It is always pleasing to be invited to the opening of an important art show, and the Brandywine River Museum of Art created it last weekend. It opened the largest retrospective exhibition of work by artist Jamie Wyeth, and it is a fascinating show. It shows the growth of his talent and approach from his early childhood drawings over six decades to his latest dramatic paintings. It would seem that his parents must have saved most of his early drawings, and some are quite good, although Jamie said he is somewhat embarrassed by some of his early work.
Members of the media were privileged to have Jamie’s attention for an hour while he went around the exhibit answering any questions reporters and photographers threw at him. One asked if he was excited to see so many (100) of his works on display. He answered that he wasn’t trying to be cute, but he really would rather not be there, as he had so much work to do. He admitted that working on his art was an obsession.
In response to the question of where he got his inspiration, he said sometimes it was something he saw or it could be something he thought of in the middle of the night.
Paintings that are particularly interesting are the wraith-like portraits of Andy Warhol, with whom Jamie spent two years in New York. Jamie said Warhol was fascinating — very childlike — so they spent most of their time together in toy stores.
The painting “A.W. Working on the Piss Series, 2007,” he was commemorating how Warhol painted with traces of copper so they would change color after he and his friends urinated on them. My, my, my! The painting named “Andy’s Shoes” is not of the shoes of Andy Wyeth but of Andy Warhol. He said he thought Warhol was very strange, but Andy thought him more strange than he was.
When Jamie painted the portrait of Dr. Helen Taussig, several people chided him asking how he could be so cruel making her look ugly. Jamie replied that she was a very intense person, and that was what he painted. She was intense, as she was the one who figured out how to save “Blue babies.” Apparently her portrait was regulated to the attic for many years, but now has a place of honor at John Hopkins University School of Medicine. Particularly interesting are the two portraits of Jamie’s close friend Jimmy Lynch, the model for “Draft Age.” There is a complete change from the study to the finished portrait of the friend who was like a brother to Jamie.
Jamie travels back and forth to Maine. Some years ago he bought the former home of artist Rockwell Kent. When he first moved in he thought the place was haunted, as he heard singing frequently. One night he investigated and found Mrs. Kent sitting on the rocks singing. The painting “Sea Star” of a bird on a beach holding a sea star in its mouth is surrounded by a frame covered in sea shells from the beach and made by Jamie. It was difficult to get permission to borrow it, as the owners were not worried about the painting but about the shells falling off the frame.
As the paintings travel, so does the artist. When Jamie was in Russia with the three generation of Wyeth’s Show, he was astounded to see 25 of paintings of Monhegan.
When he was in Alaska, he was asked to speak to a group of Inuits. He had just painted his painting of ravens. It turned out the Inuits believe that after one dies you return as a raven. Jamie now is working on a series, “The Untoward Occurrences on Monhegan,” one of his works instigating an investigation. As Jamie said, there is a lot of island gossip. This incredible show covers two floors, so allow plenty of time to absorb the exhibit. The paintings have been borrowed from more than 27 different venues plus numerous private collections. The show will run through April 5.
HelpFrom what I have just written you can tell that I think Jamie is smart, is fun and is one of the good guys. Several snow storms ago, museum staff member Lora Englehart got stuck in the snow on her way to work. Suddenly three men appeared and pushed her out of the snow drift. They were Jamie Wyeth, former museum director Jim Duff and the photographer from the Philadelphia Inquirer. The reporter from the Inquirer never even got out of his car to supervise.
‘Frankenstein’ Opening night of “Young Frankenstein” at the Candlelight Theatre in Arden had a wildly enthusiastic sold out crowd. As for me, I haven’t laughed that hard in many a moon. The musical turned from a movie into a stage show was flawless. Written by Mel Brooks made you know it was a quite sophisticated spoof of the Frankenstein legend. As performed by the professional cast who never missed a quirk or a step, it was incredibly funny. I am not certain the birthday party for an 11-year-old at the theatre understood some of the allusions, but the audience did.
The story has Dr. Victor von Frankenstein dead with his grandson, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, inheriting the castle and laboratory. The grandson is embarrassed by the name Frankenstein and insists it is pronounced Fronkinsteen. The characters as portrayed by the actors are zany, unhinged and incredibly funny. Leading this team of brilliant performances is Tori Healy as housekeeper Frau Bucher, who has attitude, a forbidding imperious manner with a chilling accent and she still enchants the audience when she sings, “He vas my Boyfriend.” She was the female equivalent of the strength in the German battleship Bismarck.
Also in the top echelon of brilliant acting was Chris Trompetta as lab assistant Igor, pronounced Eye-Gore. He was the epitome of mischievous evil, never once moving out of his slithering movements.
Samantha Morrone as the blonde bombshell Inga was stupendous. As she sexually attracted Anthony Connell, who gave a sterling performance as young Dr. Frankenstein, she was a German dish who seemed very innocent. Kat Lee as the doctor’s fiancée Elizabeth Benning is lovely to look at, sings beautifully and has a gift for comedy as shown when she sings ”Please Don’t Touch Me.” Christian Ryan was a superb Ziggy, the Town Idiot, always looking as though he didn’t quite understand what was happening.
There were so many terrific touches like the frightened horses as played by Jamie Millison and Theo Wampler and the badly injured Inspector Hans Kemp (Brian McCole), who kept his stern outlook as he hobbled on stage. And we must not forget The Monster played by the very large and fierce David McConney with a chilling growl.
The entire cast was outstanding. Their dance numbers, especially the show stopper “Puttin’ On the Ritz” with Peter John Rios both director and choreographer and Hanah Cai as music director. This is a wonderfully done play that runs through Feb. 22. Call 302-475-2313 for tickets. This is a show not to be missed. This performance is pure gold.
OperaThe University of Delaware is offering an opera trip to New York City on March 14 to see “La Donna del Lago,” based on Sir Walter Scott’s poem “The Lady of the Lake.” This gem by Rossini is a showcase of bel canto songs laced with fireworks. Tickets to the opera run between $105 to $255, and the bus is $35. The price includes faculty leadership, advance study notes and bus driver gratuity. The bus leaves from Clayton Hall at 7 a.m. and from the Wilmington campus at 7:30 a.m. and leaves New York at 7 p.m. For information or reservations contact Megan Everhart at firstname.lastname@example.org or University of Delaware Department of Music, Emily E. du Pont Music Building, Newark, DE 19716.
PhotographThe Gershman Y will have a free photography show of landscapes by six different photographers Jan. 22 through March 29. The opening reception is Thursday, Jan. 22, from 6 to 8 p.m. The photos show development’s impact on the land to a romantic re-vision of classical gardens There will be an artist talk with Adam Davies on Sunday, March 29 at 11 a.m. as part of its Brunch Series.
‘Mothers and Sons’This Tony Award-nominated play by Terrance McNally, staring Michael Learned, explores the changing understanding of family Feb. 6 to March 8 by the Philadelphia Theatre Co. A woman pays an unexpected visit to her late son’s partner, who has married another man and has a young son. Performances are at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 Broad St. (at Lombard Street). For tickets call 215-985-0420
‘Harvey’The Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St., will present the Pulitzer Prize winning play “Harvey,” that wonderful story about Elwood P. Dowd and his friendship with a 6-foot tall invisible rabbit. When he starts introducing Harvey to friends, his sister tries to have him committed. The younger generation who may have missed this classic and should hop over to the theatre. The show runs Jan. 19 to March 6. For tickets call 215-574-3550.
‘Cheese Man’The Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St. has a treat for the children called “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fair(l)y (Stoopid) Tales. Along with the “Cheese Man” there will be tortoise racing a hare growing hair, an ugly duckling that grows up to be a duck and Cinderumplestiltskin. This fun program will be given on Saturday, Jan. 31 at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 8 at 11 a.m. For tickets call 215-574-3550.
‘The Millionaires’The George Bernard Shaw satire about what happens when 1 percent of the population has to live on no money and a member of the 99 percent of the population must make a great increase in income. There is also a romance in the midst of this capitalism. This is presented by the REP (Resident Ensemble Players), the professional acting company at the University of Delaware, Jan. 22 through Feb. 8 at the Roselle Center For the Arts,110 Orchard Road, Newark. For tickets call 302-831-2204.
Ongoing “The Body of an American” >> This is at the Wilma Theatre, 265 South Broad St., Philadelphia, through Feb. 1. This true contemporary war story is told in a strikingly theatrical fashion with two actors taking many parts. For tickets call 215-546-7824.
”Always…Patsy Cline” >> This musical of Cline’s songs runs through Feb. 22 at Bristol River Theatre. For tickets call 215-785-0100.
”Doubt” >> This is a tale of the clash between the stoic, severe school principal Sister Aloysius and progressive, popular parish priest Father Flinn. The show runs through Feb. 15. at Lantern Theatre at St. Stephen’s Theatre at 10th and Ludlow. For tickets call 215-829-0395.
”On the Verge” >> This delightful comedy of three Victorian ladies traveling to places far, far away is at the Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Road, near Media, through Feb. 8 on weekends. For tickets call 610-565-4211.
“Private Lives” >> This sophisticated comedy, considered Noel Coward’s finest, will continue at the Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St. through March 11. For tickets call 215-574-3550.
Caryl Huffaker lives in Kennett Township.