Meet the Speaker: Leonard Choo

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Art of Fashion, Events, Meet the Speaker

Tags: , ,

Leonard Choo

Art of Fashion: Leonard Choo
An Exquisite Pursuit: Shopping and Design in Ballet Costuming
5:30 p.m. Wine Reception | 6 p.m. Lecture

Barbara Streisand once sang, “Everything is beautiful at the ballet”…and it has to be. The quest for beauty in ballet extends beyond the sweeping grace of its dancers – to the complex, fascinating, and often intricately specialized costumes that contribute to the wonder of its mise-en-scène. How do these dimensional garments begin their lives? What are the various components, and how do they make their way to the stage?Leonard Choo, principal Shopper for the New York City Ballet, will discuss all this and more in his upcoming Art of Fashion lecture. We caught up with Leonard before his visit to learn a little more his work.

What is your current role at the New York City Ballet?

I am the principal Shopper for the costume department of the New York City Ballet. I am responsible for swatching, sourcing, and purchasing all the fabric, trims, stones, accessories, and even tools that go into the making or refurbishment of the costumes that go on stage at NYCB.

How did you first become interested in fashion?

I have always been somewhat interested clothing, but really developed a keenness for fashion when I was pursuing my MFA in costume design. I particularly love the craft and art of clothing construction, and of couture…it reminds me of a childhood obsession with origami, actually. Well-made and thought out clothing design is so exciting to me that I am that person who will watch shows purely for the joy of watching the costumes’ design and details.

How does art influence your work?

Art influences my work is such a multitude of ways that to be honest, so it’s quite difficult to pinpoint one primary motivation! Aesthetically, I often turn to art for color and mood (such as the impressionists and Henri Rousseau), for line, movement and figure (renaissance sculpture and Rodin), and for general love and celebration of intricate detail (16th-18th century European portraiture). I also find it very useful to observe how artists visually addressed social/political/economic contexts and messages in their art – particularly useful when creating designs that can effectively respond to the context of a performance. It is a nebulous, constantly evolving pool of inspiration.

How does fabric shopping or designing for the stage differ from shopping or designing for the runway?

Designing, shopping, and building clothing for the stage and performance is such a wildly different job from designing for the runway — it is something I feel quite passionately about. Our process must take into account an entire context (character, plot, movement, space, time, mise-en-scène), exist within it, and work semiotically and pragmatically with the requirements of actual performance. For the the stage, I prioritize scale, repetition, contrast, and movement — especially the way a fabric hangs or relates to a body. It is all often bigger, more heightened, or more prominent than on the runway.

Do you have a favorite look that’s appeared on stage at the New York City Ballet?

I wish I could pick just one, but in fact I have several because they are all wonderful in their separate ways.

Most recently, for a group of 1940’s style dresses for a Something to Dance About designed by Toni-Leslie James, I worked with a French textile company to create a selection of flocked nets from scratch – watching fabric you have helped create come to life on stage is thrilling.

I also really love watching rebuilds on stage because the process of remaking these costumes is always such an exercise in balancing creativity and fidelity. For example, the fabrics for the ladies in Serenade and the snowflake corps in The Nutcracker are all new, specially developed fabrics that bring life back to Karinska’s iconic designs.

Lastly, I would say one of the most wonderful costumes I’ve seen move about on stage was our rebuild of Carabosse, the evil fairy in Patricia Zipprodt’s design for The Sleeping Beauty. It was an incredibly elaborate costume that required weeks of work, and when it finally hit the stage and the light, it came to breathtaking life and truly embodied and extended the dancer and character.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I try and find inspiration in the visual or aesthetic context of the work I’m doing. It might be furniture and décor from certain period, clothing from a certain place, or paintings by a certain person.

I also tend to find a lot of great visual inspiration in nature… in colors, or shapes, or even moods. For a recent dance design that featured dock workers, for example, I drew the color palette from algae and lichen growths on the underside of docks.

Do you have any advice for aspiring young costume designers?

Analytically see and experience as much design as you can, to learn from great artists and designers. A curatorial eye is extremely beneficial to learning what works and what does not, and why. I really believe that learning the form and craft provides a strong foundation for meaningful, innovative, exciting design.

Tickets for Art of Fashion are available at

Share this Post

60th Annual Delta Exhibition awards announced

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum

Tags: , , ,

Lisa Krannichfeld, New Skin, 2018, Chinese ink, watercolor, acrylic, paper collage, and toned cyanotype on paper mounted on board covered with resin, 36 x 36 x 2 inches

The Arkansas Arts Center announces the award-winning works of the 60th Annual Delta Exhibition, on view May 25 through August 26, 2018.

A panel of guest jurors, Bradbury Art Museum director Les Christensen, conceptual artist Shea Hembrey, and Baum Gallery director Brian K. Young, selected 52 works by 46 artists to be featured out of 1,424 entries by 618 artists. From the selected works, the jurors named a Grand Award winner, two Delta Award winners and three Honorable Mentions. A Contemporaries Award winner was selected by the Contemporaries, an auxiliary membership group of the Arkansas Arts Center.

Louis Watts, Carbon Alphabets (The Ship Minerva Series), 2015–2018, graphite on paper, 60 x 42 1/2 inches

Grand Award – $2,500 prize

Lisa Krannichfeld of Little Rock, Ark., for New Skin

Delta Awards – $750 prize

Anais Dasse of Little Rock, Ark., for Sticks and Stones

Louis Watts of Burlington, N.C., for Carbon Alphabets (The Ship Minerva Series)

Honorable Mentions

Aaron Calvert of Arkadelphia, Ark., for Always Facing South Bear

Tim Hursley of Little Rock, Ark., for Pine Bluff Mortuary

James Matthews of Little Rock, Ark., for Eviction Quilt #3 (Green Medallion)

Contemporaries Award – $250 prize

Ray Allen Parker of Fayetteville, Ark., for Post Punk

Showcasing artists living and working in Arkansas and its border states, the Annual Delta Exhibition presents a vision of contemporary art in the American South. Founded in 1958, the exhibition provides a unique snapshot of the Delta region and features work in all media. The Delta Exhibition reflects the region’s strong traditions of craftsmanship and observation, combined with an innovative use of materials and an experimental approach to subject matter.

“We selected work with faux fur, coffee, cold wax, ziatype, video, yucca, fluorescent tubing, resin, found objects, copper point, and of course the traditional materials,” Young said. “Despite this seemingly endless list of media, there is a thoughtfulness and subtlety in nearly all of the works. These traits come in the manner in which these Delta artists have captured the essence of the region. People, place and nature remain strong unifiers.”

Anais Dasse, Sticks and Stones, 2017, oil, ink, charcoal, pencil on gessoed paper, 48 x 80 inches

The 60th Annual Delta Exhibition is sponsored by Isabel and John Ed Anthony; The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston; Mrs. Lisenne Rockefeller; Terri and Chuck Erwin; Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP; the AAC Contemporaries; East Harding Construction; and Barbara House. The Grand Award is supported by The John William Linn Endowment Fund. The exhibition is supported by the Andre Simon Memorial Trust in memory of everyone who has died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Share this Post

Voices of the Delta: Les Christensen, Brian Young and Shea Hembrey

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Tags: , , ,

Jurors of the 60th Annual Delta Exhibition Les Christensen, Brian Young and Shea Hembrey

The Delta Exhibition has long been a southern standard.  Now in its 60th year, it continues its lasting tradition of a much-anticipated annual event for artists and art appreciators alike.  The quantity, 1424 works by 618 artists, and diversity submitted speaks to the dynamic state of contemporary art in the Mississippi Delta. Of note was the surprisingly large number of figurative works entered in both two and three dimensions.

It has been an honor to be a part of the selection committee. My colleagues, Shea Hembrey and Brian Young, were tremendous throughout the entire process. With so many quality submissions, narrowing them down was an arduous task surpassed only by the difficulty of the awards selection. I thank everyone at the Arkansas Arts Center for making this such a pleasurable experience. I also offer my sincere appreciation to all of the artists in the region. They make our lives richer, more vibrant and remind us of how powerful the arts can be.

– Les Christensen

Most remarkable in the juror process, for me, is what you are not seeing here: the large pool of all submitted works that together evoked an overwhelming presence of nature. Markedly green and brimmingly alive, our region’s landscape exerts itself both subtly and overtly into the works created with a palpable, deep understanding of the seasons and cycles of life. It is not nature pristine, wild, and idyllic portrayed, but instead, our familiar, yet still-mysterious backyards, woods, and fields. Here we encounter the extremes of fanged wolves and snakes opposite works of docile, cute, rotund bears. These images present a full range of human nature through still, deliberating faces staring back to battling, wee heroines in Darger-esque epic struggles. Ponder these artworks – offered up like opalescent flowers for your consideration. What do they say about us, our region, our values, our future?

– Shea Hembrey

I have known the Delta exhibition from the time when I first began my tenure as a curator at the Arkansas Arts Center in 1997. When I began jurying this 2018 Delta, I was anxious to see if the internet’s influence would somehow strip away some of the Southerness of the Delta submissions. In other words, with artists able to so readily view material from their colleagues in other regions, would the whole of contemporary art grow more and more homogeneous? For me, the answer became unexpectedly “no.” Certainly, we are seeing a rising sophistication in the handling of materials. We selected work with faux fur, coffee, cold wax, ziatype, video, yucca, fluorescent tubing, resin, found objects, copper point, and of course the traditional materials. Despite this seemingly endless list of media, there is a thoughtfulness and subtlety in nearly all of the works. These traits come in the manner in which these Delta artists have captured the essence of the region. People, place and nature remain strong unifiers. My colleagues Shea Hembrey and Les Christensen have thoughtfully recalled how this plays out in the group of works that the three of us, collectively, have chosen to reveal as a cross-section of the best that the Delta offers to its audience.

