To See or Not to See

I need your help.

When my friend Kendall told me she needed to see a play for extra credit in her English class, I prepared to be the resident expert. After all, having been in every school play I could audition for, I felt that I knew a little about the theatre. But then, she showed me the list of plays.

I only recognized two.

Normally, I would take this opportunity to pick one play, study up on it, and then let you know what I thought. But this time, instead of trying to teach you something, I want to do things differently. I want to learn something from you.

Here’s how I want this to work.

  1. You check out the list of plays below.
  2. If you’ve seen any of them, drop a comment and let me know what you thought (you loved it, you hated it, you slept through it… honesty is of the utmost importance).
  3. Kendall and I will read your recommendations and let you know what we decide to see.

My motivations aren’t purely selfish. By letting all of you share your thoughts, I hope that we’ll all learn a little more. And you’ll be helping an awesome girl get some extra credit.

So please, take a few seconds and weigh in below. I’ll forever be in your debt.

(Oh, and if you’re wondering: Yes, the concert was incredible. No, I did not attempt to steal the show. I may forever regret it.)

Here’s the list:

  • “My Name is Alice” at the Terrific New Theatre, March 26-April 18.
  • “Band Geeks” at the Red Mountain Theatre Company, April 16-19.
  • “Venus in Fur” at the Birmingham Festival Theatre, April 9-25.
  •  “Avenue Q” at UAB, April 8-12.
  •  “Moon Over Buffalo” at Virginia Samford Theatre, April 9-19.
  •  “Skin of Our Teeth” at Samford University, March 27-29.


A Saturday with Schubert

I love the piano.

I’ve been playing regularly since I was about six years old. I have three different Pandora stations dedicated to classical piano, and I still fantasize about performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on stage (a girl can dream).

So why am I suddenly spewing my affection for the ebonies and ivories all over the internet? Because this Saturday, I’m going to see Nikolai Lugansky perform pieces by Schubert and Tchaikovsky at the Alys Stephens Center. And I could not be more thrilled.

Who is Nikolai Lugansky? Thank you for asking.

Lugansky, who is participating in UAB’s piano series for the third time, is a Russian concert pianist known for his “dazzling technique”, as the Guardian’s Martin Kettle put it. Yakov Kasman, Professor of Piano at UAB (who sponsors the UAB piano series), placed Lugansky “among the world’s top five pianists”, according to an article by Shannon Thomason.

You can understand my excitement.

Lugansky was preceded in this year’s series by pianist Pavel Nersessian, whose performance, to my profound disappointment, I missed. This Saturday, however, nothing will keep me from the concert hall.

And only a massive amount of self-control will keep me from running onstage and trying to fulfill my life-long dream.

The concert will take place at 4 p.m. this Saturday (the 21st) in the Reynolds-Kirchbaum Recital Hall. If you’re interested in attending, tickets are available at (205) 975-2787 (they’re only $5 for students of UAB). As always, comments are open below for thoughts on the show, the music, or anything you’d like to share (I love to talk about this stuff, so bring on the comments!).

More information about Lugansky and this Saturday’s performance can be found here.


Quick– Name three things that are essential to your everyday life.

Did your cell phone make that list? Your car keys? Your wallet?

Chances are, at least one of the items you just listed is small enough to fit in your palm. It’s not surprising; we all know that the most valuable things are often the most miniscule.

That’s the idea behind “Small Treasures”, the current exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art. The exhibition, which is open until April 26, features pieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other artists from the Dutch Golden Age.

But here’s the catch: None of the paintings are larger than ten inches. In fact, the center of the exhibition (Johannes Vermeer’s painting of the Girl with the Red Hat) measures only nine by seven.

“Hang on,” you ask, “can something that small really be that big of a deal?”

It absolutely can.

[Quick disclaimer: Johannes Vermeer is one of my favorite artists. I cannot begin to convey the excitement I felt when I heard that two of his paintings were coming to the BMA. Now that you know about my bias, let’s talk about the art.]

Here’s what I learned:

Vermeer and the other artists in the exhibition painted during what is known as the Dutch Golden Age. While it coincided with the Baroque Period, most Dutch and Flemish paintings were starkly different than what was coming out of Europe at the time.

While other artists were painting bold, flowing renderings of dramatic scenes, the Dutch were focusing on realism and every-day life. They painted a lot of portraits and tories, or character studies, which are what make up the larger part of the exhibition.

What makes these pieces so stunning is the way the artists managed to place the focus on the character of the subject, and not simply on their appearances. They painted intelligence in the eyes, rapture in the smiles, and strength in the hands. Setting aside the incredible detail and use of light, these features alone make the exhibition one to remember.

As a complement to the exhibition, storyteller Dolores Hydock will be presenting “It’s the Little Things: Small Objects with a Big Effect on Life in the Dutch Golden Age”. The performance is this Saturday from 3 to 4, and the ticket price includes admission to the exhibition.

“Small Treasures” is the perfect reminder that, just as our most valued possessions can be compact, art doesn’t have to be big in order to be breath-taking. Sometimes, it’s the smaller painting that helps you see the bigger picture.

More information about “Small Treasures: “Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries” can be found here:

More information about “It’s the Little Things” can be found here:

What small things do you treasure? Are you a fan of Dutch art? Let me know in the comments below!

Kaleidoscopic Cows

I’m going to be honest. Andy Warhol is not my favorite artist.

Hold on—don’t reach for your pitchforks and torches just yet. First, hear what I have to say. Then you can decide if I know anything about art.

When I heard that the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts had donated six screen prints to UAB’s private collection, and that these were going to be put on display (along with various other pieces on loan), I was excited. Not because I wanted to see the pieces myself, but because I knew what a big deal it would be for the university. Whether you associate Warhol with soup cans or sheer genius, the point is, you know his name.

While the same was true with me, I’ll admit that I didn’t know much beyond that. So, when I visited the exhibition, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.

Here’s what I learned:

Andy Warhol was (and is) one of the biggest names in the Pop art movement. Pop art was a genre that took place in the 1950s and 60s, in both Great Britain and America. Artists borrowed images from popular culture (often advertising or newspapers) and infused them with their work as a way of recognizing the presence of commercialism in society (this, and more information about Pop art, can be found at the link below).

Before I even entered the building, I could tell that color was going to play a big part in the exhibition (as it did in a lot of Pop art). Through the window, fuchsia cow heads hung on a lemon-yellow background, staring down passersby on the sidewalk. Inside, things only intensified.

Metallic balloons, which had escaped from Warhol’s “silver cloud” instillation, littered the rest of the gallery. One hovered below a psychedelic Sitting Bull—another nudged the ceiling above a brilliantly-rendered Marilyn Monroe. Everywhere, portraits of royalty, celebrity and infamy popped off of the wall in the brightest hues from the rainbow.

As I walked around the gallery, I realized that it was unlike any that I’d seen before. But I also realized that that was a good thing. Because it’s like Mom always said: If you don’t try it, how do you know you don’t like it?

So here’s what I think about art. I think that art is about opening yourself up to things. I think it’s about looking at something you’ve never looked at before and trying to see it through the eyes of someone entirely different than yourself. Because we can all benefit from changing our viewpoint every now and then.

In the end, I may not be the kind of person who hangs a kaleidoscopic portrait over my fireplace. Then again, maybe you’re not the type to “ooh” and “ah” over a Degas.

But maybe that’s the point.

Andy Warhol: Fabricated is on display at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts, across from the Alys Stephens Center. It runs through February 28th and is open to the public. If you decide to check it out, drop a comment below and share your experience.

A Learning Experience

I don’t know a lot about art.

I’ve never taken an art history course, my technical knowledge is severely limited, and- until recently -my interest in the subject has been fleeting.

So why have I decided to start a blog about art?

For the past few years, I’ve been studying Journalism at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and I’ve found myself drawn to writing about visual, literary and performing arts. It’s made me want to learn more. To do that, I plan on submerging myself in the world of art in the Birmingham area.

As I learn, I want to use this opportunity to help other people get excited about the arts—specifically, those in and around Birmingham. This city has plenty to offer, and I want to help get the news out about what’s going on.

So maybe I don’t know anything about art. But I’ll learn. And maybe, in the process, some of you will learn something, too.

But you won’t have to take my word for any of it. I’ll be keeping you updated on as many events as I can, so you can see them for yourself and draw your own opinions.

In any case, I hope you enjoy reading about my learning experience. If what I write sparks a new interest or motivates you to seek out something you’ve never experienced before, then I’ll consider my job done.

Thanks for reading!