The Champion

Chris Evert

Tennis match after tennis match, Chris Evert was the picture of composed aggression as she sliced, lobbed, and, with two fists, backhanded her way to victory, amassing an astonishing career-winning record of 90 percent. Between 1974, with her first French Open championship, and 1986, with her record seventh, she collected eighteen Grand Slam singles titles, including two at the Australian Open, three at Wimbledon, and six at the U.S. Open. Evert was one of the last major champions to use a wooden tennis racquet; her one-time fiancé Jimmy Connors had switched to metal, and her greatest rival, Martina Navratilova, was swinging a graphite model.

Known as ”America’s Sweetheart” for her on-court femininity, Evert also became known as the ”Ice Maiden” for her steely nerves. Even in defeat, which was rare, Evert was always the gracious competitor. In 1995, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Photograph by Al Satterwhite (from the 1973 original)

National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

March 22nd, 2019

Strange Fascination

Tomb II
Gregory Gillespie, 1936-2000

Gillespie was thinking about the conventions surrounding death when he made this sculpture. He told and interviewer in 1999, ”I want this big tomb at my wake. It will add some humour to the event. But it’s really a kind of joke because it’s so big and bright and funny that I don’t think people are really going to … have it here.” And yet, it was there.

Self-Portrait
Mixed media on wood panels, 1998-1999

At the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

March 22nd, 2019

Bill Viola: The Moving Portrait @ The National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.

The American Art Museum shares its premises with the National Portrait Gallery, both being part of the Smithsonian Institution. First-time visitors may have a hard time distinguishing between the two, but that’s just a minor detail – what’s important is to allow time to enjoy some incredible works of American art, like Bill Viola’s ”The Moving Portrait” exhibit, which was running until May 2017.

I’ve been admiring Viola’s work for years, his use of video technologies, experimentation with portraiture and the fact that he always seems to submerge his subjects in water, an element present in -almost- his entire body of work. But, it was only recently I learned, coming across an interview on Louisiana Channel, that when Viola was 6 years old he fell into a lake, all the way to the bottom, ”to a place which seemed like paradise”. That’s when he learned that “there’s more than just the surface of life” […] and ”the real things are under the surface”. That explains his fascination with water, also evident in ”The Dreamers”, a video/sound installation of 2013:

No water present in ”Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity” (2013), an installation in two frames, showing an elderly man and a woman, naked, inspecting their bodies with a flashlight.

But water is present with all its mighty force in ”The Raft” (2004), in which 19 perfect strangers unsuspectingly gather in a spot, as if waiting for a bus, when suddenly disaster strikes as torrents of water knock them down, leaving them gasping for breath.  

Bill Viola Interview on Louisiana Channel, including views from ”The Raft”:

National Portrait Gallery
Washington, D.C.

April 24th, 2017