Blogs > The Arts Whisperer

Offering a fresh way of helping you keep up with art and entertainment happenings around the Capital District.

Monday, November 8, 2010


"Battlesight" is a powerful photo exhibit on display at the Troy Arts Center on River Street through December 19. It is a compelling show that will have you admiring the photographs with an equal mixture of respect and heartbreak. The images are remarkably powerful and emotionally painfully. The exhibit is even more conflicting because the individual images are visually beautiful, even as they picture pain, suffering and desolation.

"Battlesight" shows the work of three photojournalists who were with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, these are not the images you normally see on television or in print publications. They are harsh, real and honest. And they are as much art as they are photojournalism.

Tim Cahill curated the exhibit and has gone out of his way to avoid having the show be viewed as making political statement. That's impossible, as any exhibit that is about war is political because there are few things more political than war. Nonetheless, overall, Cahill has succeeded. You should not leave the River Street Gallery saying things like how horrid is our involvement in these wars; nor will you rush out trying to enlist in military service in the hopes of keeping the world free from terrible people. The only people who might find an offensive message in this show are those who think war is a good thing and believes that wars are painless and free of horror.

This exhibit does not glorify war as it brings you into the suffering that is war. There are pictures of dead or wounded soldiers and marines. There are images of civilians - adults and children - who suffer as much as do the soldiers. "Battlesight" is ecumenical in the depiction of the tragedy of war.

But, again, I return to what I found the most compelling aspect of the show. There is an eerie beauty about the photographs individually and collectively. While I found myself being hypnotized by certain images - especially the 2007 photograph by Balazs Gardi which shows an Afghan man holding a wounded child - when I stood in the middle of the gallery and slowly turned 360-degrees I became immersed in the whole to the degree it felt like an out-of-body experience. The circle transported me not to Iraq or Afghanistan but to a surreal world where pain, fear and suffering was the norm. This place is called war.

It's rather strange that our society finds such images to be shocking or unique. It wasn't that long ago when similar images from Vietnam or World War II were on the front pages of newspapers and weekly magazines around the country. Showing the pain suffered in war is a tradition that dates back to Matthew Brady and the Civil War. There was a time when the public was offered unfiltered reporting on our young men and women who were dying and suffering in our name. Now it is all sanitized and the less-informed public is the loser.

Journalists like Balazs Gardi, Teru Kuwayama and Cheryl Diaz Meyer are not offering groundbreaking images. What is groundbreaking is that someone trusts the public enough to offer pictures that help us understand that war is harsh, painful and contradictory.

Thursday is Veterans Day. A way of honor our military is to attend "Battlesight." It is at the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River Street in downtown Troy through Dec. 19. It is organized by the Center for Documentary Arts at Sage Colleges in Albany and Troy. It should be seen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

troy night out

On Friday, I had a terrific time walking around Troy at Troy Night Out. The truth of the matter is I did hardly any walking. The events I attended were concentrated near Memorial Square so mostly all I had do was cross a street. That I could spend three hours od'ing on culture while staying within a block of downtown Troy, tells just how much there is to do at the event. It also tells why you can return month after month. You cannot do it all in one night.

My night started out about 6 pm. at Clement Art Gallery at 201 Broadway where Charles Steckler's "Collage" was on exhibition. I've known Charlie for over 25 years - primarily for his inventive and insightful scenic designs. It was a pleasure to see this playful side of his art as the small collages were often as whimsical as they were thoughtful. Another benefit of TNO is I also wandered the gallery and discovered the work of other local artists.

It was a short walk across the street to the Arts Center to view the "Battlesight" exhibit curated by Tim Cahill. It is as powerful as it is brilliant. It should be visited by everyone. I intended to write more about the exhibit in another blog, but don't wait. Do see it at 265 River Street. It's there through December 19.

We remained at the Arts Center moving into the black box theater at about 7:30 p.m. where the members of the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company performed under the name "At First Glance." I've long admired the work of Ellen Sinopoli and believe that had she chosen to live in a major market she would be a national figure in the world of dance. She's that good.

This modern dance concert, performed and choreographed mostly by members of her company, illustrates her abilities as not only an artist but as a teacher. The work by the young performers was skilled, thoughtful, ambitious and touching. Most of all, it was true to Sinopoli in that the works were all accessible and emotionally gratifying. You don't have to be a student of contemporary dance to get most of what was going on in the five pieces performed at the Arts Center. You could enjoy and almost touch the emotions of the action on stage. At the same time, you were touched by the energy and commitment of the performers and choreographers.

When the concert was over, it was nearing 9 p.m., a time when most of the events wrap up -so we did what TNO is intended to do. We gave a local establishment some business. We stopped for a quick snack and a short drink at Judges on Broadway. We enjoyed the music by the performing band and had some good food and a beverage and left at a reasonable time.

I was both surprised and delighted at the number of people I ran into on Friday night. I was proud and happy that so many members of the arts community came out to support their fellow artists. But I was happier still to see how many "civilians" are taking advantage of the cultural delights that are offered in Troy on a daily basis and spotlighted by Troy Night Out once a month.

Check it out. In November the last Friday of the month is November 26, the day after Thanksgiving. Should be fun.