Monthly Archives: October 2009

Basil Twist, Puppeteer

By Alex Young

“Puppetry goes beyond entertainment into issues of life, death, and the soul…”twisttop

Puppet shows. For most of us, these two words will conjure up a number of images, all of which are childish, humorous and in many cases, unrefined. Punch and Judy anyone? The Potter Puppet Pals? As a third-generation puppeteer and the only American to graduate from the prestigious École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette, Basil Twist creates pieces that are far from unrefined.

The Araneidae Show, first performed in Charleville-Mézières, France in 1993 was Twist’s first piece to draw attention in New York. After that Twist went on to create Symphonie Fantastique, a mixture of puppetry, music and abstract art. This piece received many awards and has toured internationally.

Many of Twist’s works integrate puppetry and live music. Dogugaeshi combined puppetry and the Japanese dogugaeshi stage mechanism technique with live music performed on the shamisen by master musician Yumiko Tanaka. Petrushka, the Russian ballet, is performed with puppets dancers and set to a two hand piano version of Stravinsky’s composition. Twist’s Master Peter’s Puppet Show was developed with the Eos Orchestra in 2002 and later performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Twist directed and designed Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel on a commission from The Houston Grand Opera and the Atlanta Opera.

Twist is the director of the Dream Music Puppetry Program at HERE Arts Center, which supports the production of new puppet works in New York City.

solofox_webBasil Twist’s original works include Arias With a Twist, Hansel and Gretel, La Bella Dormente Nel Bosco, Dogugaeshi (2005 Bessie Award), Symphonie Fantastique (1999 Village Voice Obie Award, 1999 UNIMA Citation of Excellence, 1999 Drama Desk Award nomination for Unique Theatrical Experience), Master Peter’s Puppet Show, Petrushka (2000 UNIMA Citation of Excellence), and The Araneidae Show (1997 New York Dance and Performance Award—Bessie, 1997 UNIMA Citation of Excellence).

Twist is currently developing a piece, Love Suicides, set for World Premiere in 2010.


Gutierrez, Eric. “Basil Twist.” Welcome To United States Artists. N.p., n.d.
Web. 14 Oct. 2009. <

Twist, Basil. “Biography.” Basil Twist. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2009.

Image one:

Image two:


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Nayland BLAKE

by Wonnie Song

15th Oct. 20091930007.47

Upon first google, Nayland Blake is a very intimidating man. The words “disturbing”, “provocative”, “elusive” and  “tormented” jumped out at me from the 152, 000 results returned about the artist. Nervously, I clicked the first link and was directed to a disappointingly short Wikipedia entry about Blake and his art. Apparently, masochism, pansexuality and his biracial heritage are the main themes of his “sinister, hysterical, brutal and tender” mixed-media work. I followed some of the hyperlinks supplied at the bottom of the page and found several descriptions of his art that were thoroughly jarring. For instance, Art in America Magazine reported that his show at Matthew Marks Gallery in 2000, included eight tar bunnies “dangling from a charcoal drawing, dead, hanging from a chain”.

Unnerved, I returned to trusty Google to try another route of inquiry. The second result was Blake’s own website, entitled Nayland Blake, artist, instigator. Here, I found links to his blog, an “About Nayland Blake” and even a “biy (Blake it Yourself)” page that provides step-by-step instructions on how to recreate a Blake piece. In his laid-back, friendly style of writing, I found a man far removed from intimidating, who light-heartedly writes about his mother, his dog and his reusable shopping bag from Trader Joe’s.

So, as the “About Nayland Blake” page so aptly asks, “Who is Nayland Blake?” This remains to be seen when our class meets him next Wednesday morning.


