Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Forest of Memory: The Provocative Art of Dana Claxton

Cultural Belongings by Dana Claxton, LED Firebox, 2016.

I'm influenced by my own experience as a Lakota woman, as a Canadian, a mixed blood Canadian, and then my own relationship to the natural and supernatural world. Taking that whole bundle of experiences, it all goes in to the artwork, I think that's where the multi-layering comes in, because I've had a very multi-layered life.
– Dana Claxton, 2007

As a person of mixed heritage, Dana Claxton is practically a living mirror of the nation superimposed over the existing nations that were already here in the first place, especially her own uniquely personal family history of indigenous displacement and migration. As such, perhaps her fascination with the hybrid nature of parallel realities comes to her almost as a genealogical birthright. This fact certainly helps to clarify our deep appreciation of her as someone existing at the heart of intersecting forces and the crux of competing cultures, and maybe it explains why she’s such an effective ambassador between seemingly disparate dimensions.

So when she picked up her first camera at the age of sixteen and began to view the world around her, it now seems only natural that she should have tried to bring into focus the many layers that formed her own character. Born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, and raised in Moose Jaw, Claxton is descended on her mother’s side from Kangi Tamaheca and Anpetu Wastewin, who were among the large group of Hunkpapa Lakota who followed Sitting Bull as he walked from the United States to Canada after the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Sentimental Journeys: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Burn This, Doris Day

Michael Shannon and Audra McDonald in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. (Photo: Deen van Meer)

I’ve been skipping productions of Terrence McNally’s two-hander Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune for decades – I didn’t see Kathy Bates with F. Murray Abraham or with Kenneth Welsh in the off-Broadway version in 1987, or Edie Falco with Stanley Tucci in the last revival, in 2002 – but I opted to see the latest one, on Broadway, with Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon. It’s a lousy play, an American variation on an English kitchen-sink drama that begins with a pair of lovers in bed naked, having sex, and then takes a couple of hours to show them opening up to each other in other ways. The (stock) idea is that they’re both desperately lonely but he’s willing to acknowledge it and she isn’t, and, attempting to persuade her that she should see him as more than a one-night stand, he’s got his work cut out for him because emotionally she’s closed down. It’s an unconventional courtship drama with the same basic structure as Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly (1980), which takes a far more inventive approach to the man’s effort to win over the cautious, distanced woman – and which has far more interesting characters. Talley’s Folly is a comedy with serious undertones; Frankie and Johnny tries for loopy romanticism but ends up glum and monochromatic, though with a sentimental ending.