The boxer’s dream

The boxer’s dream

Leslie Banta’s memory of her nightmare is very sharp, the details burned into her brain, possibly furrowed somewhere near those loops and wrinkles that inform her work as an artist. Her family had just moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Tuscaloosa—the same city, it bears mentioning, where multimedia artist William Christenberry spent much of his adolescence, lapping up the Southern culture that would inform the paintings, photographs and constructions that he displayed at the UVA Art Museum last fall in his “Site/Possession” exhibit. Her room’s walls were bare, undecorated; she’d fallen asleep reading a book, her bedroom lamp still on.

World’s smallest bedroom: Leslie Banta offers a look into her bed boxes and containers with a collection of stereoscopic photos at Mudhouse.

“My mother was at the foot of my bed, painting a wall,” Banta tells Curtain Calls. “And I had this understanding that there were two arms reaching out from under my bed. And if I moved, they’d get me.”

“I heard a horrible scratching sound,” she continues, “then I woke up.” It turns out that Banta’s father was in another room and noticed his daughter’s light still on, but his leg had fallen asleep; the sound Banta heard was her father crawling down the hall to check on her.

Since then, the image of the bed—an object that populates the three-dimensional boxes she composes in her workspace in Staunton—has evolved, taken on personalities. “I like what the bed symbolizes,” Banta tells Curt. “Rest, rejuvenation, private space. Personal and private spaces get tinier and tinier all the time.” She mentions her love for the books of late author Madeline L’Engle, who explored systems of time and space, from fifth dimensions to cellular mitochondria. (Oh, look it up, CC will wait.)

Multiple dimensions are at the heart of Banta’s latest collection of images at the Mudhouse—framed pairs of photos that, when viewed through small, plastic stereoscopes, turn into alien landscapes and habitats, each bearing a bed. While Banta has used the same inspiration for roughly 10 years, slipping tiny beds into tiny boxes that could be illuminated at the push of a button, her photos help her to avoid the occasional technological breakdown.

“I had a couple of boxes at the grand opening of [Staunton-based gallery] Kronos, but the lights kept burning out,” Banta says. The collection at Mudhouse is her first attempt at showing off the interiors of her wooden and concrete boxes, which can be a bit difficult to display; “Persephone,” one of the concrete pieces offered on Banta’s website, has a steel base welded onto the concrete box and measures 10" x 8" x 8". “You can really step into another world with the 3D [stereoscopic] effect.”

Banta studied with Christenberry in the late ’90s as part of a program offered by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Christenberry seems a unique mentor for Banta; his famous “Klan Room” exhibit near his studio was a room filled with art and objects both created and collected, really a giant box vandalized in 1979 and then rebuilt. (Christenberry brought a tableau of the room with him to Charlottesville for his exhibition last year.) Though she didn’t catch his installation at the UVA Art Museum, Banta made a trip to see his work at the National Gallery of Art and, fortuitously, caught an exhibit by bird-box artist Joseph Cornell.

“I got the exhibit book published with Cornell’s show,” Banta tells CC. “It has a DVD in it, and you can go in and look at the boxes from every angle you can imagine.”

Burke watching

To get geared up for Second Street Gallery’s New Art benefit auction on Saturday, April 19, Curt made a little trip to the gallery for a members luncheon featuring McGuffey Art Center painter and Live Arts regular Cynthia Burke. (Full disclosure: CC guessed the identity of one of Young Kim’s sand portraits—Sian Richards of the All New Acorn Sisters—and nabbed himself a membership, which entitles him to mumbling his appreciation of art around a mouthful of lemon-raspberry layercake once a month.)

Burke is one of more than 50 artists that contributed work to the auction; her piece, “Year of Desire,” depicts a princely monkey dressed in an olive coat, holding a pink flower. While Curt struggles to hear over the sound of his munching mandible, Burke—known for her regal, 19th century-ish animal portraits—talks about her rules for painting critters.

“I have three rules,” she says, then lists them: “No pet portraits. No ‘cute.’ And no natural settings.”

The auction catalogue boasts some real prizes—a Cecil McDonald photograph that looks like Edward Hopper by way of Stanley Kubrick’s sumptuous lighting, a pair of drawings by Lincoln Perry, a polka-dotted portrait by Sharon Shapiro—for those in competition.

And Second Street hopes to bring a few more players into the game for this auction: On Wednesday, April 16, the gallery hosts a forum for young folks interested in collecting art. Curt spoke with a few board members from Second Street this week, and will report back next issue with his thoughts on the young collectors’ gathering.


CC is bringing back the Dance Report Card like Michael Jackson in the video for “Thriller.” Rather than give you an update on a venue’s dance night, however, Curt has a mid-semester progress report, courtesy of Rose Beauchamp.

The artistic director of inFluxdance, Beauchamp moved to Charlottesville in 2006 to take a job as director of the UVA Drama Department’s new dance program. “There’s been 20 years of dance at UVA,” says Beauchamp, who is currently designing a major to accompany the minor option. “But no academic program.”

When Beauchamp first came to town to interview for the UVA gig, a few employees of the school took her around town to the Hip Joint and the McGuffey Art Center, introduced her to Miki Liszt and members of the Zen Monkey Project. Beauchamp, who studied at California Institute of the Arts before moving to Boston to teach at Emerson College, says that her first impression of the local dance scene was a very word-of-mouth network.

“Now, since I’m the dance person at UVA, everyone under the sun contacts us,” says Beauchamp, grinning.

The gal strikes Curt as nothing short of perfect for the gig, exuberant and uber-hip, face lit up by her grin and the ring in her nose, ready to roll. She mentions an interest in forming what she calls the Charlottesville Dance Alliance, and worked with local dancer Keira Hart to christen April “Dance Month” in town. As part of the informal month-long holiday, catch inFluxdance at The Paramount Theater on Sunday, April 20.

Beauchamp is bringing in the noise, readers, so it’s time for you to bring in the funk—e-mail Curt with his next assignment for the Dance Report Card, and he’ll see you on the floor.

Not my stereo-type

In parting, readers, may Curt direct your attention to The Rant, on page 77 of C-VILLE’s print issue. Look for it…look for—there! See it? Good; you’re all witnesses.

Someone, it seems, called The Rant and wagered both a child and $1,000 that Curt’s very close (and very Irish) friend, Mr. Fitzgerald, is a woman. Now we can do this the easy way or the hard way, Mr. Anonymous Tipster—if that is, in fact, your real name and/or gender. You can e-mail me at, or you can deliver the cash and baby to me in person. The choice is yours, sir or madam. I want that baby.

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