Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Composer Is Dead

The Composer Is Dead The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
The first time I ever heard of Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead, was before this book was ever published. Mr. Snicket and his dear old friend, and composer, Nathaniel Stookey, had been commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony to create a theatrical orchestral piece to encourage youth to become more involved with classical music. A sort of Peter and the Wolf for modern children.

This piece landed at the LA Phil ( and I promptly took my budding cellist of a daughter to see it. Delightful, witty, and a wee bit macabre. It begins with the discovery of a dead composer, in a coffin, being carried off stage. An inspector arrives on the scene and tries to discover who has killed the composer. He interrogates every section the orchestra, every very suspicious instrument. It really was well done. We were only sad that the book was not published yet and could not snatch it up that day. Although there were promises of a picture book and an audio CD to accompany it in the very near future.

Now the book is out, and the moment I saw it I bought it and played it for my younger child, who was much too young to join us for the live performance. She found it just as delightful. The illustrations by Carson Ellis wax nostalgic with their simple lines and muted colors. It looks as though it were meant to be pulled from the pages of a 1930s comic strip. Of course, the colors used as well as the water color technique are far more sophisticated than the printing capabilities of that time, making the illustrations simple and lovely. In my mind I saw something more along the lines of Edward Gorey, but perhaps his use of dark black lines would not be quite as appealing to younger readers, and I should not impose my vision onto those who are at least 20 years my junior. Afterall, this is for them, not me.

The book really cannot be read without the audio accompaniment. Lemony Snicket's narration is very funny. The music, which borrows heavily from the great masters, is dramatic and wonderful. Each instrument is a character in the story and the audio serves to highlight the personalities and duties of each piece of an orchestra. Allowing the listeners to really connect with the instruments and learn what it is they do individually that creates the enormous sound of a music piece.

I do appreciate that the CD that came with it has narrated tracks and then just the music. This allows for theatrical read-alongs for the family. Who gets to narrate as the Inspector next? Daddy? Mommy? Sister? Fluffy?

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

From the Archives: Rembrandt

Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits
The J. Paul Getty Museum 2005

I arrived at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles around noon on a Sunday. The air was clear from the mountain top facility and a cool summer breeze swept across the grounds. With a six-year-old clutching my right hand and an infant strapped to my chest, I ascended the glistening marble staircase toward the third floor exhibition room that held the late religious paintings of Rembrandt van Rijn.

Rembrandt is one of the world’s most renowned painters. He was and remains to be an inspiration to artists with his use of color and blending. I have read that Rembrandt studied and mastered chiaroscuro, the Italian method of modeling light and dark paints to give artwork tridimensionality. His paintings of life in 17th century Amsterdam and his famous portraiture were said to be luxurious; his brush strokes bold and elegant, his use of color astounding, and his ability to render depth of emotion in his subject matter unparalleled. On paper, Rembrandt was truly a master, in person, he was simply breathtaking.

I stepped into a red room that housed 16 portraits, and was awe-struck. I may have seen these images in textbooks or postcards. I may have read of Rembrandt’s mastery and yet, as I stood before it I was dumbfounded. I approached each painting and breathed heavily. I could taste the linseed oil in the back of my throat and I felt as though I was devouring genius.

My eldest daughter fiddled with her audio tour and found most images to be only slightly interesting, that is, until we came upon Christ. The portrait of Christ with brown hair and beard was a more conventional image of Christ, but the eyes were arresting. His skin was painted with light, rich colors that caused his face to glow. The broad strokes of reds and brown in his hair complimented the fine detailed lines of grey in his eyes. Rembrandt had captured a depth of emotion in his masterful strokes. There was an intensity, yet a gentleness in the eyes of Rembrandt’s Christ that made an impression on even the youngest of viewers. The use of dark neutral colors and subtle blending around the figure made the bold, bright flesh of Christ glow like hot embers in a dark fireplace. Christ appeared very human. Unlike many other images of Jesus, this one seemed to be grounded in reality. Christ looked as though he were living, breathing flesh; a person that one could touch.

As we stood silently admiring the portrait of Christ, I noticed some discoloration. At first, I thought that at some point in time something had spilled on the painting, or perhaps it was once hung in an oval frame, or it may have been an effect, such as a halo, to illuminate this religious icon. However none of these scenarios seemed right, the discoloration and distortion created a jagged oval around the center of the painting and Rembrandt hadn’t used effects to illuminate heavenly figures in any other painting on display. I consulted the little pamphlet I was handed upon entering the exhibit, “… the central portion of the image was cut away and removed by thieves and later reattached.” Mystery solved.

My daughters and I slowly viewed the rest of the exhibit. One of the last images we saw was a portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels, Possibly As the Sorrowing Virgin. This work seemed to glow more than any other in the room. The warm yellows and pinks in her face contrasted with the cool green and muddy violets in the shadows of her chin. Rembrandt had also done something bold, it appears as though he took the end of a bristle brush with a dab of bright red and lightly tapped it on the apple of her cheek to cause a slight blush. He rendered her dark, ebony eyes to radiate intelligence and sadness.

Although the portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels was listed as possibly being the sorrowing Virgin, I couldn’t help but wonder if she may have been a depiction of Mary Magdalene. I have seen many prints of historical portrayals of Mary Magdalene in similar poses, garments and facial expressions. Both the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene have been depicted throughout art history as being melancholy women who carry the weight of divine love upon their delicate shoulders. Another reason the portrait reminded me of Mary Magdalene was because of the model’s costume of furs, and gold in her hair. Usually Mary Magdalene is shown wearing jewelry or flashy clothing to depict her former life as a prostitute, while the Virgin is usually shown as being simple and pure, untainted by materialism. Regardless of which Mary this portrait was intended to be, it was a magnificent, realistic, and stirring work of art.

My overall feeling about this exhibit is that Christian icons have never looked so human, so approachable. They seemed as though they had lives and secrets beyond the stories that are written. The sheer beauty of these artworks moved me deeply. Not only did I want to meet the men and women depicted in these sixteen canvases, but I wanted to meet the man who could breathe life into oil and pigments.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009



Les feuilles rouge
Tes cheveux
Ta bouche


La cannelle
Taches de rousseur
Ton souffle


Les étoiles
Tes yeux
Ta peau


Mon amour
Mon coeur
Ma vie


Monday, March 9, 2009

The Archtype


That’s what we are. Hard-working, dedicated folk, who believe that les beaux-arts enrich the soul and broaden the mind.

I’m so tired of the stereotype that artists are romantic and bohemian. Some of us, NAY, most of us work regular jobs during the day and hustle for shows on the evenings and weekends. We keep ridiculous hours to hone our craft, market ourselves, and strive to be better artisans. We do thankless, oftentimes free, gigs for exposure and experience, to pay our dues and climb our way to the highest peaks of the highly unstable art volcano.

We may seem a little quirky, heck, we may even seem downright alien, but many of us have families, homes, multiple jobs, and school.

Artists work hard.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Art Show: Strength in Numbers

April 9, 2009
Downtown Art Walk

Gallery X presents
Strength in Numbers
Motion LA /Gallery X
129 E. 3rd Street
Between Los Angeles and Main
Los Angeles, CA 90013
6pm - 12am

Artists were asked to interpret the theme Strength in Numbers in their own artistic view on a 12x12 inch surface.


I'm currently sketching out my entries. I plan to post some process photos as I go along. Keep an eye out within the next week or so.

Posted by ShoZu

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Art Show: The BaRoque Era

Due to the economic situation Urban Canvas felt it was time to do a show that
reflected current events.

Thursday March 12, 2009
@ The Mountain 475 Gin Ling Way
Los Angeles, California
9pm – 2am
21+ / FREE

In the spirit of being penny wise, all artwork is $80 and under. There will also be vendors selling jewelry, t-shirts, etc. And a slew of talented musical guests to keep your feet moving.