On March 9 from 5:30-7 p.m, The Galaxy Electric, a psychedelic pop band filled with bossa nova and tribal rhythms, will play at the Luce Foundation Center's Luce Unplugged. In partnership with D.C. Music Download, this free, monthly concert series features the best of D.C.'s local music scene. With Jacqueline Caruso's vocals and Augustus Green on the bass, synth, and beats, they will set a futuristic mood at this March performance. We spoke with The Galaxy Electric to learn how the D.C. experimental music scene pushes their creative boundaries, and how their set will create a mood of retro-futurism, nostalgia, and the space age.
Eye Level: You describe your band as "the music of your retro-futuristic dreams." What feeling do you hope to communicate to your audience?
The Galaxy Electric: When you sit, pause, and dream as far as your mind will take you into an unknowable future with endless possibility, you are truly free. Hope for a brighter tomorrow inspires a joyful motivation that fuels creative expression and output. We only ever want to challenge people to be joyful, peaceful, kind, and forward thinking. We enjoy rifling through the archive of futures past, and try to incorporate what still works today.
EL: When did you all start making music together and how has your music developed?
TGE: We've been working together a full decade. We've developed a comfort and intimacy beyond anything either of us has experienced before. There's nothing we can't explore together. It makes us willing to question it all, and bring that to the music. It's very personal.
EL: What is your favorite memory together as a band? Is there a specific venue you love?
TGE: We played a show at DC9, opening for the Welsh artist, Gwenno. We were so thrilled that she was coming to America, let alone to D.C., and that we would get to see her play. We are still astonished we had the opportunity to share the stage with her.
EL: How do you prepare before a show?
TGE: The day of a show we have some rituals to stay focused and energized. We do rehearse a lot, because we like to be free to experiment live. We drill the mundane playing of the music so hard that we get beyond it to the next layers. We're never satisfied with the status quo or anything that feels stale.
EL: How did you think of the band's name, The Galaxy Electric?
TGE: Somewhere we heard those two words together, and we couldn't let it go. It came from the ether and chose us.
EL: How has the experimental music scene here in D.C. pushed your creative boundaries?
TGE: There are many talented and creative people in and around the area. It's a very positive, and from what we've seen, inclusive and supportive scene. It fosters experimentation because it allows and supports it. And there are people who want to be here and want to foster that within themselves and their communities. It's inspired us in every way.
EL: How can fans access your music?
TGE: Thank you for asking. Our website is thegalaxyelectric.com. There's a lot of music on there, as well as our bio and links to social media. Whenever we're playing shows, you can find the information on our website on the right hand side. For those who want to stay in touch, we're giving away a free song when you sign up for our newsletter.
Don't miss The Galaxy Electric's live performance this Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Luce Center. At 5:30, there will be a staff-led talk about an art piece chosen by the band. Check out more details on Luce's Facebook page. See you on Thursday!
A Healing Machine for the Elementary School Classroom
March 3, 2017
If you have visited SAAM's folk and self-taught art galleries since they re-opened in October, you probably encountered Emery Blagdon's wondrous Healing Machine, an installation of individual paintings and found-material sculptures suspended from the ceiling. Blagdon spent the last three decades of his life creating this piece in a small building on his Nebraska farm, believing it to have healing properties that could alleviate suffering. While many museum visitors are moved by The Healing Machine, Blagdon's work found a new life this winter in an elementary school about two miles from the SAAM.
"I think seeing the work of other artists gives children a sense of possibility and inspiration for their own work," said Erika Bowman, the elementary "atelierista" at School Within School, a Reggio Emilia-inspired school in Northeast D.C. As such, she teaches in a studio space in the school where students are encouraged to tinker and create with a variety of materials. Feeling overwhelmed by a divisive political climate this past fall, Bowman found herself wishing for healing in the world, leading her to wonder what type of healing the children would want to see. She was introduced to Blagdon's work through a PBS documentary, and was inspired to have her students build a healing machine of their own for the school's annual winter solstice celebration.
"The children were first exposed to a slideshow of Emery Blagdon's work and listened to a bit about his background and life," Bowman said. "Then they were posed the question, 'If you could make a machine that could heal anything, what would you want it to heal?' From there, the children envisioned their ideas through drawing and speaking about their designs."
Students said they wanted to help people suffering from diseases like diabetes and cancer, stop hunger, and heal sadness and anger in the world. They each created their own unique healing object using materials available in the studio, and the final products were installed around the studio for the children to see on the day of the winter solstice.
"It was immensely rewarding to see the final installation of all of the children's machines hung on wires throughout the studio illuminated by colorful lights," said Bowman. "I think the children experienced a sense of surprise and awe when they walked into the space. The children called out their wishes and sang songs together under the twinkling lights to honor the moment."
Bowman's full account of the project, along with photos and videos, can be seen on her blog, The Elementary Atelier.
Related post: Seeing Things (17): Art and Healing
Can You Name #5WomenArtists?
March 1, 2017
It all began with a challenge, exactly one year ago. The National Museum of Women in the Arts posed a question and the goal was simple: get people talking about women artists. Easy to find five artists to talk about, especially with a little help from Google. Even easier once use of the hashtag, #5WomenArtists, grew and more than 11,000 people started sharing their ever-expanding lists. That one little list, that act of naming, began to act as a catalyst. A push to discover a new story about an old favorite. The spark to take a closer look at an artwork. The impulse to start conversations with others about women and art. In short, the challenge proved irresistible. Due to popular demand, NMWA is extending their challenge again.
