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Take a Chance on an Art Exhibition

Ellen Levitt

Posted on April 8, 2021 16:02

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On my birthday, I took a chance and checked out an art exhibition that a friend recommended. It was a fascinating experience!

I count myself fortunate that I didn't have to work on my birthday (although I briefly edited an article). I wanted to do something fun and interesting, and I'd noticed via Facebook postings that two friends of mine had visited an intriguing art exhibition. I looked it up online and made my reservation (because these days, you must reserve a spot to visit just about any museum or gallery). I'm glad that I did.

The Americas Society, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is hosting an exhibition called "Joaquin Orellana: The Spine of Music." Previously, I knew nothing about Orellana, a Guatemalan artist and musician, and only knew a bit about the Society. But I took a chance and went. For about half an hour, I got a semi-private tour of a fascinating set of handmade musical instruments, complemented by videos and paintings on the gallery walls. A docent showed me and two other visitors the instruments, as well as related documents and papers of Orellana.

The most appealing aspect of the exhibition was that we were permitted to play some of the musical instruments, which were all percussion pieces. We donned disposable rubber gloves and were able to use special mallets, bows, and other items to make music.

This is the kind of cultural opportunity for us mature adults to make gleeful noise as if we were little kids. And our media-savvy desires were rewarded with cool photo ops.

But this exhibition interested me in various ways, not just as a novelty. First, the one-of-a-kind instruments (made of wood, metal, and other materials) and musical atmosphere reminded me of the quirky, unique musical instruments and recordings of Harry Partch, an American composer and creator.

Second, Orellana's instruments, which are certainly artistic in appearance (most can double as sculptures in the contemporary art vein) reminded me of the occasional experiments in wood and found scraps that my father would make. Dad would dumpster dive (proudly) and use various materials to make furniture, toys, and decorative items. If Dad were here today and visited the Orellana show with me, I'm sure he'd have been inspired to assemble his own wacky musical instruments. 

This exhibition at the Americas Society may spark someone's imagination just enough that a handy person would fashion musical instruments out of objects. This could be done for the musical impulse, for artistic expression, or out of interest in pure experimentation. 

We often promote this kind of activity for children, hoping it will spark their curiosity and creativity. But adults can also be persuaded to try this! Sadly, too many adults will say "I can't do this because I don't have the time/the creative chops/the ingenuity/ the skill..." Other adults will just be too embarrassed to do something as "silly" as make weird-looking musical instruments out of scraps.

Folks, don't be embarrassed or scared to experiment. It's a learning experience. Let Joaquin Orellana and others be your creative muse. 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on April 8, 2021 16:02

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Source: Post-Gazette

The Westmoreland Museum of American Arts 2020 schedule to feature African American art, music and contemporary works.

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