Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Prince and I


Today is a big day here on the blog: it’s my friend, Matt’s, birthday AND the gallery is having the opening of Henry Horentstein’s Show exhibit from 6-8.  Some of you may be thinking… how on earth can those two things have something in common?

When I moved back to Texas in September you might remember I stayed with Matt and Mallory in the interim until I found an apartment.  I’ve never really been a big watcher of America’s Got Talent but they were ub-sessed with one of the contestants at the time and told me I haaaad to watch it with them.  The contestant in question—Prince Poppycock—woul perform glam versions of opera arias (I’ll recuse myself from getting on my high horse about the fact that he’s not really an opera singer).  Needless to say, Matt kinda wouldn’t stop talking about him.

Jump ahead to a couple of weeks ago when we got the list of pictures for the exhibit and I saw there was a picture of Prince Poppycock in the collection! Before making it on America’s Got Talent, he was heavily involved in the neo-burlesque movement of the last decade and Henry had photographed him.  What syzygy!!

So for Matt’s birthday I thought I’d force myself into the picture a bit… … …

  2011-04-29 13.10.17   HAPPY BIRTHDAY FROM THE PRINCE AND I!!!!


Artist: Cy Coleman/ Album: Little Me

Friday, April 29, 2011

Love and the Rehearsal


Tonight I attended the rehearsal dinner (and of course actual rehearsal) for my friend Brett and his fiancĂ©e, Kat.  In a nut shell, Brett was my brother’s roommate during their tenure at Texas A&M and has since become a close friend of the family.  Matt is a groomsman, my nephew, Luke, is the ring bearer, and I’m singing… it’s basically Robert’s-palooza 2011 here in Houston this weekend! My friend, Monica, is my date for the weekend and was able to attend the rehearsal dinner with me at Ouisie’s Table.  Let’s enjoy some photographic evidence of the evening, shall we?!


Lamenting the fact that, although the party was decorated immaculately, I CAN’T GET AWAY FROM POTTERY BARN PRODUCTS!!!



Mom, Myself and Monica.  I always appreciate some good alliteration!



Dad couldn’t help but get in on the action (Facebook style).  Also, I have a bit of crazy eyes going on in this one…



Monica, an avid jogger, pointing out that the pan roasted chicken was served with “running gear”  (whatever the eff that means)



Me entertaining Luke with an Alphabet book.  (“P” is for “Pig” btw… in case you weren’t already aware)



Dad entertaining Dad with Luke’s Etch-a-Sketch.  THIEF!


DSC06315    DSC06316

Dessert Diptych #2 (You might remember #1 from an earlier post)


Artist: Stephen Warbeck/ Album: Shakespeare in Love

Boogie Shoes


Today we’re in the final swings of getting up the Henry Horenstein exhibit at the gallery.  For the last show, Keliy (the artist) and her husband Matt hung the pictures up themselves but generally Catherine does her own.  So this time she taught me all about installing… which, unfortunately, involves math and stuffs :(

2011-04-29 13.09.26

Look at me being all handy with tools.  There’s even a giiiiiant ladder in the background. 


Unfortunately, the illusion is mildly mostly completely shattered when you see the image I was putting up:



(Henry Horenstein: Shoes, California Institute of Abnormalarts (CIA), Los Angeles, CA, 2007)


And (because I couldn’t resist) a couple of completely mature and respectful shots:

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I may or may not have caught whopping cough from ol’ George Washington there. 

(Tip in Fishnets, Jacques Cabaret, Boston, MA, 2005 / Swords, Los Angeles, CA, 2005)


If you’re around for the opening tomorrow between 6 and 8 p.m. at the John Cleary Gallery you should stop by.  In addition to a book signing with the artist the Ruby Review Burlesque ensemble from Dallas will be performing live throughout the evening!!

