Gemma New

Conductor Gemma New brings talent, passion and leadership to Santa Fe Pro Musica’s “Women of Distinction” initiative.

AIRED: June 01, 2019 | 0:26:45

Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation ...and Viewers Like You





>>That's what I fell in love with when I was 12

years old, the fact that I was creating something

that was bigger than myself.








>>Lopez: Hey.

Good to meet you.


Thank you for being here.

>>New: Thank you for having me.

>>Lopez: What is your love for music?

>>New: It's an amazing phenomenon.

And it is really hard to put into words what makes

music so powerful, and how it moves us.

I always feel happiest when, after a concert, someone says.

"I was moved by that," because that means their

soul really was transported.

It was uplifted, and they were inspired and possibly

they can take that away from the concert hall and

feel differently as they go through the streets, continuing.

And so, there is a certain magic about music.

How did a composer, like Beethoven, who wrote a

piece over 200 years ago, wrote something that we

are still moved by now?

It's... he was genius.

I mean it's fantastic.

And then, we look at, okay, throughout the years

orchestras have had different styles, or

traditions, and they've played that Beethoven

symphony many different ways.

And yet, people are still moved by all the different

ways that people speak it.

And then, you look at the conductor.

The conductor doesn't say a word and in the

performance they don't make any noise at all.

And yet, somehow they're connecting with all the

musicians on stage and we're all listening to

each other and breathing together, and we somehow

play in harmony.

How does that all work?

It's one of the greatest mysteries.

But, I am obsessed by it.

I love to see how I can go deeper into that

experience and what helps me is to really know

everyone's part and then I can just connect to it.

Even if it's just in my little finger.

It's just having all those people combined over the

same joy of the music.

And then, somehow, the audience feels like

they're right there on stage with us.

I love it.

It's fantastic.

>>Lopez: You're here in Santa Fe representing Pro

Musica and the Women of Distinction Initiative.

Tell me about why you think it's important for a

woman to be in the arts, especially in a leadership role?

>>New: Well, historically I think there haven't been

a lot of female leaders in the arts and so I think

we're coming to a time when everyone is more

open-minded about what women can do with their careers.

And so, when I was growing up my mum said, "Gemma,

you can do whatever career you like, so long as you

work hard and have talent."

And actually, she had said, even being a woman.

And, I laughed at her because I thought of

course, yeah, why would that make a difference?

And for me, it really, I think I've worked hard at

this career for about 17 years now.

And it's always a long and steady road, just growing

incrementally, but it's something that I really

believe in and I want to continue pursuing.

I think for others, it's encouraging for them to

see a female leader in this role, because it maybe...

it makes them think that they can do it as well.

And I think we're seeing more and more female

conductors, which is really exciting.

>>Lopez: Can you remember a specific time when you

were much younger, when music just spoke to you?

You knew it was this divine message that came

to you and said you will be a musician.

You will be a conductor.

Do you have a memory like that?

>>New: I do, yes.

I was 12-years-old, playing the violin in a youth

orchestra, and so, I think that's why I love music so much.

There were 200 of us on stage.

And we did a really powerful piece,

Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" and in the

Great Gates of Kiev I made a promise to my young self

to always be part of an orchestra.

I didn't know exactly how it would pan out, and then

when I was 15, I got my first chance to conduct.

And I said to my best friend that night, I was

like, "This is it.

This is what I want to do."

And the road just started from there.

I started asking questions.

That's the biggest thing.

Be curious.

>>Lopez: Do women bring something unique to

orchestral conducting?

>>New: I think that everyone brings something unique

to orchestral conducting and to music.

As an artist, it is our job to find what we are

uniquely strong at, or what our potential is and

how to get there, and realizing that potential.

What our weaknesses are, that we really need to work on.

And, it's finding that unique voice that you have.

Who are you as a person?

Especially as a conductor, it's all about communication.

So, how do you communicate both very efficiently in

words in rehearsal, where it's in front of a lot of people.

It's not private.

And yet, it has to be so direct and somehow

resonate with that person in a high-stakes environment.

And also, physically how you show the music without

talking, without using words.

And also, sometimes it's just a miracle how it may

be that telepathically we connect.

>>Lopez: I mean, that's a really important

leadership role.

What do you bring to it as a woman?

>>New: Leadership skills that I find very important

are being a good listener.

So, for the first rehearsal, when I meet an

orchestra, especially for the first time, but even

if it's one that I've met for many times and I'm

just seeing where we are at in the first rehearsal.

I want to know what they're giving and then

being able to build upon that foundation and

unifying everyone's voice, so that we have a really

strong unified interpretation at the end

of the week.

>>Lopez: Your end goal is to create the best

collaboration possible.

And, you at the helm, need to kind of navigate those areas?

>>New: Yes, and it's definitely creating an

environment on stage.

That's what a leader does.

We have to have the artistic vision of the

piece, but also how we are going to work as a team.

So, I really tried to make a positive environment,

very supportive of each other and that way we all

very much mutually respect what we are bringing.

Because everyone's voice is valuable in an orchestra.

>>Lopez: What do you hope to achieve with your work?

