Tag Archives: arts

Theater Professor Directs Tribute Play to Late Boston ‘Theater Legend’

When longtime Boston theater artist Larry Coen died suddenly earlier this year, many people were in shock, including Bowdoin theater professor Davis Robinson. The two had worked alongside each other for years in Beau Jest Moving Theatre, a physical theater company founded by Robinson more than thirty years ago. For its latest production, the company is presenting the play Coen was working on when he died, but never had the chance to perform. Journey To The Center of the Stage is described as “an immersive theater event that takes you backstage into the world of actor gossip, aging stars, theater superstitions, and words of wisdom.”

“After Coen passed away, Beau Jest knew it had to be our next production,” said Robinson, who describes the play as “a tribute to the wit and wisdom of one of Boston’s most knowledgeable theater artists. Because all of the scenes are written in Larry’s comic voice, and so many of the characters resemble ones he would play out for us backstage,” said Robinson, “we began to refer to the project simply as ‘Larry’s Play.’ His voice is so present in the play.”

The production is presented in an unusual format, with the audience limited to three groups of fifteen, who meet in the main theater for the opening scenes then move around from one place to another. One scene takes place in the green room, two of them occur up a flight of stairs, others in the lobby and the dressing room.

Robin Smith ’05 (L) and Kathleen Lewis ’10

A number of Bowdoin alumni are involved in the production, said Robinson, including Robin Smith ’05, Kathleen Lewis ’10, Nick Funnell ’17, and stage manager Matt Leiwant ’14. Performances take place September 6-16, 2018, at Charlestown Working Theater in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

by Tom Porter

Arts and Culture: 2018 Fall Preview

It’s set to be a typically busy and exciting season on the arts and culture front for the Bowdoin community. The Bowdoin College Arts and Culture fall 2018 calendar has now been compiled and released—click here if you want to see a full version. To complement the calendar, here’s a sample of some of the treats on offer in the galleries, museums, concert halls, libraries, theaters, and and lecture halls of the College over the next few months.

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum

A new exhibition opening October 2, looks at the tragic life of Minik Wallace, a young Inughuit boy who was taken from Greenland to New York in 1897 with his father and other members of his family to spend a year working with an anthropologist. When disease killed most of the other Inughuits, including his father, Minik ended up being adopted by an American family and did not return home for twelve years.

Alfred Otto Gross with "Booming Ben"

Visitors to the Arctic Museum can also enjoy ongoing exhibits, including the stunning photography of botanist Rutherford Platt (which runs until October 1), Threads of Change: Clothing and Identity in the North (running through December 31, 2019), and an examination of contemporary Alaskan Yup’ik and Iñupiat art, which runs through December 22, 2018. To complement the exhibition, curator Molly Lee from the University of Alaska Museum of the North will be giving a talk on October 3 describing her pioneering fieldwork with Yup’ik basket makers.

Another event to look forward to is the first public screening on September 12 of recently preserved short films taken by Bowdoin Professor of Biology Alfred Otto Gross in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The films, which include previously unknown footage of the last surviving heath hen, have been preserved, digitized, and published online thanks to support from the National Film Preservation Foundation. The films are a recent gift to the Bowdoin College Library’s George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives.

Hawthorne-Longfellow Library

A recently opened show at the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library shines a light on Parker Cleaveland (1780-1858), Bowdoin’s first professor of mathematics and natural philosophy. Cleaveland was a polymath who studied mineralogy, geology, astronomy, biology, conchology, and meteorology. In 1816 he published America’s first textbook on geology and mineralogy. The exhibition explores his rich pedagogical and scientific legacy and runs the remainder of the semester.

Ongoing treasures on display at the library include Highlights from the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Papers and Highlights from the George J. Mitchell Papers.

