Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S8 E31 | FULL EPISODE

Painter Lucian Freud, The Greenidge Sisters, and more

This week a look at painter Lucian Freud—widely recognized for his portraits in the exhibition, “Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits” at the Museum of Fine Arts, then a interview with Kirsten, Kerri and Kaitlyn Greenidge, a trio of sisters—each one highly accomplished in their artistic field, plus glass artist Nate Freeland and the Detroit Institute of Music Education.

AIRED: March 20, 2020 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> JARED BOWEN: Welcome toOpen Studio,

WGBH's weekly spotlight on arts and culture

from around the region and the nation.

I'm Jared Bowen, coming up onOpen Studio,

Freud facing Freud.

How the British painter saw himself.

>> He looked at himself

in a very glancing and sometimes even suspicious way.

>> BOWEN: Then, the Greenidge Sisters doing it for themselves.

>> As a writer, when you do draw from, from your life,

and you put other people's lives, um,

in the public sphere like that,

that's, that is your truth, and you have every right

to write your truth in that way.

>> BOWEN: Plus, cracking glassblowing.

>> It's an art form unlike any other.

And there's, there's a, a very calculated process

to making your pieces.

>> BOWEN: It's all now onOpen Studio.

First up, British painter Lucian Freud was famous

for how he labored over his portraits,

putting his models through grueling, endless hours

of awkward poses and examination.

It was equal-opportunity scrutiny, though.

He was just as exacting

when it came to his own 70 years of self-portraits.

A note to our viewers,

the exhibition we're about to show you

is at the Museum of Fine Arts,

which is currently closed due to coronavirus concerns,

and we taped our story before the MFA shut down.

Here we find the painter Lucian Freud at the beginning,

the end, and everything in between.

>> He didn't really talk about his work and his influences.

So, to find him looking at himself

and revealing himself in this way

throughout the entirety of his career

is really quite, quite special.

>> BOWEN: When he died in 2011,

Freud was one of the most famous painters England had ever seen.

He was a reticent public figure with a storied private life,

including at least 14 children.

Artistically, his pride was in portraiture,

one of the most famous being this 2001 painting

of Queen Elizabeth.

>> He didn't necessarily have the time

that he might have had with the majority of his sitters.

It's incredibly small and incredibly intense

and has this wonderful sense of, of worked-up-ness about it.

>> BOWEN: By all accounts, Freud labored over his paintings--

spending 80 hours in some cases--

in a process that spanned months, if not years,

says Andrea Tarsia of London's Royal Academy of Arts.

He is the curator

of this first-ever Freud self-portrait show

at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

>> He would look and look and look,

mix a number of paints,

and then perhaps the result of a sort of 20-minute, half-an-hour,

period of, of observation might result in just one brush stroke.

>> BOWEN: The exhibition features

some 70 years of Freud looking at himself,

from the sketches of a teenager and his first painterly efforts

to the final renderings of a man

who once said he wanted to paint himself to death.

>> He's using a variety of different colors

that aren't really about realism,

they're not about capturing skin exactly as it is,

but rather conveying a sense and a quality of it.

And I think something else that's really interesting

about this painting

is how important eyes are.

>> It's always amazing when you get to meet an artist

through their work. >> BOWEN: Akili Tommasino

is an associate curator at the MFA.

He says Freud turned to the proverbial selfie

to mark significant moments in his life,

like big birthdays or marriage--

which was as complicated as it looks here.

>> He looked at himself in a very glancing

and sometimes even suspicious way.

His primary tool in rendering his own image were mirrors.

Freud will present himself partially cropped

or from unconventional angles

that he would place the mirrors around the studio.

>> BOWEN: It's interesting to consider

what and how deeply Freud saw.

In case you're wondering,

there is a connection to the other Freud.

Sigmund was his grandfather.

>> Whenever critics tried to describe his work

in terms of psychology and psychological insight,

he would always say, "No, no, no, no.

"This isn't what I'm really interested in.

"What I'm interested in is conveying a sense of presence,

"the physical presence,

and, and using paint as an equivalent for flesh."

>> BOWEN: Freud loved flesh and nakedness.

>> He hated the word nude.

He always used the word naked.

They were naked portraits.

And for him, really, it was about

getting closer to the person.

It was about losing the layers

within which we, we mask ourselves to a certain extent.

>> BOWEN: Freud is in the flesh here

even when you think he isn't-- planted in the background,

looming as a shadow,

or discreetly propped against a skirting board.

