Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S10 E9 | FULL EPISODE

"Titian," Comedian Jacqueline Novak, and more

The exhibit, “Titian: Women, Myth & Power” at The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, comedian Jacqueline Novak and her one-woman show, “Get on Your Knees,” an Oklahoma artist on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and aerial photography along the Eastern Seaboard.

AIRED: September 17, 2021 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> It's huge.

They haven't been back together

since they left the royal collections in Spain

over the course of several centuries.

>> JARED BOWEN: I'm Jared Bowen, coming up onOpen Studio,

at the Gardner Museum, a show of Titian paintings fit for a king.

Then comedian Jacqueline Novak has "the Talk."

>> There is one sex act at the center of my show,

calledGet on Your Knees, which has many meanings

and doesn't, you know, necessarily imply

anything specific, but it could also be considered relevant

to, you know, adult listeners.

>> BOWEN: Plus, an artist pieces together the legacy

of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

>> The very first scene is like the past.

So it's, like, let's show what Greenwood was like

before destruction.

>> BOWEN: And a photographer taking in the Eastern Seaboard

from on high.

>> I became fascinated with these barrier islands

that line the Virginia coastline.

They are all preserved

and none of them have been built on,

and they're just left to nature.

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

♪ ♪

First up, an exhibition many have already proclaimed

is theart show of the year, if not our lifetime.

Now on view at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum,

a collection of paintings by the Renaissance master Titian

not seen together in more than 400 years.

At first blush, there is somuch to absorb:

a master painter working at his most majestic;

skin bared to carnal extremes;

but also an atmosphere of terror.

And then there is this:

seeing these six Titian paintings reunited

for the first time since the Italian Renaissance.

>> It's huge.

They haven't been back together since they left

the royal collections in Spain

over the course of several centuries.

>> BOWEN: It was Spain's young and soon-to-be-king Philip II

who commissioned Titian to paint this series in 1550.

Hiring the Venetian painter was akin to landing Picasso

as your interior designer, says curator Nathaniel Silver.

>> Titian was the celebrity painter of Europe.

He painted for popes.

He painted for princes.

He was the personal painter to the Holy Roman Emperor,

who was Philip II's father.

Everybody who was anybody wanted a Titian.

>> BOWEN: Titian painted the works over ten years.

In that time,

Philip became king and the world's most powerful ruler.

But the monarch gave the artist free rein.

>> Usually it was, you ordered the work of art,

you signed the check, and you know, that was it.

This is really the artist having quite a big voice.

>> BOWEN: The series depicts ancient mythological stories

as written by the Roman poet Ovid.

But Titian distilled the writer's epic text

into jam-packed paintings teeming with symbols.

>> Titian calls these paintings thepoesie.

And the word literally translates as painted poetries.

He is putting his own stamp of originality on them.

You could say that he's challenging the written word

with the painted image.

He's challenging the pen with the brush.

>> BOWEN: They reflect on and telegraph a world of violence.

In the paintingDanaëë, the god Jupiter

transforms himself into gold dust,

descending on the nude princess to impregnate her.

InDiana and Callisto, Jupiter is again a perpetrator,

having assaulted one of the goddess Diana's nymphs.

>> Diana is pointing out her finger of judgment at Callisto,

casting her out of her sacred spring.

Callisto is lying here,

and if you look carefully at her eyes, you see she's crying,

the other nymphs around her exposing her pregnant belly.

This is no less than the shaming of a rape victim by her peers.

The whims of the gods

leave so much of the fates of mortals out of the hands

of mortals themselves.

It's a hard painting, it's a very hard painting.

And it's hard to reconcile

the beauty of the way in which it's painted,

of the fabulous palette that Titian uses,

the incredible sunset behind it,

with the horror of its subject.

>> BOWEN: The works are metaphors for war and conquest

and a world often consumed with violence.

It's Titian offering commentary

while also working at the height of his career.

>> He's a painter's painter.

He's a virtuoso with the brush.

He knows how to apply the minimum of paint

to create a particular figure

and get the most out of it pictorially.

>> One of the things that I love

about the installation at the Gardner is how intimately

they converse with each other.

