Episode 228

In this episode of ARTEFFECTS: an artist brings new ideas to a traditional art form, an artists lens on the immigration system, an opera explores American revivalism, and a mother daughter duo bring a new dimension to storytelling.

AIRED: April 06, 2017 | 0:26:46

- In this edition of Art Effects

an artist brings new ideas to a traditional art form.

- [Craig] When i first started making Kokeshi dolls

I was actually kind of just trying to figure out ways

to bring my 2D characters to life.

- An artist's lens on the immigration system.

- I was interested in making a statement that wasn't

necessarily documentary but had an emotional or a feeling.

- And an opera explores american revivalism.

- [Herschel] Elmer Gantry is the story of this rogue,

college boy, football player with no calling, really,

for the ministry.

But a great opportunist.

- And story-telling takes on a new dimension.

- We all imagine things when we read and it just feels like

to me, taking that imagination to the next level.

- It's all ahead on this edition of Art Effects.

(relaxed jazz music)

- [Announcer] Funding for Art Effects is made possible by

Newman's Own Foundation,

The Nell J. Redfield Foundation,

Carol Franc Buck,

Heidemarie Rochlin,

the annual contributions of KNPB Members,

and by.

- Hello, I'm Beth Macmillan and I'm at Sundance

Books and Music which has been in the community

for over 30 years.

And this is Art Effects.

Kokeshi Dolls' origins come mainly from Northern Japan

and are made from hand-painted wood.

The signature mark of the dolls

is their lack of arms and legs.

Let's take a look at how Dayton, Ohio artist

Craig Galentine has put a very American spin

on this classic Eastern art form.

- When I first started making Kokeshi dolls,

that wasn't really the goal I had in mind.

I was actually, kind of, just trying to figure out ways

to bring my 2D characters to life.

I'm a Dayton native.

I was born in Dayton and I've

basically lived here my whole life.

I've always been creative.

And, from an early age I used to draw all the time

and just make things, just always seemed I kinda have a,

a do it yourself attitude.

Anything I could come up with I'd would just

try and make it myself and it just led to

always being creative in some way.

I really got into music after school and,

that was another area where it seemed like

everyone is just kind of doing their own things

and I was kind of involved in the local art scene.

I was really into hip hop and collecting records

and that kind of led to like graffiti art

and I was really just mesmerized by it.

Just like, how people could do it.

How it got on trains.

Was it legal?

Had to know everything about it.

So, all the ideas and the colors and inspiration that

I already had, played right into the Kokeshi dolls I do now.

A Kokeshi doll is a traditional Japanese style of doll.

Local artisans would make them around hot springs

and places where tourists would visit.

And people would start to collect them.

I've always been in to the designer toy culture.

I was kind of trying different things that I could do myself

and one day I just kinda had the idea

of making something out of wood.

I began with parts to kind of like look like

something that would work for me.

And, so I was able to find 'em locally.

I just have to adapt 'em a little bit to come up with

the basic shape that I use.

I'm currently working on developing new characters.

My initial ideas were kind of Kung Fu and Ninja inspired.

I'm kind of bringing it full circle to where I started.

Just things that I like that I'm in to.

I'm really trying to use colors

that I'm surrounded by in my neighborhood.

And since they're Ninjas they like to blend in

to your environment and I'm just always really inspired

by just walking around and seeing the

trees and kind of basing it on the colors.

I do a lot of eastern styles,

but I try to bring something modern to it.

I like to keep the eyes and facial features

as simple as possible.

I find that if you try and over complicate it,

it really starts taking away from it.

I try to keep the traditional elements of the simplicity.

That's important to me

and I think it plays into the style of the doll.

I sketch it out in pencil first.

I usually have a general idea of what I'm going for

and I just sketch it directly and pencil to the wood.

I don't really draw it on paper or anything first.

And from there, I just use brushes and acrylic paint.

I work on it as it goes, and I'm able to just shape it.

And if it starts going, you know, a little a stray,

I can usually bring it back, pull it back with the paints,

it's pretty forgiving and it dries quick.

You can just add to it and add to it and then,

when it's ready,

I just kind of go over it and make sure it's nice and clean,

and voila, it's done.

It takes probably from one to up to

three to four hours to make one.

The first dolls, they were, they were pretty rough

and I wasn't really sure what I was doing.

Over time you just kinda learn

what works and what doesn't work.

I've basically done it five days a week for eight years now

and when you look at the side by side difference

of my original ones to what I'm doing now,

it's night and day.

When we moved into this house,

I was able to take one of the spare bedrooms

and convert it into a studio space.

