PODCAST: NOMA’s Vanessa Schmid explains “A City That Lives on Water,” one of the four components of “A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s”

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“A LIFE IN SEDUCTION: VENICE IN THE 1700S”
WHAT: Exhibition of costume, glass, handbags, masks, a puppet theater, and exquisite paintings by Canaletto, Guardi, Longhi and others from one of the centers of Western art
WHEN: Feb. 16-May 21, 2017
WHERE: New Orleans Museum of Art
MORE INFO: Check out the event page

Before the press preview of the new exhibition by the New Orleans Museum of Art, “A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s,” I got a chance to sit down with the woman who put it all together. Vanessa Schmid, the Senior Research Curator for European Art, focused on one of the four components of the exhibition, “A City That Lives on Water,” which I thought was a nice connection to New Orleans (though you will find there are others in this amazing collection).

Schmid discusses some of the examples that fit into the water theme, although one image that particularly resonates with her — “The Redentore Procession,” oil on canvas, by Joseph Heintz, The Younger — is elsewhere in the exhibition. (It is an amazing piece; check it out in the gallery above.)

I will have more both on the exhibition (which opens Friday and runs through May 21), and will welcome Schmid as a guest on the next episode of “PopSmart NOLA” on Saturday (3 p.m.-4 p.m.) on WHIV (102.3 FM). You also can read an essay by Schmid about the exhibition in the the NOMA Arts Quarterly publication.

The exhibition is guest-curated by the former director of the Civic Museums of Venice, Giandomenico Romanelli. Check out the array of programming planned, including lectures, films and festivities, around the exhibition.

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Ri Dickulous’ Top 5 inspirations (good and bad) for “Roped In,” an exhibition on binding rope

roped-inWHAT: “Roped In: Binding Rope and Art Photography Showcase”
WHEN: Sat. (Sept. 24), 6 p.m.
WHERE: The Art Garage, 2231 St. Claude Ave.
MORE INFO: Visit the Facebook event page

She does sword swallowing and glass art, sure, but, performer Ri Dickulous is bound and determined to expose, educate and entertain people about the often-misunderstood world of all things binding rope. So that’s why we asked her to ponder some of the cultural ties to the form, so to speak, and she responded with an amazing description of the form, and the elements that might help informer “Roped In” exhibition in collaboration with photographer Josh Hailey on Saturday at The Art Garage. (Check out this preview on WGNO’s “News With a Twist.”)

Shibari, taken literally from the Japanese phrase meaning “to tie,” has a long standing tradition within Japanese culture entwined into the erotic arts, more specifically known as kinbaku. Before that, it had been utilized as a method of torture for prisoners and soldiers, known as hojojitsu. Within the past 50 years or so there has been a surge of Western fascination within the art, spurring people who had been playing tie ’em up games as children and turning it into damsel in distress games seen by popular figures such as Bettie Page.

Today we are able to see many applications of Japanese and Western inspired rope bondage, from fashion macrame clothing, to suspensions geared to challenge the mind and body. It seems as if the art form itself is only hindered by the imagination of those that hold the knots in their hands, and so we currently are in the process of a Renaissance of rope bondage.

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Ri Dickulous

Personally, I began my rope journey nearly 10 years ago in the Washington, D.C., area, bottoming predominantly and learning all the while how it would feel to experience different styles of tying, the different types of materials used in tying, and learning basic terminology/names to know/essential ties seen in traditional shibari and Western tying.

Personally I was always drawn to rope bondage because I loved all of the sensory elements of it (sound, sight, smell, feel and occasionally taste) that would be able to focus my attention and bring me immediately into my body with the right rigger. Since moving to New Orleans, I decided that I wanted to tie myself predominantly, and within the past two years began tying others in an effort to translate my knowledge gained over a significant period of time. Josh Hailey approached me about doing a photo series inspired by these sorts of ties, and I agreed with the caveat that each four hour photography session would begin with a half hour lecture on the essentials of being tied up. I insisted on not teaching others how to tie, but what they needed to know in order to stay safe whenever they were tied up.

The result was thousands of images of individuals in beautiful, unique ties, as well as a small community of people who have been tied together into a unique experience focused on education, personal advocacy, generating safety in community, and of course art.

Below are five sources of inspiration that drove me to this project, ranging from “I wanted to inspire people to not do it this way” to “I want people to feel that this style of art of accessible and open to their involvement.”.

