Edna Hibel’s 96th Birthday Celebration

Artist Edna Hibel blows out the candles on her birthday cake

Artist Edna Hibel blows out the candles on her birthday cake

On this past Sunday, January 13th, the Hibel Museum of Art celebrated Edna Hibel’s 96th birthday.  The museum, located on the campus of Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter, Florida, contains over 1,200 pieces of Edna Hibel’s art.  The massive collection of her paintings include themes such as Japanese folklore, dolls, exotic landscapes and probably her most recognizable motif, mothers and their children.  Hibel’s art was originally produced in various styles (watercolor, acrylic, porcelain, plates, etc.) and some of her work possesses a three dimensional texture.  Her use of color, especially aquamarines, often gives her portraits an other-worldly quality, yet the emotions depicted in the faces of her subjects recall the familiar in the minds of the viewer.

After spending some time looking at all of the paintings on display, I browsed around in the museum’s gift shop, where it took less than 10 minutes for me to decide on which souvenir to purchase.  I settled on a switchplate with one of Edna Hibel’s portraits of a mother with child in arms.  In it, all of those watery blues and greens so signature to Hibel Art can be found swallowing up rose, auburn and fuchsia paint brush strokes like ocean water engulfing algae.

Edna’s family and closest friends surrounded her during the celebration.  Because of the recent flu epidemic spreading around the country, an announcement was made that visitors should avoid hugging the 96 year old artist.  Nevertheless, the guest of honor, minutes after blowing out the candles on her birthday cake, enthusiastically greeted her admirers, tirelessly signed autographs, and posed for picture after picture.

Pianist Copeland Davis, whom Edna Hibel personally requested to perform at the celebration, treated her, family members and fans to classical songs, showtunes, and jazz standards.  Floating seamlessly in between numbers like Over the Rainbow and Rhapsody in Blue, The Music of the Night and Send in the Clowns, Take Five and The Look of Love, Davis masterfully delighted the crowd.

With more events scheduled on this calendar year, the Hibel Museum of Art promises to deliver the very finest in artistic galleries and musical performance.  If you’re ever in town, be sure to stop by the museum and enjoy this terrific site.

Pianist Copeland Davis performs at Edna Hibel's 96th birthday celebration

Pianist Copeland Davis performs at Edna Hibel’s 96th birthday celebration

© 2013

Hitchcock

When I first heard about Hitchcock, the film starring Anthony Hopkins as the famed eccentric film director, I was excited to see it.  Then I found out that the movie was only going to be released in select theaters around the country.  Unfortunately, none of those select theaters were in reasonable driving distance from where I live.  When the movie was finally scheduled to be shown nearer to where I live, for some odd reason, I had lost the initial desire I felt to watch the film.  Maybe it’s because trailers from other movies clouded my brain and sponged up whatever anticipatory residue Hitchcock’s preview had first left behind…weeks ago.  Then I found out Ralph Macchio had a part in Hitchcock, and I began to get interested again.  It feels like he’s been away from movies for far too long, and I was eager to see him in something again.  Then I found out Scarlett Johansson was also in the film when she graced David Letterman’s Late Show, in a stunning dress, appearing from the guest stage entrance as if floating on a cloud, serenaded to the dreamy Paul Shaffer rendition of Chaka Khan’s Sweet Thing.  One adult ticket for Hitchcock at 1:30 pm please!

I found the interpersonal dynamics between Hitch (Alfred Hitchcock liked to be called Hitch) and his wife Alma Reville, played vigorously by Helen Mirren, fascinating.  To watch the lives of both Hitch and his wife exposed on the screen was voyeuristic, likened to a fly on the wall amidst the most intimate situations involving a genius filmmaker husband at work and an assistant director wife, equally as brilliant; managing constant challenges ranging from her husband’s obsessions with his leading ladies to fine tuning production on studio sets.  Often times the tension in their marriage seems to have teetered toward the boiling point, yet each, with respect to their filmmaking craft, remained sharp enough to produce some of the greatest art ever brought about in film.  Watching Hopkins and Mirren as actors, wading through the waters of this marital psychological passive aggressiveness, at times, is as suspenseful, and thrilling as any Hitchcock film.

The part of Janet Leigh handled wonderfully by Scarlett Johansson exuded everything the leading ladies of Hitchcock films are notorious for: elegance, grace, sex and sophistication.  It’s forgivable, as an audience member watching the movie, to see how Hitch becomes obsessed with his leading lady, less so when we find out what extreme measures he vainly employs to get what he desires.  Yet I couldn’t help but conclude that this enigmatic spell that seems to have been unwittingly, continuously cast on Hitch by his leading ladies, as ominous as its effects were as evidenced by his inexcusable resulting behavior, somehow, also ironically helped to add the irresistible appeal to his films.  In the presence of the violence that ensues in a Hitchcock film, is always found the charm of a gorgeous woman that stirs up a storm in the heart of a man which cannot be placated.  Who better to play this part than Scarlett Johansson?