>>New: I really hope to bring...

people together and make people feel uplifted and

that's what I fell in love with when I was twelve

talking about the fact that I was creating

something that was bigger than myself.

And it was the idea that when we come together we

can create something powerful.


>>Narrator: Welcome to Infinity as imagined by

Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama.

As you step inside her famous infinity mirror

rooms reflections of dots, colors, and light bend

reality in this unique museum experience.

>>Mika Yoshitake: I would love for people to just

step back and not take photos and try to just

experience the rooms as is.

>>Narrator: While photos on social media have

recently propelled the artist's popularity, she

spent a lifetime creating and is still working at 89.

This exhibit spotlights her body of work.

>>Reto Thüring: Kusama has been at the forefront of

artistic innovation ever since she started- since

the 1950s up until now.

So that makes her very unique and unusual artist-

basically developing a practice that includes

performance, painting, drawings, sculpture,

installation, and really everything.

>>Narrator: From a very young age, Kusama was

determined to create even when that put her at

odds with others.

>>Heather Lenz: In Japan, you know, she was born in

the late 20s and the expectation was that she

would get married and have kids and not just get

married but have an arranged marriage which

was not something she wanted to do.

>>Narrator: She made her way to the United States

to pursue her art career.

But that came with different challenges.

>>Lenz: In New York, it was a man's world and it

wasn't easy for her to come there she didn't have

friends there she didn't speak English very fluently.

And so to try to break into the art world it was

a big you know it was a big deal.

>>Narrator: Throughout her life, Kusama has also

struggled with mental illness.

>>Yoshitake: She has used her art as a form of

healing- her practice I think just as a lifestyle.

The ability to have the work is something that has

allowed her to survive.

>>Narrator: In the early 1960s.

She brought her repetitive style to a new medium,

tapping her life experience from World War II.

>>Yoshitake: During the war, she was working at a

parachute factory sewing military uniforms and

that's how she developed the technique to sew those

soft sculptures.

>>Narrator: They also appear in her first

infinity mirror room, Phalli's Field, which

debuted in 1965.

>>Yoshitake: She began to have hallucinations and

her work was really about kind of catching up with

those visions that she was having.

So you'll see one motif just exponentially accumulating.

Whether it be the paintings, the infinity

nets, or the phallic tubers and the sculptures,

and so the way in which these mirror rooms kind of

came about was that her physical capacity to be

able to create infinite repetitions of these objects.

It just didn't keep up with her desire and so she

was able to find the mirrors as a device to

activate her vision.

>>Narrator: The mirror rooms have captured many

people's attention particularly with this

traveling exhibit.

Those who visit reserve timed tickets and the time

inside the mirror room is limited to about 30

seconds inside the last one called The

Obliteration Room.

Visitors become artists as well.

>>Thüring: Everything is painted completely white

and every visitor is given a set of colorful stickers

and is then invited to basically leave those

stickers somewhere in the room.

So over the course of the exhibition, the dots will

accumulate and will eventually cover the entire room.

>>Narrator: It's yet another way to connect

with Kusama vision.

>>Heather Lenz: I know that she is very happy to

have all of these adoring fans.

If you think about the lean times for her where

she works so hard and she just wasn't getting the

appreciation or respect that she deserved.

And that wasn't a period of years it was a period

of decades.

So now to have all this attention and to get the

glory she deserved.

I think it's you know fantastic.


>>The photographer Jeff Wahl talks about

photographers as being either hunters or

gatherers and I definitely identify with the gatherer

rather than the hunter.

The large format view camera that I use dates

from the early 20th Century.

It's a very simple kind of primitive camera.

It's basically a box with a lens and a ground glass

on the other end.

So I have a large piece of black velvet that I use as

a dark cloth to black out the light so that I can

see the image that I'm photographing.

And the camera takes 8 x 10 negatives.

So the negative is much larger than say a 35

millimeter or even medium format negative.

And so as a result there's much more capacity for detail.

Often what I'm looking for as I'm photographing is a

way to kinda suspend time itself or be able to say

something that can't be said without the film and

the act of photographing.

Sometimes I will start with an idea based on

literature and then the composition evolves from there.

All my photographs are made in the same studio

and they're incorporating painting and drawing and

found objects and sometimes the figure as a

narrative tool.

The set sort of evolves until it sort of devolves

into the next picture.

So I kind of, I really enjoy how the process is

this continuous organic moment from one image to the next.

This is an example of a set that was really pretty

precariously constructed.

So these are individual little sticks that were

kind of pressed into the backdrop

against the tulle fabric.

I kind of enjoy the element of, it could all

fall apart at any moment.

As I'm working, my concept of time is a little bit

different in that everything is much slower

paced, and there's a really intense kind of

element of composition in working with the large

format camera.

You can go under this black cloth and then see

what you're photographing upside down and backwards,

so it's sort of transposed in a way and removed from

reality even further.

So that always really interested me that I was

creating a totally new space that didn't exist in

reality and that can only exist through the camera.

And then that the finished product is not something

that is really visible or even I'm conscious of

what's going to happen until I can see the final

print or the negative.

