Conductor Gemma New brings talent, passion and leadership to Santa Fe Pro Musica’s “Women of Distinction” initiative.
Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:
Frederick Hammersley Foundation ...and Viewers Like You
>>THIS TIME, ON COLORES!
CONDUCTOR GEMMA NEW BRINGS TALENT, PASSION AND
LEADERSHIP TO SANTA FE PRO MUSICA'S "WOMEN
OF DISTINCTION" INITIATIVE.
>>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.
>>YAYOI KUSAMA TRANSFORMES REPETITIOUS DESIGN INTO AN
EXPERIENCE OF THE INFINITE.
>>LAUREN SEMIVAN EXPLORES IDEAS OF PERCEPTION.
>>USING THE LOST WAX PROCESS, SCULPTOR MERRILEE
CLEVELAND IS INSPIRED BY ANCIENT ART AND MYTHOLOGY.
IT'S ALL AHEAD ON COLORES!
>>A DYNAMIC PRESENCE IN MUSIC.
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.
>>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.
>>Lopez: Do women bring something unique to
>>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
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
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.
>>A VISION OF THE INFINITE.
>>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 ThÃ¼ring: 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
>>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
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
Visitors become artists as well.
>>ThÃ¼ring: 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
So now to have all this attention and to get the
glory she deserved.
I think it's you know fantastic.
>>FINDING THE EXTRAORDINARY IN THE EVERYDAY.
>>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
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
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
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
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 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.
>>THE FLOW OF HOT METAL.
>>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
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
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
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
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.
>>TO VIEW THIS AND OTHER COLORES PROGRAMS GO TO:
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Also, LOOK FOR US ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM.
UNTIL NEXT WEEK, THANK YOU FOR WATCHING.
>>Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:
Frederick Hammersley Foundation ...and Viewers Like You
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