In the Mirror

Posted: February 23, 2015 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

The daguerreotype was called the ‘Mirror with a Memory’ because of its shiny metal surface, and its miraculous ability to capture life itself. One might say that photography is the mirror we hold up to ourselves. In a photograph we see what the camera records – but how faithful is that reflected image? We’ve been discussing in recent classes things that at first seem to have an obvious meaning, but can be misleading. 

To what extent should we rely on photographs in order to know what our world — our reality, is? Can you cite examples not shown in class in which a published photograph has one apparent meaning, but in context, has another? Why do we often look at photographs, on Instagram for example, that are posted with minimal context? What does that say about what we know about one another? Did any story related in class today resonate with you? Why?

This post will be open until about 8 am on Wednesday. The post closed at 8:13 am


All of the following are details of larger images. Left to right, top: Daguerreotype, 1850’s, deceased child; child worker, 1911, Lewis Hine; Migrant Mother, 1936, Dorothea Lange, commissioned by the Farm Security Administration, a US government program; Middle: Fashion photo by Horst, 1950s; Kent State killings, May 1970; Grandfather and grandson in US detention center, 1942, Dorothea Lange; Bottom: Dali by Philippe Halsman, 1951; Thanksgiving dinner pies, 1940, Jack Delano, commissioned by US government; John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Annie Liebowitz ,1980, Rolling Stone Magazine

Hand Eye Coordination: Hanka and Pixley

Posted: February 18, 2015 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

Class Wednesday featured local artists Ladislav Hanka and Mike Pixley. The two men share a devotion to working with their hands, to the natural world, and to immersing themselves in places and activities where their passions come together.


Ladislav Hanka getting friendly with bees.


Mike Pixley and the Wooden Surfer he made, and uses for kite surfing.

In what way can you relate to the life and work of either Mike Pixley or Lad Hanka? Are there parts of your life, past or present that you aim to make a bigger part of your life ahead? What did you learn about how an artist thinks from either of these men? Do you think it’s a problem that increasingly children grow up not exploring life outdoors on their own, and often spending most of their free time online, and on devices? Be specific. ADVICE: You will write better posts by focusing on one topic or one question. Writing about multiple topics or questions almost always results in superficial comments of little value. 

This post will be open until Sunday at about 10 pm.  It closed at 10:02 pm with about 190 comments.

The Occipital: Look Again

Posted: February 16, 2015 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized


Left to right, top: image from the dance Ehad Mi Yodea; detail of “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas,” by Caravaggio; President Obama speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, February 5, 2015; detail of painting illustrating the beheading of 2,700 Muslims by the English King Richard, during the Crusades. Left to right, bottom: President George Bush wearing the uniform of the US Air Force, May 1, 2003; part of the bronze horse called “Mare Jumping Up,” by Veryl Goodnight; detail of marble sculpture “David,” by Michelangelo; detail of Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment,” with ‘underwear’ painted over the top by a later artist.

At the core of today’s class was our looking at how meaning is determined by context. A dance is seen. It has one possible set of meanings. However, when the Hebrew text is translated, and the origins of the song explained, it takes on different meaning. Things get more complex when something is untruthful, such as the ‘Mission Accomplished’ show put on by the Bush White House in 2003, or the mare, claimed by WMU to be a bronco. What surprised you in today’s material? Can you think of examples of things you have seen in which the meaning changed after you learned more about that thing or event? How might you use your evolving ability to more critically observe things in your life?

This post will close at about 8 am on Wednesday. 

Gaslight: Behind the scenes

Posted: February 9, 2015 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

Here are some questions you may wish to consider about the performance – posted Saturday night at 9:30. After reading the director’s notes in the program, what new insight do you have into the production of Gaslight?  

Gaslight focuses on an abusive relationship between a husband and wife and how women were treated as property of the man. In class, D. Terry Williams said this was common during the Victorian period but is not as prevalent today.  Can you relate the relationship depicted in Gaslight to relationships you are aware of today?

What elements within Gaslight built anticipation during scenes?  Describe a moment in the play that you remember vividly? What do you think may have happened next had the story continued after Jack is arrested? Why do you think this would have happened?

How did the presence or discovery of the Barlowe Rubies act as a metaphor for Bella or the relationship between Jack and Bella?  In what ways was the presence of a Gaslight used to entrap Bella?  How was it used to entrap Jack?

Which actor do you feel best exemplified their character?  Why? What technical element stood out the most to you in performance?  Why was it integral to the successful storytelling of Gaslight?

This post will remain open until about 10 pm Sunday. The post closed at 10:28 pm

Winter Gala Dance Concert

Posted: February 4, 2015 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized


Left: Anthony Tudor rehearsing dancers in 1975, a few years after his work Continuo premiered; King Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King (1638 – 1715).


Polish dance company performing the dance Ehad Mi Yodea, choreographed by Ohad Naharin, choreographer and founder of the Israeli dance company Batheva – and the creator of the Gaga style of dance.

As you heard in class, each of the choreographers has a different creative process.  Are you able to compare and contrast the methodologies of two different choreographers?  Can you find points of similarity between content in any of the dances you heard discussed today and previous class content? What dance are you especially looking forward to seeing?

GOOD NEWS! Sam Assemany has agreed to be a DEARTS guest artist and perform her piece “Peter” in both classes before the end of the semester!

