The Salon

by Ivan Riascos

Two weeks ago I attend what might be my last Salon held by the Atlantic Center for the Arts.  My second year as an MFA candidate is coming to a close and usually third year candidates are not invited to attend the Salon, giving the opportunity and the experience for the incoming class and the second years.

The Atlantic Center for the Arts is a residency program that operates year round.  Each residency session has three master artists usually made up of one visual artist, one composer, and one writer.  For supporters of the program they have a night, usually a Thursday night that is a mix of a meet and greet, and show and tell of the artists, titled “The Salon.”

The night of the Salon the artists presented in the following order: Carolyn Forché- poetry/memoir, Richard Teitelbaum – composer, and Pat Oleszko- visual and performance art.   Carolyn talked about her experience second time around as a master artist in residency at the ACA, her new memoir about her experiences in El Salvador in the late seventies, and finally read a poem about her battle with cancer with a friend who succumbed to the disease.  Richard spoke about a opera that he is composing about the Rabbi Sabbatai Zevi, who claimed to be the Messiah, declared war on the Ottoman Empire, and who was then forced to convert to Islam.  Richard mostly works with electronic music, but for the opera he is working with traditional instruments, and singers.  The opera is performed in five different languages.

Please keep in mind I’m not an expert in literature or music, but Carolyn’s poem was very good, giving hope and inspiration in handling the difficulties of life.  Richard’s opera is an interesting idea, but the story doesn’t have a large audience appeal.  What crossed my mind was what if somebody wrote a modern day opera, but sung and composed like Verdi opera.  For example the story could be of Lindsey Lohan, Kurt Cobain, or Marilyn Monroe.   The majority of operas are tragic and yes I know of Rock Operas and Andrew Lloyd Webster, but I thought it would be interesting mixing the both to see what you get, with one hell of a light show similar to a Beyonce’ concert.

I knew a little of Pat Oleszko and her work prior to the Salon (see link below), but hearing her presentation made me appreciate her work more.  She presented in a way that an audience who is not well informed about performance art could relate and understand what she does.  She kept her art speak to a minimum; she did not over burden the audience with too much information about each performance to keep our imaginations going, and enticing us too keep listening.  By the end she had us all laughing and wanting more.  She is a court jester in today’s society, but she takes what she does very seriously, using humor primarily to tackle serious issues such as global warming.

In the past I have attended three salons where egos were big, and complications arose during the presentations, it was nice to end it with a laugh.