I just keep adding to it and adding more and more shelves

so I can actually have everything out and look at my ideas.

And, even though it's not a lot of space,

it's just kind of like what I can do

with the amount of space that I have.

I just recently discovered Etsy

and I didn't really know much about it.

It just seemed like kind of a cool spot

and seemed fairly user friendly.

So I just, I put a couple items up there

and it really didn't take long before I got some interest

and people contacting me about my work.

And, even started making some sales right away.

I'll always be doing commissions and custom orders.

I really enjoy doing that type of work.

But I would really like to be doing more

just limited edition collections.

And getting those into more galleries that I respect.

The places are out there.

I'm getting everything right to the place

where I'm really happy with it and I'm comfortable with it,

and then I'm gonna send it out to places that I would

really like it to be, and just see where it goes from there.

The response has been pretty amazing.

I've sent my work to over 35 countries.

People are really receptive to it.

It makes me feel like I'm really

on the right path.

Like, I'm doing the right thing, if I just stick to it

and just keep working at it then who knows where it will go.

You know, ultimately, I would like to visit

all the exotic places that my dolls get to go.

You know I'd really like to travel through art

and share my art with the world.

I'd like to have Kokeshi clan just go fully worldwide.

- For information visit Kokeshi Clan dot com.

Up next we take a look at various impacts

of the immigration system through an artist's lens.

Let's go inside the Museo de las Americas

in Denver, Colorado to see what it's like

to get this unique perspective.

- [Narrator] But Douglas Menjivar witnessed firsthand

what happens in immigrant detention facilities.

The El Salvador native was held for two years after being

detained by immigration and customs enforcement in Texas.

- [Narrator] To further that purpose,

Menjivar joined Sin Huellas,

a group of activists and artists.

Using detainees' stories and an artist's eye,

they created Detention Nation which simulates

what life is like for undocumented immigrants held,

many without due process,

at detainment facilities in the United States.

- These are actual people that have been affected.

- [Narrator] To remind visitors of that,

members of the Collective like artist Delilah Montoya

created ghost-like silhouettes to represent detainees.

- I was interested in making a statement that wasn't

necessarily documentary but had an emotion or a feeling

to it where it began to suggest where the population was,

where the the detainees were in

that they're not here nor there.

They were kind of caught in between the system itself.

- [Narrator] Museo de los Americas in Denver is the

second venue in the country to host the exhibit.

It immerses visitors in the sights and sounds of

a detention center, people wrapped in Mylar blankets,

the murmur of voices, and doors clanking shut.

Everything is under surveillance.

Museum curator Maruca Salazar said the work

is meant to emphasize the impact

the immigration system can have on people.

- Ancient relationships are very crucial

in migration patterns.

What might be erased by humans,

but they have been here for thousands of years

so we can really say we have nothing to do,

or this is not part of our culture or this is not part

of our historical tradition or memory.

It is very much a part of us.

And specifically here in Colorado because Colorado is like

a migration pattern as a place of transition

between the west and the east.

So right here at the center of the of the country.

This is the place where we really need to pay attention

to what's going on.

If you have never been in a detention center,

you truly experience the idea of incarceration.

You know one tone floor, you know wire fences,

flashing cameras picking up every movement that you do.

All of those things impact you psychologically

and so when you leave here you feel like

you've been sitting in a very oppressive space.

- [Narrator] That oppressive treatment still plagues

former detainee Douglas Menjivar.

He was sexually assaulted twice in detention

and now suffers from PTSD.

He describes crowded conditions,

limited access to medical care, and no privacy.

- [Narrator] His account of the poor conditions

are echoed in letters written by other detainees

which are included in the exhibit.

One even described it as El Infierno, hell.

Menjivar's time in detention was rife with uncertainty,

which he said is typical for detainees.

He didn't know when his case would be heard by a judge

or if he would be released.

One day a guard simply presented him

with a form written in English.

- [Narrator] Ultimately he signed the document

and was released, but why was he released?

- It's a good question, we don't know.

- [Narrator] The former police officer does know he's afraid

to return to his native El Salvador.

Since his release from detention he has secured

a work permit and is awaiting a hearing with ICE.

- And now lets take a lookat this week's art quiz.

Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker was first performed

in the united states by which theater company?

Is the answer A, Alexandra ballet,

B, San Francisco Ballet,

C, American Ballet Theater,

or D, Ballet Austin?

Stay tuned for the answer

Having a dialogue with art

can be as simple as telling a story.

For Milwaukee's Florentine Opera Company,

the story of Elmer Gantry, based on the satirical novel by

Sinclair Lewis, explores religion in America in the 1920s.