Questions based on the concert that you may like to respond to: How did the use of technical elements: lights; set; projections; props; costumes; and sound, affect your interpretation of the piece?  Did it enhance or detract from the piece?  Why?

Connect one of the pieces you saw to content previously viewed in class this semester.  Be specific.  

As described in class and in your homework assignment previously emailed, ballet was the dance of the nobility, with emphasis on verticality and turned out feet.  Modern dance emphasizes gravity and a dropped pelvis. Jazz dance, you may know, features isolation of body parts. Pick a dance you saw in concert and analyze accordingly.

A variety of pairings were seen in duets.  Choose one pair and describe the movements of this pair.  What was their relationship or characters?  On what do you base your conclusion?

Choose a dance from the dance concert and articulate a narrative story that came to you watching the work.

Having seen an excerpt in class, did any of the pieces surprise you or change your opinion of a dance after seeing the work in concert?

Note: In discussing the dance concert you MUST refer to the dances by name and include the name of the choreographer(s). That information is on your program, that you were instructed to retain for study purposes. Comments that don’t use the names of pieces and choreographers will not be credited with points. 

As was true in the last post, MAXIMUM LENGTH of your post is 300 WORDS. Longer comments will not be evaluated.

This post closed at 10:39 pm Sunday. 

Within the Kinesphere I

Posted: January 28, 2015 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized


Still photo from the video “Elastic Heart,” by Australian recording artist Sia. The song was produced in 2013 for the soundtrack to the film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Many points of view were articulated during spirited conversation about the song, the video, and its meaning. Viewing the Sia video, how did the movements impact your interpretation of the piece?  Feel free to watch it again, here. After a second viewing, what is a gesture you notice from the video and what is the impact or relevance of this gesture?  How do the common place movements we use in every life become new and different in the context of this video?  How does the casting choice of Shia LeBouf and Maddie Ziegler affect your interpretation of the piece?  Feel free to incorporate any background information you have about these performers into your interpretation.  How is the content in this piece connected to other works of art we have viewed this semester.

lysistrata 2

Instructor Melissa Sparks discussed the origins of theatre in Ancient Greece, and how Greece developed forms of spectacle including as well, athletic competitions. Spectacle was, as we’ve seen, perfected later on by the Romans. Lysistrata is one of many Greek plays, but one with special resonance today because of the powerful feminist message in the story. Lysistrata is a comedy with a message: an early look at how the sexes might interact with one another in a society largely controlled by men. The drawing above is a recent one used to advertise a production of this ancient play. You should not read into it anything about the Greeks of 2,500 years ago! In Ancient Greece, theatre and performance was an important part of their culture.  Today, many do not attend the theatre.  How and why has our culture changed?  In your hometown, what has replaced theatre as the event that everyone attends or participates in?  Be specific.  adi-paz

Still photo from the video Polianot. We had a brief visit with Adi Paz, talking from a cafe in Tel Aviv. What is your impression of Adi Paz and her work? What seems especially of interest to you in her video Polianot – and why? You may also comment on the quick look we had at her upcoming dance POST-IT, that takes on the issue of sexual harassment – a problem in Israel and throughout the Middle East, just as it is in the U.S.

NOTE: Limit on length of comments. After class Wednesday and discussion about the importance of writing, it is clear that the posts have become better. However, some people are posting comments that are more like essays. You must learn how to write well, and succinctly. Comments should generally be 100 – 200 words. Beginning now (Thursday morning at 8 am), the upper limit will be 300 words. Comments longer than 300 words will not be evaluated and scored. Thank you.

This post closed at 3 am Monday morning with 150 comments. 

Ancestors: Faith, Beauty & Iconography Part II

Posted: January 26, 2015 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized


Dorothy awakens from her journey and sees the adults in her life in a new light. What defines Home for you? Imagination: Who gets to use their imagination as adults?


The Ten Commandments prohibits making graven images. This law is followed, to varying degrees, by some Jews and some Muslims. It is recognized by a few sects in Christianity – such as the Amish and some Mennonites. Left to right: a young man reading from the Torah; Arabic calligraphy that includes the name, Allah, the Muslim word for God; a painting of Jesus on the cross. What would your life be like if you followed this prohibition to a significant extent? For example, if you did have a Facebook page – but only posted words – never images of people? If you avoided looking at photographs of celebrities?


Left to right: Iconic images from Ancient Greece and Rome – linked to specific iconic locations at WMU: The Parthenon, Athens, Greece; Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, Rome; Roman mosaic showing gladiatorial combat. Why are we still so much influenced by the Classical civilizations of Greece and Rome? Connections were made between American football (college and NFL), and Roman spectacle – in particular, gladiatorial combat as seen in a clip from the film Gladiator. How does the Roman technique of control called “bread and circuses” apply to life in the US today? What events in NCAA and NFL football in very recent times can you cite to prove your point about bread and circuses today?


Left to right: detail of the Spear Bearer, by sculptor Polykleitos, Greek, circa 450 BCE; detail of Greek dinner platter with design of boys wrestling; Painting titled Power Pussy, by Julia Haw, 2013. There was a lot of discussion – especially in the afternoon class, about sex. How are your feelings of the body and sexuality influenced by religion? By artists? By advertising and popular culture? What would you like to change?

Last: a took a quick look at news  photos from around the world, and of activists on the march in Kalamazoo and on campus last week. Comments?

This post will be open until about 5 pm on Wednesday. The post closed at 5:11 pm on Wednesday with 150 comments.