From “About Nayland Blake” on Nayland Blake, artist, instigator:
Nayland Blake is an artist, writer and educator. Born in New York Hospital in 1960, he currently resides in Brooklyn. His work is represented by Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, Fred, London and Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco. His work is included in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, The Studio Museum of Harlem, LA MoCa, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the DeYoung Museum, among others. He has exhibited through out the United States and Europe. As a writer his work has appeared in Interview Magazine, Artforum, Out, and OutLook. He is the author of numerous catalog essays. In 1994 he co-curated with Lawrence Rinder the exhibition In a Different Light, the first major museum exhibition to examine the impact of queer artists on contemporary art.
He is currently employed as the Chair of the ICP/Bard Masters program in Advanced Photographic Studies at the International Center of Photography.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Nayland Blake: artist, writer, and educator

By Jenny Lee

Untitled“It is often those parts of artworks that we cannot resolve that are the most important and the most individual to the artist.”

A big bearded man in a ridiculously bloated white bunny suit weighing 146 pounds tries to do the two-step.  The man in this video performance Starting Over is the artist himself, Nayland William Blake.

Nayland Blake, born in 1960 in New York, was disposed to art at a very young age.  He recalls his parents taking him to the Museum of Modern Art and being inspired by the works of Joseph Cornell when he was 8. At the age of 15, he made his first collage Four Hippos from a museum brochure. In high school, Blake was an “art nerd” and spent most of his time drawing comics, listening to early Frank Zappa records, and seeing the performance of artists like Richard Foreman.

After graduating from Bard College and receiving his M.F.A from the California Institute of the Arts, he became the curator for New Langton Arts, where he also had his first solo exhibition. In 1995, Blake was the co-curator of the exhibition, In a Different Light, the first major exhibition that examined the works of queer artists exclusively.

Blake works with a variety of media including sculpture, performance, video, and drawing to explore the complexities of racial and sexual identity, including his own. The bunny motif occurs throughout his work and is seen within the context of a homosexual pop cultural item, but also extends as a metaphor for racial identity as in the Br’er Rabbits in Uncle Remus folk tales. In his works, Blake blurs the boundaries between pain and pleasure, as well as care and punishment. For instance, in his work Gorge, Blake sits shirtless and is hand-fed continuously for an hour by a shirtless black man. It is painful for the people to see the artist eat, as they smell the log cabin made of gingerbread from Feeder.

Blake’s work has been reviewed as “extreme,” “brutal,” and “disturbing.” Yet he is a friendly man who shares how to recreate some of his art on his website and posts pictures of his beloved Boston terrier, Lehigh. He is currently the chairman of International Center of Photography/Bard College masters program in advanced photographic studies.


Berry, Ian. Nayland Blake: Some Kind of Love, Performance Video 1989-2002. David Deitcher, essay. Saratoga Springs, N.Y.: The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, 2003.

Blake, Nayland. N.p., 19 Oct. 2009. Web. 19 Oct. 2009.

Carr, C. “Bunny Hop.” The Village Voice 18 Apr. 2000: n. pag. Web. 19 Oct. 2009.

Johnson, Ken. “A Host of Gay and Racial Ambiguities Ready for Your Decoding.” Rev. of Some Kind of Love, by Nayland Blake. Tang Teaching Museum, New York. New York Times. N.p., 3 Oct. 2003.  Web. 19 Oct. 2009.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Basil Twist

Written by Lauren Graham




Basil Twist was born to be in the spotlight, or at least to be the mastermind behind putting famous puppets there.  According to Twist, “Puppetry goes beyond entertainment into issues of life, death, and the soul…it is a direct connection to the imagination and the experience of being alive.”

Originally from San Francisco, he is a third generation puppeteer.  Basil attended the École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette, one of the world’s premiere puppetry training programs, in Charleville-Mezieres, France.  He originally appeared on the scene in 1995 with his creation of The Araneidae Show.  Since then, the puppeteer has dreamed up seven more original productions and collaborated with other artists on even more.

Twist is widely known for his focus on integrating puppetry with music.  One of his most famous pieces, Symphonie Fantastique, is an underwater puppet show performed to the music of the symphony after which it is named.  His version of Master Peter’s Puppet Show was created with Eos Orchestra, while Dogugaeshi featured the original compositions of Yumiko Tanaka.

Famous for his creativity and innovation, Twist has produced shows using both underwater and wind puppetry.  Speaking to this, he once said, “My shows are so different from one another, because once I’ve done one thing, I want to try something else.  Puppetry is so vast it doesn’t make sense to stick with only one aesthetic or technique.”  Other works include Hansel and Gretel, Petrushka, La Bella Dormente Nel Bosco, Arias With a Twist, and the creation of puppets for many collaborative works.  Twist is even responsible for the making of a giant white spider for the New York City Halloween Parade.

Additionally, Twist is the founder and director of the Dream Music Puppetry Program at Here Arts Center in New York City.  The program trains and supports new puppet artists.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Matthew and Eric Oberstein: Music Professionals

By Mark Thysell

Matthew Oberstein:

Even while an undergraduate and g1Untitledraduate student at Purchase College, State University of New York, Matthew Oberstein was hard at work to establish himself as a leading young conductor.  During 2003, while still a student, Mr. Oberstein conducted the debut performance of the Artemis Chamber Ensemble and has enjoyed the distinction of being that ensemble’s principal conductor.  While a graduate student he founded the Purchase Chamber Orchestra and also had the privledge of being the first student to guest conduct the Purchase Symphony Orchestra.  In recognition of his accomplishments he was honored in 2005 with the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and the Purchase College President’s Award for Achievement.

After his time at Purchase College Mr. Oberstein attained a postgraduate diploma at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna.  In the same city in 2006 he was the guest conductor for the Slovak Sinfonietta Zilina.  Since returning to New York he has continuted to conduct the Artemis Chamber Ensemble and has been featured as a guest conductor with the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra and the Westchester Philharmonic to name a few appearances.

He is passionate about his work, is an accomplished piano player, and enjoys conducting works from disparate eras and genres.

Eric Oberstein:

Eric ObersUntitledtein’s love for music developed at a young age.  He has been playing saxophone since he was 8 years old and drums since he was 12.  As an undergraduate Mr. Oberstein attended Duke University, where he majored in Cultural Anthropology, and acquired certificates for Arts Management & Cultural Policy and Latin American Studies.  During his time at Duke he served as Assistant Producer at Duke Performances, founded ArtsConnect (a program in which Duke student artists teach elementary and middle school students in Durham about the arts), and was a member of the Duke University Marching and Pep Band, the Duke Afro-Cuban Percussion Ensemble, and the Duke University Jazz Ensemble.

After graduating from Duke in 2007 he attained a Master’s degree in Art Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2009.  During his time at Columbia he served as an Associate Research Coordinator at Research Center for Arts and Culture.  While currently a graduate student at the Arts in Education program, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and working as Special Projects Associate at the Office for the Arts at Harvard, Mr. Oberstein is working on the coming film Oye Cuba! A Journey Home, which follows Grammy award winning composer and pianist Arturo O’Farrill to Cuba, the birthplace of his father Chico O’Farrill the now deceased legendary jazz composer.

On his website Mr. Oberstein describes himself as an art consultant, musician, and advocate for art organizations and artists alike.


Bio. ERIC OBERSTEIN| ARTS CONSULTING.  23 Sept. 2009.  Available from:  Accessed 28 Sept. 2009.

Mr. Matthew Oberstein.  ZoomInfo.  15 May 2009.  Available from:  Accessed 28 Sept. 2009.

Schweitzer, Vivien.  The New York Times.  July 26, 2008.  Available from:  Accessed 28 Sept. 2009.

WESTCHESTER PHILHARMONIC RETURNS TO KENSICO DAM FOR ANNUAL INDEPENDENCE DAY CONCERT.  Cappelli Enterprises Inc.  25 May 2006.  Available from: Accessed 28 Sept. 2009.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized