Smile Politely

Five things in arts this month: March 2023

Female dancer standing on one leg with the other reaching diagonally to stage left. One arm is extended stage and and one is bent at the raised thigh with the hand extended stage left.
Photo from the Virginia Theatre website.

Whether you’re out walking or checking out this month’s arts calendar, signs of spring are everywhere. The return of bright colors, bold statements, and old favorites transformed, remind us that spirit of creativity is all around us. These five arts experiences will surely inspire motion and movement, laughter and tears, and bold transformation.

Private Domain: Paintings by Virginia Derryberry

Painting of grassy meadow beside a creek with a trees and a blue, cloud-filled sky in the background. In the foreground are four people, l-r, a graying wearing a mint green t-shirt, a young woman in box braids wearing a slip dress, a young male featiure with curly brown ahirs, wearing a sleeveless t and baggy pants, and a baby in diapoers and sneakers behind held by the elbow by a pair of wrinkled hands.
Virginia Derryberry, Road Trip, 2022, oil on canvas © Virginia Derryberry; Giertz Gallery

Virginia Derryberry’s richly symbolic large-scale figurative paintings employ mythological and alchemical elements to offer additional layers of meaning, thereby complicating what might otherwise appear as straightforward narratives. Constructed with multiple viewpoints and lighting angles, this work challenges our notions of perspective, both in terms of narrative and form. Influenced by sequential and non sequential aspects of Italian Renaissance paintings, Derryberry, according to her artist statement, “uses multiple panels to construct worlds that explore issues of empowerment. In addition, the artist investigates historical notions of women’s work and decorative arts to expand the idea of her narratives by sometimes incorporating fabric, embroidery, and found objects.”

Private Domain: Paintings by Virginia Derryberry
Giertz Gallery at Parkland College
February 27-March 28
2400 W Bradley
View gallery hours here
Note: Giertz Gallery will be closed March 11-19.

Ink Wash Paintings of Shozo Sato

Photo of two-panel screen featuring an ink wash drawing of a cherry blossom tree against a black sky light with a full white moon.
Shozo Sato, Spring Has Come for the Aging Plum Tree, no date, two-panel folding screen, Sumi ink on paper © Shozo Sato; Krannert Art Museum

Despite its humble title, this exhibition is uniquely significant to the University of Illinois and practitioners and fans of ink wash paintings. Shozo Sato, professor emeritus of the School of Art and Design, founder of Japan House, and former artist-in-residence at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts — where he mentored Nick Offerman — is an icon whose contributions to ikebana, tea ceremony, and Japanese calligraphy cannot be overstated. 

This marks the first time Sato’s ink wash paintings will be the object of academic scholarship. With Maureen Warren, who brought us the remarkable Fake News exhibition, as curator, you can expect a smart and compelling exhibition experience.

Latinx Voces: Creaciones

Three Latina girls seated around a table covered in art supplies.
Krannert Art Museum

Co-created by students at Urbana Middle School and the College of Education, Latinx Voces: Creaciones represents the second year of this groundbreaking three-year program. Per the KAM website, “the exhibit makes intentional and explicit efforts to recognize Latina/x girls and afford representation of their histories, stories, languages, and cultures in humanizing and empowering ways.“ Participants worked together to “imagine, design, and curate an exhibit that represents and honors their aspirations, hopes, and stories.” Latinx Voces: Creaciones offers visitors a chance to engage with Latina/x girls and to build understanding and solidarity with them. I hope you’ll take that chance.

Latinx Voices: Creaciones
March 25-May 24
Krannert Art Museum
500 E Peabody
View museum hours here

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche

Photo of five white women dressed in 1950s hair, makeup, and clothes leaning down staring into a series of quiches on table covered with a tablecloth covered in pictures of fruit.
Evan Linder

This campy queer dish of a play is a perfect balance of sweet, salt, and sass. Written by Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder, 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche invites you into The Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein’s Annual Quiche Breakfast. But leave it to the Communists to arrive just in time to quiche-block the ladies before their mouthwatering fun has even begun. The rising panic and pressure cause a series of unexpected confessions. Directed by Kendall Joenson and featuring Zoë Dunn, Tiphaine Kouadou, Ellen Magee, Erin Roux, and Heather Smith-Holley, 5 Lesbians promises a night of drool-worthy double entendres, awkward audience participation perfectly suited to the intimacy of The Station Theatre’s stage. Let your ticket price do good by attending the Saturday, April 1st performance, which will benefit the Uniting Pride Center.

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche
March 30-April 9
Th-Sa 7:30 p.m.
Sun 3 p.m.
The Station Theatre
223 N Broadway
Tickets available online; $15

Krannert Center at the Virginia: Dance at Illinois Downtown

Female dancer standing on one leg with the other reaching diagonally to stage left. One arm is extended stage and and one is bent at the raised thigh with the hand extended stage left.
The Virginia Theatre

In my time as Smile Politely’s arts editor I’ve often hopped up on my soapbox and called for the need to break down the town/gown arts divide. And though I cannot and do not claim credit for the recent cracks in that wall, I will be among the first to celebrate any innovative ways of bringing visual and performing arts off campus and into the community. Krannert Center at the Virginia: Dance at Illinois Downtown, I hope you can hear me clapping from behind my laptop.

Bringing a Dance at Illinois performance to Downtown Champaign will offer more accessible ticket prices for some. For example, standard seating in the balcony is $20 and the balcony offers a wonderful wide-angle view that highlights the composition of ensemble forms and movement. Seniors, youth, and University of Illinois students will still be eligible for discounted ticket rates. I’ve often heard both townies and gownies complain that there isn’t much to do downtown other than eat and drink. Well folks, here’s your chance to experience a richly diverse program featuring contemporary African dance work by Dr. C. Kemal Nance with live music performed by an assembly of local drummers; work by MFA candidate Anna Peretz Rogovoy inspired by the formal structures and behaviors of the botanical world; a solo work by Post-Doctoral Fellow Alexandra Barbier inspired by her background in experimental dance and her burgeoning research on queer, Black vernacular dance; a premiere of group work exploring intersections between contemporary ballet and the Cunningham Technique presented by new faculty and former Merce Cunningham Dance Company member Paige Cunningham Caldarella; and excerpts from Professor Rebecca Nettl-Fiol’s Danse Soirée de Bonbons with music by Jacques Brel.

Krannert Center at the Virginia: Dance at Illinois Downtown
March 30-April 1
Th-Sa 7:30 p.m.
Virginia Theatre
203 W Park
Get ticket information here

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