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Richard Callner: 50-Year Retrospective

In the course of a career spanning half a century, Chicago-born painter Richard Callner has forged a reputation as a curious kind of regional artist: The regions in which he’s established that reputation are scattered around the globe in little pockets rather than centralized around his studio. In his introductory note to Callner’s 35-Year Retrospective, which was held at the University at Albany where Callner was once chairman of the fine-arts program, the printmaker Warrington Colescott wrote, “His reputation is regionalized in various American cities, focused where his career focus has been. The major artist that this exhibition reveals is better known in Philadelphia, Ljubljana [Slovenia], Rome or Ankara [Turkey], than in New York City.”

In subsequent years, however, the Hudson Valley has entered that list, and local aficionados will be forgiven for any territorial pride they feel when perusing Callner’s vividly—almost tropically—colored evocations of our landscape at his 50-Year Retrospective, kicking off on Saturday at the Albany Institute of History and Art. Particularly when viewed against his earlier, darker, figural work—work painted out of “feelings of depression, entrapment and revulsion”—the late-career work seems sun-dappled and celebratory. The colors seem dabbed directly from the expressive palettes of the post-impressionists who painted in the fields of southern France. Winter-weary residents of the Capital Region may be surprised at the intensity, but Callner has found an artistic impetus in this area that he has not experienced elsewhere.

“I found that the landscape had a tremendous range of lush imagery and very subtle colors, and a particular abstract pattern between the trapped water, the fields and the mountains” the Latham-based artist has said. “I hadn’t seen that attitude that water has here in Europe; it has a sense of its own energy.”

Richard Callner’s 50-Year Retrospective begins at the Albany Institute of History and Art (125 Washington Ave., Albany) with a reception tomorrow (Friday, March 14) at 6 PM. The exhibition, which includes 58 major works and more than 50 prints and drawings, runs through June 1. For more information, 463-4478.

Daughter From Danang

Daughter From Danang is proof that the Sundance Film Festival has not completely degenerated into a celebration of Hollywood-star-packed pseudo-indie films. This winner of the 2002 Grand Jury Prize for best documentary is a powerful and vivid reminder of another kind of “collateral damage” wrought by U.S. military intervention.

Daughter From Danang tells the story of Heidi Bub, an apparently all-American girl raised in Tennessee, and a married mother of two. Bub actually began life, however, in what was then South Vietnam as Mai Thi Hiep, the daughter of a Vietnamese mother and a U.S. soldier. Relocated at age 7 as part of the Ford administration’s Operation Babylift—a program that transferred orphans and mixed-race children from Vietnam to the states—Bub longs to meet her birth family, and yearns for the unconditional love she did not get from her adoptive mom.

Not surprisingly, when Bub tracks down her mother and visits Vietnam, what she finds is not what she wanted. As the Village Voice noted, “Whatever heartwarming scene the impressively discreet filmmakers may have expected to record with their mini DV, they show a remarkable ability to document both sides of this emotional car-wreck.”

Daughter From Danang will be screened at Time & Space Limited (434 Columbia St., Hudson) tonight (Thursday, March 13) through Saturday (March 15) at 7 PM. There will also be a matinee on Sunday (March 16) at 2 PM. Tickets are $7.50 nonmembers, $5 members. Call 822-8448 for more information.

Ani DiFranco

The Li’l Folksinger sure has some big ideas. Ani DiFranco on the personal vs. the political: “Since political edifices are purporting to dictate to me whether I can or cannot have an abortion, what drugs I can or cannot ingest, where on this earth I can and cannot go, and who on this earth I can love . . . it seems obvious to me that the personal is political. To separate them is artificial.”

Ani DiFranco (speaking in song) on the state of America: “Take away our Playstations, and we are a Third World nation under the thumb of a blue-blood royal son.”

Ani DiFranco on democracy: “So many people have divorced themselves from the responsibility of governing. . . . Democracy is us. We must participate. As long as we just let the rich and powerful mind-meld us through the TV and confuse us as consumers and suck the citizenship out of us, we’ll never have the justice we all long for.”

Hmm. This gal’s just gunning for an arrest by the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act police. Somehow, we doubt she’s worried, though: In a society where the word “independent” has been co-opted to the point of losing all meaning, DiFranco has always walked the walk.

She unveiled her edgy folk hybrid in the bars of Buffalo as a teenager in the mid-’80s, at a time when slick synthpop ruled, and soon gained a zealous following. DiFranco’s fiery-but-earthy brand of feminism, evidenced in her music and in her life, spoke particularly to a breed of young women who were weary of both vulnerable waifdom and bitter nihilism—one or the other of which seemed to inform the bulk of female performers.

Preempting temptation from the siren song of major-labeldom, DiFranco, at age 19, formed her own Righteous Babe records in Buffalo in 1990—simultaneously assuring artistic control of her music and contributing to the economy of a city that needed the help (she hired only locals to work for the label).

She has released a whopping 20 critically acclaimed recordings on Righteous Babe to date—two in the past year: the live So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter (2002), and the brand-new Evolve (in stores March 11)—and boasts producing credits for artists that run the gamut from Bitch and Animal to Dan Bern to Janis Ian.

Somewhere along the way, DiFranco pretty much created her own genre as well. From her first solo forays into a raw brand of acoustic folk to more recent lush and jazzy full-band affairs, DiFranco’s music straddles a line somewhere between folk, funk and jazz, simultaneously gritty and soulful.

DiFranco’s performance at Proctor’s Theatre on Saturday (March 15) will hark back to her solo acoustic roots, but rest assured: It’ll be neither a quiet nor a gentle affair.

The show starts at 8 PM, with another fiercely independent New York state-bred folk-punk fireball, Ed Hamell—aka Hamell on Trial—opening. Tickets are $28.50 and can be purchased at Proctor’s box office (432 State St., Schenectady), online at www.proctors.org, or by phone at 346-6204 or 476-1000.


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