Shermakaye Bass is one of the best journalists in Austin. A sometime student of Indian culture, she did a swell job breaking down the big Blanton Museum of Art exhibit, “Epic Tales From Ancient India: Paintings From the San Diego Museum of Art,” which runs through Oct. 1.
Below, we share a tempting morsel from her story, which ran Aug. 24.
All great cultures have their epics and sacred texts — rife with heroes and villains, gods and demons and magical beings that manifest in the twinkling of an eye. India is no exception. The South Asian subcontinent possesses one of the most fantastical and intricate canons in the world, and right now Austin is allowed a rare glimpse into it via the multidisciplinary installation “Epic Tales From Ancient India: Paintings From the San Diego Museum of Art,” which runs at the Blanton Museum of Art on the University of Texas campus through Oct. 1.
“Epic Tales” takes visitors on a journey through some of India’s greatest works — the “Ramayana,” “Bhagavata Purana,” “Ragamala” and “Shahnama,” or Persian “Book of Kings.” It features 90 miniature watercolors from San Diego’s renowned collection (most from manuscripts dating from the 16th to 19th centuries), as well as ancient bronzes, video installations, a delightful reading section and a series of dance and storytelling performances. For many, this rich installation is an introduction to the story of India and the Hindu religion.
“I wanted this exhibition to be a multisensory experience,” curator Ray Williams says. “The paintings are all about story, and I wanted story to be a big part of the show. And while the stories can be entertaining and fun, they also have strong religious meaning, and I wanted to underscore that — that it’s all intertwined.”
Williams, who has studied in India and is director of education and academic affairs at the Blanton, designed the exhibit to be fun while also shining a spotlight on “an amazing culture and an amazing set of stories. We’re saying, ‘You’ve heard of Krishna, you’ve heard of Rama? Well, here’s the bigger story!’”
Earlier, we reported that an important photographic exhibit about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera would be seen at Mexic-Arte Museum come Sept 16-Nov. 26. Later, we learned that some local elements would be added to the touring show, including a piece inspired by Kahlo’s Blue House.
Now we find out that the Butler School of Music and the University of Texas School of Fine Arts have commissioned a Spanish-language opera about the creative duo. Other partners in the deal are Fort Worth Opera, San Diego Opera and DePaul University.
To add to the buzz, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and composer Gabriela Lena Frank have signed on to create “The Last Dream of Frida & Diego.” It will premiere in Fort Worth in spring 2020, San Diego in 2021 and at UT’s Butler Opera Center in February 2021.
We love this. Austin Opera has co-commissioned several outstanding works, although not for a while, as has UT. It’s what an opera producer should do.
Guitarist Isaac Bustos brings an irreducible point of view to “I/We,” a multifaceted concert on the theme of refugees coming July 28-29 to the Blanton Museum of Art.
“I know what it’s like to have your entire life in limbo,” Bustos says. “As a child, being treated differently because of my refugee status was difficult. Sometimes I fear that we lose sight of the human aspect of being a refugee, but a project like (this) gives a voice to people with diverse and often traumatic life experiences, and shines a light on what they went through.”
Multimedia producer Yuliya Lanina, part of an international group of artists assembled for this project by Austin Classical Guitar, comes to it with a potent personal connection as well.
“I came as a refugee from Russia in 1990, fleeing anti-Semitism and constant threats,” she says. “The U.S. welcomed me and my family, and we were given the freedom to build our lives without being punished for who we are. I want others who are now in a similar situation, or worse, to have that same opportunity.”
During the past season, the stories of refugees have repeatedly gripped Austin artists. …
Two barnlike stone structures once stood abandoned in South Austin. One rested on a hill with a view of the city; the other, located farther south, spread out on lush flats near a creek and railroad tracks.
Separately in the 1950s, these old buildings were transformed into residences and studios by important Austin artists who were friends — until they were not.
Miraculously, both these partially modernist but stubbornly rustic retreats have been preserved, one in private hands, the other in public. While their separate histories have been told, their connections are still being made.
The onetime friends were sculptor Charles Umlauf and muralist Seymour Fogel.
Umlauf, who died in 1994, was a longtime University of Texas teacher and a prolific maker of flowing figures, many of which can be spotted all over town. He is best known these days as the namesake of and chief artistic contributor to the city-owned Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, just east of Zilker Park. Others remember him as the artistic mentor of late actress Farrah Fawcett while she studied at UT.
Fogel, who left Austin in 1959 and died in 1984, is less well remembered locally, despite his cultlike status among fans of midcentury modern Texas art. Perhaps his most visible legacy in Austin is the gorgeously preserved large mural inside the Starr Building, originally home to the American National Bank, now smartly occupied by the McGarrah Jesse marketing agency at 121 W. Sixth St. …
The Texas State Preservation Board has chosen museum veteran Catherine Taylor to lead the giant Bullock State History Museum.
Most recently director of museum resources at the Nantucket Historical Association, the native Texan also served as a district superintendent for California State Parks, overseeing nine museums and state historic parks. She also played multiple roles at the California State Railroad museum.
She earned he BA in history from California State University-Sacramento and she graduated from the Museum Management Institute at the University of California-Berkeley.
“We expect her wealth of experience in all facets of museum operations to take the Bullock to new levels of excellence,” said Rod Welsh, State Preservation Board executive director. The board oversees the State Capitol, Capitol Extension, Capitol Visitors Center, Governor’s Mansion, Texas State Cemetery and their grounds, as well as the history museum. “The museum is at a pivotal point. It will be the centerpiece of an exciting project to redevelop the Texas Capitol Complex into a thriving cultural district that connects the north and south sides of Congress Avenue around the State Capitol.”
The museum attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year and collaborates with more than 700 museums, libraries, archives and individuals to display original artifacts and host exhibitions. It does not collect artifacts.
With some exceptions, arts and other cultural groups — we include major literary and historical outlets — don’t return to full form until September.
Yet now’s the time for all arts groups to confirm their seasonal slates and for all readers to consider purchasing season tickets.
In fact, for some high-demand groups, if you haven’t secured your 2017-2018 subscriptions already, you’re stuck with angling for single slots.
For instance, galvanized by the chance to secure tickets for the matchless musical, “Hamilton,” in the 2018-2019 season, more than 3,000 new subscribers have signed on for Broadway in Austin’s 2017-2018 offerings.
Now, some groups don’t operate on the traditional season system, rolling out one show at a time. Others split up their seasons. For instance, the Long Center for the Performing Arts won’t announce its Winter/Spring slate until September.
We respect that. What will follow soon in these pages is a list of shows that we could discover with relative ease in July. We’ll add others to digital extensions on the Austin Arts blog when they arrive.