Saturday, May 27, 2023

British photos show underclass stories of 1970s and 1980s

Martin Parr (b. 1952), Peter Frazier, New Brighton, Merseyside, 1984, chromogenic print, National Gallery of Art. This makes me particularly sad.  There's a crying baby begging for attention while his mother/caregiver sunbathes, needing a break, no doubt.  The clash of humans with different needs.  The baby won't stay a baby for long. Pick her up, Mother!

Karen Knorr, (b. 1954, Germany), Newspapers are no longer ironed, Coins no longer boiled So far have Standards Fallen., 1981–1983, printed 2015, gelatin silver print, National Gallery of Art. Knorr gained access to exclusive men's clubs to make photographs like this one which may be linked to a former lover of hers.

If you want to see what the rest of Britain looked like in the 1970s and 1980s, don't miss the photo exhibition at the National Gallery of Art before it closes June 11. 

By "rest of," I mean those who are not usually pictured or the "non-subjects," the working classes, those members of society living on the edge, some "hand to mouth," struggling just to get by.  

The exhibition is an eclectic mix, part bleak, part gloomy and dismal, but part inspirational. Life does have its moments of joy, even for these subjects, but those events are not worth the camera, are they?  

Colin Jones, 1936-2021, The Black House, London, 1973–1976, gelatin silver print, National Gallery of Art. Before he devoted himself to photography, Jones was a ballet dancer who died of Covid-19.

Chris Killip, (1946-2020),  Crabs and People, Skinningrove, North Yorkshire, UK, 1981, gelatin silver print, National Gallery of Art. For Killip's Seacoal series, he lived for more than a year in a trailer on the beach to gain the trust of his neighbors.  Do you think they minded being his subjects?

Kara Felt, the curator from the Denver Botanic Gardens but formerly at NGA, noted that the wall copy claims the photographers weren't trying to change the world, but simply "bearing witnesses." Their portraits made them aloof but willing participants.   

In mostly black and white, the pictures tell a story of Britain when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, when the Beatles were singing "All We Need is Love!" (Of interest, many celebrated the prime minister's death last month on the tenth anniversary of her passing, April 8, 2013.) 

Not all the photographers were born in Britain, Ms. Felt said. She called the era "a period of rebellion" with labor unrest, high inflation and unemployment (not unlike today's world). Good night! It was another social revolution which the National Gallery of Art labeled a "revolution in British photography," too. 

Chris Steele-Perkins. (b. 1947, Myanmar), Hypnosis Demonstration, Cambridge University Ball, 1980–1989, silver dye bleach print, National Gallery of Art. The photographer moved to color after he recorded Ireland's "Troubles" in the 1980s. Upon seeing this when he was younger, my now-grown son would have said: "Mom!  This is ridicqulus!" 

Decades before self-publishing became more of the norm, some of the photographers in this show were self-publishers, like Paul Graham, whose A1: The Great North Road helped introduce color photography.

Some pictures satirize the upper classes, naturally, like one of a room of young partygoers experiencing hypnosis at a cocktail party and another one by of a disconcerted woman off to the side, ignored by others at an event.

Photos line the walls in two galleries plus an extension of the show screens in a small adjacent theatre, a 59-minute film, Handsworth Songs, 1986, produced by the Black Audio Film Collective whose Reece Auguiste was guest curator for the exhibition. The film is harsh and violent at times, illustrating true Afro-Asian experiences, past and present, with archival footage and a mix of reggae and post-punk music.(Handsworth is a section of Birmingham.)  

I've always found photo exhibitions rather depressing, perhaps because they are mostly black and white made by contemporary photographers, like artists, who focus on realism, the dystopian world, rather than anything remotely optimistic, with color and enthusiasm. 

Hidden here, however, under all the fortifications, I found a glimmer of hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

The Gallery's Diane Waggoner, curator of photography, helped organize the exhibition.

What: This is Britain:  Photographs from the 1970s and 1980s

When: Through June 11, 2023. The National Gallery hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily.  Open Memorial Day.

Where: West Building, Ground Floor: G27, 28, 29, National Gallery of Art, 6th and Constitution, Washington

How much: Admission is always free at the National Gallery of Art.