>> BOWEN: Peggy Fogelman is the director

of Boston's Gardner Museum, the last stop on what has been

an international tour of the works--

one stalled but not derailed by a global pandemic.

>> It's not an easy undertaking, and took, you know,

a couple of years of negotiating, actually.

>> BOWEN: The works remained in Philip's Madrid palace

only for about 20 years

before being scattered throughout Europe.

But this one, titledThe Rape of Europa,

came to the U.S. 125 years ago by way of the museum's

shrewd founder and collector, Isabella Stewart Gardner.

Here, Jupiter appears again, as a bull this time,

stealing away with the princess Europa to Crete,

where he impregnates her and she ultimately gives birth

to the first of European civilization.

It was Gardner's prized masterpiece,

if not a fraught one.

>> It made quite a splash when it came to Boston.

She talks about men sort of bowing down before Europa

and women averting their gaze.

She was very much enamored of the emotional responses

to works of art.

>> BOWEN: The purchase was so monumental, Gardner's friend

the writer Henry James wondered if the pope

would sell her one of the Vatican rooms next.

And she loved the painting enough to give it

a singular space in her museum,

built to resemble a Venetian palazzo.

>> The Titian Gallery-- she named the whole gallery

after this painting, she was so enamored of it.

And everything that's arranged on the wall

and the colors in that fabric

is really evocative of the painting.

>> BOWEN: At the exhibition's end,

Europa returns to the empty space on this wall.

The other five paintings return to their European museums.

But, says curator Nathaniel Silver,

this once-in-a-lifetime reunion

has made them more relevant than ever.

>> You know, we see horrifying things every day.

And we're forced to reckon with these forces

outside of our control.

And that's exactly what Titian is forcing Philip to do.

♪ ♪

>> BOWEN: Next, after an acclaimed run in New York,

comedian Jacqueline Novak has brought her hilarious

one-woman showGet on Your Knees to Boston by way

of the Emerson Colonial Theatre.

It's described as a coming-of-age sex comedy.

But ultimately, we see the blossoming

of one of our great thinkers and social critics.

Jacqueline Novak, thank you so much for being with us today.

>> Thank you for having me.

>> BOWEN: Well, I will let you describe your show,

but it's a show that you've conceived.

It's about a sex act.

(chuckling): But because we are on PBS--

we do air in the late afternoons on the weekends--

I'll let you describe it before we really go into

all of it with you.

>> As you said,

there is one sex act at the center of my show,

calledGet on Your Knees, which has many meanings,

and doesn't, you know, necessarily imply

anything specific,

but it could also be considered relevant to, you know,

adult listeners.

My kind of hope for the show is,

I'm a stand-up, I'm a comedian, but I'm a writer,

and my hope was to kind of merge

the highbrow and the lowbrow and do...

It was almost like a dare to myself.

Could I do a show about, you know, a certain sexual act

and have it feel, you know, moving or meaningful

or any of those things that one might not expect?

>> BOWEN: So I've seen

half your show, so I can save the rest to see it in person.

It is brilliant because of the intellectual approach

that you take to this act.

And you've gotten raves from The New Yorker, Vanity Fair,

The New York Times.

I'll add my, my little chorus to that.

But it really is intellectual.

There's also poetry.

You bring inThe Crucible to this.

And so it's...

Tell me how you entered this in terms of

the thought that you wanted to give something

that a lot of people relate to, but maybe don't bring

the same context to it that you've brought.

>> I think, for me, it has to do a bit...

I would say as a, as a woman, sometimes it feels like

we're divided into these different personas.

And here's me as a good daughter,

here's me as a good student,

and me with my literary references intact, you know,

and here's me, whatever--

whatever the opposite of that is.

And I, I...

To me, there's something about bringing,

you know, the crass and the sexual right up next to

those other things and going, "Look, they can both exist

in the same person."

You know, but any time you can move these things along, right?

>> BOWEN: That's a really good point, though,

because I was thinking,

to my knowledge, I haven't seen a show that, that does this.

And I'm thinking, well, it probably could have been

done before, but people don't feel very comfortable

talking about sex.

People often don't feel very comfortable listening

to conversations about sex.

So was it-- what is it about you,

or what is it about this moment, do you think?

>> You know, I always forget that the audience

might be uncomfortable with any of the subject matter,

because I'm so used to it.

