Monday, September 28, 2009

The Collaboration

The Collaboration by Jeffrey Cook and Renee Stout, 1993
Collection of Renee Stout

Washington DC based artist, Renee Stout, has loaned the Ogden Museum this wonderful collaborative work by herself and the late Jeffrey Cook. The following letter (printed in its entirety) accompanied the work, and gives great insight into the piece, the process, the friendship and the artists.

The Collaboration

Jeffrey and I shared an admiration for the work of Joseph Cornell. Each of Cornell’s pieces evokes the mystery and melancholy of an abandoned toy that still retains the energy of the child that once played with it. It was that sense of playfulness in Cornell’s work that resonated most with us, because it mirrored the way we both approached our own work. It was important to both of us, when It came to our individual bodies of work, that each finished piece reflect the joy, spontaneity and discovery that we experienced during the process of creating it. Jeffrey and I were close friends because we recognized in each other, the ability to still allow the child within to come out and play, and it was in that spirit that we decided to create this piece.

On a visit to New Orleans in 1993, I decided to bring along some tubes of acrylic paint, and a few brushes and pencils, with the hope that I would create something while I was there. I was staying at the apartment of Regina Perry, who lived in the French Quarter on Burgundy Street at the time. Jeffrey lived literally around the corner on St. Louis. He would come around every morning to get me. We’d pick a place to have coffee and then proceed to hang out in the streets all day, looking for “good junk” we could use in our work. One day we came across a piece of plywood and took it back to Regina’s apartment where we placed it on her dining room table, and decided that we would collaborate on something. I laid out the paints, pencils and the brushes. We had no preconceived ideas about what we were going to do. Approaching it like a doodle, we each just picked up a brush and started making marks.

We used anything we came across. The two strange heads, one painted by Jeffrey and one painted by me, were clay chunks we pulled out of Regina’s fireplace. We used cardboard, nails, brown paper bag, twigs from the yard, broken Mardi Gras beads and rusty objects we’d picked up on the street. At one point I told him I’d be right back, but didn’t tell him where I was going. I headed up through the French Quarter to a dusty old antique store, called Judy’s Collage, where we used to find miscellaneous objects. Among the things I nabbed were an old medicine bottle, a cowry shell wrapped in leather and a sweet little bird that I knew Jeffrey would love. I came back with the objects to find that he had wired my favorite paintbrush into the piece. An argument ensued. Sometimes Jeffrey could be like the mischievous little brother who’s a pain in the neck, and I suspect that he’d wired my paintbrush there to get a rise out of me and create a little tension while we were working. I softened a bit when I saw how happy he was with the little bird. I allowed the paintbrush to remain, and we continued to work for hours.

However, another argument arose when we agreed that the piece was finished and Jeffrey suddenly took a paintbrush loaded with chartreuse paint and made a swath down one side of it. For some unknown reason I hated that stroke of green, but he ignored me and, with a sly grin, he lifted the piece from the table and propped it up on the counter next to the stove. We stood side by side in the middle of the kitchen floor looking at it. “I hate that green!” I repeated. He just stood there smiling.

I brought the piece home with me where it has hung for the past fifteen years and each time I looked at it over the years, I had to laugh to myself, because I was too stubborn to tell him that I eventually came to love that green stroke of paint.

Renee Stout, Washington DC, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Delivering Deliverance

French poster for Deliverance
On Saturday, September 26, 2009, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art will present "Delivering Deliverance with Clint Maedgen and Helen Gillet." As part of our ongoing series, The Art of Southern Film: Established Masters & Emerging Makers produced by Madeleine Molyneaux, the Ogden has commissioned a new original score composed and to be performed live by Maedgen and Gillet.

Clint Maedgen is a multi-instrument singer, songwriter, composer and arranger born in Lafayette, LA. He started his career in New Orleans twelve years ago as a bicycle delivery boy in the French Quarter, and over the past twelve years, has risen to the top of the New Orleans music scene, winning the 2009 Big Easy Award for Best Male Performer. Most widely known for his work as leader of the cabaret game-show circus, The New Orleans Bingo! Show, Maedgen also plays for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and leads Liquidrone, Clint Maedgen with Strings and Clint Maedgen +9. He sang the National Anthem with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for the BCS National Championship at the Superdome last year. He has also performed at Radio City Music Hall, the White House and Ogden After Hours.

As you can see from the short film below (blending archival film with his own photographs), his talents do not stop with sound.

by wadesumrall
Helen Gillet is no stranger to the New Orleans music scene, herself. Growing up in Belgium, Chicago and Singapore, Gillet moved to New Orleans in 2002. Trained as a classical cellist, she has performed and recorded with a wide range of projects, including Happy Talk Band, James Singleton, Leroy Jones, Mafouz, Moose Jackson, the Zydepunks and Yippie poet Ed Sanders. According to her bio, she "uses electromagnetic effects, looping and vocal percussion to explore sound as well as the wide range of natural sounds possibly drawn, knocked, rubbed, sensed, bounced, scraped, plucked, and sung out through the acoustic cello."

The 1972 film, produced and directed by John Boorman, is based on the 1970 novel of the same name by Georgia-born poet and novelist, James Dickey, who performed the role of the sheriff. The film is set on the Cahulawassee River, in a valley soon to be destroyed by a dam built to supply Atlanta with water. The allegorical theme of man against nature is set up when the character of Lewis (played by Burt Reynolds) lectures his friends on why they should brave the river:
"...because they're buildin' a dam across the Cahulawassee River. They're gonna flood a whole valley, Bobby, that's why. Dammit, they're drownin' the river...Just about the last wild, untamed, unpolluted, unf--ked up river in the South."
The themes of man vs. nature, city vs. country, and man vs. adversity all find their focus with the River. It becomes both setting and player. Through my conversations with Maedgen and Gillet, it is clear that the River will play a major role in their composition and performance, as well, perhaps leaving the audience with a musical memory of iconic film beyond the enduring Dueling Banjos scene.
Doors open at 7:30. The film screens at 8. A whiskey reception will follow.