The Denouement of DORA

•November 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

DORA’s cast, stage manager, playwright, director, producer and lighting designer. Photo by Yuri Tajiri.

This past weekend, we closed DORA with another packed house and a final beautiful performance. We told a story about love, loss and war in Parisian cafes and art studios (a poignant task this closing weekend). We pulled off a nightly load-in and load-out that required five cars, four women and one fantastic new friend (thanks Ron!). We even had the ambient sounds of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” – which really has special resonance when you’re trying to recreate the bombing and painting of Guernica onstage (or Journica as it should now be known). We were reunited with old friends and made some beautiful new ones. No journey is complete without honoring all the wonderful souls who made it happen and gave us an incredible producing experience.

Lojo Simon, the playwright – thank you for a beautiful script, for your encouragement and guidance during the process, for answering all our questions and for supporting us along the way.

Kellie Yvonne Raines, the director – thank you for taking on this story, for fostering such a wonderfully creative environment, for your consistent encouragement, for your love of the process, for your inventive staging and mostly for your relentless investment in making this show the best it could be.

Mariam Helalian, the stage manager- thank you for putting up with us and our antics, for your impeccable problem-solving abilities and professionalism, for your laughter in even the darkest of times, and especially for your time calls. “Places, bitches.”


DORA cast on opening night. Photo by Yuri Tajiri.

Bridggett, Kim, Analise, Stephanie and Sarah – thank you for stepping outside of your comfort zones, for taking a chance on this process and for going above and beyond in every rehearsal and every performance. We have learned so much in watching you work and have reveled in seeing you all shine onstage. Your investment in this show was humbling to say the least and your talent floors us.

Nas, Victor, Martha, Ciara, Gail and Corey – thank you for following us down this crazy rabbit hole, for your innovation in design, for all of the hours you spent researching and constructing and drafting and pulling and patching and sitting in exhausting — but always humorous — production meetings. We asked so much of you, and you never ceased to deliver phenomenal work.

Yuri, thank you for your wonderful eye and for photos that live and breathe to tell the story of this process. Shelly, thank you for guiding us so elegantly through the tragedy of Guernica. Thank you to Parker for lending your mad carpentry skills and Jonathan for all of your costume support during one of the oddest tech weeks ever. To our sponsors, blogpost artists and everyone who otherwise gave us their time, energy and talent, we are so very grateful to you for all that you did.

But we save our biggest gratitude for last. To our audiences, to everyone who came out to the show and joined us, we thank you. After all, you are the reason we do all this, in the hope that something in a show will touch you or make you think. There is no greater happiness than sharing this work with you. And a special thanks to everyone who reached out after the show and shared their support. You inspire us to no end.

Audience Response


DORA: Artist Conversations with Joy Bertinuson

•October 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This is the latest in a series of interviews with local female artists, as a complement to our current production of ADORATION OF DORA. This week, we are highlighting local artist Joy Bertinuson. Joy has a BA in Studio Art from Sac State, and also attended The School of the Art Institute in Chicago after getting her bachelor of arts degree. A teacher as well as an artist, she has worked with the developmentally disabled and incarcerated youth offenders, and earned an MFA from Claremont Graduate University.  She continues to teach at American River College and Sac State.

Joy describes her work: “The themes that I am drawn to are absence (violence, death, post or pre apocalyptic events), humor (absurdity), domesticity (occasionally idyllic; a place to explore sexuality and creativity, and also a place of violence and loss), as well as artist related themes (mentorship, appropriation, the gallery scene). Through images of objects, and of figures, these themes are more or less revealed within the narratives presented in my work. In terms of subject matter, I think of my images as a sort of history painting, in a way, albeit a personal history.”


  1. What type of art do you create? What themes does your work usually touch on?

I consider myself a narrative artist who draws upon personal experience, along with invention, to create works that are at times humorous, absurd, and dark. With a love of art history, I often reference, or appropriate, the images I’ve absorbed through the many years of looking, and lecturing to college students.  I’m restless in the studio and as such I’ve worked in oil and acrylic paint, as well as with pyrography (woodburning), and have ventured into assemblage. I’m currently developing a body of drawings in China marker, and paintings in encaustic, in which I consider boxing as a metaphor for painting.

  1. What has your artistic journey been like up to this point? What has been your proudest achievement? What has been your biggest challenge?

