Sunday, February 1, 2009

Part 5 NOCCA students respond to P.1: Amber Lyons on Beatriz Milhazes

Kaleidoscope Eyes by Amber Lyons
Gamboa by Beatriz Milhazes
The U. S. Mint Louisiana State Museum

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world,
for I would ride with you upon the wind
and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”
– The Land of Heart’s Desire by William Butler Yeats

Often as a child I found myself day dreaming about an empty hardwood floor stage, flooded with bright warm lights before a sold out audience. Perfectly poised with pointed toes, I am graceful, the music and my body acting as one. Lilac chiffon skirt layers drape over my sculpted legs, the magenta nylon/spandex leotard a disposable layer of skin over my chest and torso. Freshly bloomed pink rose ribbons and slippers—an image of grace. In these dreams I am a Prima ballerina assoluta. Of course, I realized that I will never be a Prima ballerina assoluta or even a ballerina because I lack the grace and poise, not meeting the height requirement by a foot and two inches. Never has this subject been more painful then when I first looked upon Gamboa by Beatriz Milhazes.

Originally constructed as a two dimensional piece of set design for her sister’s ballet company, Milhazes took advantage of her part in Prospect 1 to try her hand at creating a three dimensional piece. “New Orleans was always about the vitality, the dancing and the music. So I link it — the carnival in New Orleans with the Carnaval in Rio [Brazil]. It will make this kind of dialogue between two cities,” Milhazes told the New York Times. Using the set design as a point of reference, she went about making her acrylic and oil dream into a tangible reality. The piece, constructed of crystals, cardboard, ribbons, iron, beads, plastic, sparkling sequins, fake flowers, terry cloth hair bands, and oversized Christmas ornaments, takes up the entirety of the room in which it is displayed. Gamboa made the childish, fanciful ballerina inside of me want to dance between the strands of beads and plastic orbs dotted with opaque neon dots.

“All children, except one, grow up” – Peter Pan by James M. Barrie

When no one was around I crawled underneath the piece, just for a moment, looking up into the center of the white iron frame, a circular hole the size of a basketball. The center hole was surrounded by widening concentric circles. Each row of circles was separated from the last by a thick white line. Beneath the frame and attached ornaments I felt as safe as a child nestled inside of a wooden crib looking up at a mobile of stars, sleepy in the comfort that everything would be okay. Reluctantly I crawled out from the comfort of the mobile and off the cold concrete floor.

Lines of small gold and silver beads, reminiscent of beads thrown from floats at Carnival, fall from the iron host until connecting with targets or flowers or luminescent circles of gold or white circles with bright neon spirals. At the end of some of these strands are small pink or white crystals varying in size from tear drops to jewels the size of a child’s palm. Some scores of beads contain just one large fixture, such as a large flat gold orb. While others possess a few ornaments, for instance two plastic flowers: one pink and one purple sewn together. Beneath them is a small plastic white bulb incased by a hot pink terry cloth hair tie. Underneath that is another just like it but the hair tie is sea-foam green. The strand finally ends in a white cardboard circle that houses a spiral design made by yellow sparkling dots. Each ornament is connected by a few beads. Like fingerprints or snowflakes, no two lines are the same.

Everything but the iron frame of Gamboa felt disposable and cheap separately, but became beautiful and priceless when combined. How many Mardi Gras beads are given to little girls to play dress up with or cut up and used in Kindergarten art projects?

“Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”
- Lennon/McCartney

A good portion of Milhazes’ work is large, bright, and bold on canvas using colors prevalent in Carnival celebration, psychedelia, and common favorite colors of little girls. Gamboa was a bit of a departure, in that it also employed a cornucopia of colors such as gold, blue, red, purple, black and in more varied tones, some with glitter and some without. Natural, sparkly, and neon colors give off a feeling of tenderness and delight that can easily be found in a group of four year old girls having a tea party with stuffed animals as dates or pretend fussy children. Gamboa provided Milhazes the opportunity to make her abstract visions into a tangible form of reality.

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