Metro stations for the National Gallery of Art:
Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: (202) 737-4215

Accessibility information: (202) 842-6905

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

In Memoriam: Tina Turner, 1939-2023


The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, April 2, 2022/By Patricia Leslie
Kayla Davion was Tina Turner in The Tina Turner Musical at Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, New York City, April 2, 2022/By Patricia Leslie
Kayla Davion was Tina Turner in The Tina Turner Musical at Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, New York City, April 2, 2022/By Patricia Leslie
Kayla Davion was Tina Turner in The Tina Turner Musical at Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, New York City, April 2, 2022/By Patricia Leslie
Kayla Davion was Tina Turner in The Tina Turner Musical at Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, New York City, April 2, 2022/By Patricia Leslie

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Manassas presents exquisite 'Swan Lake'


The Manassas Ballet Theatre performs Swan Lake/Manassas Ballet Theatre

It's seldom that I cry at a ballet, but it's seldom that I see one like Swan Lake as presented by the Manassas Ballet Theatre and Orchestra. It tore at my emotions, extracting unexpected physical responses as they were affected by outstanding music and dance.

It was Peter Tchaikovsky's classic which never grows old.

Odette/Odile*(Aliaksandra Krukava) was the prima ballerina, both good and evil in different roles, the white and black swan, captivated by the evil minded Rothbart* (Nurlan Kinerbayev) and rescued in love by the handsome Prince Siegfried* (Vladimir Tapkharov). 

In perfect unison, Mr. Kinerbayev and Mr. Tapkharov made grand jete leaps and splits simultaneously in opposite directions towards the corners of the stage to take away your breath to see them hang in space together and independently in solos. 

Mr. Tapkharov's lifts of Ms. Krukava were made with ease, he never exhibiting the slightest weariness. 

Ms. Krukava was equally as impressive, capturing her flight and waving her swan wings up and down, her arms about as long as her legs, as she fluttered all over the Prince and tried to beat back the evildoer Rothbart, he, who disguised his daughter, Odile (Ms. Krukava), as a copy of Odette (identity theft!) so the daughter could steal the Prince, and Odette would forever remain a swan.  

It almost worked.  

Odette was shy and timid, chosen by the prince to be his bride, trying hard to resist the evil around her. But as the cruel Odile, Ms. Krukava became aggressive and loud, matching the fast movement of her wings with those of her father, both in black, he like a giant raven swooping in and around and waving his arms like a flying dinosaur about to catch his prey.

One of the ballet's most famous scenes is Act II's "Dance of the Little Swans" when four ballerinas clasp their hands crisscross with perfect precision, bobbing and turning their heads and dancing together across the stage.  Victoria Bartlett, Annemieke Bruce (also a costume assistant),  Alice De Nardi, and Claire Thomas were the pas de quatre for Manassas. 

They followed the delightful Pas de Trois in Act I, another synchronized dance by Veronica Plys (also a costume assistant), Hallie Wilde, and Pavlo Yevtushenko.

But, it was the jester* (Pavel Bochkovsky) who stole the scene whenever he was on stage with huge leaps and splits mid-air and a jolly good nature to bring dashes of humor to the tragedy in play.

The ballet included a large cast with children, some who appeared to be as young as four years old, whose long hours of rehearsal were evident with their attention to timely dance and steps. 

Each scene's finish was timed to equal the final orchestral sequence, the music under the baton of Christopher Hite, the beloved conductor who received enthusiastic endorsement by the audience. Eric Sabatino dominated much of the ballet with Tchaikovsky's soft harp of which I can still fortunately hear 48 hours later.

Costume mistress Juli Masters, aided by assistants Ms. Bruce and Ms. Plys with Marie Komyathy, Morgan Mikluscak and Jennifer Sparlin, created beautiful gowns and tutus with luminous sparkle for the ballerinas while the men wore white tights and feminine vests to color coordinate with their female companions.

Stephen Winkler's lighting was on pointe, fading and brightening as the acts required, showering the two lovers at the end with bright diamond light.

After the first act, the ballet's executive director Mark Wolfe popped from behind the curtain and came on stage to thank major sponsors and to recognize the talents of scenic artist, Tim Grant, who created the massive, colorful backdrops of a garden, the haunting lake, and a magnificent ballroom.

At the end, the audience warmly received artistic director Amy Grant Wolfe and choreographer Vadim Slatvitskiy, whose assistants were Joshua Burnham (who was Prince Siegfried at other performances), and dancers Claire Thomas and Hallie Wilde. 

Some Swan Lakes end sadly but Manassas gave us a happy finish to send us all into that good night and revel in the grand evening.   

If the ballet and music were independent performances, one without the other, they would be marvelous, stunning as separate shows but the combination of the ballet with live music produces joy to those lucky enough to witness them. 