Surprising! I was not a good high school student, and when I started enrolling in classes in community college I didn’t have the skills, or motivation, to complete those courses.  The first two or three semesters I was on academic probation. It wasn’t until a summer oil painting class, taken on a whim, that art chose me. From then on, when asked how I would support myself I declared I would be an art teacher without really knowing if I would, or could, teach. Somehow I’ve managed to keep at it; earning a B.A. degree, and eventually an M.F.A, and teaching in a variety of settings, as well as creating and exhibiting work.  In regards to challenges, I find that I have trouble saying “no” when it comes to being asked to volunteer time, and many of my female artist friends suffer the same dilemma. There’s an inherent need to please, and to be helpful, sometimes at one’s own expense, accompanied by a fear of being left out of opportunities in the future if you refuse requests.  Many of the male artists I know seem to not have this issue, and are quite well respected even if they have a reputation of being a curmudgeon!

The Lovers by Joy Bertinuson

The Lovers by Joy Bertinuson

  1. In Adoration of Dora, the role of Dora Maar is actually played by two actresses. One is Dora, the ego, consumed by the need to be seen and adored. The other is Maar, the id, who acts as Dora’s inner voice and inner critic pushing her to create her own work despite Picasso’s involvement in her life. How does your inner voice/inner critic articulate itself while you are working? Is it a positive or negative influence?

The act of being engaged and making stuff is often an effective way of silencing the critic. Not that there aren’t days that you just feel like throwing in the towel, so to speak. There are plenty of moments that you doubt your capabilities or vision or whatever it is that drives us, but to not be working at it is worse.  There’s a certain satisfaction in the effort….because all is not lost and you feel that there is still a chance at success if you are in the studio. When I get pulled away by life for too long, that’s when I start calling myself a hack.

  1. How has being a woman altered your perspective on being an artist? Are there difficulties you have faced as an artist solely because of your gender? 

For some reason, as a young person, it didn’t occur to me that I might be limited by gender, or that others might consider my gender a limitation. I was always so much in my own head that I was pretty naïve about the world. Life experience has shown me there are still people in the world who view women as inferior, and this may never change, but I don’t think young men in this country hold that position in the way that perhaps their grandfathers, or great-grandfathers might have when gender roles were much different. It’s not been in my nature to let a man keep me down, or anyone for that matter. And, to be fair, artists in general, regardless of gender, must suffer a lot of humiliation, as much as any musician, poet, or actor, I suspect.

  1. Have you ever sat or been depicted by another artist? If so, what was that experience like?

Funny you should ask. Recently I was photographed by Kurt Fishback who is documenting women artists in their studios.  He is working on a long-term project, in part to make up for the fact that he spent the early part of his career primarily documenting male artists. As much as I wanted to participate, I had a lot of anxiety during the process, however he was easy to work with. I like that he made my studio look like a magical place when it’s really dark and dank like a dungeon!

Check out Joy’s work here! And don’t forget to purchase your tickets for ADORATION OF DORA!

DORA: Cast Conversations

•October 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The cast of ADORATION OF DORA is an amazing group of actors. We took some time to sit down with each of them and get their insights on the play, their characters, their personal lives and what advice they have for anyone looking to become an actor themselves.

What led you to theater?

AL: I’ve always been into playing make believe. We did shows for my parents, even as very little kids. We made our parents sit through horrible productions we made up as we went along – very short rehearsal period. (laughs) We had a dress up box, sheets and old shirts of my mom’s. Its always been a part of something I wanted to do.

SR: My dad used to take our family out to see the touring musicals that came through town. The first show I ever saw was Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby and, at the end, she flew out over the audience and threw confetti, and I remember I was able to grab hold of some and put it in my room. I was just so amazed and the spectacle was so cool.

BB: When I was in high school, I always had a crazy imagination. I was on punishment a lot so I needed something to feed my imagination. Theater was the only thing I could think of that would be a good fit for me.

KB: In fifth or sixth grade I was in a mock trial and I had to play someone. So I decided at that point I was either going to be a lawyer or an actor. My parents put me in drama and that was it.

SH: I always enjoyed it in elementary and high school. I stopped doing theater when I went to college and then to the outside world. But soon I found I was bored and wanted to find something fun to do. Ten years after I stopped, I took an acting class and was encouraged to audition for something and I got that. And then I went for something else and got that too, so I just kept doing it as long as people have continued to cast me.