In this next segment, the creators of this

grammy-award-winning production elaborate on the show,

and the impact it's had in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

and on american opera.

♪ See now, fellas

♪ I am one patient man

♪ Right Frank

- [Craig] I think the audience really wants to like Elmer,

but he just keeps making such bad choices. (laughs)

- [Herschel] Elmer Gantry is the story of this rogue,

college boy, football player with no calling, really,

for the ministry.

But a great opportunist.

♪ Mr. Gantry, please come in

♪ I'd like to present you

♪ The faculty of the college and seminary

- [Robert] He's offered a three year scholarship

to the seminary, which he accepts.

Meets the love of his life.

They fall in love, become partners,

and work their way up to the top of the revival world.

♪ Touched by faith

- [Frank] And yet, even though he has what he considers

to be the love of his life, he still backslides,

and he goes back to a former flame that he had

at the beginning of the opera.

- [Robert] On opening night, the temple burns down,

and Sharon is killed, and Elmer survives

and moves on to his next career.

♪ Is the joy that cradles the heart.

- This is almost now 25 years ago.

It was in 1990, I believe, and Herschel and his girlfriend

at the time Lorraine Hunt,

I told them about this idea that I was interested in doing

an opera based on Elmer Gantry,

and I wanted Herschel to direct and I wanted Lorraine,

to play Sister Sharon Falconer,

who is the main mezzo character.

And we all got very excited about the idea,

and launched into the project,

which became much longer than we anticipated.

The making of the opera became kinda operatic itself.

- Here we are, all these years later,

and you know, we made it happen.

It was just an idea that really,

really took hold of both of us in a very personal way.

And that's what allowed us to stick with it,

through very, very thin times when nobody

wanted to produce the opera.

- Finally, Nashville Opera took the challenge,

and decided to mount the world premiere in 2007.

We did it in New Jersey, at Montclair, New Jersey.

And then William Florescu, the general manager of,

the Florentine Opera, went down to Nashville

and saw the production.

And on the first night that he saw it, he said,

"This is the greatest thing I've ever seen.

"This is gonna, this is what is going to change

"the direction of Florentine Opera here in Milwaukee."

- And now we're in the happy position

that he's doing it again.

He believes in it so much that five years later,

after he did the version that has been recorded,

he decided that he wanted to do it again.

♪ Calling to thee

- [Herschel] Probably my biggest job was to take this novel

and to put it into much more compact form.

You know, it's the story of how American religion,

revivalism, went from being a frontier phenomenon,

practiced by very few people in rural communities,

to taking over cities.

And nowadays, we see the echos of that in TV evangelists.

♪ A part of a two-edged sword

♪ Cuttin' sin both left and right

♪ Left and right

♪ A sword, a sword

♪ A two-edge sword

♪ A glittering sword

♪ Show us the last things

♪ The last things

♪ And take us out the way we come in

- When we first met Frank in 1991,

we wanted to hire him for the first workshop.

He always struck us as the most intelligent

kind of singer/actor.

When Bill Florescu said, "What would you think about

"Frank Kelley directing this incarnation of Elmer Gantry?"

We both said, "Absolutely."

- The good thing about being the director is

I get to be every single character.

I don't get to just be Eddie Fislinger,

I get to think Lulu Baines and teach that to somebody.

And I get to become Sharon Falconer and Elmer Gantry

and build what their vision of this reality is,

teach those characters what that is,

and then put them all together.

And work together this tapestry of wonderful characters.

- A good director, like Frank, will have

the nuance and the patience, which Frank does have,

to be able to suggest something sometimes completely

different from what the singer chooses.

And he'll do it in a way that the singer goes,

"Yeah, that's absolutely correct.

"I hadn't thought of that.

"Thank you."

♪ Twice a normal yield

♪ From his little bedroom window

- I think with opera, one of the challenges

American composers have had is because opera has been

so defined by European composers,

and Elmer Gantry is such a quintessentially American story,

that I thought that if I were to write an opera,

I wanted it to be something

that couldn't be mistaken for a European opera.

But I firmly believe, as does Herschel,

that we need to develop our own national identity within

the genre of opera, as so many other countries have.

- First time opera goers need to see an opera

that doesn't live up to the stereotypes of opera

that they're expecting, of large people standing

in one place on stage, screaming in a foreign language

that they can't understand.

And our goals is to completely erase those stereotypes.

This opera does that in spades.

The acting, the characters, the accessibility of the music,

the fact that it's in English,

there's colloquial language in it,

and also the gospel tunes, just this Americana,

but also mixed in with these soaring, melodic lines

that are so classically operatic.

It's perfection.

