Monday, August 16, 2010

Irish Dance & Culture

This may seem a bit of a trick question of the when-is-the-4th-of-July ilk, but it must be asked: Irish dance is strongest in which two areas of the world? Answer: (1) Ireland and (2) America’s Midwest, specifically Chicago and Milwaukee. The strongest Irish dance competitors and best performers are from these two parts of the world.  And the strongest Irish dance schools are located there as well. A young Irish dance school—only four years old—is located in the northern suburbs of Milwaukee. Rince Nia Academy of Irish Dance & Culture offers students, ages four through adult, the opportunity to learn Irish dance for competition and performance. “Rince Nia,” pronounced rinka nia, is Irish for dance champion.  Rince Nia will perform at Milwaukee Irish Fest, the world’s largest celebration of Irish music and culture, with more than 100 entertainment acts at the four-day, 16-stage event, running August 19-22, 2010. The Academy is owned by Sean & Jillian Beglan, both former performers in Riverdance. Sean, who was the lead in Riverdance, was recently interviewed on Lake Effect, produced by the local NPR affiliate, WUWM. The interesting interview provides a mini-bio of Sean, describing his career from his roots in County Caven Ireland to becoming the owner, primary instructor and artistic director of Rince Nia Academy of Irish Dance & Culture, as well as describing the school’s family-oriented, student-centered teaching approach.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Art from the Gray World

Good artists grow, evolve, and adapt to their changing world. Mark David Gray is a terrific Milwaukee painter who incorporates architectural precision, sensual abstraction, and a sophisticated and unique approach to portraiture in his large pieces of work. Gray’s painting collection from 10 or more years ago is not the same as a few years, which is not the same collection he’s building today. Yet, you can mount his work from the past through today on a giant, bigger-than-life wall and it will be apparent that they are all from Mark David Gray. The artistic essence… the creative take of the world rings true. That’s what makes Mark David Gray notable. Gray writes: Themes dealing with individuality, community, propaganda, consumerism and spirituality prevail in my work. The painting, Economy+Nothing, I question the real motivations of our economy by combining the recognizable images of the Wall Street bull, a symbol of power, money and greed, against the background of flying war machines and the ubiquitous, patriotic stars and stripes. With this combination of popular imagery, I utilized bold, saturated color to unsettle the viewer while subverting the images “media-tized” context.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Raymond Chandler

On the list of Must-Read-Before-You-Die books has got to be The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler. Published in 1939, Chandler helped define the hard-boiled private detective and developed dark, but beautiful, scenes throughout the book. A master of extreme similes that fit like a soft-leather glove on a lady’s well-formed hand, Chandler writes like no others, although others write like Chandler. His main character in The Big Sleep is Philip Marlowe, the wisecracking, hard drinking, tough private eye who is also quiet and philosophical, enjoying chess and classical music. Morally upright, Marlowe is not tempted by the femme fatale charms of his client’s two beautiful daughters—even when one of them is naked and beckoning him. Nope, Marlowe would rather eat glass (probably washed down with a shot of rye whiskey) than succumb. The book is easy to read, but Chandler’s crafted language needs to be savored. Cheap copies of the book should be readily available. Even if—as Joe Brody, a bad guy in The Big Sleep says—you’ve “been shaking two nickels together for a month, trying to get them to mate,” there’s always the library. Read the book before you enter your big sleep.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Visual Dictionary

This site is just plain fun. The Visual Dictionary is a collection of words – which are photographs of signs, graffiti, advertising, tattoos, packaging, menus, writing in the sky, you name it… Created by Matthew Knight, a UK-based freelance technical creative director, the site collects contributions from anyone, anywhere in the world who can snap a photo of a word or phrase found in the real world. It helps if the shooter frames the photo creatively where possible, although that’s not a requirement. It’s a wonderful collection and an innovative idea that can tickle the imagination for the practical to the obscure uses.