Artist: KC & the Sunshine Band/ Album: Greatest Hits

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bravo Pour le Clown


I saw this interview with British comedian Russell Brand on recently and have watched it probably three other times since (mostly because I think it’s fascinating but partly because he speaks so eloquently/quickly I needed a bit more time to process.)  Before you say “pass,” though, realizes it’s not in any way a comedic set but rather a look at the culture of celebrity and what it entails and how it could one day be used to promote things other than, say, a can of shaving cream with Robert Downy, Junior’s face on it.


Artist: Edith Piaf/ Album: The Great Album

Sunday, April 24, 2011





2011-04-20 16.46.30

Modeling the latest fashion in maskwear ~ by Catherine’s son, Andre (For a different take on this image, check out the gallery’s Easter blog post!)


By the time many of you even read this post I will have most likely done three services at church.  Thaaaaaat’s right… I was up and awake at 3:30 a.m. in order to be at a rehearsal by 5:00.  We are doing a total of four services and I have the privilege of singing Ralph Vaughan Williams “Easter” from his Five Mystical Songs.  I have only done one of the other songs from this set, “The Call,” which I sang at Matt and Joanie’s wedding.

This past Good Friday my friend Paul and I took the opportunity to visit something that has been fairly high up on my list of “To-do’s” in Houston since moving here, The Rothko Chapel.

2011-04-22 17.56.44


This year celebrates the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Rothko Chapel by John and Dominique de Menil and famed abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. Fourteen commissioned Rothko pieces (three triptychs and five individual) adorn the walls of the chapel.  Well, I say “adorn” but there’s nothing remotely ornamental about the art or the architecture.


GQ recently named the space among it’s “top 10 most mind-blowing, energizing, unorthodox, and flat-out-cool places to experience art in America” stating:

Rothko, the son of Russian immigrants, never saw this space; he died in 1970, a few months before it opened, just before they had to crack open the roof and rig up a crane to lower in his paintings—creations so large they refused to be carried in through the doors. The paintings are the only adornment in this building that from the outside looks like an electrical substation, all bricks and no windows. But inside… Inside, it's a space that makes you feel like you're living in one of Rothko's paintings. It's a place that captures opposites: It's large yet intimate. Dark yet bright. Spare yet rich. The chapel is infinity captured. Vastness contained.

~Michael Hainey (read the entire article here)


A quick stroll down the street takes you to the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, which I had never heard of until Paul extolled how striking it is.  I think his exact words were more along the lines of: “This is probably my favorite place in the entire city.”  With a recommendation like that, how could I refuse?


(photo by Hester + Hardaway)


Opened in 1997, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel is the only place in the entire Western Hempisphere that contains intact frescoes of this style.  During the early 1980’s, the frescos were stolen from a chapel near Lysi, Cyprus, cut into 38 different pieces, and shipped to Germany for sale on the black market.  With the knowledge and approval of the Church of Cyprus, the Menil Foundation purchased the fragments and restored them to their full glory, going so far as to eschew museum placement and build an appropriately meditative environment in which to house them.


Built inside of a reliquary box of sorts, the chapel of sandblasted glass panels, steel and wood echoes the original Cyprus church from which the frescoes originated.

Orgichapel  3_byzantine_chapel_int2(Photo by Laurence Morrocco)                                        (Photo by Paul Warchol)




One of the aspects of both the Byzantine Fresco Chapel and the Rothko Chapel I appreciate the most is that the only light provided to either space is completely natural. How one painting looks during the morning will drastically change by the evening.  The glowing of the glass in the Byzantine chapel intensifies or softens depending on its exposure to the sun. 

All this being said, I believe I must concur with Paul’s earlier statement… this is now my favorite place in the city


Artist:Thomas Allen/ Album: Vaughan Williams- Five Mystical Songs

Saturday, April 23, 2011

An Identity Crisis (Or Two)


Last weekend I enjoyed a bit of a Mozart extravaganzafest in our fair city of Houston: Saturday night I went to the Alley Theater’s production of Amadeus with Paul, and Sunday afternoon I saw Houston Grand Opera’s production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro with Jennifer and Patty.  Let’s investigate, shall we?!

Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, a fictionalized historical play about the rivalry between famed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his contemporary, Antonio Salieri, premiered in London in 1979 and quickly transferred to a multi-Tony award winning production on Broadway the following year.  Four years later it was turned into a film of the same name and went on to garner a gazillion (approx.) Oscars.  I had never been to a production at the Alley before and figured this was as good a time as any!

2011-04-16 21.25.45


I remember watching the movie a loooong time ago and so I was pretty much going into it with a fresh perspective on the piece.  Even at about three hours and just one intermission I was entranced by the entire production—Jeffrey Bean and Stanley Bahorek’s portrayals of Salieri and Mozart, respectively, are still with me.  An added bonus of seeing the show is that a studio mate of mine from Michigan, Amanda Kingston, played the singing-only role of the soprano Katherina Cavalieri.  Not only does the girl know her way around some coloratura, but she can rock the hell out of a period costume as well!


The following afternoon I continued my HGO series with Jennifer and Patty to see Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, which now provides me the perfect venue to do a little retroactive blogging from the University of Michigan’s 2009 production of the same opera (and in which I played the role of Count Almaviva).



It would take a bit too long to explain the whole plot of Figaro, what with all the mistaken identities, geniological revelations, trickery and musicological implications of the work… for all that and the connection with Beaumarchais’ triology you can check out wikipedia’s article here.  Suffice it to say, the Count spends the whole show trying to sleep with his wife’s maid, Susanna, who is to be married to Figaro, the count’s attendant.  They, in turn, spend the whole opera trying to keep this from happening. Plus their’s bumbling gardeners, women-crazy soldiers, conniving cougars and much more!

Kyle Knapp, Basilio; Mary Martin, Susanna; Kate Wakefield, Cherbuino (video courtesy of Kyle’s iPhone) AND since I’m always up for a little inter-website promoting: check out Kyle’s website here and look for an ub-sessed shout-out in the “Links” section!


Now, some of you may have noticed an 8 foot tall portrait resembling a certain yours truly…


Dear art department: Thanks for superimposing my head onto this painting.  Next time, could you take a couple of inches off the middle, please!


9010figaroa33  9010figaroa17

Seducing who I think is Susanna but is, in actuality, my wife in disguise.       Hai gia vinta la causa-ing it



Best. Picture. EVAR!! Just look at the kuh-crazy we are all giving.  Anticdotally, it was during the end of this 20 minute long Act II finale that at one point I started seeing stars everywhere.  I thought to myself: “Now wait a minute, did someone change the stage direction and start throwing glitter from the rafters?!?”  No… in fact someone did not… I was just singing balls-to-the-walls and may or may not have almost passed out! (L to R: Ben Sieverding, Kristin Eder, Kyle Knapp, Joseph Roberts, Mary Martin)



I also really love this backstage shot Kyle took. (L to R: Rhea Olivacce, Kyle, Me, Ben, Kate)


Because I had such a substantial role in the opera, I had a substantial Texas delegation to come up and see it!!  This was actually Matt and Mallory’s first time away from their baby Paige and I’m so happy I had such strong support.


Lunch at Zingerman’s Deli!!!  Everyone minus Matt and Joanie, who had eaten there before when they came to see La boheme and did a little off campus sight seeing that day.


Artist: Andrew Lloyd Webber/ Album: By Jeeves

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Put Your Records On


This last Saturday across our great land was “Record Store Day,” celebrated by hipsters and audiophiles alike in musty smelling shoebox sized buildings masquerading as retail establishments. 

2011-04-16 16.38.26

Cactus Music even got into the spirit with live music!


