Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA) in Birmingham (Alabama) is presenting various Hindu deities in an exhibition "Faces of India" through October two.
This exhibition reportedly includes 23 sculptures in bronze and stone from the second through 18th centuries, including a 16th century image of Shiva Nataraja, dancing Ganesha, Narasimha, etc. Related events include a yoga program, classical Indian music, lecture on sacred arts and spiritual rituals of India, classical Indian films, dance and music from India, etc.
Applauding BMA for exhibiting Hinduism focused art, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that art had a long and rich tradition in Hinduism and ancient Sanskrit literature talked about religious paintings of deities on wood or cloth.
Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged other major art museums of the world, including Musee du Louvre and Musee d'Orsay of Paris, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Los Angeles Getty Center, Uffizi Gallery of Florence (Italy), Art Institute of Chicago, Tate Modern of London, Prado Museum of Madrid, National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, etc., to frequently organize Hindu art focused exhibitions, thus sharing the rich Hindu art heritage with the rest of the world.
BMA's mission offers provision of an "unparalleled cultural and educational experience" and its collection includes over 24,000 pieces of European, Asian, American, African, Native American, and Pre-Columbian art dated from ancient to contemporary. Founded in 1951; Thomas L. Hamby is its Board of Trustees Chairman, Gail C. Andrews is the Director, while Jeannine A. O'Grody is Chief Curator.
by Harry Gilbert
Local burlesque group bares all
Birmingham has, if anything, a somewhat confusing history at times, from our southern hospitality to our brutal crackdown on civil rights protesters. Right in the Heart of Dixie, we have been, at times, both the center of rigid adherence to tradition and at the forefront of change. This conflict still goes on today. It's reflected in our government, our media, our culture.
One interesting example is the Lyric Theatre. Built in 1914, it was designed specifically to accommodate vaudeville shows. Blacks and Whites could watch the same shows, (as long as they sat in the "correct" section). Performers such as the Marx Brothers, Mae West, Sophie Tucker, Will Rogers, and Milton Berle all played the Lyric. Birmingham has also produced many talented performers of her own, containing a rich and vibrant collection of local venues and committed patrons. One could imagine Birmingham's own Magick City Sirens, a local burlesque troop, on stage at the Lyric for a raucous, summer evening show. Couldn't you just? Or could you?
Apparently, some people are confused about what the Magick City Sirens actually do. As avid lovers of all types of live entertainment, we at the BFP sat down to shed a little light on the Magick City Sirens in order to help people have a better understanding of exactly what they do.
Imagine for a moment: A group of beautiful and talented women wronged, railroaded - left in the lurch by, what we'll call, a short-sighted and ill-informed venue which never took the time to understand the nature of Burlesque. Who're they gonna call? The BFP Action News-team, of course. When innocents suffer, the BFP springs to their defense like an enraged news-panther, fangs dripping with justice.
After Jezabelle Von Jane, founder and head-honchess of the Magick City Sirens, found out that her beloved Burlesque/Vaudeville troupe had been preemptively canceled from a local venue for a custom-crafted show that had been booked 2 months in advance, you might think that she would have been puzzled, that she would wonder, "Why?" She didn't have to wonder, because the reason was clearly stated - "Vulgarity," with a capital "Vulga." Below you will find our interview with Jezabelle in its entirety.
BFP: "So, what exactly happened that caused your troupe to have their performance cancelled?"
Jezabelle: "About two months ago…one of our newest girls…said 'Hey, the owner [of the unnamed venue] would like to talk to you, he's interested in booking us at the club. So, I went down, talked to him, spent the whole night there - brought down a couple friends to the venue, a great venue, and we agreed to perform there. They asked to send over the contract, so we sent it over, and for a bit of background, we don't replicate shows, so we create a new show for every venue."
"Then, today, two weeks from the date, he sent me an e-mail that said, 'We were not aware of the risqué material that a burlesque troupe has and we can't have you in this venue.' He said that they don't have nudity in their venue, so we sent him a message back that said that we were sorry that he thought we had nudity, because we actually don't have any, whatsoever."
BFP: "So what bits do you show, in your shows?"
Jezabelle: "Well, we have a lot of cleavage. We do wear pasties, and we bear down in some shows to the bikini bottoms, but we don't show full bottoms, we don't show full breasts. A lot of our girls wear a (full body stocking), and believe it or not, burlesque girls have on more clothes than almost any other (similar) performer I know of, with the corsets that we wear, we're mostly bound up. So, for them to break contract two weeks ahead of time, saying that they couldn't have nudity in their bar…it was ill informed…I've been doing this for twelve years, and I've never had this happen, ever."
BFP: "So what happened, what was the follow up?"
