Fall Arts Preview
By Sarah Schaffer
Pathos and Pain
Phil Nesmith’s photographs of the oil-ravaged Gulf region and the wreckage surrounding BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster are a far cry from the images media outlets published or broadcast to the public. Unlike the sharp, kinetic and colorful shots of fires burning on the water and boom being laid down, his pictures offer up visions of the gritty, yet markedly more subtle, aftereffects of the tragedy and its cleanup. On view at Irvine Contemporary through October 16 in a show simply titled “Flow,” Nesmith’s compositions show off melancholy vignettes in black and white tones and velvety antique finishes, almost as if they’re relics from a historic archive.
To achieve such an effect, the photographer used a wet collodion process, which was developed in 1851 (around the time of the first oil well, coincidentally). It involves hand-pouring the collodion over a glass plate before transferring it to a camera for exposure. Such a complex technique involves careful orchestration and an on-site darkroom, as the chemicals cannot be allowed to dry or the photo won’t take. Nesmith chose the process for that type of symphony, where the images physically reflect the Gulf’s actual environment.
For Nesmith, born in New Iberia, Louisiana, the son of a former offshore oil rig worker, the project is also very personal. “It’s about the people taking their lives directly from the water,” he says. It’s also about examining the meaning of man-made disaster—the protracted pain and strife that remains long after the flurry of media attention starts to dissipate. For more information, visit irvinecontemporary.com.—DANIELLE O'STEEN
Arena's New Stage
New space, new season and a big anniversary to celebrate. It’s an exciting time for Arena Stage. Now known as Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, the respected performing arts house marks its 60th year with the unveiling of grand new digs this month.
The most notable new Washington performing arts space to welcome guests since the Kennedy Center opened in 1971, the center was made possible by a $35 million gift from Jaylee and the late Gilbert Mead, two prominent scientists who always exhibited a strong love for theater. “It’s the largest gift that’s ever been given to a theater company in the country. It’s transformative,” says longtime artistic director Molly Smith of the Mead’s endowment. The contemporary facility shows no resemblance to the company’s old home; masonry and stone have been ensconced in sleek glass panels and angular architectural elements have been softened into flowing waves. “I really wanted the new center to be open and transparent and welcoming to all of our audience members and artists, and that’s exactly the feeling we have,” Smith explains. “People can see in and see all of the wonderful activity—the theatrical combustion—inside, and I think that audiences will be so excited [to visit] because the spaces… are sculpturally just divine.”
Beyond Arena Stage’s impressive new footprint, which now includes three stages, there are more developments for the company. Five resident writers will work full-time with Arena Stage over the next three years and will be teamed with a young producing fellow to produce at least one play from each resident. And a new program for audiences dubbed Theater 101 will allow theater lovers to get an insider’s look at the production of a play from start to finish.
photographs by steve vaccariello (romeo & juliet); tom chambers (saccharine perch); courtesy irvine contemporary and phil nesmith (recovery worker, gulf of mexico, june 2010); luke stettner (sunlight in an empty room)
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.