It's really, really a brilliant work.

And anybody walking off the street

is gonna be able to enjoy it.

♪ Elmer Gantry

♪ Never the same

♪ Again

- See more production photos from Elmer Gantry

and other main stage performances at the Florentine

Opera Company's website

Now let's review this week's art quiz.

Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker was first performed

in the United States by which company?

Is the answer A, Alexandra Ballet,

B, San Francisco Ballet,

C, American Ballet Theater,

or D, Ballet Austin?

And the answer is

B, San Francisco Ballet.

One day, Debbie Lambin became bored with a book

she was reading, and along with her daughter, Rachel,

turned its pages into origami.

Today, this mother and daughter duo from Reno

bring a new dimension to storytelling,

bringing characters and scenes to life

as three dimensional paper sculptures

shaped by the very pages of the books

that hold their stories.

Lets see how they create this unique work.

(soft piano music)

- Basically our thing is that we bring books to life.

We are book artists and what we do is we take a book

that is either been shelved and has dust all over it

or whatever the case may be, we take the pages

out of the book and we actually create a sculpture

and have them come to life.

- It's a pretty cool feeling, materializing something

that's an idea or concept in a book.

It's at first kind of daunting and challenging,

kinda thinking how am I gonna make

this character come to life?

How am I gonna do it justice?

But at the end of the day when we do it,

it kind of feels like making dreams materialize

or come true or something.

- Through your imagination.

- Yeah, bringing your imagination to something material.

We all imagine things when we read and it just feels like

to me taking that imagination to the next level.

- [Debbie] When you're reading that book, you have an idea

of what you're seeing that character look like

and what that scenery is and you're creating that image

of what you feel.

- I think my favorite story that I've recreated,

or group of stories, is I've been into

The Grimm's Fairy Tales and I loved creating some of

my favorite stories like I created a Little Red Riding Rood,

Snow White, Hansel Gretel.

- The physical process, start to finish,

of a book sculpture would be,

first off just visualizing it and thinking of it

in two dimensions, making a sketch of it,

and kind of keeping in mind how big we want 'em,

how top heavy, what book,

make sure that it kinda makes sense.

And then it'll kinda be just taking the book

and looking through it and taking our X-ACTO knife,

or tearing out a couple of pages that we think

would be good for this project.

She just takes the pages outta that book,

very indiscreetly so you can't see 'em

and she just cuts it

and starts rolling it and shaping it.

- [Rachel] I'll start folding it into

whatever basic shape I'm looking for.

Simultaneously you're folding the book or putting it on

whatever base it needs to be,

and then I'll just take some of the text that I

specifically wanted to be shown on the outside

and I'll add that as a finishing touch

and I'll take other pieces of paper and kind of

wrap it around this main shape that I've kind of created

and keep working at it and manipulating it

until it resembles what I want it to be.

- [Debbie] For the pages that are wild,

I literally will just take 'em and roll 'em,

crush 'em, it depends on what the figure's gonna be.

If it's something of anger and trying to get

a message out of power or something then of course

that book sculpture will relate to those pages

being manipulated to be crazy.

It evokes emotion and you don't know what kind of emotion

you're gonna get out of it.

When we first started, I would say it was about

50% of people saying, "How could you do this to a book?

"What is wrong with you?"

We're like, "Well, would you rather have it in the trash?

"Would you rather have it sitting on a shelf getting dust?

"Would you rather have it be like seen

"and have that story come to life and live?"

- [Rachel] Be it someone positively responding to it,

or someone upset with the type of art form,

I guess it's serving its purpose as art.

- [Debbie] We're actually giving it a better purpose.

They're not being just thrown somewhere,

like people throwing things out.

They're actually being made into art.

And they're telling their story.

- [Rachel] In every single page, in a way,

since they're open and on display,

and the sculptures are made of the pages,

they're all seeing the light of day.

Even loved books that are used all the time

I kind of think of it as they're closed up and it's all dark

and they're in a shelf.

Whereas, how many times does it get to be the guest of honor

in its life of book.

And it's in the light and everyone gets to see it

and gets reminded of how they felt when they read that page

and what they were visualizing in their minds

as they were reading it, so that's pretty special.

- For more information visit

And that wraps it up for this edition of Art Effects.

For more arts and culture, and to watch past episodes,


Until next week, I'm Beth Macmillan, thanks for watching.

- [Announcer] Funding for Art Effects is made possible by

Newman's Own Foundation,

The Nell J. Redfield Foundation,

Carol Franc Buck,

Heidemarie Rochlin,

the annual contributions of KNPB Members,

and by.

(light music)

(energetic jazz music)


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