Jezabelle: "So, we signed the contract, and instead of him emailing it to me, he said, 'come down here.' I needed an itemized list of what they had, in house, for sound equipment, because all of our girls sing. We do, also, perform to recorded music, but our troupe sings the majority of our music, which is why we're called the Magick City Sirens. So, we were gonna go check for vocal and PA equipment, and grab a couple of drinks. (This venue)…they serve absinthe, which is very tantalizing to my ladies, they enjoy the absinthe, of course I'm a nursing mother, so I can't drink, but it was a trip to go down there. So, the night we were scheduled to go down, I get his e-mail. Most of the performers here…they never get contracts, we started getting contracts about two years ago, that's just the way it works…and in Birmingham especially, they want to give you the contract 'the day of.'
"So this was nothing out of the ordinary for us. And, it was such a shock that it happened, (he) is a wonderful guy, I have nothing bad to say about him or his venue, other than the shock - I'd just never seen anything like this before."
BFP: "The problem seemed to be a misunderstanding as to what a burlesque+vaudeville troupe does, verses what a stripper does. Do you want to explain the differences?"
Jezabelle: "The biggest difference is the money…we don't strip for money. When we 'peel,' it's in the course of telling a story, to give a provocative edge to what would otherwise be a theatre act. We enjoy our bodies. I enjoy the fact that my girls are all different sizes. My smallest girl wears a size twelve, in little girls'-that's Ruby Lou, and our largest girl is in a size 22, she is also our manager and housemother - that's Tatiana. You won't find that at (a strip-club). You also won't find girls who can act, who can juggle, who can spit fire, can tell a story, can make you laugh. They don't tell you a story in the manner that we do. You can't put a girl onstage at (a strip-club), and not take her clothes off, but you also couldn't put one of my sirens onstage at (a strip-club), have her singing and dancing and putting on a show, because that's not what that audience came for. There's also a lot of 'skin shows' featured on Broadway right now…and they are nothing like a burlesque troupe and nothing like a stripper."
BFP: "So, can you tell me more about what a burlesque troupe does?"
Jezabelle: "We do pay homage to the 1940's way, I do have a few numbers where my girls, especially my new girls, do come in and do a peel, but the peel is the essence of showing a little bit of skin, to give a little more to the audience, as opposed to giving it all, for the bucks. But saying that, I have a lot of respect for any woman who can get onstage and shake her groove thing and though the two are very different, I have respect for both of them…I was a stripper for a long time, and I know the difference between taking your clothes off, and performing."
BFP: "Is there anything else that you want to tell us about, that we haven't covered so far?"
Jezabelle: "I've seen women who have been cosmetically fixed to be absolutely gorgeous and not have a shred of talent, and I've seen women whose bodies I'm not attracted to that have blown me away, by their presence onstage. But, I'm not one of those people who would say that all women are beautiful, because some of them, outright aren't. It has nothing to do with their body types, it has to do with who they are, and what they're capable of, it's about women of all shapes and sizes, and about men of all shapes and sizes. I'm not a feminist in any way, and I'd like to say that it made that woman who did the thesis on us from the University of Southern Alabama very unhappy. It's not about women's rights, and getting up onstage, because I put men up there too - I'm ready to put you all up there. It's about this type of entertainment. This type of entertainment allows for talent, and talent comes in all shapes and sizes."
BFP: "How did the Magick City Sirens get started, what are the origins?"
Jezabelle: "Well, burlesque started a lot longer ago, than it was given credit for…the dance halls in England, the Moulin Rouge, and of course the Bettie Page era, but burlesque as a form of dancing to entertain with the body, it's been around forever - you can talk about belly dancing or about the gypsy girls who danced at weddings to entertain single men. I've been doing this twelve years, I've danced all over the country…and burlesque is the newest underground platform that I've seen for women, and men, who enjoy themselves like they did back then.
"And so I moved down here from Boston, about six years ago now, and I said, 'you know what Birmingham needs, a burlesque troupe. I was in a couple of troupes up there, I performed on my own as a feature entertainer, and so when I got down here, the scene was so black that I decided - we're gonna spice this up. I started with a group of eight, girls have come, and they've gone just like any other theater troupe, and these girls that I have this year are probably my strongest troupe that I've ever had."
BFP: "After having this venue cancel on you so close to the date, what do you do now?"
Jezabelle: "We used to perform with a venue here exclusively, and then I decided that I wanted to travel out with the troupe. We go to Mobile, Selma, Huntsville, New Orleans, South Carolina…we've performed in Boston, I've performed in Pittsburg, so…it's so hard to get gigs here, for a burlesque troupe. My husband is the lead singer for Selling Mary, and they have no problem getting gigs, everybody loves the live music, but in order for us to do what we do because of the cost that goes into these shows,
(it's very hard to find a venue that will cover the cost). Unless I go back to the same venues, it's easier for me to perform out of town, than it is to perform in Birmingham."
BFP: "Since you missed this performance, what is your next scheduled show in Birmingham?"
Jezabelle: "We have September 10 at the Barking Kudu, Beers, Bullies, and Bands, and that's being thrown by one of the pitbull rescue groups here.