Bowdoin College Museum of Art

As ever, a wealth of offerings await at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. There’s still time to catch Richard Pousette-Dart: Painting/Light/Space, which runs until September 16, as well as two associated events: On September 6, Cambridge University lecturer Jennifer Powell presents new research into the artistic practice and philosophical inclinations of the abstract expressionist painter; On September 14, Sarah Montross, associate curator at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, talks about Pousette-Dart in the context of color TV, psychedelic culture, and visual art of the 1960s.

Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting runs until October 28, and there are several related events to see, including a guided tour on September 18 with assistant professor of art history and cocurator Dana Byrd, a gallery conversation on October 10 with art professor James Mullen, and, on October 17, a talk about camera technology in the nineteenth century and the three cameras that Homer used as part of his artistic practice. The next associated event is on September 7, when author and renowned fly-casting instructor Macauley Lord ’77 will discuss nineteenth-century fishing techniques and Homer’s passion for fishing. That presentation will take place, weather permitting, partly on the Bowdoin quad.

On September 27, the Museum of Art will open a collaborative, site-specific, multimedia art installation, featuring a large-scale wall drawing titled Let’s Get Lost , by linn meyers, a Washington, D.C.-based contemporary artist, who will also serve as the 2018-2019 halley k harrisburg ’90 and Michael Rosenfeld Artist-in-Residence at the College. This important residency will enable students to get to know and learn from meyers over the course of the coming academic year. The previous night, meyers will deliver a talk at Kresge Auditorium titled “Let’s Get Lost: Finding One’s Path as an Artist.”

Visitors have until January 6, 2019, to check out A Handheld History: Five Centuries of Medals from the Molinari Collection at Bowdoin College. The student-curated show allows viewers to experience the intimacy and poignancy of portrait medals spanning nearly five centuries and to consider the lessons they have to impart to contemporary audiences.

Two shows open at the museum next month. On October 4, an exhibition running until February 10, 2019, will highlight the works of two exceptional artist-botanists, watercolorist Kate Furbish (1834–1931) and photographer Edwin Hale Lincoln (1848–1938). From October 11 to April 7, 2019, Among Women: Portraits from the Permanent Collection will explore the artistic portrayal of women in the United States over the last three centuries.

Photograph of Winslow Homer next to his painting, "The Gulf Stream." "Meditation on the Drifting Stars," 1962-63, oil on linen by Richard Pousette-Dart. © 2017 Estate of Richard Pousette-Dart / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Kerry Ryan McFate, courtesy of Pace Gallery. "Ferdinand VII Medal," 1809, (obverse), bronze and gilding, by Pedro Juan Maria de Guerrero. Gift of Amanda Marchesa Molinari. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

Later in the semester, the museum will be highlighting some of the turbulent events of 1968 with an exhibition of iconic photographs from that watershed year. 1968 – Spring of Discontent: The Photography of Michael Ruetz presents a visual diary capturing many of the events associated with the student movement in Germany and beyond. That runs from November 15 to January 27, 2019, and, on December 4, Jens Klenner, assistant professor of German, will lead a gallery conversation about the exhibition.

Rounding out the calendar year, Material Resources: Intersections of Art and the Environment opens on December 6 and examines artists’ dependence on Earth’s material resources, while presenting art as an integral “material” resource in the study of the environment. That will be on display until June 2, 2019.

Fall lecture series 

A series of three monthly lectures by visiting professors will look at aspects of Russian culture and its relationship to the environment. The series is titled “Russian Environment: Nature and Culture” and gets underway on September 26 with a lecture by Thomas Hodge, professor of Russian at Wellesley College. He will be talking about the nature writing of nineteenth-century Russian author Ivan Turgenev.

The series continues on October 22, when environmental studies professor Jane Costlow from Bates College looks at contemporary Russian artists in the Arctic and examines how they represent the country’s far north. On November 15, historian NIcholas Breyfogle of Ohio State University concludes the fall lecture series with a talk called “Protecting the Pearl of Soviet Asia: Post-War Development, Conservation, and Lake Baikal.”