The dancers came from around the world: Egypt, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and the U.S. exhibiting excellent showmanship and demonstrating that culture and the arts should not suffer for war and political reasons.

The performance was at the Hylton Performing Arts Center with free parking,  printed programs, comfortable seating and more room between rows than what is usually found at Washington venues.

*Dancers in these roles at other performances were Pavel Bochkovsky, Hannah Locke, Kyrylo Kruhlove, Ahmed Nabil, and Kurumi Miwa.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

The non-EU open embassies were better

The European Union Delegation building at K and 22nd was the only "open embassy" I found Saturday which had no waiting, perhaps because it was far (relatively speaking) from the embassies and because it's not an embassy!/By Patricia Leslie

Better for shorter wait times, more food and drink, more tours, more interiors, almost three times as many open (59 v. 24) which helped spread out the crowds and afforded opportunities to see more embassies!

Comparing last week's "open embassies" with this week's and there was no disputing the winner.  

No close horse race.  Not even a horse in sight May 13 but Saudi Arabia had one May 6. (Huh?  See last week's link above.) 

No overweight ambassadors allowed at the ambassadors' table at the EU Delegation building since it's a bit of a squeeze to get in and sit down/By Patricia Leslie
Although not a member (yet), Ukraine had a table and representatives at the EU Delegation building/By Patricia Leslie
Between the couple is a signature on the Ukrainian flag by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy which says "Ukraine is Brave!" The fellow pictured above did not appear that glum when chatting, only when photographed. They gave out lapel pins which said "Ukraine NOW." Yes!/By Patricia Leslie

Only at the European Union Center on K Street was there no waiting on Saturday to enter and check out the digs for a few moments, welcome the Ukrainian delegation, see the ambassadors' meeting table (so small and crowded, even empty), collect an EU bag (nice) and  thermos and move on.

The crowds Saturday!  

Oh, my!  The waits!  Of no less than an hour each at Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia.  

Too much and too many!

Student art depicting the importance of water was displayed in a hallway at the EU Delegation building. A description of the artist, an elementary school student in Croatia, Nela Bolfek, included: "The water in Croatia is still clean and she [the artist] realizes that she is the one who will in the future protect the cleanliness of the water."/By Patricia Leslie
A gallery of student art at the EU Delegation building/By Patricia Leslie
From the EU building, up 22nd I walked to find massive crowds, here at the Luxembourg embassy on the left and, across Mass Ave., a line waiting for Greece/By Patricia Leslie

The line at Luxembourg wrapped left around the building and then down a street. Beer's always a good draw but it wasn't necessary Saturday since the crowds came, beer or not which was usually the latter/By Patricia Leslie
After an hour's wait, finally!  Here we are at the Romanian embassy/By Patricia Leslie

Nothing to consume at Romania (like I only go for the eats, but they do make a difference; sure) but dancers and singers to entertain under a tent outside.
 Romanian dancers entertain those in the line/By Patricia Leslie
More Romanian dancers entertain/By Patricia Leslie

At last!  Inside one of the EU embassies which was Romania here where a wine salesman talked about the goodness of Romanian wines, but (sorrow) none to sample! Perhaps, I was too young/By Patricia Leslie
Upstairs at the Romanian embassy. See the beautiful railing and the luxurious room which overlooks 23rd/By Patricia Leslie
Upstairs at the Romanian embassy/By Patricia Leslie
Upstairs at the Romanian embassy/By Patricia Leslie
Upstairs at the Romanian embassy/By Patricia Leslie
Meanwhile, back on the streets, take a look at this!  The line on the left was waiting for Greece, while the line on the right which is hardly visible, was waiting for Bulgaria.  Wait on, brothers and sisters!  Wait on! I won't be there/By Patricia Leslie
The line to Croatia was too long but these musicians played for the weary/By Patricia Leslie
Alas, the line was too long at Slovenia for me to wait. After three hours, all I got in was one embassy (Romania) and the EU House. Last week I visited eight of the embassies where none of us starved.  Maybe, the non-EUs can give classes to the EUs and show them how "open embassies day" is done right/By Patricia Leslie

At Croatia I did not wait, nor at Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia, or Luxembourg, but on the sidewalk beyond the line at Luxembourg, I chanced upon some lads who told me they skipped the tour line and headed straight for the tented outdoor bar (okay with the guard) which took me about 20 seconds to join them and sample beer (which tasted like apple beer ?) and collect American candy bars (?) and cookies.

Ahhh...some sustenance.  It was after lunch, but everyone seemed happy and no one was complaining, although several gave up waiting in the lines and moved on.  Smart people!

