Aspen winter arts preview: Think globally, enjoy locally |

Aspen winter arts preview: Think globally, enjoy locally

Stephanie RausserIranian-born author Firoozeh Dumas is featured in an Aspen Writers' Foundation Winter Words event in February.

ASPEN – The world is coming to Aspen this winter, at least in the arts realm. Ask arts insiders what’s on their cultural calendars, and the answers are a singer from Western Africa, a Cuban-born painter, a French sculptor, and a banjoist exploring the African roots of the instruments.

On the big screen, there’s a film by a New Zealand director, a story that was originally set in Venice, one set in another dimension, and a third set on another planet.

There is a concert by a singer from the strange land known as the ’60s, and two shows featuring musicians who seem to come from an even farther-off galaxy.

There’s a new opera event, and if it’s opera, it means we’ll be hearing Italian and German.

Here’s what the globally-minded culture consumers have marked on their calendars for the season ahead.

“Nine” [opening nationally Dec. 25, and showing in Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings series]. I’m looking forward to the spectacle that it will be. A Rob Marshall production – it’ll be massive eye candy, great music, great theatrics, great color, great dance numbers.

“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” [open in limited release] is a great story. I’m curious to see how it will be told on the screen.

“Alice in Wonderland” [opening March 5, 2010], to see Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. And he and [director] Tim Burton have done so many great things together. I’m anxious to see how cool and crazy a character he makes the Mad Hatter, how trippy it will be.

Les Claypool [Feb. 12, Belly Up]. He’s one of my favorite bass players. I’ve been a fan of Primus, Oysterhead, all the projects he’s done. It’s one of the better live shows out there. And I don’t remember him ever being here, so he’s a newcomer to the valley.

Angelique Kidjo [Feb. 13, Wheeler Opera House]. She’s a spectacular artist. To see her in the small theater environment is extra special. I missed her when she played Jazz Aspen.

The Carbondale Clay Center Cup Auction [Friday, Dec. 4] is a great community event, fun, tremendous work. It’s great to see such a diverse riff on a set form. It’s not just ceramics, but paintings as well. I’ve been to a few houses of people who have built a collection based just on this show.

The Mark Bradford show [Feb. 12-April 4, Aspen Art Museum]. Mark Bradford started as more of a street artist, gathering signs and posters, and he’d sand them down, glue pieces of detritus so you’d get layers and layers of posters, like you see outside a concert hall. They’re clear, very graphic. You get a sense of this street activity, and also the artist’s eye capturing these things.

Enrique Martinez Celaya at the Baldwin Gallery [Dec. 26-Feb. 6]. His work is always poignant. He makes high-stakes paintings on a very grand scale. He’s viscerally concerned with image, ethic and accountability. He’s a truth guy.

“The Lovely Bones” [showing in the Academy Screenings series, and opening nationally Jan. 15]. We got a little preview of that at our Independent by Nature Award event, at Aspen Filmfest, with Stanley Tucci, and it looked really wonderful. It’s an intense book, and it should be interesting to see how that goes.

“Nine” sounds like a fascinating piece. It’s got Nicole Kidman, an incredible cast. And it’s a musical which is getting a lot of Oscar spin, which is unusual. Rob Marshall, the director who did “Chicago,” is known for these kinds of films.

It may sound odd, but I’m really interested in James Cameron’s new film, “Avatar” [opening nationally Dec. 18]. Even though it’s based on a game, I’m really curious. I’m a big fan of special effects and animation and science fiction, and this looks to be the extravaganza of the year. Cameron’s a great visualist.

I love Wintersculpt [Jan. 14-16, Aspen pedestrian malls], which is put on during Wintersköl. It’s always fun to see what the kids and adults come up with.

I’m an art school grad, and I think the Aspen Art Museum has been bringing in strong shows. The group show Disembodied [Feb. 12-April 11] features Louise Bourgeois, a classic postmodernist sculptor who I’m familiar with, and a few other who I’m not so familiar with, and I’m looking forward to getting a look at those.

Richie Havens [March 12, Wheeler] is a unique figure from the ’60s folk era, which was largely made up of middle-class white kids. He brought an original style of guitar-paying and singing, and he’s continued to be important politically and musically.

Enrique Martinez Celaya is a terrific exponent of contemporary figurative painting. He brings a wonderful emotional and psychological content to his work.

Story Swap [Red Brick Center for the Arts, opening April 1] is a fascinating idea, where visual artists and writers collaborate to explore personal narrative, and respond to each other’s stories.

Digital to Physical [Anderson Ranch, opening Dec. 8]. I don’t know much about it; it was juried out of Boulder. I’m always interested in the possibilities of new digital media and what that can bring to the visual arts, beyond gimmickry, beyond its use as a visual tool. Any time artists can come up with something that’s specific to digital media – rather than using it as photography or drawing – there’s a possibility of thinking digitally.

I myself have an opinion or nine.

On the music front, I can’t wait to see Les Claypool, even though I can’t call myself a fan, know hardly any of his music, and the music I’ve listened to most – Oysterhead, his trio with Trey Anastasio and Stewart Copeland – didn’t knock me out. But Claypool is a dazzling bassist, and has a reputation for having a unique stage personality.

Bela Fleck might be the greatest instrumentalist ever, and the most adventurous, and with his African Project [Feb. 5, Wheeler] he takes a leap into yet another world of sound. In Aspen, he’s played classical with Edgar Meyer, jazz-fusion with the Flecktones, and earlier this year, Chinese-inspired sounds in the Sparrow Quartet.

And Jane’s Addiction for New Year’s Eve at Belly Up is a coup. Perry Farrell’s band set the standard for alternative rock in the late ’80s, and cranked it back up this past summer, with all four members from the glory days onboard.

Some news from the Aspen Music Festival that has nothing to do with the mess in the executive offices: The festival will present the Met: Live in HD series – broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera’s performances shown at the Wheeler Opera House. The details have not been finalized, though it looks like the series will open in late January. Operas programmed in the months ahead include “Der Rosenkavalier,” “Carmen” and “Hamlet.” The series, in its fourth year, has earned great reviews.

The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet continuously dazzles, and their winter appearances [Feb. 12-13 and March 6, Aspen District Theatre] feature two newly commissioned works – one by Helen Pickett, who is new to the company, and one by Nicolo Fonte, who has contributed several key pieces of the company’s repertoire.

Among the authors coming to the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s Winter Words series is an Iranian-born woman, Firoozeh Dumas [Feb. 4], known for her humor; her “Funny in Farsi” earned a nomination for the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

The closing of D19 did not, thank goodness, mean the disappearance of Dena Marino. The chef reappears with Ellina, focusing on the cuisine of the northern Italy region of Valtellina. It opens in December in the spot vacated by DishAspen.

Topping my cinema list are two films I’ve already seen, and will definitely see again: director Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air” [opening nationally Dec. 25], starring George Clooney as a traveling executive in need of redemption; and the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man,” which may or may not make it to Aspen.

The Coens’ look at spiritual crisis in late ’60s Jewish suburbia is probably my favorite movie of the year so far. But whether it makes any sense to someone who hasn’t spent way too many years in Hebrew school, I’m not sure.

The shows by Jayne Gottlieb Productions are to children’s theater what Aspen Community Theatre is to adult musicals: They leave you in awe. Gottlieb’s kids perform “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” at the Wheeler, Dec. 18-23.

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