Literary and other cultural events

On September 28, the English department’s visiting writers’ series welcomes Peter Coviello, professor of English at the Universitiy of Illinois, Chicago. He will read from his recent book Long Players: A Love Story in Eighteen Songs (June, 2018). Korean-American novelist Chan-rae Lee will also be doing a reading of his work on October 30. Both of these events will be in the Faculty Room, Massachusetts Hall.
*NOTE: The Peter Coviello event is a day later than originally advertised in the calendar due to a last-minute schedule change.

Peter Coviello and Chang-rae Lee

A number of faculty book launches are happening this semester. The first occurs September 27, when Director of Writing and Rhetoric Meredith McCarroll talks about her book Unwhite: Appalachia, Race, and Film (University of Georgia Press, October, 2018), which focuses on the “othering” of whiteness through Appalachian stereotypes in cinema.

On October 25, Christopher Chong, assistant professor of mathematics, discusses his new book, Coherent Structures in Granular Crystals: From Experiment and Modelling to Computation and Mathematical Analysis.

Professor of History and Environmental Studies Connie Chiang talks about the experiences of Japanese-Americans imprisoned in the US during World War Two on December 6. Her latest book is called Nature Behind Barbed Wire: An Environmental History of the Japanese American Incarceration (Oxford University Press, September 2018.)

Cultural anthropologist Jennifer Robertson from the University of Michigan will be here on October 12 to present a talk called “Gendering AI and Robots: Robo-Sexism in Japan.” That’s in the Beam Classroom in the Visual Arts Center at 3:00 p.m. 

Two award-wining poets—Adrian Blevins and Cate Marvin—will be reading from their work on November 12, in an event at Hubbard Hall’s Shannon Room at 7:00 p.m.

The following day, Congolese photographer Sammy Baloji, currently the Robert Gardner Fellow in Photography at Harvard’s Peabody Museum, will be on campus. He’ll be presenting his work at 7:30 p.m. on November 13 in the Visual Arts Center’s Kresge Auditorium.

Live music on campus

There will be no shortage of exceptional musical offerings on the Bowdoin campus throughout the fall. There are too many to mention them all here, but among the highlights are a series of concerts by Beckwith Artist in Residence George Lopez. On September 24, he kicks off a tribute to the great nineteenth-century Romantic composer Johannes Brams (1833-97) with a solo piano recital. The year-long series continues on November 10, when Lopez is joined by two visiting musicians to perform some chamber music by Brahms. Lopez will also be putting on a number of Music at the Museum concerts, in which he performs music associated with some of the works on view at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. These get underway on October 18.

The Gibson Players. Karen Jung, cello; Mark Battle, clarinet; James Parakilas, piano; Mary Hunter, violin.

On September 29, the Gibson Players will be playing some early twentieth-century chamber music. This is a newly formed group, and three of the four members are Bowdoin faculty or staff. They will be performing the “Soldier’s Tale” suite by Igor Stravinsky, and the “Quartet for the End of Time” by Olivier Messiaen.

The Bowdoin Chorus, led by Anthony Antolini ’63, gets the holiday season off to an early start on October 20 with a performance of “Christmas Jazz.” This concert will be repeated on November 16 and 17. The Bowdoin College Concert Band, directed by John P. Morneau, plays the first in a trilogy of “Friends” concerts for 2018-2019 on October 21. The second “Friends” concert on November 18 will be a very special performance spotlighting the musical talents of Bowdoin alumni, staff, and administration. Highlighting the program will be President Clayton Rose as guest narrator on “A Lincoln Portrait” by Aaron Copland.

Some of New York’s finest contemporary jazz musicians will be playing at the Studzinski Recital Hall on October 1, with a quartet led by drummer/composer Devin Gray, who’ll be presenting original works from the group’s second album.

NPR’s “From the Top” is coming to Bowdoin on October 17, as the preeminent showcase for young musicians records a radio broadcast in front of a live audience at the Studzinski Recital Hall. Tickets are free and available at the Smith Union Information Desk.