One of my prized possessions is a record player I got several Christmases ago.  When I informed my parents it was what I wanted they seemed perplexed.  “You mean… … … like vinyl?”

record player

It’s like the iPod version of a record player


One of the best things about this one is that it is completely portable and can work off batteries if needed.  It has it’s own speaker so in a pinch you don’t have to plug into anything else to listen.  I have many great memories on the screened-in porch at the Broadway house in Ann Arbor with this lil’ biscuit providing the entertainment. PLUS, I can hook it up to my computer and digitally transfer the record into mp3’s which is buh-mazing because a lot of the records I have aren’t available on CD at all.


Very appropriate, I might add, seeing as how all my friend’s Facebook wall’s in Michigan have been lighting up because of the recent snowfall there this week!


I’ve amassed a nice little collection since then and take any opportunity to at least peruse stores when in another city. Ann Arbor had a really great store, Encore Records, and when visiting Jeremy, Clinton, Nate or Jamison I always reserved at least three hours for Cheapo Records.   Luckily, Houston has a handful of them and I spent several hours just hopping across the city and looking at their choices. 

There are some albums that I will ALWAYS buy, and on the top of that list is anything that Martin Katz has played on.  For those of you not in the know—Martin Professor Maestro Katz, called “the gold standard of accompanists” by the New York Times, is the professor of collaborative piano at the University of Michigan.  Oh, and he’s played with basically every great opera singer of the last thirty years, written a book, and is basically a musical genius (and I’m not just throwing that word around willy-nilly). In the four years I was a student at Michigan I had the privilege of taking every one of his song classes and being conducted by him in two operas (Puccini’s La boheme and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin).  Needless to say, any chance I see one of his records I snnnnnnatch it up, and on this most recent trip I got TWO!

2011-04-16 16.44.29   2011-04-16 17.31.50

                  It’s the return of Flicka!!!!!                             Martin Katz + Stephen Sondheim= BUH-LISS!!


One of the other reasons I really wanted to get out on this day was that Adele was releasing a special edition remix of some songs from her album just for “Record Store Day.”  I’ve extolled my love for her before (here and here) so it should be no surprise that I was on the hunt for the disc! The first three places I visited had sold out and it was at the last stop that I was able find one—and it was their last copy!!! 


And, if anyone out there is making a list—though to be fair, I am still waiting on that watch—if you ever run across Astor Piazzolla records puh-lease get it for me and I’ll pay you back.  The guy who owned Encore in Ann Arbor was a big fan and would always hoard them away for himself whenever someone brought one in!


Artist: Corinne Bailey Rae/ Album: Corinne Bailey Rae

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tax Free


Even though yesterday was technically tax day here in the U.S. of A. I decided I would celebrate on its rightful day, the 15th.  And what better way to celebrate than by having the government provide me with a night of entertainment!!

My friend Julia (whom you may or may not remember from my trip to D.C. earlier this year) is a member of the United States Air Force Singing Sergeants, who, along with the Air Force Band, are currently on tour.  Luckily for me they made a concert appearance a little over an hour away in Huntsville!

For a little refresher, here is Julia singing with the band:


Also lucky for me was the fact that even though they were performing in Huntsville they were staying in The Woodlands.  Translation: I got to party with them afterwards at Blush Lush Crush and stay at Mallory’s!

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A Singing Sergeant and a Dap Queen!


Even if it was just for a mere evening it was great to see Julia again! Plus, I did Texas proud by taking her and her friend Joe for a late night Waterburger, excuse me…What-a-burger run.  Keepin’ it classay 4EVER!!!


Artist: Joni Mitchell/ Album: The Beginning of Survival

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When the Sun Comes Out


Ignoring the fact that Houston was dissed to receive one of the space shuttles today, I thought we’d celebrate another anniversary (the 50th of manned space flight and the 30th of the shuttle program) with a new header and some fascinating shots of the heart of our solar system— the sun!