I have two sizes.

One is 40 x 50.

That size is quite large and it's almost a one to

one scale relationship with the viewer.

And then the other way that I work is by contact

printing the 8x10 negative to make a cyanotype.

So the cyanotypes are made on basically a watercolor

paper and the emulsion is a mixture of two different

light sensitive chemicals.

So I mix them together and then you hand coat the

paper with the emulsion and then you allow the

paper to dry in the total darkness.

When the paper's dry you can print the negative

directly in contact with the paper in the sunlight.

You leave the print in the sun for your exposure and

then you can wash it in water and then you have

your cyanotype.

The show that I recently had at David Klein Gallery

was titled Door Into The Dark and to me this idea

is more about the creative process as a pursuit of

the unknown.

The creative process is something that kind of

connects people through time and space.

And also I think that as artists are making things,

we don't necessarily always know what we're

doing or what we're looking for but we feel

the need to create the thing to keep making it.

So I feel the process is sort of the Door Into The Dark.

The painter Pierre Soulages talks about his

black paintings as being more just representative

of the forms that are in the paintings rather than

about other ideas.

You know, they're non-representational so

they really can't be described in language.

And I think a lot of art is that way and that's the

strength of art is that we can't necessarily always

explain or identify what may be happening when we

look at a painting or any kind of image.

So I would say that I hope that my viewer is able to

kind of enter the photograph and have

questions and things to think about and want to be

in that space but maybe not necessarily have a way

out of the space.

So that they can feel, relate to it enough to

sort of understand but then maybe their questions

are what keep them there or keep them looking at the piece.

Maybe some people are more comfortable knowing the

answers and others are comfortable with not

understanding exactly what is happening but being

engaged in it at the same time.


>>Casting the work in metal.

It's just a medium that I've become really

comfortable with and that I really, for lack of a

better word I could really shine.

Bronze is really the butter of metals.

It is very castable, very weldable.

It's great to hand file.

It's great to sand, very toolable.

In short you can control it.

As a little kid I used to play in dirt piles a lot

but I remember finding this huge cast iron gear

and feeling like wow how does it get here.

Like it just came down from space and got planted there.

For me it's sort of suspending disbelief with

your artwork.

You shouldn't be able to see all the work that came

in through it.

They should just be like, wow how did that get here.

How does she make it.

I try to do things that compliment, are attractive

and make people happy and I know there is a place

for political work and controversial artwork but

I don't think that's me.

As a kid I remember looking at the sky and

trying to figure out.

How somebody could see a bear in the stars, or a dipper.

I read a lot of books about star lore.

Their archetypal figures, some of these characters

are like modern day superheroes.

There's something for everybody there.

I typically sketch in 3D in wax.

This is a microcrystalline wax developed for

sculpture purposes.

Three figures based on Hpoi Kachinas but are my

own take on so I've modified them a lot.

One of them is like a sun god, he has a rainbow.

If something doesn't make me smile I will throw it

back and melted down.

It didn't make it.

Some things don't get committed to bronze. Okay.

When James and I got together and I moved here

I continued to cast my work at Foundry's in

Loveland Colorado, which is where I moved here from.

I'm not currently pouring bronze in my studio so we

did visit some dear friends of mine who are

professors at East Carolina University and

they opened their foundry up.

What's the largest thing poured here?

The pirate that's here on campus.

Jogi made I helped.

We are just pouring little stuff today.

It was a wonderful opportunity I think for

all of us to let my daughter and my husband be

involved too which was pretty great for me to

share that.

This is Quinn Elizabeth.

She's our greatest work of art and collaboration.

It's mostly a visual experience I think for her.

One of the things that I concentrate on now is just

teaching her to be comfortable in the

environment where her mom creates.

I figured out early the women in my family play

with fire.

I love seeing the hot metal flow.

I really do feel at home in that environment.

Got kind of a tribal feel it's very social at that level.

You really need to do the dance with your team

because if you're not right on track with them

you could end in disaster.

As an artist and a mother a lot of people can't make

that decision or don't make that jump.

They decide to pick one or the other.

I think about it too and just in my life is how can

I make the situation the best it can be.

I think that that's an amazingly positive message

to just put on a piece of bronze.

We had kind of been on our own professional tracks

and had not really contemplated having a

family and that's a huge transformation.

I've always liked the saying with the same fire

that melts butter, hardens steel and I think that the

crucible of childbirth and parenthood and married has

wholly made us stronger.

I thought he didn't know when he was getting into

and I'm still wondering.

Too late now.

I've been excited to be in the Williamsburg art

gallery in Merchants Square.

It's a beautiful setting a very intimate experience

with fine art.

The three dimensional piece of artwork.

People should want to walk around the backside.

There should be a question enough that you want to

see the other side.

It's a story still even though it's all there.

The Cosmo dancers.

When you see somebody have an emotional response to

work that you've done.

Then you go yeah.

Learning to communicate through a three

dimensional visual language.

I want to inspire some curiosity and wonder.

That's the story.


>>New Mexico PBS dot org and look for COLORES under

Local Productions.



>>Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation ...and Viewers Like You


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