There will be an evening of world music on October 19, when Bowdoin’s Middle Eastern Ensemble performs a joint concert alongside the West African Music Ensemble. The latter will be performing again on November 29 in a program featuring music of both the Ewe and Akan people of West Africa. The Middle Eastern Ensemble, meanwhile, will be holding its own concert on November 26, in a program of classical and contemporary music from the Arabic and Ottoman Turkish traditions.

As the semester draws to a close, there will a number of concerts featuring student ensembles, including a performance by the Bowdoin Orchestra on December 6 and two nights of jazz performances by various groups on December 7 and 8.

Theater and dance

The Anton Chekhov classic Three Sisters will be coming to the Wish Theater on November 9, 10, and 11. Simultaneously comic and searing, the play highlights a small Russian town’s dreams, sorrows, and missed opportunities. This production is a new version of the work by acclaimed theater director Libby Appel.

The December Dance Concert will take place on November 30, with further performances on December 1 and 2. The program features choreography by Bowdoin Dance Faculty Aretha Aoki, Adanna Jones, and Gwyneth Jones, with performances by Bowdoin students.

These are some of the highlights of the Bowdoin Arts and Culture Calender of Events, Fall 2018. Click here for the complete listing. Also check the Bowdoin online calendar, which is regularly updated, as all events are subject to cancellations or time changes.

by Tom Porter

Puccini Goes to the Movies: How Cinema Influenced Italian Opera

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

Think Italian opera, and there’s a good chance the first composer who comes to mind is Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)—creator of such classics as La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Tosca. However, you probably wouldn’t associate the works of Puccini with cinema, says opera scholar Christy Thomas, but this would be a mistake: this period of Italian opera is much more influenced by movies than one might think, she argues.

Thomas was visiting assistant professor of music at Bowdoin for the 2017-2018 academic year and has now returned to Yale, where she will continue working on a book project looking at how the Italian opera industry responded to the emergence of cinema and sound recording.

During the spring semester, Thomas entertained faculty colleagues at Bowdoin with a seminar examining the links between the early years of the movie industry and the opera of Puccini, focusing on one work in particular. She also spoke with Bowdoin College writer and multimedia producer Tom Porter, who put together this audio piece.

Audio may take a few moments to load

Opera excerpts from Teatro di San Carlo performance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aS9DtBTSVJo

Click here to read a transcript of the audio piece.

by Tom Porter

International Student Spotlight: Leaf Ma ’18

The Class of 2021 comprises students from twenty-seven countries. During the spring semester, the photography exhibition Home Away from Home? in David Saul Smith Union featured portraits of a number of these students. The pictures were accompanied by essays about what it’s like to study at Bowdoin when you’re often thousands of miles from home and family.

Over the summer, we’ll be publishing a selection of those photographs with the accompanying essays, and today the spotlight is on recent graduate Leaf Ma ’18 from China.

Leaf Ma ’18, in front of a picture Chaoyang Park, Beijing. Photo: Shinhee Kang ’18

I was born and raised in Beijing, China. When I think of Beijing, I think of my family and friends, the streets I used to pass by every day to school, and the cheap, tasty food on the street. I miss my grandma’s cooking the most, especially her 韭菜盒子 (pan-fried leek dumplings).

The place in my backdrop is an amusement park near my home. I used to hang out there when I was a kid. As a senior at Bowdoin, I feel more at home now than when I first came here because I become more and more connected with my friends at Bowdoin. But my definition of home has never changed.

The exhibition Home Away from Home? was initiated, cocurated, and organized by Shinhee Kang’ 18 and Cheng-Chun (Kevin) Yu’ 19.

by Tom Porter

International Student Spotlight: Cecilia Markmann ’21

The Class of 2021 comprises students from twenty-seven countries. During the spring semester, the photography exhibition Home Away from Home? in David Saul Smith Union featured portraits of a number of these students. The pictures were accompanied by essays about what it’s like to study at Bowdoin when you’re often thousands of miles from home and family.