Starting today, in honor of Women's History Month, we will again fill Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with names and facts and artworks. Join us, and please send us suggestions, because we're not stopping with five. From Loïs Mailou Jones to Marguerite Zorach, Elinor Cahn to June Schwarcz, Bertha E. Jaques to Alma Thomas, Kathryn Clark to Anni Albers, Lynette Youson to Laura Wheeler Waring, let's see how high we can count, together.
Submit Your Game to the 2017 SAAM Arcade!
February 24, 2017
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is inviting independent video game developers to show their work at the museum's annual SAAM Arcade this August 5-6, 2017. Jesse Ozog, a game developer from the Washington, D.C. area and one who has exhibited at SAAM's 2015 and 2016 Arcades, shares his insights and experiences for those of you thinking of participating.
The SAAM Arcade is truly one of my favorite events in D.C. for showing indie games. I am honored to have been a part of two previous events (formerly called the Indie Arcade), showing my game Dr. Spacezoo: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Save the Animals. SAAM Arcade allowed me to exhibit my game to a packed, all-ages crowd in one of the most beautiful venues in D.C., the museum’s Kogod Courtyard.
For first-time exhibitors at the Arcade, be sure to come prepared with a banner, signs, handouts, as large a TV as will fit into your allotted space, and plenty of food and water (not that you will have much time to eat or drink it while engaging with attendees). If your game is still in development, there is no better place to give many new and diverse people the opportunity to play your game.
One of my favorite aspects of the Arcade is talking with other indie teams before the event officially opens and the crowd storms in. Every team has poured a lot of talent and energy into creating their game, and it's really wonderful to share in the excitement with the other indie game teams. Oh, and the crowd does storm in! The 2016 SAAM Arcade was attended by over 11,000 people, which kept the indie games area packed with eager players for the entire exhibit. I brought a four player co-op setup for Dr. Spacezoo and the controllers barely touched the table the entire day!
I also really love the transformation of the SAAM's Kogod Courtyard from the calm, early hours of setup into the boisterous midday hours, and finally into a dark, illuminated video game wonderland after dusk. The courtyard is truly magical once the sun finally sets.
To submit your game, fill out this form by April 15, 2017. Also, provide a playable demo of your game along with screenshots, a short, tweetable description, and game requirements. For questions about the submission process or about the SAAM Arcade contact SAAMArcade@si.edu. I'm really pleased to see indie games, classic arcades, retro games, and all other forms of experimental audiovisual media find a warm and inviting home at the SAAM Arcade! I hope to see you there.
Selected developers will be notified by June 12. Games are juried by a panel of developers, industry veterans, critics, and academics chosen by DC’s IGDA chapter and American University’s Game Lab. Last year 32 independent developers were selected, and this year student submissions are being accepted with a valid ‘.edu’ email address.
Luce Unplugged: Five Questions with Brushes
February 22, 2017
For our February Luce Unplugged show, we teamed up with D.C. Music Download to welcome brushes, a rock 'n' roll band from the District, to the Luce Foundation Center. Brushes' set will feature music from their upcoming record, as well as a new single based on Gene Kloss' painting, Midwinter in the Sangre de Cristos, which is on view in the Luce Center. We spoke with Nick Anway and Tommy Sherrod to dig deeper into the band's creative process and their preparation for this Thursday's performance.
Eye Level: How does collaboration influence brushes' creative process?
Nick Anway: Brushes started as a recording project, and in a way I think that's where it still sits. We've played together in lots of different arranging contexts over the past year, with a group of musicians that have been playing together for five years in several other projects, but we're most articulate in the recording context. I think a lot of the fun of this stage of this project has been starting to flip that on its head: to write through performance and articulate those ideas later in recording. The experience of writing songs and then testing them out together with different arrangements and gigs really helps you see which parts of a song are fundamental, and which are fluff.
EL: At your Luce Unplugged performance, brushes will release a new single based on Gene Kloss' painting, Midwinter in the Sangre de Cristos. How did this painting inspire your new song?
NA: Much of our new record is about remembering home, returning to it, and reflecting on what it means. We've used imagery and sounds from the "American Western" to embody that process because this genre encompasses much of the heroic ideal vs. the problematic reality dynamic that we often feel in reflecting on our shared home through community, society, government, etc. Much of the material deals with an important juxtaposition between the home the narrator is searching for (skies, sunsets, clouds, wings, doves etc.) and the bleaker home they've come to recognize. Gene Kloss' painting, which is a depiction of the American West, jumped out to us as a visual representation of that motif, so we composed a theme for it.
EL: You experiment a lot during the recording and mixing process. How do you define yourselves as artists and what message do you want to communicate through your music?
Tommy Sherrod: We start with a foundation or concept and then pretty much just try things—pick up a different instrument, work out a weird mixing or production idea that comes to mind. If we don't like something we do, we scrap it and try something else.
NA: To date, most of the brushes' music has begun in a very introspective lyrical form. But as we add voices on other instruments, and through the mixing process, a more complete voice starts to emerge. How do we define ourselves as artists? Shoot, that's a good question. Our musical voice is a big part of that. At the moment, I think we're just trying to lift folks up a little bit.
EL: What do you think makes the arts scene here in D.C. special?
NA: The spirit of the D.C. arts scene that has been most potent to me is the incredible tradition of music that the area is home to. It's a tremendous legacy to learn from and, hopefully, to pay homage to through our work.
EL: How do you all prepare before a show?
NA: We don't have much of a ritual at this point, we just try to create space for open, honest expression when we're on stage.
EL: Lastly, how can fans access your music?
Hear brushes play February 23 at 6 p.m. after a staff-led talk on Gene Kloss' painting in the Luce Foundation Center. For more details, check out Luce's Facebook page. See you Thursday!