“A cloud of ionized gas floats over the surface of the sun. […] Using a filter that only records a narrow wavelength of light emitted by hydrogen. [Alan] Friedman captured the sun’s texture and eruption.” (via




The TRACE satellite takes a close-up image of a magnetic active region at the limb of the Sun - the bright arches are due to the Sun's strong magnetic field channelling the hot, million degree ionised gases. (via ScienceDaily)




February 7, 2011 (via NASA)- The Sun unleashing one of its most powerful explosions, and X-class flare




Jimmy Dean, unleashing some serious sausage and eggs


Artist: Barbra Streisand/ Album: The Second Barbra Streisand Album

My Love, If I Die and You Don’t


Last night I had the pleasure of going to see my friend, Paul, perform the title role in Daniel Catan’s opera, Il postino, based on the film of the same name.  It was also a bittersweet moment… this past weekend the composer passed away in Austin, Texas at the age of 62. 

That’s my friend!!!!!


I was only marginally aware of his work (a scene from another of his operas, Florencia en el Amazonas, was performed at U of M) but Houston and the opera world will suffer greatly from his loss.  The score to Il postino was lush and gorgeous in a Puccini/Debussy kind of way and it was such a treat to hear the first production mounted since its premier at L.A. Opera last year.


The cast, crew and orchestra appearing before the show to announce the performance would be given in memory of Daniel Catan


As the opera centers around the friendship between famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and an illiterate postman, I thought it would be fitting to post one of my favorite Neruda poems:

Amor mio si muero tu no mueres

My love, should I die and you don’t,
let us give grief no more ground:
my love, should you die and I don’t,
there is no piece of land like this on which we've lived.

Dust in the wheat, sand in the desert sands,
time, errant water, the wandering wind
carried us away like a navigator seed.
In such times, we may well not have met.

The meadow in which we did meet,
oh tiny infinity, we give back.
But this love, Love, has had no end,

and so, as it had no birth,
it has no death. It is like a long river
that changes only its shores and its banks.

(Translation: Terence Clarke)


Artist: Peter Lieberson, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson/ Album: Neruda Songs

The Bottom is Out of the Tub


I always love when Catherine comes into work with ideas for the gallery blog, partially because it gives me a chance to learn about something new but mostly because I know I can poach it for my own usage! 

The 150th anniversary of the American Civil War is being observed today and I thought it would be as good a time as any to look back at some of the oft-forgotten photographs from the late nineteenth century. (All examples taken from, a fantastic compendium of over 1,200 high-quality pictures from the era)


George A. Custer and General Alfred Pleasonton on Horseback- Falmouth, VA, April 1863



Mathew B. Brady’s Photographic Outfit in the Field- Near Petersburg, VA, 1864



Dinner Party Outside Tent at the Army of the Potomac Headquarters- Brandy Station, VA, April 1895



Ward in the Carver General Hospital- Washington, D.C.



President Lincoln’s Funeral Procession on Pennsylvania Avenue- Washington, D.C., April 19, 1865


Artist: Frank Wildhorn/ Album: The Civil War

Friday, April 8, 2011

De fleurs


One of the perks of working at the John Cleary Gallery is that I have free reign to explore drawer after drawer of the gallery’s collection.  I have mentioned in a previous post my love of Maggie Taylor’s work and when I came across “The Patient Gardener” I was reminded of a song from Claude Debussy’s Proses Lyriques entitled “De fleurs” (The Flowers).


Maggie Taylor: The Patient Gardener


Debussy’s lyrics, which he wrote himself, are as follows.  (Translation by Faith J. Cormier via The Lied, Art Song, and choral Texts Page)

In the desolate green boredom of pain's hothouse, flowers surround my heart with their nasty stems. When will the dear hands return to delicately untangle them from round my head? The tall purple Iris cruelly violated your eyes by seeming to reflect them. They were the pools of reverie into which my dreams softly dove, absorbed by their colour. And the lilies, white jets of water with perfumed pistils, have lost their white grace and are but poor invalids who do not know the sun. Sun! Friend of evil flowers, dream-killer, illusion-killer, holy bread of miserable souls! Come! Come! Saving hands! Smash the windows of lies, smash the windows of evil spells, my soul is dying from too much sun! Mirages! Joy will never flower again in my eyes and my hands are tired of praying, my eyes tired of crying! In an eternal crazed noise, the black petals of boredom drip constantly on my head in pain's green hothouse!