I mean, I always say at the beginning of the show,

I say, "If you're here with a sibling or parent,

it's actually going to be okay."

Somehow I think, you know, by framing it

with a distance of analysis, it's not so bad.

You know? I think they... I thinkthey relax

during the course of the show in that way.

>> BOWEN: Your arc here is so fascinating, too.

I wonder if you feel that from the audience

that might go in thinking, "Okay, this is going to be

raunchy stand-up about this particular sex act."

But then you realize, "Wait, I'm thinking about this.

"Now she has me thinking about this act in a way

that I probably haven't thought about it before."

So do you feel that from the audience?

>> Yes, I definitely

can at times watch the sort of changing experience

of someone over the course of the show.

You know, I can see someone, maybe, tense, you know,

at the beginning, or, or wondering what's going on

at the beginning.

And then, you know, and I, I really need to learn

in some ways to stop looking at the audience,

because I'm way too aware of tracking, you know,

eight different people's emotional journey.

(laughing): Which arguably could be distracting.

But, um...

Yeah, I do watch a sort of surprise

sometimes unfold, and that is really satisfying,

and, and funny to me.

>> BOWEN: Do you help the audience in how you dress, too?

You're a study in gray, in just a sweatshirt and jeans.

Is that deliberate?

>> (chuckling): Yes, yes.

So I, yeah, I very much am in sort of the grayest,

most non-outfit that I can be in.

And it might give the impression that I'm someone that doesn't,

I don't know, enjoy clothing or, you know,

and in fact, I love it.

I love nothing more than to, you know, be elaborately styled.

And, and, I mean, that's kind of been the joke with the show,

is that any time I've been doing press or anything like that

around the show, I'm, like, "Yes, please make me up.

"Like, you know, make me up, do my hair.

Let's wear something outrageous."

Because in the show, it's so, you know, it's, it's a ponytail,

gray T-shirt, basically gray jeans,

occasionally regular blue jeans,

and, like, simple sneakers and white socks.

So it feels like the outfit is another way of sort of saying,

at least at the beginning of the show,

"You might notice how uncomfortable I am

"just being in a body by virtue of the fact that

"I am so clearly not, um,

elaborating upon it through dress."

>> BOWEN: Well, how does it break down, do you think--

and again, knowing how you do feel the audience--

between men and women?

I mean, women have very much gathered around this show

and proclaimed it and championed it.

How do men feel about it?

>> If there's a man

asking me about the show who looks, you know,

concerned about it, I may just say,

"Oh, you're going to love it.

Oh, all the men love it."

And, and that's because I'm trying to sell it to them,

you know what I mean?

There was one man who did leave.

And I've heard a couple of stories

of men sort of grunting angrily...

(laughing): ...next to audience members who were enjoying it.

Like, there was one man who waited it out in the lobby.

Like, like he didn't...

You know, like, I think his wife stayed,

watched it, and he waited it out.

And I just, that almost thrills me,

because that's just deranged.

I mean, you're not even getting your time back.

You're just sitting in the, in the lobby, where, arguably,

you could still hear it.

(both laughing)

The mic... Now you're just, now you're just...

Now you're just not getting a view.

>> BOWEN: So you, you've mentioned stand-up here,

but it's under the guise of theater here in Boston.

>> Yes.

>> BOWEN: And did it, did it morph for you,

how this would be?

>> You know, stand-up in the theater context, right?

I mean, just even physically, a theater versus a club

has many, many benefits that are so unexpected

if you've been in comedy clubs for a long time, right?

I mean, you're just used to all sorts of factors

that are removed.

You know, no one eating and drinking.

No wait service.

You know, when it comes down to it,

it's so often been defined by the venue, you know?

It's like, you're a comedian

if you're in a comedy club.

You're a writer-performer if you're in the theater.

It's, it's like, it's like...

It's sort of an ongoing question for me.

I don't want to be too attached to any one venue

in that sense, because then that would be dictating

what I'm writing.

And that seems like not

what should be dictating what you're writing.

>> BOWEN: Well, it is fascinating to speak with you.

Jacqueline Novak, thank you so much.

Get on Your Knees is the show, it's so brilliant.

Everybody should go see it.