– Brian Young

Share this Post

Voices of the Delta: Jason McCann

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Tags: , , ,

Jason McCann, The American Student: Montre with Two Lamps, 2018, watercolor and pastel on paper, 66 x 42 inches

For the last 17 years I’ve spent nearly every day teaching art classes to teenagers either at Little Rock Central High School or at Arkansas Governor’s School. Dual careers as artist and art teacher at times can be very similar and at other times seem completely unrelated. Over the last few years, however, I’ve begun to have a better understanding of how these two sides of my life are connected. My interactions and experiences with these students have had a huge impact on the things I do in my artwork. As I remind them about compositional balance or the correct way to handle color and value to create emphasis, I’m reminded to do it in my own work. As I teach them the importance of the concept or the story they wish to tell in their work, it makes me think about what I’m communicating in my paintings and drawings. In short, these students are as much an influence on me as I am on them.

Recently, there has been a great deal of debate over how our children should be educated with traditional public schools coming under fire. In some cases, school systems have folded due to funding being distributed to charter systems or tax waivers for private schools. The only way I’ve found to deal with my frustration with this situation is to focus on what I can directly affect: the students I see on a daily basis.  I simply work with the kids assigned to my classes and give to them as much as I can. These drawings and paintings are intended to remind us who these kids are in a way that is not idealized or over dramatized. Meanwhile, the technique of mixing wet and dry media creates a surface that is somewhat chaotic, unpredictable, and perhaps out of control which serves as visual representation of the political and social upheaval surrounding the institutions they attend. These students, who are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, special needs and gifted, are the ones who are most deeply affected by these debates and legislative decisions. I’ve shown them in an ordinary classroom during what is a regular day. In this setting and in these images, their standardized test scores or where their families fall on the median income line are forgotten; they are just kids in class that deserve to have their educational needs fulfilled, no matter their zip-code.

– Jason McCann

Share this Post

Voices of the Delta: Daniel Franke

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Tags: ,

Daniel Franke, Wishbone, 2018, pine and mortar pigment, 66 x 20 x 3 1/2 inches

It would be interesting to believe that my preference for wood as a medium is rooted in millennia of forebearers wresting survival out of every inch of a tree, but it’s probably much less romantic than that. I enjoy making sculptures out of wood simply because it’s intuitive and malleable. I am able to create nuanced forms that come directly into reality much more quickly than when I work with stone or metal. The route of an inspiration seems to flow with more ease from my head, through my hands and into the medium when dealing with wood.

The piece “Wishbone” comes from a long line of related works. I began creating them as self-portraits portraying me as a loose wishbone form that expressed a desire to return to a time before this time. It is a pretty romanticized concept, but pretty straightforward as well.

These forms are not self-portraits anymore, but they can be very figurative, sometimes totemic, and always very subjective. They appear to me to be warm figures or even moments of memory or of some kind of transcendent moment that is private by accident, almost beyond temporary but exhibiting a plodding grace. Another medium would change the transmission entirely; the wood makes it real and warm and somehow more human.

– Daniel Franke

Share this Post

Voices of the Delta: John Lasater

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta


John Lasater, The Last Judgement, 2017, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches

I make simple visual statements with my artwork, regardless of the subject matter. Simplicity is peaceful, and reinforces the blessing of our existence. Through the medium of oil paint, I have a language for my gratitude.

– John Lasater

Share this Post

Voices of the Delta: Neal Harrington

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Tags: , ,

Neal Harrington, Favorite Daughter and Rival Sons Diptych, 2017, woodcut with India ink wash, 24 x 48 inches

Printmaking, in particular relief, is my primary means of exploration in the visual arts. The content of my work fuses the rich tradition of Greek/Roman mythologies with an American Roots Music perspective. These visual ballads sing out in their symbolism, narrative, and energetic atmospheres. My work balances a multifaceted investigation of independence and mystical narratives. The bold and graphic marks of the woodcut/relief technique reiterate the tension and energy of the figures in these works. In my Bootlegger series, I create an intensified atmosphere and an amplified dramatic sense of light with the addition of India ink washes. The shades of gray either softens the focus or strengthens the focal point and contributes to the dreamlike quality of the story.

– Neal Harrington

Share this Post

Voices of the Delta: John Allison

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

Tags: ,

John Allison, Diptych – Bike Ride South, 2018, oil, cold wax and mixed media, 60 x 96 x 2 inches

As a painter, I find inspiration in all that I see all of the time. Chartreuse moss on a wet sidewalk, a stripped bare concrete floor, tangled geometry and colors as I ride my bike across a bridge, the memory of a dream with an unimagined color combination.

Yet, the act of painting is another reality. Interacting with the medium, the mark, the mistake on the surface draws me into and away from my visions. It happens in the moment and is not unlike a trance.

Striving for sense of order in the end, I allow myself to begin with chaotic gestures. There’s a set of rules, but only to be broken. I want colors to challenge: to fight, confuse and seduce. Always texture and glimpses of what went before with marks both precise and brash.

I strive for work that speaks a private truth to each viewer.

– John Allison

Share this Post