>> One of the stories that goes with the painting is,

the father said, "Whatever you do,

"don't remove that hand from behind your back,

or we'll be here for another six months."

>> BOWEN: All of this, the show's curators say,

is a rarity.

Few artists have faced off against themselves so often.

Van Gogh is famed for his self-portraits,

but they were painted in a limited timeframe.

One absolute portrait precedent,

and an artist Freud himself acknowledged,

was Rembrandt.

He channeled the Dutch artist in this early drawing.

>> It's a very simple graphic drawing,

it looks like there's almost nothing there,

but it really has this tremendous power

that sucks you right across the room,

and you see him with his head tilted back

and his mouth slightly open.

It's a drawing that really recalls

a series of etchings that Rembrandt made in the 1540s,

where he's also depicting himself

in a variety of different expressions.

>> BOWEN: Self-expression is the theme here,

in these portraits of an artist as an evolving man.

Next,Our Daughters, Like Pillars will open soon

at the Huntington Theatre Company.

It's a comedy about a vacationing family.

The playwright, Kirsten Greenidge,

has a pretty extraordinary one of her own.

She's had plays produced around the country.

Her sister Kerri is an historian who wroteBlack Radical,

one of the best-reviewed books of last year.

And her other sister Kaitlyn is a writer and novelist

with one of the best-reviewed books of 2016,

calledWe Love You, Charlie Freeman.

I recently sat down with all three Greenidge sisters.

Kirsten, Kerri, Kaitlyn Greenidge,

thank you so much for being here.

So, this is hilarious, because, Kirsten,

I've had you on the show before.

We, we know each other.

Then I met you, Kerri, and then you told me about Kaitlyn,

and I thought, "What is in your cornflakes as children

that you all grew up to have this success?"

But, so, Kirsten, I'll start with you.

Uh, how do you describe who your sisters are

and the fact that you've all risen

to these great heights already?

>> Um, well, my sisters are some of the best ladies I know.

I'm really excited to be related to them.

Um, they are, like, my partners in crime.

I have no idea what, what happened,

except that we were, um, we just spent a lot of time together

being creative in our living room, I think.

That's how part of it started a long time ago.

A lot of free time to write together, play together,

and a lot of singing together. >> Yes.

>> I think that's how it started.

>> BOWEN: You felt freedom, and I understand

you were reading Pushkin and, and playing the cello.

>> Yes. >> BOWEN: You, you,

you were in it from a very early age, it sounds like.

>> Yeah, I think, I think we all were just very, um, um,

into reading things.

My mother used to say, you know,

"If you're bored, it's because you're boring.

So you shouldn't be bored, you should find something to do."

So I think we were just always encouraged

to, uh, play together, to, um, do something

instead of just kind of mope around.

>> BOWEN: Well, Kaitlyn, were there limits?

Or were you just given free rein as you were coming up?

>> Oh, uh, I mean, there were definitely limits.

I think the things that were given free rein

were what we could, what kind of culture we could consume.

So, um, nothing was really off-limits.

Um, we could read whatever we like,

or usually watch whatever we like, within reason, you know?

>> BOWEN: Well, you're all trailblazers

in what you're doing.

Kirsten, I read that you, you didn't realize

until a little bit later in life,

until seeing an August Wilson play,

that you could even be a playwright.

So, how, how did you find yourself?

>> That field trip where I went to go see

August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone

and thinking, "Oh, my gosh, that's what I am,"

and realizing that that had to come out of me,

no matter what it was called, was really important.

Uh, and having, um, parents who, uh, allowed me to do that.

And said, "Yes, this is who you are,

find a way to, to do that."

>> BOWEN: You've both had books

selected as best books of the year in their respective years,

you've had your plays, I mean, how,

how do you interact with one another,

support one another? >> I'm just so,

um, proud of my, my sisters

and my, um, just my family in general.

Because I'm a historian, both of their creativity

encourages me to be more creative in the history.

And so I'm also very inspired by stuff that they're doing.

Both of them are very tapped into culture

and politics and reading, so any book they're reading,

I'm, like, "Oh, I should be reading that.

>> BOWEN: How often do you talk? >> Oh, I think, just,

it's a constant conversation. >> Exactly, yes.

>> It is a constant conversation.

I, it is almost... I don't find it overwhelming at all.

Um, it, but it is, like, you know,

a 6:00 a.m. text of, "Did you see this, did you hear this?"

And it, conversations, um, pick up and die down, uh,

almost seamlessly.

I just figured out how to do, um, meld calls.

>> I know, we just figured it out.

