainty of facts and details of “reliable” narrators. Afterward, they suggest a fourth possible Banksy.

Banksy, West Bank

Banksy in the West Bank Barrier Wall, a guard tower converted to an amusement ride (courtesy of the site)

Clearly, the directors love their subject. And they have done their homework. They’ve presented the diorama that his anonymity has served a charitable purpose . Yet, they’ve proven Banksy also serves his own interests.

Thanks to his anonymity, others have been able to claim his work, either legally or emotionally. And his fans love adding to his aura by fantasizing about who is hiding behind the name. These investigations reveal a novel perspective of the artist, his salient/sardonic world view, his links with the music scene and his entrepreneurial acumen. They also expose the importance of identity to art and society and our need to triumph over invisibility.

Through the testimonies of those who know him and have worked with him, but also of those who exploit him, hunt him down and claim him, Banksy Most Wanted paints a profound portrait of “one” of the foremost artists of our time. It concludes with the vitality of the spirit that channels through the group of artists that effect Banksys. And that makes all the difference in the world.

Banksy during the pandemic.

Apparently, Banksy is staying indoors following the UKs sheltering in place lockdown orders. However his famed mural “The Girl With A Pierced Eardrum” has received a COVID-19 update which includes a blue surgical mask.

Banksy, Girl With the Pierced Earring, COVID-19

Banksy, “Girl With A Pierced Earring,” COVID-19 update (courtesy of the site)

First appearing on the side of a building in Bristol’s Harbourside in 2014, this Banksy spoofs Vermeer’s “Girl With A Pearl Earring.” But the earring incorporates Banksy’s thoughtful wall selection, an outdoor security alarm. Banky’s “girl” sports not a “pearl,” but a ‘stretcher’ supplied by the security alarm.

Wild speculation deems Banksy broke the lockdown and sneaked out to spray paint his work to give a kick in the pants to those who will tour his graffiti most probably with masks and appropriate social distancing when Bristol “opens.” However, fans argue the COVID-19 mural can’t be by Banksy who usually reveals his works on his Instagram account.

Banksy in lockdown

Banksy in lockdown (courtesy of the site)

For official COVID-19 works Banksy, on his account you will find rats running amuck and making themselves at home in his bathroom. It’s captioned: “My wife hates it when I work from home.”  Banksy’s irreverence during this pandemic makes this Plague go down a bit easier. #Banksy

%d bloggers like this: