I believe art is a part of the infrastructure of being satisfied in life. While art is a broad term and encompasses a lot of possibilities, I think there are three ways to be a part of culture in art. There is passive appreciation which is attending, there is active appreciation in terms of giving money and there is creating your own art. I consider  keeping journals for my kids since they were infants, my blog & website as humble attempts to be active in art.

There are two art forms I am most excited about. I read enormous amounts of books, I own them & I go to the library. I have also attended lectures by authors for 20 years. My other favorite art form is the theater.

I went to the  35th Humana festival of New American Plays which takes place in Louisville, Kentucky. We saw 7 plays in one weekend which is a very rich experience. The first play really captured my attention: Edith Can Shoot Things And Hit Them by A. Rey Pamatmat. It was extraordinary in both emotional depth and caring for characters. Edith captures a truth about people & life. Isn’t that what great art does?

Many new plays have many clever lines and astute observations.  This really seems to be the trend, plays that make you wish you had a notebook to write down the one liners. My friend Melinda & I were laughing as we looked around, that Adam Rapp’s line from The Edge of Our Bodies was all too true; “When do middle-aged men lose their ass?”

The wit, intelligence and observations make me think of plays that are in a horizontal category, a lot less about depth of character and more about characters I feel distant or detached from…… In this photo I demonstrate the horizontal with my hands. Circle Mirror Transformation is a recent example of this. There is a huge popularity & celebration about this play. None of the characters stayed in my heart after I left the building.

Art that stays with me, that changes me from its contact, is really what resonates. The saffron orange fabric of the Christos work The Gates was one such experience in a different art form. Seeing the Edward Hopper exhibit in DC last year and his capturing the loneliness and solitude we all feel was moving. Anna Deavere Smith is a performance artist who creates experiences of people so real she brings tears to my eyes every time I see her.

The character of 12 yr.old Edith will stay with me for the rest of my life. Her fierceness in being determined to protect herself combined with her real little kid fears was someone worth remembering….like The Gates, Hopper & Smith. Edith has great emotional depth and complexity that make her three-dimensional like an Arthur Miller play. This picture captures the depth and is also the more interesting picture.

I want to mention Lydia Diamond as another playwright in this vein. In 2008, I saw Stickfly at the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, West Virginia and again the emotional depth of characters was authentic and they felt real on the stage. I am fortunate to have two such wonderful theater experiences within driving distance.

Accessing art and making it a part of your life matters.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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