Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Requiescat in Peace

British-born painter Sylvia Sleigh – who donated one of her most ambitious works to the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers – died at her home in Manhattan on Oct. 24 at age 94. The cause was complications from a stroke.

Sylvia Sleigh at a presentation of her
“Invitation to a Voyage” at the Hudson River Museum.
In July 2006, Sleigh gave the panoramic “Invitation to a Voyage: the Hudson River at Fishkill, 1979-1999” to the museum. The 70-foot work, made up of 14 panels, depicts the artist, her husband, the influential critic Lawrence Alloway, and several friends on a jaunt near Bannerman’s Castle on Pollepel Island. (It was on a train trip to Albany that Sleigh first saw Bannerman’s Castle, whose ruined beauty inspired the work.)
But the site wasn’t Sleigh’s only muse. The placement of the figures along the river’s banks – that’s Alloway helping Sleigh to her feet in one panel, just as he helped her in her career – suggests Watteau’s fête galante painting “L’embarkment pour Cythère,” in which a group of revelers sets sail for the birthplace of Venus. With its Arcadian lushness and fluidity, “The Embarkation for Cythera” is an allegory on the brevity of romantic love.

Three panels of Sleigh’s evocation of Watteau are now on view at the Hudson River Museum.
Despite the significance of “Invitation to a Voyage,” Sleigh was not known primarily as a landscape painter. Rather she was most famous for her male nudes, which cast her subjects as the male equivalents of Venuses and odalisques. These works, painted during the feminist movement of the 1970s, were seen as a controversial, delightfully cheeky response to men viewing women as objects of desire. The New York Times’ obituary quotes her as saying: “I don’t mind the ‘desire’ part, it’s the ‘object’ that’s not very nice.”

Indeed, so thoroughly is the female entrenched as the primary sex object in our culture that it always comes as a bit of a shock when people learn that for most of art history – up till about the middle of the 19th century – men were the primary sex symbols as the heroes of the genre known as history painting, which included religious and allegorical works. It wasn’t until the rise of the bourgeoisie and the shift in painting to interior scenes of everyday life that women came to the fore as culture’s primary sex symbol – a role that for good or for ill they still own today.

Nonetheless, Sleigh has her heiresses. Look at Sam Taylor-Wood’s 2001 photograph of Robert Downey Jr. – the only nude in her haunting “Crying Men” series – in which she casts the actor as a modern-day Endymion and her camera as the caressing moon.

Viewing Taylor-Wood’s and Sleigh’s work brings you back to a question that will always tantalize: Do women look at men the way men look at women?

Perhaps not. Most female nudes are first and foremost about the body.
Whereas women can’t seem to help themselves. They cannot separate the body from the soul.
Hudson River Museum hours are noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Sun. Admission is $5; $3 for senior citizens age 62 and up and children ages 5-16. The museum is at 511 Warburton Ave. 914-963-4550,

Read Georgette Gouveia’s cultural musings at the, a collaboration with

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cue James Bond?

The 2010 fall benefit gala for Purchase College’s Performing Arts Center on Oct. 23 is “From Russia With Love,” minus Bond, James Bond.

Valery Gergiev, conductor and artistic director of the Maryinsky Orchestra (formerly the Kirov Orchestra), will lead that group in Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 – the only evening performance of what may be Mahler’s best-known symphony during the orchestra’s New York tour. (Certainly, it is one of his most-often performed works. This reporter will never forget the New York Philharmonic’s titanic reading of the piece, under the baton of Erich Leinsdorf, during the 1975 Mahler Festival at Carnegie Hall.)

Valery Gergiev leads the Maryinsky
Orchestra in Mahler’s Fifth at the
Oct. 23 gala for Purchase College’s
Performing Arts Center.
The Performing Arts Center concert opens with Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.” Both works have inspired artists in other disciplines. Debussy’s prelude is the sensual undertow in Nijnsky’s controversial ballet as well as a modern one by Jerome Robbins that is a meditation on love and art. Mahler’s martial, transcendent symphony colors Luchino Visconti’s 1971 film “Death in Venice.”

