WHYY's ArtWorks draws on performing and visual arts stories from its sister PBS stations to bring viewers a geographically diverse arts experience.

Featured Artists: Julie Green, Arizona Pro Arte, Stephanie Rond and Alex de Grassi

Meet an artist capturing the darkest hours of a prisoner’s life, take a look into the secret lives of musicians, learn how a feminist painter is breaking down gender barriers in the art world, and listen as a musician revives an artistic practice from the past.

Watch Full Episode:

Episode Highlights:

Julie Green

Julie Green was born in Japan in 1961. A professor at Oregon State University, she lives in the Willamette Valley with her husband Clay Lohmann and their small cat, Mini. Half of each year, usually winter months, is spent on The Last Supper. In summer, Green paints personal narratives. Her egg tempera is included the 7th edition of A World of Art published by Prentice Hall. Green has had twenty-seven solo exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad, been featured in The New York Times, a Whole Foods mini-documentary, National Public Radio, Ceramics Monthly and Gastronomica, and recently received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant for Painters and Sculptors.

Julie Green’s artist statement for The Last Supper

Art can be a meditation. For me, final meal requests humanize each death row inmate. As a kid, I shared my family’s support of Nixon and capital punishment. Now I don’t. Education, cooking, gardening, service, and handwork were, and are, a part of each day. Appreciation for homemade and handmade led me to paint blue food.

Oklahoma has higher per capita executions than Texas. I taught there, and that is how I came to read final meal requests in the morning paper. When you think of capital punishment in the U.S., you think of Texas. It has the largest number of executions, and for years, highly publicized final meals. Texas, home to those cattle ranches, didn’t allow steak. If you ordered steak, you got ground beef. In 2011, after one large meal was not consumed, they stopped the practice. Texas and Maryland are the only death penalty states that simply serve the standard prison meal. No alcohol, anywhere. Cigarettes are banned, but sometimes allowed. In states with options, most selections are modest. This is not surprising, as many are limited to what is in the prison kitchen. Others provide meals from local venues. California allows restaurant take-out, up to fifty-dollars. Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, and Long John Silver’s are frequently selected in Oklahoma, where their fifteen-dollar allowance is down from twenty in the late 1990’s. Requests provide clues on region, race, and economic background. A family history becomes apparent when Indiana Department of Corrections adds “he told us he never had a birthday cake so we ordered a birthday cake for him.”

The Last Supper illustrates the meal requests of U.S. death row inmates. Cobalt blue mineral paint is applied to second-hand plates, then kiln-fired by technical advisor Toni Acock. I am looking for a space to exhibit all the plates on a ten-year loan. 540 final meals, and two first meals on the outside for exonerated men, are completed to date. I plan to continue adding fifty plates a year until capital punishment is abolished.

Why do we have this tradition of final meals, I wondered, after seeing a request for six tacos, six glazed donuts, and a cherry Coke. Fifteen years later, I still wonder.

Slideshow below: Samples of Julie Green’s work:

Stephanie Rond

Stephanie Rond artist statement — Artists have a responsibility to society. Our culture is inundated with advertisements. We have become desensitized to them. They dumb us down with the purpose of instilling that we are only on this earth to consume products. This visual spam is violent. It attacks the intellectual capacity of the mind. We can free ourselves of this if we are aware of it. Art can help to emancipate us.

As an antithesis to advertising, art can be a catalyst for the important conversations about life. It’s my job to create images you want to stay with for more than three seconds, allowing you the opportunity to slow down, think, process and come to your own conclusions.

As an Irish American, I have a cultural history of storytelling. I create artwork that on the surface tells a safe and comfortable story using recognizable images. As the viewer engages and considers the narrative, the deeper, more uncomfortable truths begin to emerge. The pieces are not intended to hold the answers about humanity, but rather cultivate questions to consider and discuss. My goal is to create work that serves as a springboard for meaningful conversation.

Each piece discusses what is considered an outdoor or indoor space. As a street artist, I wanted to bring the medium indoors to challenge the boundaries that define the genre and provoke the questions; what is art? What is the proper space for art? Should I be limited to traditional materials only?

Throughout my career as a visual artist I have challenged and questioned patriarchy. This body of work continues that story. After 20 years of working as a feminist painter I thought the world would be more advanced today, but the current war on women demonstrates that we are taking steps backward. My stories are now more relevant than when I started painting.

Do we continue to allow current marketing schemes to put our future generations into these confined boxes? We all deserve the right to be creative explorers, independents and nurturers.

Slideshow below: Samples of Stephanie Rond’s work:

Arizona Pro Arte

Arizona Pro Arte (APA) is a flexible ensemble model for innovation in the performance of classical music in Arizona through the presentation of expert-level collaborative performances.

Arizona Pro Arte offers audiences an opportunity to explore music through an unusual mix of the arts. By creating collaborations between performing arts and visual arts, the APA shatters common expectations. It leads audiences through explorations of synergies between music, dance, theater, film and visual arts that kindle the kind of meaningful experiences that only the arts can inspire. By combining the arts in less traditional performances, we aim to provide new resources in Arizona to expand its cultural richness. Our repertoire consists of music from Haydn and Handel through world premieres.

Arizona Pro Arte is the evolution of a performing arts organization. Originally founded in 2004 as the Scottsdale Baroque Orchestra, it was an affiliate ensemble of Musica Nova. In 2010, the Scottsdale Baroque Orchestra became an ensemble partnered with Scottsdale Musical Arts, where, beginning in 2012, it continues under its new name and mission as Arizona Pro Arte.

  • This performance by Arizona Pro Arte is the world premiere of Timothy Verville’s new setting of music by Dvorak, Brahms and Wagner to one of the greatest German Expressionist horror films of all time.

Alex de Grassi

Alex de Grassi has been a unique voice in the world of acoustic guitar for over 30 years; his innovative approach to composing and arranging for solo steel-string guitar has influenced generations of players. From his first solo performances in university coffeehouses and as a street musician to his engagements at prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Montreux Jazz Festival, Alex has followed his own vision and helped lay the foundation for contemporary fingerstyle guitar. Inspired by American and British Isles folk and blues artists in his early teens, Alex’s musical pursuits soon expanded to encompass classical, jazz, and world music. He has since become known for his evocative compositions and arrangements, and for his sheer virtuosity. Using a broad palette of techniques and timbre in conjunction with his ability to weave together melody, counter-melody, bass, harmony, and rhythm into a highly orchestrated canvas of sound, Alex’s performances take the listener well beyond the instrument. The Wall Street Journal has called his playing “flawless” and Billboard hails his “intricate finger-picking technique with an uncanny gift for melodic invention.”

Over the last three decades as a soloist and collaborator, de Grassi has explored a variety of musical directions and has stretched his repertoire to include interpretations of jazz classics with Bolivian Blues Bar (Narada Jazz 1999), and Tatamonk, a collaboration with Chilean folk musician Quique Cruz. His recordings Clockwork, Altiplano, The World’s Getting Loud, and Beyond The Night Sky: Lullabies for Guitar (Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner) feature such guest musicians as Patrick O’Hearn, Zakir Hussein, Luis Conte, Paul McCandless, and Mark Egan. Alex’s latest foray into collaborative works is the deMania trio with bassist Michael Manring and percussionist Chris Garcia. Their first recording, deMania, was released in 2006.

In addition to the GRAMMY® nomination, Alex’s tenth recording, The Water Garden garnered an Indie Award nomination and was named Crossroads Magazine’s Best Acoustic Instrumental Recording of the year. Shortwave Postcard (Auditorium) was picked as one of Acoustic Guitar magazine’s Top CDs of 2002.

Share this episode:

Share a comment:

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow WHYY's terms of service; WHYY reserves the right to remove any inappropriate comments. See also WHYY's privacy policy.

  • Sarah K

    Artworks test comment