>> Thank you for having me.

I really appreciate it.

♪ ♪

>> BOWEN: There are travels to Italy and Mexico

with no passport required as we look at Arts This Week.

♪ ♪

Sunday marks the 51st anniversary

ofTheMary Tyler Moore Show's debut.

The CBS program aired for seven seasons

with a groundbreaking depiction of an unmarried career woman

in the 1970s workforce.

See photographer Abelardo Morell's exhibition

Projecting Italy Wednesday at Fitchburg Art Museum.

With his photographic prowess and ingenuity,

Morell captures a rich, layered Italy.

Thursday, head to the Newport Art Museum to seeHair Stories,

an exhibition that looks at hair as a political statement.

The installation's pieces consider the racial, gender,

and cultural significance of our most natural fiber.

Friday, explore the Institute of Contemporary Art's

latest installation,

Raúl de Nieves: The Treasure House of Memory.

The installation by the Mexican-born artist

features work designed with Mexican artistic practices,

materials, and mythology all in mind.

♪ ♪

Banjo virtuosos Béla Fleck and the Flecktones

play the Berklee Performance Center Saturday.

The show features selections

from the Grammy winner's latest album,My Bluegrass Heart,

his first bluegrass record in 20 years.

We move to Oklahoma now, where artist Ebony Iman Dallas

has created a wood mosaic installation in imagining

what Tulsa's Greenwood district would have become

were it not for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

♪ ♪

>> My biological father came from, you know, from Somaliland.

And literally, like, when the civil war broke out,

bombs are being dropped on your house by the government.

So it reminded me of what happened in Greenwood.

One minute, everything is fine,

and then the next moment, it's all gone.

My name's Ebony Iman Dallas, and I'm an artist.

I love to tell stories through my work.

I would definitely say a lot of my choices are influenced

by my background.

♪ ♪

In 2008, I went to visit my family in Somaliland.

We were getting henna done

and my art just kind of lent itself to, to that.

♪ ♪

My art since then has, has definitely

become a lot more free.

♪ ♪

Close to a year and a half ago,

Tony Brinkley got in touch with me because he had this idea

calledGreenwood Imagine.

Tony, he's a poet-- amazing, phenomenal, award-winning poet.

And his grandson Derek Tinsley is a filmmaker.

And so they were looking for a painter

to create a series of murals

that would go along with the poem.

And so I proposed to him

that I create the murals solely out of wood.

This is where you have to make sure not to cut your hand off.

(laughs)

(saw whirring)

So the very first scene is like the past.

So it's like, let's show what Greenwood was like

before destruction.

♪ ♪

So it's this beautiful scene of the little girl with her father

walking through town with an ice cream cone.

♪ ♪

The second scene is, was pretty much created

after reading through a series of interviews.

But this one specifically talked about, you know,

it was a survivor, I believe she was about five years old

when the massacre occurred.

And she talked about these reoccurring dreams

that she would have.

And to me, it sounded like PTSD.

Like, she talked about the smoke and she talked about the smells

and she talked about the fire.

And it was just so vivid, her description,

like, I immediately was able to create a sketch for it.

(fire crackling, gunshots ring)

I guess, in some ways, I may have, went that direction

because my father was murdered by police officers.

And so, um, so that, that idea

of this father-daughter relationship and loss,

like, resonated with me.

And then reading these stories about people who lost parents

in Greenwood definitely resonated.

♪ ♪

The third scene is, let's imagine

what it could have been like.

Like, what would it be like if, you know,

had the massacre never occurred?

♪ ♪

There'll be some puzzle pieces missing.

And so then we'll have someone from the audience come up

and place it into the piece.

>> Let's imagine a "what if."

What if the massacre never happened?

What if Tulsa residents had enjoyed free rein to flourish

into the future, and Greenwood never lost

that "yes, we can" mindset?

Can you imagine this?

>> But basically, it's like, we have the power

to recreate, you know, like, a new Greenwood.

We just need to believe in it and, and just go for it.

♪ ♪

>> BOWEN: Gordon Campbell disappears into thin air

for his art.

An aerial photographer whose subject is the Eastern Seaboard,

he's become expert at capturing the coast.

♪ ♪

>> I love a soft light.