Maestro Gergiev – who has led the Maryinsky since 1988 and is also artistic director of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg -- will be the guest of honor at a pre-concert cocktail reception and dinner by Corner Stone Caterers of Rye. The evening, which also features a silent auction, will conclude with a post-concert reception and – what else? – a dessert and vodka bar.

The festivities get underway at ?  Tickets are $1,500 (platinum), $1,000 (gold) and $500 (silver). Platinum tickets get you a backstage pass to a VIP reception with Gergiev.

Proceeds will benefit the Performing Arts Center’s plan to expand its 2011-12 season and its Arts-in-Education program, serving 7,500 students in 31 schools.

The center’s 33rd season is made possible in part by the Basic Program Support Grant of ArtsWestchester, with funds from Westchester County. Major sponsorship for the 2010-11 season is provided by Vivian Milstein through the SVM Foundation.

The college is on Anderson Hill Road between Purchase and King streets. For gala information and tickets, call Anthony Busti in the Development Office, 914-251-6213.

Read Georgette Gouveia’s cultural musings at the, a collaboration with

Piano Man

Music lovers in the mood for an intimate concert experience might want to check out George Winston’s eclectic piano stylings – a little bit of New Orleans, a little bit of “Peanuts,” a little bit of The Doors – at the Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck on Oct. 23 at 8 p.m. 

You can enjoy yourself there while helping others: The Emelin has asked that concertgoers bring a donation of canned food to the concert to support a local food bank. (There will be collection baskets at the theater’s entrance.)

Tickets for the Winston gig are $40. The Emelin is on Library Lane. 914-698-0098,

Friday, October 22, 2010

Last call...

To see the “Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden,” at ArtsWestchester’s Arts Exchange building in White Plains through Oct. 23. 

These sweet figures are among
the proposed sculptures for a
project honoring enslaved Africans
in Westchester, now on view at
ArtsWestchester in White Plains.
The exhibit is actually a taste of a public-art project proposed for Yonkers by Vinnie Bagwell, a sculptor based there. 

The sculpture garden honors the enslaved Africans who lived and toiled at Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers, six of whom were among the first to be manumitted by law in the United States, 76 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. The exhibit – which includes five maquettes (one-third scale models) of the proposed sculptures and architectural drawings of a corresponding park -- also explores the history of slavery in Westchester.

Hours are noon-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. The Arts Exchange is at 31 Mamaroneck Ave. 914-428-4220,

Read Georgette Gouveia’s cultural musings at the, a collaboration with

A Human Comedy

The Purchase Repertory Theatre presents Anton Chekhov’s “The Three Sisters” Oct. 15 through 23 at Purchase College’s Performing Arts Center.

Chekhov’s existential drama examines the lives of the Prozorov family, who always seem to be making the wrong choices. But if the results are sometimes tragic, director A. Dean Irby also finds humor in the sorrow.
“Chekhov considered his plays to be comedies on life,” says Irby, a member of the Purchase faculty who has acted and directed on Broadway and off. “This production aims to pull out and explore the playwright’s comedic sensibilities as they relate to the characters’ sense of loss at a way of life….”

Director A. Dean Irby is at the helm
of the Purchase Rep’s “The Three Sisters.”
The Purchase Rep is made up of students from the School of the Arts, Conservatory of Theatre Arts. Stage design, lighting, costumes and technical support will be provided by the Conservatory’s Design/Technology program.

Tickets are $20. For more information, call 914-251-6200 or log on to
Speaking of the Design/Technology program – yes, we were -- it has two distinguished visiting artists this year, scenic designers Karl Eigsti and Santo Loquasto.

Eigsti, who taught at Purchase in the early 1980s, did the sets for the original productions of “Grease,” “Yentl” and “Eubie.” Loquasto’s work is well known to balletomanes (American Ballet Theatre, the Paul Taylor Dance Company) and film buffs (Woody Allen’s “Radio Days” and “Bullets Over Broadway”) alike. Lucky Design and Tech students.

Read Georgette Gouveia’s cultural musings at the, a collaboration with