But really… why reference a Debussy song and post the poetry without also putting up a stunning performance?  My friend Janai, whom I have mentioned here before, sang the set on her master’s recital at the University of Michigan a couple of years ago and her performance of this song in particular has managed to stay buried in my sub-conscience.  Pianist (and dear friend) Jeremy Reger also brings the requisite foggy lushness to Debussy’s accompaniment.

And as always I’ll add my caveat that the image above is only a representation of what it really looks like up close.  So come in the gallery and check out this piece or any others in our collection!

Artist: Janai Brugger-Orman, Jeremy Reger

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


[via GawkerTV]

It’s such a pretty day outside here in Texas and I thought I’d post a video I saw a while back… you know I’m always up for some time-lapse goodness!

Check out Neil Bromhall’s Youtube page for more!


Artist: The Rolling Stones/ Album: Big Hits

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner


Next on my “Documentaries via Netflix” series is Proetus, an utterly fascinating look at the life of 19th century German biologist/artist Ernst Haeckel.  While at the Hirschorn recently I saw this DVD on sale in the gift shop and it immediately piqued my interest.


As Netflix summarizes, the filmexamines the work of Ernst Haeckel, the German biologist-artist who dedicated his life to finding and documenting the connection between the disparate worlds of art and science. Drawing on Haeckel's fascinating lithographs of the tiny undersea organisms called radiolarian, Lebrun's poetic film brings the biologist's visions to life and further explores the artistry of the natural world.”

Well just what the heck are radiolarian?!?!, you might be asking yourself.  I Marian Seldes, the film’s narrator, sums it up pretty nicely:

The microscopic radiolarian is part of the floating oceanic plankton, a frothy, ameba like drop of protoplasm with a network of branching pseudopods to engulf and absorb tiny pray. But, the radiolarian also absorbs silica from seawater then excretes it to construct a glasslike skeleton.  In each species this translucent cage assumes a unique form. The radiolaria are over 500 million years old—among the earliest skeletonized life forms. They are like an alphabet of possibilities, as if the ancient sea were dreaming in its depths all the future permutation of organic and invented form, from back bones to bridges and from the earth to the stars.

According to Proteus, there are over 5,000 species of radiolarian in existence, and Haeckel documented and drew just under 4,000 of them in his life time, culminating in his work Art Forms from the Ocean: The Radiolarian Atlas of 1862

Image3_RadiolarianColorPain   haeckel


Director David Lebrun photographed thousands of individual drawings and compiled them into several animation sequences interspersed throughout the film, a process that took just over two decades (he began in the early 80’s, waaaaay before the advent of the necessary computer generated effects).


BUT WAIT!!! Purchase now and we’ll throw in a copy of Haeckel’s other magnum opus, Art Forms in Nature, which translates his boring ol’ radiolarian doodles into birds *gasp* fish *ooooooooh* and plantlife *aaaaaahh* (Click to enlarge)

427px-Haeckel_Trochilidae  2010-02-22-Haeckel_Ostraciontes  Haeckel_Orchidae

Take THAT James Audubon!!


As an astonishing amalgam of art, science and religion, Proteus also successfully interweaves the history of the 19th century Challenger naval expedition, Greek mythology, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the philosophy and poetry of Goethe as well as the effects of Haeckel’s ideas on mind’s like Sigmund Freud and Thomas Edison.  It’s quite a conceit to pull off but, even clocking in at 60 minutes, it’s one that pays off.

You must, when contemplating nature,
Attend to this, in each and every feature:
There’s nought outside and nought within,
For she is inside out and outside in.
Thus will you grasp, with no delay,
The holy secret, clear as day.

~Goethe (translated by Christopher Middleton)

from Epirrhema (c. 1819)

Artist: Iron Maiden/ Album: Powerslave