On my way to Slovenia (having missed the California Ave. turn), I passed by the former Venezuelan embassy and residence, all closed up now but not several years ago when Hugo Chávez was president, and the Corcoran Gallery (or the Smithsonian? can't remember) hosted a wonderful (paid) dinner for members and a first-floor tour of the facility.


Today we were blessed by cloudy skies, a drizzle here and there, excellent waiting temperatures and, after all, opportunities to visit embassies, presuming you had all day and night, if they were open that long. Not!

Friday, May 12, 2023

A national azalea garden in Washington, D.C.

Part of the azalea collections at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie

Lavenders at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie
Azaleas at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie

A haven for peace and nature seekers who want greens on the grounds which rise towards the sky and provide beautiful natural color can be found within the city limits of Washington, D.C. at the  National Arboretum.

Look, look!  

A beauteous site of hillside azaleas may still be in bloom by the time you read this, spreading their pale colors hither and yon to soothe a weary soul. 

At the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie
Part of the azalea collections at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie
Lavenders at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie
A forest of color at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie 
Can you find the frogs at the U.S. National Arboretum?/By Patricia Leslie
Azaleas of all colors at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie
Azaleas at the National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie
Azaleas at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie
Wandering the azalea paths at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie

If you're a guest or member of St. John's Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square, you may join others to partake in a eucharist right in the center of it all and praise God for these heavenly surroundings. 

The National Arboretum brochure says its staff planted more than 15,000 azaleas on Mount Hamilton in 1946-47 which is the Arboretum's highest point at 240 feet and one of the highest elevations in the District of Columbia, offering a view of the U.S. Capitol, two miles west.

Landscape artist B.Y. Morrison arranged the cascading symphony, stacking colors and timing  blooms. 

Azaleas are not solo greens which thrive here, but they are joined by dogwoods, ornamental cherry trees, magnolias, boxwoods, and many more examples of nature's bounty.

Merriam-Webster says "arboretum" is "a place where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes."

The Arboretum's website (which hasn't been updated since 2017 [budget cuts, you understand]) says the garden was established in 1927 by an act of the U.S. Congress. It operates under the umbrella of the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

The park has 451 acres and 9.5 miles of winding roadways.  The visitor count is about 600,000 annually.  Garden clubs and volunteers help maintain the galleries where  research, development and education are ceaseless.  

Yes, you can get married here and celebrate other festivities, too. See the website. 

An azalea forest at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie
Azaleas at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie
The colors are a welcome sight from the browns and greys of winter. Can you smell their fragrance? Anything this lovely must smell good but they have none. Not needed!/By Patricia Leslie

 They could be ballerinas dancing in tutus at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie

In the distance at the Arboretum are the National Capitol Columns which formerly stood at the U.S. Capitol 1828-1958 but were moved in 1958 for the Capitol's expansion and because of a design flaw/By Patricia Leslie
Twenty-two National Capitol Columns now at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie

A plaque describes the efforts for 30 years by Arboretum friend and benefactor, Ethel Shields Garrett, to have the Columns permanently placed at the Arboretum. For years the Columns lay in storage and were dedicated here in 1990/By Patricia Leslie
The first inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln with the National Capitol Columns, March 4, 1861/Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons, Alexander Gardner, possible photographer

The plaque dedicated to Ethel Shields Garrett at the National Capitol Columns/By Patricia Leslie
Two of the original 24 Capitol Columns are damaged and lay in the Arboretum's azaleas gardens nearby/By Patricia Leslie
The National Capitol Columns at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie
The National Capitol Columns at the U.S. National Arboretum/By Patricia Leslie

You may find as did I the sudden surprise of large columns rising from the ground on a vacant piece of hillside which captivate sight and incite wonder about their locations here.

It's how the stars are lit at night
     and how the dew drops glisten
     How evening shadows mock the light
     and it's how the silence listens

     From the gentle sway of trees
     that bid such fond adieu
     Songs in a summer breeze
     a voice so clear, so true

     The glory of such symmetry
     so more than fills the eye
     To the beauty of such poetry
     this hopeful heart draws nigh

     In natural peace all love is born
     To live and thrive each blessed morn

"Nature's Gift," Charlie Smith, March 14, 2017

What:  The National Arboretum

Where:  3501 New York Ave., NE, Washington, D.C. 20002

When:  Open 7 days/week (except Christmas Day), 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Admission:  It's free!

Information: and 202-245-2726