Over the summer, we’ll be publishing a selection of those photographs with the accompanying essays, and today the spotlight is on Cecilia Markmann ’21.

Cecilia Markmann ’21. The backdrop is the Shanghai skyline. Photo: Shinhee Kang ’18

I’m from Denmark, but I’ve lived in Denmark, Germany, and China. A majority of my life has been growing up in China, as I lived in Beijing and Shanghai for a total of fifteen years. When I think about home, I identify with both Denmark and China. My extended family still lives in Denmark, and I go back every summer to visit. However, China is where my family currently lives and where I grew up. International student orientation, the welcoming and close-knit environment of campus, and people’s eagerness to meet each other have all made my adjustment to college life easier and made me feel at home at Bowdoin.

I think that having a better understanding of the differing cultures, perspectives, and values among international students is a continuous process that our campus should strive for. I wouldn’t say that my relationship with home has changed since coming here. Instead, I feel like I am adding another place and community to a list of places that I identify as home. When asked what I miss about home, I would definitely say family and friends the most. Relationships that I had before coming to Bowdoin are what make being away from home the hardest. But also missing home-made smoothies!

The exhibition Home Away from Home? was initiated, cocurated, and organized by Shinhee Kang’ 18 and Cheng-Chun (Kevin) Yu’ 19.


by Tom Porter

International Student Spotlight: Giovanna Munguia ’21

The Class of 2021 comprises students from twenty-seven countries. During the spring semester, the photography exhibition Home Away from Home? in David Saul Smith Union featured portraits of a number of these students. The pictures were accompanied by essays about what it’s like to study at Bowdoin when you’re often thousands of miles from home and family.

Over the summer, we’ll be publishing a selection of those photographs with the accompanying essays, and today the spotlight is on Giovanna Munguia ’21.

Giovanna Munguia ’21. Photo: Shinhee Kang ’18. The backdrop is Chinchontepec Volcano, San Salvador.

I’m from El Salvador, which is a tiny country located in Central America. We’re the tiniest country in the entire American continent that’s not an island.

When you think of home what image comes to mind?

Definitely the volcanoes and hills. The city is surrounded by all of them.

What do you miss most about home right now?

Food and family and the warm weather! (EDITOR’S NOTE: This was written in the middle of winter!)

Is there a particular dish you miss?

Yeah. It’s called pupusa. It’s like tortilla filled with cheese and beans, but better. They’re really good—try them some time!

Do you have anything else that you wanted to add?

I love El Salvador. Even though it’s not the most developed country in the world, it’s still a really, really beautiful place with beautiful people!

The exhibition Home Away from Home? was initiated, cocurated, and organized by Shinhee Kang’ 18 and Cheng-Chun (Kevin) Yu’ 19.

by Tom Porter

Where Computer Science Meets Greek Philosophy

The School of Athens by Raphael, 1511.

Fernando Nascimento began the lesson by dimming the classroom lights so the assembled students could get a good view of the PowerPoint image being projected: it’s a representation of The School of Athens, a fresco painted by the Renaissance master Raphael in the early 1500s portraying the theme of philosophy.

In the center, the philosophers Plato and Aristotle are locked in debate, each holding a book, one of them pointing to the earth, the other to the heavens. “Raphael’s masterpiece, like most works of arts, is an interpretation of reality,” said Nascimento. “According to his interpretation,” he continued, “Aristotle, the younger of the two philosophers, is pointing downwards, which makes sense, because he’s holding a copy of his Ethics, which argues that an important part of man’s happiness lies on earth and in being a good, ethical, citizen. Plato, meanwhile, is all about metaphysics and the soul. The answer to the most important questions lies in the heavens, according to him, which explains why he is pointing upwards. With his other hand, Plato is holding Timaeus, his exploration of the nature of the physical world and the universe.”

Postdoctoral fellow Fernando Nascimento devised the course Digital Text Analysis, which brings computational techniques to the study of humanities.