“FIFTY SHADES OF GREY” — I grit my teeth whenever anyone mentions “Fifty Shades,” but the fact of the matter is that the subject matter opens up the whole world of BDSM to people who may have previously had preconceived notions of what the BDSM scene is all about. The reaction of the community to this book and movie was astounding, and people who had been living and performing in this lifestyle for years flocked out of the closets and dungeons in order to enlighten the public that “Fifty Shades” is in fact a great example of BAD BDSM practices. Many have heard the songs from The Weeknd, and seen the music video where there is a woman suspended as a chandelier. Not the best example of suspension I’ve ever seen, but it’s super shiny and a great way to begin to explain what sort of things can be seen within this scene other than whips and chains.

“TIED,” BY WYKD DAVE — This video is emblematic of artistic posing seen in much of shibari video art. In performance art, the rigger plays much more of a role, often becoming incorporated into a sort of a dance. This video, however, is a stellar example of technical skill and variation within differing poses. The artist is able to continue her work, with the rope simply adding to her work as opposed to completely taking over her work. I was fortunate, years ago, to attend an intensive hosted by Wykd Dave and learned a great deal of focusing on the basics of tying, especially things like the morphology of knot work, how the lines should lie, and why all of those things are important when overall conveying the desired effect in tying.

FRED KYREL — I cannot tell you how many people refer to this man’s work whenever I mention that I do shibari. This falls into more of the erotic macrame element of shibari and is considered to be very modern, experimental, and Western. The designs are laid on the body so that once they are removed, they can never be replicated exactly the same way ever again. True couture, at its finest.

GARTH KNIGHT — In the more experimental realm of artistic installation and performance art, we see Garth Knight. Well known for his bindings to render his models to look like they have grown into the roots of trees, or the inter bindings of cardiovascular tissues, he continues to be brought up as another artist who is brought up consistently to me as a jaw-dropping rope artist.

KINOKO HAJIME — Finally, blending traditional and experimental Japanese rope art is Kinoko Hajime. I feel bad to include him last within this five-part pop series, but I figured that I would approach this topic from how a Westernized American may be approaching Japanese rope bondage. First, “Fifty Shades,” then music videos, then what would you get if you did a simple Google search for rope bondage. Kinoko Hajime is a contemporary artist who certainly deserves mention within this field, as he is one of the driving forces for innovating the current rope Renaissance, along with other artists such as Akira Naka. Kinoko’s work focuses on red rope of different sizes and different purposes, giving it a very visceral feel to every one of his images and blends the traditional with the innovative seamlessly. Even if you haven’t seen his work before, you should take a look and get an idea of what sort of images can be created while blending the old styles with the new.

Jason Kruppa on contributing work to “Muses & Musicians” exhibition

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One of the many joys of covering New Orleans’ variety arts scene — whether it’s burlesque, drag, circus or sideshow — is running into the photographers who so beautifully capture the ambience of the shows. Burlesque photography in particular almost seems to be in the same kind of renaissance that burlesque itself has been enjoying, and the quality of the work — whether it’s in the mood, the action, the sensuality or the sheer exuberance of it all — has riven to the same kind of art form. (And, possibly, as under-appreciated as burlesque in the same context.)

Their loyalty to their subjects is one of the most fascinating relationships in the cultural scene here; both are masters of their craft and appreciate what they do for the other, but there’s a protectiveness at play here that borders on the spiritual. You don’t post their stuff without crediting them, you don’t mess with the original file, and you make sure you use the photos that make the performers look their best. They’re almost pathologically protective of one another. That reverence shows up in the work.

Some of my favorites while covering the scene include Roy Guste, JonGunnar Gylfrason, Jian Bastille and Michael Egbert, but one photographer in particular always captures my attention: Jason Kruppa. There’s a special kind of sophistication that Kruppa brings to his work that suggests an undeniable versatility and style that makes him a special photographer. (His shot of Trixie Minx for her “Cupid’s Cabaret” show, pictured above, earlier in 2016 was one for the ages.) So special, in fact, that his burlesque and other works are included in the upcoming “Muses & Musicians” exhibition that opens this weekend at the Claire Elizabeth Gallery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter.

The reception runs 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday (May 14). Kruppa’s works will be included with that of Garret Haab, Briana Catarino and Lela Brunet.

The exhibition examines the notion of the muse, something a photographer who shoots burlesque can relate to.

“In ‘Muses & Musicians,’ the viewer is presented with artistic representations of Muses — the personification of the arts and beauty in the female form, alongside those of Musicians — the disseminators of creativity in song,” says the exhibition’s description.