>> That is great, because now we can all talk at the same time.

>> Yes. >> On one telephone call

without doing speaker.

>> BOWEN: Well, how free are you with each other

to share ideas, to, to criticize--

constructive criticism?

>> I think we share ideas.

Someone asked me this recently, like, "Do you share work

"and then pass work back and forth

and, like, you know, edit people's work?"

We do not do that.

>> As children, we would pass things around.

>> Oh, yes. >> And then we all went

through a phase where we became very sensitive.

>> BOWEN: Ah. >> And so I think there is,

like, an unspoken thing

that we then stopped passing things around that we...

But we always, I mean, I always know

what everyone is kind of working on or looking at.

And so, the great thing is, like, Kaitlyn will say,

"Oh, I'm reading this, researching this for my novel,

and I read this."

And I'll be, like, "Oh," I'll then go and find it.

>> And our work overlaps a lot.

I'm in rehearsal now for a play.

An actor came up to me and said, "You know, your sister

refers to the mother in, in her book this way."

So, it's really interesting how our work overlaps,

but we don't, do not usually hand each other, um, um,

proofs or galleys or something, and, and say, "Here, uh,

"check this out and, and give me,

red-line anything." >> Yeah.

>> We haven't done that in a long time.

>> BOWEN: Well, you mentioned the play,

which isOur Daughters, Like Pillars.

And this is about a family, over the weekend.

Are we to glean that you're writing about your own family?

>> No, it is, it is... It, it draws from my life,

but it was inspired by a book, uh, by Dorothy West

called, uh,The Living is Easy.

And in it, sisters come and live together,

and it's about that journey.

And, um, it's inspired a little bit by living together,

but, but I think the sisters

in that book, um, and in, in the play

are a little bit different than us in that they are

perhaps not as kind to each other, I would say,

without giving way too much. >> BOWEN: Hmm.

And Kaitlyn, you're a novelist,

and, and you write nonfiction pieces,

as we see in theNew York Times, too.

How feel, how free do you feel

to draw from the family and, and your experiences?

I mean, they always say, write what you know.

>> Yeah, uh, pretty free.

I mean, a couple of the pieces that I've done

for theNew York Times

have, have been about either trips

that we've taken together

or about experiences that we've had as sisters.

Um, and I think probably just because of how we grew up,

I'll always be interested in writing

about that relationship in some sort of way.

>> BOWEN: So, we've seated you in birth order here.

Maybe I won't tell the audience in which order.

But does birth order matter in your family?

Do you, do you see things play out for that way?

>> We often sit in this order.

And people, people have said to my mom, like,

"Did you know they are sitting in their birth order?"

So, it's, it's, it's, it's something that we've done,

but done before.

I am the oldest, and I often, uh, can be quite bossy.

And that is okay with me, that's fine.

I will own that.

Um, and I think that's just...

(laughing): As I look at Kerri staring at me.

That's just, that's just part

of who I am in the, in this, in this family.

I think birth order,

I don't think you can always escape that.

>> And I'm, I'm the middle one, so I think,

you know, I think it's, uh...

I don't know, I think birth order definitely does matter.

I think it plays out in your relationships.

What's also been interesting to me is just seeing, like,

the generational thing that you wouldn't think of, um...

We're not that much older than Kaitlyn,

but, um, you know,

I'm four-and-a-half years older than Kaitlyn,

and Kirsten's seven-and-a-half years?

>> You didn't have to call out ages.

>> Yeah, I know... >> What's wrong with you?

>> Um, but, but, so just to see, like,

the slightly different perspective.

>> Yeah, they're Generation X, and I am a very old Millennial,

so it's, like... (all laughing)

>> And when we make fun of Millennials, Kaitlyn will be,

like, "Well, I'm a Millennial," you know?

>> BOWEN: Well, it has been such a pleasure

to have you all here and talk to you.

I've been wanting to do this ever since we met on that shoot.

>> I know. >> BOWEN: I'm so delighted.

>> BOWEN: Kerri, Kaitlyn, Kirsten Greenidge,

thank you all so much for being here.

>> Thank you. >> Thanks for having us.

>> BOWEN: If you've ever watched a glassblower,

you know it requires tremendous skill and control.

Nate Freeland seems to have it down.

Here, we meet the Cincinnati artist.

>> The type of glassblowing that I specialize in

is furnace work or offhand glassblowing.

It's basically, we start

with a fresh ball of molten glass

on the end of a blow pipe or a solid rod

that we can transform into many different forms.

We can add colors, we can add designs.