When I was a teenager, my parents took my brother and I to Disney World for a family vacation.  I remember the Hitchcock exhibit at Universal Studios being one of my favorites.  For the first time ever I sat in a movie theater, and this was truly something magnificent for me because at that age, I had never been in a movie theater before due to our strict religious upbringing that forbade going to movie theaters.  But since technically this was an exhibit and not an official movie viewing, I was aloud to sit in the movie theater.  There, I learned all about the special effects that Alfred Hitchcock used in his movies, from chocolate syrup used as blood in Psycho to how he got all of those winged creatures to attack in The Birds.  They even showed segments of some of his films in 3D, which was the most amazing thing I had ever seen at that age.  Ever since then, I’ve been an avid Hitchcock film fan.  I love the nostalgia, music and clothes from the 1950’s and ‘60’s eras that his films capture.  The artistic direction of his films is often overwhelming to my sight as I take in all of the splashes of color from each object and wall, meticulously fussed over, frame by frame, that all come together to warm or cool the screen.

If I had to undertake the arduous task of picking out my favorite Hitchcock film from all the rest, I guess, reluctantly, I would choose Dial M for Murder.  I say that reluctantly, because Vertigo is also my favorite.  What’s your favorite Hitchcock film?

© 2013

My Books, Banned and Burned: A Dramaworks Production

(From left to right) Richie Lester, Nanique Gheridian, and Dan Leonard pose for the camera after performing in the Dramaworks production of "My Books, Banned and Burned."

(From left to right) Richie Lester, Nanique Gheridian, and Dan Leonard pose for the camera after performing in the Dramaworks production of “My Books, Banned and Burned”

The topic of censorship took center stage last Wednesday at the Mandel Public Library when actors from Palm Beach Dramaworks performed a show titled My Books, Banned and Burned.  The three Dramaworks players portrayed authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller and others whose writings were targeted as threats to the Nazi Germany society and ordered to be burned.  Anyone who has ever studied this period of history will recall the famous pictures of German university students tossing banned books into bonfires; the singed prose rising from off the pages in a self righteous stench toward the heavens.  The damned authors of the Nazi persecution were given a voice through Nanique Gheridian, Dan Leonard and Richie Lester’s reading of writer Mark Lynch’s script, and we in the audience were moved by the conviction and fierce determination to defend free speech denoted in the actors’ delivery.

A mural at the Banned and Burned: Literary Censorship and the Loss of Freedom Exhibit with a picture of books being burned in Nazi Germany

A mural at the Banned and Burned: Literary Censorship and the Loss of Freedom Exhibit with a picture of books being burned in Nazi Germany

The three-person drama explored not only how fascism can present a danger to free speech, but also fundamentalism.  Half-way through the performance, the setting switches to the Southern United States where a Christian church has also planned a public book burning.  It seems that the pastor of this church believes that he has the authority to burn J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books based on scriptures found in the Bible, specifically in Acts 19:19: “Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

During this segment of the performance, I began to retrospectively contemplate my experience growing up in the Pentecostal faith.  We were discouraged to read anything outside of the King James Version of the Bible.  Many activities were banned in our church like listening to secular music, going to movie theaters, watching certain cartoons, and reading books that conflicted with the church dogma.  Later in life, as an adult, I wrestled with the faith of my youth, going back and forth, trying to decide what a sin was and what was not.  At one point, I threw away books and vinyl records that I believed were sinful.  Then years later, I renounced my faith and threw away my bible, only to years later after that, reverse my actions once again, and virtually read the Bible from cover to cover.  But one thing remained true, as the actors in this performance underscored, you can destroy books but you cannot kill ideas.  I found that to be very profound.

A poster displayed at the entrance of "My Books, Banned and Burned"

A poster displayed at the entrance of “My Books, Banned and Burned”

The German-Jewish writer Heinrich Heine summed it up best by saying, “Where one burns books, one will soon burn people.”  As an American living in the 21st century, it frightens me to think of living back in a time when books and people were burned because of conflicts in ideology, racism, extreme nationalism and fundamentalist religion.  Yet, it is still happening in our lifetime.  In Mali, extremism at the hands of Al-Qaeda has banned the beautiful musical and cultural traditions that were once world renown.  In fact, they have even destroyed historic ancient shrines in Timbuktu.  If we are to protect free speech, then we must speak up whenever injustice poses a threat to our ability to express ourselves with words.   My Books, Banned and Burned does just that, with a bit of pizzazz for a subject that too often is regrettably ignored.

A mural at the Banned and Burned: Literary Censorship and the Loss of Freedom Exhibit with a quote from Heinrich Heine

A mural at the Banned and Burned: Literary Censorship and the Loss of Freedom Exhibit with a quote from Heinrich Heine

© 2013