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Eugene Weekly : Culture : 02.24.05

Visual Arts:

A Classicist at DIVA

Fine arts photographer Bob Sanov


Nothing Sacred

Live Matinee's irreverent comedy is back.


A Happening

Sarah Nemecek's Levels



A Classicist at DIVA

Fine arts photographer Bob Sanov


Until he retired a couple of years ago and moved to Florence, Bob Sanov was a classical violinist by profession. He now devotes himself full-time to fine-art photography, another lifelong passion, which began with his viewing of an Ansel Adams exhibition. As may be seen in "A Sensuous Nature," his exhibition of gelatin-silver prints at DIVA, Sanov has remained true to this initial encounter with Adams, and his photography is classic both in terms of subject-matter and technique.

Dune, Hanna, gelatin-silver print by Bob Sanov

Sand dunes, rock formations, canyon walls, streams, trees, craggy bark, leafy plants, calla lilies and kelp were already the timeless subject-matter of Edward and Brett Weston, Paul Caponigro, Don Worth, And later of John Sexton, Adam's assistant who was one of Sanov's teachers.

Sanov continues in their rich vein, transforming his subject matter into almost abstract compositions that celebrate form, texture, and above all, light. For it is light that sculpts form and reveals texture. Sanov uses a large-format view camera, hence the exquisite crispness of detail in his nature photography.

Looking at Sanov's prints, you may delve into the beauty of purely formal relationships independently from what is represented. Or you may choose to rediscover the natural world through his lens — the delicate intricacy of leaf veins, the striations of sandstone, the abstract patterns of a tunnel wall where leaching minerals created drawings of waterfalls, the deep lines of bark, the sensuous and frilly diversity of kelp, the opposite sides of cresting dunes, one smooth, one textured.

Sanov approaches the nude in much the same way as landscape, even blurring the distinction between the two, as in Dune, Hanna. Here he emphasizes abstract form in the human body and reciprocally in his dune photographs by revealing the sensuous molds of the landscape. In terms of printing, however, his treatment is quite different. To offset the mercilessness of a large-format camera on the human epidermis, he has developed a printing method that softens edges, lowers contrasts and provides the model with a smooth, grain-free skin.

Kelp Orgy, gelatin-silver print by Bob Sanov

As a fine-art photographer, Sanov emphasizes the importance of darkroom work. "Making the negative is part one of a 12-step process," he said. "You have to start with a good negative, but that's only the beginning." Out of 300 to 400 negatives per year, Sanov keeps only three or four. It may then take him months of labor in the darkroom to be satisfied with a print.

Interestingly, Sanov has found that his formation as a classical musician benefits his photography. "A lot of great photographers were fine musicians, such as Ansel Adams, Paul Caponigro," he said. "Quite a few photographers have a connection with music, and everything I've learned in music has been useful for photography. It's methodical; it requires discipline, calmly thinking, and working through things. There are certain basic rules you need to learn and at some point need to break away from."

Don't miss this exhibit, "A Sensuous Nature: Gelatin-silver photographs by Bob Sanov," which closes Feb. 26 at DIVA. And while you're there, enjoy a tour of the other galleries in the building.    

Nothing Sacred

Live Matinee's irreverent comedy is back.


A slap in the face to prudes and stodgies and a belly-laughing hoot for everyone else, Live Matinee returns Feb. 25 to the Lord Leebrick Theatre with three weekends of in-your-face fun. With their trademark blend of offbeat, tongue-in-cheek comedic skits and music, the five-member group of Nancy Cave, Richard Cave, Tamsin Morgan, Barbara Embree and Bob Marquis, along with Music Director Cheyney Ryan, promises yet another wacky, fun-filled show.

Ryan writes many of the group's hilarious songs and backs up the troupe on piano as they parody, parrot and play. A former member of the 1980s Eugene comedy troupe On the Edge, Ryan is one of the group's newcomers — he joined Live Matinee in 1997. "I provide musical accompaniment during the lull between acts — kind of like the Saturday Night Live house band," he says.

We're talking liberal left-wing comedy that's as funny as better-known shows such as Capital Steps. As one fan puts it, "These guys could have their own television show if that's what they wanted to do."

Nothing is off limits with this over-the-top, off-the-hook group — not even newly elected Mayor Kitty Piercy, Eugene's new "rock star." Of course some topics are simply irresistible — school fund raising, the Bush twins, local characters we know and love. "We write our own material, which is derivative of what we observe around us — marriage, politics, raising children, children raising parents," Embree says. "It's often

scatological, but it's aimed at making you laugh at yourself, and the best humor is universal."

It's a brand of comedy that often dances along the edge of ridiculous. "Our humor is unique," Morgan says. "It's kind of whacked and out of the box. It's somewhat cynical, completely silly, yet semi-intellectual; a mixed bag really."

Nine college kids, who met while working together in a theater production, created Live Matinee in the late '70s. Sitting around each other's living rooms, they entertained one another with witty and often obnoxious improvisational skits and songs covering the absurdity of everything from politics to single life. "We were just friends getting together," Morgan said. "We all came from varied backgrounds, but we shared the same kind of humor and political views."

At the time, one of the group's members owned Cinema 7, a movie house then located in the Atrium building downtown, and they decided to take the living room fun to the public in November 1978.

They put on about five shows per year, and built an appreciative and devoted following as they moved their performances from the Atrium to Tsunami Books, to Smith Family bookstore, and finally to the Lord Leebrick Theatre.

After a few years, some of the members moved on — marriage, kids and "real" jobs taking priority over living room comedy. But the show must go on and now Live Matinee is more of a rare treat, performing only once or twice a year. During the campaign, they performed a few shows, focusing on national politics and the presidential race. This show has more local flavor and will have you laughing so hard your stomach hurts, whether you're 15 or gray-haired.

Comfortable as a Barkalounger; dependable as a rainy day in Oregon, the long-standing friends of Live Matinee return to the Lord Leebrick Theatre for another encore performance. The show kicks off Friday, Feb. 25 and runs through March 13. Log on to www.lordleebrick.com for more info on times and dates.



A Happening

Sarah Nemecek's Levels


The late poet Anne Sexton has a line, "As inward as a snail," and I can't help hearing the words in my head as I take in Sarah Nemecek's UO Dance Department MFA thesis Levels. An inquiry into the personal, the piece maintains an outward curiosity that many "confessional" dances lack. There's a subtlety to Nemecek's phrasing, and although the effect might benefit from more contrast, her work isn't green. Nemecek plies a steady hand. And her quest for an open environment for experimentation and a polyphonic creative process presage a collaborative future in dancemaking.

Months ago, Nemecek's dancers taped interviews. Then composers Troy Rogers and Josh Humphrey worked with the language to make sound stories, stream-of-consciousness narratives that would play during nine introductory movement solos. The monologues were edited down to their essence. The dancers said they were surprised to find themselves sharing such personal stories with the audience, and even more tickled to discover how their movement choices, made in isolation from the sound score, corresponded with the words.

Rather than rote, one-size-fits-all choreography, Nemecek has attempted to follow the terpsichorean path blazed by some of her dance heroes: movers like Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane and Deborah Hay. Like them, Nemecek poses a shift away from the idea of "dancer as technician hell-bent on sameness," to a come-as-you-are approach. In rehearsal, Nemecek and the dancers have played with "optimal" movement. She said she encourages her dancers to make choices about what feels right to their bodies' sensibilities. In keeping with the search for a multi-vocal performance, Nemecek commissioned Ayoko Katoaka's ceramic bell installation and Aaron Barnhart's live composition.

Each of the five segments that make up Levels are grounded but not belabored. Nemecek offers a suggestion: a shrug, a wink, a twist, a turn, and then on to the next gesture. The result is a measured meditation accented with moments of sharply focused vulnerability.

LEVELS: A UO Dance Department MFA thesis choregraphed by Sarah Nemecek will be performed at 8 pm on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 25-26 at the Dougherty Dance Theatre, Gerlinger Annex, UO. Admission charged