Actually, the possibilities are probably limitless

in what we can do.

We're just limited to our, our skill sets,

and we're limited

to the equipment and tools that we have on hand.

I got started in glassblowing in college.

I got interested in glassblowing as a teenager,

saw it on public television, yeah,

found a university that, that taught glassblowing,

and moved to Cincinnati.

It's unlike any other, any other art form.

And it's not something that you can just start a piece,

put it down, go to lunch, come back.

You kind of have to get everything

you need to get done within that one setting

done within that one setting.

And not to say that you can't revisit pieces later

under, under certain techniques,

but really, the idea of getting that one, one shot at it,

that one shot, I like it.

Glass has its own fluidity, its own motion.

And one of the biggest misconceptions with glass

is that it's kind of a testosterone-driven event:

you need to be strong, you need to be manly,

when in fact, if you get the glass at the right heat,

it's a finesse game, and it can almost turn

into a very almost poetic dance with the glass.

And you...

You see someone just...

The, the motion of that glass

swinging around as the, as they're making their move,

you have to have a lot of finesse,

a lot of finesse to handle this material.

You can't, can't really let it control you.

Oftentimes, the glass will control you,

and you need, you need to take charge

and control that glass.

Glass has been dated back,

you know, they've found, they've found examples of it

in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia.

It became kind of a lost art form.

And while the bulk of everything that was being made historically

had some sort of a function to it, um,

we saw glass, you know, late 19th, early 20th century,

and it was a lot of manufacturing.

And it wasn't until the '60s or '70s right here in Ohio

that the studio-glass art, studio-glass movement started,

and it was just an experimental,

it was an experimental thing.

It started in a garage.

Some of the things that I really like to incorporate

into production work,

or any of my own everyday work,

is just old Venetian techniques

that had been kept secret for, you know,

hundreds and hundreds of years,

and, and, you know, somebody leaked the secrets,

and, and these...

These United States artists are picking up on it

and really capitalizing on these techniques

and, and kind of tweaking them and making them their own.

But when we deal with color, we often,

we often have to consider the light source

in which this is going to be viewed under.

It is possible to make something

that, that doesn't resemble glass,

that you don't have to be concerned about light.

Something I'm attracted to is how the light reflects,

refracts, penetrates, shines back through pieces,

can reflect these colors onto walls, onto surfaces.

I find that a very, a very dynamic

and a very appealing aspect to glass.

It's an art form unlike any other.

And there's, there's a, a very calculated process

to making your pieces.

And each piece is different.

It's a surprise to a lot of people--

it's a surprise to a lot of people

about what really goes into making a piece of glass.

The bulk of our business here at Neusole is community education.

So, we, we teach workshops seven days a week.

And the process is allowing as much hands-on possible

to that client.

We want to make them feel

like they get the most out of their money.

So we do offer them a chance to hold those blowpipes,

to walk around, feel that pipe in their hand

with liquid glass on the end.

It's a team effort

even when we get into the production of pieces.

Glassblowing's not a solo sport.

You need people around you that, that you trust.

You need people around you

that, that you trust their skill sets.

I'd never make anything with less than one assistant.

Very rarely will I work solo.

And I've worked on production teams

of ten-plus people

to make a piece.

The most satisfying thing people take away, for me,

is when they see the price of the glass,

and, "Wow, why does that cost so much?"

And then they do it, and they realize

this isn't four cups for four dollars

from, from the superstore, you know?

No, this isn't machine-made glass,

and that there is a, there is a craft behind it.

There's, there's definitely a craft,

definitely a skill set

that it takes to, to achieve a final product.

>> BOWEN: And finally now,

Detroit Institute of Music Education, also known as DIME,

gets down to the business of music.

It places a focus on the contemporary music industry.

(people singing, playing guitar)

>> When you walk the halls of DIME,

you hear incredible music.

>> You feel the music industry.

>> (vocalizing)

>> Most places measure success in music by complication,

so, more complicated music is better than simple music.

But in the music industry, it's the reverse.

Detroit has got the best musical bones of anywhere in the world.

So the chance to build a college here was an amazing thing.

In 2001, in England, we built five colleges there,

so that young people had an academic path

into the music industry

that valued modern music

at the same level as traditional music.

>> We really wanted to help young, modern musicians,

entrepreneurs, and songwriters

understand how the business of music works,

and that was really the motivation

about setting up DIME.

>> DIME is different

because it focuses on the contemporary music industry.

A lot of universities, you'll study, like, one track--

you'll do, like, a classical track or a jazz track.