What’s the most fun role you’ve ever played?

AL: Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone. It was ridiculously hard but so much fun.

SH: Ruth in A Contemporary American’s Guide to a Successful Marriage © 1959. She was young and naïve, but with a very selfish view of the world and didn’t want to be alone. Though she is a villain, you have to take the audience with you, to get inside the head and make the villain real. I had to get inside her motivations, which were very real to me. Nobody thinks of themselves as the villain, so to make it real for the audience was a wonderful experience.

SR: It was at Wilmette – Adding Machine The Musical. I was in the chorus and I don’t know how many roles I played, and all of them were really angry or really aggressive. When I wasn’t onstage, I was either doing a costume change or a transition so it was all really fast. I love physical work so just going up there, doing a 5 line scene, making a costume change and then going up as a completely different character. I just ate it up, so much fun. The little evil person inside of me came out … but it was acceptable.

What is the hardest role you’ve ever played?

BB: Toss-up between Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Dora. With Maggie, there’s so many monologues and the cue lines are so tiny. Being able to keep up with the story instead of spitting out lines, to be committed and connected the whole time. That was really challenging. Dora has so many different layers, and so much research. Culturally we’re different people but you have to keep the integrity of who she was. To understand her relationships with others that influence her.

KB: Harper in Angels in America. Just because it was an exhausting role. We did both parts so making yourself emotionally vulnerable to the point of being uncomfortable, and living there for three hours. I usually don’t let myself be that vulnerable so that was hard.

What do you do when you’re not doing theater?

BB: Singing or belly dancing. Belly dancing is a big part of what’s shaped me at this stage of my artistry, in being comfortable with my body.

SH: I have a wonderful group of girlfriends who love to go winetasting. Anytime we can get together and go wine tasting, or just drink wine. Someone cooks, someone brings the wine, and we watch horrible reality TV shows. It’s a great evening. I try to be active, like riding my bike or going to yoga.

KB: I play with my son. My free time is devoted to him. He’s my little heart.

SR: I’m still trying to find that because so much of my life in the last 5 years has been either theater or school. But I’m trying to find that in my breaks. I read, I watch TV. Still trying to figure out the balance of work, rehearsal and hobbies.

AL: I’m driving home from rehearsal or working. I love to read. I like to shop, or make crafts, mosaics or jewelry. Or I’m redecorating the house.

What’s challenging about bringing this script to life for you?

SR: Finding specificity between the characters I play. Valentine is a single arc, so following that, but in between there’s all these other characters – a whore, a patron, an art critic – so just wrapping my brain around all that while making sure all these different characters are defined in a specific way.

KB: Being a friend of Dora, and watching her go through this destruction. I find that really challenging. I’ve seen that happen with friends and its hard to attach to that. She isn’t like Nusch, trying to stop it. She doesn’t know how to help her.

SH: Bringing the multiple characters to life that’s true to them but distinctive from one another. Making sure walking on as Nusch or walking on as whore, that they’re two very different characters. Coming up with distinctive tics. The culture is different, the history, the environment.

AL: I think when you meet the author, who will be at the show – you don’t want to let them down. You and Lisa and Kellie are people I respect and I don’t want to let you guys down. Jumping into rehearsals later than the rest, I want to bring my A game.

What will the audience be thinking about as they drive home after seeing the show?

AL: What a jerk Picasso was! (laughs) … hopefully, people will be inspired to follow their own creative passions no matter if they are recognized or not. And that women rock.

BB: They will be thinking what it would have been like to live during that time. The play is fun and deep but there’s also a history lesson about that time.

KB: “Holy shit! What was that?” But in a good way. I think they’ll identify with something in there, the script is very accessible. Getting into a relationship and losing yourself. Finding your voice as an artist. The battle between conscious and subconscious. There’s something in there for everyone to identify with. I think they’ll talk about it in context of their lives.

SR: A lot of what the script is saying is how a person defines themselves within their world. There’s one scene where Dora and Maar are trying to define themselves without Picasso. She defines herself through her art and then she tries to figure out who she is with him … causing her to crack. All around her, life goes on, but she’s going through this personal and emotional journey. And the lengths people will go to for their art.

