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Arts in the News: Wonder Woman, Gallows Exhibit, Professional Ballet Dancer Saves Man on Subway Tracks and more

American Painter Inspired Wonder Woman Film’s Aesthetic

Matt Jensen, director of photography for the new “Wonder Woman” film, says that the blockbuster owes a lot to American painter John Singer Sargent. Sargent, who died almost a hundred years ago, had a signature palette of deep neutrals and vivid accents that inspired the use of color in the movie: “I think a key thing for us was we wanted rich blacks, beautiful portraiture on the faces, and when we did see color–because he tended to not use a lot of color–it was vibrant,” explains Jensen. Sargent painted both elites in pristine settings as well as soldiers in grittier scenes of war–subject matter that easily translated to “Wonder Woman,” set during World War I. Paintings like “A Portrait of Madame X” and “Gassed” make it easy to see how Sargent’s gloomy-yet-gleaming palette inspired the lighting style of the new hit film. Always fun to see old and new art collide!

Controversy Leads to Removal of Gallows Exhibit

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has dismantled and removed a two-story structure entitled “Scaffold” by artist Sam Durant following protests by local Native Americans. The piece, made of wood and steel, was created in 2012 and combines design elements from seven historical U.S. gallows, including the one used for a mass execution of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862–the largest execution in the nation’s history. Though the Walker museum originally intended to install the piece permanently in its renovated outdoor sculpture garden, backlash from Native American groups, who called the piece insensitive, led to its removal and the issuing of an apology not only from the museum but the artist himself. Durant has officially transferred the intellectual property rights of his sculpture to the Dakotas, who will decide what to do with the fragments. “I regret the pain that this artwork has brought to the Dakota community and others,” announced Walker executive director Olga Visa, who admitted that the removal of the sculpture” is the first step in a long process of healing.” Originally hoping that the piece would lead to more discussion around capital punishment and violence, Viso now regrets not involving Dakota and other Native communities in the decision to acquire the work. Hopefully, this incident will encourage other museums and artists to be more careful when dealing with sensitive subject matters and marginalized communities.

Professional Ballet Dancer Saves Man on Subway Tracks
American Ballet Theater dancer Gray Davis is being called a hero after saving a man who’d fallen onto the tracks of New York City’s 72nd Street Broadway-Seventh Avenue station. The victim was allegedly pushed onto the tracks by a woman who fled the scene; Davis, upon seeing that no one was rushing to the man’s aid, jumped onto the tracks to help him. “People were screaming to get help. But nobody jumped down. So I jumped down,” recalls Davis. Davis then lifted the unconscious man to safety and, upon hearing an oncoming train, swung his own leg up onto the platform to get clear of the tracks. “I never realized how high it was,” Davis explains, referring to the subway platform ledge. “Luckily, I’m a ballet dancer, so I swung my leg up.” Bravo!

Hundred-Year-Old Tolkien Story Now Available to the Public
Fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have reason to be excited: a hundred-year-old story, written by J.R.R. Tolkien and edited by his son, Christopher, has been released to the public. Beren and Luthien is a love story about a man and an immortal elf (similar to the story of Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Rings). The story is reportedly inspired in part by Tolkien’s wife, Edith; a key scene in the story mimics the events that happened while Tolkien was on a walk with her. The release of Beren and Luthien comes only two years after the release of another unfinished Tolkien work, The Story of Kullervo, in 2015. The new story has been published in its original form, alongside revisions and marginalia from Tolkien’s son. What a delightful treat for Tolkien and literary fantasy fans alike!

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