DIME is more fit for students who want to do,

you know, pop music, or anything along those lines

of being in the contemporary music industry.

Much better, okay?

It's just amazing how, like,

when you really, like, get into it,

like, as far as your character, how much that helps the voice.

>> What you get at DIME is the real deal.

What it's really like every day,

and how you also have to have entrepreneurial skills

to survive in today's industry.

>> And we want young people to understand,

it's not just about playing guitar in your bedroom

or being the next Beyoncé-- there's everything in between.

There will be some singers who realize they're not as good

as some of the other people in their class,

and that's okay.

Think how you can find your path in the music industry.

And it doesn't mean that you will never sing again,

it just means that you might do something else

as your primary source of income,

and that will allow you to continue your singing passion.

(final keyboard notes play) >> Okay, good, very good.

Now, as we go...

♪ Do, ti, la

Just make sure we have a nice, blended sound, all right?

(voiceover): Most of our faculty members,

if not all, they're all practicing musicians.

And so, we're all familiar with what it takes

to, like, have a career, have your 9:00 to 5:00,

and also pursue this dream.

>> When I leave class,

most of the times on the weekend I'm going to the airport

to catch a flight to go do a one-off or a tour date

with one of the artists that I work with.

So, I'm able to bring that experience

back to the classroom Monday morning,

and that's one of the things

that separates DIME and makes it unique.

>> The degree that DIME students get

is a bachelor of arts in commercial music performance

or commercial songwriting or music industry studies,

and the degrees are awarded

through Metropolitan State University of Denver.

>> If you're a performance major, you'll take a class

that's called live-performance workshop,

where you have to learn a different song each week.

In songwriting, they take classes like lyric writing,

foundations of songwriting, writing for artists.

And then for music industry studies,

some of their main classes are, like, domestic music market,

international music market,

politics of A&R, establishing an artist.

So, just kind of, like, getting a feel

for different aspects of being behind the scenes

and not being onstage.

>> We want students in their first week,

when they enroll in the program,

to feel like they've already entered the music industry.

So, it was really important to build a building

that feels inspiring, that's full of music,

that has vintage and new equipment everywhere

that students can trial and test.

>> We don't have classrooms, we have studios.

So, when we go in the studio,

we're working, we're vibing, we're collaborating.

>> We often describe DIME like a development deal.

So, we say, "During your four years,

"come here, make all your mistakes.

"Use DIME, the program, and your academic studies

"to figure out who you want to be, so when you graduate,

you're going to get that job that you want."

(student drumming)

>> Yeah, come on, there we go.

Ah!

Funky drummer.

(voiceover): I try to be relentless at making sure

I empower them to know that, "You can make music.

You can turn this music into a passion and make it a career."

>> It's really important for us to open our doors to the city.

And we wanted DIME to feel

like anyone in the city is welcome in these four walls.

>> We saw the basement here,

and because I'm from, like, deep-jazz world,

we modeled this on Charlie Parker's club,

that kind of speakeasy, open-door attitude

about, there's music going on here

and anyone can walk in off the street.

>> All our events are free,

and if someone enjoys the show,

we have a student scholarship fund.

They can put a couple of bucks in to say thank you.

Because we are the Detroit Institute of Music Education,

we're taking that tagline all around the world with us.

So, we have now just built a college in Denver.

It's called DIME Denver, but it's powered

by the Detroit Institute of Music Education.

So, we are trying to fly the flag for all Detroit performers,

within Detroit and also outside of Detroit,

and tell the world

what an incredibly talented city this is.

>> And, we've also got DIME Online,

which is in 23 countries right now.

>> And that's also powered by Detroit.

>> It's also powered by Detroit.

>> (vocalizing)

>> One of our mottos is, like, "Simple done well."

So, being able to really take on a song

and communicate it to, to the point

where it just feels like you're just having a good time,

and, and you're really, like, touching the person

with, with your music.

You have all of these tools in your tool bank,

but you make it look effortless.

And so I think that that is one of the, the things

that we try to get across here at DIME.

>> ♪ You're here by my side

(song ends)

>> BOWEN: That is all for this edition ofOpen Studio.

Next week, Paul Revere-- the man, the myth, the artist.

>> It's the poet, not the historian,

who summarizes the entire event in one line--

"One if by land, two if by sea."

>> BOWEN: Until then, I'm Jared Bowen,

thanks for joining us.

And, as always, you can visit us online at wgbh.org/OpenStudio.

And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,

@OpenStudioWGBH.

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