Kruppa’s work isn’t limited to burlesque performers; as the title suggests, he’s found plenty of inspiration in New Orleans as well. Kruppa was kind enough to share his artist’s statement, and some of his works, in this post:

Jason Kruppa is a self-taught, New Orleans-based photographer specializing in portraiture and conceptual photography. 
A substantial portion of these photos were made with “instant film.” Kruppa uses the unique characteristics of this medium to recall the techniques and effects of early photography.
The first series in Kruppa’s portfolio, “Transformations,” explores the transition from what we see in an individual to the person they become before the camera.  Images such as “The Traveler” and “The Dreamer” capture that flicker of the imagination when the artist’s subjects become something greater than themselves – archetypes connected to a longer timeline.
In his ongoing “NOLA Music Portrait” series, Kruppa reflects on the personalities that contribute to the culture and lifeblood of the city. From quiet moments in the studio to carefully composed on-stage snapshots, Kruppa’s soulful portraits capture the broad range of musicians in New Orleans. Featured artists in the series include jazz luminary Delfeayo Marsalis, “Songbird of New Orleans,” Robin Barnes, Folk and Blues artist Luke Winslow-King, and the “Queen of Rare Groove,” DJ Soul Sister.
In addition to his personal portfolio, Kruppa also works in editorial, advertising and curatorial. His work has been featured in publications including: The New York Times, Town & Country, Les InRocktupibles (Paris), Travel & Leisure, EDGE Magazine (NYC), CUE (New Orleans), Scene Magazine (Louisiana), and St. Charles Avenue Magazine. Kruppa served as photo editor on the major biography “LENNON: The Man, The Myth, The Music,” published by Hyperion Press, and curated exhibits for the Louisiana Supreme Court from 2006-2011.

Fellow photographer Dave Rodrigue has watched Jason Kruppa work for a decade, and marvels at his focus on detail in getting the shot right.

“Over the past decade I’ve observed him perfect his lighting technique always with an eye for experimentation,” Rodrigue said. “Jason has some heavy-duty influences, such as (Richard) Avedon and (Robert) Mapplethorpe, and he has been able to use that inspiration to craft his own style. I believe his burlesque work comes from the personal relationships he’s developed with his subjects. He gets to know them as friends and that always lends to creativity.

“The subjects are comfortable,” Rodrigue said. “They trust him.”

LUNA Fete: What to expect the second time around (Nov. 29-Dec. 5)

As I noted in my New Orleans Advocate piece that appears in Sunday’s edition, LUNE Fete has ambitions that go beyond giving people a visual thrill when it sets up around the city Nov. 29-Dec. 5. In this, the event’s second go-round, organizers from the Arts Council of New Orleans hope to repeat some of that downtown dazzle but also hopes to expand beyond Lafayette Square.

Jen Lewin’s “The Pool” will move the eye candy from the facade of Gallier Hall to the grounds of Lafayette Square, where visitors can get all interactive with the series of glowing, colorful circles sensitive to the touch.

And then there’s Los Angeles-based artist Miwa Matreyek‘s presentation of two of her projected animation performances, “Myth and Infrastructure” and “This World Made Itself,” at the CAC. (Check out her TED Talk here.) As she told me in the Advocate piece:

Magic and transformation are what I’d like audiences to experience. Because what I do falls between two distinct mediums, I often perform at film and theater festivals, and at science museums and planetariums. So to perform for a wider audience that’s not specific to a film festival or dance event or a science event will be pretty exciting for me. It’s not that different from a magic-lantern or shadow-puppet show.”

But then there’s the really ambitious effort over at the recently opened Ashé Power House Theater, whose facade will place hose to another projection that’s a project completely by international Portuguese arts collective OCUBO and New Orleans’ own Terrance Osborne along with private school St. Martin’s and Ashé’s Kuumba Institute.

Outgoing ACNO head Kim Cook sees projection mapping as a way to also connect the dots when it comes to lighting and public safety and hopes LUNA Fete can start a dialogue about making the city a safer place to navigate on foot at night.

I’m not sure how that all will play out, but I do know that last year’s LUNA Fete did a masterful job of tapping into a familiar vibe by bringing crowds to an area (Lafayette Square) revered as a favored Mardi Gras parade viewing spot, at a time in between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the shopping season is just kicking into high gear. Cook also hopes this event will not only bringing together older New Orleanians with one of its hippest recent migrants (the tech sector) while building this into something huge by the time the New Orleans centennial rolls around in 2018. Again, not sure how that will happen, but it sure is fun to watch New Orleanians come together to be dazzled.

Let’s just hope no one brings their own brand of fireworks to the show. We’ve had enough of that already.