The Faraway Nearby

blog about the making of this video ... the music of Nell Shaw Cohen ... multimedia work by Nell Shaw Cohen

The Faraway Nearby: Georgia O'Keeffe and the New Mexico Landscape is a video piece funded in part by an Entrepreneurial Grant from New England Conservatory's Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department. The score, which was inspired by the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, was composed prior to the conception of this video. I filmed on location in New Mexico in June 2010, and edited and animated the video over the summer. The video received its premiere screening, with a live ensemble performing the music, in November 2010. I am seeking additional screenings (with live performances or pre-recorded score) and gallery installations for this piece.

I believe that painter Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) achieved an important artistic ideal: to create new meanings, previously unrealized connections, and heightened ways of perceiving the world and filtering experience. I seek to do the same with "The Faraway Nearby": to offer new insight, new ways of experiencing the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, and her source material -- to bring you into her world as I imagine it.

The Faraway Nearby is about seeing. When I look at O'Keeffe's paintings of New Mexico, I am reminded of that remarkable landscape in a way that feels almost more immediate and more meaningful than the reality. I see the abstract shapes, colors, and compositional ideas that informed her interpretation of the visual world around her. I see the relationship to place that was immensely important to her, which she forged while hiking for endless hours through desert badlands. This piece is my attempt to create an immersive visual and musical experience that captures these qualities.

The video and music are closely coordinated in phrasing, development, and mood, and the structure of the music dictated my visual choices and pacing, both on a moment-to-moment basis and in larger formal concerns. Repetitions of the primary thematic section (heard at the beginning, middle and end of the piece) coincide with the image of Pedernal, "her mountain". Pedernal is seemingly ever-present in the video, much as it looms on the horizon at Ghost Ranch. Here it represents O'Keeffe's lasting presence, and her sense of spiritual ownership of the land. The musical atmosphere suggested to me by O'Keeffe's visual world is a personal intuitive response which, I hope, speaks for itself.

This is the latest project in my ongoing exploration of the work and artistic identities of visual artists, including two prior works relating to Georgia O'Keeffe, a string quartet based on paintings by Thomas Cole, and a song cycle on the poetry and sculpture of Michelangelo. I am currently developing a series of orchestral and choral pieces relating to the watercolors and journals of Charles Burchfield.

-Nell Shaw Cohen
nell@nellshawcohen.com

News

The premiere screening of The Faraway Nearby: Georgia O'Keeffe and the New Mexico Landscape took place on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010, as part of the Tuesday Night New Music concert series at New England Conservatory. The video was accompanied by an ensemble of excellent NEC performers (flute, clarinet, piano, violin, and cello). The ensemble went into the studio the following weekend to record the score.

The Faraway Nearby - live performance
The premiere screening with live chamber ensemble

To hear my other music and learn more about my compositions, visit www.nellshawcohen.com

To learn more about my multimedia work, visit www.nellmedia.com

If you'd like to learn more about Georgia O'Keeffe's New Mexico paintings, I recommend the following resources:

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I am actively seeking opportunities for future screenings, either with pre-recorded score or with a live ensemble, especially in gallery and museum settings, film festivals, and new music concerts. Contact me at nell@nellshawcohen.com if you know of a venue that may be interested in presenting this piece.

Please consider making a donation to fund future screenings of The Faraway Nearby with live chamber ensemble. Donations may go towards transportation costs and audio/video equipment rentals.


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This website was last updated on May 26, 2011.