SH: I think there’s many elements in the script that are very universal. When we first sat down with the script, I know a lot of the cast was relating to so many parts of the story. We had great discussions about relationships that had similar dynamics to Dora and Picasso, and the relationships between Dora and her three friends, as well as what it means to questions yourself in your art. Those experiences are universal enough that I think the audience will find so much to relate to.

What do you think is going to surprise people about the show?

SR: The theatricality of it, how it is presented. The whole surrealist aspect of it, the meta qualities of it. I didn’t know what to expect when I heard of it, but the script is so different. And that there’s no Picasso in it, that its all from Dora’s perspective.

SH: I hope the comedy surprises them. You expect it to be strange and avant garde, but I hope they’ll be surprised at how funny it can be.

BB: The nudity. Very basic but so many people, they’re intrigued or shocked by that. But I also think they will appreciate the space. They will feel like they are in their imagination instead of being separated from it.

AL: I don’t know if people know a lot about Picasso. I never did, I’ve been to Musee de Picasso twice but now, doing this show, and hearing the ideas behind what he was going for – there’s this line about “shattering the mirror the others hold to him” and about him painting “the past and the future all in the same moment,” that I find interesting and I would like to go back and see more with those ideas in my head. The insight into his creative expression.

KB: The humor. There’s a same amount of ridiculous as there is serious.

How is this character like you and how is it different than you?

SR (Valentine): I’m discovering how alike we are. I was thinking about why she chose to join these ladies. She grew up at an army base, then she moved to Paris. Growing up between those two different environments and learning freedom and how to express herself. That’s what theater is to me. To do whatever and have it be acceptable … to work out the weirdness. Valentine surrounded herself with these ladies that encouraged her to do that.

AL (Marie-Therese): I was pretty naïve when I was younger. I think I could’ve been swept up [like she was]. To be 17 and have someone come up and tell you that you’re beautiful and I want to paint you, it just seems exciting and like a fantasy. But the reality was that it destroyed her more than helped her. She’s different from me in that I’m a lot stronger, so I want to make sure I’m not overpowering. I have aspects of that and I’m proud of that, so its hard to not bring that out in other characters I play.

SH (Nusch): She was very independent, like a lot of the Surrealists. She was very sexual and an erotic person. I’d like to think the sort of headstrong, independent part of her – that she owns who she is – I’d like to think that is part of me. But I think we’d all like to think that. I know myself to be independent so that struck a chord with me. Not like her in the whole sexual part, some of the things she says I would never say in public. That kind of openness, I probably care a bit more about what people think about me.

KB (Jacqueline): Trying to stick up for your friend, that’s who I am. When she doesn’t make a stand, that is different than me. And the whore isn’t really me, so I make her more streetwise which is very me. And the patrons are the ridiculous, silly part of me.

What advice would you offer to aspiring actors?

AL: Be honest with your performances and do your best. If you go to an audition, and you’ve done your best and they don’t cast you, that’s their loss. That’s how you grow. Rejection is part of the business so just keep working at it. Watch people as you work, watch what other people are doing and learn from that. Never stop wanting to learn. Even if you get chorus girl #10 (which I’ve played a million times), make it something. Give yourself a whole backstory, make it something important.

SR: It comes down to having no fear. You’re going to have hang-ups. Push them out of the way and go for the jugular. That’s where you’ll find the moments of clarity in the haze of the rehearsal process. Its not a logical business and so much is out of your control. Keep your passion fueled. And have fun.

BB: Understand and explore yourself before diving deeply into accepting any role. Be truthful with yourself with how you see the world. Its important to train. But understand why you want to do what you want to do. As vessels and artists, we have a really great responsibility to be truthful. To be truthful you have to know first who you are. Never stop training. And never throw theater out of what you do. Start at the foundation of honesty.

KB: Just keep learning, no matter where you’re at. Learn from watching performances. Subtle things can be the most impactful. Never stop learning because you’re never done learning as an actor. People like to judge, but no — watch what they’re doing. File it away and you can use that different places. The “no”s are good for you. Not being cast is good for you. Build the tough skin and find out what gave that person the edge because that’ll help you learn.

SH: Start yesterday. The most you can learn, practice, do – take classes, try things out – just get up there and start doing it. There is no substitute to doing the work. See things you like, see things you don’t like and start to decide for yourself what works for you. My grandpa has this saying “just do something even if its wrong.” Just do something, it might spectacularly fail, but that’s how you learn.

ADORATION OF DORA opens this Friday, Oct. 23 and runs through Nov. 14. Tickets are selling so get yours today!

DORA: Artist Conversations with Nastassya LaRocco

•October 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment
As we approach DORA opening weekend, we are continuing our series of conversations with local female artists. Today’s post is with DORA production designer and artist Nastassya LaRocco. Nastassya has exhibited her work around California as the director of Less Than Zero, a one-woman collective of traditional art, vintage clothing, and pop culture curio. She mainly draws inspiration from architecture, movement, and television. As an Associate Artist with KOLT Run Creations, she has enjoyed a challenging and fruitful position as designer on many of our shows and, in 2010, she received an Elly nomination for her work on “Crime and Punishment.”
1. What type of art do you create? What themes does your work usually touch on?
My art, which has evolved into more of a curation of imagery, can span everything from traditional painting to clothing, to short videos and digital collage. I am obsessed with pop culture and television (both modern and decades past) and it bleeds over every aspect of my work.
2. What has your artistic journey been like up to this point? What has been your proudest achievement? What has been your biggest challenge?
I have to admit, I don’t feel that my journey as an artist has been particularly difficult – which either makes me a very shitty artist or a very lucky one. Maybe a little of both! I pride myself in artistic adaption, and whether that means I adapt my supplies to what is available to me, or modifying my vision to successfully achieve that of the project I’m working on. I love fitting my work into boxes, into a effective means of production. I liken myself to an artistic businessman. That gives me a lot of joy. My biggest challenge is finding the time to express the visions I am so consumed by internally. To bring them out externally takes more time than I usually have!
3. In Adoration of Dora, the role of Dora Maar is actually played by two actresses. One is Dora, the ego, consumed by the need to be seen and adored. The other is Maar, the id, who acts as Dora’s inner voice and inner critic pushing her to create her own work despite Picasso’s involvement in her life. How does your inner voice/inner critic articulate itself while you are working? Is it a positive or negative influence?
I think if you guys did a play about me, you’d need like, 20 actresses – LOL! I have 13 inner voices and 7 external ones. Some are positive, a lot are negative, but all are necessary. All perspectives are necessary to complete the trajectory of a successful project.
4. How has being a woman altered your perspective on being an artist? Are there difficulties you have faced as an artist solely because of your gender?
Truthfully, I feel like being a woman has helped me on a person-to-person, local level in the art world. People are too easily impressed by a female visual artist when met face to face, in my not-so-popular opinion. The difficulties come in on a national, and international level when you become just another female artist in a sea of other females. In this tiered system, where there should be camaraderie as there is in the local scene, there is cut-throat backtalk and the typical art world gossip. If you do not fit into the male-driven vision of a small, timid, white girl, you are all but ostracized (unless you come from money, which is a topic for another discussion.)  These things must change for all women in order to truly achieve international success, as true contenders in the famed ‘art world.’
5. Have you ever sat or been depicted by another artist? If so, what was that experience like?

I more or less refuse to do this, haha. I’m not interested in how others perceive me  at all. I hate having photographs of me taken, I’m not patient enough to sit for anyone!

ADORATION OF DORA opens Friday! Opening night is sold out, Saturday night has only 8 seats left and the rest of the run is filling quickly – so get your tickets online today!

DORA: Artist Conversations with Photographer Yuri Tajiri

•October 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Last week, we began our Artist Conversations series of blogposts with visual artist and collagist Maureen Hood. This week, we are continuing our series of conversations with local female artists by sitting down with photographer Yuri Tajiri. In addition to documenting the ADORATION OF DORA process, Yuri Tajiri is a professional photographer who specializes in portrait photography. She finds the human face and form endlessly captivating and strives to capture images that are equally as intriguing.

1. What type of photos do you take? What themes does your work usually touch on?

My work is primarily focused on people. I like to create magic with my images, or as a good friend just said to me “make perfect an imperfect world.” I want my photos to evoke emotion –whether it’s happiness, anguish, wonder, etc. If you feel like you could write a whole story just based on one of my photos – that’s what I aim for. As far as themes: fantasy, self-image, subjective reality…

2. As a photographer, what has your artistic journey been like up to this point? What has been your proudest achievement? What has been your biggest challenge?

I’ve been taking photos for literally as long as I can remember. I’ve always had a camera and I always took photos of pretty much everything. Doing such a large amount of work, regardless if the result was good or bad, developed my photographic and artistic style early on.

I don’t know if I can point to a specific shot or shoot as my proudest achievement, I really love any moment a client or friend has a visceral reaction to one of my photos. Watching someone have an immediate reaction to a photo – whether it be a gasp, or a hand flying to their mouth, or a word – is immensely satisfying.

My biggest challenge has probably been time management – which is not an exciting answer lol, but it’s true. Shooting 4 gigs in 5 days and then trying to edit and sort them all in a timely manner is definitely a challenge. I’m still working on getting my work flow down for massive amounts of images.

3. In Adoration of Dora, the role of Dora Maar is actually played by two actresses. One is Dora, the ego, consumed by the need to be seen and adored. The other is Maar, the id, who acts as Dora’s inner voice and inner critic pushing her to create her own work despite Picasso’s involvement in her life. How does your inner voice/inner critic articulate itself while you are working? Is it a positive or negative influence?

My inner voice has actually been pretty vocal lately. I’ve felt really artistically stagnant for a while because most of my time as a photographer now is filled with shoots for other people, with other people’s visions. And while I love being a part of bringing someone else’s ideas to life, my inner voice has definitely been letting me know that I need to take a step back and start thinking about what I want to create for myself – what will fulfill me on a personal artistic level. In my early days I had no gigs and I would shoot with myself all the time, following all sorts of creative trains of thought. It’s definitely proving more difficult to do now, as an adult who’s pretty consistently busy, and with equipment that is more difficult to just whip out on a whim, but I’m challenging myself to make it happen anyway. I think my inner voice is definitely a good influence, it’s what drives every artist to continue creating.

4. How has being a woman altered your perspective on being an artist? Are there difficulties you have faced as a photographer solely because of your gender?

Being a woman has definitely altered my perspective on being an artist because it inherently alters my perspective on the world in general, especially in regards to oppression and power structures. Learning about women artists both current and past really affects my work, and the kind of work I want to create will always come back to the things that are important to me as a woman – intersectional feminism, self-esteem, empowerment, etc. I recognize that I am privileged in many ways that female artists weren’t in the past and I want to use that privilege to push forward. That I can create and be recognized without a male artist “vouching” for me, that I am “allowed” to be an artist at all, that I can create shocking or provocative work and not be ostracized – all these things and more are the direct result of women who came before me and refused to be held back and I am grateful to all of them.

I have definitely encountered difficulties as a photographer because I’m a woman. A lot of the times it will be from other photographers. Male photographers will come up to me when I’m shooting and act like they’re interested in my work, but the minute I show them my shots they’ll either start “mansplaining” how I could be better (I didn’t ask for your opinion bro) or by immediately turning the conversation to themselves and their work. Also completely unsolicited. I’ll go to gigs or interviews where I can see that they’re not taking me seriously because I’m young and a woman, even though the older man they sometimes end up hiring produces lower quality work.

I think it’s also really uplifting though, to find other lady photographers and be able to have a sense of community. I also love to use my work to uplift other women, especially in a world where most photographs of women we see are completely fabricated images. To shoot other women and show them a final image that isn’t overly retouched and have them find themselves beautiful is incredibly gratifying.

5. Have you ever sat for another photographer or been drawn/painted by another visual artist? If so, what was that experience like?

Yes, I’ve modeled for a lot of other photographers. I enjoy it a lot, modeling is another art form I pursue. I think it’s incredibly valuable to feel what it’s like on the other side of the camera for many reasons like helping clients with poses, learning how make people feel natural in front of the lens. It’s also really nice to get to see myself sometimes after spending so much time sifting through photos of other people. To model is to be very vulnerable I think, regardless of what kind of shoot you’re doing. To really connect with the camera and produce genuine work, you have to really unveil yourself, really let yourself shine through without hesitation or shyness – and that’s not easy.

ADORATION OF DORA opens in one week! Only 7 shows left with available tickets – get yours today!

DORA: The Art of Surrealism

•October 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

“Why should one always begin at the beginning? As if life were linear …” ~ Maar, Adoration of Dora

Sans Titre by Dora Maar

KOLT’s next production, Adoration of Dora, is told in the style of Surrealism. Surrealism was the style that Dora Maar worked in as a photographer and Surrealist writers and artists composed the social circle with which she surrounded herself. Therefore, playwright Lojo Simon has used Surrealism as the style in which to tell Dora’s story.

In Adoration of Dora, the character of Dora Maar is split between two actresses – one as the primary personality and one as the shadow self and inner critic. Scenes flow into one another and the play does not follow a linear timeline. Dora’s friends – Jacqueline, Valentine and Nusch – morph into fantasies and nightmares that taunt her. A tragic bombing is recreated onstage and two women fighting over a man transforms into a Spanish bullfight. So what is Surrealism?

Surrealism has come to be seen as the most influential movement in twentieth century art. Figures like Salvador Dalí, Rene Magritte and Man Ray not only had an important influence on avant-garde art, but through their commercial work – in fashion photography, advertising and film – they brought the style to a huge popular audience. The Surrealist impulse to tap the subconscious mind, and their interests in myth and primitivism, went on to shape the Abstract Expressionists, and they remain influential today.

The Surrealists … defined drawing very broadly. They invented or breathed new life into drawing techniques like frottage (pencil rubbings) and the game of exquisite corpse. They commandeered collage and took it places the Cubists never dreamed of. They also tended to crossbreed such techniques (as well as photography) in all sorts of enriching ways. ~ Roberta Smith, ‘Drawing Surrealism’ Art Show Review 2013

Surrealism was officially founded in Paris in 1924, when André Breton wrote Le Manifeste du Surréalisme. In this, he proposed that artists should seek access to their unconscious mind in order to make art inspired by this realm. As a reaction to the horrors of World War I, Surrealism was embraced by a small group of writers and artists who sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination. Discarding rationalism and literary realism, and powerfully influenced by Sigmund Freud, the Surrealists believed the conscious mind repressed the power of the imagination, weighting it down with taboos. Influenced also by Karl Marx, they hoped that the psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spur on revolution. Their emphasis on the power of the imagination puts them in the tradition of Romanticism, but they believed that revelations could be found on the street and in everyday life.

The visual artists who first worked with Surrealist techniques and imagery were the German Max Ernst, the Frenchman André Masson, the Spaniard Joan Miró, and the American Man Ray. Masson’s free-association drawings of 1924 are curving, continuous lines out of which emerge strange and symbolic figures that are products of an uninhibited mind. Breton considered Masson’s drawings akin to his automatism in poetry. In 1927, the Belgian artist René Magritte moved from Brussels to Paris and became a leading figure in the visual Surrealist movement. Magritte painted erotically explicit objects juxtaposed in dreamlike surroundings. His work defined a new form of illusionistic Surrealism practiced by the Spaniard Salvador Dalí, the Belgian Paul Delvaux, and the French-American Yves Tanguy. Dalí moved from Spain to Paris and made his first Surrealist paintings. He expanded on Magritte’s dream imagery with his own erotically charged, hallucinatory visions. Breton praised Dalí’s representations of the unconscious in the Second Manifesto of Surrealism. They became the main collaborators on the review Minotaure, a primarily Surrealist-oriented publication founded in Paris.

“Surrealism also battled the social institutions – church, state, and family – that regulate the place of women within patriarchy. In offering some women their first locus for artistic and social resistance, it became the first modernist movement in which a group of women could explore female subjectivity and give form (however tentatively) to a feminine imaginary.” ~ art historian Whitney Chadwick

We’ve discussed the fraught experience women found with Surrealism in a previous post. But it was clear that many women were drawn to Surrealism for the freedom it allowed them to pursue nontraditional paths with their work. For Dora Maar, her photography utilized Surrealism’s dreamlike nature and eroticism.

The organized Surrealist movement in Europe dissolved with the onset of World War II. Breton, Dalí, Ernst, Masson and Matta, among others who first joined the Surrealists in 1937, left Europe for New York. In 1940, Breton organized the fourth International Surrealist Exhibition in Mexico City, which included the Mexicans Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Surrealism’s surprising imagery, deep symbolism, refined painting techniques, and disdain for convention influenced later generations of artists, including Jackson Pollock, Joseph Cornell and Arshile Gorky. There is no consensus as to when, and even if, Surrealism ever ended as an artistic or literary style. It continues to affect and influence literature and art across all disciplines, cultures and societies.

Adoration of Dora opens in less than two weeks and is already selling out! Join us for the ride – get your tickets on our website today!

DORA: Artist Conversations

•October 6, 2015 • 1 Comment
KOLT’s next production, ADORATION OF DORA, is about surrealist photographer and artist Dora Maar. It revolves around her essential dilemma: being an artist in her own right and finding her own artistic voice; versus being the muse of one of the most revered creative geniuses of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso, and having her identity compromised by his vision of her.
As we move into these themes, we wanted to reach out to some of the female visual artists in the local scene and get their insight on questions of identity, finding your own unique viewpoint and expressing it in your art, and the rewards and pitfalls of being a woman in this vibrant art community.

Artist Maureen Hood

Our first artist is Maureen Hood. Maureen Hood takes collage to a new level. Each painterly vignette hints of an intimate relationship taken from a snapshot of common experience. Hood’s fragmented characters illicit recognition and identification in the viewer sparking an emotional response. Breaking up the moment into smaller, contrasting images, Hood forces the subtle re-examination of the viewer’s primal connection with the image. We are left with our own thoughts – – is it a metaphor or parody?

“I like to play against the traditional reaction to a typical, ordinary human event by placing that event in a slightly different context. What results depends upon the observer’s personal experience and response to the event and its new perspective.” ~ Maureen Hood

A native Californian, Hood received a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Studio from the University of California at Davis, studying with Robert Arneson and William Wiley. She continued her studies, earning a Master’s Degree in Art with a Mixed Media focus, at California State University, Sacramento, tutored by William Allan and Jack Ogden.  Technically inspired by the works of Romare Bearden, she draws emotional strength from her own experience and her relationship with the natural environment. Hood’s work has been exhibited throughout the State and is owned by private and corporate collectors nationwide.

Maureen’s work can be seen at Sacramento Temporary Contemporary Gallery and Archival Gallery, Sacramento, California, and Artize Gallery in Palm Springs, California

1. What type of art do you create? What themes does your work usually touch on?
I work in mixed media, usually two dimensional, but sometimes three. My work is also mostly figurative.
2. What has your artistic journey been like up to this point? What has been your proudest achievement? What has been your biggest challenge?
My journey has been nothing unusual because I realized at a very early age that I wanted to be an artist and that’s all I have ever done so it seems quite normal for me. It’s hard for me to find a “proudest moment” but I guess that I would have to put that one in with the “biggest challenge” category. When I finally realized that I could not measure success by the number of art sales, what gallery carried my work, or how many write ups I got, all of which I saw as my greatest challenges, I think I experienced my proudest moment, that being that no matter what, I would always make art if for no other reason than that’s what I’m supposed to do. That freeing moment can’t be measured only continued.
3. In Adoration of Dora, the role of Dora Maar is actually played by two actresses. One is Dora, the ego, consumed by the need to be seen and adored. The other is Maar, the id, who acts as Dora’s inner voice and inner critic, pushing her to create her own work despite Picasso’s involvement in her life. How does your inner voice/inner critic articulate itself while you are working? Is it a positive or negative influence?
I think my inner voice is active all the time I’m making art, from conception to completion. Sometimes it becomes so obsessive that I need to shut it up and start over. Ha! I’m constantly in conversation with myself about the work, debating over color, textures….all those compositional elements all the while trying to balance the emotional and intellectual components of each piece.
4. How has being a woman altered your perspective on being an artist? Are there difficulties you have faced as an artist solely because of your gender?
Being a woman has not really affected my perspective about being an artist. I think that I was fortunate to embark on my path when views about women in many fields, especially art, were changing from the male-dominated ab ex environment of the 1950’s. I’ve also been fortunate that those closest to me, my parents and siblings, friends, and husband, have always supported what I do. There was never that “well, you won’t make any money being an artist” sort of conversation.
Art for me is like a meditative state. The idea is not to get too high or too low. Not to let the world affect what you know you are destined to do until you die. It has taken me many years to get to this point. It allows me to be free enough to create and communicate with others through my work. It gives me clarity of mind and soul. That’s probably pretty boring. I don’t have any stories about fighting my way to the top by hounding galleries to carry my work, pushing my images incessantly at art critics, or sleeping with my college professors (although I did tell Robert Arneson to fuck off when he said my work was too timid).
5. Have you ever sat or been depicted by another artist? If so, what was that experience like?
No, I have never been depicted by another artist. Now that might be fun. I just have to find someone to do it!