DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


A Trio of Birthdays

Still from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, 1968, directed by Stanley Kubrick

1. This week, on March 15, Drawing Life turns three years old.

2. Minerva Durham’s Spring Studio, New York’s busy basement of figure drawing and one of the forges of my creative life, is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this month.

3. On the 12th, my brother Frank Hatt is celebrating another one of those decade birthdays.

Please indulge me as I share a few images and video clips to trumpet this triumvirate of things that matter to me.  (Note to email subscribers: embedded video and audio clips don’t work on the email versions of posts, so you’ll need to click the links or visit the blog on the web to see the things I’m talking about.)

Honestly, each of these three anniversaries merits its own post.  I’ll blame my jamming them together on cosmic conjunction.

Let’s start with Frank.  Long-time readers of Drawing Life may recall seeing some videos I made that featured Frank: “Subway Sax“, “The Silo“, and “Glossolalia + Katharsis“, all from twenty or more years ago.  Well, Frank’s still around, and still plays a sweet alto saxophone.  In January of this year, we filmed some of his improvisations on an animal farm/petting zoo in the Catskills – thanks to my great friend Alex for taking us to this beautiful place.

“Sax Stream” – saxophone solo by Frank Hatt, video by Fred Hatt

Frank has long been fascinated with “extended vocal techniques” such as overtone singing and vocalizing on the inbreath, both of which you’ll see in the clip below, as well as toy instruments and noisemakers.  Frank’s approach is playful, often frenetic, sometimes downright wacky.  Here his voice blends with those of chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, and emus.

“Down on the Farm” – vocals and noisemakers by Frank Hatt, video by Fred Hatt

Maybe the best moment we got where Frank really seems to be vocally interacting with the birds is this brief improvisation on sax mouthpiece, without the rest of the instrument.  This one is presented as an audio-only file, as the visuals didn’t add much.


In the 1990’s I was mostly known for body painting, and Minerva thought body painting would be an effective way to demonstrate anatomy, so I shared a few pointers on materials and techniques, and Minerva took off with it.  Here she is painting the muscular system on the renowned dancer, model, and choreographer Arthur Aviles, a former dancer in the Bill T. Jones company and one of the founders of the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD).

Minerva Durham paints muscles on Arthur Aviles at Spring Studio, 1998, photo by Fred Hatt

Spring Studio also hosts art exhibitions, and I had a show there in 1998.  At the opening I did a couple of body art performances, including a blacklight body painting performance with Sue Doe, with whom I’d developed a nightclub act that we were then presenting regularly at the Blue Angel Cabaret.  Here’s a condensed version of that performance.

Art Underground from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

This month, the walls of Spring Studio are filled with hundreds of drawings and paintings made in the studio by the many artists that pursue their practice there.  I love Spring Studio’s annual anniversary exhibitions, which reveal the incredible diversity of styles and approaches that flourish in such an environment.  The work of seasoned professional artists is hung cheek-by-jowl with the work of beginners, and somehow the juxtaposition makes both look better!  This kind of show also highlights the talents of Spring Studio’s great models, especially when you notice multiple artists’ interpretations of the same pose.

Next Sunday, March 18, starting at 6:30, Spring Studio will host an anniversary party with performances.  Here are the details:

Andrew Bolotowsky, flute,  and Mary Hurlbut, voice, Leon Axel’s compositions for flute and voice, 6:30 pm

We will paint muscles on Arthur Aviles, 7:00 with a backdrop of Andrew Bolotowsky’s flute, then Aviles will dance.

Dance, 8:00 pm: Kuan, Leticia and Esteban, Jason Durivou, Linda Diamond, Raj Kapoor, Nepali folk tune with Sherry Onna, and Anna Schrage painting a canvas to music played by Godfrey Daniel. Open MikeElizabeth Hellman, Flo Reines,  Nina Kovolenko, George Spencer, Susie Amato, Trevor Todd, Others. 

I’ll note that Kuan’s dance will be based on some of the poses she’s developed for modeling at Spring Studio, and that she’s using my drawings of her as choreographic source material, so I’m excited to see that.  You’ll notice too that Minerva is still painting on Arthur, and Arthur’s an incredible performer, not to be missed.  So if you’re in NYC next weekend, it would be a pretty interesting time to check out the studio!

[Late addition to this post, now that Spring Studio’s 20th Anniversary Party is past – a video I shot of Kuan’s dance based on her poses from Spring Studio:]

All right, so now I’ve gone on and on and bombarded you with pictures and videos and information about Frank Hatt and Spring Studio, and this post is also serving as Drawing Life‘s anniversary post.  In the first and second year anniversary posts, I highlighted the top articles, the ones that got the most page views.  This time, I’d like to thank my most regular commenters.  I know from the site stats that quite a few people alight upon these pages every day, but most probably don’t read much of what I write.  I’m sure there are some who read these posts regularly, but don’t comment.  There are also those who comment only by email or on Facebook.  I appreciate all of that, but I have a special affection for those who follow Drawing Life and join in the conversation with thoughtful responses, right here on the site.  Thank you, star commenters!

Jennifer, from the UK, a devoted student of figurative art

Andrew, author of the highly recommended “Art Model’s Handbook”

Jim in Alaska, always has great observations or reminiscences

Claudia (Museworthy blogger and star model)

Daniel Maidman (fellow blogger and master painter)

David Finkelstein (experimental filmmaker and performer)

I love you all, and the less frequent commenters as well.  Feedback is good, and when my writing threatens to dissolve into pompous monologue, you save it by making it a conversation!


Song of a Child Servant

Mana Hashimoto in "Lullaby", 2009, video by Fred Hatt

Itsuki no komoriuta, or the Lullaby of Itsuki (a village on Kyushu Island, Japan), is one of the best-known Japanese folk melodies.  It will probably sound familiar to you even if you know nothing about traditional Japanese songs.  It’s been covered by many western musicians, including the French pop singer Claudine Longet and the Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell.  Here’s a lovely version in  a trembling, breaking voice style by Ikue Asazaki.

Dancer Mana Hashimoto, with whom I’ve previously collaborated several times, was inspired to explore this song in movement.  Mana describes Itsuki no komoriuta this way:  “Two centuries ago in Japan, it was common for poor families to sell their children, age six and up, to work for rich families as baby sitters or housekeepers. If the rich family were nice and open, the children might be allowed to go once in a while to visit their birth families, but often the children didn’t know when they would get to go home. Itsuki no lullaby is a song in the voice of a child missing her home town as she takes care of a rich family’s babies, putting them to bed.”

Norio Shimizu at lyricstranslate.com provides an excellent translation of the lyrics.  (“Bon” refers to the annual Buddhist festival to honor the spirits of the ancestors by dancing and by floating lanterns on the river.)

As soon as Bon arrives,
I will leave for my hometown.
The sooner Bon comes, the sooner I will go home.

I am no better than a beggar.
They are rich people.
With good sashes and good dresses.

Who will cry for me
When I die?
Only the locusts in the mountain behind the house.

No, it’s not locusts.
It’s my little sister.
Don’t cry, little sister, I will be worried about you.

When I am dead,
Bury me by the roadside.
The passers-by would lay flowers for me.

What flowers would they lay?
The water would come falling down from above.

Mana was struck by the sad, forlorn mood of the lullaby, and by the beauty of its melody.  It appealed to her sympathies as a mother.  “I always want to find some hope,” she says, “to give those children some light.”

Mana Hashimoto in "Lullaby", 2009, video by Fred Hatt

Mana incorporated Itsuki no komoriuta into her full-length choreographed piece “Yumema/Dream Between”, which she has performed recently at Dixon Place and Green Space.  The film “Lullaby”, which I made with Mana two years ago, represents the beginnings of her engagement with the song, as she improvises movement while singing it.

This film was made in the Brooklyn loft of my friend Sullivan Walsh, a metal craftsman, who created the bed and oval mirror seen in the background.

Mana explores space by contact and by reaching out, often using tactile objects as a base for her movement.  Here, a long banquet table is her stage.  In the first part of the video she explores the melody of Itsuki no komoriuta through gesture and voice, bathed in the golden light of the setting sun.  In the second part, she restlessly tests the boundaries of her narrow stage in the deep blue twilight.

The video of “Lullaby” is embedded here.  If you receive the blog by email you will need to click to the blog site or follow this link to the Vimeo site for this video.

Mana will be performing a different piece this Saturday at a benefit for Japan earthquake relief at Tenri Cultural Institute in New York.

Hi Mizu Kaze – rebirth A fundraising event for Japan featuring gagaku and beyond

Featuring Mana Hashimoto (dance) // Sadahiro Kakitani (ryuteki) // Kaoru Watanabe (flute & taiko) with Daniel Abse (recitation) + Yoichi Fukui (sho) + Yuko Takebe (film)

Saturday, July 16, 2011, 7:30pm. $10 suggested donation. Tenri Cultural Institute, 43A West 13th St. (btwn. 5th & 6th Ave.), New York, NY, 10011, 212-645-2800, www.tenri.org


Subway Sax

Filed under: Video: Music — Tags: , , , , — fred @ 23:30

Subway Sax from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

In honor of my brother, Frank, and in celebration of his moving back to the Northeast after a sojourn in Oklahoma, I’m posting a video we made eighteen years ago. This is Frank improvising on his alto saxophone in the West 4th Street Subway Station in Manhattan on a late evening in 1991, filmed with the new technology of the day, an 8mm video camcorder. I observed Frank as I would observe an unknown Subway musician, sometimes watching him, sometimes watching other things going on in the station as a dance to the saxophone’s wail.

This became a piece about the rhythms of crowds and loneliness, trains and people coming in and going out like waves on the shore, an urban surf that goes on ceaselessly through all the stations of the Subway.

I made new titles for it and changed it to monochrome as the original color wasn’t very pretty.  Otherwise this is the same as the original edit I made in 1991, edited on U-matic at Film/Video Arts, where I worked at that time.

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