This is not a philosophy class, nor even part of an art history course, but a new Digital and Computational Studies(DCS) module, taught in the 2018 spring semester, called Digital Text Analysis. It was devised by Nascimento himself, a postdoctoral fellow in DCS who holds a PhD in philosophy. The idea, he explained, is to use computational techniques to augment conventional approaches, thereby gaining greater insight into the study of humanities through the analysis of texts. In this case, he said, the painting provides a good introduction to the texts in question.

“We’re going to start by reading Timaeus and Ethics,” Nascimento told the class, “analyzing and comparing the texts using computational tools to single out patterns of usage for keywords like ‘soul,’ ‘virtue,’ and ‘man.'” The tool being used in this case is called scikit-learn, a free machine-learning software package for the Python programming language, which employs various classification and clustering algorithms. “Using this, we plan to come up with new textual hints for our own interpretation to check against Raphael’s,” he said.

The textual analysis doesn’t stop there, however. The class was also asked to analyze all the collected works of both philosophers, transforming their books into mathematical representations—clusters of keywords that may provide additional insight into their contextual meaning. Fortunately, the students were not required to read all that material, inputting every single word—that’s already been done for them. But, by studying the resulting algorithms, they should be able to draw some conclusions, said Nascimento.

This kind of digital analysis cannot replace the work done by humanities scholars, he stressed. “This is just another piece of evidence to investigate and try to explain certain nuances of the text we’re analyzing, so it won’t replace contextual interpretation. These digital tools,” he said, “provide new perspectives for the domain experts, in this case philosophers. What we’re doing is very much part of the liberal arts environment: It is a new form of collaboration between humanities and computational techniques. All our conclusions are up for critical analysis and we should reflect upon the intrinsic limitation of such techniques. I agree with my colleague in computer science, professor Eric Chown, when he says that these techniques do not provide answers so much as new questions for exploration.”

Digital text analysis does not, of course, limit itself to the study of philosophy, and can be applied to any text. Nascimento’s students teamed up into pairs to work on a variety of texts of their choosing. Sawyer Billings and Vincent LaRovere, both class of 2018, chose “cars and technology” for their project. “We’re pulling texts from a number of car websites, such as Autotrader and Motor Trend, and comparing them to another group of texts about technology,” said Billings.

Vincent LaRovere (L) and Sawyer Billings, both class of 2018.

Using textual analysis algorithms, they’re trying to assess the cause-and-effect relationship between technology and the auto industry. “We’re trying to bridge the gap between cutting edge technologies and cars,” said LaRovere. The aim is partly to understand what effect technological advancements have had on the motor car industry and how long it takes for that to happen. “It works the other way too,” he explained. “The car industry has also been the impetus for technological advancement elsewhere: the development of roads, traffic lights, and speed cameras, for example.”

This is a great illustration of how digital text analysis can help to provide fresh interpretations in a variety of areas, said Nascimento. “Furthermore,” he added, “it’s a field of study that tends to grow over time and that has the potential to shed increasing light on humanities subjects because of their intrinsic connection with the written word and the increasing number of digital artifacts. The great potential of these techniques is that they generate questions for further inquiry. This type of collaboration opens new windows for enhancing the explanations of written texts and understanding more of the world. The goal,” he said, “is to explain more in order to understand better.”

by Tom Porter

Young Composers Present Music Inspired by Art

In a collaboration with the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, ten young composers recently showcased original music inspired by works of art on display. In a concert at the museum, the composers—all summer students at the Bowdoin International Music Festival—presented pieces they have written during the festival, which began on June 23, and runs until August 4, 2018. They were inspired by a variety of artistic offerings, from 1200-year-old Assyrian reliefs, to the abstract, twentieth-century paintings of Richard Pousette-Dart, to the work of Winslow Homer.

This video features an excerpt from a piece composed by Hannah Lipton, who was born in 1992. It’s the first movement of her chamber piece, Amaranth Garden, which was inspired by Richard Pousette-Dart’s 1974 painting, Presence, Amaranth Garden #1.

by Tom Porter