I love when there's a little texture in the sky.

♪ ♪

I fly typically

at about 40 miles per hour when I'm out photographing.

Very low noise profile,

so when I'm flying down low along the marsh grasses

and things like that, you're really not bothering anything.

Even birds just sit there and look at me.

Most of the time I probably fly,

I don't get any photos worth printing, but who cares?

I'll get the next image the next day.

Every day I get to fly is a great day.

♪ ♪

So I started in high school, became fascinated

by developing the negatives,

printing in a dark room, things like that.

But to do that, you had to take photos.

So I did a bit of both, and I took photographs all throughout

high school and then college, as well.

And then after college, it just snowballed into

one thing after the next.

But I did not start flying until after college.

And when I was working just outside of Manhattan

in New York City area, flying was a weekend escape for me,

allowed me to jump in a plane after a week of working

and go fly places.

♪ ♪

I try to find those areas that are, you know,

unknown to other people.

And I sort of liked the uniqueness of the Eastern Shore.

We're surrounded by water, it's rural.

And there was this airfield for sale,

used to be called Kellam Field Airport,

just a fantastic place, 150 acres, total property size.

Late 2002, I came down here, I looked at the property.

I had an offer in on it the next day.

♪ ♪

Fast-forward a couple of years, in 2005,

we decided to just make the transition

and move on down here.

♪ ♪

There's just something to fall in love with

for everybody on the Eastern Shore.

I became fascinated with these barrier islands

that line the Virginia coastline.

They are all preserved and none of them have been built on,

and they're just left to nature.

And I started photographing them back in 2006.

I thought it was just amazing.

And I just wanted to document every square inch

of these islands.

I can fly over any island

and tell you exactly which island that is

just by its shape, its form, how it looks.

And so they all have a unique nature to them.

Sure enough, I saw these photographs.

I said, "Wow, these are beautiful."

And as I kept doing it, I had a great retail space

down in Cape Charles that I was renovating.

I said, "This would really make a great gallery."

And I said, "I think my aerial photography might be

"good enough, but I'll make a beautiful gallery,

"and if people want to come in

"and look at my aerial photographs, then so be it.

If they want to buy something, then that's even better."

♪ ♪

A year prior to that, I bought the aircraft

that I'm still flying, which is called a dragonfly.

It's designed as the perfect aerial photography platform--

very maneuverable, very efficient aircraft.

And that's when everything came together--

the building, the gallery, the aircraft,

the camera equipment, and I was able to present something

to the customer right out of the gallery

that's ready to put right up on your wall.

I literally just took a gamble.

>> When we went down to the gallery

and saw his incredible photographs,

we knew that his images would be such an enhancement

to the barrier island history

and the stories that we try to tell here.

>> The Barrier Islands Center Museum

is a fantastic supporter of mine.

And they were the first outfit that did a big installation

of my imagery to show people,

this is what the barrier islands look like right now.

>> We use Gordon's imagery to educate and inspire.

♪ ♪

>> I've covered from New England down to Georgia

in this small plane here.

Barrier islands that are built up just don't have

the same charm.

And they're just not photogenic

the way these barrier islands are.

It's just wonderful that they're protected.

They're always evolving, always migrating.

And then there's always some erosion, as well.

And so photographing them is a new experience every year.

♪ ♪

Not everybody is in love with their job,

but fortunately, I've found something

that I'm in love with doing, and people have embraced it

and people enjoy coming into my gallery.

It's purely a hundred percent passion.

And I think, you know, in most careers, you have to have

some passion in what you're doing,

or you're not going to be successful.

♪ ♪

>> BOWEN: And that is all for this edition ofOpen Studio.

Next week, Frida Kahlo--

striking a pose for how she wanted the world to see her.

>> When she adopts these traits to convey her political beliefs,

she chooses also a dress that comes from a matriarchal society

in Mexico that symbolizes powerful women.

>> BOWEN: Plus, hair.

It's at the root of artistic expression.

>> We have a number of artists incorporating actual Black hair

into their artworks, as well as artists using

synthetic hair to weave sculptures.

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

Thanks for joining us.

As always, you can visit us online at GBH.org/OpenStudio.

And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,

@OpenStudioGBH.

♪ ♪

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